Oklahoma needs an innocence commission

In 1988, Perry Lott was convicted of a rape and home invasion in Ada and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. Thirty years later, in July 2018, after DNA evidence pointing to another man emerged, Lott walked out of a Pontotoc County courtroom a free man. Well, sort of.

The evidence that excluded Lott as a possible suspect emerged several years prior to his release, and he should have been sent home, free and clear, as soon as the truth about his case was known. Instead, it took years of legal wrangling, and even then he got out of prison on a compromised deal: Rather than drawing out the court battle even longer, Lott agreed to plead no contest to the charges and was released on time served. Despite the evidence of his innocence, Lott will be a convicted rapist for the rest of his days, ineligible for any compensation from the state of Oklahoma for his wrongful conviction.

Lott’s story and other high-profile cases where an Oklahoman’s guilt is called into question — such as with Julius Jones, Richard Glossip, Tommy Ward and David Payne — make it clear: Oklahoma’s court system has been an inadequate mechanism for dealing with questions of wrongful conviction.

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