'Citizens Win;' Tulsa Judge Approves Petition For Grand Jury Investigation

Tuesday, June 30th 2015, 11:50 pm
By: News On 6

The Tulsa County sheriff and his department will be investigated by a grand jury, despite his attempt to dismiss the petition calling for the investigation.

The citizen-led petition was successful in getting more than 6,600 signatures.

Tuesday, people calling for the investigation were elated as they left the courtroom, saying they were prepared for the judge to approve Sheriff Stanley Glanz's motion, but were relieved when it was, instead, denied.

"It was really good to see citizens win for a change," Marq Lewis said.

Lewis, his attorney, Laurie Phillips, and members of We The People Oklahoma celebrated the order to impanel a grand jury, but their victory wasn't won easily.

It's been three months since the shooting death of Eric Harris, and allegations of corruption in the sheriff's office have led to protests, petition signature drives and now a grand jury investigation.

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During the six-hour hearing Tuesday the sheriff's attorneys argued the petition needed to be attached to the signature forms - otherwise the group was misleading the public.

Phillips argued that is not required by state statute and said the sheriff's attorneys were being, "nit-picky."

Judge Rebecca Nightingale decided the statute does not require petition and signatures need to be attached and dismissing the petition for that reason would be to put form over substance.

"This is a milestone, guys,” Lewis said.

The sheriff released a statement, saying: 

"Today's decision to deny our request to dismiss the grand jury petition will be reviewed by me and my legal team upon my return to town. At that point, we will discuss what our options are going forward.

I still believe that the process used by the petitioners did not follow what I believe to be a very clear and unambiguous laws governing grand jury proceedings which must be strictly followed.

As I have stated previously, I am neither afraid nor hesitant to have the Petitioners grievances brought before a legally empaneled grand jury or directly to me.

I have never denied the petitioners their access to me to listen to their grievances regarding on how our office can improve its performance. That door has always remained open and still is. It doesn't take a grand jury to open it.

We do know that there is time to consider all of our options as state law prohibits the convening of a grand jury either 30 days before or 10 days after any election for state or county office. As we know, there is an election July 14th to fill the position formerly held by Representative Kevin Mathews.

If a grand jury is ultimately convened, I will fully cooperate with the grand jury, have nothing to hide about the operations of the Sheriffs Office , and will finally be able to tell 15 open minded citizens who have not prejudged me the truth that has yet to be told."

Lewis said what happened Tuesday in Tulsa should inspire other cities across the country.

"Keep in mind, everything we've done was peaceful; and I believe this is a testament to other cities that if they stay peaceful, and they follow the law, it can be on your side, and it can work for your favor," he said.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler has asked the state Attorney General to appoint another prosecutor to coordinate the grand jury investigation to "protect the integrity of the investigative process."