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After all the anti-death
penalty appeals and demonstrations on Wanda Jean Allen's behalf, a decision
on whether she will die at 9 p.m. today may lie in the hands of a capital
punishment supporter. Gov. Frank Keating has agreed to consider a stay based
on the narrow issue of whether the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board had enough
information regarding Allen's
He met with Rev. Jesse Jackson Thursday and planned a meeting with Attorney General Drew Edmondson before making a decision.
Also today, Allen's lawyers told an appeals court Thursday that clemency hearings in Oklahoma and across the country will be a sham if the court refuses to stay her execution.
"Prosecutors will be free to do whatever they wish, presenting with impunity false evidence and testimony," Allen's lawyers told the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an emergency request.
The lawyers, Steven M. Presson and Robert Wade Jackson of Norman, faxed their written arguments all through the night to the Denver-based court after U.S. District Judge Tim Leonard ruled against Allen on Wednesday.
Her lawyers contend that government attorneys intentionally mislead the clemency board a month ago by falsely stating that Allen could not be mentally retarded because she was a high school and junior college graduate.
Presson and Jackson said the 10th Circuit court will be the first in the nation to decide if a death row inmate's rights have been violated when state officials mislead a clemency board.
"The federal courts "have not defined what the lowest level of due process should be (in a clemency proceeding)," the lawyers said. Asked whether he would stop the execution, Keating told CNN, at noon, "Well, I don't know.
"I have no authority to reduce the death sentence. What I theoretically could do is send it back to the clemency board." Jackson said that his meeting with Keating was amicable and that they had a good discussion.
"The power is in his hands," Jackson said.
Allen's attorneys have
pointed to her score, a 69, on an IQ test she took in the 1970s, arguing
she is in the range of mental retardation. Prosecutors said Allen testified
during the penalty phase of her trial that she had graduated from U.S. Grant
High School and received a medical
assistant certificate from Rose Sate College.
As it turns out, Allen dropped out of high school at 16 and never finished course work in the medical assistant program.
Aides to the governor, an ardent proponent of the death penalty, said Keating promised to be fair-minded when he spoke to state Rep. Opio Toure and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was taken into custody on trespassing complaints Wednesday night after a peaceful demonstration at the women's prison where Allen was being held.
Jackson was released from Oklahoma County Jail at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
He said he hoped Keating would stop the execution, but if not, he wanted to give her personal support.
"She must not die in the dark," Jackson said. "She must not die alone. We intend to be with her all the way."
Jackson's arrest capped a flurry of prayers, protests and legal wrangling on Wednesday. Allen's attorneys asked a federal judge to grant a stay of execution and order a new clemency hearing for their client, whose education, they say, was misrepresented at the Dec. 15 proceeding.
U.S. District Tim Leonard denied the request after several hours of deliberation, and defense attorneys announced they would immediately file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Allen didn't see any of the day's activity. She sat in Mabel Bassett for much of day before being whisked away to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester an hour before Jackson's demonstration.
Just weeks before, Allen reflected on the events that led to what could be her last few days alive.
If she could edit a videotape of her life, Allen would rewind it back to 1983, the year she left prison for killing a woman during an argument.
Allen had attended school and lived in the same neighborhood as Detra Pettus, but they quarreled one day and a shot Allen fired in anger killed her childhood friend.
"I wish I could have been in an environment where I could have gotten the help," the small, husky-voiced woman said from the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center recently. "If I had the funds to get the help. I needed someone to help me at the time."
Allen believes she has gotten that help behind the razor-wired fence and concrete confines of the women's prison, but only after she killed her lover, Gloria Leathers, in 1988 after an argument at a grocery store. This time, the state demanded she pay with her life.
Allen met Leathers while serving time for killing Pettus. Leathers was doing 15 years out of Tulsa County for forgery and 10 years for larceny of merchandise. Allen said she and Leathers were not friends in prison, but Leathers contacted Allen's family when she was released.
"I let her come live with me until she got herself together because I know how hard and difficult it is when you get out," Allen said of Leathers. "People had helped me when I had gotten out, so in turn, you help someone else."
That help eventually turned into an intimate relationship, in which Allen said there was as much feuding as there was loving. Allen described her relationship with Leathers as turbulent, involving episodes in which the police got involved.
The day Leathers died, police were called to a grocery store to break up an argument between the pair. An officer came, but had to leave a short time later on another call.
The women exchanged more words, a witness said, and Allen threatened to kill Leathers.
She followed Leathers and her mother to the police station, where Leathers was going to file a complaint, prosecutors said. Leathers was shot as she left the car.
Allen said she cared for Leathers and "loved her as a person."
"I even told her mom there's no greater love than a mother's love. If Gloria was sitting here, and it could have been Gloria sitting here today . . . Miss Wilson knows that and I explained to her that I would want my mom to have the same compassion in her heart and come up here and forgive her." Wilson has said she did not hold any grudges against Allen, saying she didn't hate her but hated what she did.
"I hope she found peace with Christ about it. It does hurt. I will never forget it. I will always see it. That is in the past. I have to go on toward the future, Wilson said after meeting with Allen recently.
But Leather's brothers were not as forgiving.
"Let Wanda Jean Allen go to sleep so we can go to sleep," Leathers' brother, Greg Wilson, said at the clemency hearing.
Allen admitted she was wrong to have killed both women, but she also said she believes the death penalty process is not fair.
"We don't have fair trials. They allow people to defend us who have never even tried a death penalty case," she said.
Allen said she did not fear her death.
"I'm not afraid of what man can do to me, because my trust is in someone else." That someone else is God, she said.
"He said 'take no thought of tomorrow because we don't know what tomorrow is bringing.'"
If Wanda Jean Allen could
edit a videotape of her life, she would rewind
it back to 1983, the year she left prison for killing a woman during an
Allen had attended school
and lived in the same neighborhood as Detra
Pettus, but they quarreled one day and a shot Allen fired in anger killed
her childhood friend.
"I wish I could have been
in an environment where I could have gotten the
help," the small, husky-voiced woman said from the Mabel Bassett
Correctional Center recently. "If I had the funds to get the help. I
needed someone to help me at the time."
Allen believes she has
gotten that help behind the razor-wired fence and
concrete confines of the women's prison, but only after she killed her
lover, Gloria Leathers, in 1988 after an argument at a grocery store.
This time, the state demanded she pay with her life. "I let her come live
with me until she got herself together because I know how hard and
difficult it is when you get out," Allen said of Leathers. "People had
helped me when I had gotten out, so in turn, you help someone else."
That help eventually turned
into an intimate relationship, in which Allen
said there was as much feuding as there was loving. Allen described her
relationship with Leathers as turbulent, involving episodes in which the
police got involved.
The day Leathers died,
police were called to a grocery store to break up
an argument between the pair. An officer came, but had to leave a short
time later on another call.
The women exchanged more
words, a witness said, and Allen threatened to
She followed Leathers
and her mother to the police station, where
Leathers was going to file a complaint, prosecutors said. Leathers was
shot as she left the car.
Allen said she cared for Leathers and "loved her as a person."
"I even told her mom there's
no greater love than a mother's love. If
Gloria was sitting here, and it could have been Gloria sitting here today
. . . Miss Wilson knows that and I explained to her that I would want my
mom to have the same compassion in her heart and come up here and forgive
Wilson has said she did
not hold any grudges against Allen, saying she
didn't hate her but hated what she did.
"I hope she found peace
with Christ about it. It does hurt. I will never
forget it. I will always see it. That is in the past. I have to go on
toward the future, Wilson said after meeting with Allen recently.
But Leather's brothers were not as forgiving.
"Let Wanda Jean Allen
go to sleep so we can go to sleep," Leathers'
brother, Greg Wilson, said at the clemency hearing.
Allen admitted she was
wrong to have killed both women, but she also said
she believes the death penalty process is not fair.
"We don't have fair trials.
They allow people to defend us who have never
even tried a death penalty case," she said.
Allen said she did not fear her death.
"I'm not afraid of what
man can do to me, because my trust is in someone
else." That someone else is God, she said.
"He said 'take no thought
of tomorrow because we don't know what tomorrow
Reuters NEWS: An Oklahoma
woman on death row scheduled to be the 1st black woman executed in the United
States since 1954 said on Friday she pushes out of her mind the wait for death
and considers each day a blessing.
As her Jan. 11 execution date looms, Wanda Jean Allen said she is instead focusing on her Christian faith to carry her through her date with Oklahoma's death chamber in a prison in the southeastern town of McAlester.
"I'm not focused on the situation going on around me," Allen told Reuters in a telephone interview from a state women's prison in Oklahoma City.
"I'm staying focused on God and my faith. Every day has been a blessed day for me. Some people here couldn't even get out of bed in the morning, but my faith is strong," she said.
Allen, 41, was condemned to die by lethal injection for fatally shooting her lover, Gloria Leathers, in 1988 in what prosecutors described as a domestic dispute.
Allen supporters, who include civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, argue she should not be put to death because she has an IQ of 69, which is borderline mentally retarded.
The last black woman put to death in the United States was Betty Butler, convicted of murder and executed in Ohio in 1954. Oklahoma last executed a woman in 1903 when Dora Wright was hanged for murder. Oklahoma was still a territory at that time.
Allen said the prison staff around her seemed troubled when they moved her this week to another cell in preparation for her trip to McAlester.
"It's a struggle," she said. "The staff here doesn't want to see anything happen to me. It's a shame because they are like family to me."
Allen will be driven in secret the 2 hours to McAlester and put in a holding cell next to the death chamber, prison officials said.
As the interview went on, Allen grew frustrated and finally cut it off.
"This is taxing her," said her defense attorney, Steve Presson.
Allen agreed to the interview after the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Thursday turned down her request for a stay of execution.
Later that day some 300 anti-death penalty protesters marched outside her prison where she is housed, led by Jackson, who visited her and said she was mentally challenged.
"The judge said to try her anyhow, and made her a trophy for the death machine. People in this state cannot sit by and watch people killed who are mentally challenged," Jackson told the rally.
Allen said she had thanked Jackson.
"He prayed for me and I prayed for him," she said. "It's not just for me. It's for everyone. I am one of many people here on death row. What affects me here affects everyone."
Allen is one of 7 inmates due to be executed this month in Oklahoma, a new record for the state. The most executions in a single month in Oklahoma until now was 4, in May 1933.
Neighboring Texas holds the U.S. record for most executions in a month at 8 in both May and June of 1997. Oklahoma put 11 people to death in 2000, ranking only behind Texas, which set a U.S. record of 40 executions in a year. (source: Reuters)
"Please let me live. Please let me live," she said in her final remarks.
At that moment, a brother of victim Gloria Leathers said, "That's the same thing my sister said."
That caused a stir in the room. A sobbing woman got up and ran to the door, which was guarded by correctional officers, and said, "I need to go outside."
Board Chairwoman Susan Bussey cautioned the crowd against further demonstrations, and the room was quiet as the 4 members present cast their votes. Bussey voted to grant clemency.
Allen, on death row since 1989, was convicted of killing Leathers in front of a police station in The Village, an Oklahoma City suburb. Testimony was introduced that the women had met in prison and had had a lesbian relationship.
The Rev. Robin Meyers, minister of the Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City, pleaded Allen's case. He argued that she was denied due process and that her jury did not have information about her mental retardation and a previous brain injury.
"Wanda Jean has never got her day in court," he said, pointing out that her attorney was paid only $800 and tried to quit the case.
Meyers asked the panel not to make a decision that would lead to the 1st woman being executed by the state. "The whole world is watching," he said.
"I'm asking you to step on the brake - take 5" and draw the line right here with Wanda Jean Allen."
Sandy Howard, assistant attorney general, told the board not to be swayed by arguments that Allen was mentally impaired. She said Allen was a "fully functional adult" who knew what she was doing.
"She is a cold-blooded murderer. She thought it out, she got the gun and she did it."
Tonya McClary of Washington, D.C., representing the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said previously that at Allens trial, the jury did not hear about Allen's sub-par I.Q., her psychological state and brain trauma from previous injuries that would have affected her actions.
Another mitigating circumstance was that Allen had been hit with a rake before the shooting, which was a continuation of a domestic fight, McClary said.
Prosecutors say Allen is "a hunter" who would kill again if she is not executed. They note she was convicted of manslaughter for a similar killing that sent her to prison, where she met Leathers.
At Friday's hearing, Allen turned to the audience that included family members of the 2 victims and said she was sorry.
"I want to live and I'm very ashamed and very sorry for what I did," she told the board.
Gov. Frank Keating has rejected a request for a moratorium on executions from Bishop Edward J. Slattery of the Catholic Diocese of Tulsa.
A moratorium would spare not only Allen, but eight other inmates who are set to be executed by Feb. 1.
A spokesman said Keating's position has not changed since he responded to the bishop 2 weeks ago.
The governor wrote that
"clearly there has been no rush to judgment" in the pending death penalty
cases. He noted that 1 case dates to a 1979 crime, 4 to 1985, 1 to 1987,
1 to 1988, 1 to 1990 and 1 to 1992. "I will continue to do my duty as governor
and, lacking any evidence that
Oklahoma's capital punishment statutes are applied unfairly in any way, I
will not seek or order a moratorium on justice," Keating said.
(source: The Oklahoman)
Her voice sounded as though
she hadn't slept and had instead cried for days.
It cracked and disappeared and reawoke until she had no voice left, and it
was with a whisper of a voice that Wanda Jean Allen first pleaded for her
life. Rev. Robin Meyers, one of her two spiritual advisors, then came to her
side when no one on the Pardon and Parole Board of Oklahoma had any questions
to ask her, and asked questions on the Board's behalf.
Only with someone by her
side whom she trusted could Jean speak without a
crack in her voice or in a whisper. It was with Rev. Meyers by her side that
the words you will read in news articles were spoken. The press, nor anyone
else in the filled-to-capacity room, could hear her whispers well enough to
make them quotable.
The members of Gloria
Leathers' family who spoke never once said they wanted
Jean to die. Their message to the Board was one of ambivalence. They could
not find any reconcilation within themselves about Gloria's life and death
and Jean's life and possible death. Some of them tried to push for death,
but then they would back away and then ultimately vacillate between life and
death and Gloria and Jean.
The words of one of Gloria's
brothers pointed the weight upon their hearts in
a direction. He said that his family had moved on from Gloria's death, and
found a measure of closure, until about a year ago when the phone started
ringing and bringing with it the nightmare of 12 years ago back again. His
following words if simply told would have said that he and his family didn't
care whether Jean lived or died; all they wanted was the closure stripped
away from them a year ago.
Persecution and prosecution
places a weight too heavy upon anyone, and the
family members pointed their fingers at those who persecute and prosecute as
much as they did Jean for the pain they felt on this day of clemency. This
family did not know what to do today, except ask that all of their pain be
stopped one way or another.
One family member was
so distraught over everything she had seen and heard
that she tried to run to the closest open door available after Jean was
escorted out, and the only door she could find was the one Jean had just
walked through. The guards detained her believing at first she was a threat,
but then backed off and helped her to the closed door that would lead her
outside where she so desperately needed to be. She could not wait to hear
the Board's decision. She had to get out of there beforehand. Too much was
enough for her and she could bear no more.
Reactions such as this
were few. Only three people noticably reacted in this
manner, as noted by the press. To those who feared the worst and could see
at least 25 family members on each side of the room gathered together forming
a powder keg, this was a miracle. The unexpected explosion came from one
member of the four-member board who took offense to a description of Jean's
mental retardation by Rev. Meyers in his defense presentation. Maybe the
Hand of God did tap this man on his shoulder, as Rev. Meyers said he hoped
would happen, and the only way this man could react was with anger. After
all, as this board member said, one of his relatives is mentally retarded,
and that can be enough to make anyone without faith of any kind in anything
angry enough to burst.
The rest of the story
will be told by others than me. I am only a witness
from the second to the last row.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The lawyer for a woman
who could become the first black female executed
in the United States since 1976 ripped the state Pardon and Parole Board
today for not recommending clemency and called the panel a "kangaroo
Following a hearing Friday,
the panel rejected clemency pleas by Wanda
Jean Allen, scheduled to die Jan. 11, 2001, for the shooting of her
estranged lover, Gloria Leathers. The vote was 3-1 not to recommend
clemency to the governor.
Activists Fight Woman's Execution
Steve Presson, Allen's
lawyer, said there is now little hope of
preventing Allen's death by lethal injection. He then tore into the panel
and one particular member, Currie Ballard, for rejecting clemency pleas.
"It's a kangaroo court;
it's a joke," Presson said. "They have never
voted for clemency."
Allen was convicted of
shooting Leathers, 29, to death in front of an
Oklahoma City police station on Dec. 1, 1988. The 2 women were living
together and had gotten into an argument earlier in the day over a
welfare check, prosecutors said. She was sentenced to death in 1989.
Minister pleads for clemency
At the hearing on Friday,
Presson decided to allow a local minister,
Robin Meyers, to present Allen's case for clemency. Meyers focused on the
ethical issues surrounding the death penalty.
In addition, the minister
argued that Allen's poverty and mental
retardation were mitigating factors in her shooting Leathers and not
properly addressed at her trial. Allen's supporters also have argued that
homosexual bias may have played a part in the jury convicting Allen, who
is a lesbian.
Presson said that during
the hearing, Ballard, an African-American,
criticized Meyers for bringing up issues of poverty, race, sexuality and
mental retardation and making them "excuses for murder."
"Those were absolutely
outrageous comments that show Mr. Ballard's
fundamental ignorance of the pardons process," Presson told APBnews.com
"If [he] does not think that race, poverty and mental status have a place
in a clemency hearing, he has no business being on the clemency board."
'The ultimate stakes'
Reached for comment, Ballard
said he had "major" problems with Meyers
bringing up poverty, race, mental retardation and Allen's sexuality.
"I'm not going to glorify
what he said with comment," Ballard told
APBnews.com "What my vote was is my comment. "He [Presson] has a very
difficult job. We're talking about the ultimate stakes..."
Ballard said that after
hearing Meyers' pleas, he found no evidence that
Allen was retarded.
"I have a retarded brother,"
Ballard said. "My family has continued to
struggle and sacrifice to keep him home instead of an institution. I'm no
professional, but I know something about retardation. I did not see those
signs or any signs of mental retardation in Allen."
Ballard said Allen finished
high school, has a driver's license and
obtained an associate's degree at a junior college for nursing.
"I don't think institutions
are handing out certificates to people who
can't function," he said.
'Please let me live'
Ballard said that he also
became angry when Meyers said that racial bias
might have played a role in Allen's conviction.
"I grew up in Watts, California,"
Ballard said. "I grew up in poverty. To
say we can't relate to anyone to anyone poor, black, woman and lesbian, I
find that appalling."
The clemency hearing was
perhaps Allen's last chance to avoid the
Oklahoma death house. If she is executed, she will also become the 1st
woman put to death here since Oklahoma became a state in 1907.
During the hearing, Allen, 41, asked the board to "Please let me live."
Suffers from mental retardation?
While prosecutors have
portrayed Allen is a violent woman who was always
quick to pull a gun to settle a dispute, her supporters and gay rights
advocates say she was the victim of racial and homosexual bias, an
under-funded defense and that she suffers from mental retardation and
brain damage after being hit by a truck when she was a child.
During her trial, prosecutors
told the jury that Allen was "the man" in
the relationship with Leathers, in an attempt to show that she had
intimidated the victim, rights groups say.
The comments have drawn
the wrath of gay rights groups, who have come to
Allen's defense and argued that the comments were examples of lesbian
stereotyping and bias.
Last-ditch appeal planned
Allen had previously spent
4 years in prison in connection with the
shooting death of another woman in 1981.
Oklahoma has scheduled
seven executions, including Allen's, for January,
and three others are pending in February.
Presson said that he will
mount a last-ditch appeal to a U.S. District
court in Colorado and focus on the fact that evidence of Allen's mental
retardation was not used at her trial because her lawyer did not have
enough funds to hire experts to have Allen properly diagnosed.
(source: APB News)
OKLAHOMA CITY, Dec 15
(Reuters) - Convicted murderer Wanda Jean Allen, the
first black woman due to be executed in the United States since the death
penalty was reinstated in 1976, lost a last-ditch bid for clemency on Friday.
The Oklahoma Board of
Pardons and Parole rejected Allen's clemency request by
a vote of 3-1, Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said.
Allen's lawyer said the
decision virtually ensured that Allen would be
executed by lethal injection on Jan. 11, despite arguments from her
supporters that she is mentally retarded and received poor legal
representation in her trial.
"There are no traditional
routes of appeal left," said attorney Steve
Presson, who represents Allen on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union
"We're looking at our
options, but we don't want to give anybody false
expectations," he said.
Allen, 41 was convicted
of the December 1988 murder of her live-in lover
Gloria Leathers, 29, who was shot in the stomach in front of a police station
in an Oklahoma City suburb after the two broke up.
Allen said she fired in
self-defense, but police said Leathers did not attack
The ACLU petitioned the
pardons board for clemency, arguing that her trial
attorney and the jury were never told she had been declared clinically
borderline retarded by the state because of childhood brain damage.
The ACLU also said the
trial judge refused to replace her lawyer, who sought
to withdraw because he had no experience in death penalty cases, and that the
case was marred by racial bias and stereotyping.
"Oklahoma's health system
failed when Wanda Jean Allen's serious mental
problems went untreated. The state's criminal justice system failed when she
was forced to receive inadequate representation, and when bias based on race,
class and sexual orientation entered the courtroom," the ACLU's clemency
Massie said the board
meeting, held at a rural prison in eastern Oklahoma,
was packed to capacity by a crowd of about 100 people, many carrying protest
Presson said Allen read
a statement to the board expressing her sorrow to her
own family and Leather's family, asking God for forgiveness and concluding
with the plea: "Please let me live."
Five women have been executed
in the United States since the death penalty
was reinstated in 1976 by a Supreme Court decision, none of them in Oklahoma.
Allen would be the first black woman to die for a capital conviction,
according to the independent Death Penalty Information Center in Washington
Death-row inmate Wanda
Jean Allen, photographed during an interview at the Mabel Bassett Correction
Center in Oklahoma City, will become the first woman executed in Oklahoma
since at least 1907 if her death sentence is carried out as scheduled on
But Wanda Jean Allen hopes her death sentence will be commuted.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- On Jan.
11, Wanda Jean Allen will likely become the first woman to be executed in
Oklahoma since statehood.
She hopes that the state Pardon and Parole Board and Gov. Frank Keating will commute her sentence to life without parole. But if that doesn't happen, the 41-year-old says she is at peace.
"I have peace right here," she says, tapping her chest. "And as long as I am all right with Him, I am not afraid of what man can do to me."
Her victim and one-time lover, Gloria Jean Leathers, died four days after being shot at close range in 1988 by Allen in front of the Village Police Station in Oklahoma City.
"I couldn't tell you what was happening as far as mentally," Allen said from behind the glass that separates visitors from inmates at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in Oklahoma City. "I was there physically, but not mentally there. But I know it was a tragic accident that day."
Allen said she and Leathers were both out of control.
Leathers had called her mother to pick her up from the house where she and Allen lived. After packing her belongings, Leathers and her mother went to the police station to file a compliant against Allen.
Allen followed Leathers and shot her. Leathers' mother, Ruby Wilson of Edmond, witnessed the killing.
On Oct. 13, Ruby Wilson met with her daughter's killer.
"I wanted to tell her how sorry I was for taking her daughter's life. And I know there is no greater love than a mother's love for a child because I have a mother as well. And I asked for her forgiveness. She forgave me. We prayed together. And I let her know I loved her for coming that day."
Leathers and Allen met in prison. Allen was serving a 4-year sentence for manslaughter. On June 29, 1981, at a motel in Oklahoma City, Allen shot to death Detra Pettus following an argument with Pettus' boyfriend.
"We was friends," Allen said of Pettus. "We grew up together. We lived in the same neighborhood. We had mutual friends."
While some prosecutors say that Allen and Leathers had a relationship in prison, Allen said that was not the case.
Allen was released from prison before Leathers. When Leathers got out, she called Allen.
"She didn't have a place to stay," Allen said. "She and her family were having problems. I allowed her to come and live with me because I know how hard it is when you get out.
"By me being locked up, I understood that situation. You have to help people when they get out. Someone had helped me when I got out, so in turn I wanted to help someone as well."
The pair lived together on and off for three years. She described Leathers as funny and witty.
"It was the wrong type of lifestyle," she said of the lesbian relationship. "It didn't make either of us less human than if we were in a heterosexual relationship, a bisexual relationship. We are still human. We have emotions. We laugh. We cry. It was part of our life."
At her trial, Oklahoma County prosecutors painted Allen as a person who hunted down her victims. Prosecutors introduced a card Allen had given Leathers.
The card had a gorilla on it. The printed message said, "Patience my ass. I am going to kill something." Inside, Allen had written, "Try and leave me and you will understand this card more. Dig. For real, no joke.
Leathers was portrayed as meek and timid.
Allen said her attorney was not given a fair shot at defending her and was limited in what he could present. In 1979, Leathers was arrested in Tulsa for the stabbing death of Sheila Marie Barker, whom she killed outside a Tulsa disco. A judge later determined the slaying was self-defense.
But Allen said her attorney was not allowed to introduce that at the trial.
Her trial attorney Bob Carpenter, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
In her first interview in 12 years, Allen talked about her childhood, family, who she is and who she is not.
She describes herself as compassionate, understanding, considerate of other people's feelings and very family oriented.
I am not a monster," Allen said. "I am a human. I laugh and I cry, just as you do and others. I am not a vengeful-type person. I don't try to hurt people."
Allen was the oldest girl among eight siblings.
"We had love," Allen said. "We didn't have a lot of financial support or materialistic things. But we had love in the house."
In her teens, she got into trouble for what she calls behavior problems and spent some time in a juvenile facility. She later spent some time in foster care.
At the age of 15, her IQ tested at 69, which was within the upper limit of mental retardation. Later, she was tested at an IQ of 80.
"I think my motor skills are different from other people that can comprehend things faster. I am not as fast at getting things as some people. I am slow in that area. But over the years, you know, you deal with your handicap. To be in society, you have to deal with that. It can be a
limitation on what you can do."
She graduated from U.S. Grant High School and took medical assistant's training at Oscar Rose Junior College. She worked at a veterans' hospital and at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club, among other jobs.
She is one of three women on death row. On Sept. 14, all three got baptized.
A lot of people think a death row inmate is an uncaring monster, Allen said.
"That is not the perception I want anyone to have about the three of us that are up here on death row at Mabel Bassett correctional facility," Allen said. "We are humans. We care for other people. We feel what they are going through. Even if we are in a worse position than they are, we still focus on them."
She is locked down 23 hours a day, seven days a week.
She has no personal property in her cell, other than a television and radio.
She is a fan of the Chicago Bulls, likes opera and reads John Grisham and Danielle Steele novels.
She repeatedly talks about her family. Her mother, Mary Allen, lives a few miles from the prison that has housed her daughter for 12 years.
"Your family is always going to be there regardless what you are going through," she said. "The good times. The bad times. They are going to be there. My family has been doing this time with me. A lot of people don't realize that. What you go through, you take your family through it as well."
She says she has a need to help people. If she could talk to children, she would tell them to stay close to their family and be independent.
"A life of crime ain't where it is at," she said. "You don't have to prove nothing to no one. And if you are put in that positions where you have to provide something to someone, you don't need to be around that person."
In December, Allen will make an appearance before the five-member Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
"I am not nervous," she said. "I am going to tell them what is my heart. Be direct with them. Tell them how I feel. Ask them to spare my life."
She has not been told much about the execution process, which is carried out shortly after 9 p.m. by lethal injection at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
"If it came to it, I will just have to deal with those circumstances. My faith is strong. I know who has the last say so. I am talking about God."
Victim's mother `too forgiving';
other family members are not
A brother and a sister plan to witness the execution in McAlester.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Ruby
Wilson of Edmond can recall her daughter's murder as if it were just yesterday.
The 57-year-old was an eyewitness in 1988 when Wanda Jean Allen shot Gloria
Jean Leathers during a confrontation in front of the Village Police Station,
where Wilson and her daughter had gone to file a report against Allen.
Wilson said they had just pulled up to the station after leaving the house where Allen and Leathers had lived on and off for three years. Wilson said Leathers was moving out.
Leathers was exiting the car when Allen, who had followed them, walked up with her hands underneath a sweatshirt.
After exchanging words with Allen, Leathers was leaning into the car to pick up her purse when Allen "stuck it to my baby's ribs . . . she stuck it to her stomach and shot her. It sounded like a cap gun."
Leathers slumped into the car. Four days later, she died following surgery, Wilson said.
"I don't have any grudges against her," Wilson said. "I don't hate her, but I hate what she did. I hope she found peace with Christ about it. It does hurt. I will never forget it. I will always see it. That is in the past. I have to go on toward the future."
Wilson on Oct. 13 met with Allen, who asked for forgiveness.
"Being bitter won't solve anything," Wilson said. "It won't help me. It can't bring my baby back."
Leathers left behind three children, whom Wilson has raised.
"Her children have suffered," Wilson said. "I am too forgiving. They are not."
Robert Ferguson Jr., Leathers' brother, is also not forgiving Allen.
Ferguson said it is the second time that Allen has shot and killed someone. Allen served part of a four-year sentence for manslaughter stemming from the June 29, 1981, killing of Detra Pettus.
"Second of all, she did it in front of my mother in front of a police station," said Ferguson, who lives in Jefferson City, Mo., and is a supervisor for the U.S. Postal Service. "So, I don't feel sorry for her, you know."
Ferguson plans to witness Allen's execution, which is set for shortly after 9 p.m. Jan. 11 at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
"If I could say anything to her, I don't know," Ferguson said. "I would say I am sorry this had to happen, but you brought it on yourself."
Mary Ann Leathers, 39, who lives in Tulsa and is a day-care provider, also plans to witness the execution. She describes her sister as sweet, friendly and a person who would "give you anything. Sometimes you didn't have to ask for it."
Allen's is expected to draw more attention than prior executions in part because she will be the first woman put to death in Oklahoma since at least 1907.
"I have my own personal opinion about the death penalty," said Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson. "I don't think it should ever be treated lightly. I am no more troubled by her case than I am any other case that we handle."
Edmondson said Allen, who in December will seek clemency before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, likely will not have her sentence altered.
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