Oklahoma plans to put Anthony Sanchez to death next week after a federal judge denied a stay of execution.
His execution by lethal injection is set for Thursday, Sept. 21 at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
Sanchez, 44, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006 for killing Juli Busken, a 21-year-old dance student at the University of Oklahoma.
Busken’s murder went unsolved for nearly a decade. Her body was found in December 1996 at Lake Stanley Draper, in southeast Oklahoma City, but Sanchez wasn’t identified as a suspect until 2004 when a DNA profile taken as he entered the prison system for a burglary conviction was found to match a semen stain on Busken’s clothes.
Sanchez had requested a stay of execution earlier this year because his new attorney, Eric Allen, wanted to have time to look for weaknesses in the case. But U.S. District Court Judge Joe Heaton ruled against Sanchez on Wednesday.
“(Sanchez’s) argument is entirely speculative – that he might be able to identify some new issue once his new counsel looks through the case materials,” Heaton wrote.
Oklahoma has put nine people to death since resuming executions in 2021. The state has carried out nearly a quarter of the 38 executions that have taken place in the United States during that time. Only Texas, which has executed 10 people over the same period, has executed more people. Sanchez will be the third person Oklahoma has executed this year and the tenth since 2021.
Sanchez waived his clemency hearing this summer, saying he didn’t believe Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt would grant him a reprieve even if the five-member state Pardon and Parole Board recommended it.
“I’ve sat in my cell and I’ve watched inmate after inmate after inmate get clemency and get denied clemency,” Sanchez told reporters in a phone call in June. “Either way, it doesn’t go well for the inmates.”
Stitt has only granted clemency for one death row inmate once since the state resumed executions. In 2021, he commuted the sentence of Julius Jones from death to life without the possibility of parole. The Pardon and Parole Board also voted to recommend clemency for Bigler Stoufer and James Coddington but Stitt denied both recommendations and the men were executed.
Sanchez has claimed his father, Thomas Glen Sanchez, killed Busken. Charlotte Beattie, the former girlfriend of Thomas Sanchez, told Newsweek that the elder Sanchez “repeatedly” took credit for killing Busken. Beattie said she hasn’t spoken out until now because she feared for her life. A police sketch from the time of the killing appears to resemble the elder Sanchez more than Anthony Sanchez, who was a teenager at the time of the murder.
Beattie told Newsweek that Thomas Sanchez, who died by suicide in 2022, first took credit for the killing in 2020. Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond called attempts to pin the killing on Thomas Sanchez “ludicrous.”
“Instead of expressing remorse, he made the cowardly decision to try blaming the crime on his deceased father – a ludicrous allegation thoroughly discredited by DNA analysis,” Drummond said.
Drummond concluded earlier this year that Thomas Sanchez was not the killer after obtaining some of his DNA from the state medical examiner’s office, which had investigated his death. In a legal filing earlier this week, the AG’s office said it was unlikely the original DNA match that linked Sanchez to Busken’s rape and murder were a mistake.
“The odds of randomly selecting an individual with the same genetic profile are 1 in 200 trillion Caucasians, 1 in 20 quadrillion African Americans, and 1 in 94 trillion Southwest Hispanics,” the AG’s office said in the filing.
Oklahoma executions since 2021
Oct. 28, 2021: John Marion Grant
Dec. 9, 2021: Bigler Jobe Stouffer II
Jan. 27, 2022: Donald Anthony Grant
Feb. 17, 2022: Gilbert Postelle
Aug. 25, 2022: James Allen Coddington
Oct. 20, 2022: Benjamin Cole
Nov. 17, 2022: Richard Fairchild
Jan. 12, 2023: Scott Eizember
July 20, 2023: Jemaine Cannon
Nov. 30, 2023: Phillip Hancock