OKLAHOMA COUNTY (Free Press) — A rarely-used citizen’s petition calling for a grand jury to be convened is targeting Oklahoma County DA David Prater and his actions surrounding the case of Julius Jones, convicted of murder and on death row.
Wednesday, at a press conference, ten Oklahoma City citizens and community leaders and one advisor for the national Grassroots Law Project announced their intention to start the process of calling for an Oklahoma County Grand Jury by way of a petition.
Organizers contend that Prater has attempted to “intimidate” and “influence” the state Pardon and Parole Board as they deliberated on what eventually became a recommendation to Governor Kevin Stitt to commute Jones’ sentence to life in prison.
Prater was described by one organizer as an example of “the dirtiest part of America’s justice system.”
The more common method for convening a grand jury is for the district attorney to request one but in this case, the DA is the subject of the request from citizens.
At the end of September, Prater requested a grand jury be convened to investigate the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board and the Oklahoma County Jail.
The paperwork for the petition was filed at the Oklahoma County Courthouse later Wednesday after the press conference. The request is now in front of Oklahoma County Presiding Judge Ray Elliott. According to Jess Eddy, one of the organizers of the effort, the judge now has four days to decide if they will allow the petition process to proceed or deny it.
If approved by the judge, organizers will have 45 days to collect 5,000 signatures of registered voters that will be verified once the petition is turned in.
Organizers believe that it will not be difficult to get that number of signatures considering how angry a certain segment of the public is with Prater about his actions in regard to Julius Jones.
Jones is on death row for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, an Edmond man. Prater did not prosecute Jones and his accomplice in the murder. Previous DA Bob Macy charged Jones and the man who was with him that night, Christopher Jordan, with first-degree murder.
Jordan chose to plead guilty in exchange for a 30-year sentence and testimony against Jones.
Supporters have contended for years now that Jones was wrongfully convicted for the crime. In 2021 another inmate signed an affidavit and gave testimony that Jordan told him that Jordan killed Howell and then framed Jones.
A press release sent just before the press conference read, “Julius Jones and every citizen of Oklahoma County deserve honesty and integrity from their district attorney. Mr. Prater has shown time and again he is not fit for the office he holds.”
The statement continued.
“His disregard for his oath, his office and the laws of our state and nation require immediate action to correct. Today,the very community with whom Mr. Prater has broken his sacred oath will call for accountability that is long past due.”
At the Wednesday press conference, the organizers expanded on their reasons for starting the petition process for a grand jury to be convened.
“David Prater has built a career by defining a win in terms of causing the most harm, shame, and humiliation for his opponents,” said Nicole McAfee, one of the group who signed the petition paperwork Wednesday.
Another organizer, Hannah Royce, said that she “is tired of watching many abuses of power [by Prater] go entirely unchecked.”
“David Prater has a position of title and authority and he’s abusing it,” said Garland Pruitt, President of the Oklahoma City NAACP. “…we’re looking for justice. We’re looking for accountability. We’re looking for you to do the right thing and sit down and slow down and make some decisions as far as accepting where we at when it comes to the criminal justice reform.”
“There is a pattern of constitutional deprivations,” said Jess Eddy. “He is targeting Julius Jones because he is targeting Julius Jones’ community and supporters on the basis of race on the basis that he disagrees with the decisions of the pardon and parole board, and that he thinks he knows better than the state of Oklahoma as to how this process should run.”
In the petition specific accusations are:
- Conspiracy against rights
- Deprivation of rights under color of law
- Willfull interference in federally protected activities
- Conspiracy to commit a crime
- Preventing witness from giving testimony
- Common barratry (distressing or harassing by filing lawsuits)
(See the embedded petition in the whole for a better understanding.)
This is the petition before signing:Citizen-Petition
And, this is the front page of the petition showing who filed and the filing stamp:Citizens-Petition-filed-front-page
Some came to the press conference out of support for the effort.
House District 88 Representative Mauree Turner attended.
“I woke up this morning and saw it on Instagram and I and some folks in my district called up saying I saw it on Instagram and asked if I would be here,” said Turner. “I’m a representative of the people in my district, House District 88. And, I think everybody’s really watching what’s happening with this Julius Jones case.”
Sam Wargin Grimaldo was present to hear the press conference and was in support.
“I think that there’s good cause to bring this type of action against David Prater and his abuse of power,” said Grimaldo.
Last Updated October 7, 2021, 8:28 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor