OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A Village Police officer charged with shooting and killing a man is set for trial after a judge reversed an initial ruling to throw out his charges.
Cpl. Chance Avery fatally shot Christopher Poor after responding to a domestic call back in July of 2020. Body camera footage released earlier this month showed the moments leading up to that shooting, where Poor held a baseball bat in his hand and Avery ordered him multiple times to put it down.
Earlier this month, Judge Lisa Hammond dismissed the charges against Avery, saying the state failed to prove the officer used excessive force during the shooting. The state responded by appealing the ruling, which is allowed in accordance with the provisions of Section VI in the state Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. That rule states:
An appeal may be taken from a magistrate’s adverse ruling to the State in accordance with the provisions of Sections 1089.1 through 1089.7 of Title 22. At the conclusion of the appeal, the reviewing judge shall enter an order containing findings of fact and conclusions of law supporting the ruling.
Judge Cindy Troung overruled Hammond’s initial decision, saying she was erroneous in her ruling. She sided with the Oklahoma County District Attorney that Judge Hammond’s initial ruling showed an abuse of discretion. District Attorney David Prater claimed during his opening statements that Hammonds was biased.
“I just think she came into this case with a very strong opinion about police officers and it maybe overwhelmed her consideration of the law,” Prater said.
He says that affected decisions she made during that ruling, including to disregard the testimony of the state’s only witness. That witness, a sergeant, didn’t witness the shooting, but Prater asked him whether Avery’s actions were justified from the perspective of a reasonable police officer. He says it’s rare for a judge to disregard testimony.
“It’s very unusual for a magistrate judge, a specialty judge in this case to completely substitute their own judgment for what they’re seeing in the evidence and disregard even a layperson’s testimony whether it’s a police officer or not,” he said. “That’s what Judge Hammond did we felt that it was inappropriate.”
Avery’s defense attorney, Gary James, says Hammond was well within her power to make certain judgements during that ruling, and that any decision she made was impacted by prior research, not bias.
“Judge Hammond put a lot of time and work into the case,” he said. “She was the tryer of fact and the court of criminal appeals and the law gives the tryer of fact wide range to determine the credibility and testimony of their witness. The standard [for abuse of discretion] is Judge Hammond’s ruling was clearly illogical and against the facts presented and I don’t believe it’s that.”
James says they could proceed to trial, but they’re also considering a way to get the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to step in.
“They’re called extraordinary writs, and I think this is an extraordinary case,” he said. “It is such of high importance to police officers in Oklahoma that I would be remiss if I didn’t do it. Now, I’ve got to look at all the legal options in that.”
This case will now go back before Judge Hammond with an order to bind Avery over for trial. It will then go to the district court level for pre-trial conference.