Conviction Reversed in Murder of Sherman Man

6-23-06 - The U.S. Attorney's office has issued a statement regarding the conviction reversal of a Choctaw County man who shot and killed Sherman resident David Pickens in 1999. It appears for now, Fred Holder will not be released.

Pickens was a well-known Sherman businessman and the son of a former city police chief.

The following is the US Attorney's News Release:

MUSKOGEE, OKLAHOMA - U. S. Attorney Sheldon J. Sperling reported today concerning a district court order in the captioned case. “The order relates to a federal trial of a killing that occurred on September 23, 1999,” U.S. Attorney Sperling said. “The district court order included the following findings.”

On September 23, 1999, the defendant, Fred Holder shot and killed an adjoining land owner, David Pickens, in Choctaw County.

On March 9, 2000, the defendant was convicted by a federal jury of second degree murder and impeding a federal officer, a Department of Agriculture District Conservationist. The officer and the victim had been flagging a boundary that was to be fenced between property owned by the defendant and property on which the Department of Agriculture maintained an easement.

On November 14, 2000, the District Court sentenced the defendant to 168 months in prison for second degree murder. The Court also imposed a 60-month concurrent prison sentence for impeding a federal officer.

On July 10, 2001, the defendant’s convictions were affirmed by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The defendant then filed a motion to vacate his convictions. Defendant alleged that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. He criticized his lawyers’ failure to call an eye-witness at trial, his lawyers’ closing argument, his lawyers’ lack of preparation and investigation, and asserted accumulative error.

“The District Court rejected the defendant’s claims that his trial attorneys were deficient for failure to conduct an adequate pretrial investigation, failure to raise jurisdictional and venue issues, failure to contest the court’s denial of bond, failure to adequately prepare Holder to testify, failure to vigorously challenge and cross examine a government witness, failure to file post-trial motions, and a presentation of ‘nonsensical’ and ‘jumbled’ closing argument,” U.S. Attorney Sperling noted. “The Court found ‘no basis for a finding of ineffective assistance of counsel on these additional grounds.’”

However, District Court found the defendant was rendered ineffective assistance of counsel on two grounds. The District Court found counsel failed to make an informed decision about whether to call an eye-witness to testify at trial, and also failed to consult with or employ expert witnesses who may have contradicted certain government experts – a forensic pathologist and an OSBI criminalist.

“This decision is subject to review by Main Justice officials,” stated U.S. Attorney Sperling. “This order will be reviewed as a predicate to further appropriate action.”

“The defendant’s assertions of error were contested,” U.S. Attorney Sperling said. “We will examine the underlying record to decide which of several prosecutorial options should be exercised.”

The District Court also ordered a status hearing in this case for July 12, 2006, at 2:00 pm. “Typically, such a defendant is transported from federal prison to the Muskogee County Jail by the U.S. Marshal Service,” U.S. Attorney Sperling observed.