Two Oklahoma County assistant district attorneys were fired last week because of their alleged actions during a recent murder trial, District Attorney David Prater said Wednesday.
Pam Kimbrough and Stephanie Miller were terminated April 5 after Prater learned they withheld a witness statement from defense attorneys representing Billy H. Thompson that was favorable to Thompson's case.
Thompson was convicted of first-degree murder March 15.
Prater has forwarded
“Though I am heartbroken over their loss to this office, my decision to terminate them was an easy decision to make,” Prater said in a written statement. “The gravity of their alleged ethical violation is so great that only one punishment equals their transgression.”
Kimbrough was a veteran prosecutor who was team leader of the county's domestic violence division. She was hired by Prater when he was elected to office.
“I'm not comfortable making a comment as long as there is a pending bar investigation or attorney general's office investigation,” Kimbrough said Wednesday.
Attempts to reach Miller were unsuccessful.
Oklahoma County District Judge Donald L. Deason presided over Thompson's trial. In a letter to jurors last week, he apologized for the actions of the two prosecutors and said that he will approve a request for a new trial.
Motion for new trial
Oklahoma County Public Defender Robert Ravitz said he could file a motion for a new trial as early as Tuesday. Thompson was represented by public defenders at his trial.
Ravitz applauded Prater's decision to fire Kimbrough and Miller.
“This demonstrates the total integrity of Mr. Prater and his willingness to do whatever is necessary to see that ethics prevail within the district attorney's office,” Ravitz said. “This firing should not be taken as a black mark on his office, but should demonstrate that he will not tolerate unethical behavior.”
In a statement, Prater said he contacted the public defender's office as soon as he learned of the alleged conduct. “To ensure the integrity of our investigation into the alleged ethical violations of the ADAs, I invited Mr. Ravitz to jointly investigate the allegations. He accepted.”
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-
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 Padilla that claimed he said the stabbings were in the street.
That statement was read to the jury.
Padilla was interviewed by investigators from the district attorney's office and the public defender's office after the trial. At that time, he told them the stabbings occurred in the driveway of Thompson's house.
Prater said Wednesday the joint investigation confirmed the witness made a statement to prosecutors that was “materially inconsistent” with his original statement to Oklahoma City police.
“The substance of the inconsistent statement was not disclosed to defense counsel,” Prater said in his written statement. “The assistant district attorneys allowed defense counsel to stipulate to the witness's testimony without including the subsequent inconsistent statement.
“Finally, in their closing arguments, the assistant district attorneys argued that the witness' stipulated (or agreed upon) testimony corroborated other trial testimony.”
The statement, Prater said, was “potentially exculpatory,” or favorable to the defense.
Ravitz said the statement withheld from Thompson's attorneys would have supported his self-defense claim.
“This was a very close case, and this type of evidence could have tipped the verdict in the defendant's favor,” Ravitz said.