Oklahoma State Penitentiary Administrators Deny Pastor Entry To Death Chamber

Due to the minister’s history of anti-death penalty activism, which includes an arrest, and the death row inmate’s scheduled execution on Thursday in Oklahoma, the Department of Corrections announced on Monday that the inmate cannot have his spiritual advisor accompany him inside the execution chamber.

Scott Eizember, 61, who received a lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester on Thursday, had asked to have his spiritual advisor, the Rev. Jeff Hood of Arkansas, permitted access to the execution chamber. Officials from the DOC, however, expressed fear that Hood might not uphold the integrity of the procedure.

Regardless of the activist’s stated involvement in this process, ODOC will not permit outbursts of activists to meddle out of respect for the families of victims, according to DOC spokesman Josh Ward. The spiritual counselor in this instance has often been detained for making comparable outbursts in other states, showing flagrant disrespect for the suffering of the victims’ families and the gravity of the situation.

In the days preceding Eizember’s death, Hood would still be permitted to see him, according to Ward, and Hood would be able to watch the execution from a different location inside the institution via a closed-circuit stream.

On Monday, Hood and Eizember filed a lawsuit in federal district court to halt the execution of Eizember until Hood was given access to the chamber.

In essence, a “woke” preacher is up against the Department of Corrections, according to Hood. We firmly believe that this goes against other First Amendment principles as well, in addition to religious freedom.

At a calm 2016 anti-death penalty demonstration outside a Texas prison, Hood recognized his detention. He claimed that the matter was ultimately dismissed from his record and that he was given a deferred sentence.

On Monday, Hood and Eizember filed a lawsuit in federal district court to halt Eizember’s execution until Hood was granted access to the lethal injection room. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2021 on a case brought by an Alabama death row inmate, and as a result, Texas and other states, including Oklahoma, have started permitting clergy members inside the death chamber during executions.

In 2003, an elderly couple in eastern Oklahoma was shot to death, and Eizember was found guilty and given the death penalty. Last month, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board decided by a 3-2 vote to reject the recommendation that he be given mercy.

Bigler Stouffer was the first prisoner from Oklahoma to have a spiritual guide present when he was put to death in December 2021. Since then, a number of prisoners have chosen to have a minister accompany them inside the chamber.

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