TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A grand jury investigating a sheriff in Tulsa County, where a reserve deputy fatally shot an unarmed man, will do its work in secret. Even the room it meets in, what witnesses it calls, when it meets and for how long aren’t public.
A 12-member jury and three alternates will investigate whether Sheriff Stanley Glanz neglected his duties and whether reserve deputies who gave gifts to the agency were given special treatment.
A petition drive calling for a grand jury investigation into Glanz and his office was prompted by the April 2 fatal shooting of Eric Harris by ex-volunteer deputy Robert Bates and a 2009 memo that was leaked weeks later questioning whether Bates was qualified to serve as a reserve deputy.
Bates, who has since left the agency, says he confused his handgun and stun gun when he shot Harris. He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter and will face a jury trial in February.
Bates is a close friend of Glanz’s, has donated thousands of dollars in cash, cars and equipment to the agency and was the sheriff’s’ campaign manager in 2012.
If the grand jury met Wednesday, it could not be readily seen in the courthouse. Laurie Phillips, an attorney representing the organizers of the petition drive, said it’s likely that, if the panel met, it would pick a clerk and decide on a schedule the 12 jurors and three alternates could agree upon — a process that could eat up plenty of time.
“Trying to set a schedule for 15 people is kind of difficult,” Phillips said.
Witnesses called by the grand jury are forbidden by the court from discussing their testimony. Phillips said the secrecy is necessary to preserve the integrity of the investigation.
“Even though it may seem (secret), it’s similar to a law enforcement investigation, and a law enforcement investigation doesn’t tell the public what it’s found,” she said.
A message left with Rob Barris, an outside district attorney called in to run the grand jury, seeking comment on the panel’s whereabouts wasn’t immediately returned Wednesday.
For an indictment, three-fourths of the panel must agree.