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 November 9, 2023

Parole board recommends clemency for convicted death row killer

The debate over capital punishment and self-defense takes a pivotal turn in Oklahoma. Oklahoma's Parole Board has cast a significant vote, recommending clemency for Phillip Dean Hancock, a 59-year-old death row inmate convicted for the 2001 double murder of Robert Jett Jr. and James Lynch.

Phillip Dean Hancock, claiming self-defense in a 2001 double homicide, edges closer to his execution date with a glimmer of hope for clemency.

Hancock's narrative of the fatal night in Oklahoma City suggests a desperate struggle for survival. He asserts that the victims, who allegedly had ties to motorcycle gangs, attacked him, compelling him to act in self-defense.

This claim, central to Hancock's plea for clemency, contrasts starkly with his past; in 1982, he was convicted of manslaughter in a separate shooting, which he also claimed was self-defense.

On the other side of this complex story, the prosecution argues that the evidence does not support Hancock's version of events. Assistant Attorney General Joshua Lockett expressed skepticism about the self-defense claim, stating, "Chasing someone down, telling them you are about to kill them and then doing it is not self-defense."

A history of self-defense claims

The consistency of Hancock's claims of self-defense over the years raises questions about the nature of his actions. In his recent testimony via video, Hancock maintained that he was unarmed and unsuspecting when he was forced into a lethal confrontation.

This assertion, juxtaposed against his 1982 manslaughter conviction, paints a complex picture of a man repeatedly finding himself in violent situations, Daily Mail reported

The family members of the victims, however, have a different story to tell. They argue that regardless of the circumstances, the outcome — two lives lost — is indefensible. Ryan Jett, the brother of one of the victims, expressed his pain and frustration, saying, "I don't claim that my brother was an angel by any means, but he didn't deserve to die in the backyard like a dog."

The parole board's decision, split 3-2 in favor of recommending clemency, now places the final say in the hands of Governor Kevin Stitt. Governor Stitt's history with clemency decisions adds another layer to the anticipation surrounding Hancock's fate.

He has previously granted clemency to one death row inmate, Julius Jones, in 2021 but denied it for two others, setting a precedent of careful consideration and unpredictability in these grave matters.

The governor's pivotal role

As the days count down to the scheduled execution of Hancock on November 30, 2022, the eyes of the public, activists, and the families involved turn towards Governor Stitt. His decision will not only determine the fate of Phillip Dean Hancock but will also reflect the state's stance on issues of self-defense, capital punishment, and the weight of a criminal's past in the balance of justice.

State Representative McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, weighed in on the situation, empathizing with the position Hancock claims to have found himself in. He argued for understanding the instinct to fight for one's life in perilous situations, reflecting a perspective that finds resonance in Hancock's narrative of self-defense.

On the other hand, the prosecution and the victims' families argue for a more stringent interpretation of Hancock's actions. They emphasize the seriousness of the allegations and the gravity of the sentence handed down to Hancock, stressing that the evidence and the nature of the crimes speak louder than the defendant's claims of self-defense.

Reflections on the justice system

The Hancock case provides a deep dive into the intricacies of the American criminal justice system, particularly in cases involving claims of self-defense and the death penalty. The differences in perceptions and interpretations of the same set of events underline the complexities in discerning truth and administering justice.

Moreover, this case throws into relief the role of personal histories in legal proceedings. Hancock's past conviction and the nature of his previous self-defense claim add layers of complexity to the present situation, challenging both the parole board and the governor to consider the patterns of behavior alongside the specifics of the current case.

As Governor Stitt deliberates on the recommendation of clemency, he is not only making a decision about one man's fate but also shaping the narrative around justice, redemption, and the potential for change. His decision will inevitably leave a lasting impact on the state's legal landscape and on the lives of all those directly involved in this case.

Lessons to learn from this tragedy

Understanding Self-Defense: This case highlights the complex nature of self-defense claims and how they are perceived and judged in the legal system. It’s crucial to recognize that while self-defense is a valid legal defense, the circumstances under which it is claimed can be heavily scrutinized.

The Role of Past Actions: Hancock’s past conviction plays a significant role in how his self-defense claim is received. This emphasizes the importance of understanding how past actions can influence present situations, particularly in legal cases.

The Weight of Decisions: The governor’s role in deciding clemency illustrates the significant weight of such decisions, not just for the individual involved but for the broader implications they hold for justice and legal precedents.

Public Perception and Legal Reality: There is often a gap between public perception and legal reality, as seen in the varied responses to this case. It’s vital to approach such situations with an understanding that legal decisions often involve complexities that may not be immediately apparent to the public eye.

Always remember, despite precautions and awareness, crime can strike indiscriminately, and it's crucial never to blame the victims for the tragedies they endure.

Why this story matters

This story is pivotal as it delves into the complexities of the criminal justice system, especially concerning capital punishment and self-defense claims. The decision made by Governor Stitt will have far-reaching implications, not only for Hancock but for the precedent it sets in similar cases.

Moreover, it sheds light on the intricate process of balancing legal justice with ethical and moral considerations, a balance central to the principles of law and order. Finally, it underscores the importance of understanding the dynamics of criminal behavior and the long-term impacts such cases have on society as a whole.

In conclusion, Phillip Dean Hancock's case is a convoluted mix of past actions, legal battles, and ethical dilemmas. With the final decision resting on Governor Kevin Stitt, the outcome will not only impact Hancock's life but also resonate through legal precedents and the ongoing debate about capital punishment and self-defense.

This case exemplifies the complexities inherent in the justice system, challenging our perceptions of guilt, redemption, and the pursuit of justice.


  • Oklahoma's parole board recommends clemency for Phillip Dean Hancock, convicted of a 2001 double murder.
  • Hancock claims self-defense in the killings of Robert Jett Jr. and James Lynch.
  • The final decisionon Hancock's fate lies with Governor Kevin Stitt.
  • Stitt has a mixed history of clemency decisions, adding uncertainty to the outcome.
  • The case raises questions about self-defense, past convictions, and the death penalty.

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Written By: Rampart Stonebridge

I'm Rampart Stonebridge, a curious and passionate writer who can't get enough of true crime. As a criminal investigative journalist, I put on my detective hat, delving deep into each case to reveal the hidden truths. My mission? To share engaging stories and shed light on the complexities of our mysterious world, all while satisfying your curiosity about the intriguing realm of true crime.
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