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Oklahoma board recommends clemency for death row prisoner James Coddington

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Wednesday recommended clemency for death row inmate James Coddington. Photo courtesy Oklahoma Department of Corrections
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Wednesday recommended clemency for death row inmate James Coddington. Photo courtesy Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Wednesday recommended clemency for a death row prisoner convicted of bludgeoning a co-worker to death more than two decades ago.

The board voted 3-2 to recommend that James Coddington's death sentence be commuted to life without possibility of parole, sending the case to Gov. Kevin Stitt to decide whether clemency will be granted.

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Coddington is scheduled to be executed Aug. 25 after he was sentenced to death for the 1997 murder of Albert Troy Hale, 73, in Choctaw, Okla.

Prosecutors said Coddington beat Hale in the head with a hammer and robbed him after Hale refused to lend him money to buy cocaine.

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Coddington's lawyers said he was the victim of physical abuse as a child and struggled with drug and alcohol addiction at a young age. They said he showed symptoms of "severe mental illness as a child" and was placed in a psychiatric hospital for six months at age 8.

They also asserted that his defense team was prevented from having a psychiatrist testify that brain damage from years of substance abuse would have made him ineligible for the death penalty.

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In a statement, the board said that the hearing included evidence of Coddington's "profound remorse and the work he has done in prison to redeem himself," including earning the trust of the prison staff, working a job as a unit orderly and maintaining a clear prison record for more than 15 years while also maintaining sobriety and earning his GED.

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"By voting to commute James Coddington's death sentence, the board has acknowledged that his case exemplifies the circumstances for which clemency exists," said Emma Rolls, one of Coddington's attorneys. "We urge Governor Stitt to adopt the board's recommendation."

Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor issued a statement saying he was "disappointed" in the board's decision and asserting his support for the court's ruling.

"Two different Oklahoma juries found that the murder was so heinous that death was the appropriate punishment," O'Connor said. "The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board hearing is not designed to be a substitute for a trial before a jury."

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