Hansen Writes Letter To Jackson Newspaper

Tracy Alan Hansen, who faces lethal injection in less than 48 hours, doesn't believe his death will bring closure to family of the man he killed.

"I think the death penalty is wrong,'' Hansen said in a letter to The Clarion-Ledger newspaper of Jackson. "I have to believe this while believing that I deserve to live.''

Hansen said the desire of the family of slain state Trooper Bruce Ladner to see him die "takes from their life, and there's something more and better for their hearts than whatever the motive is in their desire for me to be killed,'' Hansen writes in a response to a letter the Jackson newspaper mailed to him at the state penitentiary at Parchman.

Hansen is scheduled to be executed Wednesday for the 1987 shooting death of Ladner.

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove has said he will announce Tuesday his decision on appeals for clemency. The governor could pardon Hansen, commute his death sentence to life in prison without parole, grant clemency or stay the execution.

In his letter to the Jackson newspaper, Hansen said he hadn't slept for three days before the shooting and had been drinking wine coolers the day of the slaying. Hansen said he never meant to kill Ladner. He said he had a history of stealing things, not of violence.

Hansen said he should have never had guns but ended up with one in his hand when he shot Ladner, who had pulled him over on a routine traffic stop on Interstate 10 west of Gulfport. Ladner was shot once in the shoulder and once in the back.

Hansen said he told the trooper to "'Hold it right there,' and he panicked and went for his gun ... and I panicked and shot ... and standing there with two loaded guns, there was surely no intent to kill ...''

Ladner was helpless when he was shot in the shoulder, said Herman Cox, then an assistant Harrison County district attorney who helped prosecute Hansen. Cox said there was no need to shoot him again, but Hansen shot Ladner again execution-style in the back.

In his rambling letter, Hansen criticized the justice system. The thousands of dollars state officials say are spent to house a person for one year could be better spent, he writes, "to help children when they first start showing problems and (to) have better care for those in juvenile facilities.'' But "politicians find it easier to talk about taking the streets back, how bad crime is, you're always in danger I and I'll lock them up forever - in other words, do very little to help the problem,'' Hansen wrote.

Kirk Ladner of Gulfport, brother of the slain trooper, said Monday that Hansen's letter is another indication of him "grasping for straws'' now.

Hansen praised Bruce Ladner in his letter.

"I've talked with several officers who knew Bruce - seems everyone knew him and had something to say about him, and nothing bad. Even many prisoners knew him, and said he was a fair and honest man ...,'' he wrote.

"I never forgot the anger and hurt I saw in the faces of his children at my trial, and the fact they had to grow up with that I changed the rest of their life, and even now I can see ways they're still hurting about it,'' the letter said.

But capital punishment does not give families closure, Hansen said.

"(I)f I had been sentenced to life, then it would have been far more settled with the family in ways, but, now fifteen years later, it's all (brought back) to (the) surface ... for the last time??? I don't think so - I think whether it (is) revenge or hate or whatever confusion, it will be part of them very often until the confusion is overcome,'' he said.

Hansen said he cannot sense the finality of his execution.

"I tend to feel that it's not here today, so I don't have to worry about it today I if there's no stay by the 17th, I can worry enough that day.''

And if he dies on Wednesday, Hansen writes, "I can appreciate finally being away from Parchman, where I've spent 15 years in a cell the size of your bathroom.''