Oklahoma's multicounty grand jury has been running afoul of the rights protected by the U.S. Constitution, an attorney representing Texas businessman Gene E. Phillips claims in court paperwork. Defense attorney Stephen Jones filed a challenge with the state Supreme Court on Monday, asking the court to step in and control "a runaway grand jury." Jones filed the challenge on behalf of Phillips -- who was named in bribery allegations contained in an indictment of former state Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher -- and Ron Akin, a Phillips associate who earlier testified before the grand jury. Phillips has not been formally indicted by the multicounty grand jury. The challenge claims the grand jury "has been operated in a matter inconsistent with basic, fundamental rights under the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution." Specifically, Jones said grand jury hearings allow for the improper dismissal of witness attorneys. He said prosecutors with the state attorney general's office intimidate witnesses and conduct other court business without proper notice to witness attorneys. "The prosecutors get away with whatever they want to do," Jones said. "They haven't been effectively challenged." State attorney general's office spokesman Charlie Price said his office will be looking into Jones' allegations. He also said there hasn't been a similar challenge filed during Attorney General Drew Edmondson's tenure. Included in the filings is a lengthy document attempting to debunk the bribery accusations concerning Phillips. Jones said there is no evidence Phillips bribed Fisher and the naming of Phillips in Fisher's indictment was reckless behavior on the part of prosecutors. "You can't use a grand jury and accuse somebody of committing a serious crime with moral consequences and then not give them a chance to defend themselves," Jones said. "They may turn around and indict him now, and if they do, they better have a lot more evidence." Edmondson on Thursday asked the state Supreme Court to convene a new multicounty grand jury. The court has 15 days from the time of the request to rule on the application. The indictment against Fisher, handed down in October, said the insurance commissioner "corruptly received money, gifts and gratuities" in exchange for preferential treatment for Phillips, his business associates and family. Fisher resigned Sept. 24 rather than face an ouster trial in the state Senate. He was insurance commissioner for nearly six years. He faces five felony charges in Oklahoma County District Court -- including bribery -- and has denied wrongdoing.
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