New role silences fiery arguments

As a prosecutor William J. Musseman, Jr. could be passionate, sometime even fiery in closing arguments, in asking for guilty verdicts from juries, especially when the death penalty was being sought.
That courtroom passion has now been muffled.
Musseman is now a judge.
Those passions are “suitable for advocates,” he said, but, “the mindset and the difference in responsibility and role is very real.
“It is something I am mindful in each and every time I go into court, each and every case.”
Donning the black robe of judge is “quite a change,”
Musseman became a special judge in Tulsa County in December, one of 16 appointed by the district and associate district judges. He is serving at their will rather than for a specified time.
He had been as assistant district attorney for 12 years, serving as director of the major crimes unit in the later years.
“I loved the work, thought it was important work,” said Musseman who described being a prosecutor was a “a public service … a calling.”
The mechanics of leaving the Tulsa County District Attorney’s office was relatively easy, taking about two days, Musseman said. That involved briefing other prosecutors on the status of cases he was handling, especially discussing the legal issues involved.
Besides the legal issues, as a prosecutor, “you really get into those get cases … get to know the families, victims, witnesses,” Musseman said.
Separating himself from them, the new judge said, “was the hard part” in leaving. “It was more difficult than you can imagine.”
Musseman said the most memorable case he handled as an assistant district attorney was the March 2003 retrial of Shelton D. Jackson for the murder of Monica Decator in 1997.
The original trial also covered the beating of her son, Oz, who was left brain damaged at the age of 2 and arson in an attempt to cover up the crimes. Those verdicts — life and 35 years respectively — were upheld by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
It was testimony from two defense witnesses in the retrial of the Monica Decator murder that turned the case in favor of the prosecution, Musseman recalled. One was an expert medical witness who rebutted the defense expert by stating that a brain scan showed Jackson suffered from a sinus infection, not mental retardation. The second witness, a friend of Jackson, ended up agreeing with Musseman on the death penalty.
The second jury returned the same verdict and sentence as the first — guilty with the death penalty. Jackson, now 36, remains on death row.
When a special judge vacancy occurred, Musseman applied because he knew he would like it.
His father — William J. Musseman, Sr. — had been both a prosecutor and a special judge in Tulsa County into the 1990s. He is now an administrative law judge in Colorado Springs, Colo.



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