Jury recommends life without parole for killer of Muldrow rancher

Wednesday, September 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SALLISAW, Okla. (AP) _ Sequoyah County prosecutors wanted the death penalty, but jurors instead recommended life without the possibility of parole on Tuesday for a man convicted of killing a Muldrow rancher.

The panel deliberated four hours before deciding how to punish James Charles Childress. District Judge John Garrett complied with the jury's wishes and formally sentenced Childress a short time later.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals last year reversed Childress' conviction and death sentence in the 1996 shooting death of Jason Wilson. The appeals court ruled that Garrett did not allow the jury in Childress' 1997 trial to consider lesser charges in the case.

The reversal came because the appeals court applied a 1999 decision retroactively to other murder cases.

Garrett this time instructed the panel on second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter alternatives. Prosecutor Darrell Dowty again asked for the death penalty.

Garrett said he did not know why the jury made its decision. He said panelists did not ask him any questions.

``I could not second-guess them,'' he said. ``They were a very diligent bunch.''

Childress previously admitted shooting Wilson during a September 1996 altercation on Wilson's ranch. Wilson confronted Childress and two other men after they killed one of the rancher's calves, according to reports.

Wilson chased Childress before Childress stopped and shot him in the head. Childress shot him several more times after he fell, records show.

Childress' defense attorney argued that the 5-foot-2 Childress shot the 6-foot-4 Wilson in self defense.

One of Wilson's relatives said the family originally wanted the death penalty but is happy that Childress received life without parole.

``He'll probably suffer more than if he got death,'' said Wilson's uncle, James Trammel. ``If he lives 50 more years, it'll be 50 years of pure torture, I imagine.''

The trials for one of Wilson's co-defendants, Floyd Harlow, ended in deadlocked juries. Prosecutors dismissed charges against the other defendant, Dalton Hickman, because of search warrant errors.