Oklahoma won't execute as many people next year, Edmondson says

Monday, December 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma likely will execute fewer death row inmates in 2002 than it did this year, when it put more people to death than any other state.

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said he does not expect 2002 to surpass 2001 in the number of executions. He estimated Oklahoma will execute 10 people at the most next year, based on the number of death row cases pending.

Eighteen people, including three women, were put to death by lethal injection in the McAlester death chamber this year. That is more than any other state _ including Texas, which executed 17 people.

Edmondson said the record 18 executions in 2001 were the result of a backlog in appellate cases.

``Every graph has to have a peak,'' Edmondson said. ``There was such a backlog on death row and the cases were old. We were working through the appeals process. At some point, the number of executions should be equal to roughly the number of new arrivals, less cases that are reversed.''

Oklahoma begins next year's executions on Jan. 29 and Jan. 31.

First to be executed is Oklahoma County killer John Joseph Romano, and then David Wayne Woodruff.

The two were convicted of the Oct. 12, 1985, murder of Roger Joel Sarfaty, who was stabbed five times, beaten and strangled.

Edmondson's office has asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to set an execution date for Grady County killer David Jay Brown, who was convicted of the 1988 murder of Eldon Lee McGuire, his former father-in-law. McGuire was shot eight times.

The fate of Grady County killer Gerardo Valdez is undetermined. The Mexican national's execution was stayed indefinitely to allow his attorneys to prepare an appeal. His case is pending at the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

Edmondson said he does not expect the death penalty to be abolished.

``While there has been some small movement in the numbers, the death penalty is still overwhelmingly supported by the people,'' he said.