The Case for April Wilkens' Life

By Colleen McCarty Esq.

April Wilkins is serving life in prison in Oklahoma, despite maintaining her innocence and compelling evidence that she was defending herself at the time of the crime. Ms. Wilkens proclaimed that the decedent in her case was lunging at her and threatening to kill her when she was able to reach her handcuffed hands behind her and grab a gun from her rear vest pocket. The man she shot was her wealthy, chronically-abusive ex-fiance, Terry Carlton.

Any person would've been in reasonable fear of their life after being violently raped, and told, "I'm going to rape you up the ass, then kill you." The decedent turned to find Ms. Wilkens holding a gun. He flew into a rage and she shot him until the gun would not fire anymore. Ms. Wilkens stayed at the scene, awaited the police, and confessed everything once they arrived--even though she was told she could not receive a SANE exam for the rape she endured until after she gave her statement to the police.

The key witnesses against Ms. Wilkens were: the arresting officer--Laura Fadem--who downplayed April’s rape and told the jury she “gave in” to going upstairs with Terry; Robert Martin--Terry's best friend--readily admitted on the stand that Terry lied repeatedly to him about the nature of his drug use and prior violence against Ms. Wilkens; and Luke Draffin--a known drug dealer--whose pending cases were all dismissed or pled down after testifying in the State's case-in-chief against Ms. Wilkens.

Terry had a propensity for violence against women, as shown by the two prior protective orders filed by an ex-girlfriend, Melinda Wallace, and an ex-wife, Sherry Blanton. There were also two protective orders introduced at trial that Ms. Wilkens herself had filed.

In a case riddled with obvious sexual discrimination and slut-shaming — including the elected District Attorney at the time asking potential jurors if the fact that Ms. Wilkens was a young "moderately attractive" woman would prevent them from finding her guilty of first-degree murder—evidence shows Ms. Wilkens never had a chance to overcome the jury's biases toward people who have mental health diagnoses and those who use drugs. The state even introduced photos of Ms. Wilkens on vacation with her then-fiance Carlton that showed her lifting her skirt and laughing. The state used this evidence to suggest to the jury that any abuse Ms. Wilkens endured was deserved because she was somehow asking for it. The prosecution–even in the face of copious physical evidence of injuries from the rape–concludes “this wasn’t rape, members of the jury, this was consensual sex.”

In addition to the atrocities she endured leading up to the incident, Ms. Wilkens’ attorney in the case did not prepare for the trial. Even though she testified from the stand for three days, her attorney did not adequately prepare her for direct or cross-examination. The expert her attorney called to testify about Battered Women’s Syndrome called April, “stupid and unreasonable,” from the stand. Her attorney also did not offer a manslaughter instruction to the jury, which would've given the jury the opportunity to consider a lesser sentence.