Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry has granted two month-long reprieves for Jeffrey David Matthews. Matthews’ case is deeply troubling, but the Oklahoma Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 3-2 against commuting the death sentence, leaving the Governor with limited options. Today, the Board refused to reconsider its vote, and Matthews is still set for execution next Tuesday, August 17.
Of the many disturbing aspects of Matthews’ case, the fact that he might be innocent certainly stands out. Matthews was convicted largely on the statements of a star witness who has since recanted his trial testimony. That witness, Tracy Dyer, alleged that he was beaten and threatened with death by prison guards if he didn’t cooperate in the case against Matthews. A former Deputy Sheriff who took part in that investigation has stated that it was “sloppy” and that some of the evidence obtained was “suspicious”, and that he has seen another deputy “physically and verbally abuse prisoners many times.”
Governor Henry cannot grant clemency without a change in the Board’s vote, but he can use his power and influence, as chief executive of the state, to strongly urge the Board to reconsider. And we can strongly urge the Governor to do just that.