Governor Mary Fallin had staff look into manslaughter case after request from sister-in-law
OKLAHOMA CITY – Personal emails released from Governor Mary Fallin’s office show she asked a member of her legal staff to look into a case involving Robert Bates, the former Tulsa County Reserve Deputy found guilty of manslaughter, per request from her sister-in-law.
According to the Tulsa World, 14 pages of personal emails were released by the governor’s office, and show Fallin talking with her sister-in-law, Jane Vanfossen, who is also a friend of Bates’ daughter, about the case.
Bates was found guilty of second degree manslaughter after fatally shooting Eric Harris in 2015.
The 75-year-old reserve deputy said he accidentally shot Harris after mistakenly grabbing his firearm instead of a stun gun.
Back in 2016, in an email from Bates’ daughter, Leslie McCrary, she said she was concerned over treatment at the Tulsa Jail, and feared her father would die there.
McCrary also said, “The Tulsa DA’s office is so biased and scary.”
That email was sent to Vanfossen first, who then forwarded it to Fallin, telling her “any advice that you all could tell me would be helpful.”
Fallin then forwarded the email to her then-deputy general counsel, Jennifer Chance, and asked, “Did we check (on) this yet?”
The following day, Fallin emailed Vanfossen and told her that Chance “has been researching info,” and would give the Bates’ family a call.
In one of Vanfossen’s emails to Fallin, who sent it to Chance, was a “plea for help” from McCrary.
“As a tax paying, law abiding citizens (sic) we have been thoroughly disappointed in the bias, influenced by a media with no ethical code, that appears in our court system,” McCrary said. “I won’t elaborate on the specifics but would ask for you to please review the statute that is keeping our Dad in jail.”
“No worries! We will take care of her. I’ll send an email to her right now,” Chance told Fallin.
Chance sent McCrary an email saying Fallin could not intervene.
“Although I believe some of them are beyond the specific language of your request dated March 17, 2017, the Governor asked that I provide all of them since they relate to the matter upon which you were inquiring,” James Williamson, the governor’s general counsel, told the Tulsa World.
The Tulsa World also asked if the governor always takes great interest in prisoners or convicts, or if this was purely a favor for her sister-in-law.
“The governor treated this matter the same as similar requests that she receives by referring it to her general counsel’s office,” said spokesman Michael McNutt.