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Ineffective counsel earns death row inmate a second chance

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Keary Lamar Littlejohn now has a second chance to have his life spared. Convicted of a 2002 murder connected to a carjacking, Littlejohn was facing execution if an appeals court didn't step in. But it did.

By a unanimous decision, all five judges of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals granted Littlejohn a new sentencing trial based on ineffective counsel he received during his first trial in 2005. The court refused to grant Littlejohn's request to overturn his conviction, with judges opining the evidence was too strong to warrant another trial, even with ineffective lawyers.

"(Littlejohn) was entitled to the effective assistance of counsel at trial," wrote appeals court Vice-Presiding Judge Charles Johnson for the majority in late March. "Trial counsel could have, and should have, focused "¦ on developing a more extensive mitigation case."

MURDER
Littlejohn was one of four men charged with the murder of Gregory Rogers II at an Oklahoma City convenience store on March 19, 2002. Prosecutors alleged that the four men conspired to rob the victim and steal his car at gunpoint. During the incident, prosecutors contend Rogers was shot and killed. Littlejohn was the only one of the four charged who received a death sentence.

His lead attorney during the trial was John Albert, a well-known and well-thought-of lawyer who had established himself as one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the state. But during the time Albert represented Littlejohn, the attorney was deep into an admitted alcohol and drug addiction, which Littlejohn claimed in his appeal affected the outcome of the trial. "Scott Cooper

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