Anthony Sanchez, 44, was executed Thursday in Oklahoma after being sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of a University of Oklahoma dance student, in a case that went unsolved for years until DNA found at the crime scene was compared to Sanchez's. who was serving a sentence for robbery, and who pleaded not guilty to the crime to the end.
Sanchez was pronounced dead at 10:19 a.m. after receiving a three-drug injection at the state penitentiary in McAlester. Although he insisted he had nothing to do with the murder of 21-year-old Juli Busken, he chose not to submit a clemency petition to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, which many considered his last chance to save his life.
[Alabama executes convicted murderer James Barber after months hiatus over lethal injection problems]
"I'm innocent," Sanchez said as he was held to a stretcher in the execution chamber, "I didn't kill anyone."
Sanchez criticized his lawyers and thanked the people who supported him, including his spiritual adviser, who was with him on camera, and the anti-death penalty advocacy group Death Penalty Action.
A group of people defend the innocence of Anthony Sanchez, sentenced to death in Oklahoma.Sean Murphy / AP
The lethal drugs, starting with the sedative midazolam, were injected starting at 10:08 a.m. During the execution, a member of the executioners' team entered the chamber to adjust an oxygen monitor that prison authorities said had been damaged.
Shortly before the execution, the Supreme Court rejected a request for a stay filed by his new lawyer, Eric Allen, who said he needed more time to study the evidence.
[Alabama prisoner spared lethal injection: Supreme Court refuses to intervene in favor of this type of execution]
Sanchez was convicted of raping and murdering Busken, who had just finished her last semester at the university when she was kidnapped on December 20, 1996 in the parking lot of the apartment building where she lived in the town of Norman.
His body was found that night near Stanley Draper Lake in Oklahoma City. She had been bound, raped and killed with a shot to the head.
Busken had danced at various functions in college, and the College of Fine Arts instituted a scholarship in his name.
Latino Who Won Supreme Court Support Executed to Be Accompanied by His Pastor
Oct. 6, 202200:32
Years later, Sanchez was serving time for robbery when a DNA analysis of sperm on Busken's clothes matched him. In 2006 he was convicted and sentenced to death.
No one from Busken's family was present during the execution, but state Attorney General Gentner Drummond said he had spoken to them several times in recent months.
"Juli was killed 26 years, nine months and one day ago. The family has found closure and peace," he said.
Sanchez long maintained his innocence and did so again in a phone call earlier this year with The Associated Press from death row. "That's manufactured DNA," he said. "It's fake DNA. It's not my DNA. I've said it since day one."
["They killed an innocent child." Two Gang Members Arrested in Deadly New Mexico Shooting: They Got the Wrong Pickup Truck]
"I have sat in my cell and I have seen how prisoner after prisoner asked for clemency and how it was denied," Sánchez said of why he refused to ask for clemency. "Either way, it's not going well for inmates," he added.
Drummond said DNA evidence linked Sanchez to Busken's murder. "There is no conceivable doubt that Anthony Sanchez is a brutal rapist and murderer who deserves the harshest punishment in the state," he said in a recent statement.
A private investigator hired by a group opposed to the death penalty alleged that DNA evidence may be tainted and that an inexperienced lab technician misinformed jurors of the strength of the evidence.
Sanchez is the third death row inmate in Oklahoma this year and the tenth since capital punishment resumed in 2021.