Wanda Jean Allen Clemency Letter
Executed January 11, 2001
Pardon & Parole Board
4040 North Lincoln
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Re: Wanda Jean Allen
Dear Board Member:
On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, we urge you to grant clemency to Wanda Jean Allen. She is scheduled to be executed on January 11, 2001. It is clear that a stunning combination of factors in her case merit the relief that is sought.
--Wanda Jean Allen has severe mental disabilities that have gone untreated and which bear directly on the question of whether the death penalty is the appropriate punishment in this case. As a young child she suffered serious head trauma that may have compounded a family history of mental impairment. She was placed in foster care and ultimately in a state juvenile facility as an adolescent. When she was 16 years old, a psychological evaluation revealed serious mental disabilities including mental retardation and a "marked inability to cope with a variety of complex situations." The psychologist recommended protective control and training-which Wanda Jean Allen never received.
--Although the state knew of Wanda Jean Allen's mental incapacity, it was never revealed in court proceedings-even to her attorney. While the State of Oklahoma knew that Wanda Jean Allen probably had brain damage, neurological deficiencies, was mentally retarded, and needed treatment, neither her defending attorney nor the jury was made aware of this psychologist's report.
--Largely as a result of her financial status, Wanda Jean Allen's legal representation was alarmingly inadequate. Her lawyer, a solo practitioner, agreed to represent her because he thought it would be a case of manslaughter. He had never tried a capital case and did not know how to fully prepare for defending a capital trial. The Court refused to allow him to withdraw, refused him the assistance of the public defender's office, and refused to provide funding for an investigator to help him prepare for the trial. The State's denial of adequate resources was clearly the pivotal reason that evidence concerning Wanda Jean Allen's mental disability was never presented to a jury. Had that evidence been presented Wanda Jean Allen might not have been sentenced to death.
Moreover, there are indications that race and sexual orientation may have been factors in Wanda Jean Allen's sentencing. She was convicted of killing her girlfriend, after a trial permeated with stereotypes of lesbians and African American women. By the time the jury determined her sentence, they had heard repeated references to Wanda Jean Allen as an aggressive, dominant, "male" type figure who would therefore be capable of committing murder.
Oklahoma's health system failed when Wanda Jean Allen's serious mental problems went untreated. The state's criminal justice system failed when she was forced to receive inadequate representation, and when bias based on race, class and sexual orientation entered the courtroom. Oklahoma's "safety net" did not just fail Wanda Jean Allen-it failed the whole state.
The ACLU opposes capital punishment in all cases as a barbarous anachronism and a violation of the Constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Our country is almost alone among advanced nations continuing the practice. Indeed, the American Bar Association has urged a moratorium on executions, citing, among other issues precisely the kind of unfairness and irrationality presented by the planned execution of Wanda Jean Allen.
We respectfully urge you to grant clemency in this tragic case.
ACLU Capital Punishment Project
ACLU of Oklahoma
ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project