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Assistant District Attorney explains how court journey takes a toll on victim's family

Posted at 1:56 AM, Nov 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-19 07:47:40-05

TULSA, Okla. — Death penalty cases can take years to prosecute. For the families of the victims in those cases, a conviction doesn’t always mean justice.

In the case of Julius Jones and many other death row cases, both families involved are seeking their version of justice.

For the victims' families, justice may bring the family some comfort, but it will never bring back their loved ones.

“Anytime you lose a loved one to a violent crime, your first contact will be to the police department and usually their advocates,” Kenneth Elmore, assistant district attorney for Tulsa County said.

Elmore works closely with the families of victims. He said the investigation is just the first step in a lengthy and emotionally-draining court process.

“It’s a different process when you’re talking about the court procedure, where there are multiple hearings, being in front of a judge, being in front of defense attorneys asking questions, and sometimes it’s a lot of unanswered and unexplained,” Elmore said.

Elmore said court proceedings in death penalty cases tend to go through more scrutiny because they involve a more severe punishment. He said his department tries to prepare the victim’s family as best they can, but wounds are inevitably reopened in the process.

“It can be very difficult on one hand because they don’t have that final outcome before you get a verdict, it’s still undecided and then, adding to that, the focus a lot of times tends to be on the defendant, which is right because it’s their due process to ensure that you get a just outcome, but it could be frustrating for families because there’s so much time spent about the person who killed and took their loved one from them,” Elmore said.

Elmore said when a case is appealed, families have to go through the whole process again. In the end, many look forward to a final verdict.

“I think they get closure in that sense, that they know that the person has been held accountable,” he said.

But closure, Elmore said, won’t fix what’s been done.

“Regardless of what the verdict is, whether it’s guilty or it’s not guilty, nothing that the court system that the justice system is ever going to replace their loved one, it’s never going to replace that whole in their heart,” Elmore said.

Attorney General, John O’Connor, responded to Governor Stitt’s decision saying that he was disappointed that after 22 years, the work of appellate judges, prosecutors, and jurors was set aside.

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