Former GOP Lawmaker, Victim, Former Corrections Chief Urge Governor to Commute Thursday Death Sentence

PC: Oklahoma Department of Corrections via

By The Vanguard Staff

OAKLOMA CITY, OK – James Coddington is due to be executed here Thursday, but Monday received strong support from a myriad of people who said they believe Coddington is a changed man and urged Gov. Kevin Stitt to commute Coddington’s death sentence. 

Earlier, the Oklahoma Board of Pardons and Parole recommended clemency for Coddington based on his deep remorse, exemplary prison record, and horrific history of childhood trauma, said supporters.

And, in a letter sent Monday to the governor, former Republican Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Kris Steele wrote, “My faith calls me to speak out on Mr. Coddington’s behalf. He is indisputably a changed man from the desperate young drug addict who took Albert Hale’s life 25 years ago. This is the redemption process at work.” 

The 12-year lawmaker has also been a Baptist minister and a public school teacher, and now directs the Education and Employment Ministry in Oklahoma City, working to break the same cycles of poverty, addiction, and incarceration that marked Coddington’s early years, said supporters. 

Steele urged the governor to take “a holistic consideration of the circumstances…(the) case presents precisely the kind of circumstances that warrant the exercise of executive clemency power,” he wrote.

In an affidavit, Trisha Allen—robbed at knifepoint by Coddington in 1997 when she was a convenience store clerk—said, “I believe if James was given the opportunity to live out his life behind bars, he could be a good influence on other prisoners. He is capable of changing others’ lives.”

Allen said she could tell he was under the influence during the robbery, but said his eyes showed he was not a hardened criminal.

Allen spoke to Coddington by phone recently, and noted, “Mr. Coddington apologized for his actions against me. I believe his apology was genuine and I truly believe he is remorseful…(we) discussed “his transformation from anger to peace…(he) “explained that the more calm he was able to experience, the more opportunity he had to seek God.”

Former Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones also has urged Governor Stitt to grant clemency, in a signed affidavit supporting Coddington’s clemency petition. The affidavit, available at, highlights Coddington’s excellent prison record and the trust and respect he has earned from correctional staff, according to Coddington’s supporters.

In a Tulsa Public Radio interview here, Jones—who spent 36 years working in the Oklahoma DOC including eight as its director—said, “I don’t think it would serve the best interest of the state of Oklahoma to execute Mr. Coddington…He’s going to have an influence at his age and his experience and what I believe is his commitment to be productive no matter what situation is before him.”  

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