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Oklahoma executes man who stabbed Tulsa woman to death after escaping from prison work center in 1995

Oklahoma executed a man Thursday for stabbing a Tulsa woman to death with a butcher knife in 1995 after his escape from a prison work center.

Jemaine Cannon, 51, received a lethal injection at 10 a.m. and was pronounced dead 13 minutes later at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. It marked the second execution in Oklahoma this year and the ninth since the state resumed lethal injections in 2021.

Oklahoma Execution Cannon
This Feb. 11, 2023, mugshot provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows death row inmate Jemaine Cannon.  AP

Cannon was convicted of killing 20-year-old Sharonda Clark, a mother of two with whom Cannon had been living at an apartment in Tulsa after his escape weeks earlier from a prison work center in southwest Oklahoma. At the time, Cannon was serving a 15-year sentence for the violent assault of another woman who suffered permanent injuries after prosecutors say Cannon raped her and beat her viciously with a claw hammer, iron and kitchen toaster.

A federal appeals court late Wednesday denied Cannon's last-minute appeal seeking a stay of execution in which Cannon claims, among other things, that he is Native American and not subject to Oklahoma jurisdiction.

Cannon's execution was scheduled on the same day that Alabama planned to execute James Barber for the 2001 beating death of a woman. It would be Alabama's first lethal injection after a pause in executions following a string of problems with inserting the IVs.

Cannon claimed at a clemency hearing before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board last month that he killed Clark in self-defense.

"I am deeply disheartened that the act of defending my life and the acts that she initiated against me ever happened," Cannon told the board via a video feed from the state penitentiary. "The ending of human life was never desired, planned or premeditated."

Cannon's attorney, Mark Henricksen, also told the panel that Cannon's trial and appellate attorneys were ineffective for not presenting evidence that supported his self-defense claim. His trial attorneys presented no witnesses or exhibits and rested after prosecutors presented their case, Henricksen said.

In a statement sent to The Associated Press this week, Henricksen said the state's decision to proceed with Cannon's execution amounts to "historic barbarism."

"Mr. Cannon has endured abuse and neglect for fifty years by those charged with his care," Henricksen said. "He sits in his cell a model prisoner. He is nearly deaf, blind, and nearing death by natural causes. The decision to proceed with this particular execution is obscene."

But prosecutors from the attorney general's office and Clark's adult daughters have urged the state to execute Cannon.

Clark's eldest daughter, Yeh-Sehn White, told the Pardon and Parole Board last month that Cannon had never in 28 years expressed any remorse for his actions and urged the board to reject clemency, which it did on a 3-2 vote.

"Mercy was never given my mother," she said. "Even still today he points the blame at my mother for his actions."

Oklahoma currently uses a three-drug lethal injection protocol beginning with the sedative midazolam, followed by the paralytic vecuronium bromide and finally potassium chloride, which stops the heart. The state had one of the nation's busiest death chambers until problems in 2014 and 2015 led to a de facto moratorium.

Richard Glossip was just hours from being executed in September 2015 when prison officials realized they received the wrong lethal drug.

Last year, anti-death penalty advocate Lea Rodger married Glossip inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

"For Rich, surviving three execution attempts, possibly facing a fourth, the one thing he's really taken away from that is: Don't take anything for granted ... really live in the moment," Rodger said before they wed in a small ceremony inside the prison.

It was later learned that the same wrong drug had been used to execute an inmate in January 2015.

The drug mix-ups followed a botched execution in April 2014 in which inmate Clayton Lockett struggled on a gurney before dying 43 minutes into his lethal injection — and after the state's prisons chief ordered executioners to stop.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Oklahoma has 43 inmates on death row, and 116 executions have been carried out in the state since 1976.

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