Law & Principles
Ray Carter | March 7, 2023
Oklahoma state lawmaker censured for harboring fugitive at Capitol
By an overwhelming margin, members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives have voted to censure state Rep. Mauree Turner for harboring a fugitive who was allegedly involved in an assault on an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper.
The motion approved by the House requires that Turner be removed from all committees “unless or until a written and public apology is issued.”
The censure sprang from an incident that occurred on Tuesday, Feb. 28, involving two transgender activists at the Oklahoma Capitol. One of the individuals physically assaulted a trooper and the other attempted to interfere with the first individual’s arrest before fleeing.
State Rep. Anthony Moore, who made the motion to censure Turner, said troopers reported that the second individual fled to Turner’s office. He said troopers reported that Turner then refused to produce the fugitive.
“As elected officials, we must hold ourselves to the highest standard, and the harsh reality is that if any one of our constituents committed these same actions, they would have been immediately arrested and prosecuted,” said Moore, R-Clinton.
Turner, D-Oklahoma City, dismissed the censure motion against her as an effort to silence the voices of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals in state political debates. Turner identifies as nonbinary, meaning she declines to be exclusively identified as either a woman or a man and prefers to be referred to with they/them pronouns.
“I know that I represent a culmination of things that y’all deeply hate, and I know it makes it easier for you to try to silence the people of House District 88, because we continuously hold you accountable,” Turner said. “We push you to be better, to take care of Oklahomans. What happened last week in my office was the same thing that happens all the time. People do not feel represented or protected by the people in this body. They come to find refuge in my office.”
She said the censure effort was punishment for the “fact that I dared to protect Oklahomans, that I provided a space for grace and love in the face of hate.”
House Democratic Leader Cyndi Munson of Oklahoma City, also dismissed the complaint.
“You don’t get to use law enforcement, protecting law enforcement, as a mask to silence somebody,” Munson said.
But Moore said the issue had nothing to do with transgender activism.
“The facts set before us by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol are very clear,” Moore said. “There is no ambiguity. There is no speculation. There’s no misunderstanding. The actions willfully taken by Representative Turner without question rise to the level of criminal.”
The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted 81-19 to censure Turner. The vote broke along party lines with Republicans in support.
Following the vote, House Democrats issued a release describing Turner as “wrongfully accused.”
But House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, issued his own release, defending the House’s action.
“This member knowingly, and willfully, impeded a law enforcement investigation, harboring a fugitive and repeatedly lying to officers, and used their official office and position to thwart attempts by law enforcement to make contact with a suspect of the investigation,” McCall said. “I want to make something very clear: I will not allow members of the House of Representatives to use their House assigned offices and official positions to impede law enforcement from carrying out investigations or making arrests in the State Capitol.”
He said Turner’s “inappropriate, and potentially criminal, actions” were “deserving of censure, and the actions taken by the House today were both measured and just.”
In a press conference following the House vote, Turner emphatically declined to issue any apology to law enforcement.
“The last I checked, Oklahoma City is number two in the nation, and maybe Tulsa number five in the nation, for police-involved killings of civilians,” Turner said. “I think about how often the presence of more law enforcement actually escalates situations, and I personally don’t feel more safe in those situations.”
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.