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Oklahoma set to execute death row inmate Michael DeWayne Smith as he maintains his innocence for 2002 murders

Michael DeWayne Smith faces execution by lethal injection at Oklahoma State Penitentiary  (Corbis/Getty/AP)
Michael DeWayne Smith faces execution by lethal injection at Oklahoma State Penitentiary (Corbis/Getty/AP)

An Oklahoma death row inmate is set to be executed on Thursday morning for a double slaying that happened more than two decades ago.

Michael DeWayne Smith, 41, who is scheduled to receive a lethal injection, would be the first person executed in Oklahoma this year and the 12th inmate put to death since the state resumed executions in 2021 following a nearly seven-year hiatus resulting from problems with executions in 2014 and 2015, The Associated Press reported.

Smith was convicted of killing Janet Moore, 41, and Sharath Pulluru, 22, in separate shootings in February 2002.

He continued to profess his innocence as he expressed his “deepest apologies and deepest sorrows to the families” of the victims during a clemency hearing last month.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 on 6 March to deny Smith clemency (AP)
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 on 6 March to deny Smith clemency (AP)

“I didn’t commit these crimes. I didn’t kill these people,” Smith said, breaking into tears.

“I was high on drugs. I don’t even remember getting arrested.”

But the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denied him clemency in a 4-1 vote.

Prosecutors say Smith was a ruthless gang member who killed both victims in misguided acts of revenge and confessed his involvement in the killings to police and two other people.

They claim he killed Moore because he was looking for her son, who he mistakenly thought had told police about his whereabouts.

Smith then killed Pulluru later that day, prosecutors say. Pulluru was a convenience store clerk who Smith believed had disrespected his gang during an interview with a newspaper reporter.

Smith’s attorney, Mark Henricksen, argued that Smith is intellectually disabled, a condition worsened by years of heavy drug use, and that his life should be spared and he should be allowed to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Mr Henricksen said Smith was in a PCP-induced haze when he confessed to police, and that key elements of his confession aren’t supported by facts.