A prosecutor on Tuesday said a Tulsa 17-year-old accused of first-degree murder and more than 20 other crimes will not receive a plea offer from the state ahead of his April 1 jury trial.
Deonte James Green appeared in Tulsa County District Court Tuesday morning for a status hearing to determine whether the prosecution and defense remain on track for trial proceedings, which are expected to last about two weeks. During the hearing, District Judge Kelly Greenough announced she would not be inclined to accept a negotiated plea from Green to the charges against him after March 1, which is the next pretrial hearing date.
In response, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray said he has yet to make a formal plea offer in the case and doesn’t intend to do so. He announced last summer that he will seek a life without parole sentence against Green if he’s found guilty.
Green is charged as an adult with fatally shooting Broken Arrow teacher Shane Anderson during a robbery spree on Oct. 1, 2017, and — among other offenses — sexually assaulting a then-81-year-old woman. He also has a pending unrelated youthful offender robbery case as well as a case alleging he punched a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office detention officer.
“The only way there will be a plea (from Green) will be a blind plea,” Gray said. A blind plea is one made without an agreed-upon sentencing recommendation from the state.
Gray told reporters out of court that Assistant Public Defender Marny Hill mentioned before the hearing that Green “might be interested in entering a blind plea to the judge.” However, he said Green apparently ultimately decided not to plea and that his office is therefore ready to proceed with a trial.
Greenough on Tuesday set aside the March 1 hearing date to allow both sides to litigate pretrial motions regarding such issues as what evidence can go before the jury. She also said she will hold another hearing March 29 to hopefully finalize a juror questionnaire and discuss potential jury instructions, which she said she wants largely sorted out early because of the nature of the case.
“We’re going to be very efficient with our time,” she said, notifying both sides she does not want the trial to take up the whole month of April.
Because Green was under 18 at the time of his arrest, he is legally entitled to a sentencing phase in which the state and his attorneys can present aggravating and mitigating evidence. Two recent Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decisions outline criteria the state must prove before a fact-finder like a jury can designate such a defendant as “irreparably corrupt and permanently incorrigible.” The standard matches the precedent set by U.S. Supreme Court on sentencing for minors accused of violent crimes.
Greenough, in asking for extended preparation of jury instructions, said there is limited guidance on the issue in part because of the recency of the appellate decisions.
Hill said during Tuesday’s hearing that she anticipates presenting testimony in March so Greenough can decide whether Green’s recorded statements to police were voluntary and collected legally. A different jury was able to see and hear Green’s police interview during a competency trial in August.
In that proceeding, jurors also heard from multiple mental health experts about Green’s intelligence level and awareness of the charges against him. The jury spent less than an hour in deliberations before finding he is competent to stand trial.