Shared with a handful of criminal defense attorneys in late May, a notice of potential exculpatory evidence revealed that Oklahoma City Police Department detective Bryn Carter admitted March 2 to Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater that he had perjured himself one week earlier in signing a criminal affidavit.
Carter’s admission of lying was notable to the Oklahoma County defense bar on its face: How many pending and past cases were about to include or already had featured testimony from a police officer who was now an admitted liar? How many convictions might be appealed on this basis? To what, exactly, had Bryn Carter testified in the past year alone?
But the unusual situation has also claimed an even higher profile because the criminal affidavit on which Carter said he lied dealt with the fatal shooting of Bennie Edwards in December by OKCPD Sgt. Clifford Holman. In February, Prater had charged Holman with first-degree manslaughter for shooting Edwards — a homeless man with a history of psychosis — in the back as he ran from officers following a brief and chaotic encounter.
On Feb. 24, Carter, a detective in OKCPD’s Homicide Unit, signed the affidavit that said Holman “fired three shots unnecessarily at Mr. Edwards as he was running away striking him in his upper middle back causing his death”
The affidavit concluded: “Based off of the above information, your affiant believes Clifford Holman is in violation of Title 21, Section 711.3 (manslaughter in the first degree) of the Oklahoma state statutes.”
Six days later, on March 2, Carter requested a meeting with Prater and “advised DA Prater that he could not ‘stand by’ what he alleged in the affidavit worn in the Holman investigation,” the notice of potential Brady/Giglio evidence states. “Specifically, Carter related that he did not believe that Officer Clifford Holman’s gunshot that killed Benny Edwards was unnecessary, though that was what he wrote and swore to in his affidavit. When asked, Carter stated that he did not believe what he wrote to be true at the time he wrote it and swore to the same. No further explanation was given.”
Asked Thursday whether Carter’s retraction changes his opinion about or charges in the Holman shooting, Prater replied, “Not one bit.”
Prater: OKCPD internal investigation ‘highly suspect’
When the Bryn Carter story first broke Thursday, Prater told Nolan Clay of The Oklahoman that he “will be referring this matter on to the attorney general’s office.”
Asked subsequently by NonDoc why he was not charging Carter with a crime as he would anyone else who admitted lying on a sworn statement, Prater said his role in the matter was different because of the circumstances.
Instead of prosecutor, Prater is the “complaining witness” in the situation. After Carter recanted his affidavit March 2, Prater said he called then-Attorney General Mike Hunter.
“I indicated to him that I would be (turning it over to them) at some point, but I needed the police department to look into what, if any, pressure was put on Carter to sign it in the first place or to recant his sworn statement in the second place,” Prater said. “I was awaiting word that the Oklahoma City Police Department was investigating it or not.”
OKCPD MSgt. Gary Knight said in a statement Thursday that Carter was investigated internally and cleared of wrongdoing.
“The Professional Standards Unit of the OKCPD began an investigation into the allegation. The results of the investigation showed no wrongdoing on the part of Inspector Carter,” Knight said. “Inspector Carter’s work assignment has not changed, and he remains a highly respected member of the OKCPD’s Homicide Unit.”
In a statement sent to The Oklahoman and NonDoc, Prater said OKCPD’s conclusion “surprised” him, and he put the word “investigation” into quotation marks.
“It is alarming to me that an ‘investigation’ has been completed; when no investigator from the Professional Standards Unit has contacted me, the complaining witness, or any of my staff who witnessed Officer Carter admit to signing the affidavit while not believing that it was completely true and accurate,” Prater said. “This investigation is highly suspect and completely unreliable. The leadership and command of the Oklahoma City Police Department have now verified the concerns that many in the community have voiced for years regarding an inability to objectively investigate its own officers.”
Carter did not return a phone call prior to the publication of this story seeking comment.
John George, OKC Fraternal Order of Police president, said his organization “did not have any influence with the language in the affidavit or Detective Carter’s actions after it was written.”
“Detective Carter’s actions in this case were fully investigated by the department after he informed the DA that he wasn’t comfortable with the language used in the affidavit,” George said. “The department found that his actions were appropriate in light of the circumstances known and the investigation cleared Carter.”
George then criticized Prater’s statements and characterized the Carter situation as a “disagreement.”
“The FOP welcomes the involvement of the Attorney General’s Office given the situation where the DA is now besmirching the character of Detective Carter and jeopardizing numerous criminal cases that Detective Carter investigated based solely on a disagreement between the investigating detective and the prosecutor’s office over language in the probable cause affidavit,” George said.
“I would expect nothing less than a comment like that from the Oklahoma City FOP,” he said.
‘The first time the cop has lied or the fifth time?’
In his article, Clay detailed other cases where Carter’s testimony or potential testimony is being highlighted by defense attorneys.
From The Oklahoman:
(…) Assistant public defender, Bailey Daugherty, is seeking a dismissal of a second-degree murder case involving a fatal shooting last year.
The defendant, Angela Jimenez, went on trial in April. She faces another trial in October because of a jury deadlock.
The defense attorney complained that prosecutors failed to tell her about Carter’s retraction before that trial. She argued there is a reasonable probability of a different outcome if she had been able to cross-examine Carter about the affidavit.
“It was Ms. Jimenez’s defense that the victim accidentally shot himself,” Daugherty told the trial judge. “At trial, Detective Carter testified in his opinion that … was not what happened in this case. The facts of the … notice would certainly have been material to the jury’s finding of guilt or innocence.”
Clay also quoted Danny White, a veteran criminal defense attorney who has worked in the Oklahoma County Public Defender’s Office for three years.
White is representing a man named Israel Pointer who has been charged with first-degree murder in the April 2020 shooting death of Courtney Deveraux. White had asked for the charge to be dismissed, but Judge Ray Elliott denied the motion because prosecutors said Carter would not be called. Instead, the trial was rescheduled.
White told NonDoc that while Carter’s affidavit may have complicated implications for the Holman case, his status as a witness in other cases is straightforward.
“Whether he is lying now or lying then really doesn’t matter because he’s an admitted liar,” White said. “It comes back to when someone comes in and says, ‘I’m charged with shoplifting, this is the first time I’ve ever shoplifted.’ Well, come on. We know that is probably not true. So we don’t know if this is the first time the cop has lied or the fifth time?”
During his tenure as a prosecutor, Prater — a former Norman police officer — said he has never encountered this particular type of situation.
“This is the first time this has ever happened to me. But we have made disclosures on officers over the last several years,” Prater said.
Asked how many disclosures his office has made regarding Carter so far, Prater said the process will follow Carter for the rest of his tenure as an OKCPD detective.
“I think four or five to this point. There are four or five that he was involved in that we have made disclosures to (defense attorneys about),” Prater said. “And we will continue that any case he is on in the future, this disclosure will be made.”
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Carter involved in Mitchell murder case
Bryn Carter has been investigating homicides for more than a decade, and the Edwards shooting is not the only high-profile case Carter has been involved with.
He was an investigator in the murder of northwest Oklahoma City resident Julie Mitchell, who was bludgeoned to death in her home on Nov. 2, 2010. Carter testified during before the state’s multi-county grand jury in March 2011.
Julie Mitchell’s murder remains unsolved, but the case made headlines owing to the involvement of her husband, Teddy Mitchell, in illegal gambling. He was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison in 2014 after pleading guilty to gambling and money laundering charges. Teddy Mitchell was released in 2016.
View a full Bryn Carter evidence notice
(Editor’s note: Matt Patterson contributed to this story.)