The Norman Transcript

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November 5, 2013

Plea avoids trial

NORMAN — A Purcell man pleaded out Tuesday before a jury was selected for a first-degree murder trial in Cleveland County District Court.

Richard Dean Lansdale, 38, was charged in 2012 conjointly with Russell Lee Blackwood for the murder of Gary Norton Sr., 55, of Lexington. Lansdale made an Alford plea Tuesday morning, taking the District Attorney’s offer of life in prison with the possibility of parole.

The legal definition of an Alford plea is when “the criminal defendant does not admit the act but admits that the prosecution could likely prove the charge. The court will pronounce the defendant guilty,” according to uslegal.com, an online legal dictionary.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Austin, who previously led the prosecution of Blackwood, said Lansdale will be more than 75 years old when he’s eligible for parole, which they felt will sufficiently protect the community.

“I think it’s the best way to give this family some peace,” Austin said.

Lansdale also had been charged with possession of a firearm after a former felony conviction, but the charge was dismissed when he pleaded out, Austin said.

Blackwood, 41, was found guilty by a Cleveland County jury in September. The jury suggested a sentence of life in prison without parole and his charge for possession of a firearm after a former felony conviction was dropped as well.

A formal sentencing for Blackwood is scheduled for Nov. 20 by District Judge Tracy Schumacher.

Austin said before Blackwood’s jury trial, the state also offered him a sentence of life in prison with parole. The Norton family wanted prosecutor’s to offer Lansdale the same sentence, she said.

“They felt like Russell Blackwood was the one that was more responsible and they didn’t want to go through another trial,” Austin said. “They’re very happy — happy to have it over, to have some closure and be able to move on.”

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