Oklahoma death-row inmate receives stay in execution while legal challenges persist

The Oklahoma State Penitentiary, in McAlester. File photo

An Oklahoma death row inmate scheduled for execution in March was granted a stay by a federal judge Thursday. 

U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Friot ordered a temporary halt on the execution of 49-year-old James Allen Coddington.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals had scheduled executions for Coddington and other inmates after Friot removed the inmates from a lawsuit over the lethal injection protocol, court records show. Friot later reinstated Coddington into the lawsuit.

Now that Coddington is reinstated in the lawsuit, Friot is granting a stay until that lawsuit is resolved.

"For good cause shown, Mr. Coddington’s March 10, 2022 execution date is stayed until a final judgment on Mr. Coddington’s claims in this case has been entered by this Court," Friot said in court records.

More:What we know about Oklahoma resuming executions for the first time since 2015

State officials said Coddington had not requested an alternative method of execution from the lethal injection he was challenging, a three-drug mixture including the controversial midazolam used in prior Oklahoma executions, including the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014.

James Coddington

But the U.S. District Court is vacating the court of criminal appeals decision in regard to Coddington, discovering through "credible corroboration from an independent evidentiary source" that Coddington thought he had already effectively communicated his choice of a firing squad as his alternative method of execution.

More:Oklahoma has resumed executions. Here are key dates for 6 people on death row.

Friot said the federal court has until March 10 to make a final judgment about Coddington's claims. Coddington has been convicted of bludgeoning Albert Troy Hale to death with a hammer in Choctaw on March 5, 1997.

The judge is scheduled to begin hearing testimony about the state's lethal injection drugs on Feb. 28, 2022.