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AM NewsBrief: June 27, 2024

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Thursday, June 27, 2024.

Man Denied Clemency for 1984 Murder of Stepdaughter Set for Execution Thursday in Oklahoma

A man sentenced to death for the murder of a seven-year-old girl in the 1980s was denied a recommendation of clemency earlier this month. He is set to be executed Thursday morning.

Richard Rojem, 66, is scheduled to be executed at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester via lethal injection.

Rojem was convicted of the 1984 kidnapping, rape, and murder of his former stepdaughter, Layla Cummings.

Rojem has been sentenced to death for the murder three separate times — his first two convictions were thrown out due to trial errors, but he was given the death penalty for the third time by a Custer County jury in 2007.

This will be the state’s second execution of 2024, following the stay of execution granted to James Ryder, who was scheduled to be executed in February and has since been deemed incompetent for execution, and the execution of Michael DeWayne Smith in April.

McCurtain County Hospital Loses Funding

A hospital in southeastern Oklahoma has lost its funding after a recent state Supreme Court decision.

Turns out, an antiquated law determined the ruling.

Two years ago McCurtain County voters approved a measure to raise the lodging tax on hotels and Airbnbs.

The tax funds the county hospital and a planned new hospital building.

However, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court recently ruled the county failed to strictly adhere to a century-old law. It requires ballot proposals be published in a local newspaper for four weeks before the election.

Instead, the county educated voters through radio advertisements, social media, town halls and other means.

Hospital CEO Brian Whitfield is disappointed.

“If anyone felt that this was an opportunity to simply sit back and watch the hospital’s demise… you should’ve packed a sack lunch because we’re going to be out on the field for a long time today,” Whitfield said.

Whitfield said the hospital is the sole healthcare provider within a 60-mile radius.

Construction On Norman Cancer Care Center Celebrates Milestone

A cancer care facility being built in Norman reached a construction milestone.

A topping out ceremony was held Tuesday to mark the completion of the exterior structure.

The OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center is going up at the Norman Regional HealthPlex campus near I-35 and Tecumseh.

The center will be Oklahoma's only National Cancer Institute-Designated cancer center.

The facility is set to open next summer.

Greenwood Educators in Tulsa Fill Gaps With Summer Program on Black Wall Street History

While teaching history in Oklahoma classrooms has become more difficult, educators in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood are taking steps to fill in the gaps. A summer program is instructing kids on the history of Black Wall Street.

The Greenwood Cultural Center in North Tulsa has been holding a summer camp for kids to learn the history of the neighborhood that surrounds them.

Tulsa-raised author Charity Barton teaches the kids about businesses that made up Black Wall Street.

Barton released a children’s book this year called ‘We Did That’ focused on Black entrepreneurship.

She says what she’s teaching needs to reach more students, pointing to the death of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

“The program—I do see it as being a way to reach kids at a time when DEI has been taking a hit. -- I think there’s gotta be the people that are willing to kind of step up and fill in the gaps because it still has to be taught," said Barton.

Oklahoma law prohibits public school teachers from teaching history in a way that makes any student feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress.”

Opponents say the law muddies the teaching of historical racism.


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