An Oklahoma man was sentenced to life in prison last month after a federal appeals court overturned the death sentence in his case. Victor W. Hooks, 51, was convicted in 1989 of first degree murder in the beating death of his common-law wife, who was six months pregnant at the time of her death. Hooks was sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of Shalimein Blain, 21, and sentenced to 500 years in prison for the first degree manslaughter of her unborn child.
Appeals Court Overturned Death Sentence
In August 2012, the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the death sentence in the case, ruling that Hooks did not receive effective assistance of counsel. According to the court and Hooks's appellate lawyer, the defendant's attorney in the original case did not thoroughly explore his background, which included child abuse and head trauma sustained in an automobile accident. The public defender's office representing Hooks said that the man had sustained severe brain damage prior to the fatal of his wife, and that he had "significant diminished mental capacity since childhood."
Grounds for Appeal
Among the grounds for appeal as listed in a 1993 appellate case included:
- Improper jury selection by dismissing potential jurors who were morally opposed to the death penalty without proper inquiry
- Refusing to allow the testimony of two clinical psychologists who said that Hooks had poor impulse control and acted in the heat of passion, without malice aforethought
- Defense counsel did not properly raise insanity as a viable defense prior to trial
- The court refused to allow the testimony of an Oklahoma County Sheriff's Deputy who would have testified that Hooks was distraught and said he "went off on" Blain when she slapped him, and that he did not mean to kill her, but took her to the hospital because she was bleeding
- The court did not instruct the jury on first degree manslaughter or second degree murder as lesser included offenses
- and others.
- In that appeal, the conviction and sentence were upheld, but in August, the appellate court ruled that lack of effective assistance of counsel made the death penalty an inappropriate sentence.
Details of the Appeal
Though the Assistant District Attorney prosecuting the case continues to maintain that the death penalty was an appropriate sentence in the case, he agreed to the new sentence levied by Oklahoma County District Judge Jerry D. Bass in February. In lieu of the death penalty, Hooks was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the first degree murder of Shalimein Blain and to 500 years in prison for the death of the unborn child, with the sentences to be served consecutively. Though Victor Wayne Hooks will remain in prison for the rest of his life, he will not die for his crimes.
A conviction and sentencing is not the end of the story for defendants in criminal cases. Appeals and post-conviction relief may be available. If you or a loved one has been wrongfully convicted or unfairly sentenced, submit our confidential case review form to contact an experienced criminal appeal lawyer in Oklahoma City .