Crime Saga of Michael Magness Ends with a Plea Deal

Defendant waives right to what would have been second jury trial in less than a year

By Joshua Allen
ONL Staff Reporter

For a moment or two, it looked as if the criminal saga that has been the State of Oklahoma vs. Michael Magness would see its second jury trial after the well-known local man was found guilty of first-degree murder less than half a year ago.

Michael Magness being escorted into the courtroom during his first-degree murder trial in early November where a jury found him guilty of killing his wife. (JOSH ALLEN/News Leader)

However, as it turns out, that will not be the case.

According to the Okfuskee District Attorney’s Office, Magness took a plea agreement last week, pleading no contest to charges of arson in the second degree and making a false insurance claim in exchange for a 13 year prison sentence with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Magness was found guilty by a jury for first-degree murder in November of last year after about a week long trial and a few hours of jury deliberation. District Judge Lawrence Parish sentenced Magness to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

The arson and subsequent making of a false insurance claim were the only remaining charges without a court’s decision on the criminal record for Magness, post-his arrest just a few years ago.

In total, the Okemah local had eight charges levied against him. What were those charges? In the order of Count 1 through Count 8, they were: first-degree murder, arson, making a false insurance claim, possession of juvenile pornography, exhibiting obscene material to a minor and three counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor.

The courts did not intend to try Magness on all the charges at once, so in a piece-milling fashion, it was decided to sever the arson and making of a false insurance claim (both of which pertained to the burning of his grandfather’s home and the subsequent insurance claim filed against it) from the first-degree murder charge (Counts 2 and 3 from Count 1).

That left Counts 4-8, which were also separated to be dealt with separately — Counts 5, 6, 7 and 8 from Count 4. Previously adjudicated was Count 4, the charge of possession of juvenile pornography, in June 2017.

With the murder charge and pornography charge already adjudicated, Magness still had to be tried for the remaining six charges, all to which he had maintained his innocence up until last week.

According to court documents, this most recent plea deal saw the defendant enter a plea of “no contest” to the arson and insurance fraud charges, while the court dismissed Counts 5-8, exhibiting obscene material to a minor (Count 5) and the three counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor (County 6, 7 and 8).

During Magness’ 2018 first-degree murder trial, the judge ordered that anything pertaining to Counts 2 and 3 or Counts 5-8 to be inadmissible in the court, explaining to the jury the charges did not relate to each other and should not be considered in the deliberation concerning his guilt or non-guilt of the murder charge, notwithstanding their contemporary closeness and relation to Magness’ business and finances — both of which were discussed as part of his possible motive for murder.

The murder charge stemmed from the accusation that Magness had shot to death his wife, Beth, with a 9mm handgun with malice aforethought. The jury agreed, finding Magness guilty after only a little more than three hours of deliberation. The trial lasted about eight days.

In the recent plea agreement, Parish gave Magness 10 years imprisonment for the arson charge and three years for making a false claim — all of which will be absorbed by the life-in-prison-with-no-chance-of-parole sentence he just had handed down to him at the end of last year.

Even still, Parish ordered the sentences for Counts 2 and 3 (10 years imprisonment for arson and three years imprisonment for the making of a false insurance claim) to run concurrently with each other, as well as concurrently to the previously adjudicated Count 4, but ordered the sentences for all three of those to run consecutively to Count 1 (first-degree murder).

With that came the conclusion to what had become the several-years-long Michael Magness crime saga.

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