An Oklahoma death row inmate accused of killing a Putnam City Schools teacher has been granted an appeal by the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Convicted of Murdering a Teacher
Bigler Jobe "Bud" Stouffer II was twice convicted of the 1985 murder of third-grade teacher Linda Reaves and the attempted murder of Doug Ivens. Stouffer was dating Ivens's estranged wife, and prosecutors allege he went to the man's home to kill him so his girlfriend, Velva Ivens, would collect a $2 million insurance policy. Doug Ivens survived the shooting and called police, identifying Bud Stouffer as the shooter.
Stouffer first denied being involved in the shooting at all, but later testified that he shot Ivens in self defense after wrestling a gun away from the man. He says that Reaves was either already dead when he arrived at Doug Ivens's home or that she was killed by a ricocheting bullet.
Stouffer was convicted of murder and attempted murder. He was sentenced to life in prison for the attempted murder of Doug Ivens, and he was sentenced to death for the murder of Linda Reaves.
Trial Goes to Federal Appeals Court
In 1999, a federal appeals court granted an appeal on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel during Stouffer's first trial. The court found that Stouffer's attorneys demonstrated a "complete lack of skill," agreeing with the Petitioner's claims that the "impression left by counsel's performance was that Mr. Stouffer had no viable defense," and that the defense counsel failed to "exercise the skill, judgment and diligence of a reasonably competent defense attorney."
While Bud Stouffer was granted a re-trial, the conclusion was the same--life in prison for attempted murder and death row for first degree murder.
Now, with the federal appeals court decision, a judge must review the case to see if improper juror communication between a juror and her husband during the trial may have influenced the outcome of the case.
Stouffer's attorney says that he noticed the juror's husband "laughing, joking, handshaking and embracing" a former roommate of Ivens in the courtroom. Furthermore, a deputy testified that he noticed the juror's husband repeatedly nodding and winking at her during the trial and penalty phase as if to indicate agreement with the prosecutor. He said that he also noticed the juror looking at her husband with a questioning look on her face, to which he responded by nodding and rolling his eyes. The deputy testified that this nonverbal communication led him to believe that Stouffer was "screwed."
The trial court ruled that the testimony of Stouffer's defense lawyer and the deputy were not credible evidence of improper communication, but only speculation of improper communication. However, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the nonverbal communication was indeed improper, and ordered that an Oklahoma judge must conduct a hearing to determine whether the improper communication compromised the impartiality of the jury or affected the outcome of the case.
Learn more about murder charges in Oklahoma here.