McALESTER – Although the pending execution of terminally ill Jimmy Dale Bland had garnered headlines across the state and nation in recent weeks, few people attended the event Tuesday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. As a steady rain fell on legendary prison grounds, there was no gathering of protestors or supporters of the death penalty, and only three media members witnessed Bland's death by lethal injection.

Diagnosed months ago with terminal cancer, Bland had sought clemency from the state in recent weeks after doctors told him he had six months or less to live. That bid was denied by the state pardon and parole board, and his final bid for reprieve was denied Tuesday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bland, a twice-convicted killer, was convicted of shooting 62-year-old Raymond Prentice in 1975. After being imprisoned on manslaughter charges for that killing, Bland somehow escaped, was recaptured and was eventually paroled. Within a year, he had killed a second man, Doyle Wendle Rains, by shooting him in the back of the head with a .22-caliber rifle. It was that second killing that resulted in Bland's execution Tuesday.

Appearing pale and weak on the execution table, Bland spoke briefly and smiled at his mother, brother and two sisters gathered in the witness room.

"I'm sorry for what happened," he said. "I love you all. I love you all." With his mother and sisters fighting back tears, Bland then looked toward officials in the death chamber and said, "I'm ready."

Bland, 49, was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer that had spread to his brain and his hip bone. He had been undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatment, and doctors had told him he had six months or less to live.

In an effort to keep Bland from suffering needlessly, prison officials administered five times the normal amount of sodium pentathol. Sodium pentathol, the first of three drugs administered during the execution process, causes unconsciousness.

Moments after the execution began Tuesday, Bland breathed deeply two times and remained motionless until a doctor pronounced him dead five minutes later, at 6:19 p.m.

His brother, unidentified by prison officials, hugged his mother and whispered, "He's in heaven."

Family members of Bland's first victim had a different outlook, working to suppress their anger as they faced the media immediately after the execution.

"It's 32 years past due," said a visibly angry Ronnie Prentice, the first victim's son. "They should never have let him out on parole. If they had done this (execute Bland) the first time, maybe that second man would be alive."

Prentice and his relatives also said Bland had failed to convince them he had ever felt remorse for his actions.

"He never had remorse," said Jackie Barker, Ronnie Prentice's aunt. "He didn't have any remorse the first time. He didn't have any remorse the second time. He didn't even have remorse today."

Until Tuesday, Oklahoma had never executed a terminally ill prisoner. Two years ago, Robert Brecheen, 40, tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pulls two days before his execution, but was unsuccessful.

Ada Evening News Managing Editor Roy Deering was one of the media witnesses who attended the execution Tuesday.

at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

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