Oklahoma executes death row inmate for 1996 murder of ballerina

Anthony Sanchez maintained his innocence up until the end

Kelly Rissman
Thursday 21 September 2023 22:45 BST
Oklahoma Execution Sanchez
Oklahoma Execution Sanchez

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Louise Thomas

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Death row inmate Anthony Sanchez, who was convicted of the 1996 murder of a 21-year-old ballerina, was executed in Oklahoma.

Juli Busken, who was studying ballet at the University of Oklahoma, was abducted from her apartment in Norman on 20 December, 1996, and then subsequently raped, and shot in the head. Busken’s body was found that evening near Lake Stanley Draper in Oklahoma City.

Although Sanchez’s new lawyer had requested a stay of execution, as he said he needed more time to review the case, the Supreme Court rejected it.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said in the wake of the execution, “Juli was murdered 26 years, nine months and one day ago. The family has found closure and peace.”

“I’m innocent,” the death row inmate reportedly said from inside the death chamber. “I didn’t kill nobody.”

Sanchez has long maintained his innocence and didn’t request clemency. Sanchez’s spiritual advisor Rev Jeff Hood weighed in on that decision to KOCO 5: “He felt like it wasn’t going to be fair.” He explained that Sanchez “would rather die standing for his innocence than begging for clemency on his knees.”

The case went cold for years until Sanchez became connected to Busken’s death in 2004, when he was serving time for a burglary conviction; his DNA matched the DNA in the sperm found on Busken’s clothes.

In 2006, Sanchez was sentenced to death for Busken’s murder.

According to The Intercept, just before the tragic incident, Busken had finished her last semester and had been accepted to the University of Arkansas for a graduate degree in elementary education.

In 2001, an ex-girlfriend accused Sanchez of tying her up and raping her — but Sanchez repeatedly denied the allegation and the charge was dropped, the outlet reported.

In an effort to prove their client’s innocence, according to The Intercept, ​​Sanchez’s trial lawyer suggested that Sanchez’s father, Glen, killed Busken.

In a letter, Sanchez torched his attorney’s argument, writing: “What kind of demented lawyer are you?” I feel that you have done your best to help seal my fate at death.”

But years later, another person pointed fingers at Glen.

Charlotte Beattie, Glen’s longtime girlfriend, said that the forensic sketches looked like Glen, not his son. She also told the outlet that her boyfriend’s behaviour was much more violent than his son, and accused him of inflicting “mental abuse.”

She even went so far as to say — in a sworn statement, according to The Oklahoman — that Glen began admitting that he had killed Busken in 2020. “Once he said he ... enjoyed watching her die,” Ms Beattie wrote. “Glen said that he regretted Anthony was on death row for something Glen did. But he said that Anthony was tough and could deal with being locked up, whereas Glen wasn’t strong enough to adapt to being incarcerated.

Glen reportedly died by suicide in 2022.

Before he was executed, he told the publication, referring to Busken’s family: “What happened to their daughter was a tragedy. It should have never happened. And if this is what they need to feel closure, then I hope it helps.” He insisted: “I didn’t kill Juli Busken.”

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