Posted on Friday, November 19, 2021 | 4:18 p.m.
Updated 9 minutes ago
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – After a six-year moratorium on the death penalty following a spate of botched lethal injections, Oklahoma officials announced in August that they would seek execution dates for seven men condemned. The following month, their executions were scheduled, leading some supporters of the death penalty to believe that state executions would be hastily resumed.
But what was once one of the busiest death chambers in the country did not take over the administration of the death penalty as easily as some had hoped after Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday barred the death penalty. execution of Julius Jones hours before his death.
The governor’s decision follows public outcry over doubts raised by his defense. Famous supporters, including Kim Kardashian West, had pleaded for Jones, and high school students in Oklahoma came out of their classrooms this week to protest his planned execution.
Stitt’s offer of clemency – to commute Jones’ death sentence from death to life in prison without the possibility of parole – came just weeks after criticism and questions over the execution protocol of the three state drugs were renewed following the Oct. 28 execution of John Marion Grant, who convulsed and vomited while receiving midazolam, the first of the three drugs.
And earlier this week, members of the Oklahoma Pardons and Parole Board on Wednesday voted 3 to 2 to recommend leniency for death row inmate Bigler Stouffer II – not because of doubts about his guilt, but because of concerns about the state’s methods of execution.
State Representative Jim Olsen said on Friday he supported the death penalty and hoped executions would resume in Oklahoma. The Republican – who has been criticized by Democrats this year for comparing efforts to end abortion to fighting slavery – said he was disappointed with Stitt’s decision on the Jones case , although he did not directly criticize the governor.
“I think it gives us a more permissive climate to commit murder,” Olsen said. “It’s obviously a very difficult position to occupy. I don’t think anybody would say, ‘I would like to be a governor and have to decide.'”
Olsen has no hope for the future of executions.
“This is probably the end of the death penalty in the state of Oklahoma,” he said.
Stitt has not publicly stated why he agreed to commute Jones’ death sentence, and he has not commented on the parole board’s recommendation to commute Stouffer’s sentence.
“He supports the death penalty, but he considers (commutations) on a case-by-case basis,” said Stitt spokeswoman Carly Atchison. “The terms of switching (from Jones) that he will never be eligible for pardon or parole,” was key to Stitt’s decision, Atchison said.
An attorney for Jones did not immediately return a phone call to comment on plans for future lawsuits.
Don Heath, chairman of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said Jones’ options appeared limited.
“I think he has exhausted his remedies. It is only if new evidence is presented that he can appeal, ”said Heath. “I don’t think you can appeal a pardon decision, a pardon decision. “
Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s lethal injection protocols is set to go to trial in February. The lawsuit argues that the three-drug method risks causing unconstitutional pain and suffering.
Heath said Stitt “must stay all executions” until the trial is over.
But Heath is less sure than Olsen whether the executions actually ended in Oklahoma.
“I hope it is,” said Heath. “I have not seen any indication from Governor Stitt that this is the case” because of Stitt’s support for the death penalty, he said.