Oklahoma sues federal prisons for inmate it wants to execute

Oct 27, 2022, 1:48 AM | Updated: 3:43 pm
FILE - A sign for the Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons is displayed at the Metropoli...

FILE - A sign for the Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons is displayed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York, July 6, 2020. Oklahoma is suing the Federal Bureau of Prisons for custody of a state death row inmate who the bureau is refusing to transfer, with the state saying the man's scheduled execution cannot be carried out in December if he is not returned soon. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma is suing the Federal Bureau of Prisons for custody of a state death row inmate whom the bureau is refusing to hand over, with the state saying the man’s scheduled execution cannot be carried out in December if he’s not returned soon.

A federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday by state Attorney General John O’Connor urging that the bureau be ordered to transfer John Hanson back to Oklahoma by Nov. 9 from a federal prison in Pollock, Louisiana. That lawsuit, which also names three federal prison officials, has the support of Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler.

Hanson, 58, has a clemency hearing set for Nov. 9. Unless clemency is recommended and granted by Gov. Kevin Stitt, the inmate is scheduled to receive a lethal injection on Dec. 15 for his conviction in the 1999 killing of an elderly woman.

Mary Agnes Bowles, 77, was killed in a carjacking and kidnapping outside a Tulsa mall in 1999.

The U.S. Justice Department under Democratic President Joe Biden — who has vowed to work to end the death penalty — announced last year that it was halting federal executions. That step came after a historic use of capital punishment under Donald Trump’s presidency, with 13 executions carried out in six months. The Bureau of Prisons’ refusal to turn over Hanson raises questions about whether the agency is using its power to deliver on the president’s political pledge.

Hanson is serving a life sentence for numerous federal convictions, including being a career criminal, that predate his state death sentence.

Attorneys listed as representing Hanson did not return phone calls for comment Thursday.

Kunzweiler said he asked O’Connor’s support for the return of the inmate. The district attorney said he sought the attorney general’s help after his August letter requesting Hanson’s transfer was denied by the warden of the Louisiana facility as being “not in the public’s best interest.”

The decision was “infuriating,” Kunzweiler said.

“I’ve never in my 33 years as a prosecutor encountered this level of refusal to transfer an inmate from one jurisdiction to another,” Kunzweiler said.

After being contacted by Kunzweiler, O’Connor sent a request for Hanson’s transfer to Bureau of Prisons Regional Director Heriberto Tellez in Grand Prairie, Texas, which also was denied.

“As inmate Hanson is presently subject to a life term imposed in federal court, his transfer to state authorities for a state execution is not in the public interest,” according to the Oct. 17 letter from Tellez.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the national Death Penalty Information Center, said he is unaware of the bureau previously declining to transfer an inmate to a state for execution. But he noted that such a transfer is not required.

“The question here is, is this an abuse of discretion (by the bureau),” Dunham said. “It’s hard to make a determination about that because the letter doesn’t explain.”

Dunham said it was not clear whether the refusal to transfer Hanson is related to the federal government’s halting of executions under the Biden administration.

“Given Oklahoma’s history of botched executions, that’s an appropriate question,” Dunham said.

The prisons bureau declined comment, citing the official’s previous responses.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which represents the BOP, also declined to comment and said a response will be filed by the expedited Oct. 30 deadline set by the court.

The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Texas because that is where Tellez is based, contends Oklahoma faces “imminent harm” if Hanson is not returned.

“Oklahoma’s execution policy begins thirty-five days prior to the execution date” of Dec. 15, according to the filing. “The Oklahoma Department of Corrections must be able to initiate the process on Nov. 10, 2022, with Hanson in custody before that date.”

The filing also argues that the federal government’s refusal to surrender Hanson usurps the state’s authority.

“Defendants have also, in essence, lawlessly threatened to commute Hanson’s sentence to life imprisonment,” from the death penalty he received.

Oklahoma has put to death six inmates since resuming executions in October 2021. The state had one of the nation’s busiest death chambers until problems in 2014 and 2015 led to a de facto moratorium. That included prison officials realizing they received the wrong lethal drug just hours away from executing Richard Glossip in September 2015. It was later learned the same wrong drug had been used to execute an inmate in January 2015.

The drug mix-ups followed a botched execution in April 2014 in which inmate Clayton Lockett struggled on a gurney before dying 43 minutes into his lethal injection — and after the state’s prisons chief ordered executioners to stop.

The state’s next scheduled execution, that of Richard Stephen Fairchild for the beating death of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son in 1993, is set for Nov. 17.

___

Read more on AP’s coverage of executions: https://apnews.com/hub/executions

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Web designer Lorie Smith is shown in her office on Nov. 7, 2022, in the southwest part of Li...
Associated Press

Both sides see high stakes in gay rights Supreme Court case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is being warned about the potentially dire consequences of a case next week involving a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for same-sex couples. Rule for the designer and the justices will expose not only same-sex couples but also Black people, immigrants, Jews, Muslims and others […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: December 3, gas disaster in Bhopal

Today in History Today is Saturday, Dec. 3, the 337th day of 2022. There are 28 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Dec. 3, 1984, thousands of people died after a cloud of methyl isocyanate gas escaped from a pesticide plant operated by a Union Carbide subsidiary in Bhopal, India. On […]
22 hours ago
arrest...
Associated Press

Police: Washington officer shot, wounded while making arrest

Pasco Police in southeast Washington state said one of their officers was shot and wounded Thursday afternoon while making an arrest.
22 hours ago
State hospital...
Associated Press

7 die from flu in Washington state, activity ‘very high’

Flu activity in the state is now considered very high, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
22 hours ago
Former South Korean National Security Director Suh Hoon, center, arrives at the Seoul Central Distr...
Associated Press

Seoul arrests ex-top security official over border killing

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s former national security director was arrested Saturday over a suspected cover-up surrounding North Korea’s killing of a South Korean fisheries official near the rivals’ sea boundary in 2020. Suh Hoon’s arrest early Saturday came as President Yoon Suk Yeol’s conservative government investigates his liberal predecessor’s handling of that […]
22 hours ago
FILE - John Duarte, a Republican candidate in California's 13th Congressional District, arrives at ...
Associated Press

GOP’s Duarte takes California Central Valley US House seat

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Republican John Duarte defeated Democrat Adam Gray on Friday in a new California U.S. House district in the Central Valley farm belt that produced the closest congressional contest in the state this year. With virtually all of the ballots counted, Duarte has just over 50% of the vote. Gray conceded in […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Oklahoma sues federal prisons for inmate it wants to execute