Panic Button: The April Wilkens Case

Panic Button: The April Wilkens Case

This is a podcast about a true crime story unlike any other--only there’s no whodunnit, and there’s no whydunnit. We know exactly who killed Terry Carlton on April 28th, 1998. And we know exactly why. Because she told us--April Wilkens told anyone who would listen that she defended her own life that night. And yet--even in the face of overwhelming evidence and testimony--the jury sentenced her to life in prison. Attorneys Leslie Briggs and Colleen McCarty deep dive into the facts of the case, and the phenomenon of criminalized survivors in Oklahoma prisons. This season on Panic Button: Can money buy you a murder conviction? Could April have been an intelligent woman who also made extremely complicated choices that put her life in danger? Could April have been a traumatized abuse victim and mental patient and still have been smart enough to plot a premeditated murder?

Episodes

June 20, 2022 4 min
Attorneys Leslie Briggs and Colleen McCarty discuss what to expect on this season of Panic Button.
Mark as Played

A short ad for our new true-crime-advocacy podcast, Panic Button: The April Wilkens Case. Listen along as we tell April’s story, uncover evidence never heard at trial, and try to bring April home after 25 years in prison. 

Mark as Played

We’re telling the story of April and Terry’s relationship, the murder, the mistakes at trial, and we’re covering the evidence the jury never got to hear. This season on Panic Button. 

Mark as Played
June 28, 2022 33 min

Terry Carlton is found shot dead in his basement in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When the police arrive, his long-time on-again-off-again fiance, April Wilkens, answers the door. "I shot him, he's in the basement," she says.

But this wasn't exactly an open and shut case. Terry had raped April mere hours before the shooting. It was while he was violating her that he said he was going to kill her and twisted her neck to break it....

Mark as Played

In this episode we go back in time to 1980's Kellyville, Oklahoma where April grew up. Then we follow her to the car lot where she met Terry. We will hear the tape that April recorded of a fight between she and Terry after their trip to Italy. On the trip he beat her threatened to and throw her out of their hotel room naked, only to be caught by one of his fellow travelers on the trip. We are trying to categorize the time and p...

Mark as Played
July 11, 2022 47 min

In the ongoing nightmare of April and Terry's relationship, the event that catapults them into pure chaos starts on the night of December 6th, 1997. April has been staying away from Terry, but ends up going to his house to ask for the money he owes her. His place is wrecked and he doesn't look so good. What happens next launches Terry and April into an unbreakable cycle of violence that no one was able to stop--except April...

Mark as Played
July 18, 2022 24 min

In this episode, we hear about the confession, the arrest, the SANE exam, and the year April spent in jail in pre-trial detention.

Even though she was presumed innocent, she was required to stay in jail on no bond due to the seriousness of her charge. 

We also hear about the politics playing out at the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office in the years leading up to the shooting, and what might've made DA Tim Harris hungr...

Mark as Played
July 25, 2022 49 min

When April goes to trial for first-degree murder in April of 1999, over half of the potential jurors in the initial pool had suffered from--or perpetrated--domestic violence. Leslie and Colleen wade through the pool to get a feel for what the community was like that would be judging April's guilt. 

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Resources:

  • To learn more about voir dire, jury selection, & potential policy solutions, ch...
  • Mark as Played
    August 1, 2022 57 min

    The State begins to present its evidence in April Wilkens' first-degree murder trial. In the Spring of 1999, April was absolutely convinced that the jury would acquit her after hearing her evidence of abuse, especially after hearing the testimony from the SANE nurse that proved she had been raped the night of the shooting. She was sure they would come to understand Terry's chronic intimate terrorism and understand she'd...

    Mark as Played
    August 8, 2022 70 min

    We discuss the most detrimental witnesses put on by the state in April Wilkens' murder trial. First, Officer Laura Fadem who responded to the 911 call is intentionally evasive on the stand. Then, Terry's best friend Robert Martin shows that Terry was lying to everyone in his life about his drug use and his abuse of April. Robert casts doubt that April was ever raped or abused. Lastly, Officer Bennett responded to the last c...

    Mark as Played
    August 15, 2022 61 min

    Before we get to the defense case, we wanted listeners to hear the story of some suppressed evidence in the case. In October of 1997, Terry's nephew lived in Kansas City and was in an on-again-off-again relationship with a girl named Anastasia. Anastasia was found shot on the morning of October 23rd, 1997 in a cemetery.

    When Terry heard about Anastasia's death, he told April--"She got what she deserved, and you're n...

    Mark as Played
    August 22, 2022 62 min

    This week's episode we talk through the first part of the defense's case in April Wilkens' murder trial.  April testified in her own defense for three days about how she was pushed to a breaking point after over two years of horrific abuse. Coupled with a total apathy on the part of the police, April felt the only choice she had was to defend her life. The rest of the defense's case centers on what led April to hav...

    Mark as Played
    August 29, 2022 57 min

    This week's episode we talk through the second part of the defense's case in April Wilkens' murder trial.  We look at what the prosecution had to prove to overcome April's claim of self defense, and the difference between traditional self defense and the defense of Battered Womens' Syndrome. 

    April's attorney called an expert witness to explain to the jury what Battered Women's Syndrome was, and how it ...

    Mark as Played
    September 5, 2022 68 min

    On the last episode, we heard about how April's expert witness at trial, Dr. John Call, was not truly an expert in Battered Womens' Syndrome. So, on this episode we wanted to hear from some real experts about domestic violence, how the research has changed since April's trial, and the biggest issues with John Call's testimony.

    We welcome two experts: 1) Molly Bryant, Licensed Master Social Worker, who formerly worke...

    Mark as Played
    September 12, 2022 62 min

    On the final episode of Season 1, Panic Button hosts discuss the verdict. Listeners will hear from a juror what the focus of jury deliberations was, and how they came to decide April was guilty.

    Listeners will also hear what happened on appeal and where April's case stands now. 

    If you want to follow our efforts to change the laws in Oklahoma to allow criminalized survivors like April to be resentenced by the court after a show...

    Mark as Played
    October 10, 2022 89 min

    On September 24th, 2022, Panic Button hosts Colleen McCarty and Leslie Briggs were featured on a live panel with domestic violence expert Molly Bryant, and #freeaprilwilkens advocate Amanda Ross. Amanda is April Wilkens's niece. The panel was moderated by local indigenous activist Apollonia Piña. The panel was hosted by the Center for Public Secrets in Tulsa. 

    Listen to the event audio, and hear the audience Q&A as the pane...

    Mark as Played

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