Oklahoma executes James Coddington for the 1997 murder, the first of 25 executions scheduled over the next two years

Coddington, who was sentenced to death for the 1997 murder of Albert Hale amid his battle with a crack addiction, was executed after Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday denied his clemency request. Coddington’s attorneys and attorneys had hoped his life would be spared, pointing to his remorse for Hale’s murder, his traumatic childhood and his rehabilitation on Oklahoma’s death row.

The time of death was 10:16 a.m. CT, Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow told reporters.

“Today is not a good day, it’s not a bad day, it’s just a new day for our family,” Mitchell Hale, the victim’s son, told reporters after attending the execution. “We can finally move on. It’s not going to cure anything, but it closes this chapter.”

Coddington’s execution was the first of more than two dozen state officials who plan to proceed by December 2024, at the rate of about one man per month. Opponents have criticized the plan: There are outstanding questions about the innocence or mental fitness of some detainees to be executed, their lawyers have said, and critics have pointed to the fact that the state recent history of botched lethal injections.
Oklahoma governor denies clemency for death row inmate ahead of Thursday's execution
These troubles – which date back to 2014 execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed and moaned on the stretcher for 43 minutes before suffering a heart attack – had prompted officials to suspend executions pending capital punishment investigations and reviews in the state. Executions resumed last October, with inmate John Grantwho convulsed and vomited on the stretcher, by witnesses.

But there was “absolutely no problem” with Coddington’s execution, Crow said. “Today’s execution went according to protocol, without any problems.”

Coddington’s chest heaved during the execution, but it wasn’t “dramatic” or to the point where his body heaved off the stretcher, said The Associated Press’ Sean Murphy, one of the five media witnesses to the execution. The inmate’s breathing appeared to be labored, he said, adding that the execution was “pretty normal for the course”, considering the drugs used.

Coddington, in his final words, thanked his family, friends and lawyers, according to media witnesses, and also addressed Stitt saying, “I don’t blame you and I forgive you.”

Coddington did not express remorse for Hale’s murder, Mitchell Hale said, saying the omission proved the inmate’s previous expressions of remorse were not “genuine”.

“He never apologized, he never mentioned my father, he never mentioned my family,” the slain man’s son said. “So there was no real remorse.”

Coddington’s supporters had tried to save his life, including during a hearing this month before the Oklahoma Pardons and Parole Board, which voted 3-2 to recommend Coddington be given the clemency, sending the decision to Stitt.

Coddington had asked for his sentence to be commuted to life in prison, where his lawyers – including the former director of the state Department of Corrections and a former speaker of the state House of Representatives – said that he had finally overcome his addiction and could exert a good influence on the other inmates.

“I don’t think it would be in the interests of the State of Oklahoma to execute Mr. Coddington,” Justin Jones, the former director of prisons, told Public Radio Tulsa this month.

State Attorney General John O’Connor and Hale’s family did not support clemency. And while Hale’s son told the parole board during the hearing that he had forgiven Coddington, “my forgiveness does not release him from the consequences of his actions,” Mitchell Hale said, according to CNN affiliate KOCO.

Stitt ultimately declined clemency after considering arguments from both sides, his office said in a statement Wednesday.

Coddington and his attorneys were “deeply discouraged,” attorney Emma Rolls said in a statement. “James is loved by a lot of people,” Rolls told CNN, “and he touched the hearts of a lot of people. He’s a good man.”

24 more executions planned over the next 2 years

Amid lingering concerns about the innocence or sanity of inmates and previous botched lethal injections, Oklahoma is on track to continue its steady streak of executions, with more than half of the 43 detainees convicted and sentenced to death there due to being killed.
The frenzy is similar to other recent series of executions by Arkansas and the US government under the Trump administration but largely out of step with further rollback of the death penalty in America.
Oklahoma, with a history of botched lethal injections, prepares to start executing a man a month
The next to be executed in Oklahoma is believed to have been Richard Glossip, who maintains he is innocent of the murder of his boss in 1997. He was due to be put to death on September 22 but Stitt last week issued a 60-day reprieve allow a court of appeal to consider a new hearing. This is Glossip’s fourth stay or reprieve, according to his lawyers. His execution is now scheduled for December 8.

This means that inmate Benjamin Cole Sr.’s execution is next, October 20. Cole was sentenced to death for murder in 2002, but his lawyers say he is unfit for execution due to “profound mental illness and brain damage”.

Medical experts diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia, they say in court documents, and they requested a jurisdictional hearing before his execution date.

Families of victims killed by those awaiting execution “have waited decades for justice to be served,” the attorney general said in a statement as execution dates were set, calling relatives of the victims ” courageous and inspiring”.

O’Connor also pointed out Oklahoma voted in favor of the death penalty in 2016adding: “I am certain that justice and safety for all of us motivated this vote.”

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