With His Last Words, Oklahoma Man Forgave Governor Who Refused To Halt His Execution

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Just before his execution, an Oklahoma inmate expressed forgiveness to his governor for denying him clemency.

James Coddington, 50, was executed at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester by lethal injection on Thursday morning, the Associated Press reports. During his last words, Coddington spoke directly to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who declined to commute Coddington’s sentence to life without parole the day before.

“To all my family and friends, lawyers, everyone who’s been around me and loved me, thank you,” Coddington said before his death, according to the New York Post. “Gov. Stitt, I don’t blame you and I forgive you.”

The state’s Pardon and Parole Board had recommended that his life be spared, but Stitt overruled their recommendation.

Coddington was convicted of the 1997 murder of of his friend and coworker, 73-year-old Albert Hale — a member of the Choctaw nation. Coddington, who was 24 at the time of the killing, beat Hale to death with a hammer after the older man refused to give him money to buy cocaine.

At a clemency hearing earlier this month, Coddington apologized to Hale’s family for the slaying.

“I’m clean, I know God, I’m not ... I’m not a vicious murderer,” Coddington told the board, according to the Associated Press. He noted, “If this ends today with my death sentence, OK.”

His attorney, Emma Rolls, told the board that Coddington's actions were influenced by more than two decades of alcohol and drug misuse, which she claimed began when his father put alcohol into his baby bottles.

Mitch Hale, Albert Hale’s son, had urged the parole board to uphold the execution.

“Our family can put this behind us after 25 years,” Mitch Hale, 64, said before the execution, according to the Associated Press. “No one is ever happy that someone’s dying, but (Coddington) chose this path ... he knew what the consequences are, he rolled the dice and lost.”

Mitch Hale, who then watched the execution, felt that Coddington’s last words showed his earlier apology wasn't authentic.

“He proved today it wasn’t genuine. He never apologized,” Hale said, the New York Post reports. “He didn’t bring up my dad.”

He added, “I forgive him, but that doesn’t release him from the consequences of his actions.”

After the murder of Albert Hale, Coddington committed at least six armed robberies in the state. His original death sentence for Albert Hale’s murder was overturned on appeal but it was reinstated in 2008.