Oklahoma Board Denies Clemency for Death Row Inmate Attorney Calls a Changed Man

Oklahoma's Pardon and Parole Board voted Wednesday to reject clemency for a man convicted of two murder charges in a 2005 shooting that killed four after his attorney blamed his upbringing and said he is a changed man.

Gilbert Postelle, 35, participated in the Oklahoma City shooting of four people with his father and brother because they believed one of the people present was responsible for a motorcycle accident that seriously injured Postelle's father, Brad Postelle, according to the Associated Press.

The ruling means unless a court intervenes in Postelle's case, he will be executed by lethal injection in February.

Postelle's attorney, Robert Nance, argued to the board that his client was 19 at the time of the shooting, and was in an "almost exclusively negative" environment, including starting to abuse methamphetamines at the age of 12. Nance also said Postelle's actions were strongly influenced by his father, who reportedly suffered brain injuries as a result of the accident that motivated the shooting.

Nance said Postelle is trusted by the prison staff, serving as an orderly in his unit and performing activities like serving meals and delivering mail, and his time in prison has changed him—claims which were argued against by families of the victims.

"We never got to see him after he was murdered because his body was riddled and torn with bullets," said Mary Jo Swindle, the mother of one of the victims. "You may be a changed man, but my son and three others are still dead."

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

Oklahoma, Gilbert Postelle, Clemency, Death Penalty
This Feb. 5, 2021 photo provided by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections shows Gilbert Postelle. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 on Wednesday to reject clemency for Postelle, who was convicted and sentenced to die for his role in a quadruple slaying in 2005. Oklahoma Department of Corrections/Associated Press

Postelle did not deny his involvement in the Memorial Day 2005 shooting deaths of James Alderson, Terry Smith, Donnie Swindle and Amy Wright at a home in southeast Oklahoma City. Prosecutors say Postelle, his brother David Postelle, father Brad Postelle and another man carried out the killings in a "blitz attack" motivated by their belief that Swindle was responsible for a motorcycle accident that left Brad Postelle seriously injured.

Gilbert Postelle received two death sentences for the killings of Wright and Alderson after evidence showed he pursued the two as they were trying to flee and shot them from behind with a rifle.

"In her final moments, Amy Wright was screaming and clawing the ground to escape from Gilbert Postelle," Assistant Attorney General Julie Pittman told the board. "He heard her screams, saw her desperate attempt to escape from him. Rather than showing Amy mercy, he shot her in the back three times."

"He's a different man than he was," Nance said. "I think he needs a certain amount of forgiveness because he grew up in an environment that was almost exclusively negative."

Gilbert Postelle, who testified via a video link from prison, said he had been using meth for days before the killings and remembered little about the crimes.

"I do understand that I'm guilty and I accept that," he said. "There's nothing more that I know to say to you all than I am truly sorry for what I've done to all these families."

The board also heard from Gilbert Postelle's daughter and wife, who both urged the board to recommend his life be spared.

"My dad is my inspiration. He keeps me going. He calls me his beautiful daughter and says he's proud of me," Kaylei Johnson told the board. "I don't want to lose my dad."

Several members of the victims' families urged them to reject clemency.

Ultimately, board member Adam Luck, who expressed misgivings about the state's ability to humanely execute people after John Grant convulsed on the gurney and vomited during his execution last month, was the sole vote in favor of a clemency recommendation.

Governor Kevin Stitt cannot commute a death sentence in Oklahoma without a recommendation from the five-member panel. The board voted 3-2 last month to recommend clemency for Bigler Stouffer II, who was sentenced to death for the 1985 fatal shooting of school teacher Linda Reaves, but Stitt has yet to act on the recommendation.

On Wednesday, supporters of Stouffer and the anti-death penalty organization Death Penalty Action delivered a petition with an estimated 10,000 signatures asking Stitt to grant Stouffer clemency.

Stouffer's supporters asked to meet with Stitt but were told he was unavailable, said Death Penalty Action's director, Abraham Bonowitz.

"It'd be nice if he were to make a (clemency) decision and not string it out until the last minute," Bonowitz said.