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Death row inmate says attorney's substance abuse caused poor defense



A year ago, attorney John Albert was facing the greatest challenge of his life. His law license suspended, Albert needed to convince a panel of his peers that alcohol and cocaine no longer controlled him.

If he didn't, his downward spiral from hotshot attorney might have continued, even as friends and colleagues tried to help.

"When you're in the middle of this disease, you don't listen to anybody," Albert told an audience during a Nov. 8 session of the Oklahoma Bar Association's annual conference, held in Oklahoma City.

However, his trail to recovery and professional re-entry is littered with cases and clients who were desperate for his sharp legal mind, but instead were met with reclusion. One such man sits on death row, hoping Albert's lack of help on his case will get him released.

Keary Littlejohn was convicted of first-degree murder for what prosecutors alleged was a carjacking that turned into a killing.

Littlejohn contends Albert's substance abuse prevented the attorney from putting forth a better defense and keeping him off death row.

"We argued that Johnny just didn't put on a reasonable sentencing defense," attorney Brant Elmore, who filed Littlejohn's post-conviction appeal, said. "There were witnesses and evidence that clearly should have been presented and were not.

In the appeal filed by Elmore and the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, Littlejohn argues Albert did not interview several people who would have provided favorable testimony. The brief states that Albert never contacted an investigator appointed by the public defender's office for the Littlejohn case, and that Albert never contacted or used funds available for expert witnesses. "Scott Cooper



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