Oklahoma executes Gilbert Postelle, the fourth death row inmate to be killed since the state resumed capital punishment
Updated: February 17 at 11:55 a.m.
For the second time in 2022 and just the fourth time in seven years, Oklahoma has executed a death row inmate.
Gilbert Ray Postelle was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 10:14 a.m. Thursday morning. He's the fourth death row inmate to be killed since the state resumed capital punishment in October after a six-year moratorium. He was 35.
Postelle was convicted in the 2005 shooting deaths of James Alderson, Terry Smith, James "Donnie" Swindle Jr., and Amy J. Wright. He was sentenced to death for two of the murders and to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the other two.
Five media members were selected by a random draw to witness the execution: Sean Murphy (Associated Press), Nolan Clay (The Oklahoman), Wayne Stafford (KOKH), Storme Jones (KWTV) and Dylan Goforth (The Frontier).
The witnesses said the execution appeared to happen without any complications. Their accounts were largely in line with the December execution of Bigler Stouffer and the January execution of Donald Grant, but drastically different from the October execution of John Marion Grant, who convulsed two dozen times and vomited multiple times during his execution.
Postelle did not have any last words.
Swindle's sister, Shelli Milner, made a statement following the execution.
"It's never over for the families of the victims. Today is not a joyous day for anyone. Today did not end anyone's suffering. Today did not put closure on anything," Milner said. "To know that [Postelle] will never walk this earth again does give me a little more peace than I had yesterday, but I will never have peace knowing what he did to my brother Donnie, to Amy, to James and to Terry."
There are no more executions scheduled in the state at this point. Pending the results of the upcoming trial over the constitutionality of the current lethal injection protocol later this month, the state may schedule more executions.
Oklahoma's second execution of the year is scheduled to take place on Thursday.
Death row inmate Gilbert Ray Postelle's request for clemency was denied by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board in a 4-1 vote in December 2021.
Postelle, then 19, shot and killed four people — 57-year-old James D. Alderson, 56-year-old Terry L. Smith, 49-year-old James "Donnie" Swindle Jr., and 26-year-old Amy J. Wright — in southeast Oklahoma City on Memorial Day in 2005. The assault included nearly 100 shots fired from two assault rifles.
He was convicted of the four murders and given the death sentence for two.
Three others were charged with conspiracy and four counts of first-degree murder in the slayings. His brother, David Bradford Postelle, was sentenced to life in prison and their father, Earl Bradford Postelle, was ruled incompetent to stand trial in 2006. Another man, Randal Wade Byus, agreed to cooperate with authorities and pleaded guilty to reduced charges in 2008.
Postelle and his family believed one of the victims were responsible for a 2004 motorcycle accident, which left the elder Postelle physically and mentally disabled.
Gilbert Postelle's attorney said he suffered from years of methamphetamine abuse that began around the age of 12. In 2021, he testified that he had been using meth for days leading up to the killings and doesn't remember much about the crimes.
Last month, attorneys for Donald Grant and Postelle argued that the state’s lethal injection protocol exposed the two men to a constitutionally unacceptable risk of severe pain, citing the October 2021 execution of John Grant, who convulsed and vomited before he died.
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 last fall, killing John Grant in October, Bigler Stouffer in December and Donald Grant in January.
The three-drug cocktail is being reviewed for constitutionality in district court in a trial that begins on Feb. 28.