Overturned conviction delayed for shooting spree killer

Saturday, July 22nd 2006, 12:17 pm
By: News On 6

SALLISAW, Okla. (AP) _ An Oklahoma appeals court delayed implementation of a ruling overturning the murder conviction of a teen convicted of killing two people in a shooting spree.

The delay led to the cancellation of a Monday hearing that could have transferred Daniel Hawke Fears from prison to a state mental hospital.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals granted state Attorney General Drew Edmondson's request for a stay of its ruling declaring Fears not guilty by reason of insanity. The July 7 decision reversed Fears' convictions in an Oct. 26, 2002, shooting spree that left two people dead and eight others wounded in Sequoyah County.

``We're grateful that they stayed issuance of the mandate,'' Edmondson's spokesman Charlie Price said. ``Hopefully, the court will look favorably upon our request for rehearing.''

Edmondson's office argued that the Fears decision deserved a rehearing because the Court of Criminal Appeals took Fears' fate out of the hands of a jury of his peers.

The appellate panel's stay was not a ruling on whether it will grant the rehearing itself.

``The order is not unexpected,'' defense attorney Rob Nigh said. ``I don't feel that the stay is any prediction about what will occur on the merits'' of the appeal.

Before the stay, Fears was scheduled to appear Monday in Sequoyah County District Court, where District Judge John Garrett could have imposed the new verdict and ordered Fears to be moved from prison to the Oklahoma Forensic Center in Vinita for psychological treatment.

He reportedly would have received treatment until authorities decided that he was cured of mental illness and no longer a threat to society. Then Fears could have been released from custody.

A jury took only two hours to find Fears guilty of murder, shooting with an intent to kill and other weapons counts two years ago. Jurors recommended two no-parole life terms on the murder counts despite defense testimony that Fears suffered from schizophrenia and was not responsible for his violent acts.

Fears, 22, was an 18-year-old Sallisaw High School senior when prosecutors say he arrived at his father's house, broke in to steal a shotgun and then re-emerged to shoot at neighbors and bystanders. The shooting spree extended from the neighborhood onto U.S. 64 from Sallisaw to Roland.