Why 2 Death Row Inmates Were Set Free
By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Two death row inmates are walking free after the case against them was dropped.
Yancy Douglas and Paris Powell were both cleared of murder convictions in the 1993 killing of a 14-year-old girl. It wasn't an easy decision, but the Oklahoma County District Attorney said dismissing a 16-year-old murder case was the only ethical thing he could do.
Shauna Farrow, 14, and another man were gunned down in the 1200 block of S.E. 22nd Street in 1993.
Four years later, in 1997, a jury found Yancy Douglas and Paris Powell guilty of the crime. The prosecution's only witness was the man who survived the shooting, Derrick Smith, a rival gang-member.
His testimony was enough to put Powell and Douglas on death row but it wasn't long after the convictions that Smith changed his story. He said he was drunk and high on drugs the night of the shootings and the prosecution had forced him to testify against Powell and Douglas.
"Ultimately the federal courts found that Smith was completely uncredible and unbelievable," said Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.
The Oklahoma County D.A. said the case was sent back to his office to re-try, but with no other witnesses, and no other evidence, his office had no way to prove these two were the gunmen.
"Ethically, and on my duty, I could not proceed in this case and had to dismiss it,” Prater said.
On Friday, Powell and Douglas were released back into society. Both men told Prater they were ready to better themselves and wanted to help others.
The D.A. said he's still not convinced they didn't do the crime, but at this time he has no other choice but to assume they're innocent.
"What does bother me in a case like this is we'll never know the truth because we have a witness that has chosen not to tell the truth at some point," the Oklahoma County District Attorney said.
Prater said he did meet with the 14-year-old's family and while they're not happy with these turn of events, they're understanding.
The witness, Derrick Smith, is now behind bars in Texas for armed robbery. The prosecutor Smith claims forced him to testify is no longer at the D.A.'s office.