21-Year-Old to Be Eligible for Parole in His 50’s

NORMAN—The young man accused of killing a 20-year-old University of Oklahoma student was handed a life sentence last month in a Cleveland County courtroom.

It was three years ago that the student and his assailant had bickered over an ounce of marijuana.

Nathan Ewing died from gunshot wounds at a Norman hospital on his 20th birthday.

He had come to the shooter to sell him and others the drugs.

The shooter, James Arion Smith, 21, will spend much of the rest of his life in prison.

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman on Nov. 19 ordered Mr. Smith to serve life in prison for first-degree murder.

Mr. Smith was 17 at the time of the shooting, too young to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

He will be in his 50’s before he will be eligible for parole.

 “I beg you to let him serve every day and every hour,” the victim’s mother, Kelly Ewing, told the judge at the sentencing.

“And that you see my son’s beautiful brown eyes every day begging you not to do what you did,” the mother continued while looking directly at her son’s killer.

A defense attorney asked the judge to suspend part of the life term because of Mr. Smith’s lack of intellectual skills.

The judge refused.

“It did not diminish his ability to choose his actions that resulted in the death of Nathan Ewing,” the judge remarked.

The judge found Mr. Smith guilty at a non-jury trial in October.

Mr. Smith shot the victim on April 23, 2017, while attempting to rob him in the parking lot of a Norman apartment complex, according to testimony. 

Mr. Ewing died the next day.

The victim had gone to the apartment complex to sell marijuana to Mr. Smith and others.

The dead student was from Texas. 

He was a sophomore at the university and studying to become a pilot.

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