Oklahoma Has One of the Highest Incarceration Rates in the Nation
Video Transcribed: Intimidation of a witness in Oklahoma does not require intimidation. That’s the ruling by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. I’m an attorney in Oklahoma, James Wirth, and that’s what we’re talking about, a new decision out from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, where a person is accused of intimidating a witness, actually got a nine-year sentence based on that allegation. And he filed an appeal to that, to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, saying that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of that.
And essentially, the facts are that his brother was being accused of domestic assault and battery. We assume that the defendant, in this case, knew the person making those allegations because it was the romantic partner of his brother and he made various contacts with that person talking about the case. And it talks about there being multiple conversations about it. And the way that it describes the conversations is that he tried to talk her down from pursuing the prosecution.
So that was the substance of those conversations. Now, what is not alleged is that there was any kind of actual intimidation, that there were no threats of harm, no force, no fear, just conversations where he’s suggesting maybe don’t prosecute this case, maybe don’t go forward and try to get his brother thrown in jail.
So he says that should be insufficient to convict him of intimidation of a witness because there was no actual intimidation. No force, no fear, no threats. And the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals evaluates the statute in the case and finds that there are two different ways that you can get to intimidation of the witness.
One of them would be willfully preventing or I’m sorry, would be threatening harm through force or fear to prevent a witness from testifying or causing the witness to alter his or her testimony. And the court acknowledges that that standard is not met. However, under the statute, there is another broader standard that says willfully preventing or attempting to prevent a person from testifying.
So doesn’t require any kind of intimidation, any threats, any force, any fear, just according to them, anything that a person does to attempt to prevent a person from testifying. And they note, well, hereunder these facts, by contacting her, they’re trying to talk her down from testifying. Then that is a technical violation of this statute, this broad statute defining witness intimidation. And then, therefore, they affirmed the decision and the nine-year sentence that this guy is serving for trying to talk this person down.
So that argument is a correct reading of the statute. However, there are some things that the court needs to read that are beyond and above the statute and that’s the constitution. We’ve got rights to free speech, and there’s no discussion in here regarding where the defendant’s free speech rights ended and where this crime of witness intimidation began when we’re talking about no threats, no force, no fear.
So I think it’s an excellent example of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals getting it wrong again, in order to affirm a sentence, that somebody went to jail for nine years for making a phone call trying to talk somebody down and that’s by the own words that are in the opinion justifying it. There should have been a discussion regarding the first amendment rights to free speech and why it is not applicable in this case.
What conduct was done to go beyond the right to free speech to make it criminal in this case? Just because the statute is broad and the language fits within the statute does not mean it is a crime if you have a constitutional right to free speech. There should have been an analysis on that. There was no analysis whatsoever. So here’s another example of perhaps why the state of Oklahoma has the highest or second-highest incarceration rate in the nation and the world.
If you’ve got a question about criminal charges in Tulsa, it’s about for you or a friend or family member, you’d probably going to want to talk with it more specifically than the general information here. You’re going to want to schedule an appointment confidentially to get that scheduled or if you want to read the entire case we discussed, click here.