Oklahoma carried out the execution of Michael DeWayne Smith at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester on Thursday. 

Smith, 41, was sentenced to death for the 2002 murders of Janet Moore and Sharath Babu Pulluru in Oklahoma County.

Smith had no last words and requested no last meal. When execution team leader Jason Sparks asked Smith if he had anything he wanted to say, Smith replied “Nah, I’m good.”

Smith fatally shot Moore, 41, at her apartment as she got dressed for her job at OU Medical Center in the hospital’s insurance division. Pulluru, 22, was a college student working as a store clerk when Smith shot him and set his body on fire. Pulluru was filling in as a clerk for a friend.

Smith initially admitted to the murders during a police interrogation, according to prosecutors. But he claimed at a clemency hearing in March he was innocent and didn’t remember being arrested because he was high on drugs. 

Phillip Zachary Jr., son of murder victim Janet Moore, holds up a picture of his mother after the execution of her killer, Michael DeWayne Smith Jr. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Smith’s attorneys also had argued Smith was intellectually disabled and that years of drug abuse worsened his condition. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 against recommending clemency for Smith.

Smith’s execution took 12 minutes. After declining last words, he spoke briefly to Jeff Hood, his spiritual advisor. Smith’s microphone was off so media witnesses couldn’t make out what he said, but Department of Corrections Director Steven Harpe said later Smith was “expressing love to his family.”

Smith appeared to stare directly at Attorney General Gentner Drummond at the beginning of the execution process, but within minutes began to snore audibly. His breathing was deep at first, then shallow, and within a few minutes he was completely still. He was declared dead at 10:20 a.m.

Drummond spoke to the media after the execution, flanked by Phillip Zachary Jr., Moore’s son, and her niece, Morgan Miller-Perkins. Zachary held up a photo inside a frame that said “Best Mom Ever.”

Drummond, who read a statement on their behalf, said the memory of Moore’s “life work and deeds will love on.” Drummond also read a statement on behalf of family members of Pulluru, who did not attend the execution, saying Pulluru’s death “affected our family’s lives ever since. He will live forever in our hearts.”

Smith is the 12th person Oklahoma has executed since it resumed use of the death penalty in 2021, and the first in 2024. Executions in the state had been on hiatus since 2015 after a series of failures led to the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014, and the wrong drug being used in the execution of Charles Warner the following year. The wrong drug was also ordered in the scheduled execution of Richard Glossip in 2015, but his death sentence was not carried out and he remains on death row.

Michael Dewayne Smith is scheduled for execution on April 4 after spending more than 20 years on death row. Courtesy

When Oklahoma resumed use of the death penalty, the state set an aggressive schedule, planning to execute more than two dozen inmates over the course of three years. The schedule was altered last year, from 30 days between executions to 60 days, at the request of Drummond, who called the pace of executions “unsustainable.” Drummond said the rate of executions was taxing physically and mentally on jail staff who not only had to conduct the killings, but had to perform mock executions to practice. 

Last month, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and the Attorney General’s office again asked for more time between executions, asking the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for 90 days in between use of the death penalty. That request is still pending, but during the hearing Judge Gary Lumpkin criticized the request, telling prison staff to “man up,” and saying they needed to “suck it up” and “do their jobs.” 

Oklahoma’s next scheduled execution is for Wade Lay, 63, who was convicted for murdering a bank security guard in Tulsa in 2004 during a robbery. Lay is scheduled to be executed June 6. 

Prisoners awaiting execution dates: 

  • Richard Norman Rojem was convicted in 2003 in Washita County of raping and murdering his 7-year-old stepdaughter in 1984.
  • Emmanuel Littlejohn was convicted in 2000 in Oklahoma County of first-degree murder for his part in a fatal robbery that killed Kenneth Meers in 1992. Littlejohn didn’t pull the trigger, but was prosecuted for the killing under Oklahoma’s felony murder law. The man who pulled the trigger, Glenn Bethany, was also convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 
  • Kevin Ray Underwood was convicted in 2008 in McClain County for the murder of 10-year-old Jamie Rose Bolin, his neighbor in Purcell. He blamed the murder on his cannibalistic fantasies. 
  • Wendell Arden Grissom was convicted in Blaine County and sentenced to death in 2008 for the 2005 murder of Amber Matthews.
  • Tremane Wood was convicted and sentenced to death in Oklahoma County in 2004 for the 2002 fatal robbery that killed Ronald Wipf in Oklahoma City.
  • Kendrick Antonio Simpson was convicted in 2007 of murdering Glen Palmer and Anthony Jones after a fight at Fritzi’s hip-hop club in Oklahoma City in 2006. Simpson left the club but ran into the victims again at 7-Eleven, where he fatally shot the men in their car.

Oklahoma executions since 2021
Oct. 28, 2021: John Marion Grant
Dec. 9, 2021: Bigler Jobe Stouffer II
Jan. 27, 2022: Donald Anthony Grant
Feb. 17, 2022: Gilbert Postelle
Aug. 25, 2022: James Allen Coddington
Oct. 20, 2022: Benjamin Cole
Nov. 17, 2022: Richard Fairchild
Jan. 12, 2023: Scott Eizember
July 20, 2023: Jemaine Cannon
Sep. 21, 2023: Anthony Sanchez
Nov. 30, 2023: Phillip Hancock
April 4, 2024: Michael DeWayne Smith

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