Michael DeWayne Smith is scheduled for execution on April 4 after spending more than 20 years on death row. If carried out, he will be the first person Oklahoma has executed in 2024.

Smith, 41, was convicted in 2003 for the 2002 murders of Janet Moore and Sharath Babu Pulluru in Oklahoma County in separate incidents. 

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. The state alleged Moore’s son was the intended target of the killing, but he wasn’t at home that day.

Pulluru, 22, was a college student working at A&Z Food Mart, in Oklahoma City, when Smith shot him and set his body on fire. Smith mistakenly believed Pulluru had spoken to reporters about a robbery at a different store. Teron Armstrong, a 16-year-old who was in a gang with Smith was killed during the robbery. 

Pulluru was filling in as a clerk for a friend and wasn’t the person who spoke to reporters about the robbery. 

Smith initially admitted to the murders during a police interrogation, according to prosecutors. But he now claims he’s innocent and said he doesn’t remember being arrested because he was high on drugs. 

Police were already looking for Smith at the time of the killings for questioning in another murder. Smith was later convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Otis Payne in 2004 and received a separate life sentence. 

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 against recommending clemency for Smith in the 2002 murders on March 6. Calvin Prince III is the only board member who voted in favor of clemency.

Attorneys Mark and Lanita Henricksen represented Smith at the hearing. Mark told the board Smith is intellectually disabled, years of drug abuse worsened his condition and that there remained significant doubts about whether Smith committed the crimes. Mark also said executing someone doesn’t bring closure to the victim’s family.

“Their relatives remain slain, and the only practical difference will be that the Smith family will join them in grief,” he said. “And the totality of the sufferings will increase ten-fold.”

Amie Ely, first Assistant Attorney General of Oklahoma, spoke on behalf of the state at the hearing. 

“Michael DeWayne Smith has taken multiple lives and has expressed the desire to kill others,” Ely said. “Even in a highly restricted area of the prison, Smith has managed to create weapons.”

She said Smith continued to interact with gangs inside and outside the prison. “In short, Michael Smith remains a continuing threat to society.” 

During the clemency hearing, Smith delivered an emotional speech and claimed he didn’t kill Moore or Pulluru. 

“I didn’t commit these crimes. I didn’t kill these people,” he said. “I was high on drugs. I don’t even remember getting arrested.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said in a press release that he was pleased with the board’s decision against recommending clemency. 

“I am pleased the Pardon and Parole Board denied clemency for the ruthless killer who took Janet Moore and Sharath Pulluru away from their families,” Drummond said. “Justice will finally be served for their tragic loss.”

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

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