Jeffrey David Matthews – Oklahoma – execution date 1/11/11

After three stays of execution, an Oklahoma death row inmate is scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday for the murder of his 77-year-old great-uncle almost 17 years ago.

Jeffrey David Matthews, 38, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the Jan. 27, 1994, slaying of Otis Earl Short during a robbery in the victim’s McClain County home.

Matthews’ execution was set three times last year but was stayed each time. Former Gov. Brad Henry twice granted stays to give defense attorneys time to investigate Matthews’ claims of innocence. Execution dates of June 17 and July 20 were postponed while fingerprint evidence from the crime scene was re-examined and defense attorneys searched for other possible suspects.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation could not match the fingerprints to any other alleged suspect, according to an Aug. 9 letter to the state Pardon and Parole Board from Assistant Attorney General Seth Branham.

Matthews’ next execution date, Aug. 17, was postponed after defense attorneys objected to corrections officials’ plans to substitute one of three drugs in the lethal injection protocol because of a nationwide shortage. A federal judge ruled in November that the state could make the substitution.

Matthews’ application for a fourth stay of execution was rejected Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court, clearing the way for his execution at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester.

Prosecutors contended Matthews was one of two men who stormed into Short’s home east of Rosedale. Trial testimony indicated Matthews shot Short once in the head at close range with a .45-caliber pistol and that the second man, Tracy Dyer, cut the throat of his wife, Minnie Short.

The men searched the house for almost two hours, eventually leaving in Otis Short’s truck with $500 in cash and a .32-caliber pistol. Minnie Short survived the attack but later died of natural causes.

Matthews was arrested the day after the attacks. His 1995 trial was moved to Cleveland County because of pretrial publicity. He was tried a second time in 1999 after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his first conviction.

Dyer, 36, was convicted of first-degree murder and other charges at a separate trial and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denied Matthews’ request for clemency on May 26. Members of the victim’s family urged the board to reject Matthews’ request to recommend that his life be spared.

“I do not believe in killing people but when someone so close to you is taken away you realize there are some people in this world that deserve justice, and he is one of them,” Dawn Randolph, Short’s great-grandchild, wrote in a letter to the Pardon and Parole Board.

Matthews requested a deep dish meat lover’s pizza, fried shrimp with cocktail sauce and two hush puppies with vinegar for his last meal, said Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Matthews would be the second Oklahoma death row inmate to be executed in as many weeks.

Billy Dawn Alverson, 39, was executed Thursday for the 1995 killing of a convenience store worker, marking the first execution in the U.S. this year. Crystal Drwenski, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said no other executions are scheduled.

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