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McCracken executed for four Tulsa murders

Updated:
McALESTER, Okla. (AP) _ An Army veteran who killed four people during a 1990 robbery at a Tulsa nightclub was executed Tuesday.

Jerry Lynn McCracken, 35, was pronounced dead at 6:06 p.m. after receiving an injection of drugs at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. He was the fifth inmate executed in Oklahoma this year.

McCracken was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to die for the shooting deaths of Steve Allen Smith, 34, Tyrrell Lee Boyd, 27, Timothy Edward Sheets, 39, and Carol Ann McDaniels, 41, at the New Ferndale Lounge on Oct. 14, 1990.

Each of the victims was shot with a .22-caliber pistol during a robbery at the bar in which $350 was taken.

McCracken apologized to his victims during an emotional statement in which he addressed his mother and stepfather, who witnessed his execution, and affirmed his Christian faith with a prayer and a hymn.

``To all the victims' families who are here, I sincerely apologize. Please forgive me,'' he said. No members of the victims' families were present.

McCracken, lying on a prison gurney, turned his head and smiled at his mother, Linda Johnson, and stepfather, Bill Johnson.

``Mom, I love you. I'll see you in heaven,'' he said.

``We're proud of you,'' she replied.

McCracken prayed and sang a verse from ``They That Wait Upon the Lord'' as a lethal dose of drugs was administered.

``I commit my spirit, soul and body into your hands. I love you,'' he said.

McCracken fell silent, his face turned pale and his body twitched briefly before falling limp.

``He's gone,'' Linda Johnson said. ``Thank you, Jesus, for taking my boy home.''

A co-defendant, David Keith Lawrence, pleaded guilty and received a sentence of life in prison plus 20 years in exchange for his testimony against McCracken.

At his trial, McCracken blamed Lawrence for the murders. ``I am not the one who pulled the trigger,'' McCracken told a jury in September 1991.

But McCracken changed his story and admitted he was the triggerman in an interview published by the Tulsa World last year.

``I am guilty. I have no excuse,'' said McCracken. ``I am ready to die.'' McCracken was on pre-parole release from prison for a series of knife assaults when the murders occurred.

The state Pardon and Parole Board rejected clemency for McCracken at a hearing last month where he apologized to Lawrence for talking him into helping with the robbery.

McCracken's execution went forward after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute bid to stay the execution.

Issues raised in McCracken's federal appeals included ineffective counsel, aggravating evidence used to support the death penalty and defective jury instructions in which a judge said McCracken was presumed ``not guilty'' instead of presumed innocent.

The instruction was not objected to at trial, but the state Court of Criminal Appeals granted automatic reversals to defendants who did, according to documents filed by McCracken's attorney, David Autry.

Autry argued that McCracken was a candidate for clemency because he suffered from personality disorders and had a predisposition to alcoholism and substance abuse. Autry said McCracken was ``heavily intoxicated'' when the murders occurred.

While on death row, McCracken devoted himself to his Christian faith and corresponded with a variety of prison ministries. At his clemency hearing, McCracken said he promised God he would not cut his hair, which hung past his shoulders and mingled with a long beard.

At noon, McCracken received his last meal of fried chicken and barbecue sauce, a package of hard cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, a slice of cherry pie and a two-liter bottle of Sprite.

McCracken is the 53rd inmate to be executed in the state since executions resumed in 1990. Two other death row inmates are scheduled to die this month: Comanche County killer Jay Wesley Neill is scheduled to die on Thursday and Oklahoma County killer Ernest Melvin Carter Jr. is scheduled to die on Dec. 17.

Gov. Frank Keating is considering a recommendation by the Pardon and Parole Board that Carter be granted clemency.
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