Judicial system

In 1967, following some of the worst judicial scandals in the history of the state, in which one supreme court justice was imprisoned for income tax evasion and another impeached on charges of bribery and corruption, Oklahoma approved a constitutional amendment to reform the state's judicial system. Under the new provisions, the supreme court, the state's highest court, consists of nine justices initially elected to six-year terms, but with additional terms pursuant to nonpartisan, noncompetitive elections; if a justice is rejected by the voters, the vacancy is filled by gubernatorial appointment, subject to confirmation by the electorate. The court's appellate jurisdiction includes all civil cases (except those which it assigns to the courts of appeals), while its original jurisdiction extends to general supervisory control over all inferior courts and agencies created by law.

The highest appellate court for criminal cases is the court of criminal appeals, a five-member body filled in the same manner as the supreme court. Courts of civil appeals, created by the legislature in 1968, are located in Tulsa and Oklahoma City; each has six elective judges with powers to hear civil cases assigned to them by the supreme court. When final, their decisions are not appealable to any other state court, a system unique to Oklahoma.

District courts have original jurisdiction over all judicial matters and some review powers over administrative actions. There are 26 districts with 131 district judges who are elected to four-year terms. Municipal courts hear cases arising from local ordinances. As of June 2001, over 23,139 prisoners were under the jurisdiction of state and federal authorities, an increase of 0.6% over the previous year. The state's incarceration rate stood at 669 per 100,000 inhabitants.

In 2001 the FBI reported a crime index total of 4,607.0 crimes per 100,000 population, including a total of 17,726 violent crimes and 141,679 crimes against property in that year. Oklahoma law permits capital punishment by lethal injection for several felony crimes. A total of 65 persons were executed between 1977 and 2003. In 2003, 114 prisoners were under sentence of death.