OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Gov. Kevin Stitt is suing to have part of a grand jury’s final report expunged, saying that Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater violated Oklahoma law by using the grand jury to cast aspersions upon him.
Stitt’s attorneys filed the motion on Wednesday.
“The district attorney called for the empanelment of a grand jury, which was used as an unwitting conduit to asperse Movant (Stitt) in direct contravention of Oklahoma law,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit went on to state that the Oklahoma County Grand Jury was in part empaneled to disparage Stitt, “with whom the district attorney seemingly has sharp policy disagreements.”
Prater subjected grand jury members to “days (or weeks) of testimony,” and presented witness testimony and exhibits to asperse Stitt, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit says Oklahoma County District Court was dutybound to require that grand jury reports be in proper statutory form before they are filed, but instead, the court received and accepted the final report as written, and ordered it filed immediately.
Stitt’s attorneys say the final report included accusations that violate the grand jury’s function.
“The Final Report—including its unlawful portions—has since been reprinted in several media outlets, all while [Stitt] and others disparaged in the contents of the Final Report have had no opportunity to confront their accusers, to the extent any existed,” the lawsuit states. “In short, through the preparation and submission of an unlawful Final Report, an overzealous prosecutor was able to weaponize a grand jury to sully and smear [Stitt]—even though, by the district attorney’s own admission, [Stitt] engaged in no criminal conduct and could not have been accused of official misconduct by a grand jury. The Final Report plainly contravenes Oklahoma law, was misused as a political tool, and requires this Court to take corrective action to expunge the Final Report’s unlawful portions.”
The grand jury released their findings on May 12 following an investigation into Stitt’s controversial prison sentence commutation for Lawrence Anderson, a felon who allegedly went on a killing spree after being freed from prison, murdering three people, including a child.
The grand jury found it concerning that Stitt had influence over the Pardon and Parole Board.
Board members “met as a group with the Governor of Oklahoma before their appointment and taking office, at which time decisions were made about upcoming votes,” according to the grand jury’s report.
The meeting included decisions on paroles, commutation recommendations and pardon recommendations.
“Such action by the Governor of Oklahoma is grossly improper,” the grand jury stated.
Anderson applied for commutation in January 2019, but was denied. Board rules state anyone who has been denied commutation must wait three years before reapplying. He reapplied seven months later and was re-docketed. He was eventually granted freedom.
Anderson allegedly murdered three people – Andrea Blankenship, Leon Pye and four-year-old Kaeos Pye – in Chickasha in early February 2021.
The then-42-year-old Anderson allegedly killed Blankenship first. Court documents say he forced his way into her home, killed her and removed her heart. He then allegedly took the heart to his uncle Leon Pye’s home. He allegedly cooked the heart and tried to make Leon and his wife Delsie eat it before attacking them along with their granddaughter Kaeos, who was only visiting for the day. Delsie Pye survived the attack, Leon and Kaeos did not.
A footnote in the grand jury report said that Stitt’s action in regard to the commutation was not criminal. There were no new indictments.
Charlie Hannema, spokesman for Stitt, blasted Prater after the findings were released.
“The grand jury process was a sham from the beginning,” Hannema said. “This was little more than an outgoing prosecutor’s latest abuse of the public’s trust to target his opponents.”
Prater issued the following statement Thursday, standing by the grand jury proceedings, as well as the final report:
“The Oklahoma County Grand Jury heard the sworn testimony of multiple witnesses and considered numerous relevant exhibits during its investigation. Upon completing its investigation, the Grand Jury deliberated, made findings and issued a report of those findings and made recommendations.
Pursuant to Oklahoma Statutes, the Grand Jurors delivered their report to the Presiding Judge of the Grand Jury. The Judge reviewed the report and found it to be proper to be filed and made a public document.”David Prater