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May 24 2010 | UNITED STATES

Oklahoma/USA

Governor Brad Henry reduces to life prison the death sentence of Richard Smith

 
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National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) wants you to know that Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry has commuted the death sentence of Richard Smith to life without possibility of parole. Smith had been convicted and sentenced in the 1986 shooting of John Cederland during an alleged drug deal.  Smith insisted that his trial attorneys mounted a poor defense, which did not include his history of mental illness and drug abuse, or his childhood marred by abuse and neglect. Some jurors later said if they had known of Smith's struggles with mental illness and drugs they would not have voted to execute him.

Earlier this month, we urged you to contact the governor by fax, phone and e-mail encouraging him to grant clemency. Governor Henry had rescheduled Smith's execution date from May 4 to May 25 to give himself more time to review recommendations from prosecuting and defense attorneys, the state Pardon and Parole Board - which approved clemency for Smith in March - the case file, and other supporting evidence and tapes from Smith's clemency hearing.

Yesterday, May 19, Governor Henry issued a statement in which he described his decision as "difficult," but he said the Pardon and Parole Board "made the proper recommendation to provide clemency and commute the death sentence." 

Governor Henry's action is significant. Prior to the governor's decision in Smith's case, Oklahoma's Pardon and Parole Board had recommended clemency for six death row inmates, but Governor Henry approved only two, commuting the sentences to life in prison without parole.

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