Recent Executions May Have Denied Key Evidence to Defendants in Pending Innocence Cases

According to a report by Raw Story, two recent executions may have irreparably impaired efforts by several prisoners to prove their innocence, preventing them from presenting testimony from potential alternate suspects. Rodney Lincoln was convicted of the 1982 murder of JoAnn Tate and assaulting her two young daughters and was sentenced to two life terms. The primary evidence against him was the testimony of Melissa Davis, Tate’s eight-year-old daughter who survived the attack. Years later, Davis saw a picture of serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells and identified him as her mother’s killer. She now believes Lincoln is innocent. Sells, who confessed to several other killings while in prison, cannot be questioned about the Tate case because he was executed in 2014. A similar situation has arisen in Oklahoma, where Malcolm Scott and De’Marchoe Carpenter have been imprisoned for more than two decades for a drive-by shooting in which Karen Summers was killed. Police arrested a third man, Michael Lee Wilson, who was in possession of the gun and car used in the shooting. Wilson pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and was given a five-year sentence in exchange for his testimony against Scott and Carpenter. Three months after he was released, he robbed a gas station and killed the store clerk, for which he received a death sentence. Two days before his execution, Wilson gave a videotaped statement to an attorney from the Oklahoma Innocence Project saying that Scott and Carpenter had nothing to do with Summers’ murder. Prosecutors argue that Wilson’s statement is an attempt to help fellow gang members, but his execution blocks any possibility of further questioning.

(“How the death penalty may keep innocent people in prison,” Raw Story, March 24, 2016.) See Innocence and Arbitrariness.