Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board
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 OklahomaIncarceration 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.
ICYMI: Win for criminalized survivor Lisa Rae Moss
The comments on this post talk about what happened at the December 2022 Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board meeting. This is a huge win for all criminalized survivors in Oklahoma!
View a home video of April bringing her son home for the first time
Happened last night: Channel 8 story by Brenna Rose about April Wilkens
A decades old Tulsa murder is back in the spotlight. Lawyers filed post conviction relief for April Wilkens, alleging evidence was suppressed in her trial. More on the story @KTULNEWS 10pm #Tulsa #Oklahoma pic.twitter.com/fgzY3tY9Hz
— Brenna Rose (@BrennaRoseTV) October 1, 2022
A new podcast about April Wilkens is launching called “Panic Button: The April Wilkens Case”
Have you seen the latest posts about April from the Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice?
Issues with April’s 2022 Parole Investigative Report
Linked here is the 2022 Parole Investigative Report by Brittany King and April Wilkens’s responses to the PAROLE INTERVIEW QUESTIONNAIRE used to make the report. Below is April’s list of issues she found with the DA’s version included in the 2022 report (copied and pasted from an emessage to us, with light editing). The PDFs have OCR.
The main issues she focuses on are:
- Blatant falsehoods from the DA
- The substance abuse history is wrong and does not match her questionnaire answers she submitted (surely a mistake by the PI Investigator)
- She had never been diagnosed with bipolar, borderline personality disorder, or substance abuse disorder before Terry. And the bipolar and borderline personality diagnoses are ill-informed and wrong. Lynda Driskell diagnosed April with PTSD instead, which is spot-on because she is actually an expert. April has not taken psych medication since just after the turn of the century, when she was only taking an antidepressant for depression. The prison has had her classified (as shown in the report) as having NO mental health issues for many years now.
- You cannot “escape” from 12&12, it is out-patient only and you are free to leave whenever you like.
Continue reading “Issues with April’s 2022 Parole Investigative Report”
Parole Investigator response letter to April Wilkens about why the Pardon and Parole Board denied her a 2022 parole hearing:
The response from the Parole Investigator (who recommended she move forward with parole to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board) for why April was denied a parole hearing in 2022 this year reads thus:
“The Board is not obligated to provide a reason for denial as they did not provide a reason for years 2013, 2016, and 2019. A reason for denial was provided for 2022 as ‘A’: ‘The aggravating factors associated with the original crime, INCLUDING ANY DA OR VICTIM PROTEST, currently outweigh any mitigating factors in support of parole at this time.'” (emphasis added) Response dated 4/7/2022. I asked in writing instead of in person so that I have documentation.”
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board chose from a form list of responses.
To read the protest letter Tulsa DA Steve Kunzweiler’s office sent to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board see this link.
To learn about past cases like April’s, and where April’s falls within them, see this link.
If you would like a brief update on the current status of April’s case, see this link which contains a link to a petition currently at over 500+ signatures.
Past cases regarding Battered Woman Syndrome and domestic violence that show April has not been treated fairly by the state:
This post may be updated as more information is learned.
Though the Tulsa World in 1999 claimed that April Wilkens’s defense, battered woman syndrome, was “fairly new and virtually untested in Oklahoma courts,” there were a few examples before her Case, leading us to believe that her trial was unjust, her representation during trial was poor, her conviction was unfair, and that she faced and still faces corruption at getting her conviction overturned.
1895, Donna Bechtel of Oklahoma city killed husband to “stop years of abuse.” See this article and next case.
May 1992. Trail of Venus Lynn Zavinski for killing Donald Joe Haynes. ‘Zaviski’s case is believed to be the first in Oklahoma in which a court has allowed expert testimony and evidence concerning Battered Woman Syndrome, which was described by Dr. Lenore Walker as a “collection of psychological symptoms” that occurs when a woman lives with abuse.’ From The Oklahoman. The Jury rejected her “battered woman” defense, and “found her guilty of first-degree manslaughter late Friday and recommended she serve 22 years in prison.” From The Oklahoman (conversely, April has served 24 years and counting. The current DA, Steve Kunzweiler, would like to see her held for another 17 years before even being eligible for parole. See Timeline for context of plea deal of 20 years Wilkens did not take). Zavinski passed away in 2020. It is unknown if she was released early. This Oklahoman article mentions her again in 1999. See also this article that talks about how an expert witness was allowed and mentions Donna Bechtel.
Sep 2, 1992. Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (“OCCA”) Judge Charles Johnson, who was a longtime friend of Terry Carlton‘s father, Don Carlton, writes the OCCA’s landmark Battered Woman Syndrome (“BWS”) opinion in Bechtel v. State (840 P.2d 1, 1992 OK CR 55) establishing BWS as a valid defense for battered women in Oklahoma. In the opinion overturning domestic violence survivor Donna Lee Bechtel’s first-degree murder conviction and life-sentence, Judge Johnson writes this. He would later deny April’s appeals, even though she was arguing the same thing, and would not recuse himself on some of her appeals.
February 1998. “One example is Lourinda Renee Leggett, a former police officer who shot her husband, James Joseph Leggett, at their rural Blanchard home in February 1998.
Lourinda Leggett told police that she had been a victim of abuse by her husband during their six-month marriage. But she fired her attorney after he told her she should plead guilty to first-degree murder.” From The Oklahoman.
Leggett was sentenced to 13 years. From The Oklahoman.
March 1998. See also August 11, 2003. “Teresa Vilene Paine claimed she was acting in self-defense two years ago when she shot her husband to death.” From The Oklahoman.
She was granted a new trail due to ineffective representation. From The Oklahoman August 3, 2003 “Court to give woman hearing on new trial.”
1998-1999, April Wilkens kills her abuser Terry Carlton. 1999 trail. See Timeline.
May 2001. Saundra Kay Medlin convicted of killing her husband and sentenced to only 4 years. In 2002, her conviction is overturned, using Battered Woman Syndrome. See also.
2002. See previous. August 20, 2002 Mandate and June 27 2002 Accelerated Docket Order.
August 11, 2003. See March 1998. The federal Tenth Circuit United States Court of Appeals rules in Oklahoma domestic violence survivor Teresa Vilene Paine‘s favor. The court’s opinion in Paine v Massie (339 F.3d 1194) reads: “Petitioner, convicted in state court of murder, having exhausted state-court appeals, sought federal habeas relief. The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Tim Leonard J., denied petition. Petitioner appealed. The Court of Appeals, Paul J. Kelly, Jr., Circuit Judge, held that: (1) counsel’s performance in not offering expert testimony on battered woman syndrome (BWS) to support petitioner’s claim of self-defense was deficient, and (2) remand was necessary to determine if petitioner could produce expert willing to testify that she suffered from BWS, to establish prejudice resulting from counsel’s deficient performance….However, her counsel offered no expert testimony regarding the effect of BWS or how such a condition might have affected the objective REASONABLENESS of her subjective fear. Ultimately Ms. Paine was convicted of first degree murder in violation of 21 Okla. Stat. § 701.7 and was sentenced to life imprisonment….Given the OCCA’s extensive focus on the key REASONABLENESS component of a self-defense claim in a BWS case, Bechtel, 840 P.2d at 10-11, counsel’s failure to offer expert BWS testimony to provide context for the jury on the REASONABLENESS of Ms. Paine’s subjective fear amounts to objectively unreasonable performance. Counsel failed to apply Bechtel and failed to recognize its core teaching that expert testimony about how BWS affected [Ms. Paine’s] perceptions of danger, its imminence, what actions were necessary to protect herself and the REASONABLENESS of those perceptions [were] relevant and necessary to prove self-defense….Without expert testimony about how a BWS sufferer views the world, a complete disconnect existed that prevented the jury from assessing the REASONABLENESS of Ms. Paine’s conduct based on the circumstances and from the viewpoint of the defendant, as Oklahoma law requires….Simply put, counsel failed to do something that the OCCA said was necessary to mount an effective self-defense claim given the jury’s likely misconceptions about BWS. In Bechtel, the OCCA established the professional standard in Oklahoma for an attorney representing a battered woman claiming self-defense….” (emphasis added)
Sept. 15, 2006. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals overturns the conviction of domestic violence survivor Pearl Smith and grants her a new trial. Judge Gary Lumpkin writes the courts opinion and Judge Charles Johnson writes an opinion specially concurring. Judge Lumpkin’s opinion in Smith v State (144 P.3d 159) reads: “In regards to her claims concerning the Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS), Appellant argues counsel’s failure to present the ‘obvious and appropriate defense’ of BWS in light of the evidence supporting such a defense constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel. In support of her argument, Appellant relies on Bechtel v. State, 1992 OK CR 55, 840 P.2d 1, and Paine v. Massie, 339 F.3d 1194, 1201 (10th Cir.2003). In these cases, this Court and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals said that when an attorney represents a battered woman claiming self-defense, the attorney should put on an expert to explain BWS to the jury….In Paine, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that under the circumstances of that case, counsel’s failure to present an expert on BWS to the jury was objectively unreasonable….Without the BWS defense, and proceeding under a ‘generalized self-defense’, Appellant was convicted of the lesser offense of second degree murder. However, if the testimony of a qualified expert was presented to the jury, Appellant might have been acquitted. This clearly establishes a reasonable probability that but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. Therefore, Appellant’s conviction should be reversed and this case remanded to the district court for a new trial.”