NORMAN — After four hours of deliberating Wednesday afternoon, Cleveland County jurors found Russell Lee Blackwood guilty of first-degree murder and recommended a sentence of life without parole.
The jury found Blackwood guilty for the murder of Gary Norton Sr., 55, of Lexington, after participating in a drive-by shooting on Easter Sunday of 2012. Blackwood was charged along with Richard Dean Lansdale, 38, of Purcell, who has not yet had his day in court on the matter.
Formal sentencing for Blackwood is expected to be in six weeks by District Judge Tracy Schumacher. Lansdale is expected to go to trial over the matter at the end of October.
Tears of joy and relief ran down the faces of many of Norton Sr.’s family members. Norton’s son and daughter-in-law, sister and brother-in-law were in the courtroom day after day listening to the testimonies and viewing the evidence presented. Many of them hugged the prosecuting attorneys and couldn’t thank them enough.
“I think they did a very good job,” Gary Norton Jr. said. “We could not be more happy with what you guys have done.”
Norton Jr. said he is preparing a letter to read to the judge and Blackwood on the day of formal sentencing.
Lead prosecuting attorney Jennifer Austin told the family she thinks the jury listened to the facts and felt life without parole was appropriate. The jury also learned after the verdict was read that Blackwood had four other pending cases against him in other counties.
It also was left up to the jury Wednesday whether they believed Samantha Taitano was an accomplice to the crime, which they did not.
Taitano was in Lansdale’s vehicle with the two men the night of the drive-by shooting and was the only witness who testified about what happened in the car that night.