(Stillwater, Okla.) — A Stillwater man was given a jury-recommended 10-year prison term last week for first-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend during a confrontation outside a Stillwater house where a birthday party was being held on Aug. 12, 2016.
    The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for two hours on March 5 before convicting Robert Eugene Keeler Jr., 24, of killing Austin Lee Clavin, 23, of Perry, who, prosecution witnesses testified, was unarmed when he was shot in the chest and arm with a 9 mm pistol.
    Keeler fired two other shots, one of which went though a window in the dresser of the children’s bedroom and the other in front of the window, witnesses testified.
    Keeler consistently maintained self-defense and gave notice through defense attorney Cheryl Ramsey last week that he would appeal his conviction.
    Although Keeler was charged with first-degree murder, he was acquitted of that count, but convicted of first-degree manslaughter after District Judge Phillip Corley granted a prosecution motion to instruct jurors on that lesser count, to which the defense attorney strongly objected.
    It was the second time that Keeler was tried on the murder charge. Last October, a different jury deliberated for 11 and one-half hours before announcing it was deadlocked at 7 to 5 and unable to reach a unanimous verdict, court officials said. In his first trial, the jury was not given the option of considering the lesser offense of manslaughter.
    Keeler was originally held in the Payne County Jail without bail for five months until Corley set his bond at $500,000, which was posted in cash on Jan. 30, 2017, but after he was convicted, Keeler was ordered held without bail pending his April 27 sentencing.
    According to court records, at the sentencing last week the prosecution read a statement from the victim’s father, who said, “We are not seeking any financial compensation, as that will not bring our son back. It was a tragic event, but we believe that Keeler should do every day of 10 years in prison.”
    In her closing argument at the trial, prosecutor Debra Vincent had noted that the defendant’s girlfriend was the only witness who testified that she could see a baseball bat on the victim’s shoulder; “No one else said that. How can that be accurate? You have to believe five other people perjured themselves.”
    Admitting that the victim was “mad, intoxicated, rude,” the prosecutor said, “You don’t get to shoot people for saying hateful things.”
    During the trial, witnesses testified that the victim did have a baseball bat when he arrived, but he handed it off to the woman for whom the birthday party was being held.
    In his closing argument, the chief prosecutor, First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Etherington, reminded the jury that a defense witness testified she was across in the yard: “She said he (the victim) had his arms in the air” before he was shot.
    “This didn’t have to happen. The defendant shot an unarmed man,” Etherington told the jury.
    The defense attorney had argued to the jury that Keeler, a Stillwater High School graduate who was in the Oklahoma National Guard, “is a very responsible young man, an honorable military person,” who had a conceal carry license to have a gun that he kept unloaded in the console of his truck.
    “All of this began with the throwing of a beer can,” by the victim at Keeler’s truck, the defense attorney told the jury. She said that Keeler and his girlfriend didn’t have time to leave: “Mr. Keeler testified Mr. Clavin came at him very quickly.”
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