DA gets first guilty verdict in murder trial
Lopez found guilty and receives life sentence
An Oklahoma City man was convicted Friday night of first-degree murder in a 2021 case handled personally by Oklahoma County’s new district attorney.
Jonathan Portillo Lopez, 28, claimed he shot his friend in self-defense on Feb. 20, 2021, at an Oklahoma City residence.
Jurors rejected that claim, found him guilty and chose a life sentence as punishment. Lopez will be in his 60s before he is eligible for parole.
The personal involvement of District Attorney Vicki Behenna comes as the backlog of Behenna pending murder and
manslaughter cases in Oklahoma County has skyrocketed because of the pandemic and other factors.
More than 130 murder and manslaughter defendants were being held Monday at the Oklahoma County jail, records show. Two have been there for six years.
Behenna was a federal prosecutor for more than 25 years and helped to convict Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh at his 1997 trial in Denver. She pointed to that experience repeatedly during her campaign.
The trial last week was her first since taking office in January. She succeeded David Prater, who retired after 16 years as DA.
In closing arguments Friday, she told jurors that Lopez intentionally killed Jordan Ibarra Ortega and then placed a knife in the victim’s hand to make it look like the shooting was in self-defense.
“If there was anyone who was in fear for his life, it was the victim,” she said.
Lopez had gone to the residence to visit his brother and smoke heroin, according to testimony. The victim had been staying there and sleeping on a couch. He was shot after he woke up and put on a bulletproof vest.
Lopez told police afterward that Ortega had stolen money from him.
His attorney, Joi Miskel, told jurors Lopez felt he had no choice because Ortega had a knife, was acting strangely and making threats, and had tried to get the gun.
She pointed out that methamphetamine was found in Ortega’s blood. “It causes people to act irrationally,” she said.
Ortega was shot first in the side of the head. He was shot three more times in the neck after falling to the floor. He was 26.