OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – In a 3-2 vote Wednesday, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denied clemency for a death row inmate scheduled for execution July 20.

Jemaine M. Cannon was sentenced to death for the murder of 20-year-old mother of two, Sharonda Clark in February 1995.

“It should give you great pause to permit an execution of a citizen whose basic defense was never presented to the jury,” said Mark Henricksen, Cannon’s attorney, speaking to the Board on Wednesday.

Henricksen said his client was denied effective legal counsel in earlier trials by not pursuing self-defense. He claims DNA testing of the murder weapon never occurred and could have proved helpful to Cannon.

“The FBI could have conducted the DNA analysis if requested to do so by local law enforcement,” said Henricksen. “This would have gone a long distance towards supporting the self-defense claim that my client has urged.”

Sharonda Clark. Image courtesy Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
Sharonda Clark. Image courtesy Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

State prosecutors say Cannon repeatedly stabbed Clark in the throat and chest at her apartment in Tulsa, leaving her with multiple defensive wounds and severed jugular and carotid artery.

Attorney’s for the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office disputed the self-defense theory, instead they highlighted Cannon’s violent past.

Cannon was staying with Clark after escaping from an Oklahoma Department of Corrections community work center in southwest Oklahoma while serving a 15-year sentence for severely beating an 18-year-old woman in 1990.

Cannon was eventually apprehended in Flint, Michigan.

Cannon maintains that he killed Clark as an act of self-defense, while prosecutors say it was another act in a pattern of violence against women.

Cannon was sentenced to death in 1996.

On Wednesday, Cannon was given 20 minutes to make a final plea.

He spent 19 minutes of it blaming others and advocating for more forensic research, before finally apologizing.

“I’m extremely sorry and remorseful that any of this ever took place. And I wish that it never happened,” said Cannon. “You know, this is this is something that no one should experience.”

The surviving daughters of Sharonda Clark were in attendance and spoke to the media after the vote.

“It’s my mother, that memory never goes away. It’s your first love, it’s your first everything,” said Yeh-Shen White, Clark’s daughter who was four years-old at the time of the murder. “Losing her 28 years ago or losing her yesterday it still feels the same.”

Advocates say his abusive childhood, PTSD and continued health issues are cause for a different outcome other than execution.

“Jemaine Cannon has endured unspeakable cruelty from those caregivers who were responsible for caring for him,” said Mark Henricksen, attorney for Cannon. “Instead, they tortured him.  In prison today, he suffers from an untreatable autoimmune disorder which is rendering his hearing impaired, and has essentially left him blind.  To the extent life is a matter of luck, Jemaine has had the worst luck possible.  The proposed execution of this human being is obscene.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond says Wednesday’s decision to carry out Cannon’s execution is a step towards justice.

“I am pleased the Pardon and Parole Board denied clemency for the monster who brutally murdered Sharonda Clark and deprived her two young children of their mother. Justice will be served when the death penalty is carried out July 20.”

Jemaine Cannon is scheduled for execution July 20, 2023 after a delay in January.