Oklahoma State prosecutors are pushing to schedule 25 executions over about two years, after a federal judge dismissed a challenge by death row inmates to the state’s controversial lethal injection protocol.
On June 10, 2022, Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to set execution dates for 25 of the 28 prisoners who were parties to the court challenge. execution protocol. The request came just four days after Judge Stephen Friot ruled that the state’s three-drug procedure is constitutional. The prisoners’ lawyers have announced their intention to appeal Friot’s decision.
If granted, the request would result in the largest mass schedule of executions since Ohio set 27 execution dates in 2017. Only three of those executions actually took place before Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is not halting executions due to concerns over the same lethal injection protocol. employed by Oklahoma. If Oklahoma carries out all 25 executions, it will carry out more executions in the next two years than have carried out all of the US states combined since 2020.
Lawyers for the 25 prisoners have expressed concern that the volume of executions will prevent prisoners from adequately presenting important issues in their cases. At least eleven of the prisoners included in the state’s request for execution dates have claims of innocence, serious mental illness and/or brain damage.
Under O’Connor’s proposed enforcement order, Richard Glossip would be the second person to be put to death. Glossip has always maintained his innocence, and his claims of innocence are currently the subject of an independent investigation commissioned by the Oklahoma legislature. Glossip’s attorney, Don Knight, said in a statement, “Oklahoma should not execute an innocent man given that 29 Republican lawmakers, including staunch conservatives who have commissioned an independent investigation into the case of Richard Glossip , are still awaiting this report. These discoveries could reveal previously unknown exculpatory information. Until everyone has a chance to review the final report, the Attorney General has a moral duty to delay the execution of Richard Glossip. Regardless of people’s position on the death penalty, no one should want to kill an innocent person. The stakes are too high to rush this process. A man’s life is at stake.”
Lawyers for the death row inmates have also raised serious concerns about the convictions and death sentences of many other men facing execution. James Coddington, who would be the first person executed under O’Connor’s motion, has experienced poverty, trauma and abuse since birth. He suffers from severe mental illness and drug addiction, and immediately expressed deep remorse for killing a friend while on a crack-cocaine binge. Three prisoners (Richard Fairchild, Wendell Grissom and John Hanson) have brain damage. Wade Lay suffers from schizophrenia, but was allowed to represent himself at trial. He has a hearing scheduled for May 2023 to determine if he is fit to be executed. In many cases, juries did not hear significant mitigating evidence that could have influenced their sentencing decisions: the victim’s family not wanting a death sentence (Marlon Harmon), a diagnosis of PTSD resulting from the collapse of access to basic necessities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (Kendrick Simpson), developmental disability and several mental illnesses (Kevin Underwood). Defense lawyers have argued that the large number of execution dates requested will overwhelm the courts and the Pardons and Parole Board, which will be responsible for reviewing these cases.
The motion does not ask for a specific timeline, but the Attorney General’s motion asks the court to set the dates approximately four weeks apart, with larger variances to accommodate the Clemency Board’s schedule and of parole, which only meets once a month. “According to the calculations of the State[,] … it will be necessary to schedule some executions more than four weeks apart,” O’Connor said. “However, the state respectfully requests that, in the interest of the families of the victims, many of whom have waited decades, as many executions as possible be spaced four weeks apart.”
The Catholic Archbishop of Oklahoma City, Paul S. Coakley, immediately condemned the attorney general’s request, saying, “Killing 25 human beings as punishment for killing – even if they are guilty – only perpetuates the cycle of violence and offers no mercy or opportunity for the redemption that Jesus asks of us. We also cannot undo it if we are wrong.
Nolan Clay, Executions in Oklahoma Could Resume in August; HER say the families of the victims ‘waited for decadesOklahoman, June 11, 2022; Andy Rose and Elizabeth Wolfe Oklahoma HER the schedule for executing requests must be defined for 25 detained following decision on lethal injection protocol, CNNJune ten, 2022; Kevin Severin, HER O’Connor asks for execution dates for 25 Oklahoma inmates, KOKHJune ten, 2022; Danielle Haynes, Oklahoma HER trying to program 25 executions, IPUJune ten, 2022.