By DYLAN GOFORTH
After more than a month of legal maneuvering, Thursday’s Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling denying the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office’s attempt to halt a grand jury from being impaneled means the office is quickly running out of cards to play.
We The People Oklahoma, a grassroots group, collected more than 6,600 signatures seeking a grand jury investigation of TCSO and Sheriff Stanley Glanz following the furor surrounding the April 2 killing of Eric Harris by reserve deputy Robert Bates.
But their efforts were fought tooth and nail by the Sheriff’s Office, who threatened to sue the petitioners, questioned the legality of hot dogs cooked at signature gathering events, then challenged the legality of collected signatures at both the district court and state Supreme Court levels.
“It is definitely a David versus Goliath,” Marq Lewis, We the People Oklahoma founder, said Thursday afternoon. Laurie Phillips, Lewis’ attorney, works by herself, and took on Lewis’ case pro bono. “I mean cause even every step of the process they fought us, every step of the way they fought us. They said we weren’t going to get it, they messed around with some hot dog thing, it just kept going.”
By a unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court justices denied to take jurisdiction, meaning the writ of prohibition wasn’t even discussed.
But while Thursday’s ruling appears to be a death knell for the Sheriff’s Office’s hopes at stopping the grand jury, Glanz’s attorneys may yet have a few options up their sleeves.
Terry Simonson, TCSO’s director of governmental affairs, did not immediately respond to an interview request. But Phillips said Glanz’s attorneys may still request stay at the district court level, which, if granted, would put the grand jury process (the jury is set to be impaneled Monday) on pause.
They could also, she said, file a motion to reconsider at the district court level.
“That would basically be saying ‘Judge (Rebecca) Nightingale (who already once denied TCSO’s attempt to stop the grand jury,) we think you made a bad decision and we want you to reconsider,’” Phillips said.
The attorneys could also file a “petition in error” at the Supreme Court level, she said.
“All of those, I would think, would be Hail Marys in my opinion,” Phillips said. “But who knows.”
Assuming no further delays, jurors are set to begin congregating Monday at 9 a.m. outside District Judge Rebecca Nightingale’s courtroom in Tulsa County. Vicki Cox, Tulsa County District Court administrator, said 100 juror summons were mailed “weeks ago” in compliance with state law for the grand jury.