Rodney Fisher, sentenced to life after purse snatchings and prison escape, has obtained new lawyers after Medill Justice Project investigation
By Alyssa Wisnieski
The Medill Justice Project
Rodney Fisher, sentenced to life for a spate of purse snatchings and a prison escape, has obtained new lawyers who have filed a request for post-conviction relief, saying they have new evidence establishing his innocence.
That evidence includes an affidavit from a man who said Fisher wasn’t involved in the robbery that led to his third felony conviction and, as a result, a longer prison sentence due to Oklahoma’s habitual offender law, known colloquially as “three-strikes.”
What’s more, Fisher lacked the “legal knowledge” in his previous filings, which he submitted pro se, or on his own behalf, his attorneys said in their filing in Tulsa County District Court.
Vicki Zemp Behenna, executive director of the Oklahoma Innocence Project, said she took on Fisher’s case in March. “It was Rodney’s compelling statement of his innocence,” she said. William Parker, who is in private practice, is working with the Oklahoma Innocence Project to help Fisher.
Fisher, in prison at Mack Alford Correctional Center in Stringtown, Oklahoma, could not be reached for comment.
The Medill Justice Project, along with Oklahoma Journalists for Justice, examined Fisher’s case last year. He was sentenced to 52 years for a spate of purse snatchings in Tulsa in 1986. Fisher maintains he wasn’t involved in one of the purse snatchings and served as the getaway driver in some of them but didn’t approach or touch any of the victims.
Because Fisher had been convicted of two burglaries prior to the purse snatchings, his third felony conviction—the purse snatching he said he wasn’t involved in—brought a lengthier-than-usual sentence.Fisher escaped from prison in 2004 by running across a fenceless yard and pleaded guilty to attempted robbery. Due to his prior felony convictions, he was given a life sentence for the escape.
Steve Kunzweiler, the Tulsa County district attorney, did not respond to several requests for comment. But in an earlier interview with The Medill Justice Project, he said, “[T]here’s no doubt in my mind Mr. Fisher got exactly what he deserved.”