KGOU Pledge Online Today!Follow Us at FacebookLive Streaming
UPDATE: Leftwich Appeal Could Have Constitutional Implications (Sep 13, 2011)

The case of a former state Senator accused of bribery could lay new constitutional ground in Oklahoma. The attorney representing former state Senator Debbe Leftwich told the eight Supreme Court justices hearing her appeal of an order from the state Court of Criminal Appeals that nothing less than the balance of power between the three branches of Oklahoma’s government is at stake.

Robert McCampbell argued a clause in the state constitution means his client is immune from prosecution because legislative speech and debate are specifically protected. But for Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland, that level of immunity would create what he called a class of “super citizen” whose actions would be outside the law. He also said regardless of how the court rules, it would not change the prosecution’s case.

McCampbell argued before the justices that if they decide against hearing the appeal and send it back to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, it would effectively allow the executive branch of government, through its district attorneys, to investigate the inner workings of the state Legislature.

Attorney Lee Slater, representing the state Senate, argued the criminal appeals court order that provides an exception to the speech and debate clause in the Oklahoma Constitution for felony cases is having an immediate effect on lawmakers because some are on the witness list in the case against Leftwich.

As witnesses, Slater said the lawmakers are likely to be asked about legislative intent. He said the justices need to take up the appeal to stop damage to the state House and Senate before it becomes irreversible.

During the hearing, Justice John Reif pointed out there are remedies other than criminal prosecution to deal with legislators, including internal investigations and discipline from the House and Senate, and also from voters at the ballot box.

Rowland agrees, but said the remedies Justice Reif listed don’t have to be exclusive. He also pointed out the state House has had its own investigation going for several months without taking any action.

Leftwich and state Representative Randy Terrill face felony charges in Oklahoma County District Court. Prosecutors say Terrill offered Leftwich an $80,000-a-year job at the state Medical Examiner’s office if she would not seek re-election. According to the prosecution, her decision to retire from the Senate seat would then allow one of Terrill’s House colleagues to seek the post.

Terrill observed the Supreme Court proceedings Tuesday, but is not a party in the appeal. Throughout the case he has argued he didn’t do anything wrong, and told reporters outside the courtroom the Oklahoma County D-A is pursuing the case for political gain.

It’s not known when the justices will hand down a ruling on the appeal.

Play Listen
« back


High Speed Low Speed streaming issues High Speed Low Speed streaming issues