Anthony Sanchez, a 44-year-old Oklahoma inmate, was executed on Thursday for the 1996 killing of University of Oklahoma dance student Juli Busken. The case remained unsolved for years until DNA evidence from the crime scene was matched to Sanchez, who was already serving time for burglary. Sanchez was pronounced dead at 10:19 a.m. following a three-drug injection at the State Penitentiary in McAlester.
Despite maintaining his innocence, Sanchez chose not to present a clemency application to the state’s Pardon and Parole Board, which could have spared his life. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request for a stay of execution shortly before Sanchez was put to death.
Busken, a 21-year-old dance student, was abducted from the parking lot of her Norman apartment complex on December 20, 1996. Her body was found later that evening near Lake Stanley Draper in southeastern Oklahoma City. She had been bound, raped, and shot in the head.
Sanchez, who was serving time for a burglary conviction, was linked to the crime through DNA evidence found on Busken’s clothing. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2006. Sanchez consistently maintained his innocence, claiming that the DNA evidence was fabricated.
Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond stated that the DNA evidence unequivocally linked Sanchez to the killing. The odds of randomly selecting an individual with the same genetic profile were calculated to be 1 in 94 trillion among Southwest Hispanics.
A private investigator hired by an anti-death penalty group raised concerns about the DNA evidence, suggesting possible contamination and miscommunication of its strength to the jury. However, former Cleveland County District Attorney Tim Kuykendall, who was involved in Sanchez’s trial, stated that there was no evidence pointing to anyone other than Sanchez.
Oklahoma recently ended a six-year moratorium on executions. The state had previously faced concerns about its execution methods after incidents in 2014 and 2015.