Oklahoma executes double killer despite clemency recommendation

 (Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Phillip Hancock is pictured on June 29, 2011.)
(Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Phillip Hancock is pictured on June 29, 2011.)

A man convicted of a double killing in 2001 has been executed in Oklahoma, despite his claims of self-defence and recommendations of clemency from the prison board.

Phillip Dean Hancock, 59, received a three-drug lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary for the killings of Robert Jett Jr and James Lynch on Thursday.

It came after Republican Governor Kevin Stitt waited until the last minute to reject the recommendation of clemency.

In the seconds before his death, while strapped to the gurney inside the execution chamber, Hancock reportedly thanked his legal team and reiterated his claim that the killings were in self-defence, according to the Associated Press.

He added that he hoped to be exonerated after his death. Hancock also criticized Attorney General Gentner Drummond’s office, which handled Hancock’s post-conviction prosecution.

"They’re vile. They’re virtueless. They’re without honor," Hancock said, per AP, who added that Mr Drummond, who witnessed the execution, did not appear to react.

In a statement issued hours after the execution, Mr Stitt said that he made his decision after a thorough review and noted that Hancock also had claimed self-defence in a previous killing.

The statement did not directly address why Mr Stitt’s decision was delayed until after the execution’s scheduled start time of 10am. The execution did not begin until after 11am, and Hancock was pronounced dead at 11.29am.

“These are always painfully difficult decisions to make and I don’t take this responsibility lightly,” Mr Stitt’s statement said.

Reverend Don Heath, chair of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, criticised the governor’s delay in deliberations over whether to commute Hancock’s sentence.

“I can’t imagine the anxiety that Phillip Hancock must have felt as Governor Stitt again waited until beyond the last minute to reject clemency,” the statement read.

Hancock long claimed that he shot and killed Jett, 37, and Lynch, 58, after the two men attacked him inside Jett’s home in south Oklahoma City.

His attorneys claimed at a clemency hearing this month that Jett and Lynch were members of outlaw motorcycle gangs and that Jett lured Hancock, who was unarmed, to his home.

Phillip Dean Hancock was executed on Thursday (AP)
Phillip Dean Hancock was executed on Thursday (AP)

A female witness said Jett ordered Hancock to get inside a large cage before swinging a metal bar at him. After Jett and Lynch attacked him, his attorneys said, Hancock managed to take Jett’s pistol from him and shoot them both.

“Please understand the awful situation I found myself in,” Hancock told members of the Pardon and Parole Board via a video feed from the penitentiary, according to AP.

“I have no doubt they would have killed me. They forced me to fight for my life.”

Two Oklahoma Republican state lawmakers who strongly support the death penalty, Representatives Justin Humphrey and Kevin McDugle, also testified to the board on Hancock’s behalf.

“If any one of us were in that same exact situation ... we would have fought for our lives,” said Mr McDugle, of Broken Arrow.

The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty - with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.