Okla. prosecutor grateful for verdict in ex-cop's 4th murder trial
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma prosecutor said today he isn't surprised or disappointed a jury convicted a white former police officer of manslaughter instead of murder in his fourth trial for killing his daughter's black boyfriend.
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said he's just relieved there was a conviction after former Tulsa officer Shannon Kepler's three previous murder trials ended with hung juries.
"I'm just grateful that the jury gave us some finality with this verdict," Kunzweiler said.
The jury convicted Kepler of first-degree manslaughter in the 2014 off-duty fatal shooting of 19-year-old Jeremey Lake, who had just started dating Kepler's then-18-year-old daughter, Lisa Kepler. The charge carries a minimum sentence of four years in prison but sets no maximum term, leaving it up to the judge. The jury recommended that Kepler get 15 years behind bars when he's sentenced Nov. 20.
Jurors in the first three trials deadlocked 11-1, 10-2 and 6-6, leading the judge to declare mistrials and illustrating the challenge prosecutors have in convicting a police officer, Kunzweiler said today.
"In the first trial, we learned from that and realized it's a very difficult case," he said. "The struggle with these jurors is ... can you put a police officer in prison?"
The first jury convicted Kepler of recklessly using his firearm, but it and the second jury couldn't agree on the first-degree murder charge and didn't have the option of a lesser charge such as manslaughter. The third jury did have the manslaughter option but found itself evenly deadlocked.