Lawyers for man whose robbery and burglary convictions were vacated seek 'actual innocence'
BY BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer
Thursday, October 11, 2012
10/11/12 at 4:15 AM
Learn more about the Innocence Project: Read about the cases and understand the causes of wrongful convictions.
Appeals were filed in two different courts this week on behalf of a man whose Tulsa County robbery and burglary convictions were vacated after he spent some 16 years behind bars.
The appeals were initiated in the state Supreme Court and in the state Court of Criminal Appeals on behalf of Sedrick Courtney, 40.
Richard O'Carroll, one of Courtney's lawyers, requests that the Supreme Court decide the matter and instruct District Judge William Kellough to "find Mr. Courtney actually innocent."
A filing by O'Carroll and attorney Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project says a civil statute is at issue and that the Supreme Court should resolve the matter.
A request for relief was also filed with the Court of Criminal Appeals - the state's top court on criminal matters - out of an abundance of caution, according to O'Carroll.
On Sept. 27, Kellough ordered the dismissal of the 1995 robbery-burglary case against Courtney but did not make a finding of ''actual innocence."
Kellough indicated in a court document 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 said he did not think a reasonable jury could make a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt if presented with DNA evidence that was not available at a 1996 trial.
Courtney's lawyers wrote in a document that a court 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."
The most Courtney could recover through the state's compensation law for wrongfully convicted people is $175,000, lawyers say.
In July, Kellough granted post-conviction relief based on newly discovered evidence - DNA testing results. The judge vacated Courtney's convictions for robbery and burglary, with the agreement of District Attorney Tim Harris.
Courtney had been found guilty in a case in which two masked intruders robbed a woman at her Tulsa apartment.
Results from DNA testing available at the time were inconclusive, but subsequent DNA tests of numerous hairs found in ski masks excluded Courtney as a possible donor of those hairs, a filing on his behalf states.
Courtney denied any involvement in the burglary-robbery and had alibi witnesses.
The accuser, who was beaten and hospitalized, knew him and identified him as one of the intruders.
Courtney, who was sentenced to 60 years in prison, was released on parole in 2011.
The Innocence Project, an organization that uses DNA evidence in an effort to get wrongfully convicted people exonerated, took on his case while he was in prison.
Original Print Headline: Lawyers for ex-convict seek 'actual innocence'
Bill Braun 918-581-8455
Sedrick Courtney: His lawyers say a court 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." Courtney had been found guilty in a case in which two intruders robbed a woman at her Tulsa apartment. Courtney denied any involvement and had alibi witnesses