Press

Groups Urge Clemency in Okla. Death Penalty Case

Date: 
December 04, 2000

Eric Ferrero, ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, 212-549-2568
Kevin McGruder, Gay Men of African Descent, 212-414-9344, ext. 12
Sydney Levy, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, 415-255-8680
Clarence Patton, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs/ New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violent Project, 212-714-1184
David Elliot, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 202-332-6483, ext. 3303
Craig Bowman, National Youth Advocacy Coalition, 202-319-7596
Kent Doss, Oklahoma Lambda Intercollegiate Coalition, 504-906-5368
Amanda Bowles, University of Oklahoma Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Friends, 504-325-4452

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force today joined other progressive gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) groups in calling on Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating to grant clemency to Wanda Jean Allen, scheduled to to be executed on Jan. 11.

After two years of being involved in a violent relationship, Allen, an African-American lesbian, admitted to shooting her partner, Gloria Leathers, on Dec. 1, 1989 just outside Oklahoma City. NGLTF is calling upon Gov. Keating to grant clemency to Allen both because of the organization's opposition to the death penalty and because of questions that have been raised regarding whether Allen received a fair trial.

Allen's attorney failed to investigate fully Allen's background showing that she has an IQ of 80 and has neurological problems that cause her to lose control in stressful situations - factors that were not introduced into court. In addition, according to a review of court records, prosecutors attempted to use Allen’s sexual orientation and relationship with her partner to prejudice the jury against her.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, which makes recommendations concerning clemency to Gov. Frank Keating, is scheduled to hear Allen's request for clemency on Dec. 15. If granted clemency, Allen would serve a life sentence in the Oklahoma State prison system.

Joining NGLTF in calling upon Gov. Keating to grant clemency to Allen are the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Astraea Lesbian Action Foundation, Gay Men of African Descent, the National Youth Advocacy Coalition, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, the Oklahoma Lambda Intercollegiate Coalition and the University of Oklahoma Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Friends.

"The death penalty is wrong in all instances," said NGLTF Executive Director Elizabeth Toledo. "Its inherent injustice is compounded when the condemned person has a history of mental impairment and when this information is not presented to the jury. In opposing the execution of Wanda Jean Allen, we are mindful of the fact that criminal justice issues as well as issues surrounding domestic violence are important to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Our view of social justice demands equality for GLBT people, but it also demands a criminal justice system that treats all people with respect and dignity."

"Anyone who doubts that the death penalty is administered unjustly should take a close look at Wanda Jean Allen’s case," said Michael Adams, Associate Director of the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "We’ve had a number of cases where people's sexual orientation has been a factor in sentencing them to die - including people who are now on death row in Texas and Missouri. Just as the death penalty is applied selectively to people of color and low-income people, it is also used against lesbian and gay people. It's unconscionable - and it's also unconstitutional."

"Given the history of racial inequity in its application, Gay Men of African Descent opposes the death penalty," said Kevin McGruder, GMAD's executive director. "Wanda Jean Allen was convicted of taking the life of her partner. If we as a society truly believe that taking a person's life is wrong, then we should not condone the State taking a person's life."

"The death penalty is a human rights violation in all cases," said Surina Khan, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "As we approach the 10th of December, International Human Rights Day, we urge Gov. Keating to grant clemency in Ms. Allen's case and to publicly commit himself to the abolition of the death penalty in Oklahoma."

"There is a disturbing and all too common trend in the U.S. to execute people who are mentally challenged, poor and/or who are of color," said Craig Bowman, executive director of National Youth Advocacy Coalition. "Wanda Jean Allen's case sadly typifies our most vulnerable citizens and the quality of legal representation and treatment they can expect to receive by our oppressive justice system. Certain states' fervent rush to murder citizens is as heinous and immoral as the alleged acts of those criminals sentenced to death. Capital punishment has no place in a civil and just society; the majority of our industrialized Western peers understand this indisputable fact, when will America?"

"As Anti-Violence Programs that deal day-to-day with the physical and psychological brutality of violence, we find ourselves not only serving the victims of violence, but also acting as advocates for human rights at their most basic level," said Richard Haymes of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs and the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. "Capital punishment fundamentally highlights our struggle for human justice - an act of state-sanctioned violence in the form of the death penalty is no more or less violent than the barbaric acts of attackers. We oppose violence in every form, regardless of the perpetrator. Our community's thirst for justice in any context must not obscure the fact that the death penalty is wrong. First, the history of our criminal justice system is riddled with scores of cases of innocent people being wrongly executed. Second, the death penalty is meted out unfairly, and racism, classism and even homophobia overwhelmingly play a role in the judicial decision to invoke it. Third, the death penalty is, in our view, ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment, and violates the 50-year old Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United States co-authored. And finally, state-sanctioned lethal violence is against our missions as organizations working towards a fair and just society."

"We know that our government has made grave mistakes throughout history in its unequal treatment of minority groups," said Kent Doss, spokesman for the Board of the Oklahoma Lambda Intercollegiate Coalition. "Unfortunately, we see the trend continued today in the case of Wanda Jean Allen and her lack of access to a fair trial. Please join with the Oklahoma Lambda Intercollegiate Coalition and other concerned groups: vocalize your concerns to Governor Frank Keating or the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board and let them know that this blatant injustice is unacceptable."

"The University of Oklahoma Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered and Friends (GLBTF) urges Governor Keating to grant clemency to Wanda Jean Allen," said Amanda Bowles, co-chair of University of Oklahoma GLBTF. "We oppose the unfair enforcement of the death penalty against persons of color and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons as well as other marginalized groups. We believe that Allen was convicted based on biased evidence and stereotypical views of lesbians. Thus, we support the position of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other progressive GLBT organizations and encourage our members and members of the surrounding community to contact Governor Keating and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board."

In February 1999, eleven major GLBT organizations — many of the same organizations that are calling on Gov. Keating to grant clemency — issued a joint statement in opposition to capital punishment as prosecutors in Wyoming were considering seeking the death penalty for the accused murderers of Matthew Shepard.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.