Oklahoma appeals court upholds separate murder convictions

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the first-degree murder convictions and life in prison sentences of two men in separate cases from 2016.

The court rejected appeals by 36-year-old Keenan Holcomb, who was convicted in the June 2016 strangulation death of Tamyra Elston in Norman, and by 34-year-old Jeremy Irvin for the July 2016 fatal shooting of long-time friend and former brother-in-law Robert Godwin.

The defense attorney for the two men did not immediately return a phone call for comment.

Holcomb claimed improper testimony, insufficient evidence and ineffective counsel.

Irvin was arrested following a 13-hour standoff with police. In his appeal, he argued that the use of the standoff as evidence was improper, that Godwin's past history of violence was improperly excluded and that he had ineffective assistance of counsel.

Jasmine Irvin, Jeremy Irvin's sister and Godwin's ex-wife, was also convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in the case. Jasmine Irvin's appeal was rejected by the court in September.

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University of Oklahoma seeks to be dismissed from lawsuit

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — The University of Oklahoma is asking to be dismissed from a sexual assault lawsuit against a former OU vice president.

The motion filed Tuesday says the university is immune from the claims by Levi Hilliard that allege former university Vice President Tripp Hall groped and kissed Hilliard inappropriately on several occasions.

The university says it is immune from the lawsuit, is not subject to punitive damages and that Hilliard's lawsuit was filed after the statute of limitations expired.

In court filings, Hall has denied the allegations and also asked that the lawsuit be dismissed.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is investigating both Hall and former OU president David Boren for allged sexual misconduct.

Boren is not named in Hilliard's lawsuit and has denied wrongdoing with a former OU student.

A grand jury is also investigating Boren, a former Oklahoma governor and U.S. senator.

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Oklahoma treasurer reports slump in November collections

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Overall collections to Oklahoma's state treasury in November were less than the same month last year, due in large part to declines in sales and oilfield tax payments, treasury officials said Thursday.

Oklahoma Treasurer Randy McDaniel said it's the first time since March 2017 that total collections were lower than the same month the prior year.

"Lower energy prices are having a significant influence on gross production tax receipts," McDaniel said.

Total collections in November were $989.7 million, which is about 4.2% less than November 2018.

Besides sales and gross production tax declines, McDaniel reported November receipts from motor vehicle taxes were down more than 10%, while corporate income taxes were off by more than 30%.

McDaniel said other economic indicators suggest Oklahoma is likely to see slow or no economic growth in the next three to six months.

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Norman man sentenced to life in fatal shooting of daughter

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — A Cleveland County judge has sentenced a Norman man to life in prison without parole for the fatal shooting of his 22-year-old daughter.

Ronald Lee McMullen, 45, was sentenced Wednesday after again proclaiming his innocence. McMullen was convicted in October of first-degree murder in the June 2017 shooting death of Kailee McMullen.

Ronald McMullen said his daughter shot herself.

Prosecutors say Ronald McMullen shot his daughter in the face, moved her body and called his wife before calling 911.

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Oklahoma tribe warns 'intolerable risk' over gaming dispute

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — With a deadline for new Oklahoma gaming compact looming, a Native American tribe has warned the federal government that it might take legal action to avoid disruption to tribal casino operations in the state.

Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby sent a letter Tuesday to the U.S. Department of the Interior — the federal agency that oversees tribal gaming — insisting that his tribe's gaming compact with Oklahoma automatically renews Jan. 1, despite Gov. Kevin Stitt's attempts to renegotiate the terms.

"(Any) attempt to disrupt our Tribal government gaming operations would present an intolerable risk of injury to the Chickasaw Nation and its citizens," Anoatubby wrote. He didn't ask the federal agency to take action, but noted that a "formal dispute" could be in the works, Tulsa World reported.

"We reserve our right to take legal action, if necessary, to protect the Chickasaw Nation's legal and sovereign rights as well as the material interests of our citizens who rely on government programs and services supported by our gaming operation revenues," Anoatubby wrote.

Oklahoma and several tribes have been sparring for months over whether tribal gambling compacts automatically renew for another 15-year term on Jan. 1 if they can't reach an agreement.

Stitt wants the tribes to pay more for their exclusive right to operate casinos in the state. He wants to renegotiate the terms of the compact, which he argues will expire at the end of the year. He said the state's current rate of between 4% and 10% of tribal gambling revenue should be larger.

The state has also sought Department of the Interior guidance on its potential role if an agreement is not met by Dec. 31, said Donelle Harder, Stitt's senior adviser and spokeswoman.

"Gov. Stitt is not planning on taking legal action at this point," Harder said. "He truly believes and hopes there is opportunity to negotiate before the Jan. 1 deadline."

Meanwhile, the Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation and Cherokee Nation retained the Washington, D.C.,-based law firm WilmerHale for a legal opinion on compact renewals.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Seth P. Waxman wrote the compacts. In a Nov. 26 letter to tribal leaders, Waxman said the governor's position is not defensible and that the compacts automatically renew.

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Oklahoma police officer shoots, wounds Blanchard man

BLANCHARD, Okla. (AP) — A Blanchard police officer responding to a reported domestic dispute shot and wounded a man who came to the door of the residence holding a rifle, authorities said Wednesday.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said they are investigating the shooting, which happened about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday in Blanchard, a rural community about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Oklahoma City.

Authorities say officers arrived at the home and began speaking to a woman who lives at the residence when they heard a gunshot from inside the house. As one officer backed into the yard, a man came to the door of the residence with a rifle and was shot one time by the officer, the OSBI said.

Robert Raines, 56, was transported to the hospital in stable condition.

The officer, whose name wasn't released, has been placed on administrative leave.