The members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board are people who serve the public in a way most state residents would never want to serve. Weighing the conservative demand for criminal incarceration against the liberal call for compassion toward “rehabilitated” prisoners has to be one of the most thankless jobs in governmental America.

Virtually every decision – whether granting or denying clemency or parole to a convicted felon – is met with complaints and fury by at least half the population.

This week, the board denied a clemency request for a man convicted of shooting to death 62-year-old Doyle Rains more than a decade ago. The convicted man, Jimmy Bland, is not only condemned – he is also dying.

Bland’s attorney, David Autry, said his client’s cancer has spread and doctors have informed Bland he has “as little as six months” to live. The state of Oklahoma has a different prognosis for Bland, saying he has less than two weeks.

What Bland asked was for his sentence to be commuted, allowing him to live out his remaining time on earth. Autry said the board should act out of “simple decency and mercy for a person who is terminally ill and is going to die.”

Many Oklahomans would be quick to argue Bland should be given only as much mercy as he showed. While that might be true in theory, how much more brightly would our light of compassion shine if we were able to offer Bland more compassion – to actually go the extra mile?

The members of the board wanted to prove a point. It is, to them, worth whatever expense is necessary to make sure “justice” is carried out against a man who will apparently meet his Maker sometime in the very near future, however that meeting is arranged. One prosecutor argued that Bland “gave up his right” to die of natural causes when he killed Rains.

Does Bland deserve to die? Of course, according to the laws of Oklahoma. But is it necessary, in this particular instance, that we are so gung-ho to get the needles sharpened and get that last meal prepared?

Should we move up the scheduled June 26 execution, just so we don’t miss out in case Bland’s cancer takes his life before we get the chance?

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