The Oklahoma Innocence Project is taking steps to free a man they say has been wrongfully convicted.  Their court brief alleges that key prosecution witnesses lied on the stand and that law enforcement mishandled key physical evidence.  Oklahoma City University Law School students and their advisor filed the brief in June in support of Willard O’Neal.  O’Neal was convicted of the murder of Bruce Chamberlin and sentenced to life without parole.

Two days before Christmas in 2001, the owner of the Trapeze Lounge, Chamberlin, was killed in the parking lot of his business.

“I don’t believe for one minute that he actually committed this crime,” said Christina Green, O’Neal’s attorney and the interim legal director at the Oklahoma Innocence Project.

Green, along with her students at OCU law school filed the brief.  (Read here.)  The State linked O’Neal directly to the crime using a key witness that the appeal alleges “fabricated” her entire testimony in order to “shield herself from criminal punishment.”  The gun that police used to link O’Neal to the crime was contaminated by police, who improperly “transferred, stored, and repaired” it.  The appeal also alleges that the State’s key witnesses, which included a woman who had originally verified O’Neal’s alibi were granted leniency for crimes if they falsely testified against O’Neal.

“In one of her original police reports she said he was at home with me, and then police approach her and give her some leniency on some of her own charges and then all of a sudden ‘well he wasn’t with me, he may have left, I don’t know…” said Green.

The courts won’t take up the case until at least next summer.


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