BY RICHARD L. FRICKER
As the Oklahoma Legislature trudges to a close next month, Republicans have been busy taking government out of Oklahomans’ lives – except for women, and lowering taxes and closing loopholes, except for corporations and the oil lobby.
The titular party leader, Gov. Mary Fallin, appears to have adapted well to her new job.
While not all the Republican agenda has met with success, and some legislative issues remain to be resolved, there is one area where Gov. Fallin has excelled: The governor has not shied away from having human beings strapped to a gurney, injected with chemicals and killed.
Fallin apparently has no problem executing people. The Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 to grant Garry Thomas Allen clemency. But “Needle” Mary was ready to inject Allen, or rather have some state prison employees inject Allen, with the fluids of justice until a federal judge stopped her less than 24 hours before the time assigned for this death.
Allen had been convicted of a murder which was not in dispute. However, Allen is, based on expert testimony of Dr. Michael Gelbort, in the early stages of dementia and seizure disorder.
In short the doctor found that Allen is, quite simply put, insane.
The Pardon and Parole Board agreed with the doctor.
Fallin, in an act of unbridled cowardice, knowing clemency does not bear well with the evangelical elements of the electorate, denied clemency.
Death penalty opponents later met with one of the governor’s staff attorneys, the equivalent of George W. Bush’s Alberto “Frodo” Gonzales. He assured them he and Fallin would hold a “prayerful” discussion on the matter in the hours before the execution.
[Gonzales was the guy who gave Bush the one paragraph memos saying it was OK to kill inmates, saving W the tedium of having to read cases and make a decisions. He later became attorney general of the United States. He was forced to resign amid the U.S. Attorney appointment scandal which found he used his AG position to promote Bush policies by forcing resignations and allowing appointments of Bush campaign workers to Department of Justice positions and various U.S. Attorney positions.]
Allen’s attorney, rather than wait for a voice from a burning bush or a Damascus conversion, requested a stay from the Federal Court of the Western District of Oklahoma. Apparently the judge was not as busy as God and set a 15-day deadline in which to file an appeal of the governor’s action, or rather lack thereof.
Execution stayed, with hours to spare.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt appealed the judge’s stay order and lost. Allen remains alive because the judge saw in the issue what the Pardon and Parole Board saw and Fallin did not – you just shouldn’t kill the insane.
But all is not lost.
There is yet another opportunity for Fallin and her fellows to gather in the woods, paint their faces and exchange ideological fluids. Michael Selsor is set to be injected with justice fluid May 1 for a crime committed in 1975. He has remained incarcerated since the crime was committed – that’s 37 years.
Thirty-seven years, as it happens, the same amount of time it takes to discharge a life sentence. Selsor has been tried a couple of times. He was initially given the death penalty for the killing of convenience store clerk in Tulsa in 1975; the appeals court commuted his sentence to life. Selsor then – acting as his own attorney, always a bad idea – asked for and got a new trial and was once again given the death penalty.
His attorney argued at his Pardon and Parole Board clemency hearing that Selsor, not a lawyer, did not understand the ramifications of a new trial. The board denied clemency and the May 1 execution day remains in place.
It didn’t help Selsor, 22 when he killed store clerk Clayton Chandler, that the investigating officer, now the Tulsa Police chief, Chuck Jordan, appeared to ask that the death penalty remain in place. Chandler’s daughter and mother also appeared to ask clemency be denied.
Chandler’s family said, “It’s time to end this.” Sister Helen Prejean addressed this victim’s plea for closure saying that while understandable the sought-after closure is seldom achieved.
The action of the board is understandable: with the family and police chief present any board would be hard-pressed to grant clemency. But, knowing the governor is going to override any clemency decision, makes the effort to save Selsor’s life futile.
Selors’s execution will be the third since Fallin became governor. While she is a long way from the benchmark set by Texas Govs. George Bush and successor Rick Perry, who garnered applause for his 200-plus killings, she shows no signs of slowing down on the legalized killing spree.
This willingness to kill, even when mercy is recommended, brings to mind the 1994 Oliver Stone-Quentin Tarantino movie Natural Born Killers. While Fallin bears little resemblance to, and is a score of years older than Juliette Lewis, she seems to take to the craft with equal abandon.
– Richard L. Fricker lives in Tulsa, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, The Last Day of the War, is available at https://www.createspace.com/3804081.