Judge hears victim impact statements from both sides in manslaughter sentencing

Ashlynd Huffman/ Stillwater News Press Christopher Tucker is led out of the courtroom Friday after being sentenced to five years in prison on first-degree manslaughter charges. 

Judge Stephen Kistler’s courtroom was filled with family and friends of Christopher Tucker and the late Phyllis Sams as everyone gathered for a sentencing hearing.

Tucker was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter — reckless driving in April and the jury recommended a five year sentence.

Several character witnesses read impact statements on Tucker’s behalf. The first to speak was his wife, Kimberly.

She spoke of her life with Tucker and their two children together, how he was always willing to help anyone in need and how he was her best friend.

She told the court that in this case, incarceration isn’t the answer and that Tucker doesn’t need to be rehabilitated.

She wasn’t the only one who said that, in fact, Tucker’s brother and a family friend said the same thing.

Tucker was allowed to give a statement to the court. There he directly told the Sams’ family how sorry he was.

“To the family, to the loved ones I’m so sorry for the loss of your wife, Mr. Sams,” he said.

Tucker asked for forgiveness from the family and said he doesn’t know them but he would do anything for them.

A work colleague gave an impact statement on behalf of Tucker, but he was also a friend of the victim and her husband. He teared up as he spoke of Sams.

“I knew Phyllis, she was a good person,” he said.

He told Kistler that Sams was a woman of faith and that if she was here she would want grace to be extended to Tucker.

However, the victim’s family didn’t feel the same. Larry Sams provided a letter that was read by Peyton Potter, his granddaughter.

In the letter, he asked what is forgiveness, what is time and what is money as he detailed every part of his life that was impacted since the death of his wife in a vehicle collision in 2017.

“We were married for 64 years and Tucker can never take that away,” the letter said.

Potter was the last one to read a victim impact statement. She told the court that Tucker is the “man who killed her(Sams).”

She spoke of the pain she felt after the death of her grandmother, and how they still drive past the collision site. In the winter time, she said they can still see the marks on the tree from their vehicle.

The last thing Potter said was that she, after all this time, would get the pleasure of seeing Tucker escorted out in handcuffs.

Assistant District Attorney Kevin Etherington gave the closing argument on behalf of the state and asked Kistler to impose the sentence recommended by the jury.

Tucker’s lawyer, Alan Woodland told the judge all the good things that Tucker has done since the collision and asked Kistler to consider probation and an alternative sentence.

Ultimately Kistler suspended one year of the five year sentence due to a scrivener’s error on the jury instruction that said “five(4)” on the punishment range, which Kistler said could have confused the jurors.

Tucker will be required to serve his time in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, and was remanded to the custody of the sheriff deputy where he will remain until he is transported to prison.

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