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Oklahoma governor rejects clemency for death row inmate

James Coddington was twice sentenced to death for a co-worker's killing, the second time in 2008 after his initial sentence was overturned on appeal.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday rejected clemency for a man facing execution this week for the 1997 hammer killing of a Choctaw man, despite a recommendation from the state's Pardon and Parole Board that his life be spared.

James Coddington was convicted and sentenced to die for the beating death of friend and coworker 73-year-old Albert Hale inside Hale's Choctaw home. Prosecutors say Coddington, who was 24 at the time, became enraged when Hale refused to give him money to buy cocaine.

His execution is scheduled for Thursday morning.

"After thoroughly reviewing arguments and evidence presented by all sides of the case, Governor Kevin Stitt has denied the Pardon and Parole Board's clemency recommendation for James Allen Coddington," Stitt's office said in a statement.

During a clemency hearing this month before the state's five-member Pardon and Parole Board, an emotional Coddington, now 50, apologized to Hale's family and said he is a different man today.

"I'm clean, I know God, I'm not ... I'm not a vicious murderer," Coddington told the board. "If this ends today with my death sentence, OK."

Coddington's attorney, Emma Rolls, told the panel that Coddington was impaired by years of alcohol and drug abuse that began when he was an infant and his father put beer and whiskey into his baby bottles.

Rolls said Coddington doesn't have any pending appeals that would delay or stop his execution on Thursday.

The panel voted 3-2 to recommend Coddington for clemency, although Hale's family had urged against it.

Stitt, a Republican, had said he planned to meet with Hale's family, prosecutors and Coddington's attorneys before making his decision.

Coddington was twice sentenced to death for Hale's killing, the second time in 2008 after his initial sentence was overturned on appeal.

Stitt has granted clemency only one time, in November, to death row inmate Julius Jones just hours before Jones was scheduled to receive a lethal injection. The first-term governor commuted Jones' sentence to life in prison without parole.

Jones' case had drawn national attention after it was featured in "The Last Defense," a three-episode documentary that cast doubt on Jones' conviction, and there were numerous protests in Oklahoma City in the days leading up to Jones' scheduled execution date.

Stitt said in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this month that had he allowed Jones' execution to go forward "that would have definitely torn our state apart."

By SEAN MURPHY Associated Press

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