Claremore Daily Progress

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November 9, 2009

America’s least wanted...

A serial killer only a criminal defense attorney could love

November 8, 2009 — (Editor’s Note: This is fourth in a four-part series on Claremore attorney Jack Gordon, Jr., and some of Rogers County’s most infamous murder trials.)

In 1984 Gary Allen Walker went on a killing spree in Northeast Oklahoma, ending the lives of six innocent people. One of those was 25-year-old Tulsa radio reporter, Valerie Shaw-Hartzell.

Claremore attorney, Jack Gordon, Jr. tried the case. It was Gordon’s first death penalty trial.

“He was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. Profound mental illness,” said Gordon. “This is the case that put me where I am today.”

Though Gordon had tried murder cases previously, starting with that the Dorland case in 1975, a death penalty case is different.

In Oklahoma, the death penalty is not automatically on the table in a murder case. In order to get the death penalty included as a sentencing choice, the prosecution must file a Bill of Particulars citing aggravating circumstances that warrant the death penalty.

Normally in a murder trial, the defense will focus on proving the defendant charged with the crime to be not guilty.

All of that changes when the death penalty is on the table, said Gordon.

Reputable prosecutors will not put the death penalty on the table unless guilt is certain, said Gordon. When the death penalty is at stake, the focus is to save the client’s life.

“Death penalty jurisprudence is a breed of cat unto itself,” said Gordon. “I was scared to death. I’m scared at everyone of them but this was the first (death penalty) case out of the box. It changed my life.”

Gordon’s notorious and deadly client was also a breed unto himself.

“He was a terribly unforgettable character,” said Gordon. “He and I got to be good friends.”

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