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"Communication Failure" Set Eufaula Bank Robber Free

29-Jan-2016

In only a few seconds, a man walked into a Eufaula bank, shot and killed the bank president, shot a teller, and took a customer hostage in an attempt to rob the bank. By the time the dramatic scene reached its conclusion in a deadly shootout with law enforcement, Cedric Lamont Norris was dead, and his hostage was seriously injured.

The killing of the bank president and the injuries of two innocent women seem senseless enough, but compounding the futility of it all was the discovery that Norris, who was released from a Texas prison in 2012, should have been behind bars in Oklahoma, serving a 60 year sentence for multiple criminal conviction.

In fact, it was not the first time Norris was mistakenly released from prison. In 2007, he was released from a Texas prison on parole. In both the 2007 and 2012 releases, the man should have been transferred immediately to an Oklahoma prison to serve the remainder of his 60 year term.
So how does this happen? How does a man who should be spending decades behind bars get mistakenly released not once, but twice? 

Neither Texas nor Oklahoma authorities could pinpoint where or how the communication breakdown occurred--why Texas officials did not know that Norris needed to be transferred to Oklahoma nor why Oklahoma officials were not monitoring his status in Texas.

A timeline published in the Tulsa World shows a number of "red flags" or times during the justice system's involvement with Norris and his prolific criminal history that should have prevented the mishaps that let him out of custody. In fact, when Norris was paroled in Texas in 2007, he not only had a sentence awaiting him in Oklahoma, he had a current indictment for robber in Texas itself. It seems unthinkable that an inmate with pending criminal charges could be paroled.

It is troubling that neither Texas nor Oklahoma officials can pinpoint the exact breakdown. One jurisdiction says the transfer papers were mailed. Another says they were not in Norris's file. But Norris was free, and he was checking in with his parole officer in Texas--as recently as one week before the Eufaula bank robbery and murder. Officials say that Norris's case was "once in a lifetime," and that he was able to slip through the cracks because he was sentenced in so many jurisdictions. But shouldn't that kind of criminal record mean someone is keeping a close eye on the inmate? 

According to Creek County District Attorney Max Cook, "I do not know whose fault it is--if it’s the fault of a person or a system--but  we’ll deal with it, and we’ll make it better should we be faced with this again."

It is hard to have confidence in a system's ability to find a solution to a problem, when it can't even find the problem's source.



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