|Updated: 8/22/2011 6:45 pm
||Published: 8/18/2011 10:58 pm
The jury in the Tulsa police corruption trial broke for the weekend after deliberating for three hours.
The jury went into deliberations at 2 p.m. and sent a note to the judge around 4:30 requesting to return on Monday for deliberations.
The judge granted the request.
The jury will decide if Officers Jeff Henderson and Bill Yelton are guilty of 61 counts including lying about informants and skirting the law to bust drug dealers.
The jury is now the judge. They received about 90 pages of instructions and U.S. District Judge, Bruce Black of New Mexico, says he’s never read so many counts in his tenure.
For the past three weeks, family, friends and officers have packed the federal courtroom.
Officers Henderson and Yelton are fathers; they’re veteran officers with decorated careers.
However, in her closing arguments U.S. Attorney of Eastern Arkansas, Jane Duke, said the officers hid behind their uniform and, “preyed on drug dealers and gang members.”
The challenge the jurors will have to face is who they’ll believe: the accused officers or the prosecution's key witnesses who are felons or admitted drug dealers.
Without a lot of physical evidence jurors may be in for a long deliberation.
The government argues the officers lied about informants to bust drug dealers.
Rochelle Martin is, “comfortable committing perjury because she doesn’t get in trouble,” said Yelton’s attorney Scott Graham.
The defense said the government didn’t prove its case.
Graham said the government had no evidence, only the words of felons, drug dealers and informants.
“The evidence is Bill Yelton is in fact a hero,” said Graham.
During closing arguments Henderson’s attorney told the jury Henderson showed phone records to corroborate calls with his informants before, during and after search warrants.
Henderson’s attorney, Robert Wyatt, IV, said it’s not a crime to have informants and, “they have to do this for the war on drugs.”
He pointed out the defense’s argument that the officers never provided video or audio from surveillance on drug dealers but says the government never provided it either for their case.
The officers took the stand too saying the witnesses are lying.
“Where they corroborated, they failed,” said Henderson’s attorney Stephen Jones.
Prosecutor Patrick Harris spoke for an hour Friday morning.
Harris argued drug dealers should go to prison, but it must be done right.
He said Henderson is a liar and can put anyone's name in a search warrant and anyone would believe him, "He's smooth, sincere, looks you straight in the eye. It is hard to tell when he is lying. Everyone got tricked."
He also added that he needed Yelton to conspire because he was smart, a veteran officer with more experience.
He says there are good officers on the force but a long the way, “Officer Jeff Henderson and Bill Yelton got jaded.”
Graham told the jury that former ATF Agent Brandon McFadden pleaded guilty and didn’t have anyone left to tell on.
Graham says the government already talked to informants Ryan Logsdon, Rochelle Martin and retired Tulsa police officer JJ Gray.
Gray pleaded guilty to stealing money and in exchange for his cooperation he could get a lesser sentence. He is free on bond.
Gray testified in a separate corruption trial and was not called in Henderson and Yelton's trial.
In June, officers Nick Debruin and Bruce Bonham were acquitted and retired Corporal Harold Wells was convicted on five counts including conspiracy to steal money and possession of meth with intent to distribute.
Wells is in jail awaiting sentencing and could face 15 years in prison.
Graham told the jury, "Brandon McFadden's story is so ridiculous it wouldn't even make it in Hollywood."
When Henderson took the stand on Wednesday, Duke said it was obvious how Henderson was going to testify.
During his testimony he often called her out about holes in the case and corrected her during questioning.
He is a, “polished witness to a high gloss,” said Duke.
As law enforcement officers Henderson and Yelton have been trained how to testify.
She accuses him of being condescending and arrogant in testimony from prior trials on drug dealers they busted.
“Government witnesses are no angels but they don’t know the tricks of testifying like Jeff Henderson and Bill Yelton," said Duke.
She says while the defense will discredit her witnesses for lying, “there has been a lot of made up testimony in this trial and it all came from the mouths of Jeff Henderson and Bill Yelton."
Jones warned the jury the prosecution works like release of The Pentagon Papers.
“This has compromised the drug intelligence of Tulsa’s drug community," said Jones.
He said if the government doesn’t like the way police operate then they need to take it up with Congress.
Attorney Wyatt asked the jury, “which of the liars are you going to believe?"
Now it’s up to the jury to decide if the witnesses are liars and if anyone should pay the price.
The trials have released 38 people from prison or had their charges dropped.
If the officers are acquitted those drug dealers will still be free unless they get caught and convicted on new charges.
Henderson and Yelton have been behind bars waiting for their trial since July, 2010 and are suspended without pay.
McFadden is out on bond and awaiting sentencing.