‘Let’s Reform The System And Get It Right’: Execution Reform On The Mind As Inmate Scheduled To Be Killed In 2 Days

Governor Stitt still has the option to grant clemency for Phillip Hancock before his execution on Thursday morning.

Tuesday, November 28th 2023, 4:47 pm

By: News 9


Governor Stitt has less than 48 hours to decide whether or not he will grant clemency to death row inmate Phillip Hancock. 

Related: Death Row Inmate Phillip Hancock Scheduled To Be Executed For 2001 Murders

The Governor hasn't granted clemency since Julis Jones in 2021, and that news came just minutes before Jones was set to be executed.

Governor Stitt’s office tells us they're still reviewing Hancock's case.

This comes as current and previous lawmakers are pushing for a moratorium on the death penalty until some changes are made.

“We have to be certain on this. We can’t be taking people’s lives who aren’t justly guilty of a capital offense,” Andy Lester, Former Co-Chair of the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Committee said.

Oklahoma has executed more people than any other state in the nation. Philip Hancock would be the 123rd person to be executed since 1976.

“There was a moratorium on the death penalty in 2017 and that got lifted a few years ago. Now, here we are with people being executed without having made the necessary reforms to the system,” Lester said.

Related: Lawmakers Highlight Problems With Oklahoma’s Executions

After a year and a half of review, the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Committee came out with a 300 page document in 2017.

“We unanimously found that there were too many systemic flaws in the death penalty as it’s practiced in Oklahoma,” Lester said. “The general recommendation was not to have any executions, to have a moratorium on executions, until sufficient reforms had been made.”

Lester says basically none of those recommendations have been adopted, yet the executions have continued.

“Since we published this report, we have a new governor, we have two new attorneys general, half the legislature has changed,” Lester said.

Lester is once again pushing for a moratorium on executions, until at least some of the 45 recommended changes have been made.

“There’s a place for pretty much everybody in the system to make changes,” Lester said. “Let’s reform the system and get it right.”

Governor Stitt still has the option to grant clemency for Phillip Hancock before his execution on Thursday morning.

Related: Death Row Inmate’s Execution Now Up To Governor Stitt

Hancock's 2004 Conviction & Subsequent Appeals

Hancock was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder in 2004. 

Hancock acknowledged that he killed both men, but maintained that he was acting in self-defense.

The defense in the case argued that Hancock was in a fight with the victims when they were shot, according to the Associated Press.

Robert Jett and James Lynch, members of a violent motorcycle gang according to DPIC, were shot by Hancock. Hancock claims that Jett and Lynch attacked him after being lured into Jett’s home, the DPIC says.

In 2015, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hancock’s sentence. Hancock’s attorneys claimed, according to AP, that the jury had been misled by “unwarranted legal instructions on self-defense.” This refers to the introduction of an unrelated manslaughter charge as evidence from 1982, where Hancock also claimed self-defense, which his attorneys argue deprived him of his constitutional right to due process.

The sentence was upheld in a 2-1 vote, AP said. The one dissenting judge, Carlos Lucero, agreed that the introduction of Hancock’s manslaughter charge was improper, according to AP.

”...The prosecution used both Hancock’s prior self-defense plea and his 1982 manslaughter conviction to tell the jury that Hancock was not to be believed,” Lucero said in his 20-page dissent. “Thus, the prejudice stemming from the admission of Hancock’s prior crime and plea went to the heart of the trial.”

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