Groups Call for Halt to Execution

Affiliate: ACLU of Oklahoma
December 4, 2000 12:00 am

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Oklahoma City, OK — The Lesbian and Gay Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union joined several other groups today in calling on Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating to grant clemency to Wanda Jean Allen, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force reported. Allen is scheduled to to be executed on January 11, 2000.

According to the Task Force, after two years in a violent relationship, Allen, an African-American lesbian, admitted to shooting her partner, Gloria Leathers, on December 1, 1989. The groups called upon Gov. Keating to grant clemency to Allen both because of their opposition to the death penalty and because of questions that have been raised regarding whether Allen received a fair trial.

Allen’s attorney failed to investigate fully Allen’s background, which shows that she has an IQ of 80 and has neurological problems that cause her to lose control in stressful situations — factors that were not introduced into court. In addition, according to a review of court records, prosecutors used Allen’s sexual orientation to prejudice the jury against her.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, which makes recommendations concerning clemency to Gov. Frank Keating, is scheduled to hear Allen’s request for clemency on December 15. If granted clemency, Allen would serve a life sentence in the Oklahoma State prison system.

“Anyone who doubts that the death penalty is administered unjustly should take a close look at Wanda Jean Allen’s case,” said Michael Adams, Associate Director of the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “We’ve had a number of cases where people’s sexual orientation has been a factor in sentencing them to die — including people who are now on death row in Texas and Missouri.”

“Just as the death penalty is applied selectively to people of color and low-income people, it is also used against lesbian and gay people. It’s unconscionable – and it’s also unconstitutional,” said Adams.

In February 1999, eleven major gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered rights organizations — many of the same groups that are calling on Gov. Keating to grant clemency — issued a joint statement in opposition to capital punishment as prosecutors in Wyoming were considering seeking the death penalty for the accused murderers of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime.

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