Michael Magness to likely face another jury trial in May on charges severed from murder case

By Joshua Allen
ONL Staff Reporter

Michael Magness may face another jury trial after just being found guilty of murdering his wife by 12 jurors a few months ago. 

Michael Magness is seen being escorted into the Okfuskee County District Courtroom for jury selection last last year at the beginning of his trial for the 2015 first-degree murder of his wife, Elizabeth, in 2015. (Josh Allen/News Leader)

Along with the charge of ‘Murder in the First Degree-Deliberate Intent’, Magness was also facing charges of second degree arson, making a false claim for insurance, pornography (producing/distributing/possessing juvenile pornography), exhibition of obscene material to a minor and three counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor. 

Sometime during the court proceedings before Magness’ jury trial began in the fall of last year, the decision was made by the courts to sever these aforementioned charges to be tried at a later date. 

That means the jury trial Magness was found guilty at was only concerning the murder charge, leading to the judge at that time disallowing the presentation of any evidence concerning those charges to be heard by jurors at that time. 

This allowed the jury the chance to concentrate on only the first-degree murder charge, which only circumtantially and inadvertently related to the other charges. 

The arson charge stems from a fire that consumed a family member’s home before Magness collected an insurance policy on the property, while the other charges stem from Magness’ relationship with a family friend and employee at the restaurant Magness owned and operated at the time of his wife’s murder. 

Magness has maintained his innocence, pleading not guilty to all charges, throughout the proceedings and up to now. 

During a docket in District Judge Lawrence Parish’s courtroom last week, Magness and defense attorney Curt Allen were present for disposition concerning the remaining severed charges. 

It was decided by the judge to handle Magness’ case last, which came after the judge had heard the other defendants’ cases on the docket. 

The docket that day was fairly long, lasting well into the lunch hour. 

Parish indicated to state’s prosecutor Laura Farris and counsel for the accused Magness that the court would proceed with defendant’s case after breaking for lunch. 

However, after some discussion, that changed and the case was continued, pending further court hearings. 

In the lobby of Parish’s courtroom after the judge dismissed the court, Farris told the Okemah News Leader that Magness and his attorney were attempting to make some kind of arrangement for a plea deal. 

She did not go into the details of that attempted arrangement, explaining it would need to be discussed with the district attorney, which couldn’t happen at that time, though it seemed the deal would not have likely been accepted regardless. 

No other details were given during the hearing or after, and Farris indicated to the judge in the courtroom that the arrangement for a plea agreement “was not something the State could do at this time.” 

With that, Parish dismissed the court and passed the case to a later date. 

Magness has continued to maintain his innocence to these charges, as well as the murder charge he has now been found guilty of. 

An appeal of that murder charge has been issued and is in the hands of the State of Oklahoma Appellate Court. 

According to a deputy court clerk, hundreds of pages of the entire court transcript and all related documents are still being gathered and sent to the appellate court, so a decision on whether the appeal gives grounds for any re-trial or conviciton overturning is still months away.

As for the current case concerning the severed charges, another deputy clerk in Court Clerk Sherry Foreman’s office, said Magness will likely be on the docket for another jury trial, set to start sometime in May. 

Judge Parish will issue what is called a ‘sounding docket’  — currently set for April 17 and includes this pending Magness case — before the May jury trial is to begin and the court prepares to notify potential jurors for that trial. 

More to be reported on this story as details become available. 

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