The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is asking the state Attorney General’s opinion on whether death row prisoners qualify for its commutation process. The board voted unanimously to send the question to Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office.
Board members say they have reviewed the state law that defines their powers and aren't sure whether the normal commutation process applies to death penalty cases.
According to the board's attorney, the commutation application that prompted the question was filed in October last year. That’s the same month Julius Jones, a death row prisoner whose case has drawn national attention, applied for a commutation. It’s uncertain how soon the attorney general will return an opinion.
The board also considered a complaint from Laura Thomas, the district attorney for Payne and Logan Counties. She requested two of the boards members be disqualified from considering cases from her district.
Thomas complained last month that Kelly Doyle and Adam Luck were biased because of their ties to an organization that gives aid to people recently released from prison or granted parole.
Board Chairman Robert Gilliland followed legal advice from the board’s staff and denied the request. Based on the board’s rules, he concluded he doesn’t have the authority to dismiss Doyle or Luck.