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Oklahoma court upholds conviction, death penalty

December 30, 2011 GMT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals refused Thursday to overturn the convictions of a death row inmate found guilty of the machine-gun slayings of four people on Memorial Day 2005.

In a unanimous decision, the five-judge court affirmed the first-degree murder convictions and sentences against Gilbert Ray Postelle. The 25-year-old was found guilty by an Oklahoma County jury in the deaths of James Alderson, Terry Smith, James “Donnie” Swindle Jr. and Amy Wright on May 30, 2005.

Postelle received two death sentences and two sentences of life in prison without parole

He was accused of plotting with his father, older brother and a family friend to kill the victims. Prosecutors believe that Swindle was responsible for a motorcycle accident that crippled Postelle’s father, Earl Bradford Postelle, in February 2004.

Prosecutors claim the victims were herded out of a south Oklahoma City mobile home and that someone emptied a 30-shot magazine of an AK-47 assault rifle into them. Another six shots were fired into Swindle’s head with a rifle. The victims’ bodies were found outside the mobile home.

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In 2007, Earl Postelle was declared incompetent to stand trial because of brain injuries suffered in the motorcycle accident. His other son, David Postelle, was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Family friend Randall Wade Byus also was charged with murder, but those charges were dropped after he reached a plea agreement with prosecutors and testified against Gilbert Postelle.

Postelle’s attorney, Andrea Miller of the Oklahoma County Public Defender’s Office, urged the court in October to give Postelle a new trial because of legal errors at his first trial and the fact that others prosecuted in the case were not sentenced to death. Miller also said Postelle has an IQ of only 76 and suffers from neurological issues because he has used methamphetamine since he was 11 years old.

But in a 61-page decision written by Chief Judge Arlene Johnson of Oklahoma City, the court said any evidence in Postelle’s favor was outweighed by evidence that supports his murder convictions and death sentences.

“Having reviewed the record in this case, we find that Postelle’s death sentences were not the result of trial error or improper evidence or witness testimony,” the appellate court state in the ruling. “The jury’s finding that Postelle created a great risk of death to more than one person and that the murders were especially heinous, atrocious or cruel were amply supported by the evidence.”

No execution date has been set for Postelle. After-hours telephone calls to Miller’s office and home were not answered.