An Oklahoma judge has exonerated Perry Lott, who spent 30 years in prison for a 1987 rape and burglary, after post-conviction DNA testing from a rape kit proved his innocence. Pontotoc County District Judge Steven Kessinger issued a final order that vacates Lott’s conviction and permanently dismisses the case.
Lott, now 61, expressed his relief in a statement, stating that he had never lost hope and can finally move on with his life. He was initially released from prison in 2018 after the DNA results emerged, but only under a modified sentence agreement with former District Attorney Paul Smith.
The Innocence Project, which assisted in Lott’s release, approached newly elected District Attorney Erik Johnson earlier this year. After reviewing the case, Johnson agreed that the conviction should be vacated. Adnan Sultan, Senior Staff Attorney at the Innocence Project, expressed gratitude to Johnson for his commitment to correcting the injustice.
Under Oklahoma state law, a wrongfully convicted individual must have their conviction vacated to seek compensation from the state, with a maximum amount of $175,000.
Lott’s case shares similarities with the convictions of Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot, which have also faced scrutiny. These cases, along with the exoneration of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, were featured in John Grisham’s book “The Innocent Man” and its subsequent Netflix documentary.
While Fontenot was released following a federal judge’s order, Ward remains in prison. The cases involved the same investigators, prosecutors, and a jailhouse informant who testified against Ward and Fontenot.