Florida May Execute Innocent Man Tonight
Wayne Tompkins is scheduled to be executed tonight in Florida. From the Florida Innocence Project(via e-mail):
We believe there are very serious doubts about whether Tompkins is guilty of murder – because the body in the case might not be that of the alleged victim, meaning no murder even took place. Several individuals have signed affidavits saying they have seen the victim alive since the alleged murder, but the Governor has failed to stay the execution.
Yesterday, we sent a letter to Governor Charlie Crist (pdf). Today, we filed a motion to preserve the evidence in the case, signaling our intent to go ahead with DNA testing, even if Tompkins is executed. One day soon, the truth will come out, and perhaps Governor Crist will become the first in US history to execute a man who was proven to be innocent.
Mr. Tompkins was found guilty of murdering Lisa DeCarr in 1983. The evidence against him was circumstantial and consisted of three witnesses, including one jailhouse snitch. The nature of this case is also uncommon because the identity of the victim herself is also in doubt.
The victim’s alleged identity was supported at trial by a comparison with dental records which Miller says was “wholly unpersuasive.” Since then, several individuals have signed affidavits claiming to have seen her alive since the murder.
“Because the dead body’s identity is an issue, [late last year] you ordered DNA testing on bones from that dead body as well as a robe and sash found with the dead body,” Miller wrote to Crist.
"We presume you did so in order to remove any remaining questions about whether the State of Florida was about to execute an innocent man.” That round of testing came back inconclusive, says Miller. But he adds that, “the facts of the case have not changed. The uncertainty surrounding the identity of the alleged victim that led to the last round of DNA testing still exists. There should be clarity about the identity of the alleged victim before we execute a potentially innocent man. That clarity is obtainable in Mr. Tompkins’ case.”
IPF believes that a new round of DNA testing, involving methods that have not yet been tried in this case, would likely yield results.
Miller pledged to work with Governor Crist to “answer these remaining questions and finally obtain closure in this case,” urging patience in order to avoid executing a potentially innocent man on Wednesday.
On the preservation of evidence issue, from another of their press releases, not yet online:
“The Governor should remember two other cases, Frank Lee Smith and Ricky McGuinn,” said Miller. Frank Lee Smith died on death row in Florida before DNA testing proved he was innocent. In Ricky McGuinn’s case, his Texas execution was stayed, then DNA testing proved his guilt, and his execution was reset. In both cases, DNA testing proved vital to the establishment of culpability.
IPF is moving a court to notify the appropriate institutions that they have a statutory obligation to preserve all evidence pertaining to Tompkins’ case for 60 days, even if he should be executed. IPF wants a robe, a sash, and samples of the victim’s bones to be preserved, with confidence that a new round of DNA testing, using methods that have not been used in this case, will likely yield the identity of the victim.
What can be done? The IPF, via e-mail, writes:
The troubling aspects of this case are myriad. Involved are bad eyewitness testimony, changing stories after interrogations, a questionable jailhouse snitch, bad forensic science, DNA testing's unprecendented probative value being ignored, and the possibility of actual innocence coupled with an impending execution.
It's hard to imagine a more convoluted and unreliable process of justice playing out in our system. Please take this opportunity to call or email Governor Crist. Florida could become the first state to execute an innocent man. Concerned citizens everywhere should act now.
Contact Governor Charlie Crist
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