In The Know: DA fires 2 prosecutors for concealing evidence in murder trial

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has fired two assistant district attorneys for not divulging exculpatory evidence in a murder case. A federal judge granted a stay of execution for an Oklahoma inmate who was diagnosed with schizophrenia but later found sane by the jury that considered years later whether he was competent enough to be put to death. In 2005, the state Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 to commute Allen’s sentence to life in prison, but Gov. Mary Fallin decided to let the execution proceed.

Rep. Leslie Osborn wants to study increasing state workers’ pay to reduce turnover and better compete with the private sector for talent. Jenks Superintendent Kirby Lehman and Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard are speaking out against state budget cuts that have caused teacher layoffs and larger class sizes. McLain parents objected to the possibility of replacing the principal and many teachers at their school in order to get federal grant money. The OK Policy Blog shares a graph showing that state funding as a share of personal income has reached historic lows.

Filing for federal, state, and legislative offices in Oklahoma began yesterday, with 5 House members and 2 Senators term-limited and a number of others choosing not to run again. A recount put Republican Katie Henke ahead by 1 vote in the race for HD 71, but since then 2 more votes were found for Democrat Dan Arthrell. Democratic Minority Leader Scott Inman said there may be a legal challenge.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahoma residents lifted out of poverty by Social Security income. In today’s Policy Note, Matthew Yglesias shows that America’s greatest prosperity coincided with the period when we were the best educated country in the world.

In The News

District Attorney fires two prosecutors for concealing exculpatory evidence in murder trial

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater announced this afternoon he has fired two of his assistant district attorneys for not divulging exculpatory evidence in a murder case. According to a press statement by Prater: On March 15, 2012, an Oklahoma County jury convicted Billy Thompson of 1st Degree Murder. The next clay, I discovered that a potentially exculpatory statement made to Assistant District Attorneys Pam Kimbroughand Stephanie Miller by a witness to the original crime was not disclosed to defense counsel. An investigation confirmed that the witness did make a statement to the assistant districtattorneys that was materially inconsistent to his original statement made to the Oklahoma CityPolice Department. The substance of the inconsistent statement was not disclosed to defense counsel. The assistant district attorneys allowed defense counsel to stipulate to the Witness’stestimony without including the subsequent inconsistent statement. Finally, in their closing arguments, the assistant district attorneys argued that the Witness’s stipulated testimonycorroborated other trial testimony.

Read more from OK Legal News.

Judge grants Oklahoma inmate stay of execution

A federal judge granted a stay of execution Wednesday for an Oklahoma inmate who was diagnosed with schizophrenia but later found sane by the jury that considered years later whether he was competent enough to be put to death. Garry Allen, 56, who was set to die Thursday, will have 15 days to file an appeal under the ruling issued by U.S. District Judge David L. Russell. The Attorney General’s Office plans to appeal the judge’s decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Allen pleaded guilty to capital murder after being shot in the head during his November 1986 arrest for the slaying of 24-year-old Gail Titsworth, with whom he had children. Three days after she moved away from Allen, he fatally shot her outside a daycare where she had picked up her sons. An officer found Allen in an alley and shot him after he tried to shoot the officer. Allen had a history of mental illness and the gunshot injury caused more impairment, his attorneys said. Besides arguing their client doesn’t have the mental capacity to be executed, they are challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s procedure for establishing when someone is competent.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Rep. Osborn wants to increase state workers’ pay

A state lawmaker known for filing bills to cut state spending and to reduce the state’s personal income tax rate by more than half next year said Tuesday state worker salaries should be increased to be more in line with what the private sector pays. Rep. Leslie Osborn said she is seeking a legislative study later this year that will look at the possibility of adopting a market-based compensation plan for all state employees. Sterling Zearley, executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, said state employees haven’t had a pay raise since October 2006. Many are leaving the state for private sector jobs. The state would be able to keep more qualified employees if it could bring salaries up to market, said Zearley. State employee salaries are about 19 percent below those paid for similar jobs in the private sector market, he said. The state has an employee turnover rate of about 13 percent, which costs the state about $90 million in training employees to replace workers who retired or quit.

Read more from NewsOK.

Jenks administrator: Schools crowded classes ‘an embarrassment’

With the city’s rapid growth and a school district still reeling from years of state funding cuts, school administrators continue to struggle to find a solution to overcrowded classes. “Class sizes in some areas are abysmal,” Jenks Superintendent Kirby Lehman said at a recent school board meeting. “It’s such an embarrassment. As class sizes creep up, it makes me sweat. It’s not good for us, and it’s not good for the kids.” He fears students will pay the ultimate price for the class-size crunch. “It’s hard for elementary school students to learn well in a class of 27,” Lehman said. “I have a strong feeling about this. We want to have a quality education system.” Jenks isn’t the only school district in Oklahoma experiencing such problems, particularly with diminishing state aid.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

See also: TPS Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard speaks out on cuts to teacher workforce from StudioTulsa

McLain parents object to possibility of staff changes at their school

The first community meeting about a state-sponsored reform effort at McLain Junior High and High School for Science and Technology ended in shouting Wednesday night. Officials from Tulsa Public Schools and the Oklahoma State Department of Education pledged an open-ended process for developing the reform plan by an advisory committee composed of their representatives, as well as a host of community members. But when a Tulsa Public Schools administrator asked for community feedback on the possibility of applying for a federal school-improvement grant that might require the removal of the principal and some teachers, at least half of the 75 or so people in attendance jeered. The urgency, officials explained, is an April 20 deadline for applying for the competitive grant, which could bring in as much as $5 million. Afterward, McLain PTA President Jackie Verner said people feel strongly about the leadership of Co-Principal Ebony Johnson and the significant gains in student achievement that have been made in recent years.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Graph of the Day: State funding shrinks sharply

In a recent editorial, the Tulsa World questioned the call that is frequently heard to ‘right-size’ state government. After three successive years of deep cuts to public services, the editorial asked ‘where does it end?’: But how do we define right-sizing? Is government the right size if there aren’t enough correctional officers to handle prison unrest? Is it right-sized if children are crowded into classrooms? Is it the right size if sex offenders cannot be properly supervised? Is it the right size when DHS caseloads are so high that the vulnerable slip through the cracks? The chart below provides numerical support for the idea that state government has shrunk dramatically in recent years. As a share of state personal income, state appropriations are at their lowest level in at least three decades. In FY 2011, the state appropriated budget of $6.77 billion represented just 4.9 percent of state personal income ($137.8 billion). This is almost a full percentage point below the historical average of 5.8 percent over the past 25 years. This year, with appropriations having been cut by a further 2.4 percent and state personal income rising, the share will fall even further.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

As Oklahoma filing period begins, many changes in Legislature are assured

Wednesday marks the start of Oklahoma’s three-day filing period for federal, state and legislative offices. What is always a busy time at the Capitol will be even more hectic this year. The filing period used to be in mid-June, when the Capitol was quiet because the Legislature wasn’t in session. But the dates were pushed up to comply with a federal law that ensures military members stationed overseas and registered voters who live abroad can vote and return their ballots in time to be counted. Five representatives, including House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, are being pushed out by term limits, as are two state senators. A number of other legislators are leaving by choice. Republican state Reps. Randy Terrill and Phil Richardson, and Democrats Danny Morgan and Wes Hilliard, have chosen to do something else with their time. So have Democratic state Sens. Charlie Laster, Richard Lerblance and Judy Eason McIntyre, and Republican Sen. Steve Russell. At least one Senate incumbent will be squeezed out by redistricting.

Read more from NewsOK.

Henke ahead by 1 after HD 71 recount, but 2 more ballots for Arthrell discovered

The House District 71 race isn’t over. Republican Katie Henke won a recount by one vote today against Democrat Dan Arthrell; but two more ballots have been discovered this evening and they were for Arthrell, said Tulsa County Election Secretary Patty Bryant. According to an email from the election board, “Two ballots were found in a voting device ballot box that were not retrieved from the precinct officials on the night of the election.” The day started with Arthrell leading by three votes. It appeared to end with Henke having won the election, 1,415-1,414. Now, “there will be a meeting at the courthouse tomorrow morning with District Judge Daman Cantrell to discuss these newly discovered developments,” the Tulsa County Election Board said in the emailed statement. Arthrell started the day with a 1,418-1,415 lead, but he lost four votes during the recount. He lost two votes in one precinct, and a single vote in two other precincts.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

See also: Inman hints at legal challenge to HD 71 recount from 23rd and Lincoln

Quote of the Day

If we have a lower turnover rate, we have happier employees; we have better morale. We’re better serving our core functions of government without even necessarily costing the government any more by paying at a more equal structure to what the private structure does.
Rep. Leslie Osborn, who wants to reduce state employee turnover by increasing their pay to better compete with the private sector

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma residents lifted out of poverty by Social Security income, including 13,000 children.

Source: National Women’s Law Center

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The American middle class was the strongest in the world when it was the best educated in the world

One of the most pernicious misunderstandings out there is that the prosperity of the United States in the postwar years indicates that there’s some meaningful alternative strategy for economic growth that doesn’t involve increased education and human capital. This idea is driven by the sense that back in the proverbial day there were great middle-class job opportunities out there for people who hadn’t gone to college, and so maybe what we really need to do is bring that kind of economy back. What that line of thinking ignores is the point highlighted by the chart above, namely that America was far and away the best-educated country in the world during the postwar years. That’s 2006 data, so the 55- to 64-year-old cohort is people born in 1942-51. You can see that even though most Americans from that cohort didn’t go to college, America had by far the largest share of college graduates out of anyone in the sample. In the intervening years, almost all the other OECD countries made major progress, but we haven’t.

Read more from Matthew Yglesias.

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

One thought on “In The Know: DA fires 2 prosecutors for concealing evidence in murder trial

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.