By: Patti Weaver
(Stillwater, Okla.) — In what may be a history-making verdict in a domestic violence case in Payne County, a jury convicted a Stillwater man of stabbing and beating his wife — even though she testified her injuries were all accidentally self-inflicted.
The jury composed of five women and seven men recommended last week that Andrew Niles Rice, 29, be given a six-year prison term for the stabbing and a five-year prison term plus a $4,000 fine for beating his wife in the presence of her two girls, age 18 months and 3 years.
Rice remains held in the Payne County Jail pending his sentencing on Feb.18 before Associate District Judge Stephen Kistler, who will decide whether he will serve his prison terms concurrently or consecutively. Rice was arrested about 23 minutes after a 911 call from his wife and jailed on $100,000 bail, court records show.
Prosecutor Debra Vincent had told the jury in her closing argument on Thursday that they could consider whether Rice’s wife was truthful on the witness stand when she said she lied about being attacked. She told the jurors, “This case wasn’t just built on her. There were the injuries that were documented, the 911 call, the statements to the doctor.”
Advising jurors that if they wanted to hear the 911 call again, the prosecutor said they could ask permission from the judge, who did allow the jury to listen to the 911 call again twice during their deliberations that lasted about four hours.
The prosecutor reminded the jury that on the 911 call, “You heard the words, ‘Somebody help me. My boyfriend is beating me up in front of my kids. He’s trying to kill me. He stabbed me.’ You heard children crying, sound afraid. You have some injuries on (her) body. You have a knot on her body. You have swelling on her jaw. You have bruising on her arms and neck. You have a puncture injury.
“You have medical testing. He (the doctor) ordered a CT scan. She told him she lost consciousness. There is undisputed evidence that the door was kicked open. You have the defendant’s statements made to Officer Luginbill. He said Mr. Rice said ‘I didn’t mean it — I want to tell her I’m sorry.'”
Stillwater Police Detective Mary Kellison had testified that when she saw Rice’s wife at her residence at 7:21 a.m. on Sept. 15, 2018, she was “visibly upset, crying, breathing a little bit hard. She had a large raised section on her forehead, bruises on her biceps, a puncture wound on her right buttocks area, bruising on either side of her neck,”
During the two-day trial last week, the jury saw photos of the injuries on Rice’s wife, who had married him 11 days earlier — less than a month after he was released from prison where he served one-third of a 10-year sentence for domestic assault and battery by strangulation in 2014, court records show.
On the witness stand, Rice’s wife insisted that she had lied on the 911 call, to police, and to medical staff: “The whole thing I said was a lie,” to get Rice in trouble for coming home late. “At the time, we were using meth a lot. I was under the influence of meth and alcohol,” she told the jury.
In her closing argument, the prosecutor reminded the jury that about six weeks after Rice was arrested, Rice’s wife discovered she was pregnant and changed her story. “She comes to say she lied. Why? She cares about the person, she feels bad that he’s in jail, she needs someone to help pay the bills.”
She told the jury that Rice’s wife “is a victim even if she doesn’t want to be.”
Defense attorney Royce Hobbs said in his closing argument, “They want you to believe what she said on the 911 call was truthful…She wasn’t under oath on the 911 call. Go back and listen to the 911 call. Listen to the words of Andrew — there’s no anger. He’s very calm.”
The defense attorney reminded the jury, “If you have a reasonable doubt, you have to find him not guilty.”
At the time of their deliberations regarding sentencing, jurors were unaware of Rice’s entire criminal record, which according to the state Department of Corrections and Payne County court records included:
* felony domestic assault and battery by strangulation in 2014 for which he was given in 2015 a 10-year prison term of which he served three and one-half years prior to his release one month before he was charged with stabbing and beating his wife;
* misdemeanor domestic assault and battery in 2014 for which he was given in 2014 60 days in jail following by 10 months of probation;
* misdemeanor domestic assault and battery in 2013 for which he was given in 2014 a concurrent 60 days in jail followed by 10 months of probation;
* unauthorized use of a vehicle in 2011 for which he was given in 2015 a nine and one-half year prison term concurrent to his felony domestic assault and battery sentence;
* two counts of second-degree burglary in 2010 for which he was given in 2010 less than a year in prison followed by about nine years of probation;
* placing bodily fluids on a law enforcement officer in 2009 for which he was given in 2012 180 days of incarceration;
* second-degree burglary in 2008 for which he was given in 2009 72 days of incarceration.