No Deal Yet: Man Wrongly Imprisoned Seeks Million Dollar Settlement From Tulsa

Tuesday, September 29th 2015, 2:13 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Settlement talks failed Tuesday between the City of Tulsa and a man who spent 15 years in prison, only to have his conviction overturned.

The former inmate, Sedrick Courtney, wants more than a million dollars, to settle the claim, but after an all-day negotiation, the two sides didn't reach an agreement but did agree to keep talking.

9/23/2015 Related Story: City Of Tulsa Gears Up To Fight Million-Dollar Wrongful Conviction Lawsuit

Courtney is a few steps closer to a settlement for his time in prison, but it didn't happen Tuesday, and the lawyers say the judge doesn't want them talking about what's going to happen next.

"We're not allowed to talk about the process, but we appreciate your time and don't have a comment," one lawyer said.

The two sides were in separate rooms all day in Tulsa Federal Court, with magistrate Judge Lane Wilson as the go-between.

After about six hours of talks, the attorneys couldn't find common ground, and Courtney's attorneys had a plane to catch - they agreed to do the rest by phone.

Litigation manager for the City of Tulsa, Gerry Bender said "We'll certainly take a look at it. Both sides worked very hard and came in good faith, I believe, to look at it. Judge Wilson did a great job, he worked very hard, but we couldn't get there, and at this state, it's all about money and we just couldn't get there.”

The claim against the City was over $1 million, triggering a clause in the city charter requiring city council approval for such large payouts.

Four councilors were in court, along with a representative of the mayor, and a fifth councilor was on standby.

The city's attorneys wouldn't say how much Courtney's attorneys wanted.

“In excess of a million dollars could mean a lot of things - it could be any number above that," Bender said.

Courtney had already served his time when his conviction was overturned and the charges were dropped.

DNA testing had undermined a key piece of evidence from the trial - a ski mask left at the scene - leaving only the victim's eyewitness account supporting the prosecution.

He's already settled with the state for $175,000, but his settlement with the City could be for much more.

There's no public timeline for when the talks will start again or how long they'll last.

Courtney arrived at the federal courthouse Tuesday morning, three years after his conviction for armed robbery was overturned. Tuesday's meeting in federal court happened after a group called the Innocence Project and attorney Barry Scheck fought for his release and filed the suit.