David Prater has demonstrated bold, courageous leadership as Oklahoma County district attorney. Time after time, Prater has refused to take the easy way or the politically expedient way.
But in refusing to back down from his intention to prosecute members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board for alleged Open Meetings Act violations, Prater seems unwilling to take all the considerations into account. Prosecution benefits no one in this case — not the board, not the state, not Prater.
When Prater considered the case of pharmacist and robbery victim Jerome Ersland, he looked at the evidence and determined that Ersland crossed a line in executing a robber whom Ersland had already felled. A jury agreed with that evidence; Ersland was convicted of murder because Prater weighed the matter and made the hard but correct call.
Now Prater may be crossing a line of his own in pressing for charges against board members who've made meaningful, substantive attempts to correct deficiencies. What is gained from prosecuting the men and women who perform a difficult task, month after month, essentially as volunteers? Does prosecution send a message that hasn't already been sent?
More importantly, consider the chill this would create when openings on this board (and others) come about: Board members acting in good faith to fix what's broken are then charged with a crime?
When Prater discovered violations by board members, the board moved quickly to change its procedures. Prater demanded the resignation of the five members as a condition for not filing criminal charges. They refused.
The standoff has reached a critical juncture. Short of filing criminal charges, we implore Prater to take a hard, objective look at the ramifications of his decision. Have the board's remediation efforts not been sincere, productive and forward-looking?
What does it profit the state for members of this board to take a perp walk?