James Hanna, Ohio
Updated: Monday, May 16, 2022
James Galen Hanna was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Mansfield, Ohio. His execution has been rescheduled to Wednesday, May 14, 2025. Seventy-two-year-old James is convicted of the murder of 43-year-old Peter Copas at the Lebanon Correctional Institution in 1997. James has spent the last 43 years in prison.
James was raised as one of nine children by a single mother, who allegedly abused her children. His father died when he was six years of age. James grew up impoverished, and without indoor plumbing. He was eventually placed in foster care for a little while. James had a juvenile record. James first went to prison in 1978 after being convicted of aggravated murder for 18-year-old Edward Tucker, and attempted aggravated murder, for 26-year-old Harvey Blitz, for which he received a life sentence.
In mid-August 1997, James Hanna received Peter Copas as a new cellmate at the Lebanon Correctional Institution. From the beginning, the two men did not get along. Hanna did not know that he would be receiving a new cellmate, who then used Hanna’s property with Hanna’s permission. Peter also changed the condition of the cell.
Hanna complained to another inmate about Peter, claiming that Peter broke his television and complaining that he couldn’t tolerate Peter anymore. An inmate who wanted Peter to become his cellmate asked Hanna to just tolerate Peter until it could be arranged.
On August 21, 1997, Hanna returned to his cell to find the door open and his belongings stolen or laying around. Hanna was upset with Peter for leaving the door open and allowing his belongings to be stolen. Peter returned to the cell later that night and appeared to be intoxicated. Peter crawled into the top bunk and vomited.
Hanna decided that “he had had enough.” During the early morning hours of August 22, Hanna sharpened the tip of a paintbrush, took the lock off Peter’s lockbox, and placed it inside a sock. While Peter was sleeping, Hanna stabbed him in the eye with the paintbrush, causing the handle to break. Peter got up, yelling, and Hanna struck him over the head with the lock and with his fists, causing Peter to pass out. Hanna flushed the remains of the paintbrush and sock and put the lock back on the lockbox.
When Peter regained consciousness, he screamed “My celly’s trying to kill me,” leading corrections officers to investigate. Peter was taken to the prison infirmary, then to a local hospital, where tests were run. No indication was detected that a foreign object had lodged itself in or behind the eye. Peter was then returned to the prison infirmary. Neither Peter nor the hospital realized he had been stabbed in the eye.
On August 26, 1997, a foreign object was detected in the eye socket and surgery was performed the following day to remove it. Peter’s condition appeared to improve after the surgery, however on September 5, 1997, his medical condition deteriorated. On September 10, Peter died. An autopsy determined “the penetrating injury to the head” was the cause of death.
During Hanna’s trial, it was revealed that he bragged about the crime in a letter to another inmate and in-person to his former cellmate. A medical expert also testified that Peter’s death could have likely been avoided if the foreign object had been detected earlier. Hanna was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.
This is not Hanna’s first execution date. His execution has been rescheduled or postponed numerous times. For the last several years, Ohio has struggled to obtain execution drugs and decide upon which drugs to use for executions. This has resulted in an unofficial moratorium on executions in the state. Read more about the challenges Ohio has been facing regarding executions in the state here. Therefore, since Ohio schedules executions years in advance, execution dates are rescheduled. James Hanna’s execution is rescheduled to May 14, 2025.
Pray for peace for the families of Peter Copas and Edward Tucker. Pray for peace for Harvey Blitz. Please pray for strength for the family of James Hanna. Please pray that if James is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason that evidence will be presented before his execution. Pray that James may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
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