Oklahoma’s Incarceration Rate Is High Because Relief Is Denied Frequently
Video Transcribed: Judge sentences man to nine years in prison after false statements from a prosecutor. Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denies relief. I’m an attorney in Tulsa James Wirth, and we’re talking about a new opinion from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals that kind of gives us yet another idea of why the incarceration rate in Oklahoma is leading top one or two in the nation and in the world and this gives us an idea of why, because of these types of opinions that we see from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, denying relief to defendants, where it seems like they should have been entitled to relief.
So what happened in this case? All right, so we’ve got a minor, someone under the age of 18, who is charged with a felony offense, he’s charged as a youthful offender due to his age. He requests to reverse certified as a juvenile, that’s denied by the court.
The state makes a request that he be sentenced as an adult, and that is granted by the court. So the first sentence that he gets, even though he’s minor is an adult sentence where he gets a six, nine split. Six years in custody, and then nine years probation.
He serves his six years in custody and he’s out on probation and that’s where this case comes up. They’re alleging that he violated his probation, that he committed a new offense while on probation.
That new offense, I think based on my read of that, it’s extremely weak and I’m going to make a separate video on that issue but for the purposes of this video, evidence was put on and the judge was convinced that he violated his probation so the question is, what should his sentence be? Should he be revoked for the entire nine years probation, even though he’s already served a portion or should it be a part of that nine years probation?
This is what happened. Essentially arguments were made by the prosecutor and the prosecutor had said, “Through the youthful offender system, the defendant was able to get, in my opinion, a very advantageous sentence.”
Prosecutor said he didn’t know what programs or anything the defendant may have pleaded in the YO program, but noted that typically a YO defendants get an opportunity to complete various programs until they turn 18 years and five months, and then at that point, the court has to decide whether to bridge them into an adult sentence or whether to let them go from that point forward. In this case, he suggested to the court that he did the YO program, that he didn’t do very well because the court was compelled at that point to bridge into an adult sentence and send them in for six years.
So then he’s making arguments on sentencing. He says, “Essentially, this guy he’s had a chance. He was given a chance at the YO program. He was sent to prison, he gets out, and he’s immediately re-offending, I’m asking for a full revocation.” He’s saying, “This guy was given a chance as a youthful offender. He failed out of that program. He was bridged over and now he’s in trouble again.”
The judge says, “Well, I agree with the state of Oklahoma and revoke them in full for the nine years.” Okay. So what’s the problem here? Well, the problem here is he never actually got that chance with the YO program.
He wasn’t in the YO, he was immediately sentenced as an adult, he didn’t get that second chance, he didn’t fail out of that program, the entire argument here noted in this opinion for him getting the full revocation of the nine years is completely 100% false, and that is not in dispute.
The prosecutor makes completely false arguments. In this case, the defendant’s attorney did not object to it and the judge seemingly accepted all of that and appears to have used that in reasoning to give the full nine-year sentence.
They appeal this through the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals say, “Look, prosecutorial misconduct here, gave completely false information to the court, albeit I’m sure that was by accident, ineffective assistance of counsel, because the attorney representing the defendant did not correct them, did not set the record straight, and then we have the judge apparently agreeing with the state because he notes he agrees with the state after those arguments and then revoked for the full amount of time.” This is a case that seems pretty clear cut needs to go back for resentencing.
Let’s correct that, note the prosecutorial misconduct, correct information needs to be given, note that it was ineffective assistance of counsel for the defendant’s counsel not to correct it at the time, and allow the judge to sentence based on the actual facts of what occurred in this case.
However, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals does not go that way. Ultimately denies relief, essentially noting that based on these circumstances, we think the judge would have given the full nine years anyway.
Well, one, I don’t know. I think there’s reason to believe the judge would not have done that with the correct information, but two, I mean, what position is the defendant in here and what faith are we to have in the program if you’ve got a prosecutor that knows nothing about the case, gives false information about the procedural history, you have an attorney representing the defendant that either also doesn’t know about the procedure history of the case or fails to fix it, and then we allow a sentence to be the max sentence allowable under those circumstances with false information before the court.
If we allow that to stand, how much faith can we have in our criminal justice system and how onerous is it for the Oklahoma court of criminal appeals just to say, “You know what? We’re going to send it back for resentencing.” It doesn’t even require a new jury trial, it’s just a bench hearing anyway.
It would really cost very little for society to allow this rehearing, but it’s very harmful to have everyone believe, the defendant believes, that the prosecutor didn’t know about his case, his defense attorney did not even know and he was sentenced to nine years based on the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney, none of them properly knowing their procedural history of the case? This could’ve been corrected, should have been corrected.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals fails to do so and allows him to stay in for nine years, knowing that nobody involved in the proceeding actually knew the correct procedural history of the case.
That’s one example of what we’re dealing with in the state of Oklahoma and perhaps why our incarceration rate is so high because relief is denied quite frequently when I believe it should be granted. In this case, there at least there was one dissent to this opinion, but not enough to overcome the majority.
If you are facing a criminal charge in Tulsa, have concerns regarding your case, you’re going to want to talk to an attorney specifically about that confidentially or if you want to read the entire case we discussed, click here.