Their view

The Oklahoman

DNA vital to cold

case investigation

The wheels of justice can grind slowly, but that doesn’t mean justice will be denied forever.

That was the case this week when police arrested Robert Leon Hashagen III for a cold-case murder from 2013. DNA evidence linked Hashagen to a July 2013 assault on 94-year-old Evelyn Goodall during a home burglary in Oklahoma City. Goodall died from blunt force trauma two days after the attack. DNA evidence also showed that Hashagen was responsible for an attack on Goodall in 2010.

Hashagen, who lived just two doors down from Goodall at the time, had been identified as a potential suspect. He has convictions for methamphetamine and firearm offenses, and has also been arrested on domestic abuse complaints. Yet it wasn’t until DNA evidence was obtained that police were able to link him to the crime against Goodall.

Debates over the collection of DNA have been heated at times. Efforts to require DNA collection from those arrested, but not yet convicted of crimes, have been especially hard-fought. But DNA collection continues to help police solve crimes, including some that have otherwise gone cold for years or even decades.

Upon hearing of Hashagen’s arrest, Goodall’s niece, Lily Gower, said, “Usually you think they would never find anybody, so I guess this is a blessing.”

This case highlights again the importance of DNA collection as a crime-solving tool, and how it can lead to some measure of closure for the families of many victims in Oklahoma.

Tulsa World

Time has come for

Sunday liquor sales

Most Blue Laws have outlasted their times. Forcing liquor stores to remain closed on Sundays is one.

Oklahoma voters took a major step forward in November when they overwhelmingly approved the sale of strong, cold beer and wine in grocery and convenience stores. Liquor stores also will be able to sell their strong beer cold, but owners were disappointed when language to allow their stores to remain open on Sundays was left out of the state question.

Now, Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, has introduced a bill that would allow liquor stores to open on Sundays between noon and midnight, beginning in 2018. Under current law, liquor stores must close on Sundays and are allowed to be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Blue Laws were written to discourage people from doing anything on Sundays other than go to church or rest. Years ago, retail stores closed on Sundays. Those bleak years, thankfully, are behind us. Even the state’s liquor laws have modernized, although slowly.

The state maintained a form of Prohibition until 1959, although the federal constitutional amendment was repealed in 1933. The state law didn’t completely wipe out drinking as bootleggers made a handy profit from thirsty Oklahomans. Finally, in 1984, liquor-by-the-drink was approved by voters.

Now, along with the November vote on strong beer and wine, the state is poised to allow the sale of liquor at package stores on Sundays. It’s a good idea. In fact, we would go even further.

We think the state should largely deregulate the working hours of liquor stores. While some boundaries might be a good idea, we think the owners of stores should be able to set their own hours depending on the marketplace. We also have issues with the state’s ban on children accompanying their parents inside liquor stores.

But, that’s a fight for another time. For now, we applaud the Bice proposal. As grocery and convenience stores begin selling strong beer and wine, this will help level the playing field for liquor stores. And it will make buying alcoholic beverages more convenient for customers.

It’s fair, and it’s common-sense legislation. And it’s time.

Stillwater NewsPress

Less wastewater disposal

means fewer earthquakes

They say it’s working. In a joint statement March 1 from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and the Oklahoma Geological Survey, credit is taken for a decrease in the rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma.

Sorry, we buried the lede. The USGS released new maps to identify “potential ground-shaking hazards in 2017.” Payne and Pawnee counties were chart-toppers. In this part of north-central Oklahoma, there is peak probability (10-12 percent) for a moderate earthquake near Pawnee and Cushing. Those are the same cities in 2016 that experienced two of the state’s largest and most damaging earthquakes in recorded history, so it’s not really a stretch to put them back near the top of the danger zone.

The USGS makes a clear distinction to what it considers induced earthquakes — and fingers wastewater disposal as the main culprit. Oklahoma allows for injection of wastewater from oil and gas production in the thousands of barrels per day, some more, some less, based on where the wells are placed and proximity to the Earthquake Area of Interest. The latest OCC directive, which came Feb. 24, is meant to keep volume increases in check, but not reduce current volumes according to Oil & Gas Conservation Division director Tim Baker.

There is a clear correlation between reduced levels of wastewater disposal and reduced seismicity, and it’s a correlation for which the OCC readily takes credit. The OCC and OGS called the map confirmation of “the validity of the work done in Oklahoma to reduce earthquake risk, as well as the need for the effort to continue.”

We think a fault lies somewhere underneath that bedrock of self-congratulations. If you take credit for reduced seismicity because you’re reducing volume or shutting in disposal wells, then yes, it stands to reason that more could be done to reduce seismicity.

We don’t even have to make the argument anymore that the oil and gas industry is responsible for man-made earthquakes. Good. But we have to keep making the argument that personal safety and property should not be ignored in the pursuit of oil and gas drilling. Less good.
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