TULSA, Okla. — Jurors convicted an Oklahoma man of murder and hate crime charges Wednesday for fatally shooting his Lebanese neighbour after bombarding him with racial and anti-Muslim insults in a long-running feud with his family, who are Christian.
Stanley Vernon Majors, 63, was found guilty in the August 2016 shooting death of Khalid Jabara, 37, outside his Tulsa home. Majors also was convicted of threatening an act of violence. Jurors deliberated for nearly 2 1/2 hours before returning the verdict.
Prosecutors said Majors spent years in conflict with the Jabara family, often hurling racial and religious epithets at his next-door neighbours.
“Today is vindication for this family,” Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler told The Associated Press after the verdict. “It has certainly been an issue that’s … exposed an ugly but real segment of the population whose prejudice oftentimes dictates their actions toward other human beings.”
Kunzweiler also called on state lawmakers to stiffen penalties for committing a hate crime, which is a misdemeanour in Oklahoma.
A spokeswoman for the Jabaras said she didn’t know if family members would immediately comment on Wednesday’s verdict.
The conflict between the neighbours escalated to the point where the victim’s mother, Haifa Jabara, obtained a protective order in 2013 that required Majors to stay 300 yards (275 metres) away and prohibited him from possessing any firearms until 2018.
But prosecutors said Majors, who also had a 2009 felony conviction from California for threatening a crime with intent to terrorize, was undeterred.
Despite the court order, Majors was accused of plowing his car into Haifa Jabara in 2015. She suffered a broken shoulder, among other injuries. Authorities said Majors kept driving after he struck her. Officers who stopped him later reported that he was intoxicated.
While awaiting trial on assault and battery charges, a judge freed Majors from jail on $60,000 bond, overruling strong objections by Tulsa County prosecutors, who called him “a substantial risk to the public” and pleaded with the court to set a higher bond of $300,000.
Authorities said Majors shot Khalid Jabara on his own front porch while out on bond.
Majors’ conflict with the Jabara family also put him at odds with his late husband, Stephen Schmauss, who came to befriend Khalid and thought of him as an apprentice, teaching him how to use power tools and computer circuitry.
Schmauss told the AP in 2016 that his husband was “textbook bipolar” and a diabetic who refused to take any medication. Schmauss said then that anything Majors said to the Jabara family was “done under the bipolar situation.”
Khalid Jabara’s slaying drew national attention, including a mention from then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who said her “heart breaks” for Jabara’s loved ones.
Jury selection for Majors’ trial began Jan. 22. He had previously undergone a mental competency examination and been found competent to stand trial.
But defence attorneys had argued in court papers that Majors showed signs of dementia and appeared to have problems with his long-term memory — issues that they said interfered with their ability to prepare a defence.
Tulsa County Chief Public Defender Corbin Brewster said after the verdict that it was “undeniable Majors was suffering from a serious mental illness.”
Majors will be sentenced later.
Associated Press writer Adam Kealoha Causey contributed to this report from Oklahoma City.
Justin Juozapavicius, The Associated Press