Oklahoma death row inmate requests marriage license, in-person pickup at courthouse

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PITTSBURG COUNTY, Okla. – A man convicted of a 2005 quadruple murder is requesting a trip to the Pittsburg County courthouse to pick up a marriage license as he sits on death row.

Gilbert Postelle received two death sentences for killing Donnie Swindle Jr., Terry Smith, James Alderson and Amy Wright on Memorial Day.

Police found their bodies behind a mobile home, riddled with bullets.

Prosecutors said Postelle blamed Swindle Jr. for an accident that left Postelle’s father with brain damage.

The other three victims just happened to be with him.

Now, the Department of Corrections said Postelle wants to get married and he has a right to do so.

“For someone who took the rights away from four people in four minutes, he has the right to marry,” said Donnie’s mother, Mary Jo Swindle. “He shouldn’t have any rights to do things like that. I just feel like he ought to suffer the way he has made so many families.”

Swindle feels justice has been undone in a way, after the promise that her son’s killers would be locked away 23 hours a day, with only the walls for company.

But, the DOC said there’s nothing it can do.

“We do not believe that, constitutionally, we can prevent this from occurring,” DOC Spokeswoman Terri Watkins told NewsChannel 4. “In this particular case, the only way he can be married is with this signed document, and he’s requested that and it’s a right that’s his.”

It is unclear why the paperwork couldn’t be brought to the prison for Postelle’s signature, but DOC policy clearly allows offenders an opportunity to appear in person to sign the marriage record.

The Supreme Court defined marriage as a fundamental right in the 1960s, said Defense attorney Jacqui Ford, noting inmate marriages are not uncommon.

“That’s a very unfortunate position for the family to be in, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that [Postelle is] a human being and these are human rights,” she said. “And, as long as he’s living and breathing in this country, we have a duty to protect those rights.”

To go to the courthouse, the offender must cover the transportation cost as well as all associated costs, such as security, which Ford said can add up.

Any request from a violent offender must receive special approval.

DOC Director Joe Allbaugh would have to sign off on this particular request, Watkins said.

DOC policy outlines several circumstances in which inmates may receive “escorted leave,” including:

  • Medical Leave
  • Marriage License Leave
  • Emergency Leave for a funeral or critically ill family member
  • Pre-Release/Re-Entry to secure employment or housing prior to release
  • Community Activities
  • Transportation Leave for traveling to probation and parole districts

Maximum security inmates are only eligible for medical and marriage license leave.

Offenders are only allowed medication, clothing and a watch and/or wedding ring during their leave.

A death row inmate has not received leave for a marriage license in “many, many years,” Watkins said.

She would not provide details on how transportation or security would be arranged, citing the safety of DOC employees.

The DOC Director, presumably, will assess the risk before signing off on the plan and allowing Postelle to exercise his Constitutional right.

“Denying someone in the darkest of their days access to maybe the one good thing that they have seems pretty cruel and unusual and unnecessary,” Ford said.

For Swindle, any sort of enjoyment for a death row inmate seems unnecessary.

“It just hurts so badly that we’ve lost a son that has absolutely no rights and they’re making this big to do about what he has the right to do,” she said.

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