Listen to this article here
Sign-Up for a free subscription to The Black Wall Street Times‘ daily newsletter, Black Editors’ Edition (BEE) – our curated news selections & opinions by us for you.
A state that refuses to reveal the source of its lethal injection drugs continues to move forward with executions.
On Wednesday, February 16, the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP) and Death Penalty Action (DPA) are holding a vigil to protest the scheduled execution of death row prisoner Gilbert Ray Postelle. The event will take place from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m., across the street from the Governor’s Mansion, at 820 NE 23rd Street at Phillips Avenue.
The impending execution of another human being comes despite outrage over previous botched deaths and secrecy surrounding the source of Oklahoma’s lethal injection drugs. It also comes despite an upcoming court hearing to determine the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol. That court hearing is scheduled for Feb. 28.
Meanwhile, appointed Attorney General O’Connor and Governor Kevin Stitt have refused to halt executions ahead of the court date. Even a pending lawsuit against the state’s lethal injection source hasn’t stopped state leaders from pushing ahead with the death penalty.
Orgs. protest execution
On Thursday, February 17, the Gilbert Postelle “Don’t Kill for Me” demonstration will begin at 9 a.m. at the Governor’s Mansion. A silent vigil will follow at 10 a.m., the hour the execution is scheduled to begin. It’ll continue until a notice of a stay of execution is received or the execution is carried out. The vigil will conclude with a prayer circle. Meanwhile, organizers say the event will be canceled if the execution is postponed.
Also, on Thursday, anti-death penalty advocates are asked to join OK-CADP and DPA at an Execution Watch Vigil for Gilbert Postelle beginning at 9 a.m., at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, located at 1301 N West Street, in McAlester.
Posttelle has been on death row since 2006. He was convicted of participating with three other men in the killing of four men at a mobile home park in Oklahoma City in 2005. Postelle was 18 at the time of the crime.
Oklahoma to execute man with learning disabilities
The clemency packet, prepared for the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board by his attorney Robert Nance, states that Gilbert Postelle had learning disabilities and an IQ in the low 70s. He was a special education student while in public school and dropped out at age 12. Both his parents were mentally ill and he was severely neglected as a child. He was addicted to methamphetamines for four years, beginning at age 14.
“At age 18, intellectually impaired Gil Postelle did as his father asked him to do,” said Randy Bauman, OK-CADP Board Member, according to a press release.
“He is – maybe – a hair above some of the bare minimums to even be eligible for the death penalty. Yet we are planning not only to kill him but to do it with a method so questionable it warrants a trial in a couple of weeks on whether it can be used. A couple of weeks. We should at least wait for that trial to be held which the Governor can easily arrange. The Governor should grant a temporary reprieve, a power he has for just such a situation.”
Daughter begs Governor to spare her father
On December 1, the Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 denying clemency for Postelle.
On Feb. 1, Gilbert Postelle’s 18-year-old daughter, Kayla Johnson and other relatives urged Governor Kevin Stitt to show mercy during a rally held outside the Governor’s Mansion.
“How do you solve murder with murder,” said Johnson. “He has been an inspiration to do better with my life. He has helped me by being there for me, and telling me what not to do in life.”
His stepmother Norma Wilder pleaded for Postelle’s life. “As his mother I am not asking you to let him go free, I am begging you to have mercy and spare his life from execution,” she said.
Postelle would be the second person executed in Oklahoma in 2022 and the fourth since Oklahoma’s six-year moratorium on the death penalty, which ended with the execution of John Marion Grant last year on October 28.
Federal trial will determine constitutionality of state’s lethal injection
Sean Murphy, with the Associated Press, observed that John Grant suffered two dozen full-body convulsions and had to have vomit wiped from his face twice. Murphy reported that it was similar to the botched execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29, 2014, which he also witnessed. Lockett’s execution lasted 43 minutes, during which he writhed, groaned and convulsed.
John Grant’s autopsy report was recently released in which doctors noted his “lungs were ‘heavy’ with edema, congestion and mild emphysema.”
A federal hearing to determine the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s three-drug lethal injection protocol – consisting of midazolam, a sedative; vecuronium bromide, a paralytic; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart – is scheduled to begin on Feb. 28 before Judge Stephen Friot of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma leading in executions
The prisoners’ lawsuit argues the state’s three-drug injection protocol violates the Eighth Amendment, which protects against “cruel and unusual punishment.”
According the Death Penalty Information Center, the lawsuit alleges, based on execution-autopsy results, that the use of midazolam causes a sense of suffocation from “flash pulmonary edema” – an almost immediate build-up of fluid in the lungs – while the prisoner is conscious, followed by “chemical suffocation” as the paralytic drug shuts down the lungs, and the pain of being chemically “burned alive” by the potassium chloride.
“The State has scheduled the execution of another inmate with severe mental disabilities,” said Rev. Don Heath, chair of OK-CADP. “Mr. Postelle’s story is sad; it is difficult to hear. He is not the worst of the worst; he is the least of these.”