OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — It's been almost 37 years since Debbie Huggins' father was shot to death during a robbery at a Tulsa convenience store where both of her parents worked.
Her father, Clayton Chandler, was shot eight times during a Sept. 15, 1975 armed robbery, and on Tuesday the man who was twice convicted of killing Chandler is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.
Michael Bascum Selsor, 57, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Chandler, the store's 55-year-old manager, during the robbery that netted the thieves a little more than $500.
Huggins, who was 21 at the time, said Selsor's 1976 trial, his 1998 retrial and the many appellate court decisions during the past three decades has kept the memory of her father's violent death fresh in the minds of his family members in spite of the passage of time.
“They make you relive it year after year,” said Huggins, now 58. “You never get to put it to rest. I miss him very much.”
Huggins and her sister, Cathy Durham, appeared before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on April 16 and urged its members to reject Selsor's plea for clemency. Chandler's widow, Anne Chandler, 82, also attended but did not address the board.
“I think it's time to put this to rest,” Huggins told board members. The board voted 4-1 against commuting Selsor's death penalty.
Selsor also addressed board members by teleconference from the prison in McAlester and apologized for his actions.
“Is it too late to say I'm sorry?” Selsor said. “I am truly sorry for the suffering and damage I have caused.”
But prosecutors said Selsor never showed remorse after he was arrested for Clayton Chandler's death and actually complained to detectives about the amount of money he got in the robbery.
“The damn guy held back the twenties or I would have had $800,” he told detectives during an initial interview.
Huggins told The Associated Press that Selsor made a conscious choice when he and a co-defendant, Richard Eugene Dodson, entered the store as Chandler and a female co-worker were preparing to close. Selsor and Dodson had decided to leave no witnesses to the robbery, according to prosecutors.
Anne Chandler was assistant manager of the store but was not working on the night of the robbery, Huggins said.
“The only thing we've ever sought in this whole thing is justice,” Huggins told. “Two juries convicted him. They gave him the death penalty. I think he deserves it.”
Following his plea for clemency, Selsor asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution pending review of a petition that challenged it. The request was denied Friday after it was presented to Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
The petition filed by the Federal Public Defender's Office alleged executing Selsor after he has been in prison for almost two generations lacked any deterrent value and would “amount to cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of his constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment.
“...Mr. Selsor has served his sentence in exemplary fashion. He has grown from the misguided 21-year-old who committed the murder into a contemplative, religious, and mature man of 57. He has proved himself to be hardworking, trustworthy, and responsible; he has served as a valued assistant to his correctional officers; and he has provided a stabilizing force among his fellow prisoners.
“Mr. Selsor's execution after he already has served the equivalent of a life sentence will serve no legitimate deterrent or retributive purpose, and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment,” the petition alleges.
In the state's reply, Assistant Attorney General Robert Whittaker argued that Selsor has not been on death row the entire time he has been in prison.
Selsor was originally sentenced to death following the 1976 trial, but later that same year the nation's highest court invalidated Oklahoma's mandatory-death-penalty statute. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals modified Selsor's sentence to life in prison.
Selsor initiated a new round of appeals challenging his conviction and in April 1996, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Selsor's murder conviction as well as two other related convictions.
Selsor was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death a second time following a 1998 retrial. The same jury recommended Selsor serve a life term as an accessory to the shooting of Chandler's co-worker, Ina Louise Morris, who survived multiple gunshot wounds inflicted by Dodson. In addition, the jury imposed a 20-year term for armed robbery.
“For 21 years, he was in the general population on a life sentence,” Whitaker told the Supreme Court. Whitaker also alleged that Selsor's claim that his execution will amount to cruel and unusual punishment was raised in a previous petition and should be dismissed.
Selsor and Dodson were arrested a week after Chandler's death at a beach pavilion in Santa Barbara, Calif., where their car with Oklahoma tags had been spotted. At the 1976 trial, a Santa Barbara police detective testified that Selsor admitted shooting Chandler during the robbery.
“Well, since you already know that I shot him and everything, well, see, we planned it,” Selsor told detectives in an interview. “We were supposed to go in and, like, we didn't want to leave any witnesses around to describe us ... so I took care of my part.”
Dodson, now 71, was convicted of robbery and shooting with intent to kill and is serving a prison sentence of 50 to 199 years. He is currently housed in the Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville and has a parole hearing scheduled in November 2013, according to Department of Corrections records.
Prison officials say Selsor has requested a last meal of a Kentucky Fried Chicken crispy three-piece meal, including two breasts and a wing, an extra chicken thigh, potato wedges, baked beans, two biscuits, an apple turnover and various condiments.