May 1—A Cleveland County jury sentenced a man found guilty of murdering a Norman woman to the death penalty Friday evening after five hours of deliberation.
The jury on Monday found Joseph Fidel Alliniece, 32, guilty of first-degree murder in the 2018 killing of Norman resident Brittani Young, along with one count of robbery by force or fear and two counts of kidnapping.
On Friday, hours after impassioned closing statements from both the state and the defense, the jury decided the death sentence was appropriate.
Alliniece killed Young, 27, inside her Emerald Greens Apartments residence April 24, 2018, stomping on her multiple times. Young, a former girlfriend of Alliniece's, had allowed him to stay with her while he visited Oklahoma from Texas.
Young's mother and sister testified this week that her murder was deeply traumatic for them and has had lasting mental and emotional impact.
"She allowed him to come up here from Houston and stay with her, and he took advantage of that," Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said. "He started being disrespectful toward her, and when she finally was trying to push him out — not physically, but just trying to get him to get his stuff and leave — and telling him she was going to call the police, that was when he brutally murdered her right in the middle of her living room floor."
The death penalty was only one of several options — including life with or without the possibility of parole — handed to the jury by the court.
The Cleveland County District Attorney's Office filed for the death penalty in Alliniece's case in August 2018. The office last sought the death penalty in a 2014 beheading case involving Alton Nolen, who was convicted of first-degree murder and five counts of assault and battery with a deadly weapon.
Friday morning, attorneys for the state pushed the jury to consider the death penalty, working to support the idea that Alliniece may have started his life as a kind and sweet son and friend but had become a man whose ongoing decisions to choose violence posed a physical threat to those close to him.
Assistant District Attorney Christy Miller detailed to the jury how Young would have been alive and struggling when Alliniece beat her and stomped her head, tearing off one of her ears and leaving blood in her airways and lungs. After killing Young, Alliniece also held hostage her friend and her friend's toddler, leading to the additional charges.
"He didn't care about her suffering — he didn't care what he was doing to Brittani that day," Miller said. "He was completely pitiless and differential that day."
For the jury to consider the death penalty for Alliniece, the state was tasked with proving that Alliniece's actions were heinous, cruel and atrocious, that he has a history of violence and that he poses a continuing threat.
Miller cited Alliniece's history of violence toward women — from a 2010 incident in which Alliniece allegedly bit a woman's forehead, a 2016 incident where he punched down and stomped on another girlfriend and an incident April 2 of this year in which he groped a woman at the county jail — as evidence that his track record of harm is ongoing.
"It's another piece to show you that he will not stop — he will not stop, in jail or out of jail," Miller said. "Nobody's safe from him, no matter where he is."
The defense, meanwhile, pleaded to jurors for mercy in its closing argument, asking them to consider other sentencing options for the sake of Alliniece and his family, who defense attorney Raven Sealy said "still believe his life has purpose."
The defense team brought forward Alliniece's parents and close family friends Thursday, piecing together memories of Alliniece as a thoughtful child and friend in his youth.
Sealy said Friday that jurors could only deliver the death penalty if the state had convinced them, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the aggravating circumstances in Alliniece's case outweighed any mitigating circumstances they saw.
"This decision isn't easy — it shouldn't be. You are faced with a horrendous crime and faced with what to do with a man's life," Sealy said. "... The state says that Joe Alliniece deserves the death penalty, that he has earned the death penalty. Ladies and gentlemen, mercy is mitigation. Mercy is a reason not to give the death penalty. Mercy is not deserved, mercy is not earned."
The defense declined to comment after the sentence was delivered Friday evening.
Mashburn argued Friday to the jury that while mercy was an option, jurors could pick another path for Alliniece.
"You can show mercy and use sympathy in that, but should you? Should you do that, for this guy?" Mashburn said to the jury.
Mashburn said after the sentence was delivered that justice was done for Young on Friday.
"Like I told the jury, he aggravated this crime to such an extent that the punishment needed to be aggravated, as well," Mashburn said. "The death sentence should be reserved for the worst of the worst, and, clearly, Joseph Alliniece is the worst of the worst. Justice was done today, for sure."
Emma Keith is the editor of The Transcript, where she covers Norman Public Schools and the University of Oklahoma. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at @emma_ckeith.
Reese Gorman covers COVID-19, local politics and elections for The Transcript; reach him at email@example.com or @reeseg_3.