San Quentin prison
Oklahoma is notorious for being one of the busiest death chambers for inmates in the country. Stephen Lam/Reuters

Anthony Sanchez, who is on death row in an Oklahoma penitentiary shocked the authorities after he fired his attorneys and skipped his clemency hearing. Sanchez's attorneys argued that the clemency hearing was the man's last chance to save his life.

The decision came after Sanchez had developed a close but platonic relationship with a pastor who has faced criticism from capital defence attorneys and anti-death penalty activists.

Rev. Jeff Hood is a spiritual advisor who works with those facing the death penalty across the US.

Hood has been penalised by court officials for allegedly turning clients against their lawyers at the last moment. Oklahoma, where Hood is most prominent, is notorious for being one of the busiest death chambers for inmates in the country.

Those who are penalising Hood, claim that the pastor is attempting to keep himself in the spotlight as part of his plan to reach fame.

Defending his actions, Hood revealed that he is a member of the national anti-capital punishment organization "Death Penalty Action", which sets out to draw public attention to people's cases. Hood believes that by raising awareness of the many death penalty cases, he will succeed in stopping executions.

Critics also note that Hood is using the limelight to raise money for Death Penalty Action.

On Thursday 21 September, Sanchez is scheduled to receive the lethal injection – following the murder of a 21-year-old University of Oklahoma dance student Juli Busken in 1996. At the time, Sanchez was 27.

Sanchez, now 44 years old, went uncharged for the murder for years until his new evidence, that linked him to the young woman's slaying, was found. The DNA evidence that proved Sanchez's guilt, was found by forensics on the victim's clothes.

Rev. Jeff Hood has also been penalised for attempting to incite violence against the US Government.

Before firing his attorneys, Sanchez had exhausted his right to appeal his case – getting it all the way to federal court.

Like Hood, Sanchez's court-appointed federal attorneys were members of an anti-death penalty organisation. The attorneys were associated with the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which also penalised Hood for offering his misguided legal suggestions to the inmates.

Randall Coyne, one of Sanchez's former court-appointed attorneys, spoke of Hood's alleged intent to profit off of the downfall of those on the death penalty.

Coyne told reporters: "What they're doing is using this myth of Anthony Sanchez, an innocent man facing his death, as a publicity fundraising campaign."

"This is all about raising money," Coyne added.

After allegedly taunting Sanchez into firing his lawyers, Hood publicly promised his platform that he would walk 120 miles from the state institution to deliver petitions to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Hood told his followers that the petitions called for a delay in the 44-year-olds execution.

A short while after the announcement, Death Penalty Action sent out fundraising solicitations on Hood's behalf. Death Penalty Action has continued to call for funding every day this week.

Don Heath, the executive director of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and attorneys, also noted that Hood and his fellow Death Penalty Action workers are corrupting the prisoners' last chance of life.

Heath declared: "Essentially, we think they're doing harm to the inmates... I don't try to offer inmates legal advice. On some of the cases, especially the Sanchez case, they seem to be they're giving their legal assessment of the case."

IRS data shows that in 2021, Death Penalty Action boosted its fundraising profits to almost $425,000. In 2018, the organisation received a total of $90,000.

Denying the allegations against his group, Abraham Bonowitz, the executive director of Death Penalty Action, said: "Nobody is getting rich here, I can tell you that... We are not in the business of trying to get in the way of attorneys... We're in the business of trying to get people off of death row."