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DOC draws media witnesses for 1st of 25 scheduled executions

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Chris Polansky / KWGS News
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At the Oklahoma Department of Corrections headquarters in Oklahoma City on Friday, Aug. 12, DOC public information manager Josh Ward draws raffle tickets to select which media outlets will be permitted to witness the scheduled Aug. 25 execution of death row inmate James Coddington.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections on Friday drew raffle tickets from a fishbowl to determine which media outlets would be permitted access to witness the Aug. 25 execution of death row inmate James Coddington, the first of 25 men scheduled to be put to death over the next two years.

Public Radio Tulsa was the only media organization to attend the drawing, which for the first time was held at DOC headquarters in Oklahoma City two weeks ahead of the execution. In the past, the drawings had been conducted in the media holding area at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester shortly before each execution.

DOC public information manager Josh Ward said the change was made to simplify the administrative process on the day of each execution.

"To save time," Ward told Public Radio Tulsa when asked. "There's just so much to do that morning and we have to be ready to move when the Division of Institutions calls us, so when everything shuts down there's a whole lot of procedural things to get done."

"It also allows you guys to set your coverage plans a little better," Ward said.

According to state protocol, the Associated Press is guaranteed one of five media eyewitness seats for each execution. Another seat is reserved for a media organization based in the county where the condemned inmate was convicted.

KWTV, or Oklahoma City's News 9, was selected as the local outlet. Coddington was convicted in Oklahoma County for the 1997 murder of Albert Hale in Choctaw.

In addition to the AP and News 9, The Oklahoman, FOX23, and Public Radio Tulsa were chosen to have reporters present in the gallery adjacent to the death chamber.

Barring court intervention or Gov. Kevin Stitt accepting the clemency recommendation the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board issued earlier this month, Coddington will be the first of 25 men scheduled to be put to death, roughly one per month through the end of 2024.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.