Oklahoma corrections department to allow spiritual advisor at execution

Oklahoma Department of Corrections Wednesday reversed a decision denying the presence of Scott Eizember’s spiritual advisor at his execution. The reversal of the decision was announced by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Steven Harpe. Eizember’s execution by lethal injection is scheduled for 10 am on Thursday, 12 January.

Rev. Jeff Hood was initially denied access to the chamber due to his history of anti-death penalty activism, which led to a 2016 arrest for civil disobedience. The immediate concerns of the Department of Corrections was a potential interruption from Rev. Hood, and the way this would impact the victims. Rev. Hood’s actions have been limited, however, and he has agreed to a strict list of behavioral guidelines in the chamber.

The decision was reversed after Harpe met with the family of the victims, the Cantrell family. The family was concerned that the lawsuit filed by Eizember would delay the execution. Harpe made a statement saying,

“The family members of the victims in this case are ready for closure, and they understand that the lawsuit challenging the decision to deny chamber access to the activist could lead to Thursday’s execution being stayed… Far too often, it is the victim and the victim’s family who are overlooked in these cases. We want to make sure their concerns are heard instead of everything being solely about the inmate.”

Eizember was charged with murder in the first degree in 2005 after murdering an elderly couple. Patsy Cantrell (70) and her husband A.J. Cantrell (76) were murdered in their Creek County home by Eizember in October 2003. Thereafter, Eizember unsuccessfully lodged a series of appeals against the State of Oklahoma regarding his conviction and sentencing.

The decision to deny access to Rev. Hood, and then reversing it, can be seen as highly controversial on the grounds of religious freedom and the rights of those sentenced to death. Further, the impact of these decisions on the victims’ families is debatable.