An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  - Gandhi

Oklahoma County Becomes Nation’s Third Most Prolific County Executioner as State Puts Intellectually Impaired Gilbert Postelle to Death

Death Penalty Info Center, Feb. 18, 2022

When Oklahoma executed Gilbert Postelle on February 17, 2022, it came with a dubious distinction. The intellectually impaired man who was 18 years old at the time of his offense became the 44th person prosecuted in Oklahoma County to be put to death since executions resumed in the U.S. in 1977. His death made the county the nation’s third-most prolific county executioner over the past half-century, tied with Tarrant and Bexar counties in Texas. (Click to enlarge graphic.)

Postelle was the fourth and final person executed as part of a scheduled five-month, seven-person execution spree that Oklahoma announced after a six-year hiatus prompted by a string of botched executions. His execution took place just 11 days before a federal judge will begin hearing evidence on the constitutionality of the state’s lethal-injection protocol in a trial that was scheduled before the execution spree began.

Five of the seven men scheduled for execution during the spree were sentenced to death in Oklahoma County. Bigler Stouffer was executed December 9, 2021 after Governor Kevin Stitt rejected a recommendation by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board that his sentence be commuted to life without parole. Donald Grant was executed on January 27, 2022. Stitt commuted Julius Jones’ death sentence to life without parole on November 18, 2021, four hours before he was scheduled to be executed. On December 23, 2021, a federal court stayed James Coddington’s execution.

In the modern era of capital punishment in the U.S., dating back to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1972 decision that struck down then-existing death penalty statutes, no county outside of Texas has executed as many people as Oklahoma County. Only Harris (130) and Dallas (62) counties have executed more. Oklahoma County and four counties in Texas collectively account for more than one in five U.S. executions (324 of 1543) in the past fifty years. Texas (573 executions) and Oklahoma (116) by themselves are responsible for 45% of all executions in the U.S. during that period.

Oklahoma County’s history of death-penalty use was defined by the 21-year tenure of District Attorney “Cowboy Bob” Macy, who sent 54 people to death row — more than any other individual prosecutor in the U.S. Courts found misconduct in at least one-third of Macy’s cases. A DPIC analysis found that courts had overturned death sentences in eleven of those cases. Twenty-three of the 54 death sentences obtained by Macy relied on the testimony of police chemist Joyce Gilchrist, who gave false and misleading testimony that an FBI investigation concluded “went beyond the acceptable limits of science.” Eleven were executed before Gilchrist’s misconduct was exposed.

Five people — Clifford Bowen, Curtis McCarty, Robert Lee Miller, Yancy Douglas, and Paris Powell — who were convicted and sentenced to death in Oklahoma County have been exonerated after courts found evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. Two others — Richard Glossip and Julius Jones — came within hours of execution despite strong innocence claims. Glossip’s September 30, 2015 execution was halted at the last minute when prison officials revealed they had obtained the incorrect execution drug. Jones came within four hours of execution on November 18, 2021 before Governor Kevin Stitt granted him clemency. Both have alleged that prosecutorial misconduct contributed to their convictions. Bigler Stouffer also maintained his innocence but was executed even though Gilchrist also reportedly provided false forensic testimony in his case.

Postelle was 18 years old, intellectually impaired, mentally ill, and addicted to methamphetamines when, at the direction of his mentally ill father, he, his brother, and a fourth man participated in the fatal shootings of four people. His father delusionally believed that one of the men had been responsible for a motorcycle accident that had left the father seriously brain damaged. Postelle was sentenced to death for two of the shootings — the only person sentenced to death for the killings. His father was found incompetent to stand trial and the others received life sentences.

Postelle’s IQ has been measured in the mid-to-high 70s, which when adjusted for outdated test-taking norms and standard errors of IQ measurement placed him at the border or within the range of intellectual disability. When he was 12 years old, he scored in the lowest 0.1 percentile in adaptive functioning. A clinical psychologist diagnosed him with major depression, with signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, and possible schizophrenia. The U.S. Constitution prohibits the execution of individuals who are intellectually disabled or were younger than age 18 at the time of the offense. His execution reflects a continuing trend in the U.S. in which states and the federal government have put to death vulnerable, less culpable defendants who are ineligible or barely eligible for the death penalty.

In September 2021, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set seven execution dates for prisoners who were deemed ineligible to be parties to a lawsuit challenging the state’s lethal-injection protocol because they had failed to identify alternative execution methods. Coddington’s execution was later stayed after a federal judge reinstated him to the lethal-injection challenge finding he had mistakenly believed that “he had already effectively communicated his choice of a firing squad” as his “alternative method of execution.”

To read the original article, click here.


Tags: , ,