Tulsa County to pursue first death penalty in eight years

The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office intends to seek the death penalty against a defendant accused of the murder of a young woman.
This means, if the case against Gregory Epperson goes to trial and the jury unanimously agrees to the maximum sentence, he will the first person to face lethal injection in Tulsa County in eight years.
On a national scale, the number of death sentences has dropped 75 percent since the mid-1990s. In recent years, following the national trend, Oklahoma jurors have been reluctant to hand down the death sentence, both in Tulsa and across the state. Since the 1990s, death sentences in the state of Oklahoma have dropped from around 15 in a year to one or two in a year.
Tulsa County specifically hasn’t handed down the death sentence since the 2009 sentencing of Raymond Johnson, who was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend and her infant daughter.
Prosecutors generally reserve the death sentence for “the worst of the worst” cases and often consider the wishes of the family in their decision to pursue it.
Prosecutors must also take into account the strength of evidence, mitigating factors for the defendant and aggravating factors for the crime. In a parallel trend, prosecutors have filed less death penalty cases in recent years, though it does still occur.
Despite the efforts of prosecutors who have advocated for the maximum sentence, most cases seeking the death penalty in the last decade have resulted in life without pa- role for the defendant.
This outcome is often due to changing social views of the death penalty, characteristics of the defendant and the requirement for unanimous agreement, especially since there have been several recent instances of new evidence releasing inmates on death row. This has caused jurors to expect DNA evidence or a confession in order to be completely convinced of guilt, meaning they don’t often unanimously agree on the death sentence without that kind of evidence.
Gregory Epperson will face charges of first degree murder in the strangulation of Kelsey Tennant and of assault against her boyfriend, Riley Allen.
The district attorneys in charge of the case have filed their necessary bill of particulars with the trial judge so they can officially declare their intent to seek the death sentence against Epperson.
They argue the death penalty is a due course of action in this case as the beating and strangling of Tennant was a particularly cruel and atrocious act. They also cite a previous, unrelated murder case against Epperson, which was dropped due to lack of evidence, as a marker that Epperson has most likely committed acts of violence in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

Post Author: Grace McFee