Attorneys in a bond hearing last May were haggling over possible conditions for Stanley Vernon Majors’ release from the Tulsa Jail when Majors made a startling suggestion.
“Well,” he said, “I could move to another apartment.”
But despite that statement, and later statements by both the prosecutor, judge and defense attorney that indicated all involved were in favor of Majors moving, the 61-year-old ex-convict apparently never left his east Tulsa home.
Why such a good proposal went unenforced is unclear.
LaFortune had previously given the attorneys two options: Either the bail would be set at $30,000, with the condition that Majors show proof he had moved away, or the bail would be set at $60,000 with no additional conditions. (Criminal defendants who use a bail bond company generally have to come up with about 10 percent of the total bail amount, which is known as the bond.)
The transcript shows LaFortune ultimately appeared to give the attorneys the ability to decide between the two options themselves, telling them “maybe you all can resolve it between the two of you today.”
Records show that when the bond order was filed later that day, it was set for $60,000 with no conditions.
Did the attorneys have a change of heart and decide between themselves that tacking on an additional $30,000 to Majors’ bail was preferable to forcing him to relocate, or could they just not agree on a decision? Did LaFortune decide to file the bond order without additional input from Mize and Majors’ attorney, Marvin Lizama?
Those questions may remain unanswered for quite a while. LaFortune is bound by ethics rules from commenting on the case and Lizama responded to The Frontier’s request for comment with a brusque email stating “request denied.”
District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler would only say that his office repeatedly advocated for Majors to not receive a bond at all, and did everything they could to keep Majors away from the Jabara family.
“Our position was $60,000 and (Majors is) nowhere in the house,” Kunzweiler said. “The last order of the court was for $60,000 with no additional conditions.”
A ‘tenuous situation’
Bond hearings are a negotiation of sorts. The defendant is guaranteed a “reasonable” bond by the United States Constitution, and while it’s ultimately up to the judge to set the bail amount, attorneys for both sides typically argue against each other for more, or fewer, restrictions.
But defendants don’t typically negotiate against themselves, so when Majors offered to move away from the Jabara family, a Lebanese-Christian family he’d reportedly tormented and agitated for years, his attorney quickly cut him off.
“Just listen, listen,” Lizama said, according to a transcript of the hearing.
At the time of the hearing, Majors was no stranger to trouble, having been convicted of a felony charge for making violent threats in California. But the 61-year-old ex-convict is now facing more serious issues.
He was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder for allegedly killing Khalid Jabara, his next-door neighbor. Jabara, 37, was found shot to death on the front porch of his family’s home Aug. 12
Majors was also charged Tuesday with possession of a firearm after former conviction of a felony, and two misdemeanors, malicious intimidation and harassment, and threatening a violent act.
The May 25 bond hearing was a culmination of events. Majors had been arrested last year after allegedly running down Khalid’s mother, Haifa Jabara, in his car. Haifa Jabara was on her evening walk at the time she was struck by the car, allegedly driven by Majors.
Not long after Haifa was found on the pavement near her house, police located Majors drunken and urinating in a nearby parking lot, not far from his severely damaged car.
Following that arrest, Majors had been behind bars for eight months without being granted bail. So when Lizama took over Majors’ case in May, one of the first things he did was seek to get his client out of jail.
That happened May 16. Lizama appeared before LaFortune and filed what’s known as an entry of appearance, a statement indicating that he had taken over Majors’ criminal defense. (Records show Majors had at least one previous attorney.)
LaFortune had access to Majors’ criminal history, but he didn’t have first-hand knowledge of the case. District Judge David Youll presided over the previous testimony during the preliminary hearing.
When Lizama asked LaFortune for a bond so Majors could get out of jail, LaFortune granted it, following a recommended list of bond amounts that called for $30,000 for assault and battery with a deadly weapon.
Typically, the District Attorney’s Office would have fought back against that amount. However, court records show the bond request was filed without warning, so the only prosecutor in the room lacked knowledge of the case’s background.
Seven days later, on May 23, Majors was released from jail. Apparently shocked Majors had been released for what they later called an “inadequate” bond, the District Attorney’s Office quickly filed a motion to reconsider the bond, calling Majors a “substantial risk to the public.”
That led to the May 25 hearing. Majors, Lizama and Assistant DA Brett Mize appeared before LaFortune again. Mize told the judge he wanted Majors returned to jail and held without bond. But, knowing it was almost a certainty that LaFortune would grant bail of some amount, Mize said that if the judge had to put a dollar amount on it, it should be ten times the previous amount— $300,000.
LaFortune quickly came to a compromise, though one that the DA’s office didn’t agree with. According to the transcript, the judge said: “What I’m going to do is what I normally would have done had I had all the information, would be to set it pursuant to the bond schedule, and because of the priors double it. So it will be $60,000.”
That’s where the negotiating really began. Prosecutors know that once a judge has set a dollar amount, he or she is unlikely to change it. So Mize began trying to convince LaFortune to add other restrictions, such as an ankle monitor.
The DA’s office had good reason to believe Majors was a possible menace. Prior to the alleged assault against Haifa Jabara, Majors had already violated his protective order once, reportedly yelling “Fuck you,” and “I want to kill you,” to the woman.
There had been years of apparently one-sided discord between the neighbors, with Majors allegedly hurling racial epithets at the Lebanese family. Records show dozens of police calls to the two residences in recent years.
LaFortune admitted it was a “tenuous” situation, eventually telling Majors there could be “not even a hint” of contact between him and the Jabaras after his release from jail.
In an Associated Press story Friday, Stephen Schmauss, Majors’ husband of two years, told a reporter Majors was bi-polar, and was fine until he was off his medication.
But LaFortune wasn’t interested in the ankle monitor, saying he didn’t think it would have much effect since Majors lived next door to the Jabara family. Ankle monitors are good for tracking defendants, not so much for keeping them away from their neighbors.
In fact, there’s not much anyone could do to keep Majors away. The protective order Haifa Jabara had filed against him had already been violated twice, and ultimately, a protective order only works if the defendant is afraid of the repercussions from violating it.
But Majors’ moving away was a condition that could work, in theory. At the very least it was likely to keep him and his outbursts isolated from the Jabara family he apparently despised.
The transcript of the hearing shows that after Majors first introduced the idea of moving, LaFortune, Mize, and Lizama all endorsed the idea. Mize repeatedly pushed for it to be added as a condition of his bail, and Lizama said they would “work on” having his client move away.
LaFortune said that Majors’ leaving his home as the assault case proceeded in court would make the judge “feel a lot better about the situation.”
But it never materialized. Hours after the hearing ended, Majors posted the additional bail money on the second floor of the courthouse and was released from custody without ever being booked back into jail. And months later, Khalid Jabara was dead.
Majors charged with a hate crime
Following Jabara’s death, there had been public clamoring for Majors— who had reportedly taunted the Jabara family for years with racial slurs — to be charged with a hate crime.
That hope came to fruition Tuesday, though supporters of the charge might be disappointed with the charge’s severity. In Oklahoma, the first hate crime offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of one year in the county jail and a fine of not more than $1,000.
Only upon conviction of a second hate crime offense would Majors be required to do serious prison time — at that point the charge becomes a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
So the charge here amounts to a token gesture, as Majors is facing life in prison for the murder charge.
The Jabara family released a statement Tuesday following the charges handed down against Majors.
“As we continue to struggle with our pain and loss, we were heartened to be informed by the district attorney that Stanley Vernon Majors has been charged with murder in the first degree, possession of a firearm after former conviction of a felony, malicious intimidation or harassment, and threatening an act of violence. We are encouraged that the government is marshaling the full weight of law to respond appropriately to the heinous crime inflicted upon us.”
The statement continued, saying: “Our parents raised us to be patriotic Americans, proud of our Lebanese heritage and our community’s contributions to our country. In charging Majors with a hate crime in addition to first degree murder, the district attorney’s office is making a much-needed and powerful statement that hatred and violence based on race, color, religion, ancestry, and national origin has no place in our society.”
The statement notes that the family worked within the criminal justice system “to protect ourselves and others from someone who posed a constant threat of potential violence, and who eventually proved a fatal menace.”
“Despite the overwhelming evidence we marshaled of a palpable threat of danger and hate facing us on a daily basis, the existing legal mechanisms proved insufficient to protect our beloved Khalid and our mother.”
It states the family will seek “reform of the law enforcement and justice systems so that no other family has to suffer such imaginable, and, given the circumstances almost certainly preventable, loss and pain.”
In addition to the charges related to Khalid Jabara’s death, Majors also faces a charge of threatening an act of violence for allegedly threatening to shoot Justina Majed, a neighbor of the Jabaras.
A charge of “possession of a firearm after former conviction of a felony” was also filed against Majors, due to his previous conviction in California.
Tulsa Police Department Homicide Unit Sgt. Dave Walker said Majors used a Smith and Wesson .45 Caliber M&P 45 in the shooting. Majors, because of his prior conviction, was barred from possessing a weapon himself. Walker said police believe the gun belonged to Majors’ husband.
Court records list no defense attorney yet connected to that case, nor any dates for an eventual arraignment. It will likely be months before the preliminary hearing is held in Majors’ case. For now, his next scheduled court appearance is set for March, when the trial for his assault and battery case will begin.