Curtis Edward McCarty, who had been sentenced to die three times and has spent 21 years on Oklahoma’s death row for a crime he did not commit, has been released after District Court Judge Twyla Mason Gray ordered that the charges against him be dismissed. Gray ruled that the case against McCarty was tainted by the questionable testimony of former police chemist Joyce Gilchrist, who gave improper expert testimony about semen and hair evidence during McCarty’s trial. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said his office will not appeal Gray’s decision.

According to the New York-based Innocence Project, an organization that assisted McCarty in his efforts to prove his innocence, during McCarty’s first two trials, Gilchrist falsely testified that hairs and other biological evidence showed that McCarty could have been the killer. In both trials, the juries convicted him and he was sentenced to death. In Gilchrist’s original notes, hairs from the crime scene did not match McCarty. She then changed her notes to say the hairs did match him. When the defense requested retesting, the hairs were lost. A judge has said Gilchrist either destroyed or willfully lost the hairs. DNA testing in recent years has also shown that another person raped the victim. McCarty’s has maintained his innocence since his arrest.
(The Oklahoman, May 11, 2007 and The Innocence Project; see also Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2007). See Innocence. His release marks the 124th death row exoneration since 1973. His is the first exoneration from death row in 2007.