King of House Imprisoned

Just 10 days later, a dramatic postscript to the supreme court fiasco occurred. It shifted fortunes from bad to worse for former house speaker McCarty. In a historic turn of irony, the federal government indicted him on six charges related to the same sorts of crimes committed by the leading protagonists of the Supreme Court scandal—crimes whose prosecution McCarty had in various ways been dismissive, even contemptuous, of.


McCarty’s legal defense team portrayed the former Oklahoma House titan as the unwitting victim of income and tax payment errors stemming from mistakes on the part of “girls in his office” which he had not adequately supervised. Invoking McCarty’s many admitted tax filing mistakes, federal prosecutor Willard McBride’s closing argument to the jury mused that McCarty “never made a mistake in the government’s favor, but always in his own favor to the tune of about $15,000.”


The jury accepted McCarty’s explanations in four of the six counts against him. They found him guilty in the other two. These included willfully understating his 1962 taxable income and knowingly underpaying what he owed for it by around $8,000 (approximately $68,000 in 2020 currency).” The erstwhile “King of the Oklahoma House” spent most of a year in an Arkansas prison.


As will be seen, many more Oklahoma lawmakers would fall prey to their own misdeeds in subsequent decades, but the state government scandals of the 1960s, and their long years in the making, were concluded.


Supreme Court Justice William A. Berry, whose life of service to his state and nation ended in 2008, penned perhaps the best requiem for the demoralizing mess:


“One of the most disturbing things about the allegations against Oklahoma’s Supreme Court justices was that it threw a cloud over the “case law” system. That is, if justices can be influenced or bribed, then all of the carefully constructed pyramid of legal precedent begins to crumble.


“Case law means that any time a legal interpretation or judgment is made in one case, that becomes the law of the land and forms the basis for ruling all future cases dealing with similar issues. This means any time the supreme court makes a ruling—tainted or not—it becomes a part of the legal architecture. And if a ruling is tainted it means that all future decisions based on that ruling may be standing on very shaky ground.”

 

The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book

Oklahomans Vol 2 :

Statehood - 2020s

which can be purchased HERE.


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