After giving a thumbs up to his supporters in the witness room, Jemaine Cannon was executed Thursday, the ninth person Oklahoma has executed since it resumed use of the death penalty in 2021.
Cannon’s last words were: “I confess with my mouth and believe in my heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, therefore I am saved,” witnesses said after the execution.
Cannon, 51, was executed 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 violent beating in 1990 of an 18-year-old woman.
Cannon’s last-minute appeal was denied late Wednesday by the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. His time of death was 10:13 a.m. Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Steven Harpe said Cannon was “talkative about his faith” prior to being put to death and that DOC staff “didn’t encounter any issues” with his execution.
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.” Cannon’s 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.”
After the execution, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said in a statement “justice was finally served.”
“My hope is that today’s action can bring some measure of peace for Sharonda’s two daughters, as well as her other family members and friends who loved her,” Drummond said.
Yeh-Shen White, Clark’s daughter, spoke after the execution, saying “it’s finally done.”
“I do think justice was rendered,” she said. “It was what was necessary. In my opinion he died in a very favorable way that many people in good health would choose to die if they could … unfortunately my mom didn’t get that opportunity.”
White, smiling, thanked DOC, the AG’s office and Tulsa Police for their support over the years. In attendance during the execution were Drummond and former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris, who prosecuted Cannon.
Asked if she was surprised Cannon did not choose to express remorse in his last words, White said no.
“He hasn’t shown any remorse in 28 years. Not at one point in time has he offered a sincere apology to the family or repenting … so I didn’t expect it,” she said. “His last words were selfish, that’s who he’s been the entire time.”
The Oklahoma Coalition Against the Death Penalty issued a statement Thursday, calling Cannon’s execution “cruel.”
“Jemaine Cannon was nearly blind and nearly deaf and was likely to die in less than a year of an auto-immune disease,” the release stated. “Executing a sick and dying man is not justice, it is cruelty.”
Cannon was the second person executed in Oklahoma in 2023 and the ninth since the state resumed use of the death penalty in 2021. Oklahoma had originally planned to conduct 11 executions in 2023, but Attorney General Gentner Drummond, elected last year, asked the courts to slow the pace of state-sponsored killings, and only two executions remain on the schedule this year.
Anthony Sanchez, 44, is set to be put to death Sept. 21 for the murder of 21-year-old Juli Busken, a University of Oklahoma dance student, in 1996. Sanchez has announced he plans to skip his clemency hearing and instead will rely on the courts to remove him from death row, where he’s been since 2006.
Phillip Hancock, 59, is scheduled to die Nov. 30 for the 2001 killings of Robert Jett Jr. and James Lynch. Hancock has been on death row for 19 years.