United States: Oklahoma, United States

IGLHRC forwards the following call to action, initiated by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and supported by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) and other US-based GLBT organizations. IGLHRC maintains that any application of the death penalty is a grave violation of the right to life, liberty and security of person and constitutes torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment.

For further information on the other GLBT organizations that support this action, please go to "Groups Urge Clemency in Okla. Death Penalty Case"

For further information on the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, please see their address, email, and website at the end of this action.

Thanks.

FORWARDED ACTION ALERT

portrait of Wanda Jean AllenWanda Jean Allen is scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma on January 11, 2001. She was sentenced to death in 1989 for killing her lover, Gloria Leathers in Oklahoma City in 1988. Her clemency hearing before the state Pardon and Parole Board is due to take place on December 15th.

The two women, who had met in prison, had been together for about two years in a turbulent relationship. Each had called the police to their home on more than one occasion after a domestic dispute. On the afternoon of December 1, 1988 the couple got into a argument at a local grocery store. The argument continued at their home and culminated outside a police station. Allen maintained she had acted in self-defense, claiming that Leathers had struck her in the face with a hand rake during the confrontation at the house, and that outside the police station Leathers had again come at her with the rake. Allen shot Leathers, who died four days later on December 5, 1988. The wounds to Allen's face from the rake were still visible on December 6, when she was photographed in jail.

Wanda's sexual orientation was exploited during her trial.

One of the prosecutor's main tactics during the trial was to rely on negative stereotypes of lesbians and convince the jury that Wanda Jean was dominant and intimidated Leathers. Prosecutors in other capital cases have frequently used this method to criminalize lesbians and portray them as man-hating, overly aggressive, and capable of committing murder. This sort of bias portrays lesbians as more dangerous than a heterosexual woman accused of the same crime.

"It didn't make either of us less human than if we were in a heterosexual relationship, a bisexual relationship. We are still human. We have emotions. We laugh. We cry. It was part of our life," Wanda stated in reference to her sexual orientation.

Wanda's trial attorney was forced to represent her for a total of $800.

Bob Carpenter was approached by Allen's family to handle the case. Believing that it was not a capital case he agreed to represent Wanda for $5,000. The family made an initial payment of $800. The state then charged Wanda with first-degree murder and announced it would seek the death penalty. Mr. Carpenter who had never tried a capital murder case asked the judge to allow him to withdraw when he learned that the family could not pay the $4,200 balance that would have allowed him to have the resources to pay for an investigator, experts, etc. He offered to act as co-counsel for free if a public defender was appointed as lead counsel. The prosecution opposed his motion and the court refused to allow him to withdraw. He was therefore forced to defend Wanda on a total payment of $800 with no co-counsel, no previous experience in capital cases, no investigator, and no resources to hire expert witnesses.

No evidence of Wanda's mental impairments was presented during her trial.

In a 1991 affidavit, Bob Carpenter stated that it was not until after the trial that he learned when Wanda was 15 years-old her IQ had been measured at 69 and that the doctor who examined her had recommended a neurological assessment because she manifested symptoms of brain damage. Carpenter stated, "I did not search for any medical or psychological records or seek expert assistance" for use at the trial

A psychologist conducted a comprehensive evaluation of Wanda in 1995 and found "clear and convincing evidence of cognitive and sensory-motor deficits and brain dysfunction" possibly linked to an adolescent head injury. At the age of 12, Allen had been hit by a truck and knocked unconscious, and at 14 or 15 she had been stabbed in the left temple. He found that Wanda's "intellectual abilities are markedly impaired"and that her IQ was 80. He found "particularly significant hemisphere dysfunction" impairing "her comprehension, her ability to logically express herself, her ability to analyze cause and effect relationships...". He also concluded that Allen was "more chronically vulnerable than others to becoming disorganized by everyday stresses - and thus more vulnerable to a loss of control under stress."

The execution of those with mental retardation and severe mental illness raises concerns within the international community. During the 1999 U.N. Commission on Human Rights meeting in Geneva a resolution was passed calling on nations "not to impose the death penalty on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder."

Historical Information

Since the United States resumed executions in 1977 five women have been executed: Velma Barfield (North Carolina, 1984); Karla Fay Tucker (Texas, 1998); July Buenoano (Florida, 1998), Betty Lou Beets (Texas, 2000) and Christina Riggs (Arkansas, 2000).

The last African American woman to be put to death in the United States was reportedly Betty Butler in Ohio in 1954. The last woman to be executed in Oklahoma was Dora Wright in 1903.

Things You Can Do *NOW* to Help Save Wanda!

  1. Send a fax or letter to the Pardon and Parole Board asking that they recommend to Governor Frank Keating that he grant Wanda Jean Allen clemency.

    Address:

    Pardon & Parole Board
    4040 North Lincoln
    Suite 219
    Oklahoma City, OK 73105
    United States
    Fax: +1-405-427-6648
    Salutation: Dear Board Member
  2. Send a fax/e-mail/letter to Governor Frank Keating asking him to grant Wanda Jean Allen clemency.

    Address:

    Governor Frank Keating
    Room 212
    State Capitol Building
    Oklahoma City, OK 73105
    United States
    Phone: +1-405-521-2342
    Fax: +1-405-521-3353
    E-mail: governor@gov.state.ok.us, governor@oklaosf.state.ok.us
    Salutation: Dear Governor

    For More Information Contact:

    Tonya McClary +1-202-387-3890, extension 17 or tmcclary@ncadp.org
    The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
    1436 U Street, NW, Suite 104
    Washington, DC 20009
    United States
    http://www.ncadp.org/