The 3rd Execution of 2022
On February 17, 2022, Oklahoma executed convicted murderer Gilbert Ray Postelle without any of the issues that led to condemnation of the state's lethal injection procedure in the past.
It was the third execution in a row without incident.
"He didn't seem to be struggling at all with his breath," said one media witness, Dylan Goforth of The Frontier, an online news site. "It happened really quick. ... It didn't seem like he was having any trouble."
Postelle was declared dead at 10:14 a.m. at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. He was 35.
He apologized at his clemency hearing in December for killing four people but made no final statement Thursday.
The execution was the fourth since the state resumed lethal injections in October after a hiatus of more than six years. It came just days before the start of a federal trial that will determine whether any more executions will be carried out this year.
Attorney General John O'Connor, whose assistants will represent the state at the trial, said the execution was carried out "with zero complications."
"I believe the last couple of executions have been very smooth," Corrections Department Director Scott Crow told reporters afterward.
What did Gilbert Ray Postelle do?
Postelle was convicted of murdering four people on Memorial Day 2005 outside a trailer in Del City. He was sentenced to death for two of the murders and to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the other two.
He was 19 at the time of the murders. He acted along with his older brother and their father in a blitz attack involving assault rifles.
Shot the most was the trailer's resident, Donnie Swindle. Postelle's father had accused Swindle of causing his motorcycle accident the year before.
Also killed were Amy Wright, James Alderson and Terry Smith.
Jurors gave Postelle death sentences for fatally shooting Wright and Alderson after hearing testimony he hunted them down as they tried to flee. He later said Wright "was over there screaming in the corner, and I got her ... a whole bunch of times and she shut up," according to testimony at his trial.
Swindle's sister, Shelli Milner, called Postelle a monster who stole four innocent people's lives.
"To know that he will never walk this Earth again does give me a little more peace than I had yesterday, but I will never have peace knowing what he did to my brother Donnie, to Amy, to James and to Terry," she told reporters after the execution. "He got what he deserved today."
The brother, David Postelle, is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for his involvement. Their father, Brad Postelle, never went to trial because he was declared incompetent because of brain injuries from the motorcycle accident. The father died in 2011.
Ironically, authorities believe the father was wrong about the motorcycle accident and that Swindle was not to blame. "There was no evidence to support any conclusion other than that Brad Postelle's wreck being simply a single-vehicle accident in which Brad was ejected from a rear-wheel skid that he alone caused," state attorneys told the Pardon and Parole Board.
Gilbert Postelle said at his clemency hearing that he absolutely still believed what his father told him about the accident. "He was hit by a car and he was hit with something," he said.
What was Gilbert Postelle's last meal?
For his last meal Wednesday, Postelle had 20 chicken nuggets with ranch, BBQ and honey mustard dipping sauces.
He also had three large fries with ketchup, a crispy chicken sandwich, a chicken sandwich, a large cola and a caramel frappe.
Gilbert Postelle's execution the last before trial over Oklahoma's execution procedure
A trial over the state's lethal injection procedure begins Feb. 28 in Oklahoma City federal court. More than two dozen death row inmates are asking a judge to find the state's procedure unconstitutional.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals will schedule executions for those inmates if the legal challenge fails.
Postelle was kicked out of the federal lawsuit because he initially didn't specify an alternative method of execution. He later gave firing squad as an alternative but his choice came too late.
He said at his clemency hearing that he had been high on methamphetamine for days at the time of the shooting and only remembers bits and pieces.
“I do understand that I’m guilty and I accept that,” he said. “My life at that time was filled with chaos and drugs.
"I do regret the pain and the loss that I have caused. ... There’s nothing more that I know to say to you all than I am truly sorry for what I have done to all the families.”
His attorney, Robert Nance, told the parole board he had a poor upbringing that included using meth for the first time in his father's presence at age 12. The attorney also said he suffered from intellectual deficits and mental illness.
One IQ test put his score at 76.
The parole board voted 4-1 to deny his clemency request. The U.S. Supreme Court in January denied his request for an emergency stay.
Two other inmates who had been scheduled for executions were granted stays. A third, Julius Jones, had his sentence commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Oklahoma had problems with executions in 2014 and 2015. One was called off at the last minute when the doctor determined the wrong drug had been delivered.
The first execution in more than six years last October resulted in renewed criticism of the state's procedure. Media witnesses reported John Marion Grant convulsed repeatedly and threw up.
Gilbert Ray Postelle's final moments before execution
During Thursday's execution, Postelle stayed silent and mostly stared straight up. He looked three times at the five media witnesses.
The curtain rose in the execution chamber at 10 a.m., and he was asked if he had any last words. He shook his head.
His eyes were drooping by 10:02 a.m. They were mostly closed a minute later. He was declared unconscious at 10:06 a.m. after a doctor came into the chamber and checked him.
His chest rose and fell slightly for another minute or so. His last movement came at 10:09 a.m. when a finger twitched. Media witness Sean Murphy of The Associated Press reported seeing a tear roll down the side of his face at 10:10 a.m.
In the witness room with reporters from AP, The Oklahoman, two Oklahoma City TV stations and The Frontier was Dr. Ervin Yen.
Postelle chose not to have a spiritual adviser with him in the chamber, and none of his family witnessed his execution.
In Oklahoma City, a handful of death penalty opponents gathered outside the governor's mansion in the bitter cold for a vigil at the time of the execution.
After the execution, the archbishop of Oklahoma City again called for abolishing capital punishment.
"Please pray that our state’s leaders truly embrace being pro-life and end the death penalty in Oklahoma,” Archbishop Paul S. Coakley said.
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