Judge Stephen Friot, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, ruled today against a requested stay of execution for Oklahoma death-row inmate Bigler Stouffer.
Stouffer’s attorneys had argued that his execution should be halted because of questions about the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal-injection protocol following the Oct. 28 execution of John Grant. According to witnesses, Grant convulsed multiple times and vomited when injected with the first drug of the three-drug protocol.
The state’s execution methods were already the subject of an ongoing lawsuit brought by a number of Oklahoma death row inmates following two botched executions in 2014 and 2015. Stouffer is not part of that lawsuit, but his lawyers argued he ought to be added to it and his execution put on hold until there is a ruling in the matter.
The trial in that lawsuit is scheduled for February.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recently recommended Stouffer receive a sentence commutation owing to concerns about the state’s execution protocol. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt will make the final decision of whether to grant commutation.
Stouffer is scheduled to be executed Thursday, Dec. 9.
Yen: Grant execution ‘fast and smooth’
In a hearing for Stouffer’s appeal Monday, anesthesiologist and gubernatorial candidate Ervin Yen spoke as a witness for the state. He also served as a paid expert witness for Grant’s execution.
According to News9, Yen told the court he believes Grant’s execution was “fast and smooth,” contradicting media reports.
Scott Crow, the director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections had previously said accounts of Grant’s death were “embellished.”
The discrepancy appears to be based on differing definitions of a “convulsion.”
According to court documents, Friot also ruled Monday that Stouffer would be permitted to have his spiritual advisor with him, “including the laying on of hands,” during the execution. Oklahoma generally allows religious advisors to witness executions through a window.
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Stouffer recommended for commutation
On Nov. 17, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-2 to recommend Stouffer’s death sentence be commuted to life without the possibility of parole. Although most of the board stated their disbelief in Stouffer’s claim of innocence, those who voted in favor cited their concerns about the state’s current execution protocols.
Voting in favor of commutation were board members Adam Luck, Larry Morris and Kelly Doyle. Voting in dissent were Richard Smothermon and Scott Williams.
“We are being asked to participate in a process now, given the last execution, the last four (…) well, that process is obviously flawed where we’ve had individuals on the table suffering for 20 and 30 minutes apiece,” Morris said. “I don’t think that any humane society ought to be executing people that way until we figure out how to do it right.”
The decision of whether to accept the recommendation and commute Stouffer’s sentence now lies with Stitt, who recently granted a commutation to inmate Julius Jones, changing his death sentence to life without the possibility of parole.
Stouffer was convicted of a 1985 shooting that killed Putnam City Schools teacher Linda Reaves and wounded her boyfriend, Oklahoma City homebuilder Douglas Scott Ivens.
Stouffer has maintained his innocence. In 1999, he was granted a new trial based on inadequate legal representation, but he was convicted again at the second trial.