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Deciding killer's fate took much thought

By Johnny Johnson Published: March 9, 2008
NORMAN — The conviction was the easy part.

The mutilated body of Jamie Rose Bolin was found stuffed in a plastic storage tub in Kevin Ray Underwood's apartment in Purcell in April 2006. There was a detailed video confession in which Underwood spared no details about his crime.

Defense attorneys, who did not present a case or even cross-examine most witnesses, told jurors they expected them to find their client guilty.

When closing arguments were made, it took the seven-man, five-woman jury only about 25 minutes to return a guilty verdict. The deliberation between life and death, however, was much different.

The same jury that came back with a guilty verdict after 25 minutes was sequestered in the deliberation room for 8 hours and 15 minutes before they were able to come to a consensus on punishment.

"It was getting to the point where if we didn't come to a decision (Friday night), it was going to take a couple more days,” said Ryan Gadberry, 22, a juror.

The capital murder trial was the first jury duty for Gadberry, and it disturbed the Chesapeake Energy welder more than he thought


"I wouldn't have wished this on anybody,” he said, referring to the horrific images he can't seem to shake. "I haven't slept in three weeks, man. I'm going to have to talk to my pastor about it this weekend.”

Juror Claudette Brumit said there's a big difference between just saying that you don't oppose the death penalty and actually deciding that someone should die.

When closing statements concluded, Brumit said, she was not in agreement with the majority.

Most of the jurors were ready to take a vote immediately, but Brumit said she was not ready for that and needed to talk about it first.

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District attorney discusses trial
For Greg Mashburn, allowing convicted killer Kevin Ray Underwood to continue breathing was never an option — not after hearing that eerie matter-of-fact confession that is now burned into the Cleveland County district attorney's mind.

"There are murder cases where life without parole is appropriate,” Mashburn said.

"But this was not the case. And if I thought that was justice, I would have pleaded it over a year ago.”

So for more than a year, he prepared, until the only thing left was convincing 12 others that taking the life of a human being — even one with obvious mental disorders — is sometimes the right thing to do.

Mashburn said he was pleased with the jury's decision and appreciated the tremendous burden involved in deciding someone's fate.

But ultimately, he said, they made the right choice.

At first blush, even those who support the death penalty might wonder if the state would be best served by Underwood's death.

Couldn't psychologists study his mind ?

Mashburn said the defense called three mental health experts to interview Underwood, 28, and none of them could ever really get inside the man's mind to find out why he chose to act out his fantasies.

As sick as some people's thoughts are, Mashburn explained, having sick thoughts is not a crime.

"They studied him backwards and forwards,” Mashburn said. "And they got all the info they could get out of him. There's nothing else to study.”


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