Wanda Jean Allen would be executed by the State of Oklahoma for the murder of her girlfriend.
Allen came from a troubled background and when she was twelve years old she was hit by a car leaving her with brain damage. It is believed her IQ was in the high 60’s.
In 1981 Wanda Jean would shoot and kill a girlfriend. Wanda Jean told police it was an accident however a closer investigation would reveal the victim was struck several times with the weapon before being shot up close. Wanda Jean would be sentenced to four years in prison however she only served two
After being released from prison Allen would start living with the victim, who she had met in prison, the relationship was rocky and full of violence. On the day of the murder Wanda Jean and the victim were involved in a dispute that was broken up by a police officer. The victim decided enough was enough and headed to the police station with her mother to get a restraining order. When she stepped out of the car she would be shot by Wanda Jean and died three days later
At trial Wanda Jean Allen lawyers tried to get the women off by reasons of self defence however that fell flat. Prosecutors also focused on the facts that Wanda Jean had served time in prison for a prior murder and had stabbed another woman to death when she was seventeen. Ultimately she would be convicted and sentenced to death
Wanda Jean Allen would spend twelve years on death row in Oklahoma before being executed by lethal injection on January 11, 2001
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Wanda Jean Allen, 41, was executed by Oklahoma on Thursday, January 11, at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Allen, who was killed by lethal injection, was pronounced dead at 9:15pm. Allen had been sentenced to death for the 1988 shooting death of her girlfriend, Gloria Jean Leathers, 29. Allen was the first woman to be executed by the state since 1903. The only other documented of a woman here, which occurred before statehood, was of Dora Wright. Like Allen, Wright was black. Allen was the first black woman to be executed in the US since 1954. She was the sixth woman to be executed in this country since executions resumed in 1977. While lying on the execution gurney, Allen said “Father forgive them. They know not what they do.”
Governor Frank Keating denied a request earlier in the day for a 30-day stay of execution for Allen. Allen’s attorney, Steve Presson, had argued that Allen did not receive a fair clemency hearing, because the state misled the board with regard to Allen’s education. This was an issue because of Allen’s mental retardation. Before making his decision, Keating met with the Rev Jesse Jackson and Oklahoma Attorney Drew Edmondson. Jackson has been in the state twice in the past two weeks in support of a moratorium on executions. On Wednesday night, Jackson — along with two or three dozen others — was arrested for trespassing at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in Oklahoma City. As part of Jackson’s protest, he spent the night in jail.
On December 2, 1988, Gloria J. Leathers, 29, was shot in front of The Village Police Department in Oklahoma City. The shooting suspect was identified as Wanda Jean Allen, 28. Fifteen minutes before the shooting, the two women, who lived at the same address, were involved in a dispute at a grocery store. A city officer escorted the two women to their house and stood by while the victim collected her belongings. Leathers and her mother were on their way to file a complaint against Allen. When Leathers exited the car, the Allen fired one shot, wounding Leathers in the abdomen. Leathers’ mother witnessed the shooting. Two police officers and a dispatcher heard the shot fired, but none of the police department employees witnessed the shooting. The police recovered a.38-caliber handgun they believe was used in the shooting in an area near the the women’s home.
Wanda Jean Allen was charged with shooting with intent to kill. In 1982 she had been sentenced to four years in prison on a manslaughter conviction. She was released in 1984 for that conviction. Allen and Leathers had met in prison. Allen was arrested in Duncan on December 6, 1988. Two hours after Allen’s arrest, Gloria J. Leathers died. Before she died, she was able to tell police that Allen was the person who shot her. On December 7, 1988, Allen was charged with first-degree murder. Allen and Leathers had met while in prison together in 1982. On April 19, 1989, jurors rejected Allen’s claim of self-defense and found her guilty of first degree murder. After learning that Wanda Jean Allen also killed a friend in 1981, jurors took only two hours to decide that Allen should be sentenced to death.
Allen’s first appeal requesting rehearing was denied on February 15, 1994. An opinion affirming denial of post-conviction relief was issued on December 27, 1995. Claimant’s appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit was denied on January 11, 2000.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board held a clemency hearing for Wanda Jean Allen on December 15, at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center. There were approximately 181 people (the fire marshall’s occupancy limit) allowed into the hearing. Prison officials turned away dozens of others and ordered them to leave the premises. The board voted 3-1 against recommending clemency to Governor Keating. Chairperson Susan Bussey was the sole vote in favor of clemency. Of the five current members of the board, Bussey is the only member to have ever voted in favor of clemency.
The Rev Robin Meyers, minister of the Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City, begged the board to spare Allen’s life. He asked the board “What do you think Jesus would do?” During the hearing it was pointed out by Meyers that Wanda Jean Allen had been found to have an IQ of 69 at the age of 15. This is considered as mental retardation.
Allen’s trial attorney, Robert Carpenter, was paid only $800 to represent her. [Editor’s Note: It typically takes 500-1000 hours to prepare for a capital murder case. For her attorney to properly represent her, he would have been working for between $0.80 and $1.60 per hour.] Carpenter had agreed to represent Wanda Jean Allen before the prosecution announced they would seek the death penalty. Having never represented a client in a capital case, Carpenter asked to be removed from the case and have competent counsel appointed. The prosecutors argued that he should not be allowed to withdraw, and the court agreed. Carpenter never had any psychological tests performed on Allen, so the evidence of her mental retardation was never brought up at trial.
Board member Currie Ballard, one of Governor Keating’s three appointees, scolded Rev Meyers for suggesting the board would willingly seek to execute a mentally retarded person. However, he then went on to vote that Allen should be executed. When Wanda Jean Allen spoke during the hearing, she asked Leathers’ family for forgiveness. She also begged the board to “please let me live.”
At least 13 or 14 vigils were held at various locations around the state. There was a large turnout for the vigil outside the gates of Oklahoma State Penitentiary.
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Frequently Asked Questions
- When Was Wanda Jean Allen Executed
Wanda Jean Allen was executed by lethal injection on January 11, 2001
- Why Was Wanda Jean Allen Executed
Wanda Jean Allen was executed for the murder of her girlfriend, she had previously served time for another murder
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