OKLAHOMA CITY - A lawsuit filed in the wake of a
police forensics scandal in Oklahoma City alleges an innocent
man may have been executed based on shoddy evidence analysis,
the defense lawyer who filed the suit said on Tuesday.
Doug Parr, a board member of the Oklahoma Defense Attorneys
Association, said he filed suit this week to force the Oklahoma
City police department to hand over records and physical
evidence used to try and condemn Malcolm Rent Johnson, who was
executed in January 2000 for a rape-murder.
State agencies have reviewed over a dozen cases of men
sentenced to death but not yet executed to see if crucial
evidence should be re-tested after an FBI report alleged a
veteran police lab chemist, Joyce Gilchrist, had a record of
But while defense lawyers have talked about the possibility
of wrongful executions, Parr said his lawsuit was the first
time the allegation has been made in a specific case.
``That's what a number of people are concerned about,'' Parr
said. ``That's why we are seeking an examination of the forensic
file and the physical evidence in this case.''
A spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson
dismissed the allegations, saying there was overwhelming
evidence against Johnson besides physical traces, including
incriminating statements he made to police.
``The standard isn't 'did Joyce Gilchrist have anything to
do with the case?''' spokesman Gerald Adams said. ``The standard
is whether or not the conviction would stand on its own absent
Johnson was put to death by lethal injection on Jan. 6,
2000, for raping and strangling to death Ura Alma Thompson, 76,
Parr said the suit in state court alleges Johnson was
convicted largely on the weight of Gilchrist's analysis of hair
and blood samples and her testimony about that in court.
Oklahoma City police have declined to release the Johnson
files, citing the ongoing investigation of lab work, Parr said.
Gilchrist, who is on paid administrative leave, has denied
the allegations contained in the FBI report in April that
criticized her work in five felony cases.
The FBI report, which led in May to the release of a man
after 15 years in prison on a wrongful conviction of rape, said
Gilchrist had misidentified hair and fiber samples and ``went
beyond the acceptable limits of forensic science'' in her
testimony in those cases.
State agencies are reviewing more than 1,600 felony cases
in which Gilchrist had a role, including 14 death penalty
convictions where the accused are still on death row. Of those
14, the state's attorney general has recommended evidence be
re-tested in three cases.
Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited