3.04: 'Actually Innocent' - Corey Atchison
Welcome to Tulsa Talks presented by Tulsa Regional Chamber.
That voice belongs to Corey Atchison. On July 16, Corey became a free man for the first time in nearly three decades. Judge Sharon Holmes said he was "actually innocent" of the 1990 killing of James Warren Lane. During our conversation, Corey revisits the night of the murder.
He was found guilty on June 14 1991.
Two days before the verdict, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won their first championship.
People who listened to the radio or a cassette tape while driving to Eastland Mall or Casa Bonita likely heard Paula Abdul’s No. 1 single Rush Rush or maybe Color Me Badd’s I Wanna Sex You Up from the New Jack City soundtrack.
That year the notebook computer (what we commonly call a laptop) was just going mainstream. The only mouse most people had in their homes was the furry rodent.
Today you can stream a song instantaneously, in 1991 it took 9 minutes 15 seconds to download 1 megabite. It took 154 hours and 19 minutes to download a gig.
That was the world Corey left.
Once Corey entered the prison system with a life sentence, the world he knew was over. When he walked out of the Tulsa County Courthouse a couple of months ago, he entered a world unlike what he knew. It was as if he had time traveled.
As you’ll hear, Corey always believed he would be exonerated. To bide his time he spent a lot of it cooking for other inmates, like Karl Fontenot (known for John Grisham’s book and the new Netflix docuseries "The Innocent Man") and Corey’s brother Malcom Scott, who was wrongfully convicted of a separate murder and spent 22 years in prison before being released in 2016.
That’s right two brothers, both wrongfully convicted murder.
Corey went in as 20-year-old father of a baby girl. He re-enters society a 48-year-old grandfather of a 10-year-old boy. Mention his grandson and a smile erupts from his face.
During our conversation, Corey talks about some of the struggles that come with re-entering the world and Tulsa after a 28-year absence. We discuss what life in prison was like for him, and his views on the prison system.
We did not talk about his likely lawsuit against the state or about Tulsa County DA Steve Kunzweiler saying the state will appeal the release.
Corey is a soft spoken man, who opened up and talked a lot about his experiences. I’m thankful for our conversation.
Following that, we lighten things up with the newest installment of What the What with city editor Morgan Phillips. Morgan lived out a life-long dream of becoming a princess, specifically the fairest maiden of them all. It turns out being a princess is more than singing and talking to woodland animals.
Closing out the episode is Henna Roso’s new single, "Mars" off their debut release "Feed the Hungry" which was released on September 6th.
*Special thanks to the Rev. Mareo Johnson for facilitating this interview with his lifelong friend, Corey Atchison.*