By SEAN MURPHY The Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt denied clemency on Friday for a death row inmate sentenced to die for the 1985 shooting death of a Putnam City schoolteacher.
The Republican governor’s decision clears the way for Bigler Stouffer II, 79, to receive a lethal injection at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
It comes despite a 3-2 recommendation from the state’s Pardon and Parole Board that Stouffer’s sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole. Several members of the board voiced concerns about the state’s ability to humanely execute people after John Grant convulsed on the gurney and vomited during his lethal injection in October.
Stouffer has maintained his innocence in the attack on Linda Reaves and her boyfriend Doug Ivens that left Reaves dead and Ivens seriously wounded. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2003 after his first conviction and death sentence were overturned.
He said at his parole board hearing last month that Ivens was shot as the two men fought over a gun at Ivens’ home, and that Reaves was already dead when he arrived.
Prosecutors said Stouffer went to the home to borrow the gun from Ivens, then fatally shot Reaves and wounded Ivens in an attempt to gain access to Ivens’ $2 million life insurance policy. At the time, Stouffer was dating Ivens’ ex-wife.
Stouffer’s attorney Greg Laird said he’s upset that Stitt didn’t seem to consider evidence supporting Stouffer’s innocence claim.
“Additionally, even if Governor Stitt is convinced of his guilt we hoped his Christian beliefs would lead him to show mercy to (Stouffer) based on his age and that Jesus teaches forgiveness not retribution,” Laird wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
A federal district judge last month denied Stouffer’s request for a stay of execution. Stouffer’s attorneys have argued that the state’s current three-drug protocol poses the risk of subjecting him to unconstitutional pain and suffering. An appeal in that case is pending with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The judge did agree to Stouffer’s request that his spiritual advisor be allowed inside the death chamber during his execution, pending a background check. The advisor will be allowed to lay hands on Stouffer during the procedure.
Earlier this week, supporters of Stouffer and the anti-death penalty organization Death Penalty Action delivered a petition with an estimated 10,000 signatures asking Stitt to grant Stouffer clemency.
Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said he was grateful Stitt denied clemency.
“Stouffer’s brutal and senseless crime took the life of Linda Reaves and shattered the lives of Doug Ivens and their families,” O’Connor said in a statement. “Now, after 36 years, justice will finally be served.”