Oklahoma prison officials say cellphone jamming would help

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Thousands of illegal cellphones are making it into the hands of prison inmates who use the devices to commit crimes, but prison officials testified Monday that they're prohibited from using one of the best tools to stop it — jamming technology.

Prison officials from Oklahoma and South Carolina testified about the effectiveness of cellphone-jamming technology before an Oklahoma Senate committee. Federal law bans the use of such technology by state agencies, and it is opposed by the wireless industry.

Oklahoma seized more than 5,200 contraband cellphones from inmates last year. While that's a decline from about 7,500 seized a year earlier, the problem remains a major one, said Mike Carpenter, chief of security for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Carpenter said a fight between rival gangs at an Oklahoma prison last month quickly escalated through the use of contraband cellphones into melees at several other prisons. One inmate was killed and more than a dozen were wounded.

"Do I think (cellphone) jamming would work? Absolutely," Carpenter said.

The wireless industry opposes the use of cellphone-jamming technology inside prisons, mostly because of concerns that it would also block signals for legitimate users, said Gerard Keegan, a spokesman for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.

He says the group instead supports a "managed access" system in which technology is used to determine which signals inside a prison are from contraband cellphones so that steps can be taken to disable those targeted phones. He said the group also supports continued testing of cellphone-jamming techniques.

Federal legislation to allow states to use jamming technology is pending in the House and Senate.

"My suggestion is simple," U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, said on the floor of the U.S. Senate earlier this year. "Let's jam cellphones in prison for the protection of our guards, for the protection of our families, and to be able to block criminal activity from happening inside our prisons."

Last year, federal officials tested micro-jamming technology at a federal prison in Cumberland, Maryland, and said they were able to shut down phone signals inside a prison cell, while devices about 20 feet (6 meters) away worked normally.


Oklahoma City officer charged with murder goes on trial

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Jury selection has begun in the trial of an Oklahoma City police officer who fatally shot a suicidal man who was apparently trying to set himself on fire.

Sgt. Keith Sweeney is charged with second-degree murder in the Nov. 15, 2017, death of 29-year-old Dustin Pigeon. Jury selection began Monday.

The 34-year-old Sweeney was among officers who responded to reports of a suicidal person and found Pigeon doused in lighter fluid and threatening to set himself on fire in a courtyard.

Prosecutors say Sweeney shot Pigeon after another officer fired a bean bag to no effect. An affidavit says Pigeon was unarmed and did not pose a threat when he was shot.


3.1 magnitude earthquake recorded in southeastern Oklahoma

QUINTON, Okla. (AP) — No injuries have been reported following a 3.1 magnitude earthquake in southeastern Oklahoma.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake was recorded at 11:09 a.m. Monday a little more than 1 mile (2 kilometers) north of Quinton, about 123 miles (198 kilometers) southeast of Oklahoma City. The temblor was recorded at a depth of about 3 miles (5 kilometers).

No damage was immediately reported. Geologists say damage is unlikely in temblors below magnitude 4.0.

Thousands of earthquakes recorded in Oklahoma in recent years have been linked to underground injection of wastewater from oil and gas production. USGS geologists say the number of magnitude 3.0 or greater earthquakes is on pace to decline for the fourth straight year after regulators directed producers to close some wells and reduce volumes in others.


Oklahoma ambulance driver charged with manslaughter in death

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A manslaughter charge has been filed against an Oklahoma ambulance driver in connection with a 2017 crash that killed a patient he was transporting.

Oklahoma County court records indicate 35-year-old Matthew Erickson was charged on Thursday with first-degree manslaughter in connection with the deadly August 2017 crash.

Investigators say Erickson was driving an ambulance that veered off of Interstate 44 in southwest Oklahoma City and overturned. Officials say that a patient, 66-year-old Carolyn Koch of Blanchard, and a paramedic were ejected from the vehicle. Koch later died and the paramedic suffered serious injuries. Erickson wasn't injured.

Investigators said at the time that witnesses reported the ambulance was being driven recklessly and going about 90 mph seconds before the crash.

Court records don't indicate whether Erickson is represented by an attorney.


Clemency sought for Oklahoma death row inmate in man's death

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A clemency request by an Oklahoma death row inmate who claims a racist juror influenced the outcome of his trial has received support from faith and criminal justice reform leaders.

Julius D. Jones, 39, has asked the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to commute the death sentence he received after he was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1999 shooting death of 45-year-old Paul Howell, the Oklahoman reported .

Howell, who was white, was killed in the driveway of his parents' Edmond home. Jones, who is black, has argued that his case should be reviewed because a juror referred to him by a racial epithet. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case for racial bias and Jones' previous appeals were rejected by state and federal courts .

"For over 20 years, (Jones) has been on Oklahoma's death row, though his conviction is marred by racial bias, an ineffective public defense and snitch testimony, which we know has led to 85% of wrongful convictions in the United States," Kris Steele and Susan Esco, of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, wrote to the board and Gov. Kevin Stitt, who reviews clemency recommendations by the board.

"The evidence used to convict Julius was inconsistent and several eyewitnesses provided an alibi for Julius," Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert wrote in a letter to the board. "The jury that sentenced Julius to death only included one black man and at least one juror harbored racial prejudice that influenced his vote to convict and sentence Julius to death."

In a statement, the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, said the death penalty "only contributes to the continued coarsening of society and to the spiral of violence."

Kim Kardashian West, who also has been an outspoken criminal justice reform advocate, joined the chorus of voices calling for clemency. Kardashian West "tweeted about the case Wednesday " to her 62 million followers. In June, she took a trip to the White House to help President Donald Trump promote a ride-sharing partnership expected to give former prisoners gift cards to help them get to and from job interviews, work and family events.


Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com