As Trial in South Carolina Execution-Method Challenge Begins, Review of State’s Death Penalty Reveals System that is Biased, Arbitrary, and Error-Prone

As the trial challenging South Carolina’s execution methods began on August 1, 2022, a review of the state’s death penalty by the Greenville News revealed a pattern of discrimination, geographic arbitrariness, and high error rates in the implementation of the punishment.  In a two-part examination, reporter Kathryn Casteel analyzed racial and county demographics on death row, reversal rates in capital cases, and the timing of death sentences to provide context for the state’s efforts to institute the electric chair and firing squad as its primary execution methods. RELATED |  Future of South Carolina death penalty now rests with judge Four of South Carolina’s 35 death-row prisoners are suing the state to block a law that would force them to choose between electrocution and firing squad as methods of execution. One of the men, Richard Moore, wrote in an April legal filing, “I believe this election is forcing me to choose between two unconstitutional methods of execution.” Executions ar

Oklahoma begins setting execution dates for 25 death row inmates; first one set for Aug. 25

Oklahoma will resume executions on Aug. 25 and then carry out lethal injections in stages through the end of 2024.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is setting 25 execution dates for convicted murderers who have exhausted appeals of their convictions and sentences. An order setting the dates for the first six executions was filed Friday morning.

First up in August is James A. Coddington who murdered a friend in Choctaw in 1997. His attorney said in a statement Friday he "embodies the principle of redemption."

"Prison staff have given him accolades for his problem-free record and commitment to serving the prison community and engaging in academic study over his 15 years on death row. James is the most deeply and sincerely remorseful client I have ever represented,” attorney Emma Rolls said.

Second up in September is Richard E. Glossip, who was within an hour of being executed in 2015 when a doctor realized the wrong drug had been delivered.


His innocence claim has drawn widespread support, notably from actress Susan Sarandon who won an Academy Award in 1996 for her portrayal of death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean in "Dead Man Walking."

He also has found support at the state Legislature. State Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, said June 15 that a new "independent investigation confirmed, in my mind, that we do have an innocent man on death row.” 

Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor asked for the dates after 28 inmates lost their federal lawsuit challenging the lethal injection protocol.

Executions are carried out at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Two inmates were put to death there last year and two more this year.

Inmates still can seek clemency before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. The governor gets the final say, but only if the board recommends a sentence reduction. Gov. Kevin Stitt in November commuted the death sentence of Julius Jones about four hours before his execution was to begin.

Inmates also still could get execution stays while they appeal their lawsuit loss. An Oklahoma City federal judge dismissed the lawsuit June 6 after ruling the state's lethal injection protocol does not violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Glossip plans to raise a new challenge to his conviction based on the investigative report's findings. Others could be spared if they are found to be no longer mentally competent.

Corrections officials had asked that the executions be at least four weeks apart. The attorney general had asked the appeals court to set as many as possible just four weeks apart "for the sake of the victims' families, many of who have waited decades."

The parole board asked for a schedule that allowed it to have only one clemency hearing a month, during its regular meeting. 

Set to die in the first phase of executions are:
  • James A. Coddington on Aug. 25 for murdering a friend, Albert Troy Hale, 73, in Choctaw during a cocaine binge and robbery spree in 1997. He is 50.
  • Richard E. Glossip on Sept. 22 for the 1997 beating death of his boss, Oklahoma City motel owner Barry Van Treese. He is 59. A motel maintenance man confessed, saying Glossip offered to pay him $10,000 to do it to keep from being fired. 
  • Benjamin Robert Cole on Oct. 20 for killing his infant daughter in 2002 in Claremore because she wouldn't stop crying. He is 57. 
  • Richard S. Fairchild on Nov. 17 for fatally beating his girlfriend's 3-year-old son in Del City in 1993.  He is 62.
  • John Fitzgerald Hanson on Dec. 15 for fatally shooting a woman in 1999 after kidnapping her from a Tulsa mall during a carjacking. He is 58.
  • Scott James Eizember on Jan. 12 for bludgeoning an elderly man to death in 2003 after breaking into the victim's home in Depew to spy on an ex-girlfriend. He is 61.
Source: oklahoman.com, Nolan Clay, July 1, 2022

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but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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