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Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin stays execution

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday delayed the execution of a convicted murderer scheduled to die later that day. In an executive order staying Clayton Derrell Lockett’s execution, Fallin said she had to step in and issue the order.
by Graham Lee Brewer Modified: April 22, 2014 at 8:51 pm •  Published: April 22, 2014

Faced with conflicting orders, Gov. Mary Fallin delayed Tuesday’s scheduled execution of a convicted murderer.

Her executive order is the latest development in what the attorney general’s office calls a judicial crisis.

At issue is who has the authority to say when an Oklahoma death row inmate can be executed.

The state Court of Criminal Appeals had ordered convicted murderer Clayton Derrell Lockett to be executed Tuesday for the 1999 murder of Stephanie Neiman.

However, a divided Oklahoma Supreme Court, for the first time in state history, blocked the execution in an order Monday.

In her executive order, Fallin said Supreme Court justices acted outside their constitutional authority, but she was delaying Lockett’s execution for seven days anyway.

She directed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to seek guidance from the Court of Criminal Appeals on what to do next.

Normally, in Oklahoma’s judicial system, the state Supreme Court handles only civil matters, and the Court of Criminal Appeals handles criminal matters. Only Oklahoma and Texas have such a bifurcated system.

The Supreme Court on Monday delayed Lockett’s execution and another murderer’s execution after the Court of Criminal Appeals twice refused to issue stays.

“Here, the Court of Criminal Appeals’ refused to exercise its rightfully placed jurisdiction, and left this Court in an awkward position,” the Supreme Court majority justices wrote in the decision Monday. “We can deny jurisdiction, or we can leave the appellants with no access to the courts for resolution of their ‘grave’ constitutional claims. As uncomfortable as this matter makes us, we refuse to violate our oaths of office and to leave the appellants with no access to the courts, their constitutionally guaranteed measure.”

The Supreme Court stayed the executions of Lockett and Charles Frederick Warner until a case over the execution drugs that they filed against the state is resolved. The judicial dispute leaves open the possibility the executions could go forward, even though the Supreme Court has ordered them stayed.

Fallin’s action stays Lockett’s execution until April 29. The Court of Criminal Appeals has scheduled Warner’s execution for the same day, April 29. Fallin’s executive order does not mention Warner’s execution.

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by Graham Lee Brewer
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Graham Lee Brewer began his career as a journalist covering Oklahoma's vibrant music scene in 2006. After working as a public radio reporter for KGOU and then Oklahoma Watch, where he covered areas such as immigration and drug addiction, he went...
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