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Lawyer: Status of father had little to do with not guilty verdict for DA's daughter in stabbing case

Matt Trotter
District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler takes the oath of office.

Updated Friday, Jan. 27 at 6:33 p.m.

The lawyer representing District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler’s daughter, Jennifer Kunzweiler, said the not guilty verdict she received Friday in Tulsa County District Court around charges related to the September stabbing of her father had little to do with her position as a member of a powerful Tulsa family.

Tulsa attorney Allen Smallwood said Kunzweiler didn’t benefit beyond what would be typical for the daughter of any educated family, but acknowledged those with means often fare better in court.

“Does the American judicial system return better results for people who have money? I would say that’s true,” said Smallwood.

Yet Kunzweiler was found to be indigent in October for purposes of payment to expert witnesses and investigators, according to online records. Smallwood said that’s because Kunzweiler’s parents refused to pay for private representation.

“The rule on that is, ‘do you have money, or does your family or friends have money who are willing to spend money for you on a lawyer?’ Steve and Chris[tine Kunzweiler] were not going to do that. They made that clear from the start,” said Smallwood.

The not guilty verdict was the product of lack of criminal intent, said Smallwood. He said there was no question Kunzweiler stabbed her father Sept. 27, but said she wasn’t aware it was wrong. Smallwood described a cycle of mental illness and medication hesitancy starting when Kunzweiler, 31, was a young adult.

Kunzweiler will be held at the Oklahoma Forensic Center in Vinita until she is found competent to be released, said Smallwood. A hearing to evaluate her progress will be held March 17.

Smallwood said Doug Drummond, presiding judge for the 14th district, recused the entire district from the case. Legal professionals from outside of Tulsa were involved. Brendon Bridges was the judge who decided the verdict. The state was represented by Jack Thorp, district attorney for Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah, and Wagoner counties. Thorp did not oppose motions for continuances in November, December, and January, records show.

Thorp didn’t return a request for comment. A spokesperson for the Tulsa County District Attorney said the office didn't have a statement prepared.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.