How many executions does Oklahoma have scheduled for next year? Has Canoo built any cars yet? The Frontier updates its most-read stories of 2023.
10. A state retiree seeks to overturn Oklahoma’s ‘woke’ investment ban
Publication date: Nov. 21
A former state employee backed by pension groups and an organization that represents public workers sued to overturn an Oklahoma law banning the state from doing business with financial firms accused of boycotting the fossil fuel industry. Plaintiff Don Keenan claimed in a lawsuit filed in state court that the law violates the First Amendment and the Oklahoma Constitution.
Update: Keenan dropped the lawsuit after attorneys for the state and Treasurer Todd Russ sought to have the case moved to federal court. Keenan argued in one legal filing that Russ’s attorney was trying to delay the legal process. Russ issued a statement after the suit was withdrawn, saying he plans to file a counterclaim against Keenan to cover legal expenses. Keenan filed a new lawsuit against Russ in state court the next day, without some of the federal claims that were in the original suit. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 11.
9. Oklahoma is set to execute second death row inmate of 2023
Publication date: July 17
What happened: Oklahoma executed Jemaine Cannon, 51, on July 20. He was the ninth person Oklahoma has put to death since the state resumed executions in 2021.
Update: Oklahoma put four people to death in 2023, down from five executions the previous year. So far, three more execution dates have been set for 2024.
8. We fact-checked Ryan Walters on misspent federal money and more claims
Publication date: July 13
What happened: The Frontier fact-checked Ryan Walters after he spoke at a Cleveland County Republican Party meeting. Walters faced backlash for his remarks on the Tulsa Race Massacre after some people interpreted his comments as downplaying the role race played in the 1921 event. The Frontier also found inaccuracies in some of Walter’s other remarks at the meeting.
Update: After the meeting, Walters issued a statement saying the Tulsa Race Massacre was “racist” and blamed the media for twisting his words. Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, one of the authors of an Oklahoma law banning some lessons on race and gender in public schools, also told The Frontier in August that she believed the Tulsa Race Massacre was motivated by race, but hesitated to say the perpetrators were racist. She later apologized.
Walters is ending the year facing questions from state lawmakers about education spending under his watch. He complied with a subpoena from the House Appropriations and Budget Education Subcommittee to produce some documents the day after Christmas.
7. Oklahoma trims millions in pledged incentives to EV maker Canoo after delays and shifting plans
Publication date: April 5
State officials voided incentive contracts worth up to $10 million with the electric vehicle startup Canoo after the company missed a deadline to break ground on a factory in Vinita.
Update: After earlier deals fell through, Canoo has continued to ink new incentive contracts with the state. The company can still reap up to $110 million in state incentives. Canoo has not yet received any payments because the deals hinge on the company meeting hiring goals and other performance measures. The company launched production in earnest at a different factory site in Oklahoma City in November. Canoo also still has a potentially lucrative no-bid contract to produce fleet vehicles for the state. A spokesperson for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services said the state expects to receive the first vehicles sometime this week.
6. Jury awards $33 million to the family of a man who died in an Oklahoma jail as staff mocked him
Publication date: Aug. 25
A federal jury awarded $33 million to the family of a man who died of sepsis and pnemonia after being held for 12 days at the Ottawa County jail. Terral Ellis, 26, begged for medical attention in jail for more than 20 hours before his death in October 2015. Jail staff accused him of faking his illness and mocked him as he screamed for help.
Update: Ottawa County officials have asked a federal judge to reduce the amount of money the jury awarded to Ellis’ family or order a new trial, arguing the $33-million verdict is excessive. Daniel Smolen, an attorney for the Ellis family, said these were routine legal maneuvers after a multi-million dollar verdict. The judge has yet to rule on the request.