MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

March 1, 2014

State board denies clemency for condemned man

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Friday denied a convicted murderer’s request to commute his death sentence to life in prison.

Clayton Lockett, 38, shot 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman with a sawed-off shotgun and watched as two accomplices buried her alive in rural Kay County in 1999.

Lockett refused to appear at the hearing, where the board voted 4-1 in denying the request, via the video link. He is scheduled to be executed March 20.

Lockett also joined fellow death row inmate Charles Warner in a lawsuit filed Wednesday against the Oklahoma Department of Corrections seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent their executions until more could be revealed about the origin of the lethal injection drugs. A hearing is set for Tuesday.

Lockett’s lawyer, David Autry, read a letter from the inmate on Friday.

“(The family) had to endure something no one should have to endure,” Lockett’s lawyer, David Autry, said. “(Mr. Lockett) has had time to reflect and is sincerely and genuinely remorseful for his actions, for which there is no excuse.”

Among other claims, Lockett wrote in the letter that two years after being incarcerated, he attempted suicide because he was so remorseful.

“I must believe that we all must pay for our sins in this life and in the hereafter,” Lockett wrote. “Living with the guilt and shame was too much for me to bear.”

But Mark L. Gibson, the retired district attorney who prosecuted the case, testified Friday that Lockett committed the crime not because of drugs, alcohol, rage or mental illness, but because he was purely evil.

“Clayton Lockett thrives on fear, not because he killed, because others have done that, not because he raped, because others have done that, but because he enjoyed it,” Gibson said. “I would just like to ask this board to vote no on the clemency this inmate wasn’t even willing to ask for himself.”

The attorney general’s office says Lockett has never shown remorse for killing Nieman and abducting two of her friends and a 9-month-old baby.

Lockett has proudly taken credit for his crimes and lamented that “his big mistake was that he should have killed the other ... victims as well,” it said in a statement submitted to the board.

Throughout the prosecution’s presentation, Nieman’s parents cried and her mother clutched a picture of her daughter. She left the hearing when Lockett’s taped confession was shown.

“What I think I want you to understand is the sheer terror that (the victims) experienced that night,” Gibson said. “All of them were beat to hell. They were told they were going to die.”

On the night of the killing, Lockett, one of his cousins and a friend entered Bobby Bornt’s home in Perry, seeking repayment of a $20 debt. The three men bound Bornt and beat him with a shotgun while his 9-month-old son slept in the next room.

Nieman and a friend dropped by to invite Bornt to a party, and they were bound with duct tape. Nieman’s friend was beaten and raped by two of the men before the victims were loaded into two pickup trucks and driven to a rural dirt road.

Lockett admitted in the confession that he originally intended to kill the three adults because he feared police would learn he had violated terms of his probation from a previous felony.

After Nieman said she would tell police, he forced her to kneel while Shawn Mathis, a co-defendant, took about 20 minutes to dig a shallow grave. Lockett shot the girl in the shoulder, pushed her into the grave and shot her again in the chest before ordering Mathis to bury her alive.

According to an attorney general’s report on the crime, the three laughed about how tough the woman as the dirt piled up atop her.

The other two victims reported the attack to police the next morning. Lockett’s cousin led officers to Nieman’s body.

The 10th U.S. Circuit of Appeals upheld Lockett’s conviction and death sentence in 2003.

At the time of the killings, Lockett was a four-time convicted felon. He’s also been cited for bad behavior several times in prison since the conviction, including breaking off a sprinkler head and flooding a common room and spraying human waste out of a shampoo bottle onto a correctional officer.

While in prison, Lockett wrote to Nieman’s family to apologize, which the attorney general’s office said Friday was a hollow gesture intended only to save his life.

 

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