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Residents filed a petition to convene a citizens grand jury that would investigate District Attorney David Prater’s “abuse of power” regarding Julius Jones, according to a 1 p.m. press conference in OKC on Wednesday, October 6.
Speaking on the west steps of the Oklahoma Judicial Building, grassroots and civil rights leaders voiced their concerns with DA Prater’s actions. Specifically, they called out his interference in the commutation and clemency hearings for death row inmate Julius Jones. Organizers intend to gather enough petitions to convene a citizens grand jury.
“David Prater is what the dirtiest parts of the American justice system looks like,” Tiffany Loftin, a senior advisor with the Grassroots Law Project, said at the conference.
DA David Prater’s interference with Pardon and Parole Board
“We cannot afford for America to take the life of an innocent Black man,” Loftin added, referring to death row inmate Julius Jones.
The announcement comes as DA Prater, a registered Democrat, continuously interferes in the legal proceedings affecting Julius Jones and other death row inmates.
Most recently, after the historic vote to recommend commutation of Julius Jones’ death sentence, DA Prater has requested the convening of his own county grand jury to investigate the Pardon and Parole Board. He’s even called for the removal of two Board members whom he believes hold conflicts of interests.
He believes members Adam Luck and Kelly Doyle should be recused from any clemency proceeding involving Julius Jones simply because they work for organizations that help recently released prisoners and because Luck once retweeted a Tweet with information on the case from Justice for Julius.
He cited “credible allegations that involve official corruption and/or official neglect … committed by State and/or County officials” in his request.
Before that, in March, DA Prater sued Governor Stitt and the Pardon and Parole Board, attempting to block them from approving any commutations.
He’s previously faced calls for investigation by a former investigator working underneath him. And following his decision to place terrorism charges and $400,000 bonds on OKC George Floyd protesters in 2020, he faced demands for his resignation from members of the community.
Organizers call out DA’s “abuse of power”
Organizers of Wednesday’s press conference say DA David Prater uses the law to alter and obstruct the course of legal proceedings that don’t go his way, particularly the clemency proceedings for death row inmate Julius Jones.
Garland Pruitt is President of the Oklahoma City chapter of the NAACP. He said DA Prater is abusing his power.
“I don’t see much difference in that from the [January 6] insurrection. If you don’t have your way ‘I’ll do what I want to.’” Pruitt said.
He also said people who don’t speak up are just as guilty and called on the media to shine a light on DA Prater’s actions.
“David Prater has perpetrated a pattern of frivolous attempts,” to obstruct the commutation process for Julius Jones, activist and law student Jess Eddy said.
He said DA Prater has attempted to “usurp” the executive authority of Governor Stitt’s office and intimidate Pardon and Parole Board members, along with witnesses in other cases.
The organizers allege that DA Prater’s conduct qualifies for removal from office.
What is a Citizens Grand Jury?
Oklahoma is one of six states that allows citizens to gather signatures to convene an investigatory grand jury, according to Ballotpedia.
Before petitioners can begin gathering signatures, the petition must first be approved by a court clerk. The petition must satisfy three requirements:
- State the subject matter of the proposed grand jury.
- Specifically identify areas into which the Grand Jury will inquire.
- Include sufficient general allegations to warrant a finding that the inquiry may lead to information that, if true, would warrant an indictment or an action for removal of a public official.
The petition was officially filed on Wednesday, Oct. 6. A district judge will have four days to approve or deny the petition. If denied, petitioners would then have two days to amend or appeal the denial.
If approved, the judge would be required to impanel a 12-member grand jury “upon the filing of a petition therefore signed by qualified electors of the county equal to the number of signatures required to propose legislation by a county by initiative petition,” the Oklahoma Constitution states.
Petitioners will need to gather around 5,000 signatures within 45 days of the filing date to successfully convene the citizens grand jury.
When asked by a reporter whether time is on their side, given the fact that Julius Jones faces a clemency hearing on Oct. 26 and a November 18 execution date, organizers acknowledged that things must happen quickly.
“It speaks to the urgency we are under. The stakes could not be higher,” Jess Eddy said.
Residents who signed the application for the petition include NAACP OKC President Garland Pruitt, Hannah Royce, Nicole McAfee, Jess Eddy, and ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director Tamya-Cox-Touré