Coddington, who was sentenced to die for murdering Albert Hale in 1997 amid his struggle with a crack cocaine addiction, was executed after Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday denied his request for clemency. Coddington’s attorneys and advocates had hoped his life would be spared, pointing to his remorse for Hale’s murder, his traumatic childhood and rehabilitation while on Oklahoma’s death row.
The time of death was 10:16 a.m. CT, Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow told reporters.
“Today’s not a good day, it’s not a bad day, it’s just a new day for our family,” Mitchell Hale, the victim’s son, told reporters after attending the execution. “We can finally move on. It’s not going to heal anything, but it closes this chapter.”
But there were “absolutely no issues” with Coddington’s execution, Crow said. “The execution today went in accordance with the protocol, with no issues at all.”
Coddington’s chest heaved during the execution, but it was not “dramatic” or to the point where his body lifted from the gurney, said the Associated Press’ Sean Murphy, one of five media witnesses of the execution. The inmate’s breathing appeared to be labored, he said, adding the execution was “pretty par for the course,” given the drugs used.
Coddington in his final words thanked his family, friends and lawyers, according to the media witnesses, and also addressed Stitt, saying, “I don’t blame you, and I forgive you.”
Coddington did not express remorse for Hale’s killing, Mitchell Hale said, saying the omission proved the inmate’s previous expressions of remorse weren’t “genuine.”
“He never apologized, he never mentioned my daddy, never mentioned my family,” the slain man’s son said. “So, there was no true remorse.”
Coddington’s supporters had tried to save his life, including during a hearing this month before Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board, which voted 3-2 to recommend Coddington receive clemency, sending the decision to Stitt.
Coddington had asked for his sentence to be commuted to life in prison, where his advocates — among them the former director of the state’s Department of Corrections and a former Speaker of the state House of Representatives — said he had finally overcome his addiction and could serve as a good influence on other inmates.
“I don’t think it would serve the best interest of the state of Oklahoma to execute Mr. Coddington,” Justin Jones, the former prisons director, told Public Radio Tulsa this month.
Stitt ultimately denied clemency after he had reviewed both sides’ arguments, his office said Wednesday in a statement.
Coddington and his lawyers were “profoundly disheartened,” lawyer Emma Rolls said in a statement. “James is loved by many people,” Rolls told CNN, “and he has touched the hearts of many. He is a good man.”
24 more executions scheduled over next 2 years
That means inmate Benjamin Cole Sr.’s execution is next, on October 20. Cole was sentenced to death for a 2002 murder, but his attorneys argue he is not competent for execution due to “profound mental illness and brain damage.”
Medical experts have diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia, they say in court filings, and they have requested a competency hearing before his execution date.
The families of the victims killed by those awaiting execution “have waited decades for justice,” the attorney general said in a statement as the execution dates were set, calling the victims’ loved ones “courageous and inspiring.”