TULSA (AP) — A state appeals court has thrown out the death sentences a Tulsa man received in the slayings of a retired banker and a trucking company owner.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Victor Cornell Miller’s two first-degree murder convictions Friday, but changed one death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole and ordered a district court to resentence him on the other murder conviction.
Miller has been found guilty of murder twice in the 1999 shooting deaths of retired Tulsa banker Mary Agnes Bowles, 77, and Jerald Thurman, 44, who owned Townsley Trucking of Owasso.
Bowles was kidnapped from a Tulsa mall parking lot and was driven to a secluded area in northern Tulsa County, where she was killed, the Tulsa World reported. Thurman was picking up a load of dirt in the area at the time.
Prosecutors have said Miller shot Thurman before Miller’s accomplice shot Bowles.
Miller was convicted of both murders in 2002 and was sentenced to die for Thurman’s slaying. He was sentenced to life without parole for Bowles’ death.
The appeals court overturned those convictions and sentences in 2004 and granted Miller a new trial.
Another jury convicted him in 2008. That time, Miller was sentenced to death for both murders.
The appeals court modified Miller’s sentence in the Bowles slaying to life without parole and ordered a resentencing for Thurman’s death.
That decision comes after the state’s high court for criminal matters heard oral arguments in Miller’s case in October.
A lengthy majority opinion written by Appeals Court Judge Clancy Smith is critical of proceedings at Miller’s 2008 trial.
“Although Miller has now been tried two times and been sentenced to death for the murder of Jerald Thurman two times, this court cannot allow this death sentence to stand in the face of this much serious and potentially prejudicial error,” the opinion says, according to the World.
A jury initially sentenced Miller’s co-defendant, John Fitzgerald Hanson, to death for Bowles’ murder and imposed a no-parole life prison term for Thurman’s slaying.
The Court of Criminal Appeals upheld those convictions in 2003 but threw out the death sentence for Hanson, who is also known as George John Hanson.
Hanson was again sentenced to death at a resentencing trial.