Oklahoma conducts first execution of 2024

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Apr. 4—The family of Janet Moore said Thursday's execution was justice for the loss caused by Michael Smith.

In a statement read by Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, Moore's family said Smith's actions "caused a ripple for generation to come."

"We honor the mother, the sister, the aunt, the cousin, the niece, and the angel on Earth and in Heaven," Drummond read with Moore's son Phillip Zachary Jr. and niece Morgan Miller-Perkins standing by his side. "The memory of her life and her deeds will continue to live on. Justice has been served."

Drummond also read a statement from the family for Smith's second victim, Sharath Pulluru.

"Sharath was the life our family. We are a very close family and his sudden death in such a violent manner has affected our family's lives every day since," Drummond read. "He will forever live in our hearts. We are thankful justice was served today."

Smith was convicted by an Oklahoma County jury in 2003 for the murders of Moore and Pulluru in two separate incidents on Feb. 22, 2002.

The death row inmate was pronounced dead at 10:20 a.m., according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Media witnesses said the execution process began at 10:08 a.m.

Sean Murphy with the Associated Press said when Smith was asked if he had any last words, he responded "Nah, I'm good." Murphy said Smith was seen exchanging words with his spiritual adviser Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood.

When asked what those words were, ODOC Executive Director Steven Harpe said Smith was telling Hood to tell his family that he loved them.

Murphy said Smith then closed his eyes at 10:09 a.m. and continued to speak before some "quivering of the neck and the mouth" was seen along with some light lifting of his head.

The reporter said audible snoring, which was described by Harpe as "some form of sleep apnea," was heard.

At 10:14 a.m., a consciousness check was conducted by a doctor with Smith appearing to stop breathing at 10:15 a.m., according to Murphy. The doctor reappeared in the death chamber at 10:19 a.m. and checked for signs of life before declaring Smith dead at 10:20 a.m.

The execution proceeded after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution requested by Smith's attorneys, who argued that his confession to police was not sufficiently corroborated.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denied clemency for Smith in March.

Attorneys for Smith argued Smith grew up suffering from harsh discipline and physical abuse, early and consistent exposure to drugs, and childhood head injuries.

His attorneys also claimed Smith is intellectually disabled and was unable to understand his waiver of Miranda before speaking with police due to his low IQ.

"I am innocent," Smith said in a statement made last week to the News-Capital. "I did not kill Janet Moore or Sharath Pulluru. I gave confession while under the influence of PCP while I was on suicide watch."

The Attorney General's Office said Smith's confession was corroborated by evidence at both murder scenes. The AG added that Smith's claims of intellectual disability are statutorily ineligible due to his IQ scores.

Prosecutors stated Smith went to the apartment of Janet Moore because he believed her son was a police informant. After Smith kicked in the door, Moore began to scream, and Smith fatally shot the woman, according to court records.

After wiping down the apartment, Smith went to a convenience store next door to where the previous robbery occurred and "emptied two pistols" into Sharath Pulluru, the clerk on duty, took money from the register, and set fire to Pulluru's body and "whatever he had touched" to destroy evidence, court documents state.

Records show Smith then went home and told his roommate that he killed Moore and "done something else to take care of business" before telling another woman later that day he killed Moore because her son had been "snitching", and he killed the store clerk because someone at the convenience store was seen on the news "dissing his set" in response to a November 2000 robbery.

That woman notified police of what Smith said and he was taken into custody and admitted he killed both victims in retaliation for "wrongs" done to him and his family.

Smith was the 12th person executed by the state since resuming executions in 2021 following a nearly seven-year moratorium.

The state's next execution is scheduled for June 6 pending the result of a competency trial for death row inmate Wade Lay. That trial is currently set to begin April 29 at the Pittsburg County Courthouse.