The Oklahoma Innocence project is taking steps to free a man they say was wrongly convicted of murder.
The court brief alleges key witnesses lied on the stand, and law enforcement botched the investigation and mishandled 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 in a Tulsa murder case and currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Two days before Christmas in 2001, the owner of the Trapaze Lounge, Bruce Chamberlin, was killed in the parking lot of his business. O'Neal was eventually charged and convicted of first-degree murder.
“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 a lengthy brief laying out their case.
Among the allegations: The witness "the State used to directly link Mr. O'Neal to the crime" "fabricated a false story" to "shield herself from criminal punishment."
The Gun linking O'Neal to the crime "was Improperly Transferred, Stored, and Repaired."
In addition the "State's key witnesses (including the woman who could verify O'Neal was home at the time of the crime) were granted leniency deals to falsely testify against Mr. 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 what happened,’” said Green.
The Tulsa County District attorney now has the opportunity to respond to the brief. The case probably won't be heard in a court of law until next summer at the earliest.
The Oklahoma Innocence project has filed one other brief in the case of Malcom Scott. That case will likely go to court this fall.