Stop the Execution of Richard Rojem in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt & the Pardon and Parole Board

Richard Rojem is scheduled for execution in Oklahoma on June 27, 2024 for the 1984 murder of Layla Cummings.

Richard Norma Rojem has always maintained his innocence. Three different DNA tests fail to implicate him, and even the courts acknowledge that his conviction is based on circumstantial evidence. This execution date was set on May 17, 2024. This petition will be updated as additional information is gathered.  

Richard has bee a practicing Buddhist for many years and also uses the name Daiji. Read Richard's plea for justice in his own words, courtesy of our friends in Germany at Initiative Hope For Life:

My name is Richard Norman Rojem, Jr.
I'm presently a 65 year old man who has been on Oklahoma's death for for 38 years. The longest in Oklahoma's history.

I am an innocent man.

I have been trying for nearly 39 years to prove my innocence.

The State of Oklahoma has a history of convicting and condemning to death innocent people.

For nearly 39 years, the State of Oklahoma has actively and vociferously objected to each and every one of my efforts to prove my innocence.

In July of 1984, I was arrested for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Layla Dawn Marie Cummings, my 7 year old former stepdaughter.
In May of 1985, after 11 months of being denied any kind of opportunity to obtain the tools necessary to present any reasonable type of defense, I was convicted and sentenced to death.

Since all prisoners claim that they're innocent and due to the nature of the offenses, I have been unable to generate any type of meaningful support. In the early years, I wrote to all of the available groups that concerned themselves with helping prisoners with proving their innocence. I received letters from each stating that they were sorry that they couldn't help me and wished me luck.

That's the thing here, it's incredibly difficult to see past the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 7 year old child. I'm not suggesting that it shouldn't be. And it's that difficulty that's kept me from being able to prove my innocence - noone wants to attach their name and their reputation to a man with a case like this "just in case".

This case was built entirely on circumstantial evidence. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, circumstantial evidence is the type of evidence that tends to lead you to a conclusion. For example, you wake up in the morning and look out your bedroom window. You see that the ground is wet, the sidewalk is wet and the car in the driveway is wet. So, there's reason to believe that it rained, even though you didn't actually hear or see it rain or hear of the forecast of rain in the weather report on the news before you retired for the night. So, a reasonable conclusion.

There are, however, other possible explanations. The neighbor's sprinkler system may have come on during the night is one.

A trial in America is a carefully orchestrated play designed for the 12 jurors in the jury box and to leave out nearly as much information as it includes. So, the prosecution will not tell the jury that it's possible that the neighbor's sprinkler system may have come on during the night and will object, for reasons of speculation, should the defense raise that possible explanation.

We Americans like to state, categorically, that there's a presumption of innocence, but that's the lie that we've been perpetuating since the first pilgrims landed. Truth is, if you've been brought before the bar, most people are going to believe that there are good reasons for it. We vote in order to elect prosecutors to enforce our laws and prosecute offenders. We vote to elect judges to oversee trials. We pay taxes to pay the wages of our local, state and federal law enforcement agencies so that we'll be safe. So, if you're brought before the bar there's the immediate presumption of guilt that noone will ever admit to possessing.

To give an example of what's happened in my case: over the past 21 years, I have had the opportunity to submit to DNA testing. In 2000, it was for a then TV show that was to use DNA to prove a prisoners innocence. The State of Oklahoma objected at first, but agreed because it felt that the DNA testing would "seal my fate" It didn't. My DNA wasn't detected. In 2003, due to a resentencing trial, we had the opportunity to submit to DNA testing of the fingernail scrapings taken from Layla. We even used the guy that Oklahoma used for its DNA testing just to show that we were being above board. I was excluded as the donor of the DNA, the male DNA, discovered under her fingernails. However, the scientist ran the testing protocol through an additional cycle in order to obtain a clearer result. The protocol called for 25 cycles, the scientist ran 26. Well, the prosecution jumped on that and its expert disputed the results due to the process. Not because the results were wrong, but because of the process in obtaining them. An interesting aside: had those results, including that 26th cycle, showed me to be the donor of the male DNA - the State would have picked up that ball and run like the wind with it! That would have been proof positive of my guilt. Two years ago, with the help of the federal courts and over the vociferous objection by the State, we were able to submit to the latest in DNA testing, "Touch DNA testing". This is currently the most sensitive form of DNA testing available. Here, the scientists took samples of Layla's nightgown and underpants. These scientists are professionals and know from where to harvest these samples. Again, my DNA was not detected.

So, I've submitted to 3 separate rounds of DNA testing over 21 years and MY DNA HAS NOT BEEN DETECTED.

Now, I'm a reasonably intelligent person and no reasonably intelligent person would risk certain death by submitting to 3 separate rounds of DNA testing over 21 years unless he was absolutely certain that his DNA would not be present.

Ockham's Razor has it that the explanation that introduces the fewest new assumptions is the one most likely to be true. The State has offered its assumptions on this. A few of them.

My assumption is the one that offers the fewest - the lack of my DNA being detected must mean that I never touched Layla's nightgown and underpants. And, due to the intimate nature of the offenses, a reasonable person might think the offender's DNA would be detected.

I will point out that NO usable DNA has been detected, neither mine nor that of anybody else.

I have nothing to hide here.

The lack of someone else's DNA has nothing to do with the absence of my DNA.

I'd be grateful for your support.

Thank you for reading this.

With my palms together,

Richard Norman Rojem, Jr.

Oklahoma's aggressive execution schedule marks it as an outlier in its use of the death penalty while the majority of other states are on a downward trend of executions. In the last few years, Oklahoma has been one of only a handful of states that have carried out death sentences - and it continues to do so targeting the poor, the mentally ill and people of color.

This particular execution is just one in a series of 25 executions scheduled by Oklahoma in the coming months, despite serious concerns around the state's lethal injection protocols and drugs.

Please sign the petition asking Governor Stitt and the Pardon and Parole Board to do everything within their power to ensure this execution does not go forward, and to seek a path to clemency in the case.

Sponsored by

To: Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt & the Pardon and Parole Board
From: [Your Name]

We are writing to you regarding Richard Rojem, who is scheduled for execution in Oklahoma on June 27, 2024 for the 1984 murder of Layla Cummings.

We are concerned that while the vast majority of states with capital punishment continue on a downward trend of executions, Oklahoma has continued to go against trend by carrying on an aggressive execution schedule - targeting the poor, the mentally ill and people of color.

We, the undersigned, ask that you do everything within your power to ensure this execution does not go forward, and to seek a path to clemency in the case.

Thank you for time and attention to this urgent and serious matter.