Breathtaking Climax

Then came, on May 12th, the climactic sequence to the entire, epic drama, building for a full year. Orval Viers, Oklahoma City attorney and accountant for Johnson, took the stand. He presented his detailed recounting of the justice’s financial dealings for the years in which he was under suspicion. Viers announced he had already provided the information to federal tax authorities. It appeared to account for all the income Johnson had earned and to preclude the possibility of undeclared and/or untaxed income.


Then, however, Connor began a meticulous, at times dizzying, even wearying, but relentless, needle-to-the-pole interrogatory. It aimed to demonstrate that Johnson had received many thousands of dollars through unknown, unaccounted-for sources. The 35-year-old solon advanced his case not through lecture or sophistry, but through a masterful, labyrinthine question and answer process. It stretched across two days.


Gradually but inexorably, at times weathering the obstruction of the witness, at other times the admonitions of Roy Grantham—the respected Democratic presiding judge of the court—Connor dismantled Viers’s seemingly impregnable fortress of facts and figures. Finally, he maneuvered the man into a stunning checkmate.


“And this figure is more than the salary drawn?” Connors concluded at the end, referencing the total dollar amount for one year that Johnson had netted, after all his expenses and payments for the year were subtracted from his income.


“Yes,” Viers replied.


“I have no further questions,” Connor said.


He needed none. His devastating cross examination of Viers, combined with the testimony of other witnesses—which revealed Johnson’s secret safety deposit box, a bank account hidden from his wife, and a hidden cash stash—painted a devastating portrait of a respected Oklahoma leader. It depicted a man accused of receiving thousands of dollars in bribes, who could not adequately account for much of his income over a period of several years.


Still, removal from office required a two-thirds vote of the senate. As the legislators registered their aye or no, the tally advanced to 31-15 in support of removal. The decision came down to the final vote, Democrat John Young of Sapulpa. His vote would either clinch the two-thirds majority needed to “convict” Johnson and remove him from office in disgrace, or defeat the effort to remove him from the court.


Young recalled that he himself had gone the extra mile in the historic case. He had shown Johnson’s figures to his own accountant, who said they did not add up. After a fateful pause, the senator declared, “Yes.”


“Thus on small (hard) points do the balances of the world turn,” Winston Churchill wrote. He was describing the Confederacy’s best chance to win the American Civil War at its great Chancellorsville victory turning to its greatest loss when Stonewall Jackson was accidentally shot down by his own men, and his plan for completing the annihilation of the mauled, main Union army that day was not communicated.


Similarly, regarding the Johnson decision, the close observer will note that while the non-metropolitan senators voted only 17-13—barely more than a 50% ratio—against the justice, the Oklahoma City and Tulsa legislators did so 14-2, a nearly 90% margin. Yet every one of those 14 votes was needed, and only three of those 14 senator’s seats had been OKC or Tulsa ones prior to reapportionment only months earlier.

 

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Oklahomans Vol 2 :

Statehood - 2020s

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