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Oklahoma death row inmate decides not to pursue standard clemency process

Oklahoma State Penitentiary houses Oklahoma's death row prisoners.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma
Oklahoma State Penitentiary houses Oklahoma's death row prisoners.

An Oklahoma death row inmate rejected the opportunity to have a clemency hearing.

Anthony Sanchez is pursuing his claim of innocence outside of the process, he wrote in a letter to the Oklahoma Board of Pardon and Parole on June 20.

“The state always seems to come out on top,” Sanchez said. “Even when it doesn’t, Governor [Kevin] Stitt is more than willing to make sure that death wins in the end. Why would someone like me participate in such a process?”

Sanchez is scheduled to be executed in September for the murder and rape of University of Oklahoma student Juli Busken in 1996.

Having a clemency hearing would provide Sanchez an opportunity to petition the five-person Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, who then would make a recommendation to Stitt on whether to pardon, reduce or maintain his death penalty sentence.

But, Oklahomans sentenced to death rarely are granted clemency.

Between 1977 and 2022, Oklahoma executed 112 people. During that same period, four people were granted clemency, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Stitt granted clemency to one death row inmate — Julius Jones — whose sentence was changed from death to life in prison without parole. Eight people have been executed during Stitt's two terms as governor.

“Even though I’m demonstrably innocent, the Board is never going to listen to me,” Sanchez said. “In fact, I believe it’s incapable.”

Sanchez has maintained his innocence, most recently challenging his conviction this April in the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. He claimed that his father confessed to killing Busken. The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled against Sanchez.

Sanchez says he plans to “carry the burden of proving (his) innocence in venues that are not predetermined.”

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Isabel Nissley was an intern at KOSU during the summer of 2023 through the Scripps Howard Fund nonprofit newsroom program.
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