Oklahoma: Oklahoma executes man for 2001 double murder claimed as self-defense

In a highly contentious case, 59-year-old Phillip Dean Hancock was executed on Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Hancock, sentenced to death for the 2001 murders of Robert Jett Jr. and James Lynch, members of a biker gang, claimed he acted in self-defense during the incident that unfolded at Jett’s Oklahoma City residence.
Hancock’s execution took place by lethal injection, despite the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommending clemency.Governor Kevin Stitt’s decision to deny clemency drew criticism from anti-death penalty activists, with Abraham Bonowitz of Death Penalty Action expressing frustration over the prolonged decision-making process.
The condemned man consistently maintained that he shot Jett and Lynch during a struggle after they allegedly attempted to force him into a cage at Jett’s residence. Hancock’s defense argued that the victims, associated with outlaw motorcycle gangs, posed a threat, leading Hancock to fight for his life.
Despite claims of self-defense, the prosecution contended that Hancock provided inconsistent accounts of the events, and his testimony did not align with physical evidence. Assistant Attorney General Joshua Lockett emphasized a witness’s testimony, alleging that after shooting Jett inside the house, Hancock pursued him into the backyard, where he reportedly declared, “I’m going to die.” Hancock’s alleged response, “Yes, you are,” before shooting again, was cited as evidence against the self-defense claim.
Hancock’s execution adds to the 24 carried out in the United States this year, with no further executions scheduled for the remainder of the year. The death penalty debate in the country has seen shifting opinions, as reflected in a recent Gallup Poll indicating a decline in support for the death penalty, reaching the lowest level since 1972.
Capital punishment’s status varies across states, with 23 states having abolished it and others implementing moratoriums. Executions this year have occurred in Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas, primarily using lethal injection. Notably, Alabama plans to use nitrogen gas for an execution scheduled on January 25, 2024, marking a departure from the prevalent method.
Hancock’s case further underscored the complexities of the death penalty system, raising questions about the adequacy of legal representation and the reliability of self-defense claims. As the debate continues, the next execution scheduled in Oklahoma is that of James Ryder on February 1, who faces charges related to the 1999 killing of Daisy Hallum and her son, Sam Hallum.
(with inputs from agencies)

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