James Coddington, aged 50, is scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma on August 25, 2022. He was sentenced to death for the murder of a 73-year-old friend in 1997. Following a clemency hearing on August 3, 2022, the state Pardon and Parole Board recommended that Governor Stitt grant James Coddington’s request to commute his death sentence. Twenty-four years old at the time of the crime, James Coddington is said to have long been remorseful for his actions and to have broken the cycle of drug dependence that was the context in which the murder occurred and with which he had struggled during and after a childhood of deprivation, abuse, and exposure to drugs from an early age.
Governor J. Kevin Stitt
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Office of Governor
2300 N. Lincoln Boulevard, Suite 212
Oklahoma City, OK 73105, USA
Dear Governor Stitt,
is due to be executed in Oklahoma on August 25, 2022, for a murder committed in March 1997. In making this appeal to you, I do not seek to in any way excuse or minimize this crime or its consequences.
James Coddington’s clemency petition and evidence before the Pardon and Parole Board on August 3, 2022, describe his childhood of abuse, deprivation, and exposure to drugs from an early age, and his long-held remorse and acceptance of responsibility for his crime. The latter took place in the context of his drug dependence for which he had sought help several times during his teenage years and beyond. Former prison staff and officials are among those who are supporting commutation of his death sentence.
I also urge you to consider how the jury was not allowed to hear expert opinion that James Coddington’s use of drugs on the day of the murder prevented him from being able to form the necessary intent for “malice aforethought”, as charged. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals found that the trial judge had been wrong to exclude this testimony but decided that the error was “harmless” and would not have altered the outcome of the trial. I urge you to recognize that the trial judge’s decision did not allow the defence to fully explain to the jury how James Coddington’s drug dependence impacted his capacity for rational decision-making, but also that this issue is relevant to his petition for clemency, which provides a compelling description of the capacity of human beings to make positive change in the face of adverse circumstances.
I welcome the Pardon and Parole Board’s decision to recommend that you grant clemency to James Coddington. I urge you to follow their recommendation and to commute his death sentence.