An innocent Oklahoma man who spent 30 years behind bars for crimes he didn’t commit has finally been acquitted of rape and burglary.
Perry Lott, 61, was wrongly convicted of the crimes in 1988 – and he was released in 2018 after DNA testing from a rape kit showed he did not commit the crime.
But lawyers continued to argue over whether his convictions could be thrown out, with former prosecutor Paul Smith claiming the tests did not fully exonerate him.
It wasn’t until Tuesday that a judge in Ada, Oklahoma, acquitted Lott and finally dismissed the case.
Lott, who is now graying and uses a cane to walk, has spent half his life in prison but said he “never lost hope” that ultimately “the truth would prevail.”
Lott, 61, was wrongly convicted of the crimes in 1988 – and he was released in 2018 after DNA testing from a rape kit showed he did not commit the crime
Perry Lott (photo), an Oklahoma man, spent thirty years behind bars for crimes he did not commit. He was finally acquitted of rape and burglary after being released in 2018
It wasn’t until Tuesday that a judge in Ada, Oklahoma, acquitted Lott and finally dismissed the case. (Image: Perry Lott, left, goes to hug Innocence Project founder Barry Scheck, who advocated for him after the judge overturned his conviction)
He was pictured grinning as he left the courthouse on Tuesday with his name finally cleared.
Lott walked into the sunlight next to his daughter, Candace Brown, and his fiancée at the time of his arrest, Antoinette Brown.
“I never lost hope that this day would come,” Lott, 61, said in a statement. “I had faith that the truth would prevail, even after 35 long years.
“I can finally close this door and move on with my life.”
The deal that freed Lott in 2018 meant he could be released from prison, while lawyers argued over whether the DNA evidence cleared him of the rape.
At the time, DA Smith said no, but his successor this year, Erik Johnson, reviewed the case and agreed that Lott’s conviction should be thrown out.
This also came after legal organization The Innocence Project approached Johnson to advocate for Lott.
Adnan Sultan, senior staff attorney for the Innocence Project, said that “all evidence pointed to his innocence” but that Lott was “denied justice.”
“We are grateful to District Attorney Erik Johnson for his commitment to righting this injustice,” Sultan said.
Perry Lott, with mustache, in the photo lineup compared to the composite police sketch of the attacker, a man without a mustache
Lott in an Oklahoma City courtroom, July 9, 2018, with his brother Steve Lott, left; sister Tammy Lott, center; and brother Willie Lott, right; after he was released from prison
Lott will appear before Judge Steven Kessinger at the Pontotoc County Courthouse on Tuesday, October 10, 2023, to vacate his 1988 rape conviction
Oklahoma state law requires that a conviction be expunged so that a wrongfully convicted person can seek up to $175,000 in damages from the state.
Lott’s case occurred around the same time and in the same county as the convictions of Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot.
Their cases have been intensely investigated and have been the subject of numerous books, including John Grisham’s “The Innocent Man,” which he produced into a six-part documentary on Netflix.
A federal judge ordered Fontenot’s release, but Ward remains in prison.
The books and documentary also include the high-profile acquittals of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, both of whom were convicted in the same county for the 1982 murder of Ada waitress Debra Sue Carter.
That case involved the same cast of investigators and prosecutors, along with the same jailhouse informant who testified against Ward and Fontenot.
Williamson came at one point within days of his execution. Both were later released.