McALESTER (AP) — An Oklahoma death row inmate convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a 25-year-old Korean national 34 years ago was executed Tuesday after he apologized for taking the victim’s life and said his execution “is justified.”
Anthony Rozelle Banks, 61, was pronounced dead at 6:07 p.m. after receiving a lethal injection of drugs at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Banks is the fourth Oklahoma death row inmate to be executed this year.
Banks was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death by a Tulsa County jury for the June 6, 1979, killing of Sun “Kim” Travis. Banks was already serving a life prison sentence for his conviction in the April 11, 1978, slaying of a Tulsa convenience store clerk during an armed robbery when he was linked to Travis’ death by DNA evidence 18 years after her death.
“I can’t express the terrible things I’ve done. I’m sorry,” Banks said.
“To know that I took lives hurts me,” he said. He said he knew he had also hurt the victims’ family members.
“This is justified,” Banks said. “I’ve done one good thing in my life and that is to become a Jehovah’s Witness. For that, I’m eternally grateful.”
Banks, strapped to a gurney with IV lines attached to his arms, acknowledged witnesses to his execution, including his attorney, Tom Hird of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Oklahoma City, and an unidentified spiritual adviser.
“I’m thankful everybody’s here. I appreciate that,” he said.
Banks singled out Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz, who also witnessed his execution.
“I haven’t seen you in years, decades,” Banks said with a smile.
Banks closed his eyes and took several deep breaths as the lethal drugs were injected into his body. He appeared to grimace briefly before he stopped breathing and his body went limp.
No one from the victim’s family witnessed Banks’ execution. Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued a statement beforehand that said his thoughts were with the victim’s family.
“Anthony Banks brutally ended the life of an innocent young woman and has proven his willingness to continue committing violent crimes,” Pruitt said.
About five people protested the execution at the governor’s mansion in Oklahoma City.
One of the protesters, D.W. Hearn, 68, held a rosary. He said he was praying for the man about to be executed, the man’s family and the victim’s family. He said he believes Oklahoma will eventually abolish the death penalty.
Travis was abducted from the parking lot of a Tulsa apartment complex and was later raped and shot in the head. Her partially clothed body was found in a roadside ditch on the city’s north side the morning after her disappearance.
Banks and a co-defendant, Allen Wayne Nelson, 54, were charged in August 1997, when their DNA was detected in evidence found on Travis’ body and clothing. A 12-member jury convicted Nelson of first-degree murder and sentenced him to life in prison.
Banks was already in prison following his conviction for the 1978 slaying of David Fremin, who was shot and killed during an armed robbery. Banks was convicted of first-degree murder by a Tulsa County jury that imposed the death penalty in that case.
But the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial in 1994, saying prosecutors failed to disclose evidence to the defense that the jury could have used to find Banks innocent. The court also said Banks received ineffective counsel. Rather than face the possibility of being sentenced to death again, Banks pleaded guilty to the murder charge in exchange for a sentence of life in prison.
In July, Banks waived his right to ask the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to commute his death sentence to life in prison.
The state has executed three other death row inmates this year.
Steven Ray Thacker, 42, was executed on March 12 for the 1999 death of a woman whose credit cards he used to buy Christmas presents for his family. James Lewis DeRosa, 36, was executed on June 18 for the October 2000 stabbing deaths of a couple on whose ranch he had worked. And Brian Darrell Davis, 39, was executed on June 25 for raping and killing his girlfriend’s mother in 2001. No other executions are scheduled.