Judge: Inmate seeking to have his 1991 murder conviction overturned can move forward

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A judge ruled Thursday she will allow a case to move forward that seeks to throw out a man’s 1991 first-degree murder conviction.

Tulsa County District Judge Sharon Holmes said during a status conference that Corey Atchison’s case will advance in a second evidentiary hearing in January.

Atchison is serving a life sentence for the 1990 fatal shooting of James Lane. He was 20 when a jury convicted him of a murder he and several witnesses say he didn’t commit.

The judge’s decision came after she heard two witnesses at a hearing in September, where both witnesses testified Atchison didn’t shoot Lane. Holmes said she will allow more witnesses to come forward in January’s hearing. Joseph Norwood, an attorney for Atchison, told The Frontier he expects to call at least six.

Doane Thomas, who testified in September, was the state’s key witness in Atchison’s 1991 trial. He signed an affidavit in 2017 that stated police “coerced” him into saying he saw Atchison shoot Lane.

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In his affidavit, Thomas wrote: “I did not see who fired the shots that killed James Warren Lane but I know Corey Atchison did not kill Lane because he walked up on the scene afterwards calling out to people to call 911 to help Lane.”

Thomas was 16 when he testified in Atchison’s trial. Other witnesses were multiple responding officers and Benjamin King — Atchison’s friend who testified police coerced him into giving a statement that Atchison shot Lane.

“He didn’t do this,” Thomas said at September’s hearing. “It’s been 27 years of my life. … And that man did nothing. He was helping and calling for help.”

Since the 1991 trial, three people, including Thomas and King, have submitted affidavits stating Atchison isn’t a killer. King is expected to testify at January’s evidentiary hearing.

Stephanie Harris, the other witness in September’s hearing, testified she witnessed the shooting and she was sure Atchison wasn’t the killer.

Holmes also ruled Thursday in favor of the city of Tulsa, barring Atchison’s attorney from subpoenaing certain witnesses to testify.

Those witnesses include responding police officers and Tim Harris, who was an assistant district attorney at the time and prosecuted Atchison’s case.

Witnesses say Corey Atchison isn’t a killer. Will their testimony set him free?

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Kassie McClung

Staff writer

Kassie McClung joined The Frontier in May 2016. She reports on health, criminal justice and other state issues. Kassie holds a bachelors degree in multimedia journalism from Oklahoma State University. She likes dogs, maps and data. She can be reached at Kassie@readfrontier.com or 918-935-1044. Follow her on Twitter @KassieMcClung.
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