Oklahoma Board Closely Split on First Execution for 2012

On December 5, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board narrowly voted (3-2) to deny clemency to death row inmate Gary Welch, the first person scheduled to be executed in the country in 2012.  Welch was sentenced to death in 1996 for a murder that started as a fight related to a drug deal.  Welch said the victim first stabbed him with a knife and he tried to defend himself.  "To me, this was life or death. It was just luck that I survived," said Welch.  "My intentions were never to kill him.  But I also didn't intend for him to kill me either."  Welch's co-defendant, Claudie Conover, was also initially sentenced to death, but the sentence was later reduced to life without the possibility of parole.  Conover died of natural causes in 2001.  In Oklahoma, the governor makes the final decision on clemency, but must first have a positive recommendation from the Parole Board.

There have been 43 executions in 2011, including 2 in Oklahoma.  The state comes behind Texas and Virginia in the total number of executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

(R. Petersen, "Clemency denied for Oklahoma death row inmate," McAlester News-Capital, December 6, 2011).  See Arbitrariness and Clemency.