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Criminal charges difficult to prove against police officers, but moving forward in Tulsa

Tulsa County Sheriff (old style)
Tulsa County Sheriff (old style)
Dave Conner via Flickr

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The Tulsa County reserve deputy who shot and killed a man after saying he was going to use his taser is facing manslaughter charges.

On Monday the Tulsa County District Attorney charged the 73-year-old Robert Bates with second-degree manslaughter involving culpable negligence for the April 2nd shooting of Eric Courtney Harris. Tulsa Police Sergeant Jim Clark says Bates was the victim of “slip and capture” when he announced he was going to tase Harris but then fired his gun.

The case is reminding some of the 2009 fatal shooting of Oscar Grant by BART officer Johannes Mehserle, who also warned he was going to tase Grant before shooting him. Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter but not guilty of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. The bar for criminal charges against officers is complicated. What chance does this case have?


Tim Williams, founder of TT Williams Investigations, a private investigation firm in Los Angeles; Retired LAPD Senior Detective Supervisor (Robbery-Homicide Division), 1974-2003; Expert on police procedure and use-of-force for state and federal court

Bill Lewinski, Executive Director of the Force Science Institute

Mike Rains, criminal defense attorney and founding member of the San Francisco-based law firm Rains Lucia Stern. He represented BART officer Johannes Mehserle  who was found not guilty of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant

Jeff Philips, Executive Director of the Reserve Officers Association

Eugene O’Donnell, Professor of law and police science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; former NYPD officer; former prosecutor in Kings County (Brooklyn)