2018 Innocence Project Quarter 3 Update

For those who did not have the opportunity to meet or work with our former Legal Assistant, Joyce Mayer, it is hard to put into words what she meant to all of us. For that reason, we were deeply saddened by her sudden passing on March 16, 2018. She was the heart and soul of the Oklahoma Innocence Project and it was only fitting that the OCU School of Law and OKIP joined together as a community for a celebration of Joyce’s life and her unwavering commitment to freeing the innocent and wrongfully convicted.  

Having some tremendous shoes to fill, we were fortunate enough to hire Cheryl Burns as our Legal Assistant to continue the passion Joyce displayed in helping those who have been unjustly incarcerated. Cheryl previously volunteered in the clinic under Joyce’s guidance and was able to step in and carry on with the same passion Joyce had to help free the innocent. Cheryl is well-versed with the legal system, having spent 15 years as a paralegal in a law firm environment and 15 years as a paralegal and risk management specialist in the corporate legal environment. Cheryl brings the strength of her experience, background and desire to assist in making OKIP the gold standard for wrongful conviction clinics around the country. 

2018 Oklahoma Innocence Project Update

Last year was a busy year for students and volunteers in the Oklahoma Innocence Project.  In 2017, we received an additional 39 requests for assistance and closed 68 cases.  This brings the Oklahoma Innocence Project to over 1,500 total requests for assistance since opening its doors in August 2011.  Given the 400 cases awaiting review and the numerous requests we receive for help, Andrea Miller, an Assistant Public Defender and our clinical professor, with the help of students enrolled in the Wrongful Conviction class, are continually reviewing case files to answer those requesting the Clinic’s help.

 Student efforts are critical to the Clinic’s success and provide an invaluable experience to our future lawyers. For instance, in the case of Willard O’Neal, students discovered that some of the evidence collected at the 2001 crime scene was not submitted to a lab to obtain possible DNA evidence.  A client of OKIP since its inception, Mr. O’Neal was convicted of murder based solely upon the uncorroborated preliminary hearing testimony of a woman whose guns were used in the murder.  Upon our students learning that evidence had not been submitted for DNA testing, we filed a petition for post-conviction relief in Tulsa County in June 2015, and in September 2016, we filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing.  

Innocent but Still Guilty

After Fred Steese spent two decades in a Nevada prison for murder, evidence indicating that he was innocent was found buried in the prosecution’s files. It was proof that Mr. Steese, as he’d always claimed, had been hundreds of miles away on the likely day of the murder and couldn’t have been the killer.

In Maryland two years earlier, the conviction of James Thompson, who had also served 20 years for murder and rape and whose case involved police and prosecutorial misconduct, was thrown into overwhelming doubt when his DNA didn’t match the semen found in the victim.

The Innocence Deniers

avontae Sanford was 14 years old when he confessed to murdering four people in a drug house on Detroit’s East Side. Left alone with detectives in a late-night interrogation, Sanford says he broke down after being told he could go home if he gave them “something.” On the advice of a lawyer whose license was later suspended for misconduct, Sanford pleaded guilty in the middle of his March 2008 trial and received a sentence of 39 to 92 years in prison.

Demand For Oklahoma Innocence Project Grows After Successful Exonerations

The Oklahoma Innocence Project’s caseload is growing after the non-profit scored a legal victory last year that exonerated two former inmates.

In May 2016, Malcolm Scott and De’Marchoe Carpenter left prison for the first time in 16 years after the Oklahoma Innocence Project cleared the two men. Both were wrongfully convicted in the 1994 murder of Karen Summers and sentenced to life plus 170 years.

And Justice For All

On May 9, 2016, after spending 22 years in prison for being accused and convicted of killing a 19-year-old woman, Malcolm Scott and De’Marchoe Carpenter were exonerated for a crime that they did not commit. Scott and Carpenter wrote and requested help for 22 years, until finally someone heard their plea. Years after standing by their innocence, the Oklahoma chapter of the Innocence Project took up their cause. 

A Death Row Convict’s Final Words Set Two Innocent Men Free

De’Marchoe Carpenter was running out of time.

He’d lost an appeal, Oklahoma’s governor twice denied him parole, and his post-conviction lawyers had just informed him that a key witness died of kidney failure. They were forced to mothball his case. But here Carpenter was, waiting among a flock of prisoners in a penitentiary gymnasium with a heart full of hope.

Innocence Project Exonerees Recall 22 Years Behind Bars

For most of us, an incredible number of life events took place between 1994 and 2016. Marriages, babies, vacations, job changes.

For De’Marchoe Carpenter and Malcolm Scott, those 22 years included days that mostly looked the same — exercising, watching TV, writing letters, praying — all while incarcerated for a crime neither man committed.

Tulsa Men Wrongfully Convicted of Murder Thank Those Who Helped Free Them

They spent more than 20 years in prison for crime they didn’t commit. Two men are free, but the journey isn’t over.

Malcolm Scott and De’Marchoe Carpenter were wrongfully convicted of murder when they were just 18.