Tulsa Murder Suspect's Charge Reduced

Tuesday, June 9th 2009, 10:57 am
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- A judge reduces the charge against a teenage murder suspect.  Theo Fleming is accused of killing a popular Tulsa high school senior.  His attorney on Tuesday won a major courtroom victory even before a trial date is set.

"I think it's a huge win. A huge win. They wanted to put him in prison for the rest of his life," said Fleming attorney Thomas Mortensen.

Defense attorney Thomas Mortensen admits his 17-year-old client fatally shot his friend, Kaitlyn Finnegan, at a house party in April.  But, he says Theo Fleming didn't pull the trigger on purpose.

"This was, in fact, an accident, unfortunate accident as it may be," said Fleming attorney Thomas Mortensen.

The district attorney disagreed, and filed a first degree murder charge.  A decision Fleming's mother says was racially motivated.

"He's a juvenile. I want him treated as a juvenile. I want this in juvenile courts," said Fleming's mother, Stephanie Colbert.

At Fleming's preliminary hearing, a judge reduced the murder charge from first to second degree.

What's the difference?  The judge said there was no evidence of premeditation, but there was sufficient evidence of reckless disregard.  Which means, by pointing a loaded gun at someone's chest, any suspect shows an indifference to whether that person lives or dies.

There were six teenagers inside this house the night of the shooting, plus one adult.  After the gunshot, no one called 911.  Police records show Fleming initially lied to police with a story about a drive-by shooting.

"You should pay a price, and you should pay a price as an adult. When you commit adult acts and do things that serious, there should be a serious consequence to it," said Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Bill Musseman.

Mortensen says he'll attempt to get Fleming treated as a youthful offender which would mean less time behind bars, if he's successful in rehabilitation programs.

"I just don't believe this case warrants rehabilitation. It warrants punishment," said Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Bill Musseman.

If Fleming is ultimately convicted as a youthful offender, he could be out of jail in four years.

Fleming is now headed for several psychological tests.  Tulsa County District Judge Clifford Smith will then determine if he should be tried as an adult or youthful offender.

He's due back in court at the end of July.

6/7/2009 Related story: Race Affecting Case, Murder Suspect's Mother Says