OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommends the death sentence of James Coddington be commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Coddington is one of 25 Oklahoma inmates set to be executed in the next 29 months.

In 1997, then 73-year-old Albert Hale was beaten with a claw hammer at least five times, resulting in his death.

Coddington confessed to killing his co-worker and friend whom he had known for about three years, according to an Independent Medical Evaluation conducted in 1998.

Coddington was then convicted in 2003 and sentenced to death for the murder of Hale and is set to die on August 25.

Coddington’s attorney, Emma Rolls told the Pardon and Parole Board, “He is not a monster. Simply put, he is not the worst of the worst. And he is far more, far more than the worst thing he ever did.” She asked the board extend clemency and instead, serve Coddington a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Rolls explained his abusive upbringing, how Coddington’s parents were drug addicts and alcohol abusers, and how his childhood has positioned him where he is today.

Rolls went on to say Coddington had no intention of killing Albert Hale.

A 139 page clemency packet was provided to the Pardon and Parole Board for review.

Despite the defense’s claims that Coddington is a “changed man,” Assistant Attorney General, Caroline Hunt said it doesn’t undo what’s already done.

“We have shown that Mr. Coddington was a violent person before he killed Mr. Hale,” said Hunt.

Hunt added the only just punishment for the murder of Albert Hale would be death.

Hunt explained how this murder was “heinous, atrocious, and cruel.” She said Coddington has has 18 years of appeals and 25 years of due process.

Coddington was given the opportunity to speak for 20 minutes, but only utilized five minutes in which he spent that time apologizing.

“I have never forgot Al. He was one of my friends. And he tried his best to help me. Any time I needed it. For that, he lost his life,” said Coddington.

Coddington added he is at peace with the decision the board makes.

“If I deserve to live, it’s in y’all’s hands. If I don’t, it’s also in your hands,” he said.

The Pardon and Parole Board vote was 3-2. Clemency was recommended.

Hale’s family told the board they believed Coddington’s sentence should be carried out.

“Not only did he truly kill a kind, gentle, elderly man, he also killed our family,” said his son, Mitch Hale. “I am here to say that I forgive James Coddington, but my forgiveness does not release him from the consequences of his actions.”

Albert Hale’s grandson, Michael also gave a brief statement over Zoom saying Coddington ripped away family memories of his.

“You’re [Coddington] a taker, but I hope it’s your time to forgive,” added Michael.

Michael went on to say Coddington gave his grandfather the death sentence, so he only finds it fitting Coddington get the same.

Governor Kevin Stitt has the final say on whether to grant clemency or let the execution take place. His office says he has not yet been briefed on this case and situation and won’t comment until a decision has been made.

Attorney General John O’Connor released the following statement:

“I am disappointed that three members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended clemency for James Coddington. Coddington bludgeoned Albert Hale, a 73-year-old United States Navy veteran, to death with a hammer on March 5, 1997, when Hale refused to give Coddington money to buy drugs. The two men worked together at a salvage yard at the time Coddington went to Mr. Hale’s home for money.

Two different Oklahoma juries found that the murder was so heinous that death was the appropriate punishment. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board hearing is not designed to be a substitute for a trial before a jury. The juries heard evidence about Coddington’s childhood environment and brain development during the sentencing phase of the trials. The jury also concluded that Coddington was a continuing threat to society – both inside and outside of prison walls. 

The Judge agreed and imposed the sentence, which was affirmed after years of thorough reviews by the appellate courts. It is a just and appropriate sentence for the brutal murder of an innocent man.

My office will continue to stand on the irrefutable facts of this case and with the family of Albert Hale and with all Oklahomans, by opposing Coddington’s request for relief from the Governor.”

Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor

Emma Rolls, one of Mr. Coddington’s attorneys said, “By voting to commute James Coddington’s death sentence, the Board has acknowledged that his case exemplifies the circumstances for which clemency exists. We urge Governor Stitt to adopt the Board’s recommendation.”

“I’m surprised but pleased that the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole board has recommended clemency for James Coddington. Emma Rolls presented a powerful case that Mr. Coddington is a changed man and the Pardon and Parole Board agreed.  James’ life is now is Governor Stitts’ hands.  We ask Gov. Stitt to read the clemency packet, to watch the clemency hearing today and to look to his own faith to decide when mercy and forgiveness is appropriate and we hope that he will allow James Coddington to spend the rest of his natural life behind bars.”

Rev. Don Heath, Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP) chair

“The Catholic Church recognizes the incalculable harm done to victims of crime and their families, and the need for justice and healing. However, the death penalty is an immoral and archaic method of addressing serious crimes. Executions perpetuate cycles of violence and provide no opportunity of healing for victims’ families. We are reminded that our Lord declared as blessed those who are merciful, ‘for they shall receive mercy.’ I call on Gov. Stitt to affirm the recommendation of the Pardon and Parole Board for clemency for James Coddington.”

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley