Oklahoma is set to conduct its second execution this year on Thursday when it plans to put Jemaine Cannon to death.
Cannon, 51, is facing execution for the 1995 murder of Sharonda White Clark, a 20-year-old mother of two. Cannon stabbed Clark to death in her home in Tulsa. Clark was found dead about three weeks after Cannon escaped from prison, where he was serving a 15-year sentence for the 1990 beating of an 18-year-old woman with an iron, a toaster and a hammer.
Cannon had been working for the Walters school system while he was in Oklahoma Department of Corrections custody. Authorities said he escaped from the school in a stolen school pickup and drove to Tulsa, where lived before prison. The Department of Corrections assigned Cannon to the Walters Community Work Center two years after he was convicted of beating the 18-year-old woman, records show Authorities said at the time Cannon belonged in a higher security prison, but they were limited on space.
Clark was stabbed three times in the neck, slicing through her carotid artery and jugular vein. Authorities said it was clear she died in a “violent struggle.” Police found a blood trail in Clark’s residence that led from her bedroom to the bathroom floor, where her body was discovered.
Cannon claimed Clark “came” at him with a knife because she didn’t want him to leave her. His attorneys argued during his trial that he killed Clark in self defense, saying he “blindly” swung a knife at her in order to protect himself.
At his trial, Cannon’s attorneys said he’d been abused as a child, which led to his propensity for violence against women. Jurors had the option of sentencing Cannon either to death or to life without parole, records show, and unanimously chose the death penalty.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denied Cannon clemency by a 3-2 vote in June. During the hearing, one of Clark’s daughters asked for an end “to the foolery and pity” of Cannon asking for mercy, “as mercy was never given to my mother before her life was taken from her.”
Attorney General Gentner Drummond said in a statement he was “pleased” with the board’s decision to deny Cannon clemency.
Oklahoma has put eight men to death since resuming executions in 2021. The state has two more executions on the books for 2023 after Cannon. Anthony Sanchez, 44, is scheduled to be put to death Sept. 21 for the murder of 21-year-old Juli Busken, a University of Oklahoma dance student, in 1996.
Phillip Hancock, 59, is set for death Nov. 30 for the double-murder of 37-year-old Robert Jett and 57-year-old James Lynch in 2001.
Sanchez announced last month he planned to skip his clemency hearing, saying he believed it was unlikely Gov. Kevin Stitt would sign off on it if he was granted a reprieve.
“I’ve sat in my cell and I’ve watched inmate after inmate after inmate get clemency and get denied clemency,” Sanchez said, according to CBS News. “Either way, it doesn’t go well for the inmates.”
Stitt has only granted clemency for a death row inmate once since the state resumed executions. In 2021, he commuted the sentence of Julius Jones from death to life without the possibility of parole. Stitt rejected requests for mercy from two others, Bigler Stoufer and James Coddington, after the Pardon and Parole Board voted to recommend clemency for both.
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
Upcoming scheduled executions
July 20, 2023: Jemaine Cannon
Sept. 21, 2023: Anthony Sanchez
Nov. 30, 2023: Phillip Hancock