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MACALESTER, Okla. (KFOR) – The State of Oklahoma carried out the execution of death-row inmate Phillip Hancock at 11:29 a.m. Thursday, despite a clemency recommendation from the State Pardon and Parole Board.
Witnesses said Hancock stuck to his self-defense claim and had harsh words for the Attorney General.
The director of the Department of Corrections said Governor Kevin Stitt’s office asked the DOC to put the execution on pause, after a late legal request from Hancock’s team. At 10:10 a.m., the Governor’s counsel gave the DOC the green light to proceed.
“Two families have been waiting a long time for this,” said Ryan Jett, Robert Jett Jr.’s brother.
Relief washing over the victim’s family, as Oklahoma executes Phillip Hancock for the 2001 killings of Robert Jett Jr. and James Lynch. That’s when an unarmed Hancock went into Jett’s Oklahoma City home, where Jett and Lynch were high on meth.
Defense attorneys claim both Jett and Lynch were in biker gangs.
Later into the night, tensions rose during a fight over an opened pack of cigarettes.
“He got mad at me for opening that pack of cigarettes,” said Hancock during a 2002 police interview. “He’s got this breakover bar standing over top of me saying ‘Get in the cage.’ And I said, ‘Bob, that’s not right.’”
Prosecutors and a witness said Jett then calmed down and walked away, before Hancock attacked.
However, Hancock claimed a fight over Jett’s loaded gun, between all three men, began.
“He was coming down with that breaker bar, for my head, and I shot him and said, ‘I just killed you, b****,’” said Hancock during the interview.
Hancock ultimately killed Jett and Lynch with Jett’s gun, then took off in his truck.
“Once the threat was over, you should’ve stopped. Called 911, you know?” an investigator told Hancock during the interview.
“I couldn’t stay around, because of his associations with people,” said Hancock.
Minutes before the sentence was carried out Thursday, Hancock uttered his final thoughts.
“Hancock smiled and said, ‘Where are my enemies at?'” recalled Jake Bleiberg, a witness with the Associated Press.
Witnesses said Hancock also met the Oklahoma Attorney General’s gaze while delivering harsh words.
“You’ve been hoodwinked, Attorney General Gentner Drummond,” recalled Bleiberg. “Hopefully y’all will be able to get the evidence that Attorney General Gentner Drummond withheld.”
“He called the Attorney General’s office ‘opportunistic liars,’ ‘murderers,’ and ‘thieves,'” said Sharon Phillips, a witness with KJRH.
Jett and Lynch’s family said they are finally at peace.
“I’m grateful that justice has been served according to God’s will and this 22 year nightmare can finally be laid to rest,” said Kayla Thomas-Hiles, Lynch’s niece, on behalf of her mother. “I’ve prayed for his salvation for nearly 2 decades.”
Hancock’s last meal consisted of dark meat fried chicken, from KFC, no sides, with a root beer.
Following his execution, Drummond issued the following statement:
Justice has been served for the murders of Robert Jett and James Lynch. I hope today brings a measure of peace to the families of the men whose lives were tragically cut short by Phillip Dean Hancock.
Gentner Drummond, Oklahoma Attorney General
One of the lawmakers advocating for Hancock’s clemency released a statement Thursday evening:
Phillip Hancock should never have been sentenced to death for defending himself against a violent, unprovoked attack. Any of us would have fought to stay out of that terrifying cage in Bob Jett’s house, and if we were able to get Jett’s gun away from him, we, too, would have used it to save our own lives. Yet Phil was sentenced to death for this act of self-defense, and today, Oklahoma executed him for it. Phil’s execution is simply not justice.
I have learned far more about the serious problems in Oklahoma’s death penalty system than I ever imagined. As a longtime supporter of capital punishment and a firm believer in law and order, it gives me no pleasure to say that this system is broken. But Phillip Hancock’s execution is a stark example of that unavoidable fact.
Oklahoma must stop carrying out executions until we can ensure that only people who truly deserve capital punishment are sentenced to death. Phillip Hancock did not deserve to die, and I am ashamed his life was taken in our name.
Representative Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow
One of Hancock’s attorneys also issued a statement:
The state of Oklahoma unlawfully killed Phillip Hancock today in spite of a recommendation for clemency from the Board. Governor Stitt unconscionably declined to stop the execution, ignoring the unwavering support of many of his allies including Republican State Representatives Kevin McDugle and Justin “JJ” Humphrey and State Senator David Bullard.
We are profoundly sad that Oklahoma executed Phil for protecting himself from a violent attack. This was a clear case of self-defense and the Governor and the state ignored a wealth of evidence showing that Phil was fighting for his life. He fought to stay out of a cage to defend his life only to be caged and tragically killed by the state.
Phil had an exemplary record over the twenty years that he was housed on death row. He was a caring son and devoted brother. The tragedy of this killing is outrageous, and all Oklahomans should be ashamed. May Phil rest in peace.
Shawn Nolan, attorney for Phillip Hancock