Dismiss the charges against Rodney Lincoln and join in the defense motion asking the court to vacate his convictions.
This petition had 1,361 supporters
Rodney Lincoln is an innocent man who has languished in Missouri prisons for over three decades. He has been excluded by DNA as the source of the only physical evidence presented against him.
Rodney Lincoln was convicted of Manslaughter and two counts of 1st Degree Assault for the death of Joann Tate and the attack on her two daughters on April 27th, 1982 in St. Louis, MO.
Rodney was arrested based on the mistaken eyewitness identification of a 7-year-old child who had been severely traumatized, both physically and emotionally. The identification process that led to Rodney's arrest was extremely biased and riddled with procedural errors.
Immediately following the attack and up to the day of Rodney's arrest almost a month later the child victim repeatedly identified the perpetrator as "Bill" and gave many details about Bill including what he drove, the area where he lived, his house, his mother, and his pets.
The child victim was shown 4 photo spreads over the weeks following the attack, always in groups of ten or more. About four weeks after the attack a composite sketch was created by the police department and distributed to the media. The murder victim's brother and sister thought the sketch looked familiar and went to the police department to discuss it. The detective read names from Joann's diary, trying to help them place a name with the face. When the name "Rod" was read, the brother stated that it looked kind of like a guy she used to date named Rod but said there would be differences in the hair length, eyes, and shape of the face.
This led the detective to contact Rodney Lincoln who freely admitted knowing Joann and her children and having dated her in the past. After contacting Rodney and getting his information, the detective ran a check on him and discovered that Rodney had a record. He had accidentally killed a man while trying to defend himself in a fight ten years before. When asked to by the police, he readily agreed to accompany them to the station, answer any questions, submit hair samples, submit to a body search and participate in a line-up.
That detective then went to visit the girls, taking a 5 year old black and white mugshot of Rodney and a recent color photograph of someone related to them through their older half-sister. Before showing these two photos, he told them there was a magic door downtown that they could look through and see the bad man. He insisted to them that they had to pick the bad man or the bad man would go free, never even giving them the option that the bad man would not be there. He then showed them the two photographs, and the 7 year old victim picked Rodney's photo as the killer. Within two hours of showing them his photo the children were then shown a line-up which contained Rodney and three young men, all at least 15 years younger than him and none similar in appearance or size. The 7 year old again picked him as the attacker.
Three days AFTER Rodney was arrested and charged, the lead detective contacted the social worker at the hospital where the girls had recovered from their wounds and stated that the police may need him to work with the girls on the identification of the picture because there were problems in the investigation.
Over the course of the next 15 months while Rodney awaited trial, all the details that the child gave in her original stories to police changed to fit Rodney instead of the "Bill" she was so sure of in that first month.
When the trial commenced in August of 1983 she was the star witness, calmly walking up to Rodney and pointing him out as the man who had killed her mother and brutally attacked her and her sister, leaving them for dead. There were no other witnesses who linked Rodney to this crime in any way. The only piece of physical evidence that was presented at trial was a pubic hair that was found on a blanket on one of the children's beds. The police characterized this hair as a "match" to Rodney Lincoln's pubic hair. This was not enough evidence to convince a jury of his guilt. A mistrial was called when the jury hung with a 7/5 split after a day and a half of deliberation.
When he was retried in October 1983 the state offered additional expert testimony about the pubic hair and insisted to the jury several times that it was a "match" to Rodney Lincoln's hair. Though Rodney had alibi witnesses that confirmed he was home sleeping as Joann Tate and her children were attacked in the middle of the night and his work log proved he was at work at his normal time the next morning and all that week, the state's additional testimony about the hair "match" and the convincing testimony by the child victim resulted in a Friday afternoon jury convicting Rodney of Manslaughter and First Degree Assault after about six hours of deliberation.
Rodney's initial appeals were denied and he resigned himself to spending the rest of his life in prison. But in 2005 the Midwest Innocence Project agreed to represent Rodney in his quest for DNA testing and exoneration. In 2010 they did accomplish that DNA testing which proved without a doubt that Rodney Lincoln could NOT have been the contributor of the hair that was so insistently portrayed as a match to him. In addition there was another hair found on the 4 year old vicitm that was also tested and the results excluded Rodney as the source of that hair. This particular hair was never used at trial because the defense was told by the police that it belonged to a victim. The 2010 DNA testing not only excluded Rodney, but also excluded all three victims as the source of either hair. And the two hairs did not come from the same source. There are now two hairs from the crime scene with an unidentified origin, one of them having been found on a four year old victim's perineum.
Based on those exculpatory DNA results, the Midwest Innocence Project filed a motion asking the court to vacate his convictions and release him. The state has opposed that motion and in December 2013 a circuit judge denied the motion after the DNA evidence was presented at an evidentiary hearing. The state argues at that hearing that the hair was not a large part of their case and that they never determined that this hair came from the killer. The facts are that a full third of their witnesses at the second trial testified about either the hair from the blanket or the pubic hair of Rodney Lincoln. The prosecutor repeatedly insisted to the jury that the two hairs matched. But now that DNA has excluded Rodney they say the conviction was not based on the hair but on the child's eyewitness identification testimony.
The identification process in this case was so flawed that no weight whatsoever can be given to the eyewitnes identification.
The many procedural errors are outlined in this report from Otto Maclin, a Psychology Professor at the University of Northern Iowa and Director of the Maclin Institute for Psychological Science, and lead to his professional opinion that "There is a high likelihood that a misidentification occurred in this case."
And in this report Philip Esplin, Forensic Psychologist and Senior Research Consultant with the National Institute of Child Health and Development: Child Witness Research Project, after reviewing the case offers his professional opinion that:
1. The child victim is not a "reliable historian" as it relates to the current matters of interest to the Court
2. There is a significant likelihood of "post event contamination"
3. The data was insufficient to reliably determine what information came from independent recollections as opposed to information provided, inadvertently, by the various professionals
4. I am unaware, from a scientific perspective, how the current reliability of the victim's current beliefs could be determined without reliance on independent corroborating or disconfirming data
5. Victim may currently have a genuine but mistaken belief about the events under investigation
6. In order to address whether victim is a reliable historian, it is critical to examine her statements across time, as well as the context in which various statements were made, as opposed to attempting to sort out the reliability of an utterance or statement at any specific point in time
7. It should be noted that there are contradictions involving the core elements of the events which would be expected to remain consistent if victim was describing events from autobiographic memory
This opinion was based on his review of the case and the conclusion that:
The following scientific principles that have been shown to have an adverse effect on the reliabilitv of children's memories are present in this case:
- High Status Biased Interviewers
- Pressure, Inducements or Threats
- Selected reinforcement of responses
- Negative stereotyping of accused (casting the accused in a negative light)
- Repeated questions both within interviews and across interviews
- Multiple interviews by multiple interviewers
What other evidence was there? Well there was a fingerprint that the police department claimed they could identify as Rodney's. But when, during his deposition, the officer was faced with the fact that it had been examined by George Bonebrake, a former FBI fingerprint expert, that identification was withdrawn and there was no fingerprint evidence presented at trial.
So what remains of the state's case? NOTHING! The ONLY physical evidence has been scientifically proven to be false. The eyewitness identification was so improper and biased that it contains no basis in fact. The fact is an INNOCENT man has been sitting in prison for over three decades while the real killer of Joann Tate may still be walking the streets. There has been no justice for the victims and no justice for the wrongfully convicted Rodney Lincoln. You have the ability to finally bring some semblance of justice to both of these families by joining in the motion of the Midwest Innocence Project to dismiss these charges and vacate these convictions, sending an innocent man home to live his final years with the freedom he has been unjustly denied for far too long.
If you have any questions that have not been answered by the information here, the answers can be found at www.FreeRodneyLincoln.com where you can read official court documents and records that clearly show an innocent man is in prison.
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