James Hanna, Ohio

 

Updated: Monday, December 2, 2019

James Galen Hanna is scheduled to be executed at 10 am local time on Wednesday, December 11, 2019, at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Mansfield, Ohio. Seventy-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 41 years in prison.

James was raised as one of nine children by a single mother, who allegedly abused her children. James father died when he was six years of age. He 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 cell mate 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 cell mate, 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 and took the lock off Peter’s lockbox and placed it inside a sock. While Peter was sleeping, Hanna stabbed him in the eye with 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 and 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 and 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. Peter was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.

 

Over the past several years, Ohio has struggled to establish a satisfactory execution protocol. More information regarding Ohio’s execution problems can be found here.  

 

Pray for peace for the families of the Peter Copas and Edward Tucker. Pray for peace for Harvey Blitz. Pray for strength for the family of James Hanna. 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 prior to his execution. Pray that James may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.

 

  

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