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Oklahoma Parole Board Resignations Threaten Prisoner Clemencies

Just three of five seats remained filled on the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board after Chairman Richard L. Smothermon mailed his resignation on August 4, 2023, to Chief Justice M. John Kane IV of the state Supreme Court, which appointed Smothermon to the position in 2021. That followed the resignation of fellow member Cathy Stocker, who mailed her resignation on July 12, 2023, to the chief counsel for Gov. Kevin Stitt, who appointed her in 2022.

Stocker and Smothermon were the only two members who were once district attorneys. Both were vague about their reasons for quitting; Smothermon said he reached the decision “only after much thought and prayer,” while Stocker said the job “has not been a good fit.”

Smothermon’s announcement came one year and two days after he cast his first vote for clemency for a condemned prisoner. But the majority of Board members voted against James Coddington, sending him to a gurney for a lethal injection on August 25, 2022. Smothermon then recused himself from the clemency application of another death-row prisoner, Richard Glossip, explaining that his wife had prosecuted the case.

That left the Board tied 2-2 on Glossip’s clemency request. His September 2022 date with executioners has since been postponed, though, while the U.S. Supreme Court hears his appeal. Glossip is also suing the Board for voting on his petition with less than all five members.

“It really put Richard at an extreme disadvantage,” said state Rep. Justin Humphrey (R-Lane). “The justice system is supposed to work the same for everybody and everybody else gets five people.”

On August 11, 2023, Stitt appointed a replacement for Stocker: recently retired Washington County and Nowata County District Attorney Kevin Buchanan. A replacement for Smothermon followed two days later, when Stitt appointed Ottawa County Associate District Judge Robert E. Reavis II. Addressing the churn in membership, Board Director Tom Bates said: “People need to understand that it is hard, emotionally taxing work.”

Not unlike waiting on death row.  


Sources: CNN, KFOR

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