By The Vanguard Staff
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Earlier this week, a man slated for execution soon here—who has multiple mental illnesses, brain damage and autism, claim his lawyers—was not sent to a facility to be killed as requested.
A federal prison warden denied an Oklahoma District Attorney’s request to transfer John Fitzgerald Hanson—one of two dozen people set to be executed in the state within the next two years—to Oklahoma custody to be executed.
The warden of the federal prison in Louisiana said the transfer “is not in the public’s best interest.”
In 2000, Hanson was sentenced by the federal government to life in prison plus 107 years for a series of armed robberies. He was later sentenced to death in Tulsa County, Oklahoma, for the 1999 murders of Mary Bowles and Jerald Thurman.
Lawyers insist Hanson’s co-defendant, Victor Miller, was the ringleader of the crime, but “Miller’s death sentence was overturned and he is now serving a life sentence. Hanson’s death sentence was also overturned, but he was resentenced to death.”
In August 2022, Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen A. Kunzweiler requested Hanson be transferred to state custody so he can be executed.
But, in September, Acting Complex Warden S.R. Grant said federal law “authorizes the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to transfer a prisoner who is wanted by a State authority to that State authority’s custody if it is appropriate, suitable, and in the public’s best interest. The Designation and Sentence Computation Center (DSCC) has denied the request for transfer, as it is not in the public’s best interest.”
Then, according to the defense team, DA Kunzweiler asked Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor to help, and he wrote to BOP Regional Director Heriberto Tellez. While O’Connor noted the transfer request was also intended to facilitate Hanson’s attendance at his Nov. 9 clemency hearing, he didn’t challenge BOP’s assertion that Hanson’s transfer is not in the public’s best interest.
Federal officials, said the defense, “did not indicate whether the denial of the transfer is related to the moratorium on federal executions that was announced in June 2021. President Biden expressed his opposition to the death penalty during his campaign, and Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on June 30, 2021 that the administration would put federal executions on hold in order to review policies adopted under the Trump administration.”
AG Garland has stated, “The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely. That obligation has special force in capital cases.”