Even prison inmates received COVID relief funds, but while most inmates spent theirs at the commissary, Ricky Dority spent his to hire a private investigator to prove he did not commit murder.
Dority, 65, was convicted in 2015 of the 1997 murder of 28-year-old Mitchell Nixon. The cold case had been reopened in 2014, and a man named Rex Robbins confessed to the crime while implicating Dority. Andrea Miller, the legal director of the Oklahoma Innocence Project, told the Associated Press that Robbins’ confession was coerced.
At the time of Robbins’ confession, Dority was in federal prison for a firearms conviction but believed he couldn’t be convicted of the murder he didn’t commit. He also found paperwork showing he had been arrested on the day Nixon was killed.
“I thought I was clear because I knew I didn’t have anything to do with that murder,” Dority told the AP. “But they tried me for it and found me guilty of it.”
Dority was convicted based on Robbins’ confession and a police informant claiming Dority had changed out of bloody clothes at his house on the night of Nixon’s murder. Dority was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
During the pandemic, when relief checks were sent to Americans, Dority used his money to hire Bobby Staton, a private investigator who mostly looked into insurance fraud. Staton agreed to look into the case and quickly discovered issues with Dority’s conviction. Staton reached out to the Oklahoma Innocence Project, and the case was assigned to law student Abby Brawner.
Brawner and Staton visited Robbins at prison, and he recanted his claim that Dority had been involved in Nixon’s murder. The two investigators also learned that the police informant who claimed Dority changed bloody clothes at his house didn’t live at the address where he said the change occurred, and that this fact wasn’t discovered by Dority’s original attorney. This led to a judge ruling that Dority had ineffective counsel during his trial and gave prosecutors 90 days to decide whether or not to retry him.
Prosecutors were able to extend the 90 days and will once again request more time to test DNA.
In the meantime, Dority is out of prison and living on a five-acre property in the Arkansas River Valley. He told the AP he’s not worried about DNA testing since he knows he’s innocent.
Assistant District Attorney James Dunn, who is overseeing the reinvestigation into Dority’s case, told the AP he agreed with the judge who ruled in Dority’s favor.
“The last thing I want to see is an innocent person in prison for a crime they didn’t commit,” Dunn told the outlet. “Because that means the person who actually did commit the crime, or those persons, are still out there.”