The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office has agreed to a stay of execution for a severely mentally ill death-row prisoner who may be incompetent to be executed, while the state’s Pardon and Parole Board denied clemency to two other prisoners set to be put to death in Oklahoma’s five-month scheduled execution spree.

After hearing testimony on November 29, 2021 that Wade Lay experiences paranoid delusions from schizophrenia that leave him without a rational understanding of the reason for his January 6, 2022 execution, Pittsburgh County District Court Associate District Judge Tim Mills found “good reason to believe’ that Lay is incompetent to be executed. Mills ruled that Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Jim Farris had abused his discretion by failing to take steps under Oklahoma law to impanel a jury to ascertain Lay’s competency after receiving notice of Lay’s condition in mid-October 2021, and ordered Farris to conduct a competency trial.

Lay’s lawyers then filed a motion on December 1, 2021 to stay Lay’s execution, arguing that Farris’ delay made it impossible to conduct the competency trial prior to his scheduled execution. In court filings December 2, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office consented to the stay, citing “unique considerations and constraints at issue” in Lay’s case,

The developments in Lay’s case come amidst a flurry of activity occasioned by Oklahoma’s scheduling of seven executions in five months between mid-October 2021 and March 2022. On November 30, 2021, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 to deny clemency for Donald Grant (pictured left), a brain-damaged prisoner who also has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. On December 1, 2021, the Board, also by a 4-1 vote, denied clemency for Gilbert Postelle (pictured right).

The clemency decisions were the fourth and fifth during the scheduled execution spree. The board denied clemency to John Grant, who media witnesses said experienced more than two dozen full-body convulsions and vomited during a botched execution on October 28, 2021. On November 1, the board voted 3-1 to recommend clemency in the high-profile case of Julius Jones, citing doubts about his guilt. Four hours before he was scheduled to be put to death on November 18, Governor Kevin Stitt commuted Jones’ sentence to life without parole. The board then voted 3-2 to recommend clemency for Bigler Stouffer II based on concerns about Oklahoma’s execution procedures. Stouffer is set to be executed December 9, 2021. Governor Stitt has taken no action on that recommendation.