Testimony detail raises questions

Posted in: News
Dec 3, 2009 - 8:51:43 AM

With two ongoing investigations into alleged wrongdoing by officers of the Marlow Police Department, The Marlow Review examines the transcript of the Preliminary Hearing of Robert Shawn Williams. During Williams’ hearing, held in October, it has been alleged that Marlow Police Officers lied during sworn testimony. The allegations are being investigated administratively by the City of Marlow and criminally by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
What follows are excerpts from testimony given during the ultimately dismissed drug case against Williams.
Prior to each witness’s testimony, they were sworn in by Judge Carl O. Lamar with the following, “Do you swear or affirm the testimony you’re about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, under the pains and penalties of perjury?” Each witness answered affirmatively prior to giving testimony.
The witnesses were: Marlow officer Randy Johnson – denoted as Johnson below, Marlow officer Daniel Smith- Smith, Marlow police chief Bob Hill – Hill, Co-defendant and passenger in Williams’ car, Melanie Anderson – Anderson, and Marlow officer Rodney Richards.
The witnesses were being question by Stephens County District Attorney Bret Burns – DA, and Williams’ defense attorney Jim Kee – Kee.
One question raised during the proceedings was about a warrant to arrest Williams. Officer Johnson was the first to testify;
DA: “Did Rodney Richards tell you that he had a warrant for his(Robert Shawn Williams)” arrest?
Johnson: “Yes, sir”
DA: “And he told you it was something to do with the ATF?”
Johnson: “Yes, sir”
DA: “Okay. So you believe you have somebody coming into your city limits who has a, I’m assuming, a felony warrant?”
Johnson: “Yes, sir”
Chief Bob Hill followed;
DA: “Did they tell you why they were looking for Mr. Williams?”
Hill: “It was for a federal warrant.”
DA: “Who told you he had a federal warrant?”
Hill: “Officer Richards.”
DA: “All right. An arrest warrant?”
Hill: “Yes.”
During the hearing’s continuation on October 16, Officer Richards told the court;
DA:  “Okay. But you knew he had a warrant as well, correct?”
Richards: “I knew he possibly had a warrant. I just seen that he had had a warrant issued on what I believe was either a child dispute or domestic. I wasn’t sure. I can’t remember for sure.”
DA: “You understand if you’re looking for him to talk to him about a federal case and you find him and he has a warrant, you’re under obligation to arrest him under that Judge’s warrant, correct?”
Richards: “That’s correct.”
In later testimony during cross examination by Jim Kee;
Kee: “No, the Chief, Chief Hill and Randy Johnson have testified that you told them you had a federal warrant in hand to execute on Robert Williams. Was that true?”
Richards: “Sir. I don’t know what they’ve testified to, sir.”
Kee: “I know, but if they said – if they testified to that, was that true? That you told them you had a federal warrant?”
Richards: “Sir. I don’t -- like I said, I don’t know what they said about a federal warrant. The only warrant we discussed was I mentioned that he had a warrant. Don’t ever remember telling them anything about what type of warrant it was that – I don’t know what they thought.”
Kee: “They specifically said you said it was a federal warrant. Did you? Yes or no.”
Richards: “Once again. I told them about a warrant. I don’t recall ever telling them anything about a federal warrant, other than the search warrant that we – we had discussed the search warrant. They were aware of that search warrant prior to. Outside of that, I’m not sure what they stated in their testimony.”
Kee: “Did you lead them to believe that you had the authority outside the jurisdiction of the county to arrest Mr. Williams?”
Richards: “No. I haven’t led anybody to believe that.”
Another disputed element during the hearing was about Officers Richards and Johnson’s location prior to a pursuit to apprehend Williams.
DA: “Okay. So I’m clear here, and Highway 81, the only time you’re on Highway 81 is when you’re chasing the pursuit before it turns back left?”
Johnson: Yes sir.”
DA: At no time before this were you guys(Johnson & Richards) sitting up on 81?”
Johnson: “No sir.”
Officer Daniel Smith was enroute from Chickasha to Marlow to start his work shift prior to the ensuing chase and testified;
DA: “Do you observe any of your fellow officers when you’re going to work?”
Smith: “Yes I do.”
DA: “Who do you observe?”
Smith: “It was Officer Richards and Officer Johnson.”
DA: “Where do you see them?”
Smith: “About a quarter of a mile north of Grady-Stephens County line on Highway 81 sitting off on the west side of the road.”
. . . and later,
DA: “All right. One last follow up. You’re absolutely positive that Officer Johnson and Richards were parked here along 81 in Grady County when you pulled into work?”
Smith:  “Yes.”
DA:  “And if Officer Johnson says that they were never on 81, that he was a mile over, that’s not true?”
Smith: “That’s not true. There is no mistaking that car. There is not another car that looks like that one in our fleet.”
During Officer Richard’s October 16 testimony;
DA: “Okay. Did you ever set up and do surveillance on Highway 81?”
Richards: “No.”
DA: “So there was no time you were sitting alongside the highway in Grady County?”
Richards: “No. The only time that we were sitting anywhere that we would have been sitting for any period of time would have been on 81 near the storage buildings somewhere.”
During cross examination;
Kee: “If Officer Smith saw you and Johnson there, he’s wrong?”
Richards: “He’s wrong, yeah.”
The City of Marlow has established policies and procedures which police are required to follow. During testimony, the following was stated;
Kee: Are you aware of the policies and procedures the City of Marlow has for pursuits?”
Johnson: “Yes sir.”
Kee: “And did ya’ll follow all of those policies and procedures for this pursuit?”
Johnson: “I believe so sir.”
He continues referring to policy regarding reporting of police-involved accidents
Kee: “And so because it was an accident involved, the Highway Patrol should have been called, shouldn’t it?”
Johnson: “Yes sir.”
During questioning Chief Hill said;
DA: Okay. You were driving your personal truck and didn’t want it wrecked?”
Hill: “Yeah.”
In later testimony;
DA: Do you have any type of policy on pursuits within you department?”
Hill: “Yes.”
DA: “Does it deal with video cameras and cars, that kind of thing?”
Hill: “Yes.”
DA: “Does it require them to have video cameras working in the cars?”
Hill: “It does.”
DA: “How about officer-involved collision, like the one here that happened to this unit –“
Hill: “Uh-huh.”
DA: “—is there a policy the addresses that?”
Hill: “Yes, uh-huh.”
DA: “What does it say?”
Hill: “That we will take action on that.”
In additional testimony;  
DA: “Is there a policy that has DPS came and do an accident investigation or anything like that when you have a police officer, especially when you’re not in the county?”
Hill: “Yeah. We didn’t call DPS however.”
DA: “Did you make that call?” (decision)
Hill: “Yes.”
Finally, during cross examination by Jim Kee, Richards told the court;
Kee: “So the – even the Chief, ya’ll decided not to follow the policies and procedures that’s set out?”
Richards: “I did what the Chief asked me to do. So outside of that, I couldn’t answer that question.” A hotly debated aspect of the pursuit was where it began – was it inside or outside the municipal city limits of the City of Marlow.
Marlow police officers Richards and Johnson have testified that Williams and passenger Melanie Anderson arrived in the area from the north traveling on Highway 81. Williams turned west onto County Line Road, at least one mile north of the Marlow city limits. Upon seeing police stationed at the intersection of 9th Street and County Line Road(B on diagram), Williams pulled his 2000 Chevrolet Blazer SUV into a residence (A on diagram) to throw police off.
The dispute revolves around what happened after Williams and Anderson left the residence.
Police say that Williams continued westbound on County Line Road to 9th Street, where they hesitated and turned south onto 9th Street while passing right by Richards and Johnson, who had been watching from the intersection. Williams proceeded south on 9th Street one mile to Ballpark Road, turned east toward Highway 81 – one-half mile away. This route is 1.83 miles total.
Anderson claims that after leaving the residence, she and Williams went directly to Highway 81 on County Line Road – a distance of 0.17 miles. This route was outside Marlow’s city limits while the police’s Ballpark route would have taken the pair inside the city’s limits.
To better understand the dynamic nature of the chase, The Marlow Review made an Open Record request for audio recordings of radio transmissions made during the pursuit. The City provided an audio CD with 20 files. Each file was time-stamped with the date and time when it was originally recorded.
Speeds were calculated based on time-stamps and distances. As Willams enters Highway 81, he nearly strikes an oncoming semi-truck(C) which occurs on the recording at 15:12:12.1 – or 3:12 p.m. plus 12.1 seconds – this point in the recording is used as the end point for speed calculations.
To allow for errors in when the pair left the residence, two times are used. The first is when officers say they have pulled into the residence and that Anderson has gotten out of the vehicle. This occurs at: 15:11:09.2
The second is when officers transmit “One, be advised he’s haulin’ it pretty good. “(unintelligible) to get out on 81.”  Loud, accelerating engine noise can be heard in the background like when an officer is speeding up to catch someone. This occurred at 15:11:58.4.
For the pursuit to follow the police’s route, Williams’ average speed would have been between 104.7 and 480.9 mph.
If the pursuit went from the house directly back to Highway 81(D on diagram), as testified to by Anderson, Williams’ average speed would have been between 9.7 mph and 44.7 mph.
It is unlikely that Williams’ Blazer averaged over 100 mph on the 1.83-mile circuit. During the hearing Richards testified that “speeds varied back and forth up to about 75 miles per hour. We never – I don’t know that we ever got past that.”
Many questions remain in the investigations, but for the time being, three Marlow police ooficers remain on administrative leave with pay.

© Copyright 2009 by