A Tulsa woman accused of fatally shooting her husband during a domestic dispute in January has been charged with second degree manslaughter.
Dispute Leads to Shooting and Death
Investigators say Carolyn Janetta Gist, 64, was arguing with her husband, Charles Harring, at their apartment in the early hours of January 31. Gist, who had a protective order against Harring but was willingly living with him despite the order, allegedly grabbed a gun in order to get Harring to leave. Instead, she fired once, shooting him in the stomach. Emergency medical workers transported the man to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Now Charged with Manslaughter
After the incident, police questioned Gist, but she was released. Now, nearly two months later, a judge issued a warrant for her arrest, and she is charged with second degree manslaughter.
Second degree manslaughter is the least serious of the four criminal homicide charges in Oklahoma:
- First degree murder
- Second degree murder
- First degree manslaughter
- Second degree manslaughter
Title 21 Section 722 of the Oklahoma Statutes defines second degree murder as "[e]very killing of one human being by the act, procurement or culpable negligence of another, which, under the provisions of this chapter, is not murder, nor manslaughter in the first degree, nor excusable nor justifiable homicide."
In other words, second degree manslaughter occurs when one person's actions or negligence claim the life on another, but the act does not meet the criteria for charging the offense as murder or first degree manslaughter.
Second degree manslaughter is a felony charge with a maximum sentence of 2 to 4 years in prison. In some cases, a person convicted of manslaughter in the second degree may receive a sentence of only a maximum of one year in county jail.
Manslaughter Charges and Defense
Often, when a person is killed during a domestic dispute, if the killing is not considered premeditated or intentional, the person who commits the act is charged with second degree murder or first degree manslaughter.
Second degree murder in a domestic case occurs "[w]hen perpetrated by an act imminently dangerous to another person and evincing a depraved mind, regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual" (21 O.S. § 701.8). For example, the woman who shoved her husband through the window of a Tulsa high rise apartment was convicted of second degree murder. Second degree murder is punishable by 10 years to life in prison.
More commonly, a fatal domestic dispute might lead to charges of first degree manslaughter. The definition of first degree manslaughter includes "heat of passion" crimes. It is punishable by a minimum of 4 years in prison.
Although we do not have all of the specifics in this case, a second degree manslaughter charge, rather than a first degree manslaughter charge, would seem to indicate that the accused did not intend to shoot her husband at all. Rather, in such a situation, she may have been using the gun to threaten him so that he would leave, and the gun accidentally fired, or she may have fired a "warning shot," not intending to actually shoot the man.
The distinction between various acts of criminal homicide can be hard to understand. If you are involved in any incident which claims the life of another person, you would be wise to secure legal counsel immediately. Hiring a homicide defense lawyer does not make you guilty; it makes you smart.