An Oklahoma City man will get his 3-week-old murder conviction tossed out because of prosecutorial misconduct, The Oklahoman has learned.
Oklahoma County District Judge Donald L. Deason wrote a letter to jurors who convicted Billy M. Thompson of murder March 15. The judge apologized for the actions of two prosecutors accused of withholding information from Thompson's public defenders.
“A failure to disclose evidence of this nature is inexcusable, and is completely abhorrent to the system of justice to which I have devoted my career,” Deason wrote. “The insult to you, and the time, effort and anguish you put into reaching a verdict in this matter, is equally intolerable.”
Deason told jurors he will approve a request for new trial. Oklahoma County Public Defender Robert Ravitz said he will file the motion next week.
“We're pretty confident it will be granted, and we're pretty confident we'll get a new trial,” Ravitz said Wednesday.
The prosecutors at the murder trial, assistant district attorneys Pamela Kimbrough and Stephanie Miller, are being investigated by their boss, District Attorney David Prater. He apparently has removed them from other cases. They could face termination.
“We take any allegations of unethical conduct very seriously,” Prater said Wednesday.
Jurors convicted Thompson, 25, of first-degree murder in the Aug. 17, 2010, stabbing death of Manuel Leon Sanchez, 21. The victim was killed outside Thompson's house in Oklahoma City.
Jurors also convicted Thompson of assault and battery for stabbing Maxwell M. McIntyre, 19, in the chest.
McIntyre testified during the trial that he and Sanchez left the house after an altercation and were walking up the street when Thompson came up behind them and stabbed them.
Thompson's attorneys argued he acted in self-defense after McIntyre beat him twice, including once in which McIntyre punched him multiple times and kicked him in the head.
Prosecutors alleged Thompson had punched a man in a wheelchair over a cigar during a night of heavy drinking and then threatened McIntyre when he intervened.
Kimbrough and Miller are accused of withholding a statement made by Jose Padilla, the man in the wheelchair, that was “inconsistent” with what he previously told police about where the killing took place, Ravitz said.
“That evidence was not turned over to defense counsel,” Ravitz said.
Padilla is in a nursing home and did not testify during Thompson's trial. Prosecutors instead used a written statement from him that claimed he said the stabbings were in the street.
That statement was read to the jury.
Padilla has been interviewed by investigators from the district attorney's office and the public defender's office since the trial. He told them the stabbings occurred in the driveway of Thompson's house.
That would have supported Thompson's self-defense claim, Ravitz said.
“This was a very close case, and this type of evidence could have tipped the verdict in the defendant's favor,” Ravitz said.
Kimbrough is a veteran prosecutor and team leader of the domestic violence division. Miller has been a prosecutor for about three years.
Attempts to reach both prosecutors were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Deason and Ravitz praised Prater for acting quickly to “rectify” the situation.
“For the system of justice to work, prosecutors have to be above board and tell the whole truth,” said Ravitz.
“The suspensions show that Mr. Prater won't tolerate this type of conduct.”