Double murder cases move on

By BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer



Jones, 29,
was sentenced in 2004 to death for murdering a convenience store
operator and a customer.

A jury imposed that punishment after finding him guilty of the
Sept. 15, 2002, murders of Mohammed “Sonny” Rahaman and Sterling
Mullis at 41st Street and 129th East Avenue.

Prosecutors theorized that Jones went to the store to kill Rahaman
and that Mullis, a customer, tried to intervene after Jones pulled
a revolver.

Jones told police that Murtaza Ali gave him the gun, drove him to
the store and told him to “take care of” the man who was running
the store.

Ali pleaded guilty to two counts of being an accessory to murder
after the fact. He received a 25-year prison term in a plea deal in
which his charges were reduced from murder.

The state Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Jones’ murder
convictions in 2006 but threw out his death sentences, ruling that
he was entitled to a new sentencing proceeding.

That opinion by Appeals Judge Charles Chapel said District Judge
Tom Gillert erred in jury-selection matters and in a punishment
phase procedure.

In his opinion, Chapel urged trial courts to conduct individualized
questioning of jurors — outside the presence of other jurors —
during the selection process in capital cases, although he noted
that this is not required under the law.

Last week, District Judge William Kellough and lawyers spent four
days questioning members of the jury pool one at a time — with
other potential jurors for Jones’ retrial not present — on
punishment attitudes and issues in a case where the sentencing
options are death, life without parole or life with parole

That time-consuming procedure, which keeps other people in the jury
pool from hearing something in the courtroom that could influence
their answers, is not typically used in Tulsa County capital cases.

The individual questioning phase of the juror process in Jones’
case is set for Monday.

Tulsa World

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