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.


From a Florida Innocent Project Press Release:

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
Phone: 850-488-7146
Fax: 850-487-0801

Email: Charlie.Crist@myflorida.com

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  • Display: Sort:
    this sounds like (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Wed Feb 11, 2009 at 01:57:47 PM EST
    the scott peterson case, except they established the identities, just not the cause of death.

    i have to admit, like so many others, i had been convinced, from tv shows and the news, that dental identification was pretty sound. i am now at the point where the only thing i believe, with any level of certainty, is DNA.

    There are so many good reasons to end (none / 0) (#2)
    by Inspector Gadget on Wed Feb 11, 2009 at 02:07:48 PM EST
    the death penalty!

    So, if the "victim" is still alive and does not come forward to stop this execution herself, is she subjecting herself to any level of responsibility for his death?


    The rest of the story? (none / 0) (#3)
    by diogenes on Wed Feb 11, 2009 at 07:07:36 PM EST
    By ELAINE SILVESTRINI  | The Tampa Tribune

    Published: November 4, 2008

    Related Links

        * Read The Petition

    TAMPA - A man sentenced to die for killing his girlfriend's 15-year-old daughter in 1983 filed a petition in U.S. District Court today seeking to have his sentenced overturned.

    Wayne Tomkins, a former roofer, was sentenced to death in 1985 for killing Lisa DeCarr and burying her in a shallow grave beneath her east Tampa home. A unanimous jury recommended the death penalty. His case has been through numerous state and federal appeals. The Florida Supreme Court last upheld the conviction and sentence in May 2007.

    The new petition asserts several arguments, including that Tomkins' death warrant since 2001 constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and that the state of Florida's method of execution is cruel and unusual. The petition also says prosecutors withheld favorable evidence and improperly communicated with the trial judge about Tomkins' sentence.

    DeCarr disappeared from her home in March 1983. Her skeletal remains, her pink bathrobe and pieces of her jewelry were found under the home three months later.

    A friend of DeCarr testified at the trial that she entered the home on the morning of the disappearance and saw DeCarr struggling with Tompkins while Tompkins was on top of her on a couch trying to remove her clothes.

    The friend said the victim asked her to call police, but instead the friend told DeCarr's boyfriend and went to school.

    The petition contends that the defense was unaware at the time of the trial of evidence that could have helped discredit prosecution witnesses.

    Tompkins had a previous conviction in Pasco County for kidnapping and rape.

    Reporter Elaine Silvestrini can be reached at (813) 259-7837 or esilvestrini@tampatrib.com.

    I found this on Yahoo search but don't know how to transfer links; it is about number six.  
    From this, it seems that the Innocence Project is telling us that a fifteen year old girl suddenly disappeared in 1983, leaving friends and family behind and that some one else's body was found buried at her house.  The 2008 article does not cite arguments about the identity of the body but cites other reasons to block the death penalty.  The article does mention that Tomkins has a prior conviction for rape and kidnapping.

    Holding third place (none / 0) (#4)
    by CoralGables on Wed Feb 11, 2009 at 10:05:03 PM EST
    Florida solidifies its third place standing tonight, trailing only Texas and Virginia of states with the most executions since 1976.


    STARKE, Fla. --  A Florida rapist convicted of murdering his girlfriend's teenage daughter more than 25 years ago has been executed.

    Wayne Tompkins was pronounced dead at 6:32 p.m. Wednesday after he failed to get courts to listen to his claims of innocence. He was put to death by lethal injection for the murder of 15-year-old Lisa DeCarr, who disappeared from the Tampa home she shared with Tompkins and her mother on March 24, 1983.

    Correction (none / 0) (#5)
    by CoralGables on Wed Feb 11, 2009 at 10:08:34 PM EST
    I believe that 3rd place distinction still belongs to Oklahoma with Florida now in 4th place.