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Oklahoma Plans to Execute 25 Prisoners in 29 Months

An Oklahoma court on Friday set execution dates for 25 death row prisoners, setting up a string of executions that would take place nearly every month over the next two years.

The executions are set to begin in late August and run through December 2024. The 25 men on death row have all exhausted their appeals, but they were temporarily spared in recent years as Oklahoma stopped administering the death penalty in 2015 because of botched executions.

Although the state began carrying out executions again late last year, it waited to set execution dates for the 25 prisoners because of a lawsuit over one of the drugs used in lethal injections. In June, a federal judge upheld the use of the drug, the sedative midazolam, finding that its use did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment and clearing the way for the courts to begin setting the execution dates.

If the executions take place as scheduled, Oklahoma would kill 10 prisoners a year in 2023 and 2024, the first time it has executed that many since 2003, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Texas executed 10 prisoners in 2018, and the federal government reached the same number in 2020.

Oklahoma’s attorney general, John O’Connor, asked the court to set dates for the prisoners, all of whom were convicted of murder, and said on Friday that family members of the victims had long been waiting for justice.

“They are courageous and inspiring in their continued expressions of love for the ones they lost,” Mr. O’Connor said in a statement. “My office stands beside them as they take this next step in the journey that the murderers forced upon them.”

Lawyers for the men on death row said several of them have claims to innocence, including Richard Glossip, now scheduled for execution in September, whose case has attracted widespread attention.

Don Knight, a lawyer for Richard Glossip, said on Friday that his client was “an innocent man” and urged a court to hear new evidence in his case.Credit…Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman, via Associated Press

A bipartisan group of lawmakers commissioned a law firm to investigate the case of Mr. Glossip, who was convicted of arranging the murder of a motel owner in 1997. The firm issued findings last month that it said showed that another man also convicted in the case had most likely acted alone, and that Mr. Glossip should not have been convicted.

State Representative Kevin McDugle, a Republican, said that while he supported the death penalty, he would push to outlaw it if the state executed Mr. Glossip, who he believes is innocent.

“If we put Richard Glossip to death, I will fight in this state to abolish the death penalty, simply because the process is not pure,” Mr. McDugle, who represents a district outside of Tulsa, said at a news conference last month. He said on Friday that he stood by his promise.

Lawyers for several of the other men on death row say they suffer from severe mental illnesses or have sought to redeem themselves while in prison. The man who is scheduled to be killed first, James A. Coddington, admitted at trial that he had killed a 73-year-old co-worker with a hammer in 1997 when the co-worker, Albert Hale, would not lend him money to buy drugs.

“There’s nothing I can do to make up for what I did,” Mr. Coddington said at his 2003 trial, according to The Oklahoman.

But his lawyer, Emma Rolls, is arguing that he should not receive the death penalty for his crime, and said in a statement on Friday that Mr. Coddington “embodies the principle of redemption.”

“James is the most deeply and sincerely remorseful client I have ever represented,” she said.

Robert Dunham, the director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said it was unusual in recent years for a state to schedule so many executions at once.

“This is a throwback to a time in which the United States felt very different about capital punishment than it does now,” he said, noting that Texas had executed an average of more than 30 people a year between 1997 and 2000.

A majority of Americans support the death penalty, though that support has declined significantly since the 1990s. In Oklahoma, voters approved a ballot measure in 2016 that enshrined into the State Constitution the ability to carry out the death penalty.

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