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Champion of Death Row Prisoners Accused of Spoiling Oklahoman’s Clemency

When Oklahoma prisoner Anthony Sanchez, 44, was executed on September 21, 2023, for the 1996 killing of University of Oklahoma dance student Juli Busken, Rev. Jeff Hood was by his side. But the attorneys that Sanchez had by then fired, as well as advocates for a clemency grant that he spurned, blamed Hood for offering misguided legal advice and alienating Sanchez from his court-appointed counsel.

Judge Joe Heaton of the federal court for the Western District of Oklahoma called Hood a “nominal spiritual adviser” who “interjects himself between capital defendants and their attorneys.” The judge said that Hood is “at least partly motivated by considerations other than the best interest of the client.”

Sanchez’s former court-appointed attorney, Randall Coyne, says Hood’s nonprofit, Death Penalty Action, is “all about raising money.” The organization reported proceeds that mushroomed from $90,000 in 2018 to $425,000 in 2021. In an interview with PLN, Hood revealed what he thought about his critics.

“First thing I would tell my critics is to go to hell,” he declared. “These [anti-capital punishment] attorneys [and] organizations, they all benefit from there being a death penalty. As such, they are just as problematic as the government. I abhor the death penalty industrial complex. We say we want to abolish the death penalty, yet we still participate in the system that perpetuates the death penalty.”

By way of example, Hood mentioned a Tennessee prisoner who has had not heard from his habeas attorneys in 12 years. By contrast, he recalled speaking by phone every night for the previous year with Sanchez, who steadfastly maintained his innocence until the end. In the 48 hours before his execution, Hood said, the prisoner told him, “I would rather die standing on my feet in the knowledge of my innocence than begging on my knees for [clemency for] something that I didn’t do.”

The ordained Southern Baptist pastor with a small house church in Fort Worth also complimented PLN, calling it “a very cool model.”

“One of the things I’ve realized in doing this work is that traditional media is not writing for prisoners,” he said. “Normally, it takes a person dying for the traditional media to pay attention. Even then, it is covered as what the prisoner did wrong to deserve this.”  


Additional sources: AP News, Huffington Post, KOCO

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