UPDATE: Judge Kane has sentenced Aylais Buddy Oliver to 6 years in prison for his conviction on manslaughter in the Thanksgiving 2009 death of his son.
Good morning court watchers,
This is John Ensslin, legal affairs reporter for the Gazette, coming to you live today from Division 3, where a sentencing hearing is about to begin for a 77-year-old Security man convicted of shooting his son to death on Thanksgiving 2009.
Aylais “Buddy” Oliver faces between two to six years in prison when he is sentenced for manslaughter at 9 a.m. by Fourth Judicial District Judge Thomas Kelly Kane. If Kane determines that there were aggravating circumstances, that sentence could increase to four to 12 years.
A jury found Oliver, a retired steel mill worker, guilty of manslaughter for shooting his 49-year-old son Keith with a .357 magnum revolver in the garage of the father’s home. But they acquitted him of the more serious charge of first-degree murder.
During the trial, prosecutors called the shooting a deliberate premeditated act by a father who was angry at being disrespected by his son. The shooting occurred shortly after the two men argued over the son’s chronic inability to earn a living.
But Aylais Oliver, who testified in his own defense, told jurors that the gun went off accidentally when he heard his son coming up behind him following a confrontation in the garage.
“Why would I want to kill my own son?” Oliver testified.
His wife Marjorie Oliver testified that she had no idea when her husband grabbed his revolver that day that he was going to shoot their son.
“I didn’t think that Buddy would kill him,” she said.
“If I had thought he was going to kill Keith, he would probably have killed me because I would’ve jumped in front of him,” she added.
Marjorie Oliver is in the courtroom this morning, as she was for most everyday of the trial.
Aylais Oliver is sitting at the defense table, in an orange jail jumpsuit with his legs shackled.
Judge Kane has entered. The hearing is underway.
Marjorie Oliver is the first to address the judge. She says nothing of her husband and instead talks about her 49-year-old son Keith.
“He never got into any trouble,” she said, recalling how her son would call her early in the morning just to let her know he was OK.
“He was always there when I needed him,” she added.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Bentley asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence of 6 years.
Bentley said he has had long conversation about the sentence with Marjorie Oliver.
“She’s extremely conflicted on this matter,” Bentley said.
“Her family exploded,” he added. “In no different way than if someone had planted a bomb in that house.”
Bentley reminds the judge that the defendant went upstairs to retrieve his gun prior to the shooting.
“The question is what could have made him go and get that gun,” Bentley said.
“The question for you in imposing sentence is just how reckless was that…to pursue his son into and point a gun into his face,” Bentley told the judge.
“It’s having that gun in his hand that caused the crime,” the prosecutor added. “He could’ve gone up there (to his bedroom) and just closed the door.”
Deputy Public Defender Amanda Philipps asked the judge to consider sentencing Oliver to probation and if not that, then something on the low end of the 2-6 year prison range.
“Our argument is that Mr. Oliver acted with not intent,” Philipps said.
She described Keith Oliver as “a son that he (Buddy) loved and cared for. A son that he had provided for his entire life.”
No matter what sentence Kane imposed, Philipps said Oliver will live with his regret for what happened for the rest of his life.
“He is going to be his greatest punisher,” she said.
Kane asked Buddy Oliver if he had anything to say in his own behalf.
“No,” Oliver replied.
Kane said he had decided to impose the maximum sentence.
Among his reasons, Kane cited “this reckless behavior of allowing the argument with Keith to get worse and worse.”
“Allowing the argument to escalate further…constitutes the most reckless behavior,” the judge added.
I’ll end this blog here. Watch for a complete story later today at gazette.com