Teen convicted of manslaughter ordered to attend church
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
MUSKOGEE — Attending church on Sunday for 10 years was one of the conditions a Muskogee County judge placed on a teenager who received a 10-year deferred sentence for manslaughter this week.
Defense attorney Donn Baker said that while the church requirement is unusual for constitutional reasons, it is not something he intends to challenge.
“My client goes to church every Sunday. That isn’t going to be a problem for him. We certainly want the probation for him,” Baker said.
The defendant is 17-year-old Tyler Alred, a high school and welding student. His preacher attended his Tuesday sentencing.
Last December, Alred was behind the wheel of a Chevrolet pickup about 4 a.m. when he crashed into a tree on a county road. His friend John Luke Dum, 16, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Records show that he admitted to troopers he had been drinking. Though not legally drunk, Alred was underage and under influence of alcohol so he was charged with manslaughter as a youthful offender in connection with Dum’s death.
He was given two breath tests which fell below the .08 blood-alcohol threshold for legal drunkenness. The first sample had a .06 blood alcohol content and the second resulted in a .07.
District Judge Mike Norman — who placed the list of conditions on Alred’s deferred sentence — could not be reached Wednesday.
Left to monitor Alred’s church-going is the District Attorney’s Office. DA Larry Moore also as not available Wednesday.
Assistant District Attorney Jim Carnagey said that the judge has required church attendance with other defendants in the past.
“What he does is he makes it a rule,” Carnagey said.
Randall Coyne, professor of law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, said that the judge’s church condition would probably not stand if it were challenged, but someone would have to complain.
“It raises legal issues because of church and state by requiring him to attend church for 10 years as part of his punishment,” Coyne said.
Coyne said that other cases have successfully challenged orders that defendants attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, because of AA’s spiritual component.
“This young man may feel like this is a just punishment as far as he’s concerned,” Coyne said.
The problem could arise in how to enforce it and what should be done if he fails to attend church, Coyne said.
But the tone of Alred’s sentencing on Tuesday had much more to do with the sorrow of Dum’s death and Alred’s emotional show of remorse.
Carnagey said Alred addressed Dum’s family members, who were sitting in the front row of the gallery.
“He started crying and the father got up and went over to him and they hugged and both of them cried wrenching tears for several minutes,” Baker said.
Carnagey said that one of the sisters also indicated to the judge that there was no sense in having two lives ruined.
“(Alred) testified since this happened he’s been shunned and it’s been very difficult,” Baker said. “He understands the gravity and the hurt and wishes he could take it back. This is something he’ll have to live with the rest of his life. He told the family every day and every hour he regretted his decision to drink and drive.”
Baker said the case is also unusual because Alred had not dropped out of school. He’s in high school and is studying to be a welder.
In addition to going to church and the standard rules for deferred sentences, Norman imposed other conditions for Alred to avoid prison:
-- Wear an ankle bracelet that monitors alcohol consumption.
-- Attend panels and speak at events on the consequences of drinking and driving.
-- Graduate from high school and welding school.
-- Attend counseling.
-- Undergo drug and alcohol assessments.