PAWNEE — A judge has reduced a life sentence to 10 years with the rest suspended for a Pawnee County man who admitted killing his brother by shooting him in the back with a .50-caliber muzzle loader.
Convicted murderer Donald Lee Worley, 54, of Cleveland, OK, told authorities his brother, James David Worley, had hit him with a metal pipe earlier on the day of the Dec. 14, 2009, shooting. Donald said he shot James in the back after his brother stated he was on his way to retrieve the pipe to “finish what he started.”
District Judge Jefferson Sellers agreed to modify the sentence over the objection of District Attorney Rex Duncan.
“I just thought that was an appropriate sentence and the safety of the public would be protected,” Judge Sellers told The Oklahoman.
“I'm disappointed,” Duncan responded. “Jurors in Pawnee County listened to the case and recommended a life sentence.”
Duncan said reducing the sentence was within the judge's discretion, but the prosecutor said he didn't agree with the decision. “It makes it tough to convince juries their verdicts are as important as we like to think they are,” Duncan said.
Donald Worley told authorities his brother left after administering the original beating, but returned 30 to 45 minutes later, a sheriff's deputy said in an affidavit.
“Donald stated that James then came into Donald's room and tried to hit him, but did not,” the deputy reported. “Donald stated that he pointed the gun at James and told him that he was not going to take another beating from him. Donald stated that James then made the statement that he was going to get the pipe and finish what he started. Donald states that James then walked out of the room and started down the hallway. Donald states that he then walked behind his brother and shot him in the back.”
A Pawnee County jury convicted Donald Worley of first-degree murder in May 2011 and returned a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole, the minimum sentence for a first-degree murder conviction. Judge Sellers initially followed that verdict and sentenced Worley to life in prison on September 2011.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rejected an appeal by Worley last month.
Friday, Worley went back to Sellers and asked that his sentence be reduced. Sellers agreed to reduce the sentence to 10 years with the rest suspended.
Under Oklahoma sentencing laws, Worley will be required to finish serving 85 percent of the 10 years before becoming eligible for parole, the judge indicated.
If the sentence had not been modified, Worley would have been required to serve 38 years before becoming eligible for parole, Duncan said.
If eventually released, Worley would remain on probation the rest of his life, the judge said.