Unless he changes his mind, today will be Michael Edward Long's last
day in prison -- and his last day alive.
The death row inmate, who has waffled
during the past year about waiving
his appeals, apparently has decided he is ready to die for the
slayings of a female co-worker and her 5-year-old son.
Shortly after midnight tonight, he will get
his wish. A combination of
lethal drugs will be administered to Long, who has spent the
decade on death row.
"I'm ready to get out of hell and go to
heaven," Long said in an
interview last week.
Long, 35, would become the 10th Oklahoma
killer to die by lethal
injection since the state resumed executions in 1990. He has
killing Sheryl Sandra Graber, 24, and her son, Andrew, on April
after she refused to have sex with him.
Graber and her killer worked together at a
Muskogee floral shop. After a brief confrontation in her home, Graber was shot twice
stabbed 31 times. Her son also was shot and stabbed because he
witnessed his mother's slaying.
Long said he is a different man from the
one who committed the murders.
He said the change started 19 days after the slayings, when a
minister visited him in jail. He professes a conversion to
but Graber's father doubts the killer's sincerity.
"He's got that jailhouse religion," Ken
Rigler said in December after Long was deemed competent to abandon his appeals.
It wasn't the 1st time Rigler had attended
a hearing on Long's right
to die. The 1st time, in March 1997, the hearing was canceled
Long changed his mind, saying he didn't want "to take the easy
By October, Long had changed his mind
again. He asked for an end to his
appeals, and on Dec. 3, Muskogee County District Judge Lyle
obliged. Long said the "terrible conditions" on death row at
State Penitentiary fueled his desire to die now, rather than
chances with further appeals.
At this point, Attorney General Drew
Edmondson said recently, there is
no legal way for Long to stop the execution. Not all the experts agree, however.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the
Death Penalty Information
Center, said there have been other cases in which inmates waived
appeals, then changed their minds after an execution date was
He mentioned a Georgia case in which the
killer asked to resume his
appeals on the eve of his 1994 execution. The courts granted his
and he lived for 2 more years until his appeals ran out, Dieter
"We've never had one like that before,"
said Judge Charles Chapel, who
sits on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. How the court
handle such a last-day request would depend on the issues Long
Long's attorney, Jeremy Lowrey, also
disagrees with Edmondson's
statement. Attorneys from the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System
the paperwork ready to seek a stay in case Long changes his
Long would become the 3rd Oklahoma inmate
to be executed after waiving
his appeals. The others were Thomas Grasso in 1995 and Scott
in 1997. He would be the 8th person executed in this country in
and the 440th since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death
Long's final day's activities won't differ
much from his normal routine,
prison spokeswoman Lee Mann said.
"He'll have a fairly regular schedule,
except he'll have more visits
from family and he'll have access to the phone all day," Mann
Long has designated 5 witnesses for the
execution. Mann would not
identify them. However, Lowrey said he will be present.
Some of the victims' relatives also have
asked to watch the execution.
They will be in a separate room from reporters, law enforcement,
officials and Long's chosen witnesses.
A Tulsa woman filed a complaint with the
American Civil Liberties Union
of Oklahoma this week because prison officials refused to let
Long's spiritual adviser in the hours before execution. Jan
has been involved in prison ministry for 8 years, says she was
3 weeks ago in the Universal Life Church, although she is a
member of a
Baptist church in Florida. She says prison officials rejected
because "Southern Baptists don't ordain women."
Skaggs said Wednesday she plans to be on
hand to comfort Long's mother
and 2 sisters.
(source: Daily Oklahoman)