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Oklahoma executes a man even though the state parole board urged that his life be spared

James Coddington, 50, murdered 73-year-old Albert Hale in 1997 after becoming enraged that the victim wouldn't give him money to buy cocaine.
/ Source: Associated Press

McALESTER, Okla. — Oklahoma executed a man Thursday for a 1997 killing, despite a recommendation from the state’s Pardon and Parole Board that his life be spared.

James Coddington, 50, received a lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester and was pronounced dead at 10:16 a.m. Gov. Kevin Stitt declined to commute Coddington’s sentence to life in prison without parole and rejected his petition for clemency. Coddington was the fifth Oklahoma inmate to be put to death since the state resumed executions last year.

Coddington was convicted and sentenced to die for beating 73-year-old Albert Hale to death with a hammer. Prosecutors say Coddington, then 24, became enraged when Hale refused to give him money to buy cocaine.

Death row inmate James Coddington
Death row inmate James Coddington speaks to the Oklahoma Board of Pardon and Parole in Oklahoma City on Aug. 3.Sue Ogrocki / AP file

During a clemency hearing this month before the state’s five-member Pardon and Parole Board, an emotional Coddington, now 50, apologized to Hale’s family and said he was a different man today.

“I’m clean, I know God, I’m not ... I’m not a vicious murderer,” Coddington told the board. “If this ends today with my death sentence, OK.”

But Mitch Hale, Albert Hale’s son, urged the parole board not to recommend clemency and said this week he was relieved Stitt decided to let the execution go forward.

“Our family can put this behind us after 25 years,” Hale, 64, said. “No one is ever happy that someone’s dying, but (Coddington) chose this path ... he knew what the consequences are, he rolled the dice and lost.”

Coddington’s attorney, Emma Rolls, told the panel that Coddington was impaired by years of alcohol and drug abuse that began as an infant when his father put beer and whiskey into his baby bottles.

The panel voted 3-2 to recommend clemency, although Hale’s family had urged against it. Stitt, a Republican, denied the parole board’s recommendation.

Coddington was twice sentenced to death for Hale’s killing, the second time in 2008 after his initial sentence was overturned on appeal.

After killing Hale, Coddington committed at least six armed robberies at gas stations and convenience stores across Oklahoma City.

“When the full circumstances of the murder, related robberies, and extensive history of violence on Mr. Coddington’s part are considered, one thing is clear: death is the only just punishment for him,” prosecutors in the state attorney general’s office wrote to the Pardon and Parole Board.

The state had halted executions in September 2015 when prison officials realized they had received the wrong lethal drug. It later came to light that the same wrong drug had been used to execute an inmate, and executions in the state were put on hold.