By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Saints Pub, 1715 NW 16th Street, in Oklahoma City’s Plaza District, will host its second annual Wrongful Conviction Day Fish Fry on Saturday, October 7, benefiting the Oklahoma Innocence Project (OKIP).
Located at the Oklahoma City University School of Law, 800 N Harvey Ave., OKIP is a non-profit organization that helps wrongfully convicted Oklahomans regain their freedom utilizing law students work under the supervision of project staff.
OKIP operates entirely with private donations and all services are offered free of charge to the clients.
Created by the Innocence Network in 2014, Wrongful Conviction Day is an international day to raise awareness of the causes and remedies of wrongful conviction and to recognize the massive personal, social, and emotional costs of wrongful conviction for innocent people and their families
Tickets for the 2017 Wrongful Conviction Day Fish Fry are $27.50. With the purchase, supporters will receive one (1) food ticket, two (2) drink tickets, and one (1) free raffle ticket. Additional raffle tickets will be available for sale. There will be a number of local bands providing live entertainment during the event and all proceeds will directly benefit the Project.
“We’re really proud to partner with OKIP. It is the only organization of its kind in the state and it needs the public’s support to continue its mission helping to bring justice to those who have been failed by the courts.” said, Josh Jefferson, Saints manager. “On top of that, I think the fish fry is going to be a good time for everyone. We have great entertainment lined up and as usual, the food will be excellent.”
Musical entertainment will include Robert Banks and Positive Productions, Creative Noise, Rhyan “Spunky” Adams, and Chanda Graham.
OKIP had its first exonerations in May 2016, when a Tulsa County Judge found Malcolm Scott and De’Marchoe Carpenter were actually innocent and set them free. The pair had been in prison for 22 years, having been wrongfully convicted of murder in a 1994 Tulsa County drive-by shooting.
OKIP’s Legal Director, Christina Green and co-counsel, Josh Lee, represented Scott and former prosecutor, now OKIP Executive Director Vicki Behenna, and Ken Sue Doerfel represented Carpenter.
Since opening in August 2011, there have been over 1,300 requests for assistance. As was the case for Malcolm and De’Marchoe, litigation can take years and cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Currently, OKIP has three cases pending in the courts; Willard O’Neal, Tulsa County, Rodney Fisher, Tulsa County, and Patrick Sampson, Pawnee County. In addition, many others are being investigated, but have not yet been filed.
Studies show that the main causes of wrongful conviction are eyewitness misidentification, invalidated and improper forensic science, false confessions, informants, government misconduct and inadequate defense.
The OKIP website states that, “While imprisoned for a crime they did not commit, Oklahoma exonerees spent from four to twenty years behind bars. Oklahoma ranks in the top 10 in the nation in terms of the number of known wrongful convictions of innocent people.”
For each case the Project supports it’s clients, by hiring experts, obtaining copies of court documents, hiring private investigators and traveling to speak with witnesses.
OCU Law School Dean Valerie K. Couch said of the Project, “This is such a powerful experience for our law students. They gain hands-on experience working with clients, while learning about the inner-workings of the criminal justice system. Students learn first-hand from the Project legal team and volunteer attorneys like Josh and Ken Sue.”
OKIP does not receive any operating funds from the law school, relying totally on donations to do its work.
To help continue the Project’s work, the Fish Fry fundraiser will be open to the public with sponsorships available for $250. To become a sponsor, call 405-208-6161.