Executed in spite of mitigating evidence
Compiled from various sources
4WardEver UK 10th June 2007
News updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
Wanda Jean Allen was executed for the 1 December 1988 for the alleged murder of her lover, Gloria Leathers, in a parking lot (Oklahoma City). She was the first woman executed by Oklahoma since 1903 and the first black woman executed in the United States since 1954.
Leathers and her mother were there to file a compliant against Allen. Allen shot Leathers at point-blank range as she got out of her car. Two hours after Allen’s arrest on 6th December, Leathers died; Allen claimed self-defence.
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. It was found that Allen’s actual abilities were markedly impaired, and that her IQ was 69. Found particularly significant was that her left hemisphere was dysfunctional, impairing her comprehension, her ability to logically express herself, and her ability to analyze cause and effect relationships.
It was 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.
Allen was a cause célèbre with activists because she was black, a lesbian, and, her legal team claimed, had diminished faculties. The last 3 months of her life was the subject of a documentary that portrayed a justice system, death penalty opponents claim, is stacked against disadvantaged minorities.
The state charged Wanda Jean Allen with first-degree murder and announced that it would seek the death penalty. Evidence that Leathers had a history of violent conduct, and that she had stabbed a woman to death in Tulsa in 1979, was central to the self-defence argument at Allen’s trial. Allen testified that she feared Leathers because she had boasted to her about the killing.
The defence sought to corroborate this claim with testimony from Leathers’ mother, whom Leathers had told about the stabbing. However, the prosecution objected, and the court prohibited the introduction of such testimony. The prosecutor depicted Allen as a remorseless liar. The jury found her guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced her to death.
In a 1991 affidavit, the defence lawyer stated that after the trial he learned that when Allen was 15 years old, her IQ was measured at 69, placing her “just within the upper limit of the classification of mental retardation” according to the psychologist who analyzed her and that an examining doctor had recommended a neurological assessment because she manifested symptoms of brain damage. The lawyer 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 Jean Allen in 1995 and found clear and convincing evidence of cognitive and sensory-motor deficits and brain dysfunction possibly linked to an adolescent head injury.
Allen, then 41, was executed by lethal injection by the State of Oklahoma on Thursday, January 11, 2001 at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Twenty-four relatives of murder victim Gloria Leathers and manslaughter victim Detra Pettus travelled to McAlester for the execution. Many of them watched the execution from behind a tinted window.
While lying on the execution gurney, Allen said, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” She also stuck her tongue out and smiled at her appeal lawyer, Steve Presson, who had become her dear friend. He says she was “dancing on the mattress, while they tried to kill her.”
She was pronounced dead at 9:21 p.m.
The Execution of Wanda Jean
Date of report unknown
Legal Concerns: Wanda Jean Allen
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