A man convicted twice for the 1985 murder of an Oklahoma City police officer will have the chance for a third trial, according to a decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Appeal of Murder Conviction
Alvin Parker was convicted of killing officer Gary Lee Ward, who was working off-duty as a security guard at a Holiday Inn on NW 39th Expressway in Oklahoma City. Prosecutors say Parker was attempting to steal a television from the hotel, and Ward, who was wearing full police uniform, attempted to stop the theft. A struggle between the officer and the suspect ensued, and the suspect disarmed Ward and killed him with his own gun.
Initially, Parker was charged with first degree murder with malice aforethought and first degree felony murder, with jury instructions to allow lesser included offenses. Parker was convicted of first degree malice-aforethought murder and sentenced to life in prison.
In 1989, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals granted Ward a new trial, finding that then-District Attorney Robert Macy made inappropriate inflammatory comments to the jury.
Macy was a "close friend" of the murder victim's brother-in-law, Les McCaleb, for whom Ward was working the night he was killed. McCaleb died of cancer during the trial, and Macy served as a pall-bearer at McCaleb's funeral during jury deliberations.
Macy said, "I promised Les I would do everything in my power to bring Gary's killer to justice. At the time I knew he was dying," but according to the appeals court, that did not include making "inflammatory" and "prejudicial" statements at trial.
In the court's opinion, Judge Ed Parks wrote, "Although this court has previously warned Mr. Macy such conduct will not be condoned, we must again point out 'it is unprofessional conduct for the prosecutor to express his personal belief or opinion as to the truth or falsity of any testimony or evidence or the guilt of the defendant.'"
At Parker's second trial, he was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Now the federal appeals court has cleared the way for Parker to challenge his second conviction. According to court records, a key witness in the Parker case has recanted testimony in which he claimed Parker killed Officer Ward. The witness, Glenn Briggs, testified under penalty of perjury that he lied in his earlier testimony identifying Parker as the murderer.
The appellate judges with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Parker is entitled to a review by an Oklahoma District Court Judge to determine whether or not the recanted testimony should alter the conviction in the 1990 re-trial.
Options to Appeal A Conviction in Oklahoma
A conviction is not the end of the road in a criminal case, and as the Alvin Parker case demonstrates, not even two convictions necessarily bring the ultimate resolution to a case.