District 27 District Attorney Jack Thorp recently announced the guilty verdict of an Okay man accused of murdering a 15-year-old boy.
"I just concluded my 42nd first-degree murder trial, and my 101st felony trial, so I have a lot of experience with these. As the elected district attorney, I feel responsible for the proper prosecution of all crimes," said Thorp.
Cody Thompson, 26, was found guilty of first-degree murder and desecration of a corpse by a jury of two women and 10 men. The punishment for first-degree murder can result in the death penalty, or life in prison with the possibility of parole. In this case, the jury recommended Thompson serve life without the possibility of parole.
There are various degrees of homicide: first-degree and second-degree murder; first-degree and second-degree manslaughter; and negligent homicide.
"Generally speaking, the level of intent dictates which charge to file. Murder 1 requires malice aforethought - the specific intent to kill. However, we can also file felony murder 1," said Thorp. "In the cases we can file murder 1 when the defendant or an accomplice cause the death of someone during: forcible rape, robbery with a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, escape from lawful custody, eluding an officer, first-degree burglary, arson 1, unlawful distributing or dispensing of controlled dangerous substances, trafficking in illegal drugs."
Second-degree murder is reserved for cases where an individual performed imminently dangerous conduct and caused a death without the intention of killing.
"I make most of the murder 1 decisions, or those decisions where murder 1 is the arrested charge, but we choose to depart from the arrested charge, and we charge a lesser homicide crime," said Thorp.
In January, Ricky Don Rainwater, 45, was found guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree robbery. Initially going into the trial, Rainwater was charged with first-degree murder, larceny of an automobile, and robbery by force or fear.
District Judge Doug Kirkley explained that if there is evidence of elements of a different crime, the defendant can ask the judge to instruct the jury that they can consider a lesser included offense.
"When a trial is presented to a jury, our criminal law allows for the jury to consider what we call lesser included crimes, if the defendant requests that," he said.
"Like in a murder case, a first-degree murder has elements that the State of Oklahoma has to prove -- with the malice aforethought and deliberate intent to kill someone."
Kirkley said the evidence in Rainwater's case was presented that he didn't go the victim's residence intending to kill him. He said jurors didn't find evidence of deliberate intent, but they did find elements of second-degree.
The jury recommended a sentence of life in prison for second-degree murder, and 20 years for first-degree robbery.
Manslaughter is the unlawful killing that doesn't involve malice aforethought. Thorp said manslaughter can be many things, including recklessly causing the death of a person and the causing of death while committing a misdemeanor.
"Often causing the death in a circumstance where the suspect believed incorrectly that they could use deadly force in defense of themselves or others -- when they are defending non-deadly force," said Thorp.
Second-degree manslaughter is causing a death when a person is culpably negligent -- recklessly acting without reasonable caution and putting others at risk of injury or death.
Negligent homicides are generally cases where a traffic violation causes the death of a person.
Thorp said there are between 4,000 to 5,000 criminal cases a year, and those that are violent and adversely affect the community are his priority. He said as part of District 27 policy, he is advised about all homicide cases.
"Generally, those cases that cause the most alarm in our communities dictate my direct involvement," he said. "If a case doesn't involve death, but there are facts that indicate an individual was excessively violent or vicious, I generally want to be in those cases."
The District 27 DA has had a lot of experience with criminal cases and has been an attorney and prosecutor for 21 years, with over 11 years of experience reviewing officer-involved shooting cases.
"I'm proud of that experience. Since my second year of law school I have been employed in prosecuting attorney (Arkansas) and district attorney's offices," he said. "I have worked my way up from prosecuting speeding tickets to death penalty cases, and all types of cases in between."