Oklahoma top court OKs grand jury probe of Tulsa sheriff's office

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 16, 2015 7:16 PM

By Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton

TULSA (Reuters) - The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Thursday said it would allow a grand jury investigation into the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, which has been under scrutiny since a white reserve sheriff's deputy fatally shot a black suspect in April.

In a unanimous decision, the court dismissed a motion from Sheriff Stanley Glanz seeking to halt the grand jury, which a state judge in June ordered to be called after an activist group submitted a petition demanding it.

The civil rights group called "We the People Oklahoma" wanted the panel to look into allegations of special treatment, questionable training and falsified records made in the aftermath of the April 2 death of Eric Harris, the suspect shot by Robert Bates, 73, a white insurance executive who served as a volunteer deputy.

Glanz’s attorneys questioned whether the group followed the state’s petition laws to the letter and sought to have the high court assume jurisdiction over the proceedings. 

With the court’s ruling, grand jurors will convene on Monday at the Tulsa County District Court. Oklahoma law allows for grand juries to be called under petitions that meet certain conditions.

The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office is also under investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, which is looking into possible misconduct.

Bates, who has said he mistakenly fired his handgun instead of his Taser when he killed Harris, pleaded not guilty on Monday to second-degree manslaughter and will stand trial in February.

Bates faces two to four years in prison if convicted.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Eric Walsh)