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Dear friends:

As Oklahoma continues its march to execute 25 men in the coming two years, there is some good news from the state. Richard Glossip, who was yet again just days away from being moved into the concrete hellhole reserved for those whose execution looms near, has been granted another stay. This time until February 2023. Governor Stitt, who signed the executive order granting the stay, has heard the entreaties of 62 state reps, most of them Republicans, most of them pro-death penalty. They exerted considerable pressure on the governor, and now Richard will have a chance to put the ever-mounting evidence of his innocence before the court.

Richard has been fortunate to have Don Knight as his post-conviction attorney. Don has been terrier-like in his pursuit of justice for Richard and in galvanizing others to come to Richard's support. Thank goodness for these conservative politicians who have been prepared to take a hard look at the evidence in his case and recognize that it simply doesn't add up. I wish all people on death rows across the country received this level of scrutiny and support. Even more, I wish that all people had this sort of expert support in their original trials. Death row would be a very empty place if that were the case.

Six out of fifty

Although the pace of executions in Oklahoma is horrifying, it's heartening to remember that only a very few states are responsible for all the recent executions. So far this year there have been 13 executions in five states: four in Oklahoma, four in Texas, two in Arizona, two in Alabama, and one in Missouri. There are another six executions scheduled by the same five states this year. In 2023, only four states have executions on the books - Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Ohio.

These killing states are outliers, and although the Supreme Court fails to recognize that capital punishment is most certainly both cruel and unusual, I continue to believe we can end this already diminishing practice.

Let's continue the work together!

The low, low bar for "competence"

Richard Fairchild's jury never heard that, since an early age, he has had significant brain damage due to repeated head trauma. Neuropsychologist Dr. Barry Crown, who examined Mr. Fairchild’s brain damage, says it has caused him to endure debilitating symptoms such as distorted thinking; significant cognitive delay and malfunctioning; and impaired ability to control his impulses, respond to conflict, and know the difference between a real or fabricated memory. After conducting several evaluations of Mr. Fairchild, Dr. Crown found that he currently suffers from paranoia, extreme delusions, and auditory hallucinations. These findings were subsequently confirmed by other doctors. Department of Corrections staff also documented his symptoms.

Last month, before his execution, Benjamin Cole was denied a competency hearing by a judge who was swayed more by the prosecution's expert than the defense's. Richard Fairchild's competency didn't even make it to a hearing before a judge. Instead, the warden of McAlester prison, Jim Farris, ignored Dr. Crown's findings and the prison officers' observations and instead favored an examination by the state psychologist, Scott Orth, who concluded that Richard does not currently show any substantial overt signs of mental illness that would keep him from understanding that he is about to be executed.

It's disturbing that the man in charge of Oklahoma's executions, who is neither a mental health expert nor a judge, gets to cherry-pick which expert report to believe. Oklahoma has set a very low bar for measuring competence, which bodes ill for the many other men with mental illness who are lined up to follow Richard Fairchild to the execution chamber.
Ten of the men in Oklahoma's execution spree suffer from mental illness.
Four of those have documented brain damage.

When procedure trumps justice

We're all familiar with the idea that someone can "get off on a technicality". What is not so well known it that many defendants end up incarcerated and on death row due to a technicality. Take Richard Fairchild's case as an example...
  • His trial lawyer failed to bring the issue of Richard's brain damage before the jury and instead relied on a very weak defense strategy.
  • His appellate counsel did not have the time or resources to do a thorough review and merely read the trial transcripts which, of course, omitted any evidence of brain damage.
  • It was only when his case came before the Federal courts that a full investigation into his brain damage was performed.
  • That Federal court (the Tenth Circuit of Appeals) recognized that Fairchild had a "potentially meritorious claim", but was unable to grant relief because the issue had not been raised in state court. That is, the law as it stands barred the higher court from granting relief because the claim was not first presented in a lower court.

In essence, Fairchild's chance to present his best and clearest defense was denied to him because his trial lawyer was ineffective and his appellate lawyer didn't have the resources to spot and remedy that error.

Richard Fairchild's plight is not uncommon. Our jails are filled with poor people who could not afford a decent lawyer at trial and, once found guilty at trial it is exceedingly difficult to get the courts to reverse a jury decision.


      Mr. Fairchild's execution is scheduled for: 11/17/2022 (His 63rd birthday)

Call the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board and ask them to recommend mercy for Richard Fairchild. If you wish to elaborate, mention that he has significant brain damage, is delusional, and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel that severely compromised his case. Phone: +1 (405) 521-6600


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Timeline for Oklahoma Executions

Richard Fairchild November 17 2022
John  Hanson December 15 2022
Scott  Eizember January 12 2023
Richard Glossip February 2023
Jermaine Cannon March 9 2023
Anthony Sanchez April 6 2023
Phillip  Hancock May 4 2023
James Ryder June 1 2023
Michael  Smith July 6 2023
Wade  Lay August 3 2023
Richard Rojem October 5 2023
Emmanuel Littlejohn November 2 2023
Kevin Underwood December 7 2023
Wendell Grissom January 11 2024
Tremane Wood February 8 2024
Kendrick Simpson March 7 2024
Raymond Johnson May 2 2024
Carlos Cuesta-Rodriguez June 6 2024
James Pavatt July 11 2024
Clarence Goode August 8 2024
Ronson Kyle Bush September 5 2024
Alfred Brian Mitchell October 3 2024
Marlon Harmon December 5 2024

Upcoming executions in other states

16        TX        Stephen Barbee
16        AZ        Murray Hooper
17        AL         Kenneth Smith
29        MO       Kevin Johnson

None scheduled


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Let us know what you’d like to see in future editions of Death Penalty Discourse, what tools and resources you’re using in your community, and how Dead Man Walking has impacted your life. Contact us by email and like us on Facebook for updates and current news.


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