Oklahoma AG's office asks appeals court to deny death row inmate's hearing

Mar. 14—Attorneys for the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office asked the state's appeals court to deny a death row inmate's request for an evidentiary hearing, claiming DNA proves he committed a 1996 murder.

Anthony Sanchez was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of 21-year-old Jewel Jean "Juli" Busken. Court documents state Busken, of Benton, Arkansas, was a ballerina and recently finished her last semester at OU when she was abducted from her Norman apartment on Dec. 20, 1996.

Busken's body was found at Lake Stanley Draper in Norman with a single gunshot wound to the back of the head and she had been raped. DNA evidence was obtained from clothing found on Busken and at the location her body was found.

Attorneys for Sanchez filed in February an application for post-conviction relief with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, claiming DNA proves Sanchez's innocence and that it was his father that committed the murder.

The Attorney General's Office said that new DNA testing confirms his father did not commit the murder.

"The testing further determined that there is a 99.9% probability that petitioner's father is the father of the individual whose sperm was on Juli Basken's leotard," the AG's office wrote in response.

According to the motion, a blood sample from Sanchez's father was obtained from the medical examiner's office following his April 2022 death.

The motion also claims Sanchez's father confessed to the murder in 2020 to a woman who was too scared "to discuss the matter with anyone" during his lifetime.

The motion states attorneys interviewed the woman in December 2022.

The AG's office calls the new statement hearsay and that there are "many reasons not to believe" the statements made by the woman.

"This new allegation does not detract one bit from the overwhelming wight of the evidence against petitioner recognized by this court, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit," the AG's office wrote.

Attorneys for the AG's Office also state Sanchez "to this very day" has never attempted to offer any explanation for the presence of his DNA on Busken's clothing.

"And his recent affidavit says nothing more than someone has told him his father confessed. Petitioner's sperm was on Ms. Busken's leotard, his father's was not," the AG's Office wrote.

Dr. Rev. Jeff Hood, Sanchez's spiritual adviser, said a "myriad of questions" remain about how DNA was handled in the case.

"The State of Oklahoma has a long history of problematic interactions with DNA evidence," Hood said in an emailed statement. "Though we intended to do it privately, we now are forced to publicly call on the state to release the original DNA results for further unbiased analysis. Then and only then will we know who killed Juli Busken."

Court records show no new motions filed in the case as of Monday.

Sanchez was originally scheduled to be executed Apr. 6 before Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals granted Attorney General Gentner Drummond's request for more time between executions.

OCCA set 60 days between executions and moved Sanchez's execution to Sept. 21.