Curtis Edward McCarty Nov 9, 2007 19:32:43 GMT -5
Post by lisa on Nov 9, 2007 19:32:43 GMT -5
After 21 Years in Prison – including 16 on Death Row –
Curtis McCarty is Exonerated Based on DNA Evidence
Oklahoma City case is one of the worst cases of government misconduct in the history of the American criminal justice system, Innocence Project says
Curtis Edward McCarty, who was convicted twice and sentenced to death for the same murder in verdicts that were both thrown out based on evidence of his innocence and an extraordinary pattern of government misconduct, was released from an Oklahoma prison May 11, 2007 after a judge dismissed the indictment against him that would have led to a third trial. The prosecution said that it would not appeal the decision – finally clearing McCarty after 21 years of wrongful incarceration, more than 16 of them on death row. McCarty became the 124th person in the United States to be exonerated and released since 1973 after spending time on death row.
In 1986, McCarty was convicted of a 1982 murder in Oklahoma City and sentenced to die. Citing misconduct by the prosecutor and a police lab analyst, the Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction, and McCarty was retried in 1989. He was again convicted and sentenced to death. In 1995, the appeals court upheld his conviction but threw out his death sentence; in 1996, he was sentenced to death again. In 2005, the Court of Criminal Appeals again overturned his conviction, citing the continued pattern of government misconduct and new DNA tests showing that semen recovered from the victim did not come from McCarty.
Robert H. Macy, the Oklahoma County District Attorney for 21 years, prosecuted McCarty in both of his trials. Macy sent 73 people to death row – more than any other prosecutor in the nation – and 20 of them have been executed. Macy has said publicly that he believes executing an innocent person is a sacrifice worth making in order to keep the death penalty in the United States.
Macy committed misconduct in the manner that he prosecuted McCarty and presented the case to the jury. His misconduct was compounded when he relied on Joyce Gilchrist, a police lab analyst who falsified test results and hid or destroyed evidence in order to help secure McCarty’s convictions. Gilchrist was the lead forensic analyst in 23 cases that ended in death sentences.
“This is by far one of the worst cases of law enforcement misconduct in the history of the American criminal justice system,” said Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, which worked on the case. “Bob Macy has said that executing an innocent person is a risk worth taking – and he came very close to doing just that with Curtis McCarty.”
Gilchrist, who testified in both of McCarty’s trials, was fired in 2001 for fraud and misconduct in McCarty’s case and others. DNA testing conducted on post-conviction appeal in 2002 showed that sperm recovered from the victim’s body did not match McCarty, and the Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the second conviction in 2005.
“For anyone who believes the death penalty is being carried out appropriately in this country, and anyone who believes that prosecutors and government witnesses can always be relied on to pursue the truth, this case is a wake-up call,” said Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project. “Three separate times, an innocent man was sentenced to die because of the actions of an unethical prosecutor and a fraudulent analyst.”
On May 19, at a press conference in Oklahoma City, Witness to Innocence member Nancy Vollertsen spoke alongside Curtis McCarty’s mother, Shirley.
Vollertsen discussed the painful conviction of her brother Greg Wilhoit, his subsequent death sentence, five years on death row and eventual exoneration in 1993. Wilhoit is also an active member and frequent speaker for Witness to Innocence.
“When they brought Greg into the visitor’s area in handcuffs and leg irons and I saw him from my seat on the other side of the bulletproof glass, I suddenly realized I might never see him outside of this prison and that was more than I could bear,” she said.
A bite mark found on the body of his wife, Kathryn Wilhoit, who was killed in 1985, was key evidence against him. Wilhoit was exonerated when the 12 top forensic dental experts in the nation all said the bite marks did not match him. But he has never received an apology or a penny of compensation, Vollertsen said.
“After losing his wife, eight years of his life, the opportunity to raise his children, his livelihood, and his physical and mental health, Greg was free,” Vollertsen said. “But irreparable damage had been done.”
You can read the motion and the brief filed earlier this year in McCarty’s case.
Sources: The Innocence Project, Tulsa World.