Tulsa County Judge Dismisses Several Plaintiffs, Two Defendants in Race Massacre Public Nuisance Lawsuit

Thursday, August 4th 2022, 6:17 pm

TULSA, Okla. -

A Tulsa County judge on Wednesday ordered to dismiss some of the plaintiffs and defendants from the public nuisance lawsuit on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

A Tulsa County judge dismissed several plaintiffs and two defendants from the Tulsa Race Massacre public nuisance lawsuit. The judge’s court order said the three known survivors can move forward in the case. But others, including Vernon AME Church, cannot.

Reverend Keith Mayes is the pastor at Vernon AME. He told News On 6 on the phone that this move is a "travesty," and a "slap in the face."

Race massacre survivors Lessie Randle, Viola Fletcher and Hughes Van Ellis Sr., are the only plaintiffs moving forward in the civil lawsuit, after a Tulsa County judge dismissed the other plaintiffs.

The attorneys representing the survivors said while they did not get everything they wanted, they are still celebrating, and “thrilled.”

"This is a historic win for our community. It's a historic win for our survivors. And it's a historic win for racial justice advocates throughout this country,” Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons said in a news conference Thursday.

"This is a landmark ruling. It allows us not only to file the papers in court, but to take the next step that nobody's achieved before in taking discovery, taking documents, taking depositions, and getting to the root of what actually happened in the massacre,” another attorney on the team, Michael Swartz, said.

Court documents say the entity owning the property of the Vernon AME Church at the time of the Massacre in 1921 was an "unincorporated association" and can't claim injuries from unknown members.

The court ordered seven other plaintiffs, mostly descendants of the massacre, have "failed to establish standing to sue on claims of public nuisance in this case."

The judge said those plaintiffs can file a petition no later than September 2.

"We are studying our options right now. We're considering whether we take any additional steps with regard to that. But we are mindful that the three plaintiffs that we have, the three living survivors of the massacre, are all over 100 years old,” Swartz said.

The court also dismissed two defendants, the Tulsa Development Authority and the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, saying neither existed in 1921.

During the past three years, the defendants have all asked the judge to dismiss the case.

In a 2021 motion by the Tulsa Regional Chamber, it said the "plaintiffs' goals in this suit are admirable, but a court cannot simply order away the long lasting, systematic damage of racism let alone assign culpability for such social ills to the Chamber.”

The court ordered that seven other plaintiffs, mostly descendants of the massacre, have “failed to establish standing to sue on claims of public nuisance in this case.” Those plaintiffs are Laurel Stradford, Ellouise Cochrane- Price, Tedra Williams, Don M. Adams, Don W. Adams, Stephen Williams, and the Tulsa African Ancestral Society.