MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 7, 2013

Judge dispute delays plea

DA wants different jurist because of earlier dismissal of case

— A Braggs man charged with manslaughter in a 2010 collision will have his fate determined later.

Billy Edward Haworth, 35, is accused in a collision that resulted in the death of Hank Glass on Dec. 15, 2010 — Glass’ 40th birthday.

Haworth allegedly passed three vehicles in a no-passing zone on a stretch of Oklahoma 10. An Oklahoma Highway Patrol report stated that Haworth’s pickup struck another vehicle and then collided with one driven by Glass, who was pinned for 30 minutes before being freed. Glass died at Muskogee Regional Medical Center.

Haworth showed up Wednesday in Muskogee County District Court with his attorney, Donn Baker, who announced to visiting Adair County District Judge Jeffrey Payton that Haworth was set to enter a blind plea to manslaughter.

However, Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore objected to Payton hearing the plea, and he asked the judge to recuse himself.

Payton had dismissed the manslaughter charge in 2011, but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his decision.

Visibly angered by Moore’s request, Payton said the DA was “making a spectacle” of things in front of more than a dozen of Glass’ friends and family members.

Payton, Moore and Baker met behind closed doors and emerged a few minutes later. An agitated Payton said he would reset the plea at his “convenience.”

“The fact that Mr. Moore has issues with me should not have been discussed in front of everyone in open court,” Payton said.

Glass’ family met with Moore for about 45 minutes after the hearing, and then congregated on the bottom floor of the courthouse.

They said they were upset that the judge who dismissed the case was planning to decide Haworth’s sentence.

“It doesn’t sound fair to us,” said Vanessa Glass, the victim’s wife. “He already dismissed it once, and we’re supposed to trust him to give a fair decision?”

Glass’ brother-in-law, Rocky Parks, said he also would like to have a different judge in charge of Haworth’s sentencing.

“The family deserves answers,” he said. “And we deserve to have this heard by a different judge. Something is too fishy.”

Baker said he originally argued that the facts in the case supported a lesser charge of negligent homicide, a misdemeanor.

“The Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed (with the decision to dismiss the case),” Baker said. “So we were up here today to just go ahead and plead blind to manslaughter, but that didn’t happen.”

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.

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