Oklahoma prepares to execute man for 2001 double slaying despite self-defense claim

McALESTER, Okla.– Oklahoma is preparing to execute a man for a 2001 double murder despite his claims he acted in self-defense.

Phillip Hancock, 59, will receive a three-drug lethal injection Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-2 this month to recommend Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt spare Hancock’s life, but Stitt had taken no action on the recommendation by early Thursday morning.

Stitt previously commuted Julius Jones’ death sentence in 2021, just hours before Jones was scheduled to receive a lethal injection, but rejected clemency recommendations for two other death row inmates, Bigler Stouffer and James Coddington, both of whom were later executed.

A spokeswoman for Stitt has said the governor plans to interview prosecutors, defense attorneys and the victims’ families before making a decision.

Hancock has long claimed he shot and killed Robert Jett Jr., 37, and James Lynch, 58, in self-defense after the two men attacked him at Jett’s south Oklahoma City home. Hancock’s attorneys alleged 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 Jett’s home. A female witness said Jett ordered Hancock into a large cage before swinging a metal bar at him. After Jett and Lynch attacked him, Hancock managed to take Jett’s gun from him and shot them both.

“Please understand the terrible situation I found myself in,” Hancock told members of the Pardon and Parole Board via a video feed from the prison. ‘I have no doubt they would have killed me. They forced me to fight for my life.”

Hancock’s attorneys have also said his trial attorneys have acknowledged that they struggled with substance abuse during the case and failed to present key evidence.

But attorneys for the state argued that Hancock gave varying accounts of what exactly happened and that his testimony did not match the physical evidence.

Assistant Attorney General Joshua Lockett also said a witness testified that after Hancock shot Jett inside the house, Hancock followed Jett into the backyard. There, the witness said, a wounded Jett said, “I’m dying.” Hancock responded, “Yes, it is,” before shooting him again, Lockett said.

“Chasing someone down, telling them you’re going to kill them and then doing so is not self-defense,” Lockett said.

Jett’s brother, Ryan Jett, was among family members who testified and urged the panel not to recommend leniency.

“I’m in no way saying my brother was an angel, but he didn’t deserve to die like a dog in the backyard,” Ryan Jett said.

Hancock was also convicted of first-degree manslaughter in a separate shooting in 1982, also claiming self-defense. He served less than three years of a four-year sentence in that case.

Hancock is the fourth Oklahoma inmate to be executed this year and the 11th since Oklahoma resumed executions in October 2021 after a nearly six-year hiatus due to issues with lethal injections in 2014 and 2015. Oklahoma has more per capita prisoners executed than any other state since the reintroduction of the death penalty in 1976.

The next execution scheduled in Oklahoma is James Ryder on February 1. Ryder was sentenced to death for the 1999 murder of 70-year-old Daisy Hallum, and to life in prison without parole for the murder of her son, Sam Hallum, 38, in Pittsburg County.