Murder trial prosecution questioned

Robert Smith

Tulsa lawyer Ronald Durbin II filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Jan. 31 against Osage County District Attorney Mike Fisher, Osage County, the county commissioners for Osage County and several other defendants on behalf of Yantis Cornelius Young, a man acquitted Jan. 30, 2017, in an Osage County murder case that originated in the city of Tulsa.

Durbin represented Young, now 39, in the criminal trial, which online court records reflect involved Fisher, who was an assistant district attorney at the time. The court records reflect that Rex Duncan, who was district attorney in 2017, was also involved in the criminal trial of Yantis Young, but the federal lawsuit does not list Duncan as a defendant and makes no accusation of wrongdoing against him.

The lawsuit does list the District 10 district attorney’s office as “the policymaker which employed defendant Michael Fisher,” and lists the district attorney’s office as a defendant.

The lawsuit complains of specific actions Fisher allegedly took during the handling of the prosecution of Young in Osage County. The complaint says Fisher engaged in negligence, gross negligence, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

The lawsuit also names as defendants the city of Tulsa and a man who worked as a Tulsa police officer in the investigation of the criminal case that was brought against Young.

The Pawhuska Journal-Capital acquired a copy of the lawsuit Tuesday morning and attempted to contact Durbin, Fisher and Duncan. Durbin was out of his office for the day and could not immediately be reached for comment, but the newspaper left a detailed message for him.

Fisher said Tuesday morning he had heard of the lawsuit from some law enforcement officers who told him about it, but had not yet seen a copy of it. The newspaper shared details of the complaint with him.

Fisher said he would probably have to defer to the state Attorney General’s office, since that office will probably handle the response to the lawsuit.

Duncan declined to comment on the lawsuit.

District 2 Osage County Commissioner Kevin Paslay mentioned in a board meeting Monday that he had heard about some kind of new federal litigation involving the county, but no one seemed to know any details at the time. While the lawsuit revolves around acts alleged to have been committed by a prosecutor and police, the state of Oklahoma is actually the first named defendant in the complaint.

The filing of a lawsuit represents the formal presentation of accusations of wrongdoing. Defendants will have the opportunity to be represented by lawyers of their own, and to present formal rebuttals to all accusations. The filing of a lawsuit should not be understood as proof of any act.