Oklahoma has life without parole. A jury decides the sentence. The Governor has the authority to grant clemency on the advice
of the Pardon and Parole Board. The Governor needs a favorable recommendation
to grant clemency.
Oklahoma executed Sean Sellers in 1999. Sellers was only 16 years of age when he killed his parents. This was the first execution of a 16-year-old offender in the U.S.
in 40 years. International
protests from groups and prominent individuals such as Archbishop Desmond
Tutu and the President of the American Bar Association were unable to
stop this execution.
2003, Oklahoma executed another juvenile, Scott Hain, who was 17 at the
time of the crime, and had spent 15 years on Oklahoma's death row. A
poll taken at the time of Hain's execution showed that over 60% of
those surveyed supprted a ban on the execution of juveniles.
in 1988, Oklahoma tried
to execute a 15-year old offender but the U.S. declared that to be unconstitutional
in Thompson v. Oklahoma .
In 1999, DNA tests helped free two Oklahomans who had been convicted of
murder. Ronald Williamson and Dennis Fritz were
charged with the murder and rape of Deborah Sue Carter in 1982. They were arrested four years after the
crime. Both were convicted
and Williamson received the death penalty. In 1997, a federal appeals court overturned Williamson's conviction
on the basis of ineffectiveness of counsel. The court noted that the lawyer had failed to investigate and present
to the jury the fact that another man had confessed to the crime. Recently, DNA tests from the crime scene
did not match either Williamson or Fritz, but did implicate Glen Gore,
a former suspect in the case. All
charges against the two defendants were dismissed on April 15, 1999 and
they were released. In 2001 Phillip Smith was granted clemency when Governor Keating expressed doubt over Smith's guilt.