- Associated Press - Sunday, November 23, 2014

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Few of those who are wrongfully convicted of a crime in Oklahoma receive compensation after their convictions are overturned due to evidence indicating they are innocent, according to a published report.

Only six of the 28 Oklahomans listed on the National Exoneration Registry collected any money for their years spent in prison, the Tulsa World reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/1xHzAo9 ). The six served an average of nine years in prison, with half serving a decade or more. Of the 28 cases, 11 people were freed after DNA tests showed they were innocent.

Records show that six people have been freed from Oklahoma’s death row after they were exonerated. Only one of those six collected payment from the state.

Like most other states, Oklahoma’s wrongful conviction law requires a legal finding of “actual innocence” after convictions are overturned. In practice, the process often requires exonerated people to prove their innocence again in court.

To seek compensation under the law, exonerees must file tort claims with the state or local agency involved in the case. If the agency does not pay the claim within the time allowed by law, the claimant must then file a lawsuit.

The World found just one case in which the state or a local government agency paid a tort claim without forcing the exoneree to file a lawsuit under the 2003 law. That involved Tulsan Sedrick Courtney, who served 16 years in prison for a robbery and burglary conviction.

Tulsa police told Courtney and the Innocence Project twice that hair from a ski mask and other evidence used to convict him had been destroyed.

Then in 2011, after Courtney had been paroled, the Innocence Project inquired again about the evidence. This time, Tulsa police said they found the hair evidence. A DNA test excluded Courtney as a possible source of the hair and in 2012, a judge ruled he had proven his innocence.

Courtney has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Tulsa, claiming the city used manufactured evidence to convict him and obstructed his efforts to prove he was innocent.

Gerald Bender, litigation manager for the city’s legal department, said he could not comment on Courtney’s case.


Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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