The jury trial for a man charged in a double-murder case is postponed until February to give the defense more time to prepare, but prosecutors say they are still seeking the death penalty in the case.
The trial for Craig Stanford, accused of killing Aaron Lavers and Anthony Rogers inside their residence located in the 100 block of A Street NW on May 17, 2016 was once again continued. Stanford faces charges of double-murder and is now expected to go to trial in February. No other cases went to trial during the November jury term.
Stanford faces charges that include a Bill of Particulars which allows the prosecution to seek the death penalty in the event of a conviction.
“It has been continued at the request of the defense over my objection,” District Attorney Craig Ladd said. “The defense claims it needed more time to adequately prepare. I still intend to seek the death penalty in the case.“
Ladd said that before a jury can impose a sentence of death, it is required to find the existence of an “aggravating circumstance” in a
second stage of the trial.
Prior to seeking the death penalty, Oklahoma law requires that the prosecution file a “Bill of Particulars” specifying which aggravating circumstance the prosecutor believes makes the case death penalty eligible.
Ladd said the Stanford trial would be the second case in which he has sought the death penalty. In the first, the jury found the existence of an aggravating circumstance but sentenced the defendant to life without parole.
The lack of jury trials, though notable, is not all that uncommon.
“A majority of our cases are resolved by plea agreements. This practice is true statewide.  In some instances, the defendant enters a ‘blind plea’ and his/her sentence is decided exclusively by the judge,”  Ladd said. “Blind pleas are entered when the defendant admits guilt but feels the prosecutor’s plea offer is too punitive.”
Ladd said his office files more than 2,000 criminal cases per year in Carter County, making the plea agreement process a necessity due to a lack of resources.
“A typical jury trial takes about 2-3 days on the average and we only have two courtrooms in the courthouse that include jury rooms.  If we decided to enter no plea agreements, then there is simply not near enough time to have full-fledged trials on each of the matters,” Ladd said. “Plea agreements can be custom tailored to fit different situations.  If a victim has incurred expenses as a result of crime, for example, then the payment of restitution would be included in the agreement.  In cases which involved homicide or some sort of felonious assault, we typically confer with the victims and/or the victims’ families and seek their blessings before making a plea offer.”            
Ladd said the number of trials his office requests can vary from one docket to the next.
“We’ve had dockets in the past two years where we conducted as many as eight jury trials in a two-week period and some jurors were required to serve on three jury trials,” Ladd said.  
The previous jury term had three cases go to trial, two cases were for manslaughter and one was for assault and battery with a deadly weapon. The May docket had three jury trials as well, two cases of manslaughter and one for felony DUI.