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Murder Conviction Tossed over Judge's Misconduct

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on May 12, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Serving a life sentence since 2009, Oklahoma City prison resident Kassie Bills is about to get a new trial.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals reversed her murder conviction on Wednesday, ruling that presiding Judge Ray Elliot improperly influenced jurors when he told them not to be "one of those hard heads."

Despite claiming that she shot her friend due to mental insanity, an Oklahoma jury convicted Kassie Bills of first degree murder for which she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Prior to deliberations, Judge Ray Elliot had a discussion with jurors in which NewsOk reports that he said the following:

"If one of your fellow jurors starts to stray off, gets far outside of this narrowly defined responsibility, the other 11 of you have got to go, 'Wait a minute, let's go, we don't want to be up here all day, all week, all month, all year.'"

He also told them not to be "hard heads."

Constitutionally, jurors are permitted to take as much time as necessary to deliberate, and are not to be instructed to give up their convictions merely for the sake of moving on.

More specifically, judges are not allowed to make statements that influence a jury or the way in which they conduct deliberations. They must only instruct a jury as to what it must find to make a conviction.

In the case of Kassie Bills, Judge Ray Elliot did exactly the opposite, which is why, according to KFOR, the appellate court called his remarks an "inherently coercive intrusion."

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