OSBI investigating reports of false affidavits in appeals cases

Thursday, January 15th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Employees of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System are being investigated for using false affidavits in criminal appeals cases, according to a published report.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is looking into allegations of false statements in a probe that began last spring, The Oklahoman reported in Thursday's editions.

Jim Bednar, executive director of the defense system, said he has been aware of the inquiry since March and his office complied with subpoenas.

No charges have been filed in the ongoing investigation.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson's office requested the investigation Nov. 13, 2002. It became public this week after two defense attorneys were concerned the inquiry had expanded to include them.

Attorney Jack Fisher has asked a federal judge to grant a temporary restraining order against Edmondson this week in a federal death penalty case.

Fisher complained that the OSBI's investigation was limiting his ability to obtain a recanted statement that might help get his client's murder conviction overturned.

In that request, Fisher accused Edmondson of using OSBI agents and ``the guise of a criminal investigation'' to threaten and intimidate defense attorneys, an investigator and a key witness who wanted to recant testimony that placed convicted murderers Paris Lapriest Powell and Yancy Lyndell Douglas at the scene of a shooting.

``The records reflect the prosecution concealed critical exculpatory evidence, and now that it is revealed, they are investigating us for misconduct,'' Fisher and attorney John Stuart said in a statement to The Oklahoman.

Fisher represents Powell. Stuart represents Douglas.

Federal Judge Robin Cauthron is expected to issue an order Thursday limiting the attorney general's ability to have state investigators contact witnesses, attorneys and investigators in the two death penalty cases she is reviewing.

Edmondson defended his actions saying his request for an investigation is based on ``our strong feeling in several cases that affidavits had been prepared which were simply false.''

``We haven't intimidated anybody, but we have discovered evidence of attempted perjury, and that's what we're running into in these cases,'' he said. ``We're talking about several (cases).''

``The only interest that we have in the people who recanted is, 'What is the truth?''' he said. ``And if they're telling us that they did not say the things that were put in the affidavit that ended up in court, then we are very interested in the investigator, first, and then the question of whether the attorney may have known that affidavit did not accurately reflect what the witness was saying.''