Last night, Governor Brad Henry of Oklahoma approved clemency and commuted Richard Tandy Smith’s death sentence to life without the possibility of parole. Smith was found guilty of murdering John Cederlund in 1986. Upon receiving a clemency recommendation from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, Governor Henry twice postponed Smith’s scheduled execution before ultimately accepting the recommendation and commuting the sentence.
Preceding to Governor Henry’s clemency approval, momentum had built in Oklahoma to see Mr. Smith spared. In a statement, the Governor said:
“I am very respectful of a jury’s verdict, the prosecutors who tried the case and the victim’s family who suffered because of the crime. However, after reviewing all of the evidence and hearing from both prosecutors and defense attorneys, I decided the Pardon and Parole Board made a proper recommendation to provide clemency and commute the death sentence.”
Given the Governor’s stated respect for the jury and the victim’s family, and given that those arguing for clemency included six trial jurors and the victim’s brother, this grant of clemency may not be too surprising.
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Henry has now granted clemency to three death row inmates. On four other occasions, he has rejected clemency recommendations from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, and there have been 37 executions in Oklahoma during his term as Governor.