Oklahoma stopped taking clemency requests from prisoners two years ago because of a dispute over procedures. This “Out of Order” sign is a serious moral and constitutional problem for a state that has some of the most severe, racially biased drug sentences in the nation.
The state’s reasonable Pardons and Parole Board Chairman Marc Dreyer told The Clemency Report that applications were already in prison law libraries or would be soon, putting the clemency process back in business after new legislation took effect on November 1, 2013. In reality, prisoners are still waiting — not to get clemency or a hearing but merely to have a form (required by the state to be considered!) to ask for clemency.
The botched execution in April was a nationally publicized example of Oklahoma’s basic competence problems in its justice system, but the problems are systemic and run throughout the state’s entire legal and corrections apparatus. Clemency is an apple from this troubled tree.
The Clemency Report’s #1 prisoner deserving clemency — Leland Dodd, serving a life without parole sentence for a 1990 marijuana offense — went as instructed to where the application was supposed to be: in the law library at the 105-year-old Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite, Okla. (Pictured above.) “We have not received any information on the commutations packets,” a staff member wrote on July 8 to Dodd — essentially the same ol’ response he always gets.
Prisoners are used to being ignored or considered malcontents. In this case, Dodd’s frustrated description of the state’s inability to perform a basic task — distributing a form — tells more about his jailers than his own tragic case.
“I’ve been trying (for clemency) for 15 years, never get any answers!” Dodd writes. “If you file (for clemency) they say say, oh, it’s a new law that just passed. You have to file again. But when you file a new law is replacing the old law soon. Round & Round and Round.”