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Thread: Death Penalty Trial Set for May 14, 2018 for Gregory Jerome Epperson in 2017 OK Murder of Kelsey Tennant

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    Administrator Helen's Avatar
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    Death Penalty Trial Set for May 14, 2018 for Gregory Jerome Epperson in 2017 OK Murder of Kelsey Tennant


    Kelsey Tennant





    Tulsa could hand down its first death sentence in 8 years as state moves to make woman's slaying a capital case

    By Samantha Vicent
    Tulsa World

    The Tulsa County District Attorney's Office on Monday filed its intent to seek the death penalty against a man accused in a young woman's strangulation death, marking the first time prosecutors have asked for the maximum sentence since 2012's Good Friday shootings.

    Gregory Jerome Epperson, 41, is expected to appear in court Oct. 9 for arraignment before District Judge Doug Drummond on charges of first-degree murder in the March 20 homicide of 19-year-old Kelsey Tennant and assault against her boyfriend, Riley Allen, inside her east Tulsa apartment.

    Epperson's case is the first death penalty case in Tulsa County under District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler's purview since his election in 2014.

    If the case goes to trial and a jury unanimously recommends a death sentence, Epperson would be the first person in Tulsa County to face lethal injection since Raymond Johnson, who was sentenced to death in 2009 for the 2007 slayings of a woman and her baby.

    "The decision to file the Bill of Particulars was not one taken lightly by me or my office but was made after several months of careful consideration," Kunzweiler said in a statement. "As with all cases, Mr. Epperson is presumed innocent under the law until a judge or jury determines otherwise."

    In asking for a death sentence as an option against Epperson, Kunzweiler and Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray argue the beating and strangling of Tennant is especially atrocious, heinous or cruel. The two have mentioned previously an older unrelated murder case against Epperson, which was dropped partly over evidence concerns, as a sign Epperson will likely continue to commit acts of violence and be a threat to society.

    Also, Allen told Gray during a June 13 preliminary hearing that Epperson attacked him from behind when he entered the apartment after Tennant had already been attacked there. Allen said he was able to break free from Epperson's attempts to choke him and managed to get outside the residence to ask his neighbor, a friend of Epperson's, for help.

    Special Judge Deborrah Ludi-Leitch ordered Epperson to stand trial after the preliminary hearing. Since then his arraignment has been postponed twice while Epperson's legal team, provided to him as an indigent defendant, gathered evidence in hopes of dissuading the state from requesting capital punishment.

    Defense attorney Brian Boeheim represented Epperson during his preliminary hearing, but on July 25 Drummond appointed attorneys Shena Burgess and Beverly Atteberry, who have experience in capital cases, after receiving word the state might file a bill of particulars.

    Burgess said Monday that the defense had not yet presented its mitigation evidence to the state. She did not comment on the merits of Kunzweiler's and Gray's request but said she anticipates filing a motion this week to quash the decision ordering Epperson to face trial.

    She said she is also still in the process of receiving discovery, or evidence, from the state in the case.

    Capital cases in Oklahoma

    When prosecutors seek the death penalty against a defendant, they are required to submit a bill of particulars to the trial judge before trial court arraignment. As part of its process, the state will evaluate such areas as the strength of the case, the wishes of the victim's family and mitigating evidence gathered by the defendant's attorneys, such as life history or cognitive issues.

    Although neither Kunzweiler nor Gray have reviewed mitigation evidence on Epperson's behalf, Burgess said they encouraged her to provide them with any information the defense compiles. She said the length of time she's been on the case hasn't been enough to complete that work, as the defense is still working to obtain records about Epperson's past.

    "I'm still doing my due diligence," Burgess said. "This is (about) 6 months old, but we've only been in it for about a month. So we're doing everything we would have done in the first month of filing before (preliminary hearing.)"

    Typically, both sides will have at least two attorneys in the courtroom for a capital trial. It's not yet clear which assistant district attorney, if anyone, will work with Gray on Epperson's case; he has never taken a death penalty case to trial.

    State law also mandates that those ordered to die are automatically entitled to appellate reviews of their convictions and sentences.

    Kunzweiler's office considered the death penalty against 20-year-old Robert Bever, who was 18 when he and his brother Michael Bever were charged in the 2015 stabbing deaths of their parents and three siblings.

    However, Robert Bever pleaded guilty and received consecutive life-without-parole sentences. Michael Bever, who was 16 when he was arrested, is statutorily ineligible for the death penalty.

    A bill of particulars has not been filed since then-District Attorney Tim Harris did so in January 2013 against Jacob England and Alvin Watts. The two were charged with first-degree murder in four north Tulsa shootings on Good Friday in 2012, which prosecutors said targeted black people in a hate crime.

    England and Watts took plea deals in exchange for prosecutors withdrawing the bill of particulars. They are serving life without parole. Burgess, who is one of a handful of death penalty-qualified attorneys in the area, handled Watts' case.

    Tulsa County prosecutors have filed bills of particulars in nine cases since 2007, five of which were resolved before trial with plea deals of life without parole. Two of those resolutions were for England and Watts.

    The last capital case that went to trial in Tulsa County was against Darren Price, who was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the September 2011 Hicks Park homicides. A jury in 2014 recommended two life-
    without-parole terms, which prosecutors said at the time was possibly due to Price's young age — 19 — at the time of the incidents.

    Harris' administration also sought the death penalty in 2012 against Zane Atchison and Joel Pina for the August 2011 deaths of two people in a reported murder-for-hire scheme.

    Pina pleaded guilty in 2014 to amended charges of solicitation to commit murder and accessory after the fact. He received a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

    Atchison took his case to a jury, which recommended life-without-parole sentences in 2013. He was sentenced in September of that year.

    After Oklahoma's last execution in January 2015, when Charles Warner was put to death, questions and problems with the state's lethal injection protocol led to death row inmate Richard Glossip receiving a last-minute stay in September 2015.

    It effectively put a moratorium in place until 2018 as the Attorney General's Office said it will wait at least 150 days after receiving an updated lethal injection protocol from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to put any inmates on a schedule for execution.

    The DOC has given no indication of its readiness to continue lethal injections as of the Attorney General's Office's Aug. 31 status report filed with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

    http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/court...0b3a4ac71.html
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "I found a big story of murder"
    - Charles Martel

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    Tulsa man pleads not guilty in strangulation of 19-year-old woman; death penalty trial set for spring

    By Samantha Vicent
    Tulsa World

    A Tulsa man pleaded not guilty in the strangulation death of a 19-year-old woman and attack on her boyfriend inside the couple’s southeast Tulsa apartment, setting the stage for a capital trial to begin in May.

    Gregory Jerome Epperson, 41, was arraigned Monday on charges that he strangled Kelsey Tennant and attempted to do the same to her boyfriend, Riley Allen, on March 20.

    The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office had already filed a Bill of Particulars noting the state's intent to seek the death penalty in Epperson's case, the first time prosecutors have asked for the maximum sentence since 2012’s Good Friday shootings.

    The Bill of Particulars was read Monday in court, and a defense motion to quash the bindover for trial was overruled. Epperson will be tried on charges of first-degree murder and felony assault, with jury trial set for May 14.

    Tennant was a 2015 Broken Arrow High School graduate who later studied at Tulsa Community College with the goal of learning to be a therapist for people with special needs.

    An arrest report indicated Tennant’s neck had ligature marks, and an autopsy report says Tennant’s cause of death was asphyxia by strangulation

    Allen said during a preliminary hearing that he called Tennant but didn’t get a response, which prompted him to knock on the front door and then use his key to open it. He said that’s when Epperson attacked him from behind, shoved him down a short flight of stairs and began to choke him.

    Homicide Sgt. Dave Walker said in March that police initially believed Tennant’s arrival at the apartment surprised Epperson amid a break-in attempt but later said it was possible Epperson ambushed her when she got home and therefore gained access to the residence.

    Epperson's next court hearing is set for Feb. 12.

    http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/court...2c3bfb006.html
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "I found a big story of murder"
    - Charles Martel

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