A death row inmate who claimed he received ineffective counsel from his attorney has been given a second chance at life.
Keary Lamar Littlejohn had been convicted of first-degree murder for the 2002 killing of Gregory L. Rogers Jr. A jury recommended death and Oklahoma County District Judge Susan Caswell imposed the sentence.
In his appeal to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, Littlejohn argued his attorney did not put on an adequate defense, due to the attorney's drug and alcohol problem at the time of the trial. Well-known attorney John Albert handled the case, but admitted to his substance abuse problem and the effect it had on presenting Littlejohn's case.
The Oklahoma County District Attorney's office agreed with Littlejohn in his appeal concerning the sentencing phase of the trial and consented to hold a new sentencing hearing.
"The parties stipulated that, had trial counsel conducted a reasonably adequate investigation, he would have discovered a number of mitigating factors that might have affected the jury's choice of sentence," the appeals court wrote in their decision brief. "Trial counsel could have, and should have, focused his energies on developing a more extensive mitigation case."
Littlejohn also wanted the appeals court to overturn his conviction, but the court denied the motion. The court said the evidence against Littlejohn warranted a guilty verdict. All five appeals court judges agreed with affirming the murder conviction, with four judges also voting in favor of throwing out the death sentence.
Judge Charles Chapel disagreed with the court on the sentencing phase of the decision. He wanted the court to go even further and impose its own sentence of life without parole, avoiding a new sentencing trial. -Scott Cooper