Convicted ex-Oklahoma reserve deputy asks court to rehear appeal

TULSA, Okla. – A former Tulsa County reserve deputy who was convicted of second-degree manslaughter for shooting an unarmed man is now asking for a court to rehear his appeal.

Robert Bates, now 76, was a reserve officer with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office when he killed 44-year-old Eric Harris on April 2, 2015.

Robert Bates

An undercover officer tried to purchase an illegal weapon in a sting operation, but Harris bolted and was tackled by other officers and taken to the ground.

Bates, who was providing backup, shot Harris in the back with his pistol but said he meant to use his Taser stun gun.

“Oh! I shot him! I’m sorry!” Bates said, as captured in a video of the shooting.

Eric Harris was “inadvertently” shot in the back by Tulsa County, Oklahoma, Reserve Deputy Robert Bates after an undercover weapons sting on April 2, 2015. Bates announced he was going to deploy his Taser, but actually shot Harris in the back with a handgun.
Credit: Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office

On April 27, 2016, a jury found him guilty of second-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to serve four years in prison.

However, he was released from prison early in October.

Even though he is no longer behind bars, Bates’ attorneys asked the Oklahoma Court of Appeals to rehear an appeal he lost.

Last month, the court unanimously upheld the second-degree manslaughter verdict.

Bates’ defense team claims that the court should recall its affirmation of his conviction, rehear the appeal and grant him a new trial.

Attorneys for Robert Bates say in a Wednesday filing that in its ruling last month upholding Bates’ second-degree manslaughter conviction, the court adopted an “unworkable standard” that excludes the consideration of special standards that apply to professionals such as Bates.

The filing, which was first reported by the Tulsa World, also contends that the court made a factual error by ruling that Bates didn’t ask for the trial judge to instruct the jury about the rules governing the use of force by police officers.