After 28 years spent in prison maintaining his innocence, an Oklahoma inmate has been vindicated.
Corey Atchison was found guilty in 1991 for the murder of James Lane, who was shot in an alleged robbery in 1990. He was sentenced to life in prison. But on Tuesday, July 16, Tulsa County District Judge Sharon Holmes vacated Atchison's murder conviction after Holmes ruled that Atchison's attorney, Joe Norwood, brought forth enough evidence to prove Atchinson's innocence, reports local outlet Tulsa World.
“Every time Corey Atchison had a chance to profess his innocence, he did,” Norwood told Tulsa World. “And he did it under oath. And he did it consistently.”
Eight witnesses were summoned for hearings in September and January. During the hearings, the prosecution’s star witness — Doane Thomas — submitted an affidavit recanting his statement that identified Atchison as the shooter, stating that he felt pressured into identifying Atchison as a suspect, according to Tulsa World.
Norwood also brought forth witnesses who had given a description of the assailant that didn’t match Atchison’s physical appearance and weren’t called to testify during the trial.
“This court thinks the purported eyewitnesses who were used were coerced,” Holmes said, according to the Tulsa World. “Without those witnesses, I don’t think a jury would have found Mr. Atchison guilty of this crime.”
Former district attorney Tim Harris, who prosecuted the case, filed an affidavit denying that coercion was used on any witnesses, according to the New York Daily News.
"The people who repeatedly elected Tim Harris as their District Attorney did so because he embodied integrity," Tulsa District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said in a statement obtained by local NBC affiliate KJRH. "I came to work for Mr. Harris in 2002 because of his honesty and integrity. Now, 25 years after the fact, comes a single spurious claim which runs completely counter to the stellar reputation Mr. Harris developed over his entire lifetime.”
Upon leaving prison, Atchison was reunited with his family.
“I don’t really know what I want to do, because my goal all these years was just to be free,” Atchison said according to Daily News.
Atchison's brother Malcom Scott also had a murder conviction vacated back in 2016. He had been found guilty in 1994 of shooting a 19-year-old woman named Karen Summers, but was freed when the actual killer confessed.
Atchison is eligible for up to $175,000 in compensation because of the wrongful conviction, according to the Daily News. Norwood told The Washington Post that Atchison is considering filing a lawsuit over the conviction and the time served.
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