Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Impending Execution of Michael Hooper

Michael Edward Hooper sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Oklahoma on 14 August 2012. Given that he has declined to pursue clemency from the State's Pardon and Parole Board, I suspect he will not survive the day.

From Hooper v. State (1997):
Michael Edward Hooper was tried by a jury and convicted of three counts of Murder in the First Degree ... In accordance with the jury's recommendation, the Honorable Edward C. Cunningham sentenced Hooper to death on each count. ... 
Hooper was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend Cynthia Jarman [Cindy] and her two children, five-year-old Tonya and three-year-old Timmy. Hooper and Cindy met in 1992 and dated through the summer of 1993. On more than one occasion the couple fought and Cindy called police. At one point each had a victim's protective order against the other. Several times Hooper threatened to kill Cindy. In October or November, 1993, Cindy and her children moved in with Bill Stremlow. He told Cindy that Hooper was not welcome in their home. On December 6, 1993, Cindy told a friend she wanted to be with Hooper one last time and then stop seeing him. 
Hooper bought a Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol on July 15, 1993. During a traffic stop the next day the Oklahoma City Police Department [OCPD] confiscated the gun. The OCPD returned the gun on October 23, 1993, but kept the ammunition. Hooper went target shooting with friends in fields northwest of Oklahoma City the day he bought the gun and after it was returned. He took the gun when he worked out-of-state in late October and November and refused a co-worker's offer to buy it. On December 6 or 7, 1993, Hooper showed a 9mm pistol to a neighbor. 
On December 7, 1993, Cindy and her children drove Stremlow to work and borrowed his truck. Tonya got out of school at 3:30 p.m. Cindy was about fifteen minutes late to pick up Tonya; Tonya's teacher saw her get in Stremlow's truck next to a white male who was not Stremlow. Cindy failed to pick up Stremlow after work and he never saw her again; Cindy had Stremlow's only house key and he had to borrow his landlord's key to get in his house that night. Stremlow's truck was found burning in a field in northwest Oklahoma City the night of December 7. He recovered it the next day. Accelerant, probably gasoline, had been used to set the truck on fire and the windows were broken out. Stremlow returned to his house December 10; although there were no signs of forced entry, a dresser drawer was disturbed, a Jim Beam whiskey bottle was on the dresser, and ten dollars in cash was missing. Hooper's fingerprints were on the Jim Beam bottle, and other evidence showed Hooper and Cindy drank that brand of whiskey. 
Cindy and her children were reported missing on December 9. Police attempted to interview Hooper; he failed to come to the station and denied seeing Cindy for the past six months. Hooper appeared nervous and had a fresh scratch on his arm. Also on December 9, an area rancher noticed damage to his gate leading to a northwest Oklahoma City field. Inside the field he found broken glass, tire tracks, a bloody sock and a pool of blood. After hearing the missing persons report, the rancher contacted police. The next day police searched the field and found broken glass, tire tracks, a footprint, shell casings, a child's bloody sock, a pool of blood near a tree with a freshly broken branch, a blue fiber near the tree, and a grave site covered by limbs, leaves and debris. The grave appeared to be soaked with gasoline. Tonya, Timmy and Cindy were buried atop one another. Each victim had been shot twice in the head. There was a hole in the hood of Tonya's blue and purple jacket, and the white fiber lining protruded. A 9mm bullet pinned a white fiber to a branch on the grave. The branch appeared to have been broken from the tree near the pool of blood. 
Police arrested Hooper and searched his parents' house. They found the 9mm pistol, two shovels with soil consistent with soil from the grave site, two gas cans, and broken glass consistent with glass found in Tonya's coat and near the gate. Police found a 9mm bullet in Hooper's pocket. His shoe print was similar to the footprint at the scene and DNA evidence showed blood on Hooper's shoes was consistent with Cindy's blood. Shell casings found where Hooper went target shooting matched bullets shot from his gun and casings found at the crime scene. In the past, Hooper and his ex-wife Stefanie Duncan had regularly visited the field where the bodies were found. ... 
On December 13, 1993, Canadian County issued a warrant for Hooper, and police arrested him at his parent's home. After the arrest, police seized Hooper's tennis shoes and a 9mm bullet found in his pocket, and photographed a scratch on Hooper's arm. The shoes were later compared to a footprint at the scene, and DNA testing determined blood on one shoe was probably Cindy's. ... 
Stremlow and Officer Harlow testified that Stremlow spent the night at home on December 7, left, and returned to his house on December 10. Although there was no forced entry, dresser drawers were disturbed, ten dollars was missing, and a Jim Beam bottle bearing Hooper's fingerprints was on the dresser. Stremlow had told Cindy not to let Hooper visit their house. Stremlow had his landlord's key. The only other house key had been on his key ring with the truck key and was missing. ... Hooper argues since Stremlow spent one night at home before discovering the burglary, the bottle could not have been there before Cindy's death. ... 
Brett Blanton worked with Hooper during the autumn of 1993, and they shared a room when working in Illinois. Blanton testified that Hooper had a 9mm semiautomatic pistol, often went target shooting, cleaned the gun often, and slept with it nearby. Once Hooper fell asleep holding the loaded gun and Blanton had to take it away. ... 
Officer Abrahamson testified that Cindy reported a February 19, 1992 fight during which Hooper pulled the phone out of the wall, pushed and choked her, and threatened to kill her. Officer Abrahamson said Cindy appeared angry and upset. ... While investigating the February 19 fight, Officer Wilson called Hooper at the telephone number listed for Hooper in the police report. A person identifying himself as Hooper returned Officer Wilson's call, and told Officer Wilson he and Cindy fought on February 19 and he pushed her and put his hands around her throat. ... 
Hooper argues that the evidence presented at trial is insufficient. He suggests the DNA evidence was ambiguous and the physical evidence cannot be connected in time with the murders. He claims he could not have committed the crimes in the time available, and states it is impossible to connect him with the State's theory of Tonya's death ... 
Circumstantial evidence connecting Hooper to the murders includes:
  • Hooper's relationship with Cindy was marked by physical violence and death threats in the two years preceding the murders; 
  • although Cindy left Hooper in the autumn of 1993, on December 6 she told a friend she wanted to be with Hooper one last time; 
  • at approximately 3:45 p.m. December 7 Cindy and Tonya were seen in Stremlow's pickup with a white male other than Stremlow; 
  • the driver and passenger windows in Stremlow's truck were broken in the field near the grave; 
  • broken window glass on Hooper's carpet was consistent with glass in Tonya's jacket pocket; 
  • broken window glass consistent with glass from Stremlow's truck was found near the crime scene; 
  • Hooper's shoeprints were similar to a footprint found near the broken gate at the crime scene field; 
  • DNA evidence showed blood on Hooper's left and right shoes was consistent with Cindy's; 
  • the victims were buried in a single grave which was saturated with gasoline; 
  • soil on shovels in Hooper's garage matched the composition of soil from the grave; 
  • the grave was in a wooded area, covered with branches and debris, in a field where Hooper had been before; 
  • on December 9 officers saw a fresh scratch on Hooper's arm; 
  • 9mm casings were found in the field, and a 9mm bullet was embedded in a branch on the grave; 
  • the three victims were each shot twice, and the wounds were consistent with a 9mm bullet; 
  • Hooper owned a 9mm pistol and evidence showed that either the Oklahoma City police or Hooper had exclusive possession of the pistol since its July 15, 1993, purchase; 
  • on December 6 or 7, Hooper showed neighbors a 9mm pistol; 
  • Hooper had a live 9mm bullet in his pocket when he was arrested; 
  • shell casings from the scene matched casings found where Hooper practiced target shooting and also matched a bullet test-fired from Hooper's gun; 
  • the 9mm bullet embedded in the branch on the grave was fired from Hooper's gun; 
  • white fibers consistent with Tonya's jacket were pinned to the branch on the grave by the 9mm bullet from Hooper's gun; 
  • the branch on the grave appeared to come from a limb near a pool of blood; 
  • DNA evidence showed the blood pool was consistent with Cindy or Tonya; 
  • blue fibers consistent with Tonya's jacket were near the blood pool; 
  • a small, hot object made a hole through the outer blue fabric and white fiber lining of Tonya's hood; 
  • after December 7, a person entered Stremlow's home without forced entry, and the only key to the home was on the truck key ring; 
  • after December 7 Hooper's fingerprints were found on a Jim Beam bottle left on Stremlow's and Cindy's dresser.
From Hooper v. Mullin (2002)
[Hooper] argues his defense expert's testimony failed to support his defense and, instead, bolstered the State's DNA evidence. ... The State's expert already established that blood consistent with Cynthia Jarman's blood was on one of [Hooper's] shoes. The defense expert's testimony that Cynthia Jarman's blood also might have been on the other shoe fails to add anything more to the State's case. ... 
[Hooper's] counsel did argue that [Hooper] did not have time to commit the murders. During trial, counsel elicited testimony from [Hooper's] stepfather that he saw [Hooper] at home at 3:20 p.m., and that [Hooper] returned home around 6:30 p.m. The victims were last seen around 3:45 p.m., and Stremlow's burning truck was discovered around 9:00 p.m. that evening. During guilt stage closing arguments, [Hooper's] counsel argued that [Hooper] did not have enough time to kill the victims, move the truck, and walk the seven and a half miles back to his house in three hours.
From a recent article the San Francisco Chronicle:
An Oklahoma man on death row for the slayings of his ex-girlfriend and her two young children has waived his right to ask the Pardon and Parole Board to commute his death sentence, his attorney said Monday. ... 
Prosecutors alleged the victims were with Hooper in a pickup truck in a mowed field when Hooper placed the muzzle of a 9mm pistol under Cynthia Jarman's chin and shot her. Blood in her lungs indicated she had time to draw a partial breath before he shot her execution-style in the right temple, authorities said. 
Prosecutors alleged that he then shot the children to prevent them from being witnesses to their mother's murder. Timmy Jarman was shot in the nose and the right temple. Tonya Jarman, who officials said escaped from the pickup truck and ran, was shot once under her left eye and once in the left temple. 
Prosecutors allege Hooper poured gasoline on the bodies to keep wild animals from finding the grave where he placed them and covered the grave with grass, leaves and branches.
I oppose the execution of any person who might be innocent of the crime for which he is about to die. In all other cases, I stand mute.

I find no one advocating Michael Hooper's actual innocence. I find none of his appellate arguments related to guilt/innocence to be compelling. Other than the possible timing issue associated with his fingerprints on the whiskey bottle, I find none of his appellate arguments to be thought-provoking.

In the case of Michael Edward Hooper, I stand mute with respect to the propriety of his execution.

ADDENDUM (14 Aug 2012)
Michael Edward Hooper was executed by the people of Oklahoma on 14 August 2012.


Anonymous said...

Hi, You occasionally name this person 'Cooper' and other times 'Hooper'. Just letting you know.


tsj said...

Fixed. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Put him to sleep he deserves it

Anonymous said...

The Devil awaits this scumbag.

tsj said...

That's not a particularly insightful comment. Since you must be new to this site, I advise you that we prefer reasoned argument to thoughtless invective.

I suspect you might be more comfortable at one of the many avidly pro-death-penalty sites. There comments such as yours are considered brilliant rather than childish.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is (or should be) entitled to their opinion. IMHO, this person has no place in our society and apparently the State of Oklahoma and the U.S. Supreme Court agrees.

Anonymous said...

If comments and opinions such as mine are not welcome I will refrain from visiting and reading/publishing my opinions here. And just for the record, I am not always in favor of the death penalty but in this case, I believe this person deserves the punishment he was sentenced to.

tsj said...

I find your last two comments much more interesting than your first.

Anonymous said...


Hi there from Antalya, Turkey. I was getting bored and I was surfing the internet when I came along your site. I like your site very much and although I have no link to the crime mentioned above I cannot help but I feel deeply sorry for this young woman and particularly for her two small children.

I really believe that Mr. Hooper deserved what he got and I do not feel sorry for him, not at all, but sometimes I tend to think that having him rotten in jail would have been the harsher sentence. Now he has it behind it but the relatives of his victims have to live with this for many more years to come.

tsj said...

I did a quick look around Antalya just now. It's a really nice looking city. I see that it is the fastest growing town in Turkey and has recently become the third most visited town in the world, in part because it is a hub for air travel. Mediterranean coastal city approximately at the southwest corner of Turkey. It sits on a bluff and has a characteristic waterfall into the ocean.

If you get bored again and want to read about a probably an impending execution that I fervently oppose, visit my home page and read about Preston Hughes.

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