- Associated Press - Friday, January 29, 2016

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - A former defense attorney for one of two Oklahoma men convicted in in a 1994 drive-by shooting said Friday that he’s “waited 20 years” to testify that they’re innocent.

The rare hearing on new evidence in the case of Malcolm Scott and DeMarchoe Carpenter was prompted in part by an investigation by the Oklahoma Innocence Project, with whom Scott and Carpenter’s new attorneys work. They believe perhaps the best witness to exonerate the men in the killing of 19-year-old Karen Summers has been dead for more than two years.

The attorneys presented a confession from Michael Lee Wilson that was videotaped while he was on death row two years ago. They also called several witnesses who supported their claim that the handgun and car used in Summers’ killing belonged to Wilson, who would eventually plead guilty as an accessory after her death.

Prosecutors challenged the reliability of Wilson’s past statements and testimony.

Tulsa District Judge Sharon Holmes explained Friday after closing arguments that a decision on the evidence was too important to rule directly from the bench. Holmes instead said she’ll rule April 13 whether to declare the men innocent, grant them a new trial or deny their petitions altogether.

Hands shackled and wearing faded orange and gray prison uniforms, Carpenter and Scott were seated at their attorneys’ table Friday. An overflow crowd of family, friends and supporters packed the courtroom.

Summers was shot in the back as she sat on the hood of a car with other teenagers during a late summer night, an unwitting victim of a local gang dispute. Police quickly corralled Scott and Carpenter. Police questioned Wilson, but he refused to talk for nearly 20 years. Scott and Carpenter, both 17, were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

“I have positive knowledge these two men have spent 20 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit,” said Michael Harris, who was Scott’s defense attorney at the original trial.

Wilson, who was set to be executed for his role in the fatal beating of a convenience store clerk, told the innocence project days before his death that “it kind of blew me away that I got caught with the gun and they just let me go. They didn’t arrest me for possession of a firearm or anything.”

Minutes before Wilson was to die by lethal injection in January 2014, he told witnesses, “Malcolm Scott and DeMarchoe Carpenter are innocent.”

Prosecutor James Dunn cast doubt on that confession.

“What this case is about is what story you want to believe of Michael Wilson,” Dunn said. “He’s told so many stories of what happened that day.”

Tim Harris, the former Tulsa district attorney, has said the confession was “nothing more than his last-ditch effort to try and save his co-defendants, who are prison inmates, just like himself.”

The confession and the alleged recanted testimony of two eyewitnesses fueled legal efforts by the nonprofit Oklahoma Innocence Project, which spokeswoman Brook Arbeitman said has heard from an estimated 1,200 inmates.

Scott’s new attorney, Christina Green, has said there’s “no piece of evidence” she’s found that points to Scott or Carpenter.

Vicki Behenna spent more than 25 years as a federal prosecutor before becoming Carpenter’s attorney. “I’ve heard a lot of, ‘I’m innocent,’ there’s a little bit of my brain that says ‘Yeah, so is everybody else,’” Behenna recalled. “With these guys, there had to be something more; it wasn’t there. It wasn’t in the trial transcript.”

One spectator in the front row at Friday’s hearing was Carpenter’s mother, Pamela, who said she looked forward to seeing her son come home.

“To bring him home, that’s the best thing a person can ask for,” Carpenter said outside the courtroom. “I’m just hopeful and prayerful God will open up those doors, and he’s going to.”

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