An Oklahoma City woman and a Shawnee woman each saw their murder conviction overturned last week by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. Oklahoma criminal defense attorneys for the women cited judge error and ineffective counsel, respectively, as grounds for the appeal.
Appeal of a Homicide Conviction
On Wednesday, May 4, 2011, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the 2009 homicide conviction of Kassie Lakei Bills, 29, of Oklahoma City. Bills was convicted of the 2007 murder of 24-year-old Shequiea Thompson. Bills admitted to police that she shot and stabbed Thompson, a friend of the defendant, during an argument.
Her Oklahoma County criminal lawyer contended at trial that Bills was insane at the time of the killing, but jurors failed to accept the strategy, finding Bills guilty of first degree murder. Bills was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. As part of her appeal, Bills and her defense lawyer argued that Oklahoma District Court Judge Ray C. Elliot gave improper instructions to the jury before deliberation.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals agreed that Judge Elliot was mistaken in urging the jury to reach a decision quickly. Judge Elliot instructed jurors, “When you get up there, and if one of your fellow jurors starts to stray off, gets far outside of this narrowly defined responsibility, the other 11 of you have got to go, ‘Wait a minute, let's go, we don't want to be up here all day, all week, all month, all year.'” He called jurors who did not agree with the majority "hardheaded."
The appeals court said that Oklahoma law requires that jurors be deliberate in reaching a verdict, taking as much time as needed to reach a fair and legal decision. Furthermore, jurors are urged not to set aside their honest opinions merely for the sake of reaching a verdict. In the second appeal, Twilia Renae Wise, 33, of Shawnee was granted a new trial after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals found that she received ineffective counsel at her 2009.
Represented by Oklahoma defense lawyer Bill Roberson, Wise was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Wise was convicted of the beating death of Wanda Jackson, 62, of Meeker. Wise and three other suspects were accused of breaking into Jackson's home at the urging of William Dean Brame, 43, Jackson's former son-in-law.
Brame wanted the assailants to assault his ex-wife, but when she wasn't at the home, they bound and beat Jackson, who died of her injuries. Brame pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and received a sentence of 20 years in prison. Wise's accomplices received sentences similar to Brame's, with her punishment far exceeding theirs. District Attorney Richard Smotherman said he plans to retry Twilia Wise on the same charge. For more information on criminal appeals, contact a criminal defense attorney in Oklahoma.