Appeals were filed in two different courts in early October, on behalf of 40-year-old Sedrick Courtney, whose Tulsa County robbery and burglary convictions were vacated after he spent roughly 16 years in jail for the crimes. The appeals were initiated in Oklahoma Supreme Court and in the state Court of Appeals by Courtney’s criminal defense …
Appeals were filed in two different courts in early October, on behalf of 40-year-old Sedrick Courtney, whose Tulsa County robbery and burglary convictions were vacated after he spent roughly 16 years in jail for the crimes. The appeals were initiated in Oklahoma Supreme Court and in the state Court of Appeals by Courtney’s criminal defense lawyers, who requested that Courtney be found “actually innocent” of the Oklahoma crimes. Courtney’s attorneys wrote in a statement that the court’s finding of actual innocence “is a necessary predicate under Oklahoma law for Mr. Courtney to recover damages suffered as a result of his wrongful conviction,” although the most in damages Courtney could recover through Oklahoma’s compensation law for wrongfully convicted individuals is $175,000. If you have been accused of a crime in Oklahoma, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center to discuss your legal options.
Wrongfully Convicted But Not Declared “Innocent”
On September 27, 2012, District Judge William Kellough ordered the dismissal of the 1995 robbery and burglary charges against Courtney, but did not deliver a finding of “actual innocence.” According to a court document, Kellough stated that Courtney, who is no longer in prison, did not establish by “clear and convincing evidence that he did not commit the crime charged.” Kellough has also said that he does not think a jury could make a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt if presented with DNA evidence that was not available at the trial in 1996.
In July 2012, Kellough granted post-conviction relief based on newly discovered evidence involving the results if new DNA testing. The judge ultimately vacated Courtney’s convictions for robbery and burglary in a case where two masked intruders robbed a women at her apartment in Tulsa. Courtney had alibi witnesses at the time the robbery and burglary occurred, and denied any involvement in the crime. The victim however, who was beaten and hospitalized, knew Courtney and identified him as one of the intruders. Courtney was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the crimes, and was released on parole in 2011.
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Results from DNA testing available at the time of trial were inconclusive, but subsequent DNA tests of hairs found in the ski masks excluded Courtney as a possible donor of the hairs. The Innocence Project, an organization that uses DNA evidence to help get wrongfully convicted individuals exonerated, took on Courtney’s case while he was in prison. A filing by an attorney involved in the Innocence Project says a civil statute is at issue in Courtney’s case, and that the Supreme Court should resolve the matter of declaring Courtney’s “actual innocence.” If you are facing charges for an Oklahoma criminal offense, our qualified criminal defense lawyers at Oklahoma Legal Center can help. Contact the criminal defense attorneys at our Oklahoma City law firm, and begin the process of protecting your legal rights today.