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Aug. 14, 2001 An appeals court Monday overturned a death sentence because of false and misleading testimony by Oklahoma City police chemist Joyce Gilchrist. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 that Alfred Brian Mitchell should not be executed for the 1991 murder of college student Elaine Scott in west Oklahoma City. The judges also denounced prosecutors for hiding evidence favorable to Mitchell and for deliberately misleading jurors. Scott's father, Bruce Scott of Tulsa, told The Oklahoman in a telephone interview that he was upset with the appellate court's decision. "I'm not angry with Joyce Gilchrist," he said. "I am angry with the narrow-minded, pin-headed people in the judicial system that would make us wait 10 years to put up with this. And now we have go through the sentencing phase again, and it's conceivable we will have go through 10 to 12 years of appeals if we are successful in getting the death penalty again." The murder of Scott, 21, at the Pilot Recreation Community Center where she worked was highly publicized. Mitchell was 19 when he was convicted in 1992. The FBI has accused Gilchrist of shoddy forensic work in 5 criminal cases. A critical FBI report recommended a review of all cases in which the 21-year police chemist's forensic work was significant to a conviction. The FBI and a multiagency task force are investigating. Gilchrist denies any wrongdoing. She remains on paid administrative leave. The appellate judges ruled Monday that Mitchell's death sentence could not stand because jurors may have based their decision on Gilchrist's testimony that falsely implicated Mitchell for raping and sodomizing Scott before killing her. In 1999, U.S. District Judge Ralph Thompson in Oklahoma City upheld Mitchell's death sentence but overturned his convictions on lesser charges of 1st-degree rape and forcible anal sodomy. Mitchell had been given a 100-year sentence on the rape conviction and 20 years for sodomy. There was evidence, which jurors did not know about, that the victim had not been raped or sodomized, the judges said in Monday's 59-page decision. "We simply cannot be confident that the jury would have returned the same sentence had no rape and sodomy evidence been presented to it," they wrote. As part of Mitchell's court challenge of his sentence, his attorney obtained handwritten notes by Gilchrist that "completely undermined (her) testimony," the judges said. She knew her testimony was false because of other evidence that was withheld from the defense, the judges said. The appellate judges said the prosecution's conduct in misleading jurors "strikes a heavy blow to the public's trust" of prosecutors. Their duty is not to win a conviction, but to see "that justice is done," the judges said. They did not identify which prosecutor or prosecutors they were criticizing, but Steve Deutsch and Don Deason, now an Oklahoma County special judge, prosecuted Mitchell. The appellate judges cited the earlier decision by Thompson, who concluded that the prosecutor's closing argument was "entirely unsupported by evidence and (was) misleading." Deutsch refused to comment on Monday's ruling. Oklahoma County First Assistant District Attorney John Jacobsen said, "We won't comment until we receive and study the opinion." Deason was given a copy of the ruling by The Oklahoman. "I think with the status of this case where it is right now, it wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment," Deason said. Monday's decision upheld Mitchell's murder conviction, but requires him to be re-sentenced. The staff of Attorney General Drew Edmondson is reviewing the ruling "to determine what our next step will be," spokesman Gerald Adams said. Edmondson's staff argued that the appeals court should uphold Mitchell's death sentence. Mitchell's lawyer, Assistant Federal Public Defender Randy A. Bauman of Oklahoma City, was unavailable for comment. Federal Public Defender Susan Otto did not respond to a request for comment. Adams said prosecutors probably have the option of seeking the death penalty again for Mitchell. But the appellate judges said the false testimony about rape and sodomy "first and foremost" influenced the jury's decision that Mitchell be executed. Monday's decision was the 1st to overturn a death sentence involving Gilchrist's testimony since allegations against her reliability flared in April, Adams said. Appellate judges have criticized Gilchrist since the 1980s. In 1988, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the 1986 murder conviction of Curtis Edward McCarty because judges said Gilchrist testified improperly. McCarty was retried and received the death penalty again. Monday's ruling was made for the 6-state court by Judge Stephanie K. Seymour of Tulsa and judges from Colorado and Utah.


November, 1, 2002
Jury urges death for woman's killer

Convicted murderer Alfred Brian Mitchell stood at the jail elevator Thursday night smiling at the younger brother of the woman he killed nearly 12 years ago. A 2nd Oklahoma County jury minutes earlier had recommended Mitchell, 29, be sentenced to death for the Jan. 7, 1991, bludgeoning death of Elaine Marie Scott, 21, at the Pilot Community Recreational Center in Oklahoma City. David Scott, the victim's brother, said, "He smiled as big as he could, showed teeth and the whole 9 yards. "All that shows he is the same person he was 10 years ago. He hasn't learned his lesson. As far as the death penalty goes, ... I'm not going to pray for a man's life, but I will pray for his soul. He needs a lot of help right now." Ann Scott, the victim's mother, said, "I just want him gone. We've not had a normal life since Elaine was murdered. "I don't know how much more normal our life will be when he is gone. But at least I won't have to worry about it anymore and I can just remember Elaine as the beautiful, wonderful daughter that she was without worrying about getting justice for Elaine." Jury forewoman Melissa Pearcy said at first the panel was split 10-2 for the death penalty. Jurors deliberated just over 5 hours before reaching their verdict about 9:15 p.m. "Our decision was unanimous," Pearcy said. "It was a tough decision." Assistant District Attorney Richard Wintory said, "It has been a terrible tragedy for this family to relive the horror of Elaine's murder just to convince an appellate court a jury would again find the same conduct of the defendant ... deserves death." Assistant Public Defender Gina Walker said, "We are saddened by the verdict and the loss of both families involved." Rebecca Cass, a longtime family friend of Mitchell, said, "From the beginning, we have been sorry for the loss suffered by the Scott family. Still, we are devastated by the jury's decision and its impact on Alfred Mitchell's family and loved ones." District Judge Susan Caswell set sentencing for Nov. 18. Mitchell in 1992 also was convicted of robbery and larceny of a motor vehicle for stealing Elaine Scott's purse and car. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison. That sentence was upheld. In 1992, Mitchell was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death. He was granted a new sentencing trial because appellate judges ruled in August 2001 that jurors may have been swayed by improper testimony from now-fired Oklahoma City police chemist Joyce Gilchrist. Elaine Scott, a senior education major at the University of Oklahoma, drove 40 miles a day and earned $4.15 an hour to work at the inner-city center because she loved her job, her family members testified. She was killed 17 days after Mitchell got out of a state reform school. He had served three years for a rape conviction as a juvenile. He was 18 when he beat and stabbed Elaine Scott to death while she worked alone at the center. Earlier Thursday, Wintory stood glaring at Mitchell after the defendant smiled at the prosecutor when Walker demanded to go before the judge to argue her objections during closing arguments. Walker didn't like the way Wintory was yelling at Mitchell and pointing his finger in the defendant's face. The judge allowed Wintory to continue with his closing argument. "You killed her in a way that was heinous, atrocious and cruel," Wintory loudly said to Mitchell as he pointed at him and walked toward him. "She consciously suffered." Walker told jurors during her closing argument, "All 12 of you collectively have an opportunity to do something most never have ... save the life of an individual. We are asking you for mercy. Keep him in the penitentiary where he can't hurt anyone else." Defense attorneys argued that Mitchell's home life while he was growing up taught him violence was the way to solve problems. They said he has grown and matured into a person who has taken responsibility for what he did. Mitchell has told at least a dozen different stories about the killing since he was arrested in 1991. He testified at his first trial that he stood by helplessly, fearing retaliation against his family, and watched a gang member named "C Ray" kill Elaine Scott. A California psychiatrist hired by the defense testified that Mitchell told him two months ago he was alone when the victim was killed. The psychiatrist said Mitchell told him he staged the crime scene to look like she had been sexually assaulted. Mitchell was originally convicted of raping and sodomizing Scott and sentenced to 120 years in prison. In 1999, U.S. District Judge Ralph Thompson in Oklahoma City ruled Gilchrist gave misleading testimony about DNA evidence and tossed out the rape and sodomy convictions against Mitchell. But because Gilchrist's testimony pertained only to the alleged sexual assault, Thompson left Mitchell's murder conviction and sentence.

November 1, 2002
Law to allow photos in court of victims while alive

Ann Scott sat on the front row of the courtroom Thursday, hiding her murdered daughter's picture beneath her blue and tan sweater vest. Jurors couldn't see the smiling face in the picture of 21-year-old Elaine Marie Scott before she was bludgeoned to death Jan. 7, 1991, at the Pilot Community Recreation Center in Oklahoma City. Instead, they saw her nude body, face-down in blood, and the holes in her head where she was beaten with a wooden coat tree. Today, the Kristie LeGrange law takes effect, allowing photos of homicide victims when they were alive to be shown in the courtroom during trials. Oklahoma is the eighth state to adopt such a law, which here is named for LeGrange, a slain mental health counselor. Judges previously would not allow the photographs in the courtroom, saying jurors might be influenced and possibly cause the verdict to be overturned on appeal. Ann Scott said she had hoped the Oklahoma County resentencing trial of Alfred Brian Mitchell would be the 1st time the new law was used, but Mitchell's nine-day trial ended Thursday. Betty and John LeGrange pushed to have the law changed after their 26-year- old daughter, a home-based family therapist with North Care Behavioral and Social Services, was killed July 17, 2000, by patient Jack McCall Chance, 17, during a counseling session at his mobile home. Chance pleaded guilty March 28 to killing LeGrange and was sentenced to prison for the rest of his life without possibility of parole. He was given an additional 20 years for stealing her car. He was driving her car when arrested hours after the slaying. LeGrange's body was found in the trunk. The LeGranges have been at Mitchell's trial this week, hoping the proceedings would last until today so Elaine Scott's family could be the first to use the new law. "We thought this was a small step that we could do to honor our daughter and help victims of violent crimes and their families to be able to represent that victim so the jury can see that person as they were alive," John LeGrange said. "We feel this is just a small step toward making a more level playing field in the courtroom." Betty LeGrange said, "Hopefully, this will have a positive effect on the jury." The LeGranges said they hope the other 42 states will follow, and allow photos of victims while they were alive to be seen in the courtroom.


 

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Timeline

  • Alfred Brian Mitchell sentenced to Juvenile Detention for rape - 1988
     

  • Mitchell is released when he turns 18 - December 23, 1990
     

  • Elaine Marie Scott is murdered by Alfred Brian Mitchell - January 7, 1991
     

  • Mitchell is tried for Elaine's murder and sentenced to death - June, 1992
     

  • Mitchell's death sentence is overturned - August 2001

  • Mitchell is again sentenced to death by a second jury - October 2002
     

  • Mitchell's second death sentence is overturned - May 2006

  • Mitchell's third sentencing hearing scheduled for Nov 26, 2006

 

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