Sunday, June 20, 2004

June 17, 2004

...The Maryland moratorium is now over...

Last Meal: Oken had regular prison fare of a chicken patty, with potatoes and gravy, green beans, marble cake, milk and fruit punch.

The skinny: Oken, 42, was put to death by lethal injection for the rape and murder of a newlywed. Oken sexually assaulted and killed three women -- two in Maryland, one in Maine -- in as many weeks in the fall of 1987.

More skinny: Oken was convicted in 1991 in the 1987 rape and murder of the victim, whom he attacked after tricking her into letting him into her apartment to use the phone. Two weeks later, he sexually assaulted and killed his wife's older sister, and fled to Maine, where he sexually assaulted and killed a college student and motel clerk.

Cliche' alert: Adopted at birth, Steven was raised in a Jewish family with a younger brother and sister.

Leading up: One day after being told he had another month to live, Oken was escorted from his cell in the high-security Supermax prison to the second floor of the old penitentiary. The heavyset 42-year-old with graying hair changed out of an orange jumpsuit into a tan one that had been laid out weeks before on a cot inside a cell at the old prison.

The final hours of Oken's life were spent in a gray cell with a large window -- a space much bigger than the death-row cell in which he has lived since 1991. A blanket had been hung over part of a hallway to discourage correctional employees and others from staring at Oken.

A thick red-painted line kept Oken's final visitors about three feet back from the cell. No one, including his family, was allowed to get any closer than that.

Final words and such: After a furious legal battle that ended only in his final hour, Oken wrote a letter expressing remorse. Oken's attorney, Fred Warren Bennett said, "He talked about how sorry he was. It was sent to show remorse."

His legal team has filed appeal after appeal over the years. But witnesses said he was anything but combative.

There was a significant amount of chuckling and chattering going on between Mr. Oken and the Roman Catholic priest.

Oken had no final words.

Dueling crowds outside the prison: Maryland's execution of Oken brought chants of "justice has been served" from a crowd of 60 people gathered with relatives of murder victim outside the old state penitentiary on East Madison Street in Baltimore.

As the hearse containing Oken's remains pulled away at 10:25 p.m., the crowd chanted "na, na, na, na, hey, hey, goodbye."

Down the street, many of the 40 death penalty opponents assembled cried when they learned that Oken had been put to death. Those who were carrying lighted candles blew them out.

"Tonight the state extinguished a life, but it ignited a flame in each of us. I want you to walk away from this event tonight stronger," said Sedira Banan, 19, of the American University Campaign to End the Death Penalty. This was no word if college student Ms. Banan was also a motel clerk. (See Victim 3 above)

Factoids: Oken was the...

30th murderer executed in U.S. in 2004
915th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in Maryland in 2004
4th murderer executed in Maryland since 1976