Pardon And Parole Board Readies For Tie Votes After Member's Resignation

Jan 12, 2021

A screen grab from the public feed of the Jan. 11 Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board meeting.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is down to four members for the time being.

Board Chair Robert Gilliland resigned in mid-December due to health reasons. He was appointed in February 2019. His absence raises the possibility of tie votes, which, according to board procedures, are considered denials.

In many cases, people in prison must wait three years before applying again after their application is denied. Pardon and parole board general counsel Kyle Counts told the board this week they can, however, bring back many cases with tie votes.

"There are mechanisms for the board to reconsider most inmates who are denied for failing to carry a majority vote. One exception, though, is that the board is legally prohibited for reconsidering parole for violent crimes for at least three years," Counts said.

A policy could be created and voted on once a fifth member is appointed. It would likely involve the board reconsidering an application, not just holding another vote with a new member.

"That way, they’d be able to participate and view any delegate presentation, victim protest, and be part of the deliberations," Counts said.

It's unclear how quickly Gov. Kevin Stitt will appoint a new pardon and parole board member. Agency Director Tom Bates told the board this week they will have a special meeting in March to help work through a backlog of commutation applications.