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Judges question jury instructions in ex-auditor’s Jeff McMahan’s appeal

BY ROBERT BOCZKIEWICZ Modified: May 5, 2010 at 4:42 am •  Published: May 5, 2010
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DENVER — An appellate judge raised questions Tuesday about whether former Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan may have been wrongfully convicted in a corruption case.

"An erroneous jury instruction could have led the jury to convict him,” Judge Michael Murphy of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said during attorneys’ arguments about whether to throw out McMahan’s convictions.

McMahan, 50, was convicted in 2008 of two counts of interstate travel to facilitate bribery and one count of conspiracy to deprive citizens of Oklahoma of their right to honest public service. McMahan is serving a prison sentence of eight years and one month.

Prosecutors alleged he accepted illegal campaign contributions, trips and expensive jewelry from southeastern Oklahoma businessman Steve Phipps during trips to New Orleans.

Some evidence barred
McMahan’s attorney, Carolyn Merritt of Oklahoma City, argued that his convictions are invalid because the trial judge misinformed jurors about what evidence was needed to find McMahan guilty.

The attorney said, for example, the judge should have told jurors that in order to find McMahan guilty, they had to conclude that he intended to give favors to Phipps in return for gifts from Phipps.

Merritt also contends the judge erred in excluding evidence about McMahan’s character that was favorable to him.

Attorney paid by taxpayers
Federal prosecutor Ryan Roberts told the three appellate judges assigned to the case the instructions U.

the McMahans

Former state Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan was sentenced in January 2009 to eight years and one month in federal prison in a public corruption case that involved illegal campaign contributions and the acceptance of bribes. His wife, Lori McMahan, a former fifth-grade teacher, was sentenced to six years and six months in prison. The punishments came for acceptance of illegal campaign contributions, trips and expensive jewelry. Jeff McMahan, a Democrat, resigned as auditor after he was convicted.

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