Board recommends clemency for Oklahoma death row inmate

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Board of Pardon and Parole voted Wednesday to recommend clemency for a death row inmate who admitted beating to death a friend and colleague who refused to lend him $50 to buy cocaine .

The council voted 3-2 to recommend Governor Kevin Stitt grant clemency to James Coddington, 50, who was convicted and sentenced to death for killing Albert Hale, 73, at Hale’s Choctaw home in 1997. Coddington beat Hale over the head at least three times with a hammer.

An emotional Coddington, who spoke via video and appeared on the verge of tears, apologized to the Hale family and told the council he was a different man today.

“I’m clean, I know God, I’m not…I’m not a vicious murderer,” Coddington said.

“If it ends today with my death sentence, okay,” Coddington said before the vote.

Coddington said Hale had tried to get him to stop using drugs and had been a friend and “for that he lost his life”.

Hale’s son, Mitch Hale, read statements from himself and his sister, Patricia Carey, urging the council to reject the clemency request.

“Please do justice to my father and my family. Give James Coddington the same sentence he inflicted on my father,” according to Carey’s statement.

Hale told the council that he initially hated Coddington, but had given up the hate.

“I forgive James Coddington, but my forgiveness does not release him from the consequences of his actions,” Hale said as he urged the council to reject the clemency request.

Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Caroline Hunt told the council that Coddington killed Hale to rob him and avoid going to jail.

“There will be no justice if Mr. Coddington receives leniency from his death sentence,” Hunt said.

Coddington was sentenced to death twice in the case, the second time in 2008 after his original sentence was overturned on appeal.

The clemency recommendation now goes to Stitt, a Republican in his first term who is up for reelection this year. He approved one request for clemency, that of Julius Jones, and rejected one, that of Bigler Stouffer, who was put to death in December.

Coddington is due to be put to death on August 25, the first of six inmates set to be executed after a federal judge rejected a challenge by them and 19 other death row inmates to the state‘s lethal injection method.

The chairman of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Reverend Don Heath, said he was “surprised but pleased” with the council’s recommendation.

“We ask Governor Stitt to read the clemency packet, watch the clemency hearing … and we hope he allows James Coddington to spend the rest of his natural life behind bars,” Heath said in a statement. .

Oklahoma had one of the busiest death chambers in the country until problems in 2014 and 2015 led to a de facto moratorium. Richard Glossip was just hours away from his execution in September 2015 when prison officials realized they had been given the deadly wrong drug. It was later learned that the same bad drug was used to execute another man in January 2015.

The drug medleys followed a botched execution in April 2014 in which inmate Clayton Lockett struggled on a stretcher before dying 43 minutes after his lethal injection – and after the state prisons chief ordered executioners to stop.

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