Board Begins Crafting Rules to Handle Death Penalty Commutation Applications

Jul 13, 2020

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is getting to work on rules for how it will handle commutation applications from inmates sentenced to die.

An attorney general opinion last month confirmed the interpretation of the board’s general counsel that it may consider their requests. Parole board member Kelly Doyle said Monday she’d like to hear from the inmates themselves in the first step of the process, in which the board generally gets a packet on their case.

"I could not see a chance for somebody to get to stage two., and that’s when people would have the opportunity to speak for themselves. I’ve never felt that the two-stage process, one where you just review and then you vote, is appropriate for some of these more serious crimes," Doyle said.

Parole board member and retired judge Allen McCall said he would like to see more time for hearing from those involved in a case than the current 10 minutes to be split among an inmate, lawyer and delegate.

"I think we need to move forward and set up a procedure that’s a little more fair. I mean, doing  a death penalty case as a commutation is kind of like having open-heart surgery in an eye doctor’s office," McCall said.

McCall has been resistant to have the pardon and parole board take up commutation applications from death-row inmates. Last month, he threatened Executive Director Steven Bickley with a grand jury investigation if he did not seek an attorney general's opinion to confirm the board could take up such requests.

Bickley did, and the attorney general issued an opinion confirming a position given by Gov. Kevin Stitt's general counsel and echoed by the agency's general counsel and board chair.

McCall also believes commutation hearings for capital cases must be done in-person. There are also consideration of at what point if any during their appeals process death-row inmates may apply.

The parole board’s attorney expects to have rules finalized by November or December.