D.A.'s Office Responds To Bixby Teen Rape Suspects' Motion To Disqualify
TULSA COUNTY, Oklahoma - On March 13, 2018, attorneys for four Bixby teenagers charged with rape by instrumentation filed a motion asking that the District 12 District Attorney’s Office be disqualified from prosecuting the case.
The criminal case was moved to the District 12 D.A.’s Office, which serves Rogers, Craig, and Mayes Counties, because the alleged victim is related to an employee of the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office.
The primary reasons given by the defense for disqualifying the District 12 D.A.’s Office are that
- D.A. Matt Ballard previously worked with one of the alleged victim’s relatives in the Oklahoma County D.A.’s Office,
- Kali Strain, a prosecutor working in Ballard’s office, is also a friend of that relative, and has been a babysitter for the alleged victim,
- Ballard, before becoming District Attorney, represented Bixby Public Schools in a construction dispute in 2013, and
- Bixby Police Detective Rene Torres, who assisted with the investigation of this case, worked on previous cases with a relative of the alleged victim.
Defense attorneys argue that these issues make it impossible for the suspects to receive a fair and impartial prosecution.
The District 12 D.A.’s Office has issued a response to each of these reasons, as well as other ways in which it believes the defense’s motion is insufficient for disqualification.
Regarding Ballard’s and Strain’s relationships with a relative of the victim, the D.A.’s Office states that they both worked with that relative while employed by the Oklahoma County D.A.’s Office. The response goes on to say “Ballard’s common employment with a non-party witness a decade-and-a-half ago at the state’s largest District Attorney’s office has nothing to do with the present matter.” Additionally, the response cites a U.S. Supreme Court decision, which said “[p]rosecutors need not be entirely ‘neutral and detached.’ In an adversary system, they are necessarily permitted to be zealous in their enforcement of the law.
Responding to Strain’s relationship with the alleged victim and his family, the D.A.’s Office pointed out that Strain is not working on this case and that “Strain has not entered an appearance in the case and will not appear on behalf of the State of Oklahoma at preliminary hearing or any other future proceeding. Ms. Strain’s employment…is wholly insufficient to create any type of conflict.”
In its reference to Ballard’s prior representation of Bixby Public Schools, the response explains that “Ballard’s prior representation of the former employer [Bixby Public Schools] of a non-party witness [former superintendent Kyle Wood] is far too attenuated to raise even the appearance of impropriety. Mr. Ballard never had an attorney-client relationship with Bixby’s former superintendent.” The response further stated that the defendants “failed to allege any information that could possibly have been gained…in a construction dispute more than five years ago that would relate even tangentially to the present case."
Finally, responding to the involvement of Detective Torres, the D.A.’s Office states that defense attorneys “should be well aware that police routinely investigate matters that relate to persons with whom they have a working relationship.”
In addition to responding to the defense’s reasons for disqualification, the D.A.’s Office declared that defendants cited no legal authority upon which the court may disqualify the D.A.’s Office and reminded the court that “there is a strong presumption that a district attorney should prosecute all criminal cases and disqualification should be done only in rare cases when clearly authorized by law.”
The D.A.’s Office further pointed out that the District Judge assigned to this case also previously worked with the same relative of the victim.