An Oklahoma inmate who served more than 28 years behind bars was released from prison after a judge overturned his conviction for a 1991 murder.
Corey Atchison became a free man Tuesday after Tulsa County District Judge Sharon Holmes concluded he was innocent in the slaying of James Wayne nearly 30 years ago. Police have said that the victim was fatally shot during what appeared to be a gang-related robbery back in 1990.
Attorneys argued Atchison’s conviction was based primarily on the account of a single witness, who has admitted he was coerced into testifying against the 48-year-old Tulsa man.
Atchison, who has always maintained his innocence, had been serving a life sentence in connection with Wayne’s death. He was only 20 years old when the incident occurred.
He’d been in the area with some friends at the time of the shooting and arrested six months later.
“I don’t really know what I want to do, because my goal all these years was just to be free,” Atchison said after the ruling.
Holmes’ finding of “actual innocence” makes Atchison eligible for up to $175,000 in compensation for a wrongful conviction under Oklahoma state law.
Prosecutors have already filed a notice appeal on the ruling while former District Attorney, Tim Harris, who prosecuted the case as assistant district attorney, has filed an affidavit denying that he’s ever coerced a witness.
Ruth Scott, Atchison’s mother, meanwhile applauded the decision.
“I knew he didn’t do it,” she said. “I knew he didn’t do it, I knew he didn’t do it when it happened.”
Malcom Scott, Atchison’s younger brother, previously had a murder conviction overturned by the same judge in 2016. He was convicted of a 1994 drive-by shooting that claimed the life of 19-year-old Karen Summers. According to Tulsa World, a man who testified against Scott admitted to the killing just two days before he was set to be executed for a separate murder.