TULSA, Okla. — The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday vacated the manslaughter conviction of former Tulsa police officer Shannon James Kepler, 60, in the 2014 shooting death of his daughter’s boyfriend Jeremy Lake, 19, according to The Associated Press.
The overturning of the conviction follows a July 2020 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, in which the justices decided 5-4 that the eastern half of the Sooner State was a Native American reservation. As a result, it was determined that state officials lacked jurisdiction to go after the defendant—a white man who the defense says is of Muscogee descent—for an action done on this land.
Authorities saw the writing on the wall for some time, with federal prosecutors filing their own case last November. Charges include first-degree murder in Indian Country. This case is pending, Law&Crime reported.
It’s noteworthy since jurors in the state trial had trouble reaching a consensus. Kepler’s first three trials ended in a jury deadlock. He was only found guilty in his fourth time in court, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Kepler offered self-defense as the cause of action. He testified in court every time that he shot and killed Lake after seeing the teen with a gun, according to Tulsa World.
Lead defense attorney Richard O’Carroll attempted multiple times to introduce evidence about a gun being discovered in a Tulsa Police Detective Division interview room trash can the day after the shooting, but Tulsa County District Judge Sharon Holmes said nothing was collected from the weapon that would associate it with Kepler’s case.
The young couple had been out walking when the defendant stepped out of his SUV. At least seven other people said they did not see the 17-year-old with a gun, nor see one near his body.
“I could hate you, but it’s not going to change anything,” Jeremy’s father Carol Morse said at the sentencing. “What you did was wrong, and now you have to pay the consequences of your actions.”
Last summer the defendant’s daughter, Lisa Kepler expressed mixed feelings about the case. Time has taught her compassion toward her father who, for years, she says didn’t care what happened to him. Now, six years after the homicide, Lisa says her feelings have changed about her father.
“I think that, at this point, enough is enough; I have siblings who are growing up without a father, and he wasn’t a bad dad,” said Kepler.
Lisa says she has PTSD after testifying in her father’s murder trial and seeing her boyfriend killed and is torn about his legal circumstances.
She says she loves her father but knows there has to be justice, KTUL reported.
“I used to be told growing up, ‘You do the crime, you pay the time’; people can’t just get away with things like that,” said Lisa.