“We want to look very closely at the facts and circumstances leading up to the arrest of Mr. Watts and the statements that flowed from that arrest which may or may not be admissible in court,” Silva said.
The shootings happened not far from one of the nation's worst race riots more than 90 years ago, where as many as 300 blacks died.
Shirley LeRoy, who lives in the neighborhood, is among those planning to attend this week's hearing. She and others say the Tulsa case brings to mind the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. That case sparked protests over the delay in charging the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot the unarmed teenager. Martin's supporters said the teen was racially profiled because he was black. George Zimmerman claims self-defense, saying Martin attacked him.
“I hope they are given the justice they deserve. But if they walked free, if justice is not served the way they think it should be served, there's going to be a lot of rebellion going on,” LeRoy said. “It's going to be like the thing in Florida.”
The Rev. Warren Blakney Sr., president of the Tulsa NAACP, said he hopes the judicial system will “do what it's supposed to do,” but acknowledged there is some “dubiousness” among members of the community that England and Watts will be held to a different standard.
Blakney said that if Watts or England were to broker a plea bargain or get off on a technicality, that would confirm a long-held belief among some residents here that the justice system continues “to not value black life.”
“It will cause some disarray in this community if these guys are let off through some judicial trick or some agreement in the back room, then it's going to cause a great deal of unrest,” he said.