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LIVE BLOG: Jurors recommend death sentence for David Ware

Posted at 10:04 AM, Apr 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-28 22:24:19-04

TULSA, Okla. — 7:13 Jury recommended a death sentence for David Ware.

7:03 p.m. The jury reached a decision in the sentencing for Ware. The jury deliberated the sentence almost three hours.

The arguments in the sentencing phase of David Ware's murder trial wrapped up Wednesday, handing the case to the jury.

Jurors returned Monday after convicting Ware on Friday night in the shooting of two Tulsa police officers. The shooting left Tulsa Police Sgt. Craig Johnson dead and Officer Aurash Zarkeshan injured.

The jury found Ware guilty on all counts:

  • Murder in the 1st Degree
  • Shooting with intent to kill
  • Possession of a firearm after a felony conviction
  • Possession of a drug with intent to distribute
  • Obstructing an officer

The jury recommended a life sentence for Ware for the shooting of Zarkeshan. They still have to determine a sentence for the killing of Johnson.

Jurors heard closing arguments on Wednesday and will be left to determine Ware's sentence: life in prison with a chance for parole, life in prison with no chance for parole, or the death penalty.

MORE >>> What do jurors consider in an Oklahoma death penalty case?

2 News Oklahoma has a reporter in the courtroom getting updates:

Tuesday, April 26

4:08 p.m.
LaFortune excuses jurors for deliberations.

3:45 p.m.
Court resumes after break. Gray begins rebuttal argument in response to Adams's closing argument.

Gray said Ware's daughter is already going to grow up without him. "That ship has sailed," Gray said.

He reminded the jury that Johnson's kids are also growing up without a father.

Gray said this decision from the jury should come down to Ware's choices.

"Today is about accountability," Gray said.

2:37 p.m.
Adams begins the closing argument for the defense.

Adams emphasized healing and forgiveness. He said a sentence of life in prison would mean justice has been served.

Adams repeated some of his main points from the case including Ware's fear during the traffic stop and how important the video shown in the case was.

He pointed out that the paramedic who testified said that Johnson's wounds didn't differ much from a standard shooting call he's been on.

1:57 p.m.
Kunzweiler begins closing arguments for the state.

Kunzweiler asked the jury to think about what it must have been like for Johnson and Zarkeshan after they were shot and waiting in the street for help to get there.

He apologized to the jury for the videos they had to see, including Staggs's body camera video that showed some of Johnson's final moments.

1:22 p.m.
Court resumes.

LaFortune discusses the two jurors who requested to be removed.

LaFortune said the issues raised by jurors bring the court "beyond suspecting" that the jurors can't continue to be fair and impartial. They'll be dismissed and replaced by two alternates.

Group of 12 including alternates brought in. LaFortune reads jury instructions.

10:20 a.m.
Court finalizing jury instructions. Defense preparing mitigation argument to sway jurors away from sentencing Ware to death.

Jurors haven't been brought back for closing arguments yet. Two jurors have asked to be removed from the case but the court has not yet decided if they'll grant the requests. There are two alternate jurors available to take their places.

3:45 p.m.
Court resumes. Adams shows jurors a photo of Ware as a child before resting his case.

LaFortune dismisses the jury until Wednesday morning when they'll hear closing arguments, jury instructions and go straight into deliberations on Ware's murder sentence.

3:15 p.m.
Court breaks.

3:11 p.m.
Defense calls Dixie Pebworth to the stand, a pastor who said he wanted to share some hope with Ware. LaFortune is allowing very little questioning of Pebworth as Adams requested his testimony late in the process.

He'd approached Adams to ask to see Ware after his conviction last Friday. He met with him on Saturday.

2:51 p.m.
Defense calls Brianna Hunt to the stand. Hunt has known Ware since going to high school together. The two dated as teenagers.

Hunt said they remained friends after dating, and that her mother considered him like a son, at one point having him live with them.

Hunt said Ware's best friend of more than a decade Ryan Martin committed suicide. Hunt also talked about how her parents had a good relationship with Ware until they died.

State didn't cross-examine.

2:09 p.m.
Adams calls Ann Ware, David Ware's mother, to testify.

She said she once studied to become a nun in France but came back because of her mother's health. She became pregnant with David Ware at the age of 16.

She said she tried to keep her life with her other kids and husband separate from her life with Ware because of the abuse.

She said she's managed to stay in contact with him. She said Ware has told her that he has been making progress toward getting back to his faith.

1:47 p.m.
Adams gives his opening statement in the defense's case.

Adams described Ware's relationship with his mother and his early relationship with faith. Ware's parents didn't marry and he'd end up adopted by his mother's parents.

Adams said Ware was abused by his mother's first husband, and his mother's life significantly impacted his upbringing.

1:41 p.m.
Court resumes. LaFortune asked Ware if he wanted to testify again but declined.

11:38 a.m.
State rests aggravation case. Court breaks for lunch.

Adams asks LaFortune to bring a last-minute witness as a part of the defense's mitigating evidence — a pastor who met with Ware over the weekend.

LaFortune will allow the witness but with very specific parameters for questioning.

11:25 a.m.
Gray shows jurors body camera video from Officer Rage Staggs who helped load Johnson into the patrol car after the shooting.

11:21 a.m.
State calls 13-year-old Connor Johnson, Craig's son to the stand. Connor reads a prepared statement. Adams had no questions for him.

11:07 a.m.
State calls Kristi Johnson to the stand, Craig Johnson's wife. She reads a prepared statement.

She said one of their sons has seen the video showing her husband's killing. She said one of them said that they are scared of the idea of Ware getting out of jail.

She described the trauma and impact of her husband's death on their family both long-term and in their daily routine.

She said she's received hateful messages online and her sons have heard harmful things about her husband and his death in school.

Adams asked Johnson about her and her husband filing for divorce before his death.

10:51 a.m.
State calls next witness, Kyle Giangreco, a Tulsa paramedic who works with both EMSA and helicopter flight medical care.

Giangreco told Gray that he was working the morning Ware shot Johnson and Zarkeshan. He said on their way to the call, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper pulled out in front of the ambulance to stop them.

Giangreco helped load Johnson from the patrol car onto a stretcher into the ambulance. He said Johnson was still awake and trying to talk when they loaded him up, but before they got him to St. Francis he went unresponsive and had to be given a breathing tube.

Giangreco said he handed care of Johnson off to hospital staff as soon as they arrived.

10:39 a.m.
Court resumes. State calls Robert Fallis, a former Tulsa police officer who retired in 2020 after 35 years of service.

Fallis worked in the Mingo Valley traffic unit in 2007 when he responded to a collision involving Ware. Fallis said it turned out to be a hit-and-run.

Fallis found the owner of the car whose daughter drove up alone in the car involved during the investigation. The woman had dropped Ware off earlier at a home in Broken Arrow.

Police arrested Ware in relation to a previous warrant. Fallis said during the drive to the jail that Ware started kicking inside the car and purposely hitting his head against the dashboard. Fallis stopped the car and called for a prisoner transport vehicle.

Fallis told Adams that he didn't know or remember if Ware appeared to be under the influence of drugs during that arrest.

Fallis dismissed.

10:16 a.m.
Court takes short recess.

9:55 a.m.
Crown dismissed. LaFortune discusses scheduling with attorneys.

State calls its first witness in this phase of the sentencing. Tulsa Police Officer Mik Halgren testifies. Halgren has worked in the department for 11 years.

Gray asks Halgren to describe a shoplifting incident he responded to at a Home Depot in downtown Tulsa involving Ware. Halgren said Ware had warrants out for his arrest already.

Halgren describes the arrest during which they couldn't convince Ware to take his hands out of his pocket. He tried to use the taser after several warnings but it didn't deploy correctly.

Eventually they handcuffed him and found a laser level from Home Depot partially unwrapped.

Adams asked Halgren if he liked using his taser. He said he didn't like using it and he'd only used it once in the last five years. "It's more paperwork," Halgren said.

8:45 a.m.
Court resumes. Kunzweiler begins cross-examination for Crown.

Kunzweiler pointed out to jurors that Crown is not a medical doctor. Crown agreed with Kunzweiler that he couldn't diagnose Ware with psychopathy and that he hadn't seen any of the shooting video or read the police reports about Ware.

Adams continued to try to reinforce his point through Crown that Ware's history of drug abuse could have altered his state of mind prior to his arrest.

Monday, April 25

6:12 p.m.
Court in recess until Tuesday.

5:44 p.m.
Adams temporarily bypasses his opening statement to accommodate his first witness, Dr. Barry Crown, a Florida neuropsychologist.

Crown examined Ware in 2021 and found Ware's brain was functioning better since his imprisonment since he'd been off of drugs, but that he still had a thinking disorder aggravated by his childhood, drugs and head injuries.

5:30 p.m.
Trial moves forward into final phase, asking jury to decide Ware's sentence for first-degree murder.

Gray begins the state's opening statement, asking for a death sentence for Ware for Johnson's killing.

"What do you want to do about the murder of Sgt. Craig Johnson?" Gray asked the jury. He's anticipating Johnson's family testifying in this next phase of the sentencing.

5:26 p.m.
Jury recommends the following sentences for Ware's non-capital crimes:

  • Shooting with intent to kill: Life in prison
  • Possession of a firearm after a felony conviction: 30 years
  • Possession of a drug with intent to distribute: 25 years
  • Obstructing an officer: One year

5:18 p.m.
Jurors have reached a decision on sentencing recommendations for Ware's non-capital offenses.

3:22 p.m.
Jurors excused for deliberations for Ware's non-capital convictions.

3:17 p.m.
Kevin Adams, lead counsel for Ware, begins closing arguments for non-capital convictions.

Adams reminds jurors they won't be asked to determine if the sentences should run consecutively or concurrently.

Adams asks jurors to think about anyone they've known who struggles with addiction when considering the sentencing for the drug-related sentence for Ware.

3:10 p.m.
Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray begins closing arguments for non-capital convictions.

Gray asks jurors to try to ignore what happened to Johnson as they're not in that part of the sentencing phase. Gray asks that they consider what happened to Zarkeshan.

2:56 p.m.
Court resumes. LaFortune reads instructions to jurors.

1:45 p.m.
Kunzweiler moves to incorporate all previous evidence used in the previous phase of the trial into this portion.

The state rests its case.

Adams asked to incorporate all of its previous evidence as well.

The defense rests its case.

Court in recess as LaFortune goes over instructions before deliberations.

1:39 p.m.
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler begins opening statements for the sentencing portion of the trial. The jury will first focus on the non-capital offenses — separating them from the first-degree murder charge. During that process they'll take into account Ware's previous felony convictions when choosing a punishment.

Adams gave the opening statement for the defense, only further instructing the jury of their duties in this portion of the trial.

1:20 p.m.
Court resumes. Prosecutors and Ware's attorneys discuss scheduling with LaFortune.

12 p.m.
Court in recess until 1:15 p.m. The court agreed to split the sentencing phase of the trial into two parts.

The jury will focus on the sentencing for Ware's murder conviction in a session after focusing on Ware's other convictions.

11:43 a.m.
Court resumes. Gifford is no longer in the courtroom to represent Ware.

Adams asked the court to withdraw the motion for mistrial.

10:16 a.m.
Ware's co-counsel Robert Gifford filed for two motions ahead of the start of the sentencing.

Gifford filed a motion for a mistrial on two grounds: One of the reasons is sealed, but the other alleges during deliberations that the jury was shown a part of the body camera video that shows the moments after the shooting that include Johnson's attempts to speak. The motion claims it was not admitted during the trial and shouldn't have been provided.

Gifford also filed a motion to remove himself as co-counsel for Ware.

9:30 a.m.
Judge Bill LaFortune says there will be a delay to the morning's proceedings. Court is expected to resume later this morning.

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