The Law Blog of Oklahoma

OK County Jail Inmate Gets 18 Years for Manslaughter of Fellow Inmate

Posted: Friday, December 02, 2016

An Oklahoma County Jail inmate who pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter in the death of a fellow inmate has been sentenced for his crime.

Ragle Demond Johnson, 40, fatally choked his cellmate, Robert Arnold, 55, inside their cell in May 2014. Johnson said that he did not mean to kill Arnold, but was instead trying to get the man to go to sleep.

Johnson was in jail because he was accused of throwing rocks at cars in north Oklahoma City. He was in jail for just under a week when he choked his cellmate to death. The rock-throwing case was dismissed.

After the altercation that led to Arnold's death, Johnson first tried to blame the man's death on a third cellmate. However, that man, Edgar Dwayne Thomas, said that he was sleeping on a mat on the floor at the time of the altercation, and that he was "trampled" during the struggle between his two cellmates.

Johnson was initially charged with first degree murder in Arnold's death. The case against Johnson was delayed for a time because the defendant, who is diagnosed with psychosis, was found mentally incompetent. He was sent to the state mental health facility in Vinita, where he received treatment and restored competency.

In September, he pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter, saying, "While I was in jail, I did assault and batter Cecil Arnold and put him in a choke hold, trying to make him go to sleep; however, he died."

Johnson's defense attorney asked a judge to sentence him to only 5 years in prison for the death, saying that Johnson was not a threat to society as long as he remained on medication for mental health issues.

However, Assistant District Attorney Peter Haddock said that a man who choked the life out of someone was a violent threat. He asked Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott to sentence the defendant to 15 years in prison followed by 10 years of probation in accordance with a plea arrangement.

Judge Elliott admitted that Arnold's death appeared to be unintentional, but said that the lack of intent to kill did not excuse the consequences. He sentenced Johnson to 18 years; however, he gave the man credit for the two years he has already spent in jail awaiting the resolution of his case. 

The victim in the case was a convicted sex offender who was in the Oklahoma County jail facing the revocation of his probation from a case 5 years earlier.

Image credit: Beth Cortez-Neavel

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