Kassen acquitted of second degree murder; convicted of conspiracy

October 25, 2019 | Courts|Featured

By SHARON ROWEN | KAY NEWSCOW EXCLUISIVE

NEWKIRK — A jury took just over two and half hours to find Joel Benjamin Kassen, 26, guilty of conspiracy and not guilty of second degree murder.

The jury recommended a five year sentence on the conspiracy conviction.
Kassen is now acquitted of second degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Cody Grantham.

Grantham died in a one-vehicle accident that occurred at 1:42 a.m. in the 800 block of Kygar Road on Sept. 12, 2015. Daltyn Ryan Stout, who was then 19, and the driver of the vehicle, entered an Alford Plea on Aug. 18, 2017 to felony counts of manslaughter and conspiracy, and is serving a 20 year prison sentence with 10 years suspended at the R.B. Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominey.

Daltyn Stout

Kassen’s trial began Tuesday and testimony carried into Wednesday. (see Tuesday story here) (see Wednesday story here.)
The case was delayed until today because of a power outage.
Today, closing arguments were given by district attorney Brian Hermanson, first assistant district attorney Billie Chrz and Kassen’s attorney Thomas Griesedieck. The jury was given the case at 12:41 p.m. After about an hour of deliberations, the jury asked the court for a magnifying glass, before returning the verdicts at 3:15 p.m. Afterwards, one of the members of the jury said it was the toughest task they had ever faced.

Griesedieck said he is very happy with the verdict.
“We are happy with the results but this is the kind of case where there is no winner. I think the jury listened carefully to what the arguments were and I thank them for their service.”

Joel Kassen and Thomas Griesedieck after the verdict. (Photo submitted)

Hermanson also expressed gratitude for the jury.
“We appreciate the jury’s hard work on a difficult case,” he said. “While we feel the defendant should have been convicted of the death of Cody Grantham, we are pleased that he was convicted of conspiring to provide alcohol to four underage persons. Everyone needs to understand that you may be held to be responsible if you provide alcohol to underage persons. Everyone needs to make sure to protect the public from intoxicated drivers.”

Sentencing is scheduled for Kassen on Nov. 5 at 1 p.m. Griesedieck said he plans to ask Judge David Bandy to allow credit for time served.

Closing Arguments

First assistant district attorney Billie Chrz

Chrz told the jury that when someone gives strong beer to a 19-year-old, who plans to drink and drive someone can get hurt. “That is what happened, there was a wreck,” she said. She explained that second degree murder means the person did not intend for someone to get killed and she reviewed the four elements of the crime.Chriz said it has been proven that Grantham was in the vehicle and died, and that Kassen provided and purchased alcohol for Stout and that Stout was the driving under the influence. “Cody Grantham died because Stout drove when he was drunk,” she said.

Defense Attorney Thomas Griesedieck

“The state is making a big deal that Joel Kassen was the only person over 21. Ms. Chrz said a 30- pack was split between three people, there is no evidence of that. They refer to Stout as an inexperienced driver. Where did that come from, because it didn’t come from the evidence. She argued that the kids were drinking all day long. Again that is not fact. We can do a timeline. Kassen is charged with conspiracy not furnishing beer. I expect you to hold him accountable of conspiracy. That charge carries a wide range of punishment.”
Griesedieck said three witnesses testified that Grantham died in an accident.
“The issue is did Kassen cause the death,” he said. “One theory the state is operating under is an imminent risk. But the state is saying that furnishing beer at 4:54 p.m. was an imminent risk to Cody at 1:45 a.m. the next morning. I think they will argue that providing an alcohol to a minor is imminently dangerous conduct. Use your common sense. Stout speeding is an unforeseen circumstance and the state can’t even prove that the accident was caused by alcohol. The officers said he was driving to fast. I don’t understand why Stout’s dad isn’t charged. He would be part of the conspiracy too.”
Griesedieck asked the jury to return a verdict that states Kassen is not a murderer.

District Attorney Brian Hermanson
“The evidence is that they went to a liquor store and got strong beer,” said Hermanson. “They could have went to a grocery story and got 3.2 beer.” Hermanson said evidence shows the group was drinking for over six hours.
“We know that because we have a receipt from Lamp Post Liquor that shows the purchase was made at 4:54 p.m. We believe we have provided all the evidence that you need in this case.”
Hermanson said drinking and driving is a risk and referred to the non-stop advertising campaign that stresses not to drink and drive.
“You are here as deciders of fact,” Hermanson told the jury. “You should not base your decision on pity or sorrow.” Hermanson told the jury that he believes the state has shown that alcohol was the cause of the accident and that speed was involved.

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