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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Woman Serving Life Seeks New Hearing After Police Corruption Probe

Woman serving life requests new hearing after third officer named in police probe
The Tulsa World by Omer Gillham - April 22, 2011

A Tulsa woman who is serving a life sentence for a drug conviction has asked for a new hearing because a third officer associated with her case has been named in a police corruption probe, court records show. Sheila Devereux, 47, filed an application for post-conviction relief earlier this week in Tulsa County District Court. Devereux, who is now represented by Tulsa attorney Stanley Monroe, was convicted on Oct. 24, 2005, of one count of drug trafficking. As first reported by the Tulsa World in October, Devereux asked the district attorney to review her life sentence because two Tulsa police officers involved in her arrest are charged with planting drugs in other cases, U.S. District Court records show. The officers - Nick DeBruin and retired Officer Harold R. Wells - were indicted July 20 in U.S. District Court. DeBruin and Wells are charged with theft of U.S. funds, possession of drugs and civil rights violations and are accused of planting small amounts of methamphetamine and crack cocaine on people. They are not accused of wrongdoing in the Devereux case. Recent developments reveal that a third Tulsa police officer involved in Devereux's case has been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of Officers Jeff Henderson and Bill Yelton, her filing states. Frank Khalil was named as an unindicted co-conspirator March 24 by federal prosecutors overseeing the grand jury investigation of the Tulsa Police Department, a World investigation shows. Khalil is not charged with wrongdoing. The police trial for Henderson and Yelton is scheduled to begin June 20, while the trial for DeBruin, Wells and Officer Bruce Bonham is scheduled for May 16. Bonham is not connected to the Devereux case. Devereux's adult children are hopeful about their mother's chances of being freed from prison but realize that their options are dwindling, said Tyler Devereux, her 20-year-old son. "This is a long process, and we must wait and see how it goes," he said. "My mother is an optimistic person, but we must be patient." On Sept. 30, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Devereux's life sentence by denying her request to modify her sentence, records show. Devereux's appeal argued numerous points, including that her sentence was cruel and unusual punishment. Tyler Devereux, a junior majoring in electrical engineering at the University of Tulsa, said: "My family and I are extremely grateful for Stanley Monroe and his office as they have continued to help my mother's case move forward. We are now praying the DA's Office sees the injustice of my mom's case and that they take a good look at the three officers involved in it." Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond said: "We have received the filing, and we will remain objective, and we will look at the issues of law as we go forward." A jury sentenced Sheila Devereux to life without parole under the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substance Act, according to her denied appeal. With two previous convictions for drug possession, she qualified for a life sentence under Oklahoma's three-strikes law. Her co-defendant, Earnest Allen Butler, 71, was paroled from prison in October 2009, Department of Corrections records show. He pleaded guilty on March 15, 2005, to drug trafficking and received a 13-year prison term, records show. Butler has a previous felony drug conviction. Devereux and Butler were found to have possessed 6.28 grams of cocaine base, which qualified them for drug-trafficking convictions by about 1 gram. In state court, 5 grams or more of cocaine base (crack) qualifies a person for a drug-trafficking charge, court officials have said. In federal court, the law governing crack-cocaine distribution was raised last year to 28 grams from 5 grams for a prison term of five years to 40 years. For a term of 10 years to life, the amount was raised to 280 grams from 50 grams. For his client, Monroe is asking for an evidentiary hearing based on newly discovered evidence and alleged ineffective counsel. The new evidence includes an alleged pattern of misconduct by Wells, DeBruin and Khalil, which could render the officers impeachable as witnesses in Devereux's case if an evidentiary hearing is granted, Monroe's filing states. After her life sentence was upheld on appeal, Devereux's family contacted the World and learned that District Attorney Tim Harris' office is reviewing the cases of eight current and former Tulsa police officers whose names have surfaced in the grand jury investigation. Currently, 31 people have been freed from prison, had felony cases dismissed or had sentences reduced as part of the investigation. Devereux's case is one of dozens of cases being reviewed by the District Attorney's Office, Drummond has said. Her case is a higher priority because she refused to take a plea agreement, Drummond said. Devereux, who has maintained that she never engaged in drug trafficking, refused a plea agreement of seven years in prison, the World has reported.

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