Jury to resume talks in Okla. warden's wife trial

AP News
Posted: Sep 20, 2011 8:59 PM
Jury to resume talks in Okla. warden's wife trial

Jurors completed their first full day of deliberations Tuesday as they work to decide whether a former Oklahoma prison warden's wife helped a convicted killer escape or if she was kidnapped and held in check through threats for more than a decade.

Lawyers in the case said Tuesday that the judge granted a request by the jury to tour an area around the home on the prison grounds where the warden and his wife lived. The jury is to board a bus at 9 a.m. Wednesday for the drive to the prison.

The jury's request may point to the credibility of a key prosecution witness in the case _ a state prison inmate who told jurors he saw the woman get into the family van with the inmate and drive him from the southwestern Oklahoma prison 17 years ago.

Bobbi Parker, 49, could face up to 10 years in prison if the jury decides she helped Randolph Franklin Dial escape from the Oklahoma State Reformatory, where her husband worked as deputy warden.

Jurors began deliberating on Monday after listening to months of testimony from more than 80 witnesses and reviewing more than 800 pieces of evidence. In addition to requesting the tour of the prison grounds, the jury on Tuesday asked to review 1994 video shot by Texas police of the van Parker and Dial disappeared in.

The jury faces one central question: Did she fall in love with Dial, who died in 2007, or did Dial drug the woman and take her from the Oklahoma State Reformatory as his hostage?

Parker and Dial disappeared from the prison on Aug. 30, 1994. It took 11 years for authorities to locate them at a home in Campti, Texas. Police found Parker working in a nearby chicken ranch.

Prosecutors say Parker helped Dial escape after falling in love with him while they worked together in a prison pottery program that was held in the garage of the Parker home on the prison grounds.

Both Dial and Parker maintained that he kidnapped her, but Oklahoma authorities filed charges against Parker, believing she helped Dial escape.

District Judge Richard Darby revealed Tuesday morning that Parker's 12-member jury had asked to view the area around the house where Parker lived with her husband, former deputy warden Randy Parker, and their two daughters when she disappeared with Dial.

Defense attorney Garvin Isaacs said it took time to arrange the visit with officials at the state Department of Corrections.

"The warden has to have security available and has to be ready," Isaacs said.

Isaacs said he believes jurors are interested in the relationship between the Parkers' former house and another where the inmate said he was working when Bobbi Parker and Dial disappeared.

The inmate, who is serving a life prison sentence at the Lawton Correctional Facility for first-degree murder, testified on Aug. 4 that he was pulling weeds outside another house two doors down from the Parkers' when he saw Bobbi Parker get into the driver's side of the family van.

"And then Dial got in the van," the inmate said. He said Dial appeared unarmed when he got into the passenger side of the van and was driven out of the prison.

Isaacs has challenged the truthfulness of the inmate.

"You cannot see what he said he saw," he said. Darby has ordered that the 42-year-old inmate's not be divulged because he fears reprisal for his testimony.

The Associated Press asked the judge to allow a pool reporter to accompany jurors on their visit, but Isaacs said Darby denied the request.

"He said he didn't want any media out there," Isaacs said. The judge did not discuss his decision in open court and provided no reason for it.

In his closing argument Monday, assistant prosecutor Eric Yarborough dismissed Parker's claim that she was drugged.

"The intoxication in this case was love," he told jurors. "She chose freedom with Randolph Franklin Dial. Was it a good choice? Probably not. Was it a bad choice? Absolutely."

Isaacs called Dial a "sick, sociopathic egomaniac" who stole Parker away from her husband and two daughters. She's still married to Randy Parker, who testified during the trial that he loves his wife.

"Bobbi Parker isn't going to do anything that will break up her family," Isaacs said of his client, who did not testify in the trial.

Dial, who was serving a life prison sentence for first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to escape before he died in 2007 at the age of 62. He maintained until his death that he kidnapped Parker and held her against her will.

But prosecutors never charged Dial with kidnapping. They say the two made a pact that if either was discovered, he would say he kidnapped her and held her hostage. In a letter he wrote from prison after he was recaptured, Dial said: "Who cares how many years I get? With my life sentence, who's counting? Not me."