Saturday, July 14, 2007

June 26, 2007

...Bland was terminally ill and had less than a year to live when he was executed....

Last Meal: Bland had a final meal request of hot and spicy chicken breast, two slices of sausage pizza with extra cheese, a slice of German chocolate cake, a pint of French vanilla ice cream and a Dr. Pepper.

The skinny: Bland, a two-time killer, was executed for shooting his 62-year-old employer in the back of the head.

Bland was terminally ill and had less than a year to live when he was executed.

More skinny: The victim, the former mayor of Manitou, was a compassionate, friendly man who was always willing to help. He hired Bland, who had been out of prison for less than a year, to help him do construction work. He let Bland borrow his Cadillac to visit his girlfriend in Oklahoma City.

When Bland returned to the man's home in Manitou, the two men began arguing, and Bland shot the victim in the back of the head with a .22-caliber rifle. He then took the body to a creek and left it there under some logs. After Bland was arrested for driving under the influence in the man's car two days later, he confessed.

Bland had killed before. In 1975, he was convicted of manslaughter for killing a soldier and kidnapping the soldier's family. He served 20 years of a 60-year sentence.

He had been out of prison less than a year when he was accused of the killing.

The debate: Bland had a fatal case of lung cancer that had spread to his brain, and had undergone radiation treatment and chemotherapy according to his lawyer, David Autry. Bland would have died in six months, Autry said. "It's pointless to execute this guy. He was going to be dead in a few short months anyway."

Though there are no reliable statistics on how many terminally ill inmates are currently on death row in the nation's prisons, Bland appears to be one of the few inmates this close to dying of natural causes to be executed..

His case has outraged death penalty opponents, who argue that the justice system should show mercy to death row inmates who are already dying--an issue that is likely to appear before courts and clemency boards more frequently as the death-row population ages.

The victim's family, victims advocates and the state of Oklahoma have little sympathy for Bland and say his illness should not excuse his crimes. "If Jimmy Bland wanted to die of natural causes he shouldn't have shot [the victim] in the back of the head," said Assistant Oklahoma Attorney General Seth Branham. "He's in the same position as any other inmate from the state's perspective," Branham said. "Capital punishment prevents death by natural causes."

Several other older inmates had tried to avoid their executions based on their old age or infirmities--with little success in the courts. While the Supreme Court -- in some instances -- has been willing to rein in the death penalty as applied to juveniles or the mentally retarded, it has not been sympathetic to claims that executing the elderly or the ill violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Last words and such: “I’m sorry for what happened. I love you all. I love you all,” Bland said looking toward his family members. He then turned to prison officials in the death chamber and said: “I’m ready.”

Much of what Bland said to his family was inaudible because of a defect in the death chamber’s public address system. “

Factoids: Bland was the...

27th murderer executed in U.S. in 2007
1084th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
2nd murderer executed in Oklahoma in 2007
85th murderer executed in Oklahoma since 1976