DNA evidence has led to exoneration of 11 wrongfully convicted men in Oklahoma over the past two decades, according to the Innocence Project, which tracks DNA exonerations nationally. In three of those cases, no one has been charged or identified as the likely perpetrator.
New Suspect Convicted or Identified
Calvin Lee Scott
Scott served 20 years of a 25-year sentence before DNA evidence proved he did not commit the 1982 rape of an Oklahoma woman. An anonymous phone tip implicated Scott initially; then, faulty hair samples were used to pin the crime on Scott, who was already in jail for a larceny charge. DNA testing implicated another suspect, who was not charged because of the statute of limitations.
Webb was convicted in Cleveland County in a 1982 burglary and rape of a woman, who later misidentified Webb as her attacker from a photo lineup. At Webb’s trial, a forensic scientist testified that hair left at the scene most likely belonged to Webb. However, DNA testing in 1996 excluded Webb, leading to his exoneration. He served 13 years in prison for the crime. Another suspect was identified through a DNA check in 2006 but no action was taken. A DNA check in 2013 got the same match. The Cleveland County District Attorney’s Office charged a Mississippi man on Friday in the case.
After spending almost 15 years in prison for a rape he did not commit, Pierce was exonerated and set free to return to his twin sons, whose childhood he had missed. DNA evidence proved Pierce’s innocence in the 1985 rape of a woman in Oklahoma City. Another man was later convicted of the crime.
Robert Lee Miller
Miller spent almost 10 years in prison, seven of those years on death row, for the 1986 murders and sexual assaults of two elderly women in his Oklahoma City neighborhood. Later, DNA tests showed Miller did not commit the crimes and implicated another man, Ronald Lott, who was later convicted. Lott was executed by lethal injection on Dec. 10 2013.
Ron Williamson, Dennis Fritz
In 1982, 21-year-old Ada waitress Debra Sue Carter was raped and murdered. Years later, Williamson and Fritz were arrested. Both were convicted in 1988. Williamson ended up on death row until DNA testing confirmed he was innocent, and he was released in 1999, along with Fritz. An earlier witness in the case, Glenn Gore, who testified that he saw Williamson at the victim’s workplace the night of the murder, was later found guilty of the crime. Williamson died of liver disease in 2004. This case is chronicled in the bestselling novel, “The Innocent Man,” by John Grisham.
After a woman wrongly identified McGee as her attacker in a 1987 kidnapping and rape in Tulsa, McGee was convicted in 1989 and served over 12 years in prison. DNA testing exonerated him. McGee was released from prison in 2002. Another man in the prison system, Edward Alberty, was convicted of the crime.
Although Timothy Durham had witnesses backing his alibi in the 1991 rape of an 11-year-old girl, inadequate hair samples and misidentification by a witness landed him in prison for more than three years for the crime. Durham was freed in 1997 because of DNA evidence. The DNA test pointed to another suspect who had committed suicide a month after Durham was charged in the rape.
No New Known Suspect
David Johns Bryson
Bryson was released from prison in 1999, and exonerated four years later, after DNA evidence excluded him as the rapist in a 1982 Oklahoma City case. The real attacker has not been found, and the case has been closed because of statute of limitations.
Convicted: 1986, 1989
Convicted of the 1982 murder of 18-year-old Pamela Kaye Willis in Oklahoma City. McCarty spent 21 years behind bars and many of those years on death row. He had been convicted based in part on faulty hair evidence later discredited by DNA testing.
Courtney served 15 years in prison as well as a year of parole, for a crime of robbery that took place in 1995. Courtney was exonerated through DNA hair testing in 2012. A new suspect has not been found, and Tulsa police say the case has been closed because of the statute of limitations.
Sources: Innocence Project, Oklahoma Watch research.