OKLAHOMA COUNTY (KFOR) – Drama erupted inside the Oklahoma County courthouse, after a highly-publicized police trial was put on hold. It all stems from a different trial involving a deadly police shooting in Kay County.
“This should’ve ended today and we’d be off to the appellate process,” said defense attorney Gary James.
The preliminary hearing for Cpl. Chance Avery of The Village Police Department was pushed back to Sept. 2, 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.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater called the timing suspicious.
“I don’t know how you could anticipate it happened any other way,” said Prater.
“Well, I don’t know how it was on purpose,” said James. “I submitted the ruling that I got this morning, the same time the district attorney got the case, at 3:51 am.”
Avery’s second-degree murder preliminary hearing was put on pause, after Kay County Judge Lee Turner dismissed manslaughter charges against Blackwell Lt. John Mitchell.
In 2019, dash cam video showed the police chase when Lt. Mitchell allegedly fired 60 shots into Michael (pronounced the same as “Michelle”) Godsey’s truck, killing her. Godsey is accused of shooting at an officer and a random car minutes before.
Thursday, Judge Turner agreed with Mitchell’s attorney, Gary James, who argued the state didn’t prove Mitchell used excessive force in Godsey’s death.
“The state has to present evidence of excessive force before you’re subject to the criminal laws in the state of Oklahoma,” said James.
James was prepared to use the Kay County ruling, hoping the judge would throw out the charges for his other client, Avery.
“How remiss would I be not to file it, because if she would’ve bound Cpl. Avery over for trial, I wouldn’t be sleeping for days going, ‘Wow, why did you not submit authority on it?’” James told KFOR. “I don’t know what [Prater] expected me to do? Have a ruling on the exact issue and not submit it to the court?”
The village officer is facing second-degree murder charges for allegedly shooting and killing Christopher Poor in 2020, while responding to a domestic call. Poor is seen in body cam footage armed with a baseball bat.
“What he did was within the law of the state of Oklahoma,” the defense attorney said.
Prater argued his team didn’t have time to read the brief and called the timing suspicious.
“Knowing we’ve got this hearing in the afternoon that day? When he’s waited more than six months to deliver it in the first place?” asked Prater.
James claimed he delivered the ruling to the state offices himself.
“If you know the layout of this courthouse, you file it on [level] four, go up to five, drop it off to David’s office. I immediately came down to the judge and dropped it off and told her I had dropped it off to Mr. Prater,” said James. “I told him when I dropped it off, ‘This is something they need very quickly. We’re two hours away from a hearing.’”
In the Oklahoma County Courthouse on Thursday, Judge Lisa Hammond explained she made her decision before the ruling from Kay County came down, but she is giving the state more time.
“We’re going to continue to pursue how that came about,” said Prater.
“I anticipate that Judge Hammond is going to dismiss the case,” said James.