Can/Will Oklahoma Stop this Execution?

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.

UPDATE: Oklahoma Board Votes for Clemency in Death Penalty Case

Oklahoma SealC232The votes have come in and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board decided by three votes to two to recommend that Governor Brad Henry commute Richard Smith’s death sentence.  Because this recommendation is nonbinding, it is vital that we continue speaking out in the name of justice for Mr. Smith.  Governor Henry has received six previous recommendations for clemency for death row inmates from the Pardon and Parole Board since he has taken office on January 13, 2003.  Unfortunately, he has taken the Board’s advice on only two of those six recommendations.  

In addition to the Pardon and Parole Board, six of the jurors who originally sentenced Mr. Smith to death have called for clemency.  At the trial, these jurors never heard evidence of Mr. Smith’s harsh upbringing, addiction problems, and psychological and mental health issues, which they now cite as reasons for commuting Mr. Smith’s sentence.

Please continue to write appeals urging Governor Henry to accept the Board’s recommendation and reject the execution of Richard Smith.