Appeals court grants death row inmate new trial

An Oklahoma City man convicted of a 1982 murder has been taken off death row and awarded a new trial.

James T. Fisher was found guilty and given a death sentence for murdering Terry Gene Neal at Neal's apartment on Dec. 11, 1982. Prosecutors alleged Fisher and Neal were arguing when Fisher grabbed a glass bottle, broke it over Neal's head and then took part of the bottle and slashed Neal's throat.

Fisher was first tried and convicted of the crime in 1983 but both were overturned by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002 for ineffective counsel. A second trial in 2005 came up with the same results - guilty and death.

Today's ruling by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is based on the same reason Fisher's first trial was vacated: ineffective counsel. The appeals court relied on the findings of an Oklahoma County district court assigned to investigate Fisher's case which found Fisher's attorney had a substance abuse problem which prevented counsel from presenting a sufficient defense. The district court recommended Fisher receive a new trial.

"The record and detailed findings of the district court support its conclusions. We therefore reverse the case and remand it for a new trial," the appeals court wrote in its decision.

All five appeals court judges concurred in the decision. "Scott Cooper

More Fisher coverage:
James T. Fisher seeks another try to escape death row

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