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Criminal investigation of Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is still open

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater is investigating whether the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board violated the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act.
Oklahoman Published: January 21, 2013

A criminal investigation of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board still is under way.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater met Friday morning with the parole board's defense attorney, Mack Martin, of Oklahoma City.

Prater believes the parole board violated the state's Open Meeting Act.

Prater alleges the board acted illegally about 50 times in the last three years when it took up early release requests without proper public notice. No charges have been filed. The parole board meets again this week.

In December, another district attorney, Rob Barris, complained to the parole board that prosecutors learned of a killer's commutation request from the media and not by any official notice.

Barris, district attorney in Okmulgee and McIntosh counties, wrote prosecutors found out in 2010 after the parole board already had recommended to the governor that Lawrence Watts have his sentence commuted to time served.

Watts, 62, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter for a fatal shooting. He is the brother of former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts. Gov. Mary Fallin in January 2011 denied commutation after prosecutors and the victim's family objected.

“This instance serves, I believe, to show that notice of commutation was not as thorough as it should be,” Barris wrote. “This Office was never even told WHO made the request for the matter to be heard or what the reason was for such a request.”

Barris wrote that “the failure of the process as currently designed nearly led to the premature release of a convicted violent felon.”

Nolan Clay, Staff Writer

by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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