Death Penalty Instituteblueline.gif (992 bytes)of Oklahoma


Oklahoma: the New Execution Leader
By Robert Peebles
November 6, 2000

The University of Oklahoma Sooners are currently ranked as the number one college football team in the nation by the Associated Press.  College football is not the only area where Oklahoma leads the nation -- the state has emerged as a leader in US executions.  

Oklahoma ranked third in per capita execution rates in the country in 1998 and 1999.  This year it has the highest rate in the US (currently about twice as high as the rate in Texas).

This trend looks very likely to continue in 2001, as Oklahoma has scheduled the executions of eight persons in January.  Only Texas, with a population roughly six times that of Oklahoma, has executed eight people in a single month since the resumption of capital punishment in America in 1976.  Texas did this twice -- in both May and June of 1997.

On a per capita basis Oklahoma will execute more people in January than Texas has executed in any year since the resumption of capital punishment.

Following is a list of the people Oklahoma currently plans to execute in January:

January 4 Robert Clayton
January 9 Eddie Trice
January 11 Wanda Jean Allen
January 16 Floyd Medlock
January 18 Dion Smallwood
January 23 Mark Fowler
January 25 Billy Fox
January 30 Loyd Lafevers

If all of these executions occur as scheduled, Oklahoma will have strapped a total of 38 persons to the execution gurney in McAlester.  Exactly half of those executions will have occurred in a 13-month period (January 2000 through January 2001).

Oklahoma has executed men whose trial attorney:

  • made no opening or closing statements and called no witnesses (Ronald Boyd)

  • presented no evidence or witnesses during the penalty phase (Norman Newsted)
  • had never defended a criminal case before (Robert Brecheen)

In addition, the trial attorney for Wanda Jean Allen begged the court to let him off the case so that competent counsel could be appointed.  (Allen is scheduled to be the first woman executed by the state and the first African-American woman to be executed in the country since the resumption of capital punishment.)

Oklahoma has also executed men who were mentally ill, mentally incompetent and arguably innocent.  Oklahoma is the only state to have executed someone for crimes committed at 16 (Sean Sellers) in the past 40 years.

In addition to our high execution rate, Oklahoma also has the third largest death row per capita and the second highest per capita release rate of innocent persons from death row.  For a brief overview of capital punishment in Oklahoma, see At a Glance.


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