One day before his scheduled execution, Oklahoma death row prisoner Bigler Jobe “Bud” Stouffer II said he would rather die than spend life in prison and that he is at peace with death.
After more than three decades on death row, Stouffer still claims he is innocent of the 1985 murder of Linda Reaves.
Stouffer, now 79, said in an interview with The Frontier on Wednesday that someone else killed Reaves, and that he shot Reaves’ boyfriend Doug Ivens in self defense after Ivens pulled a gun on him. Stouffer said that he found God behind bars and hoped he had been able to witness the other men on death row during the 36 years he’d been there.
“I’ve learned to grow where the Lord planted me in 1985,” Stouffer said of his time in prison. “And after 36-plus years, I’ve been an instrument of His to spread His word.”
Stouffer told The Frontier he was “pleased” that Gov. Kevin Stitt denied him clemency against the recommendation of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
“To me, life without (parole) is worse than the death penalty,” he said.
When Stouffer went to trial in 1985, jurors were told that he had almost committed the “perfect crime.”
Stouffer was convicted and sentenced to death for killing Reaves, a schoolteacher, and shooting Ivens. Stouffer, prosecutors said, was dating Ivens’ ex-wife. If Ivens’ was dead, Stouffer would have access to his money.
So, on Jan. 24, 1985, Stouffer drove to Ivens’ house, asked to borrow his .357 Magnum handgun, saying he was worried about burglars. Stouffer then shot Ivens three times. Stouffer eventually turned the gun on Reaves, who died of two gunshots to the head.
In a time before DNA testing, borrowing the murder weapon ensured there was no evidence left behind to tie him to the crime. Except that Ivens, who Stouffer had shot three times, didn’t die.
Stouffer claims Ivens set him up to take the fall for Reaves’ murder in an attempt to steal his fortune. But two juries heard this story, and didn’t buy it.
Stouffer was convicted of killing Reaves and shooting Ivens, but his case was overturned when a judge found Stouffer had received ineffective assistance of counsel. In 2003, he was once again found guilty and sentenced to death.
When Stouffer told the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board last month that he was innocent, they weren’t convinced either. But they still voted 3-2 to recommend clemency. Board members said they were concerned about Oklahoma’s ability to carry out an execution following the killing of John Marion Grant, an execution that resulted in Grant convulsing on the table and vomiting as the drugs were pumped into his system.
Stitt denied Stouffer clemency earlier this month.
Stouffer told The Frontier he initially didn’t want to take part in his clemency hearing, but “my attorneys thought it would be best.”
“The way I interpret it, the parole board wanted to hear ‘Yes, I did it, and I’m sorry I did it. Please forgive me.’ And that’s not me because I’m not going to confess to something that I didn’t do.
“I didn’t want to do clemency in the first place … I knew that their decision was based on the fact that they thought I was guilty. But they said because of their problem with the execution protocol, they’re going to vote to recommend clemency. So it was the wrong reason they were voting to grant clemency in my opinion.”
During Stouffer’s clemency hearing, one of the board members, Larry Morris, raised the question of whether it was moral to execute someone given how the previous executions had played out.
“Are we going to put another guy on the table and let him suffer for 30 minutes?” Morris asked. He called Oklahoma’s execution process “flawed.”
Morris changed his mind following a federal hearing last month in which Dr. Ervin Yen, a former state legislator, who is running for governor in 2022, testified that Grant’s execution was “fast and smooth.” Yen attended the execution as an expert witness for the state.
In those hearings — for convicted killers Donald Grant and Gilbert Postelle — the board, and Morris, have voted against recommending clemency.
Barring a last-minute stay by a federal judge, Stouffer will be the second man Oklahoma has executed this year following a six-year moratorium following a series of miscues in 2014 and 2015 that resulted in a botched execution and another execution with an unapproved drug.
“They’re supposed to execute me at 10 o’clock in the morning and I’m at perfect peace about that because if the Lord’s through with me in this assignment then I’ll go home and be with Him,” Stouffer said. “I would like to be able to prove my innocence while I’m alive but I think it will be proven later while I’m not alive.”
Stouffer’s scheduled execution comes just two months out from a federal trial over Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol. The state has had so much trouble locating the drugs needed to conduct executions that former Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh once told reporters he had called “the back streets of the Indian subcontinent to procure drugs.”
Oklahoma now uses a cocktail including midazolam, a sedative, vecuronium bromide, a paralytic, which stops breathing, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. More than two dozen death row inmates are suing, claiming the current protocol is unconstitutional.
A federal judge removed Stouffer from that lawsuit earlier this year, allowing the state to request his execution date.
Stoffer said he’s not afraid of feeling pain during his execution, or of suffering convulsions or vomiting like Grant did. He wishes he could see his family in person before his death — but said he missed a deadline to put them on his visitation list. He said he won’t even get a last meal, because the state asked for his meal request more than a month ago and he didn’t know what he wanted at that point.
“They asked me what I wanted for a last meal, I had no idea at that time what I wanted for a last meal,” he said. “They said if you don’t list it, you don’t get it. I said that’s fine with me.”
What does he want people to know when he’s gone?
“That I have forgiven everybody involved in the case and I’m at peace completely,” he said.