1921 Tulsa Race Riot: Local lawyer seeks to reopen dismissed cases
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Friday, July 02, 2004
1/20/13 at 8:37 AM
Caesar Latimer filed a petition based on miscarriage of justice on behalf of 18 plaintiffs, 14 of them his own relatives.
A petition seeking to revive hundreds of lawsuits dismissed in the
wake of Tulsa's 1921 race riot was
filed this week in Tulsa District
Attorney Caesar Latimer filed the
petition on behalf of 18 plaintiffs --
14 of Latimer's relatives descended
from riot survivors, three living riot
survivors not related to him and
Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
Mt. Zion burned to the ground
in the conflagration that destroyed
much of the city's black neighborhood.
"When those lawsuits were dismissed it was a miscarriage of justice," said Latimer. "If it was a miscarriage, they can be reopened."
Latimer based his petition on a
U.S. District Court decision earlier
this year in a case involving the
claims of nearly 400 individuals
seeking riot damages from the City
of Tulsa, the Tulsa Police Department and the State of Oklahoma.
U.S. District Judge James Ellison
conceded blacks were treated unfairly, but ruled the statute of limitations had run out and dismissed
His decision has been appealed.
"Judge Ellison said the government didn't do anything to protect
those people," Latimer said.
Blacks and whites sued the city,
the county, their insurance companies and even private companies after the riot, seeking restitution for
property damage in the millions of
dollars and, in a few cases, for the
deaths of family members.
None seem to have been successful. One, by white businessman
William Redfearn against his insurance company, reached the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Redfearn alleged most property damage was
caused by law enforcement officers. His argument failed.
Many of the lawsuits appeared to
rely on a statement allegedly given
by a white police officer named
Van B. Hurley to Topeka, Kan., attorney Elisha Scott. No such-named officer seems to have existed and the affidavit he reportedly
gave Scott disappeared.
Dozens of the cases remained in
judicial limbo until the late 1930s
when they were dismissed for lack
Randy Krehbiel 581-8365