Last week, Oklahoma County District Judge Jerry Bass reduced the life sentence of the convicted killer of Dwite Morgan, Edmond's "Bicycle Bob." Connor Mason, now 23, was convicted of the 2009 murder of the local homeless man, and was sentenced to life in prison last year. Mason's attorneys filed a motion for sentence modification, and Judge Bass heard arguments last Thursday, ultimately deciding to reduce the life sentence to 40 years in prison.
Life Sentence in Oklahoma
In essence, the sentence modification shaves 5 years off of the original sentence. For purposes of parole, a life sentence is considered to be 45 years. Because murder is a violent offense subject to the 85 percent rule, a person sentenced to life in prison must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence, more than 38 years before becoming eligible for parole. Now that Mason's sentence is reduced to 40 years, he becomes eligible for parole after 34 years.
Prosecutors vehemently protested the reduction in sentence, pointing to the violent and senseless nature of the crime. Mason stabbed Morgan 40 times in the head and neck, broke a hammer over the victim's head, and cut off a finger as a trophy to give to a love interest. According to the prosecution, Mason committed the murder as a thrill kill, just to see what it felt like to kill someone.
Appealing the Conviction
Mason's defense team says that the young man, who was 19 at the time of the killing, has since turned to religion and is a changed man, capable of reform. A prison ministry official testified in support of the claim.
Prosecutor Clayton Niemeyer expressed disappointment with the modification. The defense team, although not receiving as large a reduction as hoped for, said they were satisfied with the judge's decision.
Mason was not the only person convicted in the killing. His friend Nikolas David Kerr was charged with being an accessory after the fact. Kerr pleaded guilty and was given a 10-year deferred sentence last year. Heather Holden (Parker), the recipient of the severed finger, was given a 5-month deferred sentence in 2010 for obstructing an officer.
Prior to Mason's arrest in the case, police arrested a homeless man, Travis Monroe Jim, then 20, based on Jim's false confession. Jim turned himself in to police hours after the murder, saying the he stabbed Morgan during a fight, and that his nightmares drove him to confess. Jim's first degree murder charge was dropped after the arrest of Mason, Kerr, and Holden.
The "Bicycle Bob" case shows that an arrest--even a confession--is not an indication of guilt, and that even after a conviction, relief may be available through an appeal, sentence modification, or clemency.