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.