Tahlequah Daily Press

Features

February 27, 2013

Series of hearings may lead to trial

This is the first in an occasional series on the workings of the court and legal system.

TAHLEQUAH — Suspects who find themselves charged with crimes in Cherokee County and other parts of Oklahoma can face a number of court hearings before they end up in a jury trial – if they make it that far at all.

The court process can often be bogged down in legal terms that mean little to the average person without explanation from a lawyer or judge. Some cases went their way through the court system in a matter of months, while others could be caught up in years’ worth of hearings.

In Oklahoma, an alleged criminal may be arrested before he or she is formally charged, but some are charged in district court before their arrest.

Formal charges are lined out in a court “information” prepared by prosecutors, and as judges explain to jurors during trial, that document isn’t evidence of guilt, but rather is used to detail the allegations.

Some of the significant steps in a felony case involve a judicial appearance, a preliminary hearing, a district court arraignment, and a jury trial.

“There can be some intermediate steps inserted in there for convenience purposes, or for other reasons like trying to resolve cases prior to trial,” said District Judge Darrell Shepherd.

Shepherd said the person accused of a crime will first face a judicial appearance following his or her arrest. The term “initial appearance” is commonly used for that first court date, but “arraignment” is also used loosely from time to time, Shepherd said.

During the first appearance, the accused will be told what he or she is charged with, and bail will be set or denied by the judge. Factors considered in setting a bond vary, but can include details of the case and whether the alleged criminal has any prior offenses.

The accused will then face a preliminary hearing – a process rarely used in other states, according to Shepherd.

“Most states have a grand jury procedure; a preliminary hearing is not the norm in most states,” said Shepherd. “Most states have a prosecutor that presents the case to a grand jury, and they determine whether to indict the defendant, similar to the federal system.”

But in Oklahoma, defendants will appear in a preliminary hearing set before a judge.

“The state has to establish two things at a preliminary hearing: that a felony was committed, and that probable cause exists to believe that [the suspect] is the defendant who committed it,” said Shepherd. “It serves as kind of a process for a judge to screen cases to determine whether there’s enough evidence to go to trial.”

Prosecutors typically present witness testimony and evidence during the preliminary hearing, but it’s often only a small amount of their overall case – “just to show enough” that the case, in prosecutors’ minds, should proceed, Shepherd said.

The accused also has a right to present testimony at a preliminary hearing, but Shepherd said that rarely occurs.

At the conclusion of a preliminary hearing, the presiding judge will decide whether to bind over the accused for trial.

“The vast majority of cases are bound over, but I wouldn’t say it’s rare that a case is dismissed at a preliminary hearing,” said Shepherd.

If he or she is bound over, the accused will eventually face a district court arraignment, the third major step in the road to a jury trial.

“The district court arraignment is to make sure the defendant understands what he’s charged with, and all of his rights, and that’s when he or she enters the first formal plea to the charge,” said Shepherd.

If the case makes its way to the district court arraignment, and a plea agreement isn’t reached with the accused, he or she will then be set for a jury trial.

1
Text Only
Features
  • RF-award-dogs-2.jpg Red Fern Festival offers family fun

    Tahlequah’s Red Fern Festival offers attendees a stroll back in time to old-fashioned family fun.
    It’s a way to show children how their great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents lived and played, and tell stories about, “the good ol’ days.” And it’s a way to enjoy what is best about life in Tahlequah, for many folks, including spending quality time as a family, enjoying sunshine, and chatting with old friends and perhaps meeting new ones.
    The event, slated for the last weekend in April since 2007, has brought the best of the novel, “Where The Red Fern Grows,” by Wilson Rawls, to downtown, since the movie was filmed here.

    April 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • wherearethey.jpg Padilla enjoys reconnecting with childhood

    As a child spending time at her grandparents’ house, with all her aunts, uncles, and cousins around her, Kerrie (Bosley) Padilla spent endless hours outside playing chase, catching fireflies, or writing and acting out plays.
    In 1987, after her dad got out of the Navy, the family moved here from Georgia to be closer to that family: matriarch Dorothy Monzingo, and maternal grandparents Dorothy and Dwight Allen. Her parents, DeAnna and Steve Edwards – as well as a couple of siblings and some aunts, uncles and cousins – still live here.
    Eventually, Padilla graduated from Northeastern State University, and then its College of Optometry.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • rf-Dream1.jpg Dream Theatre spotlights songwriters

    Dreams can come true for local aspiring songwriters who seek to gain performance experience.
    For one young musician, Thursday night was an unexpected dream of discovery, as well.
    Two opportunities are available to musicians at the Dream Theatre each month, the new Songwriters’ Showcase which opened Thursday night and Premier Night for musicians who have a few songs or a set, but not a whole show.
    In search of the groove that works for The Dream, Manager Larry Clark is partnering with Blake Turner, Lakes Country operation manager.
    The Songwriters’ Showcase, which will continue the third Thursday of the month in conjunction with Tahlequah Main Street Association’s Third Thursday Art Walk downtown, features seasoned performers who can share some of their personal insights into the how, when and why of their songwriting experiences.

    April 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Dream, Brewdog’s to host music festivals

    One sign of spring’s arrival is the scheduling of music festivals, and 10 bands will visit a Tahlequah venue May 24, the Saturday before Memorial Day.

    April 17, 2014

  • rf-Zoe-thing.jpg Conference attendees get words of encouragement

    Words of encouragement and door prizes were bountiful Saturday morning at the annual Zoë Institute’s Women’s Conference.
    Ten women shared words of wisdom in areas from happiness to health, and 100 gifts were given out, including the grand prize of gasoline for a year.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • sp-symposium-art-panel.jpg Panelists discuss impact of Southeastern art

    Until recently, most people had a certain expectation of American Indian art – and it didn’t include images familiar to people in and around Cherokee County.
    “A lot of times, when people think about Native art, they immediately think of Plains art or Southwestern art,” said Roy Boney (Cherokee), Tahlequah artist and moderator of the panel discussion “Southeastern Indian Art: Building Community and Raising Awareness,” held Friday, April 11, at the NSU Symposium on the American Indian.
    Boney and the other panelists are frustrated by the divide between mainstream expectations of Native American art and their need for genuine self-expression.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • rf-Teacher.jpg Dickerson believes in putting the student first

    As a child growing up in Elk City, Cherokee Elementary teacher Debra Dickerson lined up the neighborhood children and animals to play school.
    “I’ve been a teacher ever since I could talk. My mother always said she knew where I was because she could hear me bossing everyone,” she said.
    The classroom then was a blanket tossed over limbs of her big cherry tree on Eisenhower Street. Recess was spent tree-climbing, running, riding in the bus (her red wagon) and being creative.
    “Those were the days before video games and TV,” she said.
    Dickerson, 2013-’14 Cherokee Elementary Teacher of the Year, believes a classroom should be a safe haven for children, because school is often the best part of their day.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • kh-trash-pickup.jpg Cleaning things up

    Lowrey was part of the Cherokee Nation’s Career Service Center contingency of 11 volunteers. Other volunteers cleaned up trash along the roadway from the Cherokee Casino to the NSU campus.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-NinthAmendment.jpg Right to privacy leans partly on Article 9

    While the other articles of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights are straightforward – at least, enough for Americans to bicker over in court – the Ninth Amendment might cause a bit of confusion.
    It reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
    There are no rights enumerated, and it might be difficult to argue one’s Ninth Amendment rights in court, though it has been done successfully.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • stickball-2.jpg Stickball

    The American Indian Science and Engineering Society and Native American Student Associationat Northeastern State University hosted a traditional stickball game as part of closing cultural activities during the 42nd annual Symposium on the American Indian Friday. Participants included, from left: Nathan Wolf, Disosdi Elk and Chris Smith.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

How confident are you that the immunizations for infants and children are reasonably safe?

Not at all confident.
Somewhat confident.
Relatively confident.
Extremely confident.
undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Stocks