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Attorneys file amended petition in Tulsa Race Massacre lawsuit

Hughes Van Ellis, 101, foreground left, and Lessie Benningfield Randle, 107, right, survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, outside a courtroom on Monday at the Tulsa County Courthouse, in Tulsa, Okla.
Stephen Pingry
/
AP
Hughes Van Ellis, 101, foreground left, and Lessie Benningfield Randle, 107, right, survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, outside a courtroom on Monday at the Tulsa County Courthouse, in Tulsa, Okla.

A lawsuit filed on the behalf of the last three known survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre is waiting on a Tulsa court to accept an amended petition in order to take its next steps forward.

New York-based law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel and attorneys from Justice for Greenwood filed an amended petition on September 6th to align with Tulsa County Judge Caroline Wall's order in August.

According to attorneys, amendments include changes correcting language to align the petition with Judge Wall's order which dismissed multiple plaintiffs and defendants from the lawsuit.

The court dismissed the Tulsa Development Authority and the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, saying that neither of the organizations were around in 1921.

Multiple plaintiffs were also dismissed in August including the Historic Vernon AME Church, descendants of the massacre and the Greenwood community at large after the judge said they "failed to establish standing to sue on claims of public nuisance in this case."

The judge, however, allowed 106-year-old Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle, 107-year-old Viola “Mother” Fletcher, and 101-year-old Hughes Van Ellis to move forward with their case.

SRZ attorney Ekenedilichukwu or "Keni" Ukabiala said the three centenarians are still waiting for their day in court.

"We were just fighting to get past this early threshold just this motion to dismiss we haven't really had a chance to get in front to the judge to make our case, and so we've really just been saying 'please don't kick us out yet," Ukabiala said.

Ukabiala believes not only have attorneys established a strong case, but he also says the amended petition lays out clear circumstances of the public nuisance and how its' effects continue to this day.

"For the first time ever a case about regarding the massacre will go forward in which we can hold the perpetrators accountable," Ukabiala said. "This is a huge moment, we really wanna keep the moment going and keep moving forward with as much speed as we can because time is of the essence."

Attorneys at Schulte Roth & Zabel said they're still waiting to hear back on whether Judge Wall has accepted the amended petition.

Before making her way to Public Radio Tulsa, KWGS News Director Cassidy Mudd worked as an assignment editor and digital producer at a local news station. Her work has appeared on ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates across the country.