Judge rules to overturn 1991 murder conviction in Tulsa

TULSA, Okla. — A man will get his freedom after serving time for a crime he says he did not commit.

Corey Atchison has been in prison since 1991 when he was convicted in the murder of James Warren Lane. He was sentenced to life in prison but always maintained his innocence.

Atchison's attorneys say he was convicted on testimony from a single witness.

That witness recently came forward saying he was coerced by police into testifying against Atchison.

Attorneys also argue that two other teens testified saying police and Tim Harris -- a former prosecutor and District Attorney -- coerced them into falsely testifying.

Judge Sharon Holmes delayed the decision on whether or not to overturn Atchison's conviction on June 11 until July 16 -- citing her recent medical leave.

The judge found Atchison innocent.

FOX23's Preston Jones spoke with Atchison's brother, Malcolm Scott, who was convicted in a separate murder case in 1994 along with Demarchoe Carpenter:

Scott and Carpenter's convictions were vacated in 2016 over similar accusations of coercion.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler gave FOX23 the following response to Holmes' ruling:

"The people who repeatedly elected Tim Harris as their District Attorney did so because he embodied integrity.  I came to work for Mr. Harris in 2002 because of his honesty and integrity.  I have never had an occasion to call that into question.  Mr. Harris signed and submitted an affidavit in this case which categorically refuted the unsubstantiated allegations against him.  Twelve men and women listened to all of the evidence in this case and they rendered their judgment that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  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.  Suffice it to say, the State of Oklahoma will be appealing the ruling of Judge Holmes."

Corey Atchison's attorney, Joseph Norwood released a statement as a response to Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler.

"Harris and Kunzweiler have brought into question the credibility of a witness that accused Mr. Harris of coercion.  This witness is the sole witness and piece of evidence that then-Assistant District Attorney Harris used against Corey Atchison at his trial in 1991.  If Harris and Kunzweiler questioned the credibility of the lone witness against Atchison, the case should have been dismissed.

Further, the jury at the trial didn't hear but a small fraction of the evidence in Atchison's case.  There are six known witnesses to the murder of James Lane that claim someone other than Atchison is the shooter.  Some of these witnesses were not adequately disclosed to Atchison for his trial.  Others were not called to testify.  There has never been physical evidence against Atchison. As the case stands, the State of Oklahoma does not have a single piece of evidence indicating Atchison in the shooter.  All of the evidence in Atchison's case indicates he is innocent.  That is why Atchison was found actually innocent by the Court on July 16th.

Joseph Norwood"

In 2014, another Tulsa murder conviction was overturned due to new evidence and an admission by Harris that he "misspoke" at the trial. Michelle Murphy spent nearly 20 years in prison before she was released.

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