OCCA agrees to schedule executions in 90-day intervals following request

May 9—The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Tuesday accepted the recommendations made by the state's attorney general and corrections director on the scheduling of executions and will now set dates individually instead of in phases.

A joint motion filed in January by Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond and Oklahoma Department of Corrections Executive Director Steven Harpe asked OCCA to set, at 90-day intervals, the phase three execution dates for six Oklahoma death row inmates.

OCCA previously granted a request made by Drummond in January 2023 to allow 60 days between executions instead of the state's then pace of every 30 days to lessen the workload on Department of Corrections staff.

Harpe explained in an affidavit filed with the motion that the scheduling of an execution date "triggers a series of tasks that must be completed by DOC staff, many of which must occur weeks before the scheduled execution."

"The day of an execution affects not only those directly involved in the execution, but the entirety of Oklahoma State Penitentiary, which goes into a near complete lockdown until the execution is completed," Harpe wrote in his affidavit.

The director explained eight different teams comprised of several ODOC employees undergo several trainings in the weeks and days leading up to an execution date.

"Director Harpe has determined that the present pace of executions, every 60 days, is too onerous and not sustainable," Drummond wrote in the motion. "Instead, a sustainable pace would be every 90 days."

OCCA wrote in the order they recognized the "unique nature" of the situation and gave consideration to the request but reaffirmed the court's original conviction to "ensure that executions progress in a timely and orderly manner."

"However, it has also become apparent that setting of executions in phases may exacerbate unforeseen delays that arise in any individual case," the court wrote.

The court moved to deny the request to set execution dates for the phase three inmates, instead, opting to proceed to set executions individually and will follow the 90-day request along with scheduling executions on a Thursday.

Judge Gary Lumpkin, concurred with the court's decision of setting executions dates on an individual bass, but asked what the difference between executions being scheduled now and a period of time between 2001 and 2003 when ODOC conducted 39 executions

Another judge, David Lewis, wrote he also agreed on setting execution dates individually, but would have kept the current interval of 60 days with the first execution scheduled 60-days after the order was issued.

State appellate judges originally ordered in July 2021 an execution schedule of 25 inmates to be carried out in five phases with ODOC currently in the second phase.

ODOC has carried out 12 executions since Oct. 28, 2021, with one execution remaining in phase two — Wade Greely Lay on June 6, 2024, pending the outcome of his competency trial, which has now been continued with no new date set.

A total of 17 death row inmates are eligible for execution in Oklahoma after exhausting their appeals.