State Prepares To Execute Terminally Ill Inmate


Monday, June 25th 2007, 6:45 pm
By: News On 6


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A death row inmate who is dying of cancer moved a step closer to his execution Monday in spite of objections from death penalty opponents who said it is pointless to execute someone who has as little as six months to live.

Jimmy Dale Bland, scheduled to be executed Tuesday for shooting his 62-year-old employer in the back of the head 11 years ago, has been administered radiation and chemotherapy for advanced lung cancer that has spread to his brain and his hip bone, according to his attorney, David Autry.

Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in Washington, said the case raises ethical issues about putting to death a condemned man who is going to die soon of natural causes anyway.

``It is pointless,'' Rust-Tierney said. ``The fact that this is moving forward and it is so shocking is really why the public is coming to see that there is something terribly wrong with the system.''

``It won't take much to kill him. He's half dead now,'' said Bud Welch of Oklahoma City, an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and a member of the anti-death penalty coalition's board of directors whose daughter, Julie Marie Welch, was killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Autry, who has described Bland as ``a very, very sick man,'' said his execution could turn into a catastrophe if the veins in his arms where a lethal dose of chemicals will be injected have been compromised by his chemotherapy treatments.

Rust-Tierney said authorities should consider fairness, equity and balance when debating a condemned prisoner's request for a stay.

``Here those things are not in play. It's very disturbing,'' she said.

Autry has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block Bland's execution and decide whether executing a terminally ill inmate violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment in the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment. The high court did not immediately act on the request.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Stephen P. Friot ruled that Oklahoma's execution procedure was not unconstitutional and denied a stay. Autry argued that the procedure could cause excruciating pain prior to death in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

The five-member Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board unanimously rejected Bland's request for clemency on June 12.

On Friday, a sharply divided Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals voted 3-2 to deny a stay of execution based upon Eighth Amendment concerns. The majority wrote that prohibiting the execution of a terminally ill person ``would mean the death sentence could not be carried out before the natural expiration of a person's life.''

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Charles Chapel of Tulsa said a stay should be granted to protect ``the dignity of society itself from the barbarity of exacting mindless vengeance.''

``Bland's life is very near its natural end. It is cruel, unusual, inappropriate and totally unnecessary to intervene at this time, just to ensure that his demise is at the hands of the state,'' Chapel wrote.

Bland was sentenced to death for the Nov. 14, 1996, murder of Doyle Windle Rains in Tillman County. Rains was shot in the back of the head in his garage with a .22-caliber rifle during an apparent argument with Bland.

Bland was driving a vehicle owned by Rains when he was arrested for driving under the influence two days after Rains died. Bland, who did construction and handyman work for Rains, later confessed to killing Rains and hiding his body in a nearby field.

Bland is a two-time killer who spent 20 years of a 60-year sentence in jail after pleading guilty to manslaughter and kidnapping charges in 1975. He had been out of prison less than a year when he was accused of shooting Rains to death.

Bland will be the second person executed in Oklahoma this year. Corey Duane Hamilton, 38, was executed on Jan. 9 for the execution-style slaying of four fast-food employees during a robbery in 1992.