Oklahoma to conduct first execution of 2024

Apr. 2—An Oklahoma death row inmate scheduled to be executed Thursday said he will spend his final days trying to prove his innocence.

Michael Dewayne Smith, 41 is set to be executed Thursday morning by lethal injection in the death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Smith was convicted by an Oklahoma County jury in 2003 for the murders of 40-year-old Janet Moore and 24-year-old Sharath Pulluru in two separate incidents on Feb. 22, 2002.

"I am innocent," Smith said in a statement to the News-Capital. "I did not kill Janet Moore or Sharath Pulluru. I gave confession while under the influence of PCP while I was on suicide watch."

Smith gave his condolences to the families but maintained his innocence.

"I am so sorry for your loss," Smith said. "But I did not kill Janet or Sharath."

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denied clemency for Smith in March.

Attorneys for Smith argued Smith grew up suffering from harsh discipline and physical abuse, early and consistent exposure to drugs, and childhood head injuries.

His attorneys also claimed Smith is intellectually disabled and was unable to understand his waiver of Miranda before speaking with police due to his low IQ.

The Attorney General's Office said Smith's confession was corroborated by evidence at both murder scenes. The AG added that Smith's claims of intellectual disability are statutorily ineligible due to his IQ scores.

According to court records, Smith is a member of the Oak Grove Posse, a subset of the Crips gang that operates in Oklahoma City. In November 2000, three members of the gang attempted to rob a convenience store and the store owner shot and killed one of the robbers.

The two other robbers were arrested and set for trial in February 2022. Two days before the trial, Smith went to the apartment of Janet Moore because he believed her son, Phillip Zachary, was a police informant. After Smith kicked in the door, Moore began to scream, and Smith fatally shot the woman, according to court records.

After wiping down the apartment, Smith went to a convenience store next door to where the previous robbery occurred and "emptied two pistols" into Sharath Pulluru, the clerk on duty, took money from the register, and set fire to Pulluru's body and "whatever her had touched" to destroy evidence, court documents state.

Records show Smith then went home and told his roommate that he killed Moore and "done something else to take care of business" before telling another woman later that day he killed Moore because her son had been "snitching" and he killed the store clerk because someone at the convenience store was seen on the news "dissing his set" in response to the November 2000 robbery.

That woman notified police of what Smith said and he was taken into custody and admitted he killed both victims in retaliation for "wrongs" done to him and his family.

Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, Smith's spiritual advisor, said Smith is one of "the kindest and loving guys" he has known since he began ministering to death row inmates across the country.

"Killing Michael will do nothing to make Oklahomans safer or more moral," Hood said. "I pray that a miracle will happen, and the state will turn back."

Hood will be present in the execution chamber Thursday with Smith.

"I will stand next to Michael Smith's side showing him love, knowing that what is happening in front of me is completely unnecessary," Hood said.