Criminal Appeals Court Upholds Death Sentence for Triple-Murderer

For the second time, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has affirmed the death penalty for convicted murderer Shaun Michael Bosse.

Bosse, 34, of Blanchard, was convicted of killing a Dibble woman and her two children in 2010.

Originally Convicted of Murder

Bosse, who had briefly dated Katrina Griffin, 24, killed her, her 8-year-old son, and her 6-year-old daughter in order to cover up that he had been stealing from him. The three bodies were found inside Griffin's burning home. She and her son Christian had been stabbed to death. Her daughter Chasity was locked in a closet, where she died of smoke inhalation. While the Griffin home burned, Bosse pawned more than 100 stolen items.

Bosse appealed the death penalty in his case (learn more about the appeals process here), saying that the court erred in allowing three family members of the victims to recommend a death sentence to the jury. This allowance, Bosse's attorneys argued, was in violation of the Supreme Court ruling in Booth v. Maryland (1987), which held "the Eighth Amendment prohibits a capital sentencing jury from considering victim impact evidence" that does not "relate directly to the circumstances of the crime."

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals found that there was no error, saying that the SCOTUS opinion in Payne v. Tennessee (1991) overruled the earlier opinion. They affirmed the death sentence in the case.

Bosse then appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. In October 2016, the court found that the victim's impact statements went against Booth v. Maryland and should not have been allowed. The SCOTUS opinion stated that Payne super-ceded only a specific portion of the Booth decision, and not the ruling in its entirety. The nation's highest court vacated the sentence and remanded the case back to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for consideration.

Oklahoma Criminal Appeals Court

On Thursday, the Oklahoma Appeals court reached its decision in the case, finding that while the court erred in allowing the victims' family members to recommend a sentence to the jury, the error was "harmless." Specifically, they noted that 14 family members of the defendant were able to ask the jury to spare his life. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals again upheld the death penalty for Shaun Michael Bosse.

Of course, given the failures of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections in its ability to successfully and appropriately administer the death penalty, it may be a moot point. Currently, there is a moratorium on executions in Oklahoma until the DOC can successfully prove they have the appropriate protocols and policies in place.

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