Federal judge grants stay of execution to Oklahoma inmate

December 27, 2021 GMT
This Feb. 5, 2021, photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows James Coddington. In late December 2021, a federal judge granted a temporary stay of execution for Coddington, death row inmate in Oklahoma who was scheduled to receive a lethal injection in March. (Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP)
This Feb. 5, 2021, photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows James Coddington. In late December 2021, a federal judge granted a temporary stay of execution for Coddington, death row inmate in Oklahoma who was scheduled to receive a lethal injection in March. (Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP)
This Feb. 5, 2021, photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows James Coddington. In late December 2021, a federal judge granted a temporary stay of execution for Coddington, death row inmate in Oklahoma who was scheduled to receive a lethal injection in March. (Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP)
This Feb. 5, 2021, photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows James Coddington. In late December 2021, a federal judge granted a temporary stay of execution for Coddington, death row inmate in Oklahoma who was scheduled to receive a lethal injection in March. (Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP)
This Feb. 5, 2021, photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows James Coddington. In late December 2021, a federal judge granted a temporary stay of execution for Coddington, death row inmate in Oklahoma who was scheduled to receive a lethal injection in March. (Oklahoma Department of Corrections via AP)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A federal judge in Oklahoma has granted a stay of execution for a death row inmate who was scheduled to receive a lethal injection in March.

In his order last week, U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot agreed to stay the execution of 49-year-old James Coddington. The order reinstates Coddington as a plaintiff in a case with other death row inmates who are challenging Oklahoma’s three-drug lethal injection protocol. A trial in that case is scheduled to begin before Friot in February.

Coddington initially was removed from that case because he failed to select an alternative method of execution that Friot required of the plaintiffs.

But Coddington’s attorneys were able to prove to the judge that Coddington had indeed selected firing squad as an alternative method. Firing squad is one of several authorized execution methods under Oklahoma law, along with lethal injection, electrocution and nitrogen hypoxia. Lethal injection has been the only method used in Oklahoma since the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976.

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Coddington’s public defender declined to comment on the judge’s order, and a spokeswoman for Attorney General John O’Connor didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Coddington was convicted and sentenced to die for the 1997 hammer killing in Choctaw of co-worker Albert Hale, who prosecutors said had refused to lend Coddington $50 to buy drugs.

States and the federal government carried out 11 executions this year, the fewest since 1988, as support for the death penalty has continued to decline, according to an annual report on the death penalty released earlier this month. Texas executed three inmates and Oklahoma two in 2021. Alabama, Mississippi and Missouri each executed one, and the Trump administration executed three.

Oklahoma once had one of the nation’s busiest death chambers, but a temporary moratorium on capital punishment was put in place in 2015 following three consecutive flawed executions.

Oklahoma resumed executions in October with the lethal injection of John Marion Grant, who convulsed and vomited on the gurney after the first drug, the sedative midazolam, was administered.