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Oklahoma death row inmate slated for execution Thursday

Oklahoma is scheduled to execute a death row inmate convicted of shooting and killing two people in Oklahoma City more than two decades ago.

Michael DeWayne Smith, 41, faces execution by lethal injection on Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary after his conviction and death sentence for the slayings of Janet Moore, 41; and Sharath Pulluru, 22, in separate shootings that took place in February 2022. 

Smith is to be the first convict executed by the state in 2024 and Oklahoma’s 12th execution since capital punishment resumed in 2021. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday denied Smith’s fourth request for an emergency stay of execution. 

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At a clemency hearing last month, Smith gave his “deepest apologies and deepest sorrows to the families” of the victims but claimed he was not responsible for the shootings. 

“I didn’t commit these crimes. I didn’t kill these people,” Smith told the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, which voted 4-1 to deny him clemency. “I was high on drugs. I don’t even remember getting arrested,” Smith said, at several points breaking down into tears. 

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Oklahoma State Penitentiary

Prosecutors say Smith was a ruthless gang member who killed both victims in misguided acts of revenge and confessed his involvement in the killings to police and two other people. They claim he killed Moore because he was looking for her son, who he mistakenly thought had told police about his whereabouts. Later that day, prosecutors say Smith killed Pulluru, a convenience store clerk who Smith believed had disrespected his gang during an interview with a newspaper reporter.

Smith’s attorney, Mark Henricksen, argued that Smith is intellectually disabled, a condition worsened by years of heavy drug use, and that his life should be spared and he should be allowed to spend the rest of his life in prison. Henricksen said Smith was in a PCP-induced haze when he confessed to police and that key elements of his confession aren’t supported by facts.

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Death penalty protesters

A group that opposes the death penalty plans to protest Smith’s execution outside the Governor’s Mansion in Oklahoma City on Thursday.

The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is demanding that Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) halt the execution. The protest comes after Smith’s family petitioned the governor on Wednesday to intervene, saying that new evidence in Smith’s case showed that witnesses were being coerced during trial, local station KOCO News reported. 

Smith’s execution is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. local time. The protest outside the Governor’s Mansion is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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