OKC Man Convicted of Manslaughter, Not Murder, after Mistrial18-Oct-2013
In March 2012, a jury in Oklahoma County convicted Billy Michael Thompson of first degree murder in the 2010 stabbing death of Manuel Leon Sanchez. After his conviction, however, a judge declared a mistrial after it was revealed that assistant district attorneys Pam Kimbrough and Kimberly Miller failed to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence to Thompson's defense lawyer. Kimbrough and Miller were fired by the District Attorney's Office, and District Judge Donald Deason ordered a retrial.
Now, Thompson has been convicted again, but this time, of first degree manslaughter and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, rather than first degree murder. A jury selected sentences of 20 years in prison for manslaughter and 5 years in prison for assault.
Thompson is convicted of stabbing Sanchez and Maxwell M. McIntyre outside of his home after a day of heavy drinking. Thompson's public defender argued that his client acted in self defense after having twice been beaten by McIntyre. Prosecutors say Thompson went into his home and grabbed two knives, stabbing McIntyre in the chest and fatally wounding Sanchez.
A mistrial was declared after it was discovered that prosecutors failed to disclose an inconsistent witness statement to the defense. Witness Jose Padilla initially told police that Thompson followed Sanchez and McIntyre off of the property, stabbing them on the street. However, he later told the assistant district attorneys that the stabbings in fact took place on Thompson's driveway. The fact that the eyewitness placed the assault on Thompson's property could have supported the defense's claim that Thompson was acting in self defense after being assaulted at his own home.
Former assistant district attorneys Kimbrough and Miller did not reveal the potentially exculpatory inconsistent eyewitness testimony to the defense, and in fact entered as evidence Padilla's initial testimony that the stabbings took place on the street.
After learning of the withheld evidence, District Attorney David Prater launched an investigation of his two employees, releasing this statement:
"I can confirm we are conducting an investigation in alleged unethical behavior during trial. We take allegations involving misconduct very seriously and are taking appropriate action. As soon as we learned of the alleged misconduct we immediately notified the Oklahoma County Public Defender Bob Ravitz and the trial judge Don Deason."
Exculpatory evidence is any evidence that tends to support a defendant's innocence. The prosecution is required to turn over any such evidence to the defense team, whether or not such evidence is requested. Failure to disclose exculpatory evidence can lead to a mistrial or the reversal of a conviction. Depending on the nature of such evidence, the trial judge may order a dismissal of the case or a re-trial.
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