Robert Bates on Trial For Murdering Eric Harris
Trial started this week for Robert Bates, the ex-volunteer reserve sheriff deputy for the Tulsa County, Oklahoma’s Sheriff’s office.
On April 2, 2015, an undercover deputy was conducting a sting operation to catch 44-year old Eric Harris illegally selling a gun. Bates, who is 73-years old, volunteered to help out. Eric ran, and upon apprehension and taken to the ground, Bates pulled his gun and shot Eric in the back.
Bates’ defense is that he thought he was taking out and discharging his taser and not his .357. Bates is charged with 2nd degree manslaughter. If convicted, he faces up to 4 years in prison.
The killing of Eric Harris resulted in activists organizing. The actions of We The People resulted in a grand jury investigation into the Tulsa County Sheriff’s office. The grand jury indicted Sheriff Glanz on 2 misdemeanor charges, including one for denying lawful requests of internal investigations into his office’s Reserve Deputy program. After almost 30 years as Sheriff, Stanley Glanz resigned.
At the time of the shooting, Bates was a CEO of an insurance company who volunteered as a sheriff’s deputy. He gave many gifts to the Sheriff. An internal inquiry by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office in 2009 found that Bates was shown special treatment and that training policies were violated during his time there.
In July 2015, Eric’s estate filed a suit naming Sheriff Stanley Glanz and Robert Bates as defendants. The lawsuit alleges that the volunteer deputy unnecessarily attempted to use a stun gun on an already restrained suspect, and shot and killed him instead. They later amended the complaint to add new allegations detailing the “unconstitutional and dangerous reserve deputy program overseen by Sheriff Glanz.
Investigations found that Bates had gifted the Sheriff 3 cars and $25K to his re-election campaign.
Leading Up To Trial
There have been three judges assigned to the case. In December 2015, during a hearing, Judge Sharon Holmes stepped down. Judge Holmes took over for Judge James Caputo, who stepped down in mid-November after realizing he knew a witness. Judge Musseman was named the new judge in the case.
The defense requested that the video of Eric Harris’ death be edited. The video includes a deputy cursing at Eric when Eric said he could not breathe. The judge denied the defense’s request to edit the video, stating that the jurors need the context by being able to watch the full, unedited video.
Selection of The Jury
There is a jury of 12 and 2 alternatives, consisting of 8 men and 6 women. All are White. Two black prospective jurors were eliminated by defense attorneys. News On 6 commented that all of the jurors appear to be over the age of 40.
Prosecutor Kevin Gray began by repeating words in the video. “He’s running, he’s running, he’s running,” the prosecutor quoted the officer in the video, then clapped his hands to make the sound of the gunshot. “You’re gonna hear this gun was used by Mr. Bates,” the prosecutor said, and held up the gun that is part of the evidence. “You’ll hear him say Taser” but you will never see that Taser leave his vest.”
The defense emphasized the dangers of undercover police operations, arguing Harris’ character was “dangerous” and in the situation “everyone was on high alert and filled with stress.” Bates’ attorney frequently called Harris by his nickname “40,” suggesting to the jury Harris could have been a gangster who “made it known he’s a Rollin’ 90’s crip,” Brewster said.
Bates was the only person with a Taser, the defense said. Defense attorney Brewster told the jury that both the Taser and the gun were similar in weight, had the same look and feel and similar laser on them. “When he yelled Taser, Taser, Taser. He mistakenly had his gun instead of his Taser,” Brewster said.
The first witness to take the stand on Wednesday was the undercover officer whose hands and voice are on video as he bought the gun from Harris in the undercover sting. The jury heard from Undercover Deputy Lance Ramsey. He spoke about Robert Bates’ role in the operation, saying the reserve deputy wasn’t originally in the plan to help out. Ramsey says Bates called him the night before the April 2nd sting, volunteering to show up. He also talked about Bates’ position in the operation saying he was only supposed to be back up.
Keeping Updated On The Trial
The trial is not live streamed and the media is not allowed to have cameras in the courtroom. In fact, Tulsa World reports via video that Eric’s brother, Andre Harris, was denied entry into the courtroom. As Andre is being interviewed, a deputy steps up and instructs Andre to stand back behind a certain line.
On Twitter, @meresnik is following the trial.
As the trial continues, we’ll post available videos of each day’s hearing in the comment section. If you want to follow our updates of this trial, you can find the link to this post in the right-side border under “Recent Posts”, or on the top menu under “Cases.”
The efforts of We The People activists in Tulsa led to the Sheriff being indicted.
Bates was not properly trained.
The Young Turks Report