An Oklahoma appeals court Friday upheld the death sentence of a man convicted
of killing his ex-girlfriend and her infant daughter.
Raymond Eugene Johnson, 37, was convicted of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder by a
Tulsa County jury in 2009 of the June 2007 deaths of Brooke Whitaker, 24, and
her 7-month-old daughter, Kya Whitaker.
Prosecutors said at the time that Johnson repeatedly beat Brooke Whitaker in
the head with a hammer, set her on fire and left her and the baby to burn in
their home, which he doused with gasoline.
In upholding the conviction and death sentence, the 5-judge appeals court
unanimously rejected allegations that Johnson's arrest was illegal and that a
recorded interview with Tulsa police in which he confessed to the killings
should be suppressed.
During oral arguments before the court in October, Johnson's attorney, Tulsa
County Assistant Public Defender Curt Allen, characterized Johnson's interview
as "45 minutes of hanging himself." Allen also acknowledged that the tape
showed a lack of remorse and callousness on Johnson's part.
"Raymond did a great job of killing himself," Allen said. No one answered the
telephone at the public defender's office Friday evening and an after-hours
number for Allen was not available.
Defense attorneys maintained that Johnson's arrest was improper because it
occurred in Catoosa outside of the Tulsa Police Department's jurisdiction.
Records indicate Johnson was arrested on 4 outstanding warrants, 2 issued by
the Tulsa County District Court and two by the Tulsa Municipal Court.
But the appellate court ruled that Tulsa police officers had the legal
authority to arrest Johnson anywhere In Oklahoma on all of the warrants.
Johnson also claimed that detectives coerced him into making his recorded
statement. Johnson has said the officers who transported him from the scene of
his arrest to the police station hit him repeatedly in the face with a phone
book and choked him with leg irons.
Appeals court judges said the videotaped statement provides no evidence of
scratches or bruises on Johnson's face or any indication that he was forced to
provide the statement.
The appeals court opinion says that when asked about any injuries, Johnson
"referred only to one slight injury he had received about two weeks earlier
during an argument with Brooke Whitaker."
In addition to his 1st-degree murder conviction, Johnson has a 1996 conviction
for manslaughter and served nine years of a 20-year prison sentence in that
No execution date for Johnson has been set.
(source: Associated Press)