By Rachel Petersen
Oklahoma death row inmate Garry Thomas Allen, 56, was executed this evening in the death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
Witnessing the execution were two media representatives, two of Allen’s attorneys, the victim’s sister-in-law, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones and several Department of Corrections employees.
At 5:58 p.m., Jones gave the go-ahead for the execution procedure to begin and the blinds between the witness area and the execution chamber were raised.
Allen raised his head from the execution gurney and looked into the witness room. His eyes wandered until they landed on familiar faces. When he saw his attorneys he said, “Hi.” And they lifted their hands and waved at him.
Allen then began to talk. He rambled unintelligibly about Obama and Romney. Allen’s garbled speech about the presidential race coincided with a loud banging noise as the other inmates in H-Unit said their good-byes.
“Obama won two out of three counties. It’s going to be a very close race,” Allen said just before Oklahoma State Penitentiary Deputy Warden Art Lightle asked him if he had a last statement.
Allen looked at Lightle and asked, “Huh?” Then he continued in his garbled speech and then again raised his head and said, “Hi,” to his attorneys. Allen’s unintelligible ramblings continued. He spoke about Obama and Jesus.
“I hope that more realize Jesus is the son of God — the only son of God. Jesus is the one and only savior,” Allen said. This statement was followed by more unintelligible ramblings.
Lightle told Allen that his two minutes were coming to an end. Allen turned his head to look at Lightle and asked, “What?” Then he continued his garbled speech.
One of Allen’s attorneys began to get teary eyed and she leaned down and placed her head in her hands. At 6:02 p.m., when she sat back up, and as Allen’s unintelligible talking continued, Lightle said, “Let the execution begin.”
Allen again turned his head and looked at Lightle and asked, “Huh?”
Then he lifted his head and looked at the witnesses, fixing his eyes on his attorneys. “Hi,” he said to them again. And again they both lifted their hands and waved at him.
His garbled speech continued until the concoction of execution drugs apparently affected his system. He turned and lifted his head one last time and looked at Lightle. He made a loud, strained grunting sound and laid his head back down on the gurney.
At 6:07 p.m., the attending physician checked Allen’s vital signs and said something about a pulse. The physician rubbed Allen’s chest and then stepped away as Allen’s attorney wiped a tear from her cheek.
The physician stepped back to Allen’s body minutes later, checked his vital signs and pronounced Allen’s death at 6:10 p.m.
The victim’s family submitted the following written statement following Allen’s execution:
“Our beloved Gail — daughter, sister and mother of two young boys was taken from our family tragically and senselessly due to domestic violence.
“For over 25 years we have waited for justice to be served and for this sentence to be carried out.
“We are thankful to close the book on this chapter today, but we will never stop grieving the loss of Gail.
“It has been an emotional roller coaster for our family and one we have endured far too long.
“Gail’s memory will continue to live on through the lives of her now grown sons and her grandchildren.”
This was not the first time Allen was scheduled for execution. In April, officials at the OSP conducted normal execution day procedures while waiting to find out about approval or disapproval of an appeal filed with the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
A stay was issued for Allen one day before his scheduled execution on April 12.
“A federal judge stayed Garry Allen’s execution,” said OSP Warden’s Assistant Terry Crenshaw in April. U.S. District Judge David L. Russell issued the stay, ruling that Allen’s claims that he is insane and ineligible for the death penalty should be reviewed. Allen had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and his attorneys argued his mental state deteriorated on death row.
“Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has filed a notice of appeal to the stay of execution,” Crenshaw said in April. If the appeal to the stay of execution was granted, officials at OSP had “measures in place to carry out the execution according to court orders.” However, Pruitt’s appeal was not granted at that time.
Allen was also set for execution on Feb. 16, but Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin granted a 30-day stay of execution for the condemned man. She said the stay was issued so her legal team could have more time to consider a 2005 recommendation by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to commute his sentence to life.
“Having thoroughly reviewed the arguments and evidence presented in this case, I have determined that clemency should be denied in this case, and that the sentence of death be carried out,” Fallin wrote in an executive order filed March 13.
The 30-day stay would have set Allen’s execution for March 17, but that date was moved to April 12, before being stayed yet again.
Allen received his death sentence for the 1986 murder of his 24-year-old wife, Lawanna Gail Titsworth. The McAlester News-Capital reported in May of 2008 that Allen’s conviction and death sentence came after he gunned down Titsworth four days after she moved out of their home with their two sons, who were 6 and 2 at the time.
Allen was first scheduled to be executed May 19, 2005. A stay of execution was granted by Judge Thomas Bartheld one day before his scheduled execution. The Associated Press reported Allen’s mental competency was in question after a psychological exam at OSP indicated he had developed mental problems while confined on death row. The doctor’s report noted Allen had dementia caused by seizures, drug abuse and being shot in the face.
The U.S. Supreme Court and state law prohibit execution of inmates who are insane or mentally incompetent.
On May 1, 2008, a Pittsburg County jury decided, on split decision, that Allen is “sane to be executed.” For more than three years since, numerous court motions and legal arguments have been heard in the case.
On Dec. 28, Bartheld signed a legal order vacating Allen’s stay of execution, stating “the court ... having reviewed the pleadings, finds that the issue of the sanity of Garry Thomas Allen for execution has been resolved...”
On Nov. 21, 1986, reports indicate Allen went to his children’s daycare center in Oklahoma City when his wife, Titsworth, was scheduled to pick them up. Titsworth had gone to the parking lot when Allen confronted her, according to court records. As Titsworth opened the door to her truck, Allen shut the door and prevented her from entering, court documents state.
As the two argued, Allen reached into his sock, pulled out a revolver and shot Titsworth twice in the chest.
“It is unclear whether Titsworth was holding her youngest son at the time of the shooting or had picked him up immediately thereafter,” documents filed with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Criminal Appeals state.
After Allen shot Titsworth, she begged him not to shoot her again and fell to the ground. Allen then asked Titsworth if she was all right and lifted up her blouse, apparently attempting to examine her injuries.
“At the time of the shooting, some of the daycare employees were in the parking lot and several of the children were in a van parked a few feet from Titsworth’s truck,” court documents state.
“After the shooting, Titsworth managed to get up and start running toward the building along with a daycare center employee.”
As they headed up the steps leading to the front door, Allen pushed the daycare employee through the door and shoved Titsworth down on the steps, where he shot her twice in the back at close range.
Oklahoma City police officer Mike Taylor responded to a 911 call within minutes and a witness pointed to an alley where Allen was hiding. Taylor spotted Allen in the alley, pulled his revolver and ordered him to stop and remain still.
Although Allen initially complied with the order, he turned and began walking away. When Taylor reached out to place a hand on him, Allen quickly turned and grabbed the policeman’s gun.
During a struggle, Allen gained partial control of the gun and “attempted to make officer Taylor shoot himself by applying pressure to Taylor’s finger which was still on the trigger,” court documents state.
As the struggle continued, Taylor regained control of the gun and shot Allen in the face, according to court records.
Allen was hospitalized for approximately two months for injuries to his face, left eye and brain. Afterwards, he entered a blind plea — meaning no plea bargain agreement had been reached — to first-degree murder and other charges on Nov. 10, 1987.
An Oklahoma County judge subsequently sentenced Allen to death. The appeals court later ordered a second sentence hearing, which also resulted in the death sentence.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Correction’s website, at www.doc.state.ok.us, Allen had been incarcerated at OSP since Dec. 23, 1987, and was housed on death row in the prison’s H-Unit.
Contact Rachel Petersen at firstname.lastname@example.org. James Beaty contributed to this story, contact him at email@example.com.