A Death Row killer man is set to be executed today for a 2001 double murder - despite claiming ever since that he was acting in self-defence.
At 10am local time (4pm UK time) on Thursday, 59-year-old Phillip Hancock will receive a lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary - even though the Pardon and Parole board had recommended in a 3-2 vote that Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt should spare the convict’s life. But as of Thursday morning, Stitt has not taken any action.
Stitt’s spokeswoman said the governor planned to interview prosecutors, defence attorneys and victims' families before coming to a decision. He has form for staying en execution, after he did so for Julius Jones in 2021 just hours before he was scheduled to be given the lethal injection.
Hancock has always claimed that Robert Jett Jr., 37, and James Lynch, 58, had attacked him before he shot them in Jett’s Oklahoma City home. His lawyers argued this month that the victims were members of motorcycle gangs who had lured an unarmed Hancock into Jett’s home.
A female witness claims Hancock was ordered by Jett to get into a large cage before he attacked him with a metal bar. In the scuffle that followed, Hancock took Jett’s pistol and shot them both.
"Please understand the awful situation I found myself in. I have no doubt they would have killed me. They forced me to fight for my life,” Hancock pleaded to the Pardon and Parole Board. His lawyers added that his attorneys during trial were struggling with substance abuse and therefore failed to put forward important evidence.
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State attorneys contended that the physical evidence does not match up with Hancock’s ever-shifting accounts of what happened. Assistant Attorney General Joshua Lockett said a witness testified that after Hancock shot Jett the first time, he followed him outside where Jett said: “I’m going to die.” Hancocks response before shooting again was “yes, you are”.
"Chasing someone down, telling them you are about to kill them and then doing it is not self-defence," Lockett said. Ryan Jett, brother of Robert, added: "I don't claim that my brother was an angel by any means, but he didn't deserve to die in the backyard like a dog.”
A separate shooting from 1982 saw Hancock convicted of first-degree manslaughter for which he served three years of a four-year prison sentence. Hancock also claimed self-defence in this case.
Hancock will be Oklahoma’s fourth execution this year and the 11th since Oklahoma returned from a six-year break from executions - after problems with lethal injections in 2014 and 2015. Executions resumed in October 2021, and Oklahoma has currently executed more inmates per capita than any other state since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.