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Execution Date For Byron Shepard Set For Mar. 26, 2020

 

January 9, 2020

It only took five minutes to sentence Byron James Shepard to death.

That formal sentencing for the man convicted of killing Tecumseh Police Officer Justin Terney came last Friday morning, Jan. 3, in the same Pottawatomie County courtroom where his trial was held in late November.

District Judge John Canavan formally sentenced Shepard to death, as the jury had recommended, as well as imposing a five-year sentence for knowingly concealing stolen property (the gun used to kill Terney) and 10 years on possession of a controlled dangerous substance (methamphetamine).

Before pronouncing the sentence, Canavan asked Shepard if he had anything to say. He didn’t.

Canavan said Shepard should die by “a lethal dose of drugs … or any other means as determined by the state.” The execution date was set for March 26, 2020, although appeals are expected to take many, many months.

It is the first death penalty verdict in Pottawatomie County in more than 30 years.

Oklahoma has not executed anyone five years. Before that, there were 112 executions since 1976, all by lethal injection. But Oklahoma, as well as other states, ran into problems with the drugs used in that process, resulting in some botched executions and drug manufacturers refusing to supply the drugs.

The state placed a three-year moratorium on executions in March 2018, which has since been lifted. Attorney General Mike Hunter announced that year that the state would switch to execution by nitrogen gas.

Shepard was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Terney, 22, almost three years ago. Terney died March 27, 2017, at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center of wounds suffered when he was shot twice while pursuing Shepard in a wooded area off Benson Park Road in Tecumseh. Terney had stopped a car for a broken taillight about 11:30 pm on Benson Park just east of Gordon Cooper Drive.

When Terney determined there were warrants out on a passenger, Byron Shepard, Shepard got out of the car and ran. Terney unsuccessfully attempted to stop him with a Taser, and then Shepard fired on Terney.

Terney returned fire, hitting Shepard four times, according to then-Assistant Police Chief J.R. Kidney. Terney was hit two times, in the abdomen and femur area, although he was wearing a bulletproof vest. Despite extensive surgery, he died 8:40 am the next morning.

The driver of the car Shepard was in, Brooklyn Danielle Williams, 22, was charged with second-degree murder and stood trial earlier this year. She was found guilty Feb. 1 after three days of testimony in Pottawatomie County District Court. The jury recommended 25 years in prison, a sentence which the court imposed in late March.

Prosecuting the case were Dist. 21 District Attorney Greg Mashburn, along with Pattye High and Travis White, who are also with the Dist. 21 (Cleveland County) District Attorney’s Office. Richard Smothermon, former Dist. 23 (Pottawatomie and Lincoln counties) district attorney, recused his office from the case.

Defending Shepard were Shea Smith and Raven Sealy of the capital trial division of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System out of Norman. They specialize in death penalty cases.

 

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