Two brothers fight to prove their innocence on tonight’s ‘Dateline NBC: The Long Road to Freedom’

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(NBC) — Tonight, a special “Dateline NBC.” NBC’s Craig Melvin reports on two brothers fighting for more than 20 years to prove their innocence after they were wrongfully convicted of separate murders.

The one-hour broadcast, “The Long Road to Freedom,” is part of NBC News’ network-wide series, “Inequality in America.”

For the first time on national television, brothers Malcolm Scott and Corey Atchison discuss their struggles with the justice system, as well as their pact to help one another get out of prison. The special also features interviews with the lawyers and investigators who worked on the brothers’ cases and Melvin’s interview with former Tulsa District Attorney Tim Harris, who defends his prosecution of Atchison.

“The Long Road to Freedom” also explores the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, policing in Black neighborhoods, controversies surrounding the criminal justice system and wrongful convictions.

This is a preview of Melvin’s report:

Here’s an inescapable fact of growing up in a violence-ridden, low-income community like north Tulsa — then and now: if you’re a 17-year old black teenager like Malcolm was in 1994, you’re on the police’s radar. Whether you’re in a gang or not.

ZIVA BRANSTETTER: I frequently heard complaints from kids about being  arrested for no reason, being hassled, being stopped, being labeled gang members when they may have worn a certain color.

Ziva Branstetter was an investigative crime reporter for the “Tulsa World” newspaper for 22 years.

ZIVA BRANSTETTER: I think the vast majority were good cops doin’ their job, trying to keep up, going from call to call.  But there are other reports, you know, of indiscriminate arrests.

Branstetter says that what she saw in Tulsa reflected the stark reality all across the country.

ZIVA BRANSTETTER: I did a story that showed a very disproportionate arrest rate for young black men versus young white men. So Tulsa was roughly 10 percent African American, but the arrest rate among African Americans was about 43 percent.

CRAIG MELVIN: If you were a kid back then, it was easier to grow up in south Tulsa than north Tulsa.

ZIVA BRANSTETTER: Absolutely. I raised two kids in south Tulsa. And I didn’t have to worry about my boys being pulled over for no reason.  I didn’t worry about, you know, the safety of my sons.

Watch “Dateline NBC” tonight on 22News at 10 p.m.

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