TULSA, Okla. — A bill named in honor of a fallen Tulsa police sergeant could change the way Oklahoma prosecutors pursue an “accessory to murder” charge.
Oklahoma Rep. Ross Ford said he got a call from Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler about a week ago asking for help with the law surrounding the “accessory to murder” charge in Oklahoma.
Matthew Hall, the convicted getaway driver in the shooting of two Tulsa police officers last summer, was originally charged with one count of “Accessory to Shooting with Intent to Kill” in connection with the injury to Officer Aurash Zarkeshan. He was also charged with “Accessory to Murder” for Sgt. Craig Johnson who died from his injuries.
However, in October of last year, the “Accessory to Murder” charge was downgraded to another “Accessory to Shooting with Intent to Kill” charge.
Johnson lived for 24 hours after he was shot. Because of that, Hall’s attorney argued that Hall couldn’t be charged with “Accessory to Murder” because Johnson was still alive whenever Hall committed his crime of aiding and abetting the suspected shooter David Ware.
“Accessory to Shooting with Intent to Kill” carries up to 22.5 years in prison. “Accessory to Murder” is up to 45 years.
When asked to help with the bill, Ford didn’t want to wait to pursue the legislation until next year, so he found a Senate bill that dealt with law enforcement and was also Title 21 that was already dead in this legislative session and stripped the language of that bill, replacing it with the language of this new bill now called the “Sergeant Craig Johnson Act.”
The current law reads “All persons who, after the commission of any felony, conceal or aid the offender, with knowledge that he or she has committed a felony, and with intent that he the person may avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment, are accessories.”
The new law would add, “In the case of murder, a person is accountable under this statute for accessory to murder if the person knew or reasonably should have known that the conduct committed upon the victim could foreseeably result in the death of the victim.”
The bill passed 9-1 in Public Safety Committee this week.
The bill passed the vote on the House floor on Wednesday and will go back to the Senate to be voted on there before it would make its way to the governor’s desk for final approval.
This is the second bill named after Johnson in this session, the first being one meant to strengthen Oklahoma’s statutes on scrap metal theft.
Ford said as far as that bill goes, it’s passed the full House floor and is in the Senate waiting to be heard.