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Oklahoma executes Bigler Stouffer, the oldest person to be put to death in state history

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Oklahoma Department of Corrections
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Bigler Stouffer in 2018.

Updated: December 9 at 11:39 a.m.

For just the second time in nearly seven years, Oklahoma has executed a death row inmate.

Bigler "Bud" Jobe Stouffer II was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 10:16 a.m. Thursday morning. At the age of 79, he is the oldest inmate to be executed in Oklahoma history.

Stouffer was sentenced to death for the 1985 shooting death of Putnam City elementary school teacher Linda Reaves.

Five media members were selected by a random draw to witness the execution: Sean Murphy (Associated Press), Dylan Goforth (The Frontier), Dillon Richards (KOCO), Sawyer Buccy (News On 6) and Adrian O'Hanlon (McAlester News Capital).

The witnesses recounted they did not observe any complications with the execution. Their accounts differed drastically from Oklahoma's last execution in October of John Marion Grant, who convulsed two dozen times and vomited multiple times during his execution.

Stouffer's last words were reportedly, "My request is that my Father forgive them, thank you."

Reaves' cousin, Rodney Thomson, spoke following the execution, thanking prosecutors and investigators so that the victims' families can "finally get on with their lives without fear."

"Although long in coming, justice has prevailed," Thomson said.

Thomson also said he hopes the family of Doug Ivens could now find peace. Ivens, the boyfriend of Reaves, was also shot by Stouffer but survived. He died in 2016.

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Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma
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Death penalty opponents protest outside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla. on December 9, 2021.

Death penalty opponents held protests and prayer gatherings outside the governor's mansion in Oklahoma City and in McAlester, calling for an end to the death penalty.

After the execution, Archbishop Paul Coakley of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City released the following statement.

"The dignity of human life must never be undermined even in the case of someone who has done great evil. The death penalty does little to heal the wounds of grief and loss, and only perpetuates the violence we are seeking to eradicate," Coakley said. "Oklahoma's leaders must begin a conversation about how capital punishment aligns with our pro-life values. Please pray for the innocent victims of this crime and for the soul of the condemned."

Wade Lay was scheduled to be the next person executed by the state on Jan. 6, but an Oklahoma judge granted a temporary stay of execution on Monday so that a competency hearing can be held.

Three other death row inmates have executions scheduled: Donald Grant (Jan. 27), Gilbert Postelle (Feb. 17) and James Coddington (March 10).

As many as 26 additional executions could be scheduled in 2022, if death row inmates lose a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma's lethal injection procedures. That trial is set to begin Feb. 28.

ORIGINAL POST:

Death row inmate Bigler Stouffer II is scheduled to be executed at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Stouffer was sentenced to death row for the 1985 shooting death of Putnam City elementary school teacher Linda Reaves.

Last month, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended clemency for Stouffer, for life without the possibility of parole.

But, on Friday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt rejected that recommendation and denied Stouffer clemency. Then, on Monday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to stay his execution.

The board's recommendation had less to do with Stouffer's innocence or guilt, and more to do with its concerns of the state of Oklahoma's recent execution history, which has been gruesome and filled with protocol violations.

Oklahoma's method of execution — lethal injection — has been criticized as painful and terrifying, with claims it induces a sense of drowning comparable to the torture tactic of waterboarding.

Oklahoma held off on lethal injections for nearly six years after two botched executions. The state resumed the practice in late October, killing a man named John Grant, who convulsed and vomited before he died.

That cocktail is being reviewed for constitutionality in district court in February, but several death row inmates are scheduled to be killed before then, including Stouffer.

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Hannah France / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange
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Supporters of the organization Death Penalty Action gathered outside the Governor’s mansion on Wednesday evening to protest the execution of Bigler Stouffer.

On Wednesday evening, a few dozen supporters of the organization Death Penalty Action gathered outside the Governor’s mansion — where Stitt does not live — to protest Stouffer's execution.

The protesters held signs reading “All Life Is Precious” and “Thou Shalt Not Kill” to express their opposition to Stouffer's execution and the death penalty itself.

Stouffer was able to make a phone call to organizers during the protest. He thanked the crowd for their support and spoke about his faith in God.

"I know what my future holds, and He’s waiting for me," said Stouffer. "If He’s ready for me tomorrow morning, then I'm ready to meet Him."

Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
Hannah France is a reporter and producer for KGOU.
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