McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

February 10, 2013

Hughes County shooting suspect released on bail

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — A Hughes County man has been released on a $45,000 bond after his arrest in the shooting death of a man in January.

On Jan. 20 Joseph Henry Harden, 22, was arrested but not charged in the shooting death of Michael “Eric” Morris, 21, also of Hughes County.

The case is still under investigation by the Hughes County Sheriff, the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation and District 22 District Attorneys office.

Harden was orignally held on $100,000 bond which was reduced to $45,000. He posted bond and was released Tuesday at the Hughes County Courthouse, according to court records.

 Harden was “arrested by not charged for the First Degree Murder in this case,” states the affidavit by OSBI Special Agent Adam Whitney.

District 22 Assistant District Attorney Trish Smith said she is waiting on information from OSBI before she can go forward with charges.

“We are expecting the information from the OSBI in the next few weeks,” Smith said. “We were able to hold him based on the criminal information in the affidavit,” Smith said.

Meanwhile affidavit states that Harden was arrested after he called 911 to report the shooting.

“In a 911 call to the Hughes County Sheriff, Harden said he had killed his best friend but it was an accident and he had been drinking alcohol,” the affidavit states.

The case was also investigated by the Hughes County Sheriff’s Department.

According to Whitney, Morris and Harden were among guests at a Saturday night party at home near Calvin. Most had left before the incident took place at about 6:15 a.m., according to the affidavit.

Morris, Harden and another man were talking in the kitchen when Morris went outside and retrieved a .38 caliber revolver and brought it inside with a box of ammunition, the affidavit states.

As Morris sat on a kitchen counter and Harden stood nearby, holding the revolver, the gun discharged, hitting Morris in the head,” court records state.

Morris slumped forward and there was “a lot of blood coming from Morris’s head ... and he fell to the floor,” court records state.

Harden then called 911, court records state.

“While the investigation was ongoing, Harden (told) Hughes County Sheriff Kenny Snyder that Morris held the gun (under) his chin and told Harden to pull the trigger, but did not know the gun was loaded.” court records state.

Meanwhile Smith said an autopsy is being conducted by the Chief Medical Examiners Office but a report was had not yet been released.

Harden’s attorney Warren Gotcher said it is unusual for a person be held and released on bond without being charged.

Gotcher also said he could not comment further on the case.

Harden is set to appear in Hughes County Court on Feb. 26 at 9 a.m.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

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