Judge postpones Bethel murder trial until at least August after defense attorney falls ill

TULSA - The trial for the alleged trigger man in the Neal Sweeney murder case has been postponed for a third time.

On Tuesday, Sharon Holmes, defense attorney for 26-year-old Terrico Bethel, passed out during her lunch break and was transported to the hospital by ambulance.

Holmes remains hospitalized.

The judge said Wednesday that the earliest another jury could be brought in is late August.

Jury selection began late Monday afternoon for Bethel, one of four suspects who will stand trial for the 2008 murder of Sweeney, a Tulsa businessman.

Sweeney was shot and killed that September at his east Tulsa office. Prosecutors believe his death was the result of a conspiracy led by Mohammed Aziz, the owner of a Tulsa convenience store.

Investigators say Aziz sought to retaliate for Sweeney cutting off fuel to Aziz's gas station.

Authorities believe Bethel was the gunman and brothers Fred and Allen Shields and their cousin, Alonzo Johnson, arraigned for Bethel to commit the murder.

Aziz pleaded guilty in January to soliciting the murder. He has not yet been sentenced. Prosecutors confirm that Aziz will receive a lighter prison term in exchange for his testimony in the trials of the other suspects.

Shields and Johnson's trials were set to begin Aug. 20.

Court records show Bethel is scheduled to next appear in court July 2 for a status update.

Allen Shields cut a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony in the trials of the other suspects; however, he killed himself during a hostage standoff with police in April 2011.

Holmes' hospitalization halted the completion of jury questioning. Since jurors were not sworn in, the judge did not declare a mistrial.

Meanwhile, Sweeney's family, investigators and prosecutors are frustrated with the delay.

"This has been a long time coming. The family deserves justice as does the community," said Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris. "But there are unexpected circumstances that happen in life. Our prayers go out to Ms. Holmes in the hope that she is okay."

Prosecutors say a trial will take place in August but now they're not sure which of the suspects will be tried at that timeĀ  -- Bethel, Johnson or Shields.

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