2nd Oklahoma judge steps down in deputy fatal shooting case

AP News
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Posted: Dec 07, 2015 4:37 PM
2nd Oklahoma judge steps down in deputy fatal shooting case

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A second judge removed herself Monday from the case of a former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy charged with second-degree manslaughter in an unarmed man's shooting death.

Judge Sharon Holmes' recusal came after she met privately in her chambers with attorneys for ex-Tulsa County volunteer deputy Robert Bates and prosecutors. Bates has pleaded not guilty and said he confused his stun gun and handgun in the shooting of Eric Harris during an April gun-sales sting.

A clerk in Holmes' office said she didn't know why the judge removed herself, and no formal order explaining the decision was immediately issued. Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys asked Holmes to step down.

Bates is set to go on trial in February, but it's unclear whether Holmes' recusal will delay that. A new judge is expected to be announced at a Jan. 5 hearing.

Judge James Caputo removed himself from the case in October after prosecutors cited his close ties to the sheriff's office.

After a hearing on the case Monday, defense attorney Clark Brewster said Bates is hoping to have his day in court "and the truth will come out and we'll be fine."

The brother of Eric Harris, who sat directly behind Bates in the courtroom, said he believes stepping down was a fair move on Holmes' part but that it's frustrating to know it could lead to the trial being delayed.

"We're talking about a guy who's guilty," Andre Harris said, holding up a picture of his brother and a Bible.

A grand jury began investigating the sheriff's office after Bates shot Harris. In September, jurors indicted ex-Sheriff Stanley Glanz and accused him of not releasing documents in an internal investigation that questioned Bates' training — specifically, a 2009 memo alleging top sheriff's officials knew Bates was inadequately trained but pressured other officers to look away.

Bates is a close friend of Glanz who gave thousands of dollars in cash, vehicles and equipment to the sheriff's office.

Glanz, who resigned Nov. 1, is due in court in January and faces two misdemeanor counts accusing him of willfully violating the law and refusing to perform his official duty.

Thousands of county residents signed a petition to empanel the grand jury that indicted Glanz after Harris was killed.

The sheriff's office still faces unresolved federal and state lawsuits and a state investigation.