OKLAHOMA COUNTY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma County judge dismissed second-degree murder and manslaughter charges against a Village Police Department corporal, claiming the state failed to prove the officer used excessive force during a deadly 2020 police shooting.
“I think it was a strong ruling. You know, courageous,” said defense attorney Gary James. “It’s a good day for law enforcement.”
Cpl. Chance Avery was accused of shooting and killing Christopher Poor in 2020, who appeared to confront Avery with a baseball bat on body worn camera footage.
“Chance Avery did his job. Very unfortunate someone lost their life, but not by Officer Cpl. Avery’s actions. Those were the actions of Mr. Poor,” said James.
Judge Lisa Hammond agreed with James and decided the state didn’t prove Avery used excessive force during the call.
“The state has to bring evidence of force before they’re subject to the criminal laws of the state. That’s the legal issue we’ve been fighting over,” he said.
In Mid-August, James won a different but similar case involving Blackwell Lt. John Mitchell, who allegedly fired 60 shots into Michael (pronounced the same as “Michelle”) Cody’s truck, killing her. Godsey is accused of shooting at an officer and a random car minutes before.
On Aug. 12, Kay County Judge Lee Turner dismissed the manslaughter charges against Lt. Mitchell, who argued the state didn’t prove Mitchell used excessive force in Godsey’s death.
“It’s precedential. It may change the complexional law,” James said.
That same day of the Kay County ruling, drama erupted the first preliminary hearing for Avery, after state prosecutors argued they didn’t have time to read the Kay County ruling, even though James said he hand-delivered it to their offices on Thursday. District Attorney David Prater called the timing suspicious.
James was prepared to use the Kay County ruling, hoping the judge would throw out the charges for his other client.
Avery’s hearing was pushed back to Sept. 2 to give the state time to read the Kay County brief.
Thursday, Prater said the judge is misinterpreting the statute.
“Frankly, if you look at the intent behind the statute as a legislature passed it, it actually is more of an expansion of the liability of police officers subjects him to the laws just like any other citizen,” said Prater. “We believe she’s completely misconstrued the statute as it was written as it was intended, and that’s what appeals are about.”
“There are very limited situations where officers can use deadly force, and that needs to be the exception rather than the rule,” said Prater.
After Judge Hammond handed down her decision, Prater announced the state would be filing an appeal.
“Almost every single man and woman wearing the badge are doing a really good job and are out there for the right reason. There are some that aren’t. There are some that cross the line. There are some that should’ve never been hired as police officers, and we will continue to hold them accountable,” said the district attorney. “I don’t care what any court says. The next one that comes down the line, I’m going to file on them as well if they violate the law.”
Meanwhile, Avery celebrates the win.
“He understands this is the first step, it’s not the end, and he’s very happy and very thankful,” said James.
The two sides will be back in the courtroom on Oct. 1 at 9 a.m.