Two Inmates Serving Life to Present New Evidence of Innocence

A Tulsa County judge has agreed to hear the petitions of two men sentenced to life in prison for murder, after they say another man's confession exonerates them.

Malcolm Scott and De’Marchoe Carpenter were just 18 years old when they were convicted of the death of 19-year-old Karen Summers in a drive-by shooting in 1994. The two were identified as the shooters by a witness in the group. The witness, Kenneth Price, initially said he did not see who fired the shots, but identified Scott and Carpenter only after police told him they were the shooters. The two were each sentenced to life plus 170 years in prison in connection with the shooting.

Twenty years later, Scott and Carpenter are now getting a second chance to plead their innocence, after a death-row inmate confessed to the killing on his execution death bed.

Wilson, who was sentenced to death in an unrelated murder, said in January 2014 that the two were innocent, and attorneys for Scott and Carpenter say that two other associates of Wilson were responsible for the murder.

Wilson, Billy Don Alverson, and Richard Harjo were convicted of an unrelated 1995 murder. Wilson and Alverson were sentenced to death and executed in 2014 and 2011, respectively. Harjo was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Because he is the only surviving alleged perpetrator, he is the only one who can testify as to Scott and Carpenter's innocence.

A Tulsa County judge has agreed to hear new evidence presented by the attorneys for the two convicted men. After hearing their arguments, Judge Sharon Holmes can grant or deny their petitions for post-conviction relief or order a new trial.

Prosecutors say Wilson's confession is of little merit, and was simply an attempt to set his friends free.

The men's case is supported by the Oklahoma Innocent Project at Oklahoma City University of Law. The Innocence Project "is dedicated to identifying and remedying cases of wrongful convictions in Oklahoma," and only becomes involved in cases with credible evidence of factual innocence. According to the organization, "Oklahoma ranks in the top 10 in the nation in terms of the number of known wrongful convictions of innocent people."

The following are the top causes of wrongful convictions:

  • Eyewitness misidentification (72%)
  • Unvalidated or improper forensics (47%)
  • False confessions (27%)
  • Informants (15%)

Nationally, the Innocence Project has been instrumental in overturning more than 330 wrongful convictions exonerated through DNA evidence.

Image credit: Tony Webster