A Tulsa County judge on Thursday denied an 18-year-old’s motion to withdraw his guilty pleas to first-degree murder and 18 other crimes related to a 2017 crime spree, meaning the teen will die in prison unless an appeal is successful.
Deonte Green entered blind guilty pleas on March 13 to first-degree murder, first-degree rape by instrumentation and 18 other charges in connection with a series of armed robberies, the rape of an elderly woman and the Oct. 1, 2017, fatal shooting of Broken Arrow middle school teacher Shane Anderson in south Tulsa.
Green, who was 16 at the time of the crimes, filed a motion March 25 asking to withdraw his pleas, which were made without a sentencing recommendation from a prosecutor. His defense attorneys opted April 18 to table the request until after Green’s sentencing, but they renewed it on July 17.
District Judge Kelly Greenough decided July 10 that Green was “irreparably corrupt and permanently incorrigible,” criteria required before a court can consider life without parole for someone who was younger than 18 when a crime took place. Greenough imposed sentences of life without parole plus 290½ years, with 100 of those years to be served consecutively.
During a plea withdrawal motion hearing Thursday, Green told his attorney, Stephen Lee, that he has learning disabilities that make it difficult for him to understand what takes place in a courtroom setting. Green said he wanted to take his case to trial but said his former attorney, then-Assistant Public Defender Marny Hill, “told me that it would be better just to plead” instead because he would get “life without” from a jury.
Greenough denied the request for all but one charge — possession of a firearm after a juvenile adjudication. In allowing Green to withdraw his plea on the weapons count, for which she handed down a 10-year concurrent sentence in July, she said she agreed with Lee that the wording on Green’s plea form was legally insufficient because it used the phrase “adjudicated deprived” rather than “adjudicated delinquent.”
Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray ultimately dismissed the charge and later said the move does not change the length of time Green will spend incarcerated.
“I believe I was pressured (into making) the plea,” Green told Lee, to which Gray countered that Green told Greenough in March that the decision to plead guilty was his own. Gray, during his cross-examination, pointed out that Green stopped at one point to consult with Hill, and Gray noted that Greenough asked repeatedly whether Green understood what he was doing.
“He clearly made the decision on his own to kill Shane Anderson and commit the other crimes that he did, and he made a decision to plead guilty,” Gray told reporters after the hearing.
Green said Thursday that he understood “not much” of what happened during the March plea hearing, prompting Gray to respond, “You realize that means you lied in one of those two places.” Green said he did not lie but said “at the same time, if I don’t understand, I don’t understand.”
Lee also said the pleas should be rescinded because Green said in the March hearing and on Thursday that he did not understand what Oklahoma’s “85% rule” on violent crimes meant. In March, Green said he believed “85%” meant half, and Greenough told him at the time that such sentences are not eligible for credits reducing the length of time served to less than 85% of what was imposed.
Greenough later listened to two jailhouse phone conversations Green had with his mother, Ebony Green, and stepfather, Mario Brown, on March 23 and 24. Brown could be heard saying in the earlier call, “Make them people give you that time. Make them people prove that you did this s---.”
He made similar comments during a March 29 interview with the Tulsa World, saying then that he considered a plea “a no go” and wanted the case to go to trial.
“You(‘re) pleading out to a life sentence either way,” Brown told Green on March 23, saying that he thought a plea was in effect “laying down” to take punishment.
“We gonna fight,” he says, telling Green he needed to tell Hill that “you changed your mind again.”
Other jailhouse phone calls from March 2018 were a component of a jury trial Green had to determine his competency. Jurors in that matter heard Green tell Brown that he faced adult sentencing and heard him say his attorney was “gonna try to get me in the hospital so I won’t have to go to prison.”
“What role his parents wanted to play in deciding if it was a bad decision or not, I think the jail calls make very clear they were just trying to pressure him,” Gray said Thursday.
Green is due back in court on Aug. 16 to determine the status of an unrelated youthful offender robbery case as well as a charge alleging he committed assault and battery while in custody at the Tulsa County Jail.