Massacre Reparations Legal Team Says Additional Litigation Over Graves Investigation Possible

Jul 28, 2021

The legal team representing the three known living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in a lawsuit for reparations for the attack and its ongoing harm said they may bring additional litigation regarding the city of Tulsa's oversight of the search for massacre victims' remains.

On a virtual town hall hosted by the Justice For Greenwood Foundation Thursday, attorney Maynard Henry said the team shared the opinion of the majority of descendants of massacre survivor and victims polled by the foundation that they do not trust the city to oversee the graves investigation.

"We, as a team, do not believe the city, the mayor's office, or any of these entities can be trusted," Henry said. 

Henry said the attorneys had filed open records requests for information on the investigative process from the mayor's office, the Tulsa City Council, the investigation's public oversight committee and other entities.

"They need to know that someone is looking over their backs," Henry said. "The next thing, though, is that if they're not doing the job they're supposed to be doing, if we are not satisfied with the results and with the work they're supposed to be doing, we will take the necessary steps to do our own work, to bring in our own medical examiners, to bring in our contractors and excavators and things of that sort."

"If they refuse to turn over records to us, then there is a recourse for that via the courts," Henry said.

On reparations, attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons said the team would use "every legal means that we have."

"We've already filed, to date, I think six or seven lawsuits. We have other lawsuits that are in the making, and we will continue to file viable lawsuits and continue to fight until we get financial compensation and respect and restitution for all those impacted as survivors and descendants of those who were victims of the massacre," Solomon-Simmons said.

Attorney Eric Miller said in the active lawsuit against the city, county, Tulsa Regional Chamber and other defendants, in which plaintiffs claim those parties aided and abetted both the massacre and a resultant, ongoing public nuisance, both sides are waiting on the judge.

"We're currently waiting for the judge, [Tulsa County District Court] Judge [Caroline] Wall, to set a date either to hold a hearing where she can hear argument from both sides, or simply to rule against the defendants and allow the case to proceed forward to what's called discovery, where we get to ask questions to the defendants to establish, in even greater detail, the historical and legal record," Miller said.

At a press conference in June, attorney Michael Swartz told reporters he did expect the team to be able to conduct depositions of Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, among others.