Sunday: Tulsan behind bars since age 13 for role in murder case
BY CARY ASPINWALL World Staff Writer
Saturday, December 29, 2012
In the earliest hours of Jan. 3, 1997, 13-year-old Jesil Wilson knocked on the door of Letoria Knighten’s townhome.
He asked for Mitchell, her 18-year-old brother. He told her it was important.
Mitchell Knighten stumbled sleepily down the stairs.
The sister heard two voices — “just a normal conversation,” according to court records.
“Dude that was out there asked him, ‘Do you have his stuff?’ And he said, ‘I ain’t got your stuff,’ ” Letoria Knighten testified.
As she pressed her ear against the door and spied out the peephole, she saw Jesil’s 18-year-old cousin, Zachary Ferguson. She couldn’t see Jesil, but a security camera captured footage of three teens.
They were there to get a gun, one Mitchell had taken from Jesil on New Year’s Eve.
Mitchell refused to give the gun back, pushing Jesil and threatening to “get his gauge” and kill them all.
Jesil stepped back into the street as Zachary walked toward Mitchell, called him a “buster,” aimed and fired.
Three shots, one crumpled body. Three boys ran from the scene.
Mitchell’s pulse faded. The blood prevented paramedics from inserting a tube down his throat to help him breathe.
In the chaos, a couch was flipped over in Letoria Knighten’s living room. A .22-caliber pistol fell out of its hiding place and landed near Mitchell’s lifeless body.
Knocking on the door that night took Jesil from middle school to maximum-security prison.
Prosecutors made the case that he was guilty of first-degree murder in Mitchell’s death.
The judge who ruled that Jesil should stand trial as an adult said he lacked the “fire in his belly to get better and make himself a decent human being and show remorse.”
Almost two years passed before Tulsa County prosecutors filed criminal charges against Jesil.
By then he was 15. Ferguson, his cousin, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.
Jesil’s case didn’t go to trial until 1999, when he was 16. Whether he deserved a chance in Oklahoma’s juvenile justice system depends on whom you ask.
Why he didn’t get that chance may have had to do with a number of factors: poverty, education, gang affiliation, questionable legal representation, disputed evidence and his own actions in the years that followed.
Now 29, Jesil has spent the better part of his life behind bars.
Read more in Sunday's World.
Jesil Wilson, 29, is an inmate at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. He is serving a life sentence for a murder committed when Wilson was 13. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World