An inmate who spent 27 years on Oklahoma’s death row was released earlier in July after he accepted a plea agreement with prosecutors. James Fisher was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1983. A federal appeals court overturned his death sentence because of inadequate attorney representation, thus sending the case back to trial. In 2005, Fisher was again convicted and sentenced to death. The second death sentence was also overturned, this time by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, again for inadequate representation. Under the new plea agreement, Fisher pleaded guilty to murder and was given a life sentence with the possibility of parole. District Judge Kenneth Watson suspended the sentence and released Fisher to a re-entry program run by the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, the same group that was representing Fisher on appeal. Fisher will be on probation for life, and he is not allowed to return to Oklahoma. First Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland said, “I believe if he had been convicted and sentenced to life in 1983, he would probably have been out in 15 years.”

(S. Cooper, “Newly freed death row inmate must leave Oklahoma,” Oklahoma Gazette, July 12, 2010). See also Arbitrariness.