Free Film Screening about Oklahoma’s female incarceration: ‘Women in Prison: America’s Forgotten Voices’

Film Screening and Panel Discussion on Women’s Incarceration in Oklahoma
Incarceration rates for women have increased 800% across the nation. In #Oklahoma alone, the number of women locked away in prisons has increased more than 17-fold, from 176 in 1978 to 3,114 in 2017. We continue to lead the nation in female incarceration, only second to Idaho, and this devastating phenomenon has caught the attention of the world.
Join us in a private screening of the film Women in Prison: America’s Forgotten Voices by French film studio StudioFact Rights documenting the mass incarceration of women in Oklahoma.
Afterwards we will be joined by Kris Steele, the Executive Director of TEEM, Colleen McCarty, the Executive Director of Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, and Tondalao Hall, an advocate for reform and formerly incarcerated individual.

The program Poetic Justice is showcased in this documentary. April Wilkens was a part of that program last year, but is not featured. Colleen McCarty of Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice is on the panel. McCarty is the co-host of the Panic Button podcast, whose first season told the ongoing story of April Wilkens.

 

Free Film Screening about Oklahoma’s female incarceration: ‘Women in Prison: America’s Forgotten Voices’

2022 Post Conviction Relief Application and Exhibits and Petitioner’s Motion for Recusal and New Venue with OCR to make documents text-searchable (using Ctrl + F)

2022 Application for Post conviction relief PCR

2022 Exhbits for PCR

2022 Petitioner’s motion for recusal and for a new venue

2022 Post Conviction Relief Application and Exhibits and Petitioner’s Motion for Recusal and New Venue with OCR to make documents text-searchable (using Ctrl + F)

SAVE THE DATE: 9.13.22

BIG NEWS: We finally have a date for the interim study on criminalized survivorship. It will be from 1pm-4pm on September 13th at the Oklahoma Capitol in Room 206. OK Appleseed joined some critical partners in advocating for an interim study to examine and understand the phenomenon of “criminalized survivors” in Oklahoma. The study was requested by Rep. Toni Hasenbeck and we are grateful to her for her passion on this issue.

Speakers will discuss why survivors get harsh sentences for fighting back and some legislative solutions other states have implemented to give survivors another chance at justice.

Citizens may come listen and observe to show support, as long as there is room. There will not be an open session to share concerns and complaints but your quiet presence is welcome to show your support. You can also watch it on the House website if you are not able to make it to Oklahoma City.

The members on the committee are:

Representative Carol Bush
Representative Ross Ford
Representative Jason Lowe
Representative Stan May
Representative Lonnie Sims
Representative Danny Sterling
Representative Judd Strom
Representative Collin Walke

If you know or have relationships with any of these members, please consider reaching out to share your thoughts and support for a bill that would resentence people who are in prison because they fought back against their abuser.

____

You can wear a Free April Wilkens shirt to the Capitol. Get yours here.

SAVE THE DATE: 9.13.22

About that Protest Letter…

Letter from Kunzweiler's officeAs reported earlier this month by VNN, District attorney Steve Kunzweiler, who worked under Tim Harris (see this for why that is a problem), had his office protest April Wilkens’s 2022 parole in a letter. It is, at least partially, why she did not get a parole hearing.

It states that Kunzweiler’s office “believes the sentence imposed by the jury more than 20 years ago is appropriate, Wilkens is still a risk to the public, and Wilkens should not be granted parole for another 17 years” due to the fact that, if she were sentenced today with the same thing, she would not be eligible for parole until she had served 85% of her Life sentence.

However, we would like to note that, if she were tried again today, she likely wouldn’t even get a life sentence for what she did. Another woman, just a year after April killed Terry Carlton, claimed Battered Woman Syndrome too in killing her husband while he slept, got four years and THEN had her conviction overturned.

April’s was one of the first cases in OK to use Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) as a defense, so there was no real precedent when she used it. What’s more, Tim Harris claimed she “cried r-pe” and convinced the jury that April didn’t suffer from BWS, despite Lynda Driskell, a BWS expert, diagnosing her with it (though Driskell was not used during April’s unjust trial).

What is more, the jury WANTED April to have parole options by now, otherwise she would have been sentenced to Life without Parole. Thus, the DA saying that she shouldn’t be allowed parole undermines what the jury even wanted for April. Why would they have given her the possibility of parole if they wanted it withheld even longer? What would the jury say now, if they knew this was how she was being treated? The jury was not given the option of convicting April of manslaughter, which carries a minimum sentence of four years, or of any offense less than first-degree murder, which carries a minimum sentence of life in prison. The evidence was not sufficient to sustain a first-degree murder conviction, however. The OK Court of Criminal Appeals had previously ruled that juries must be given the option to convict first-degree murder defendants of lesser included offenses such as manslaughter when the evidence warrants, which did not happen at April’s trial. Other defendants’ convictions were overturned by the OCCA for this error, but not April’s. It is extremely rare for any court to fail to adhere to its own precedent, and OCCA Judge Gary Lumpkin remarked in a footnote in the order denying April’s appeal that he disagreed with the OCCA’s failure in April’s case to follow its own precedent. 

So why is April still incarcerated? 

  • Women and drug users were viewed more harshly in the 90s for not fitting into ideal womanhood.
  • April had poor representation during her trial. Key witness were not called in and a tape of Terry Carlton admitting to how he abused her and was the sole perpetrator of violence was never played in court. April had turned the tape over to the police and it was mishandled. Now all that remains are audio clips of it, found online on our platforms and in some news coverage. The DA might have a copy locked in sealed evidence.
  • April killed a very wealthy and connected rich man.
  • Tim Harris was still allowed to protest her attempts to overturn her conviction, despite him being friends and taking campaign money from the Carltons
  • The OCCA Judge Charles Johnson did not recuse himself every time from voting on her appeals, despite being a family friend of the Carltons (before the trial).
  • The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole board in 2022 had no women on it when voting on April’s parole Jacket. It is also bowing to conservative pressure from the Governor and DAs. OK has one of the highest incarceration rates for women.
  • Oklahoma over incarcerates and sentences too harshly.

All of this is backed up with evidence found linked in our timeline.

Pdf copy of the letter. PDF copy of the DA protest letter

This post has been updated after its published date.
About that Protest Letter…

Shame on former-DA Richard Smothermon of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board for voting NO yesterday, March 7, 2022 against giving April Wilkens a parole hearing.

Shame on former-DA Richard Smothermon of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board for voting NO yesterday, March 7, 2022 against giving April Wilkens a parole hearing.

Oklahoma Woman Many Believe Was Wrongfully Convicted of Murdering Her Rapist Still in Prison Over Two Decades Later

Oklahoma Woman Many Believe Was Wrongfully Convicted of Murdering Her Rapist Still in Prison Over Two Decades Later

Mabel Bassett Correctional Center of Oklahoma refuses journalist an interview with April Wilkens – VNN Live | October 6, 2021

This is the other story about Rhonda Bear mentioned in the above (highly recommended):

Mabel Bassett Correctional Center of Oklahoma refuses journalist an interview with April Wilkens – VNN Live | October 6, 2021

Re: Parole Hearing for April Rose Wilkens Letter & News Clipping Archive & DISMISSAL WITH PREJUDICE & Letter from DOERNER, SAUNDERS, DANIEL & ANDERSON, L.L.P.

Parole Hearing for April Wilkens Letter

April Wilkens Gov Stitt Oklahoma letter

News Clipping Archive & DISMISSAL WITH PREJUDICE & Letter from DOERNER, SAUNDERS, DANIEL & ANDERSON, L.L.P.

Don Carlton Honda of Tulsa Lawyer letter

Don Carlton Honda dismissal

Re: Parole Hearing for April Rose Wilkens Letter & News Clipping Archive & DISMISSAL WITH PREJUDICE & Letter from DOERNER, SAUNDERS, DANIEL & ANDERSON, L.L.P.