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Newly freed death row inmate must leave Oklahoma


Scott Cooper July 13th, 2010

A man who has been on Oklahoma's death row for 27 years is out of jail. This morning in Oklahoma County District Judge Kenneth Watson's courtroom, James T. Fisher Jr. accepted a plea deal with prosecu...

JamesFisher-AdamKemp
A man who has been on Oklahoma's death row for 27 years is out of jail. This morning in Oklahoma County District Judge Kenneth Watson's courtroom, James T. Fisher Jr. accepted a plea deal with prosecutors, releasing him from prison.

Fisher was first convicted and given a sentence of death in 1983 for killing Terry Gene Neal at a northwest Oklahoma City apartment. Nearly two decades went by before a federal appeals court found Fisher was given inadequate attorney representation and sent the case back to trial.

At his second trial in 2005, Fisher again was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Then in 2008, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction and sentence " again, for the same reason as the first reversal: inadequate defense attorney work.

Watson had ordered a new trial to begin in October. Under the agreement, Fisher pled guilty to murder and was given a sentence of life with the possibility of parole. However, Watson suspended the sentence and released Fisher to a reintegration camp in Alabama.

Fisher told the judge he did not want to go trial. Fisher's attorney, Perry Hudson, said because his client has been on death row for nearly decades, it would probably take about three years at the camp before being released.

The new agreement calls for Fisher to be placed on probation for the rest of his life, and that he must never return to Oklahoma.

While not talking to reporters, Fisher was smiling when he left the courtroom.

First Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland said going to trial would have been very difficult.

"The passage of time never helps the prosecution," Rowland said, standing outside Watson's courtroom. "It always helps the defense. "I believe if he had been convicted and sentenced to life in 1983, he would probably have been out in 15 years." "Scott Cooper | photo/Adam Kemp
 
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