OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As time runs out for the 23 death row inmates currently on Oklahoma’s two-year execution schedule, anti-death penalty advocates are demanding Governor Kevin Stitt call for a moratorium on the state’s executions.
The year 2022 began with 43 death row inmates, 25 of which have scheduled executions over the next two years.
Of the remaining 2022 scheduled executions, Benjamin Cole’s is set to be executed Oct. 20, Wade Lay’s execution is on hold for a competency hearing and Richard Glossip was granted a 60-day stay of execution by Governor Kevin Stitt.
Richard Fairchild’s clemency hearing is set for Oct. 12.
John Hanson, whose execution date is set for Dec. 15, must wait until November for his clemency request.
Several anti-death penalty advocates are calling on Governor Stitt to implement a moratorium on the state’s executions and allow for the reevaluation of it.
“It’s like a nightmare you wish you could wake up out of. You wish, you know that you could just hug and hold your loved one. You wish you could feel their breath,” said Antoinette Jones, the sister of former Oklahoma death row inmate Julius Jones. “I’m not going to be able to talk on the phone to them anymore. They’re going to be dead and that’s something that I could not play around with in my mind. I could not accept. I would not accept.”
However, Gov. Stitt commuted his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole in November 2021.
Antoinette told KFOR just because her brother has been removed from death row, doesn’t mean she’ll stop fighting for those who are still facing an execution.
“There’s got to be a better solution than killing. If we’re saying it’s wrong to kill, we should not be legally killed,” added Antoinette.
She along with dozens of other anti-death penalty advocates flooded Gov. Stitt’s office Monday morning to deliver a petition that outlines what they believe to be flaws in the state’s criminal justice system.
Twenty-five men, whose cases include serious claims of innocence, racial bias, severe mental illness, intellectual disability, and severe childhood trauma and abuse, are all scheduled for execution. These cases reveal deep systemic flaws in Oklahoma’s capital punishment system and illustrate the egregious unfairness and cruelty of the death penalty in general.Stop Oklahoma Executions petition
The petition also states, “Oklahoma has the highest execution rate per capita of any state. But half of the death sentences have been overturned due to mistakes and legal errors.”
Since 1976, 190 death row inmates have been exonerated – 10 of which were in Oklahoma, according to former Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board Chair, Adam Luck.
As of Monday afternoon, the petition has 5,923 out of 10,000 signatures.
A former Florida death row inmate who was exonerated after three years, Herman Lindsay flew in Sunday to be a part of this petition delivery.
Lindsay told KFOR they’re wanting Gov. Stitt to take another look at the 46 reform recommendations the Death Penalty Review Commission provided to his office in 2017.
Some of those recommendations include increasing training and education in the state’s criminal justice system.
“Several of the recommendations within the Report of the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission were already being followed when the report was issued. Since then, several recommendations have been implemented and are currently being followed,” explained state Attorney General John O’Connor.
In late July, News 4 sat down with former Governor Brad Henry who called on the state to put a hault to upcoming executions until the system was reformed.
“We [Death Penalty Review Commission] worked through every aspect of the death penalty process from the arrest to lethal injection,” said Henry in a previous interview. “We saw all kinds of inequities. We saw unfair tests. We saw problems that need to be addressed.”
Antoinette said they have yet to meet with Gov. Stitt, “that’s very unsettling. That hurts. But, you know, maybe he’s busy in a meeting, you know, but I pray that he is hearing. I pray that his staff is hearing. I pray that whoever he goes and talks to is hearing.”
News 4 has reached out to Gov. Stitt’s office for comment, but they declined to comment.
When Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor was asked about the possibility of a moratorium based on Monday’s petition, he said, “The method of execution has been litigated and found to be a constitutional method of execution. A moratorium would do nothing more than delay lawful judgments and sentences from being carried out.”
In a previous statement to KFOR, O’Connor stated,
“All of the persons who are scheduled for execution have been afforded their due process rights over many years. As long as the death penalty remains a legal and appropriate punishment for the most evil and heinous crimes, this office will continue to enforce the law and make sure that justice is served for the victims of crime and for all Oklahomans. If the policy-makers want to change the law, that should be done through the legislature after vigorous public discussion.”
Benjamin Cole is the next death row inmate scheduled to die.
His execution is set for October 20.