The man convicted of murdering an Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer is off of death row after a ruling today from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
Ricky Ray Malone was convicted of first-degree murder for the December 2003 killing of Officer Nik Green. Malone received the death sentence from Comanche County Judge Mark Smith.
A jury found Malone killed Green in rural Cotton County in the early- morning hours of Dec. 26. According to police reports, Green was off-duty at the time, but responded to a report of a man lying in a white car along the road. The man in the car was Malone, who fought with Green when the officer arrived on the scene. The audio of the fight was recorded by Green's video camera inside his patrol car. At one point, Green pleads for his life before a gunshot sound is heard.
During the sentencing phase of his trial, Green's wife read a prepared statement while testifying, including a passage from the Bible to support her wish for Malone to be sentenced to death. After reading the Bible passage, she told the jury "I beseech you" and "I beg for you to give him the maximum penalty under the laws of the State of Oklahoma, which is the death penalty."
But appeals officials said they found Mrs. Green's testimony troubling. The court said her sentencing recommendation should have been limited to just answering the question on what she believes should be the proper punishment. It was one of the reasons the appeals court found they needed to throw out Malone's sentence.
"We take no joy in reversing the death sentence in this case," the court wrote, "but find that it is our duty to do so."
While upholding Malone's murder conviction, the court reversed the death sentence and ordered a new sentencing trial. -Scott Cooper