A Pottawatomie County jury returned a guilty verdict Friday for a woman on trial for second-degree murder for her role in the death of Tecumseh Police Officer Justin Terney.
The week-long trial of Brooklyn Danielle Williams, 24, began with jury selection Monday and was held before District Judge John G. Canavan Jr.
With a courtroom gallery full of spectators, including more than 30 law enforcement officers from many agencies, the jury heard instructions and final arguments Friday morning. After deliberating a little more than two hours, the jury of six men and six women returned with the guilty verdict early Friday afternoon.
The jury has recommended Williams should serve 25 years in prison, but formal sentencing has been scheduled for March 13. Second-degree murder can be punishable by 10 years to life in prison.
Williams was accused, on or about March 26, 2017, of engaging in the felony offense of harboring a fugitive and concealing Byron James Shepard, a person she knew to be a fugitive from justice.
While she was in the commission of that felony, charges allege Shepard, 37, who was the passenger in a vehicle being driven by Williams and stopped by Officer Terney, fired a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol into the abdomen of the officer, causing mortal wounds.
During the trial, Prosecutor Pattye High told jurors that Officer Terney, at 22 years old, had been on the job as a Tecumseh police officer for just 192 days before he died.
The trial included numerous law enforcement witnesses and the jury watching several videos, including dash camera video from Terney's patrol car.
Also entered into evidence were numerous text messages exchanged between Williams and Shepard that established they had an ongoing relationship and that Williams was helping Shepard — a fugitive with warrants — avoid police for weeks, including a warning text about seeing a trooper on SH 9 just hours before Terney's shooting occurred.
District 21 Cleveland County prosecutors Pattye High and Travis White represented the state for this trial with assistance from local Investigator Anthony Lee.
Before closing arguments, the judge read aloud a long list of jury instructions with elements of the crime that had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, such as death caused by the conduct of another person.
The state had to prove there was connection to Terney's death and told jurors the evidence against Williams “was overwhelming.”
As a result of Williams' felony of harboring a fugitive, White said Terney activated the emergency lights on his patrol car at 11:23 p.m. that night and eight minutes later called out, “Central, I've been hit.”
In the video, Terney was polite and courteous, White said, and without Williams concealing Shepard in her car, Shepard would have never met Terney.
“Without Williams, Terney does not take his last breath,” White told the jury.
White reiterated details of text messages between the couple, outlining for the jury that Williams knew that Shepard was a fugitive for weeks, even showing proof she looked up his court record and warrants on the Internet through her phone on March 8, several weeks before the shooting. She also had many conversations and visits from an Okfuskee County deputy who was looking for Shepard, with that deputy testifying he warned Williams many times that harboring a fugitive is a felony.
White said Williams made many choices that have consequences.
Speaking to the jury, White told the jury if they had trouble deciding on a punishment range, he'd like them to consider 22 years in prison.
“That's the age of Justin Terney when he took his last breath,” he said.
Defense Attorney Larry Monard told the jury there are many disputes in this case and told jurors that all of the things that occurred ahead of the shooting didn't matter and referenced the short period of time from the initial traffic stop to the shooting.
Monard told the jury Williams was not responsible for what Shepard did to Officer Terney.
“When bad events happen, there is an effort to try to make others responsible,” Monard said, adding, “this young lady was 22-23 years old that time.”
He admitted Williams made some bad choices and loved Shepard, but “she is not responsible for what Shepard did to Officer Terney.”
But in the state's second closing, High said Williams was harboring Shepard, which means concealing in any manner.
“She had every opportunity to make a different choice,” High said, adding, “every police officer's worst nightmare came true that night.”
Holding up a photograph to the jury, High showed a selfie picture of Williams and Shepard that was taken of them in a vehicle in February 2017, with that photo also showing a firearm pictured in the console. In her other hand, High held up a box with that same firearm, which is evidence for this case.
“That's the weapon that took Justin Terney's life,” High said, reminding jurors that Williams knew Shepard had a gun.
High told jurors that Williams' time for consequences is here and said Williams should spend the rest of her life in a cell and not in the community.
Following the announcement of the verdict, each juror was polled in agreement of the guilty verdict. A pre-sentence investigation was ordered ahead of the March sentencing date and Williams will remain jailed in the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center.
The Cleveland County prosecutors on this case were appointed after former District 23 Pottawatomie County District Attorney Richard Smothermon recused the office from this case.
Shepard, who was shot and wounded when Terney returned fire the night of the traffic stop, has long recovered from his wounds and has been jailed in the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center without bond on a first-degree murder charge.
Shepard's trial is expected in November.
Watch for updates.