The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has reversed the conviction and death sentence of Curtis Edward McCarty because the state’s case was largely based on the testimony of a police chemist who has since been fired for shoddy and unreliable lab work. The court ordered a new trial for McCarty, who has been on death row more than two decades for a 1982 murder. At issue is the expert testimony of former Oklahoma City police chemist Joyce Gilchrist during McCarty’s capital trial. Gilchrist had been with the police department for 21 years when she was fired in 2001 following investigations of her forensic work. Based on a hearing regarding the trial evidence, an Oklahoma County District Court concluded that Gilchrist either lost or destroyed critical evidence in McCarty’s case.

In an opinion granting a new trial for McCarty, the Court of Criminal Appeals found, “Ms. Gilchrist, while acting as an agent of the State and in relation to her role as an expert in Petitioner’s case, withheld evidence, most likely lost or intentionally destroyed important and potentially exculpable (or incriminating) evidence, provided flawed laboratory analysis and documentation of her work, testified in a manner that exceeded acceptable limits of forensic science, and altered lab reports and handwritten notes in an effort to prevent detection of misconduct; and as a result of Ms. Gilchrist’s actions, Petitioner did not receive a fair trial and resentencing proceeding.” (Associated Press, June 15, 2005, and McCarty v. State, 2005 OK CR 10, Case No. PCD-2002-1493 June 14, 2005). See also Innocence.