8A ı TUESDAY AUGUST 27, 2013
Ariz. inmate Proposed Indian to testify in museum in Okla. NM capital faces opposition murder case By KRISTI EATON ASSOCIATED PRESS
By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN ASSOCIATED PRESS
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The capital murder trial of an Arizona fugitive accused of killing an Oklahoma couple while on the run will resume Monday with prosecutors calling a fellow inmate to the witness stand. The prosecution’s case against John McCluskey hinges partly on the testimony of inmate Tracy Province. The two, along with an accomplice, sparked a nationwide manhunt when they escaped from a medium-security prison near Kingman, Ariz., in 2010. Prosecutors say the trio targeted Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla., at a rest stop near the TexasNew Mexico state line. Tired of driving more than 1,000 miles in their cramped get-away car, they wanted the couple’s pickup truck and trailer. The Haases were carjacked at gunpoint and forced to drive to a desolate spot along Interstate 40 in eastern New Mexico. They were shot. Their bodies were burned along with their trailer and their truck was stolen. Province is expected to detail what happened that summer day on the plains of eastern New Mexico. He could be on the stand for as many as three days. McCluskey’s defense attorneys indicated in a recent motion they intend to challenge Province’s credibility. The defense also suggested in opening statements that years of drug use had clouded Province’s memory and that he had incentive to testify for the prosecution to avoid the death penalty. Province and the accomplice, Casslyn Welch, pleaded guilty last year to numerous charges stemming from the Haases deaths. Both face life sentences. Welch, who is also McCluskey’s cousin, is expected to testify in the coming weeks. According to court documents, Province separated from McCluskey and Welch and was arrested in northwestern Wyoming about a week after the Haases were killed. Authorities said he was found with the Haases’ backpack, a Bible, a gun, a knife and other supplies. He told authorities his plan was to overdose on heroin at Yellowstone National Park, but he decided to try to hitchhike to Indiana instead. Province was already was serving life in prison for murder and robbery when the prison break happened.
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tors to focus efforts on tornado recovery. “Families are hurting. Lives have been lost. Helping out friends, neighbors and families through this hardship takes priority. There is another day to perform our task,” Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby, chairman of the Native American Cultural and BLAKE WADE Education Executive Director Authority board, said in a statement at the time. Lawmakers ended up passing several items related to tornado recovery efforts, including a $45 million relief package and tax reforms for victims. It was a move that Loveless and Wade said was the necessary and the right thing to do. But once again, the museum was without money to continue with construction. A new opening date has been set for 2017, Wade said. Right now, dirt or bare concrete paths wind through the grounds while specially selected stone pieces quarried for the project sit unused. Plywood covers the walkway to a large promontory designed to resemble historic American Indian mounds. Meanwhile, the state is paying $52,000 a month for security at the site until lawmakers can vote on the $40 million funding bill in February. That’s when, Wade said, the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum faces what could be its last chance to convince the lawmakers of the project’s importance. “I feel this really would be our last opportunity this next session, in my opinion. We cannot continue to pay $52,000 a month for many more years,” he said. Both Wade and Loveless think the third time is the charm, and now Wade is focusing on maintaining contributions from about 150 private donors like Tulsan George Kaiser, a billionaire businessman and philanthropist who donated $1 million, and companies like Devon Energy. It’ll be an uphill battle to convince lawmakers like Sen. Greg Treat, though. Treat said he wants the cultural center and museum completed like everyone else — just not with any more state money. Treat believes the project could be finished with additional fundraising from private donors. The Republican senator was one of three lawmakers who asked Fallin to request an audit of the project last year. The audit found that the board chose the most expensive proposal to build the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, while having only $5 million in funding at the time. It also said lawmakers need to play a greater role in overseeing the project. Treat said legislators didn’t offer the proper oversight of the project, while he found it “troublesome” that the board would select the most expensive options, he said. Loveless, though, thinks people will realize the project’s potential once it’s complete. “It has been a bumpy road, but I definitely think it’s going to be worth it,” he said.
“I feel this really would be our last opportunity this next session, in my opinion. We cannot continue to pay $52,000 a month for many more years.”
OKLAHOMA CITY — The idea was ambitious and smart: Design a sprawling multimilliondollar museum in Oklahoma’s capital city to pay homage to the state’s 39 federally recognized tribes, build it at the intersection of two cross-country interstates, then take in millions of dollars as tourists from around the world flocked to Smithsonian-quality exhibits. But the reality is far different at the $170 million American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. It’s half-built and short of the money needed for completion two decades after the idea was proposed and seven years after the land was blessed by tribes and construction started. “It is a costly project. I don’t think anyone has ever denied that,” said Sen. Kyle Loveless, whose district includes the museum site at the intersection of Interstates 35 and 40 near downtown Oklahoma City. Once a self-acknowledged skeptic of the project, Loveless is now one of its biggest supporters. “To me, it’s one of those projects where long-term and short-term, once people see that it’s open and when we finally get there, they will appreciate it,” he said. When completed, the cultural center and museum will feature material from each Oklahoma tribe that is recognized by the federal government and items from the the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington and other tribal museums. One study said the museum could generate $3.8 billion in economic activity regionally over the next 20 years. But whether it will ever be completed the way its supporters envision it is a major issue. Initially, federal, state and private sources would split the costs evenly, but after federal funds dried up, the Native American Cultural and Education Authority, the state agency overseeing the museum project, turned to the state. At that point $91 million — much of it via state bonds — had been devoted to the project, leaving it $80 million short. Gov. Mary Fallin hired executive director Blake Wade to raise $40 million in private donations and promised $40 million in matching money for the project. The private donations were raised, but the state Legislature has balked at passing the bill to provide matching funds. Two years ago, the bill failed to pass through the Senate by one vote. In the 2013 session, Wade and Loveless said they were confident they had the necessary votes to pass the bill to secure the $40 million in funding and re-start construction that had stopped July 1, 2012. Then disaster struck. An EF5 tornado sliced through Moore, killing more than 20 people during the final week of the legislative session. Supporters of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, which is just 10 miles north of where the May 20 tornado struck, told legisla-
Oklahoma speaker lays out guidelines for session OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma lawmakers will likely take up more than two dozen bills when they convene at the state Capitol next month for a special session dealing with tort legislation, according to House Speaker T.W. Shannon. Shannon, R-Lawton, said a rewrite of the state’s tort system would require 26 to 28 bills. The Journal Record reported Sunday that Shannon told lawmakers in a memo last week there’s no deadline for bill introduction, though all House bills will be read on Sept. 3, the first day of the session. He said he expects the session to last six to 10 days. Gov. Mary Fallin called the special session to restore several laws overturned by the state Supreme Court that were designed to cut businesses’ legal liability costs. It will be the first special legislative session since Fallin took office in 2011, and the governor wants lawmakers to limit the session to restoring the provisions of a bill adopted in 2009 that was designed to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits and medical malpractice claims filed in Oklahoma. The high court threw out the legislation earlier this year, finding that it violated the single-subject rule in the Oklahoma Constitution and amounted to logrolling, or the passing of legislation that contains multiple subjects. Some Democrats have opposed the special session, noting that it would cost taxpayers about $30,000 per day. “The Democrats in the state Senate believe that a special session to revisit this issue is a waste of both time and taxpayer dollars,” said Sen. Sean Burrage, D-Claremore. State Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, said the tort reform legislation would pass both chambers of the Legislature. “The way things are going, it looks like they have the votes to pass it,” she said. “But what’s sad to me is I’m getting email from the medical community urging me to support the bill. But, at the same time, these same people have stayed silent on Medicaid expansion.”
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