TULSA - On Friday a judge handed down the sentence for the third man convicted in a murder-for-hire scheme that left a well-known Tulsa businessman dead.
Alonzo Johnson, found guilty in December of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Neal Sweeney, was sentenced to two life sentences in addition to a $10,000 fine.
Prosecutors say Mohammed Aziz, a former gas station owner, plotted with Johnson and two other men to kill Sweeney after he cut off the gas supply to Aziz's station.
The jury found Johnson guilty of providing the getaway vehicle used in the murder, and they recommended a life sentence for both charges in addition to a $10,000 fine.
Aziz accepted a plea deal with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony against his co-conspirators. He has not yet been sentenced Terrico Bethel, the triggerman, and Fred Shields have already been convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
A fifth man, Allen Shields, was implicated in the murder plot and agreed to testify against the others in exchange for a deal with prosecutors; however, he committed suicide during a policy standoff before any of the men went to trial.
Meanwhile, just days before the sentencing a letter from one of the jurors in Johnson's case was filed with the Tulsa County court clerk, claiming intimidation during deliberations.
Staci Petersen, of Tulsa, wrote a letter in mid-December to the judge who presided over the case, saying she did not believe the state proved Johnson's guilt but she went along with other jurors because she "was intimidated and felt threatened."
In the letter, Petersen said she was ridiculed and called names by the other jurors and she believes the jury "convicted Mr. Johnson because he was black and didn't take the stand in his own defense."
Below is the full text of Petersen's letter, filed Dec. 28 with the court:
December 16, 2012
Dear Honorable Judge Gillert,
I was a juror on the Alonzo Johnson, murder and conspiracy trial last week.
I wanted to talk to you in person didn't know how to approach that and I work two jobs and my schedule doesn't allow me to come and see you.
I was the only juror who believed the State didn't prove his guilt however I voted with the other jurors to convict because they said we had to come t a unanimous decision. (I also believe Tony Perez was confused on the jury process and only voted with the others because he didn't know what to do)
I recall in your instructions that we did have to be unanimous. I don't recall your instructions saying if you don't agree that it was acceptable and would be deemed a mistrial. My own ignorance of the judicial system is no excuse.
I was ridiculed and called names by the other jurors. I was intimidated and felt threatened.
I believe they convicted Mr. Johnson because he was black and didn't take the stand in his own defense.
I have lost all faith in the judicial system and am ashamed I sent a man to prison for life.
I cannot undo what has been done but I promise that I won't quit trying to make things right!!!
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