How Oklahoma’s Judicial System Failed Arab Family Who Lived In Fear Of Their Neighbor

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August 23, 2016 2:47 p.m.
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A grieving Lebanese family in Oklahoma says the judicial system did not do enough to keep them safe from a next-door neighbor arrested on suspicion of murdering their loved one.

In interviews with TPM, local attorneys and a professor who researches stalking said that the years of ethnic harassment and physical abuse that Stanley Vernon Majors directed towards his neighbors, the Jabaras, provided a Tulsa County judge with ample evidence of the grave threat he posed. Yet those legal experts also weren’t surprised Majors was allowed to go free on bail in the face of that evidence.

The family’s worst fears were realized on Aug. 12, when Majors allegedly shot Khalid Jabara, 37, on the front porch of the home he shared with his parents. He would later die from his injuries.

“I feel like my family lost, my community lost. My brother lost. We all lost,” Khalid’s Jabara’s brother, Rami, wrote on Facebook after Majors was arrested on suspicion of murder. “I feel like we did everything we possibly could do [to] advocate for and protect ourselves.”

Majors had a long criminal history before moving to Tulsa that included weapons charges and a felony conviction for making threats with the intent to terrorize. After settling in next door to the Jabaras, he routinely called the police with complaints about the family while rattling off ethnic slurs.

He twice violated a protective order obtained by Khalid Jabara’s mother, Haifa, that required him to remain 25 feet away from her at all times. In the second incident, Majors was arrested and charged for allegedly ramming Haifa Jabara with his car in a hit-and-run attack that left her with multiple broken bones. He faced several misdemeanors and a felony charge of assault and battery with a deadly weapon in that case, and Tulsa County prosecutors deemed him a “substantial risk to the public.”

Despite those blaring warning signs, Majors was released on bond on May 23, after spending eight months in jail. He allegedly shot Khalid Jabara just 10 weeks later.

“I wouldn’t say it surprises me,” University of Kentucky professor T.K. Logan, who studies domestic abuse and stalking, said of the judge’s decision. “It happens all the time that we release dangerous, violent offenders if they can make bail.”

“Many judges are not good threat assessment evaluators,” she added. “To me this just seems like common sense judgement.”

According to Logan, courts are woefully behind when it comes to addressing harassment by non-intimate partners like neighbors.

Majors was originally denied bail when he was arrested for the hit-and-run in September. In May, however, his lawyers pushed for bond to be set. Tulsa County Judge William LaFortune initially set bond for the felony assault and battery charge at $30,000, before Assistant District Attorney Brett Mize filed a motion urging him to reconsider.

Mize charged that Majors “demonstrated a wanton disregard for the life of the victim and the safety of the public,” according to court records.

LaFortune responded by increasing the bond on the assault charge to $60,000, which Majors posted. There were no conditions for Majors’ release, although the district attorney’s office had tried to ensure he would wear an ankle monitor.

Defense attorney James Wirth, who has practiced in Tulsa County for almost twelve years, told TPM that though LaFortune “got it wrong in this case,” it was easier to judge the terms of Majors’ release in hindsight.

“It doesn’t strike out as a horribly bad determination,” he said. “There are constitutional rights that have to be weighed here, when we’re talking about somebody who has not yet been convicted of the offense for which they’re being held.”

According to Wirth, judges in Oklahoma must consider eight factors when determining bail, including the defendant’s criminal record, mental condition, family ties and the seriousness of the charges against him. All those factors would seem to be strikes against Majors, who has a long rap sheet, is relatively new to the community and lives with his 76-year-old husband, Stephen Schmauss. The Jabaras had recounted Schmauss’ allegations of domestic abuse to police on multiple occasions through the years.

In a statement provided to TPM through a family spokeswoman, Khalid Jabara’s sister-in-law, Jenna, said the lack of conditions stipulated in Majors’ bond “led to constant fear for Khalid and my in-laws.”

“There was no ankle monitor, no drug/alcohol testing, no restrictions on travel, no requirements to check-in with police or appear upon demand, no restrictions on driving, no vehicle breathalyzer, basically unconditional freedom,” Jenna Jabara said.

Reached by local TV station KOKI for a statement, LaFortune’s clerk said, “He is not allowed to comment on a case, but he did double the bond to $60,000.00 pursuant to states motion.”

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler told TPM in a Monday phone interview that his office did everything possible to keep Majors in jail until his hearing for the hit-and-run, which had been set for March 2017.

“We wanted to be sure that every precaution that could be extended would be extended,” Kunzweiler said.

“Once anybody gets out, all you can do is hope that they’re going to comply with the orders of the court,” he added. “The majority of time, people do. But this is one of those cases that just keeps you up at night.”

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