Hed: Second Oaks trial in two weeks begins

Hed: Second Oaks trial in two weeks begins

By Cynthia M. Jeffries

Daily Journal

For the second time in two weeks, a murder trial is under way in Lee County Circuit Court for Daniel Oaks.

It is the third time the Tupelo factory worker has been tried for allegedly killing his estranged wife, Penny Oaks, two years ago.

Oaks, 35, is charged with deliberately slamming the 1988 Ford Ranger pickup he was driving into his wife’s 1986 Ford F-100 truck, forcing the vehicle off Brewer Road.

The incident occurred Feb. 8, 1994, about a month after Penny Oaks left her husband.

Penny Oaks, 29, died of massive injuries several hours after the incident.

The trial is expected to resume today on the second floor of the Lee County Justice Center. Testimony in the third trial started Tuesday.

The prosecution’s case will be much the same as it was for the previous two trials, said Assistant District Attorney Rowland Geddie. Prosecutors will portray Oaks as a jealous, possessive man who was stalking and harassing his wife and finally made good on threats to kill her.

Wednesday, the prosecution put on the witness stand law enforcement officials and showed several pictures of the Brewer Road wreckage. Penny Oaks’ sister and a man she had an affair with for about seven months before her death testified Penny Oaks was afraid of her estranged husband. The boyfriend, who was a co-worker of Penny Oaks at the Hickory Springs plant, and was originally a friend of Daniel Oaks, claimed he gave Penny Oaks a .44-caliber handgun so she could protect herself from her estranged husband.

The defense is also following much the same line it did in the previous two trials, claiming the wreck was the product of an accident that occurred when Daniel Oaks tried to stop his wife’s vehicle to talk to her. The defense contends it was Penny Oaks who pulled her truck into her husband’s as he drove alongside trying to get her to stop and talk.

If convicted of murder, Daniel Oaks could face life in prison. The jury could also decide on a lessor charge of manslaughter.

In the previous trials – one in February 1995 and another two weeks ago – the juries deadlocked and could not agree to acquit or convict Oaks.

“The case needs to be heard, and the jury need to make a final decision,” said Oaks’ defense attorney Jim Waide.

Click video to hear audio