McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

March 2, 2013

Hughes County man charged with first-degree manslaughter

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — A Hughes County man has been charged with first-degree manslaughter in connection with the shooting death of a Stuart man.

Joseph Henry Harden, 22, of Calvin, was charged Tuesday at the Hughes County Courthouse in the January 20 shooting death of 21-year-old Michael Morris.

Harden was arrested immediately after the incident but wasn’t charged until Tuesday.

According to court documents Harden was charged for “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously, without a premeditated design to effect death, did cause and effect the death of (Morris).... while engaging in the crime of reckless handling of a firearm, did cause the death of (Morris) by discharging the revolver striking Morris in the head and inflicting a mortal wound... .”

Earlier this month the state Chief Medical Examiner’s Office released autopsy results indicating a cause and manner of Morris’ death. The report stated that the cause was a gunshot wound to the head and the manner of death was homicide.

Harden was charged with first degree manslaughter more than a month after his arrest. The case was investigated by the Hughes County Sheriff’s Department and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Harden was originally held on a $100,000 bond which was later reduced to $45,000. Harden was released from Hughes County Jail after he posted bond after serving 16 days .

Officials were called to the scene of the death after a 911 call, according to an affidavit by OSBI Special Agent Adam Whitney.

“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.

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

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.

Whitney’s affidavit alleges that as Morris sat on a kitchen counter and Harden stood nearby, holding the revolver, the gun discharged, hitting Morris in the head. Morris slumped forward and there was “a lot of blood coming from Morris’s head ... and he fell to the floor.”

The affidavit also alleges that 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.

Meanwhile if convicted of first degree manslaughter, Harden faces a minimum of four years in prison.

Harden is set to appear in Hughes County District Court on March 19 at 9 a.m.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

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