DENVER — Judges of an appeals court repeatedly expressed doubts Monday that Rocky Dodd, who was sentenced to death for the 1994 murders of two next-door neighbors in Edmond, received a fair trial.
The judges of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals questioned whether the judge who presided over the trial in Oklahoma County District Court unfairly excluded evidence Dodd's attorney wanted jurors to hear.
Dodd was convicted of murdering Keri Jean Sloniker, 19, and her boyfriend, Shane McInturff, 20, by slitting their throats in their apartment after McInturff accused Dodd of stealing McInturff's stash of drugs.
Judge Twyla Mason Gray did not allow Dodd's trial attorney to present some evidence that someone else may have committed the murders.
Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Seth Branham, during arguments Monday at the Denver-based court, contended Gray “properly disallowed that evidence.”
Branham agreed the evidence against Dodd was circumstantial, but pointed out Dodd was convicted a second time after his first conviction was overturned by the state Court of Criminal Appeals.
“If (prosecutors) had a circumstantial case, why shouldn't the defense be able to do a circumstantial case?” appellate court Judge Paul Kelly asked. “What do you do if the judge won't allow the evidence and then the prosecutor says at closing (arguments), ‘Where's the (defense) evidence?'”
Dodd's appellate attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Randy Bauman, said there are other reasons also why the appeals court should overturn Dodd's conviction.
Bauman said one of those reasons is that statements made during the trial by family members of the victims in support of the death penalty for Dodd were prejudicial to him.
Branham said Gray was the best person to decide whether the victim-impact statements created an unfair trial in the penalty phase.
“If we could rely solely on trial judges, you wouldn't need a court of appeals,” appeals court Chief Judge Mary Beck Briscoe responded.
Dodd and McInturff's father, Robert McInturff, found the bodies after Dodd told Robert McInturff that Shane McInturff had not showed up for work at a business where he and Dodd were employed, Bauman wrote in a brief.
The court typically issues its decisions several months after hearing oral arguments.