The state Pardon and Parole Board on Tuesday set tentative dates for clemency hearings in the cases of several death row inmates who face execution while the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals weighs whether the capital punishments may move forward.
Clemency hearings for the inmates would take place 21 days before their scheduled executions. A formal approval of the hearing dates will not be made until the criminal appeals court renders its decision.
The move comes amid a flurry of legal filings surrounding execution dates for high-profile death row inmate Julius Jones and five others who have exhausted their legal appeals.
Jones is convicted of killing an Edmond man in his driveway in 1999. His case has garnered national attention from those campaigning for clemency.
Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor in August asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to set execution dates in the wake of a U.S. district judge’s ruling that six death row inmates were eligible since they had not identified an alternative method in an ongoing constitutional challenge to the state’s protocols for lethal injection.
A seventh inmate did not challenge the protocols.
The execution date sought for Jones is Oct. 28. His clemency hearing is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 5.
Jones’s supporters said Tuesday the newly scheduled clemency hearing anticipates the state Court of Criminal Appeals approving O’Connor’s execution date request.
“We are disappointed that the commutation hearing will not be going forward on September 13,” Cece Jones-Davis, the founder and director of the Justice for Julius Coalition, said in a statement.
“Every day that Julius is behind bars, unable to tell the story of his innocence, is a painful day for him and for his family. We appreciate, however, the Pardon and Parole Board’s stated interest in conducting a robust hearing, reviewing the facts of Julius’ case, and hearing from him directly.”
Attorneys for Jones have asked the state Court of Criminal Appeals to disregard the execution date request from O’Connor.
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They argue in court filings that Jones has a second commutation hearing scheduled before the Pardon and Parole Board on Sept. 13 and Jones has “remedies available in the federal district court proceedings” challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocols intended for use in his execution.
The board anticipates having the commutation hearing wrapped into Jones’ clemency hearing tentatively scheduled for Oct. 5.
Gov. Kevin Stitt will get the final say in the case if the board recommends commuting Jones’ sentence.
Jones could be immediately eligible for parole if his sentence is commuted to life with parole. His eligibility for parole would be because of the time he has already served in prison.
Attorneys for Jones and five other death row inmates this week asked U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot to reconsider his Aug. 11 ruling that cleared the inmates for execution.
Death row inmate Bigler Jobe Stouffer is not part of the ongoing federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocols and one of the drugs used in the three-drug cocktail.
Friot ordered a trial in that lawsuit for next year.
He also ruled that Jones and the others suing the state are eligible for execution because they did not designate an alternative method of execution.
Objections filed by the federal public defenders’ office said the state attorney general’s requests were premature because the six inmates still had time to ask Friot to amend or reverse his judgment.
O’Connor replied in a court filing this week that the Court of Criminal Appeals’ duty to set an execution date is non-discretionary and by law the attorney general’s office can suggest a date.
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“A final judgment has now been entered against Jones,” O’Connor wrote in his filing. “There is no impediment — legal or prudential — against setting an execution date.”
Oklahoma last carried out the death penalty in 2015. The U.S. Supreme Court that year upheld Oklahoma’s use of the drug midazolam as a sedative in the three-drug process. The drug is under review again.
Other inmates who have exhausted their appeals and have execution dates sought by O’Connor are:
• John Marion Grant, sentenced to death in 2000 for killing a prison kitchen worker. Execution date requested is Oct. 7.
• Bigler Jobe Stouffer, sentenced to death in 1985 for killing a Putnam City teacher. Execution date requested is Nov. 18.
• Wade Greely Lay, sentenced to death in 2005 for killing a Tulsa bank guard. Execution date requested is Dec. 9.
• Donald A. Grant, sentenced to death in 2006 for killing two Del City motel workers. Execution date sought is Dec. 30.
• Gilbert Ray Postelle, sentenced to death in 2008 for killing four people at an Oklahoma City trailer park. Execution date requested is Jan. 20, 2022.
• James Allen Coddington, sentenced to death in 2003 for killing a 73-year-old Choctaw man. The execution date sought is Feb. 10, 2022.
Staff writers Chris Casteel and Carmen Forman contributed to this story.
Julius Jones’ clemency hearing set by Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board