Police Abuse

Corey Atchison Freed After Serving 28 Years for a Murder He Didn't Commit

His case reminds us that the misuse of government power is still the biggest threat to liberty.

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After 28 years in prison, Corey Atchison is finally a free man.

Convicted of murder in 1991, the Oklahoma native spent nearly three decades behind bars before a private investigator, Eric Cullen, took up his case. Cullen's work had previously helped to free Atchison's younger brother, Malcolm Scott, who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1994. In Scott's case, another man who had testified against Scott eventually confessed to the murder before being executed for another crime. In Atchison's, evidence emerged that the authorities had bullied witnesses into offering false testimony.

The Washington Post reports that

District Judge Sharon Holmes found that his case was marred by a "fundamental miscarriage of justice," according to people who were in the courtroom and local reports….

"Corey was arrested three months before his daughter was born; this is the first time he's been able to have some real contact with her and the same with his 10-year-old grandson," his lawyer Joseph Norwood told The Washington Post. "I'm very proud to have vindicated them and reunited them."

One might have expected Atchison to express bitterness. (If I had been wrongly imprisoned for nearly 30 years of my life, I would be plotting some kind of elaborate revenge, Count of Monte Cristo–style.) But Atchison told the press that he felt "blessed" and held no grudges. "Life's too short," he said.

Indeed, life is too short. And Atchison's life is 30 years shorter, because overzealous authorities stole that time from him.

I can't help but think about this travesty of justice in the context of the current national freakout many on the right are having with respect to "Big Tech," globalization, automation, and the supposed sins of the free market. To grapple with these issues, these conservatives are racing to embrace nationalism and "declare independence from neoliberalism, from libertarianism, from what they call classical liberalism…from the set of ideas that sees the atomic individual, the free and equal individual, as the only thing that matters in politics." That's how author Yoram Hazony explained it during his remarks at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C., this week. (See my colleague Stephanie Slade's excellent writeup of the event.) Other speakers at the conference explicitly singled out private companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook as bigger threats to individual liberty than big government. Libertarians, the new nationalists say, are fools for caring more about the latter threat than the former.

For the likes of Steven Crowder and Dennis Prager, perhaps the threat of YouTube censorship really is the most serious tyranny they face. Many other Americans have different problems. Neither Google nor Amazon nor any social media company even existed when the government sent Atchison to prison for for 28 years. Who knows if one day Twitter would have shadowbanned Eric Garner, killed by the cops because he was selling loose cigarettes? On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced that none of the officers responsible would face charges. The only person who went to prison in the Garner case was Ramsey Orta—a friend of Garner's who managed to record his final moments.

Giving more power to the government is probably not an appealing agenda for the family of Daniel Shaver, whose killer—Officer Philip Mitchell Brailsford—will receive $2,500 a month because he allegedly got PTSD for shooting the unarmed man in a hotel hallway. Nor would it please the Lowthers, who spent $300,000 trying to stop Child Protective Services from abducting their children based on a mendacious lie.

Our critics—be they nationalist conservatives or progressive liberals—say we libertarians are monomaniacally focused on reducing the size of government. But that's because we recognize that government has more power than any other institution to kill people, deport their relatives, kidnap their children, and destroy their livelihoods. If you're not at serious risk of suffering one of those calamities, you possess a level of privilege many of your fellow Americans do not.

That doesn't mean you are forbidden from complaining about bias or mistreatment at the hands of private organizations such as tech companies and the mainstream media. I'm frequently critical of both myself. But you should be really, really wary of supporting robust federal intervention into these problems, when the likely result will be to give government authorities more resources for oppressing everyone.

The next time someone says that there's no bigger threat to Americans' liberties than Big Tech, remember Corey Atchison.

NEXT: Child Sex Trafficking Prosecutions Down Under Trump

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  1. All police interviews need to be fully videoed.

    All police interviews of minors need a lawyer and parent present.

    Any of these not met, the case needs to be dismissed.

    Appellate courts need to do their jobs and reverse these cases earlier in the process. They are clearly incompetent and refuse to do their job.

    1. Yes, sure, and as long as you are making a wish list of the impossible, why not go full tilt boogie and wish that all men were angels?

      In the real world, meanwhile, government sucks.

      1. One more pie in the sky wish: personal liability for cops and prosecutors who engage in unethical and unlawful conduct to get convictions.

        The fact that the left claims to be concerned about abuse in our criminal justice system, while also advocating for giving the government more power is utterly fucking ridiculous. Do they think if the government has more power, they will abuse it less???

    2. And any time there should be video, and it passed into police hands and somehow vanished, the presumption should be that whatever story the police are telling is a lie.

      1. +1000

        Just like missing evidence or Brady violations.

        Consider the police lying and dismiss the criminal case.

      2. Police should always be presumed to be lying absent corroborating evidence. In or out of court.

  2. Well said. Government has caused more deaths than just about anything short of the bubonic plague. Ye we are constantly told that government will save us, or that anarchy would cause deaths.

    I find it hard to believe that anarchy could ever kill as many as Mao, Stalin, and Hitler.

  3. Ben Shapiro has assured me that this never happens and the vast majority of individuals in prison are violent offenders of the worst kind.

    1. Really? That’s a pretty dumb thing for a smart guy to say.

      1. It was maybe 4 or 5 days ago on his podcast. I like a lot of what Shapiro says, but hes a fucking moron when it comes to criminal justice issues. You can tell he’s done very little reading on the subject, because he just reads government statistics about the number of people in prison for “assault” and “property crime” and thinks it proves his point. Never mind that “assault” can mean anything from standing too close to someone in a threatening manor (seriously) to beating the shit out of someone with crowbar.

        On top of all that, we know for a fact that a lot of forensic “science” is pretty terrible. Blood splatter analysis is dubious, 3D reconstruction of crime scenes is wholly dependent on the quality of the expert (there are plenty of shite experts out there) and so many people have been booked on absolutely TERRIBLE eye-witness testimony. Eye-witness testimony should be considered barely above absolutely worthless in a court setting. We know for a fact that people have horrible memories when it comes to even simple conversations that were had a mere 15 minutes prior.

        1. I think it’s a bit of both ways. The Criminal Justice system is calibrated to reward convictions, not truth. OTOH, an awful lot of the books in prison ARE career scofflaws, and frankly should have a lot more company than they do…90% of Congress, for example.

          On the gripping hand, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ activists seem to be largely divided between those who don’t know and don’t care whether the book whose reshooting they protest is guilty as a cat in a goldfish bowl, and those that know and choose to agitate based entirely on what’s in it for THEM.

          Oh, some of the police actions the BLM folk protest are flat out wrong. But that seems to have very little to do with the degree to which an action is protested.

          As with so many issues, this is a case where I look at all the popular positions and say “You’re ALL full of dung!”

    2. I can’t stand any of these people they all annoy me. Prager is sometimes interesting.

  4. word. nice job.

  5. Why the hell is prager/crowder and youtube getting shoehorned into this article? Also When are we going to get 69 articles about every single democrat in the primary openly discussing using legislation to “breakup” big tech instead of conservative media personalities who clearly have no power.

    https://www.foxnews.com/politics/democratic-presidential-candidates-push-for-breakup-of-big-tech

    1. Fuck the police.

    2. How many do you need for it to be equitable in your eyes? I have read a few reason articles about it, but you need more I guess. We should get the federal government to pass a law making reason write the same number of articles about each topic.

      1. My point is I thought it was going to be a criminal justice update and it turned into an unnecessary screed about how the gov shouldn’t intervene in big tech which is being clamored for by both sides. It’s a totally unrelated issue imho.

        1. The thing is, that what the ones complaining about big tech, don’t want government to intervene in what big tech is doing, but to stop their intervening.
          By making them immune from having to accept the consequences that any other publisher would, government gives big tech the ability to decide whose opinion they can suppress.
          Once they started censoring certain opinions, they ceased to be just a “platform” of free expression.

  6. Two brothers falsely convicted of unrelated murders?

    Wtf?

  7. Did Donald Trump purchase a full-page advertisement advocating the death penalty for this exonerated black guy, or was Mr. Trump too busy grabbing genitals, filing bankruptcy petitions, or purchasing a hairpiece at that particular time?

    1. I think it was when Trump was busy overcoming the Russian interference in the election that Obama allowed, and beating Hillary.

    2. Keep reminding us what kind of miserable, illiberal, ignorant jerk off you are.

      1. Open wider, clinger. The progress your betters will shove down your throat will now be positioned sideways.

    3. Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland
      July.18.2019 at 1:06 pm
      “Did Donald Trump purchase a full-page advertisement advocating the death penalty for this exonerated black guy, or was Mr. Trump too busy grabbing genitals, filing bankruptcy petitions, or purchasing a hairpiece at that particular time?”

      Does the asshole bigot ever post something which wouldn’t embarrass a 5-year-old? Sure doesn’t look like it.
      BTW, you pathetic excuse for sewage, go off and die someplace where we can’t smell you.

      1. Guys like you get to rant and mutter bitterly, and guys like me get to continue to shove progress down your throats. I am content.

  8. Congratulations, Corey.
    I’m glad an innocent man is freed.
    Now, if only the cops and the over-zealous prosecutor can do 28 years for putting you in prison, then justice would be properly served.

  9. “…based on a mendacious lie.”

    Redundancy alert!

  10. “…For the likes of Steven Crowder and Dennis Prager, perhaps the threat of YouTube censorship really is the most serious tyranny they face.”

    Boy, let that contempt flow from you Robby.

    Very strange take here.

    Both are bad. Quelling free speech comes with a different set of evil circumstances.

    1. “The biggest threat to freedom is no longer the government, but large tech companies like Google.”

  11. Too bad the people who throw innocent people in prison will ever face true justice themselves for their crimes.

    One can only hope higher justice will get them.

    1. Just because some appeals court, decades after evidence was presented to jurors, has let this guy go, doesn’t mean that he didn’t do it.
      No one knows if the word of these “bullied” witnesses was the deciding factor, for the jurors, in his conviction.
      Too often appeals are decided on mundane technical violations of what the “legal” system has set up and the actual “deciders of fact – the juries – are not included in these reversals.

      1. Often it is for technicalities that should have stopped the original trial to begin with because they are technicalities that violate that person’s natural rights. I would much rather have a criminal on the streets than an innocent person behind bars.

  12. His case reminds us that the misuse of government power is still the biggest threat to liberty

    It does? How so? Any system of justice is going to have false convictions and abuse of power. That’s certainly not a good thing, but how is it a “threat to liberty”?

    How would you as someone who claims to be a “libertarian” design a better justice system, and how would that avoid system false convictions and abuses of power?

    1. You don’t think it’s a threat to the dude’s liberty? I don’t understand. He had his liberty literally taken away, threateningly.

    2. “claims to be a “libertarian”

      Only the one Troo can assert that claim.

  13. “the misuse of government power is still the biggest threat to liberty.” Duuuuuuuhhh.

  14. For the likes of Steven Crowder and Dennis Prager, perhaps the threat of YouTube censorship really is the most serious tyranny they face.

    For the likes of Robby Soave, moral preening, non-sequiturs, and cushy progressive sinecures are the essence of the Modern Libertarian!

  15. Now that you’re out of the cage, enjoy life my friend!

  16. […] week an Oklahoma judge freed Corey Atchison, who had spent 28 years in prison for a murder he has always said he did not commit, […]

  17. […] week an Oklahoma judge freed Corey Atchison, who had spent 28 years in prison for a murder he has always said he did not commit, […]

  18. […] week an Oklahoma judge freed Corey Atchison, who had spent 28 years in prison for a murder he has always said he did not commit, […]

  19. […] week an Oklahoma judge freed Corey Atchison, who had spent 28 years in prison for a murder he has always said he did not commit, […]

  20. […] week an Oklahoma judge freed Corey Atchison, who had spent 28 years in prison for a murder he has always said he did not commit, […]

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