Oklahoma
Victims of the State

27 Cases

Cleveland County, OK

Thomas Webb

Mar 20, 1982

Thomas Webb was convicted of rape and sentenced to 60 plus years. The victim identified him in a tainted identification procedure. DNA tests exonerated Webb in 1996.  (IP)  [5/05]

Coal County, OK 

Jessie James Cummings

Sept 5, 1991

Jessie James Cummings was executed for the murders of his sister and his niece. Cummings claimed that at the time of the murders he was over a hundred miles away in Oklahoma City. He said his ex-wives, Juanita and Sherry Cummings, shot and killed his sister, Judy Ann Moody Mayo, and killed his niece, 11-year-old Melissa Marie Moody. This case was open and unsolved from September 1991 until July 1994. Cummings was executed for the crimes on Sept. 25, 2008.  (IIPPI)

Creek County, OK

Jess Hollins

Dec 26, 1931

Jess Hollins, a black man, had consensual sex with a white woman. When her actions were found out, the woman claimed she was raped to protect her reputation. Hollins was convicted of rape and sentenced to death. He came within 30 hours of being executed, but he never was, and he died in prison in 1950.  (MOJ)

Custer County, OK

Adolph Munson

June 28, 1984

Adolph Munson was convicted of murdering Alma Hall, a convenience store clerk. Police testified that one of the victim's earrings and a .22 caliber bullet was found in Munson's motel room. The prosecution claimed a .22 caliber gun was used to murder the victim. In addition, a jailhouse informant claimed that Munson confessed. Defense requests for funds to investigate the evidence were denied. Some eight years later exculpatory facts emerged that had been hidden from the defense. Additionally, it was shown that a .22 caliber gun was not used to kill the victim. Dr. Ralph Erdmann, the pathologist who testified otherwise, was subsequently convicted of seven felony counts involving misrepresentation of facts in other cases.

Several witnesses contradicted the police officer who claimed he had found the victim's earring in Munson's motel room. In addition, evidence proved that the jailhouse informant had lied when he denied that he was testifying in hopes of a deal from the state. A new trial was ordered, with the trial judge stating that he “was saddened that people charged with upholding justice would do such a thing.” The retrial jury acquitted Munson of all charges in April 1995.  (PC)  [7/05]

Grady County, OK

Richard Jones

Jan 23, 1983

Richard Neal Jones was convicted of murdering Charles Keene. Keene was abducted from his home in Amber and murdered near Chickasha. Jones maintained that he was passed out while his three co-defendants beat up Keene, shot him, and threw his weighted body into the Washita River. Keene had apparently been abusing his ex-wife who was the sister of two of the defendants. The trial court allowed into evidence incriminating post-offense statements by Jones's co-defendants, none of whom testified at Jones' trial. An appeals court granted him a retrial, holding that the jury was prejudiced by the admission of hearsay testimony and inflammatory photographs. It also held that the case was not one in which Jones's guilt was “overwhelming” and that Jones's involvement was disputed by the evidence. Jones was acquitted on retrial in 1988.  (Archives)  [10/05]

Greer County, OK

Troy Hickey

Jan 21, 1988 (Granite)

Troy Hickey was convicted of murdering inmate Richard Allen Payne at the Oklahoma State Reformatory at Granite. Payne's cellmate, Bobby Petkoff, who was serving a life sentence for murdering his brother, first told authorities that he had found Payne lying on the floor, bleeding, when he returned to his cell. Later, Petkoff changed his story and claimed that inmate Steve Ness stabbed Payne while another inmate, whom he did not know, held him at knifepoint. When shown a photo lineup, Petkoff picked out the unknown accomplice. However, Petkoff was later walked past Hickey and changed his identification of the unknown accomplice to Hickey. This identification was illegal because it was a “showup identification.”

Three inmates testified against Hickey, including Petkoff. All were given deals for their testimony, but the existence of the deals were hidden at trial. Hickey later found out that Petkoff was originally a prime suspect in the murder. He also found that Petkoff had been covered in blood at the time of the stabbing. It would seem likely that if Hickey had held him down, Hickey would have been covered in blood as well, but he had no blood on any of his clothing or on anything that he owned. In 1996, Ness signed an affidavit stating that he murdered Payne and that Hickey was not with him at the time. The affidavit also stated that Ness hardly knew Hickey at the time of the crime, and that Hickey's conviction was due to mistaken identity by inmate witnesses, after weeks of pressure and coercion by state authorities.  (Justice: Denied)  [10/08]

Le Flore County, OK 

Vaught, Stiles, & Bates

Aug 18, 1907

In the fall of 1907, a human skeleton was found in a wooded area, about 3/4 of a mile from the nearest road. The nearest human habitation was the Bates sawmill, about four miles away, near the town of Heavener. Not long before, in August, an employee of the mill named Bud Terry had mysteriously disappeared. Terry was in his early twenties. His aunt, Mrs. Knotts, with whom he lived, had heard nothing from him since his disappearance. Knotts had raised Terry since he was orphaned, and it was Terry's custom to keep her informed whenever he left home for any length of time. There was suspicion that W. L. Bates, the owner of the sawmill, and his employees knew more about the Terry's disappearance than they were willing to admit.
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McCurtain County, OK

Charles Ray Giddens

Sept 1977 (Idabel)

Charles Ray Giddens was sentenced to death for the murder of an Idabel grocery store clerk named Beulah Fay Tapley. The evidence against Giddens rested solely on the account of one Johnnie Ray Gray, a man whom the police had arrested for the crime. Gray, who was never indicted in the incident, claimed that he waited outside the grocery store while Giddens committed the murder. On appeal, a court ruled in 1981 that Gray's testimony was fraught with contradictions and that in light of the fact that Gray had much to gain by fabricating his story, his uncorroborated account could not support a conviction. Giddens was immediately set free. The state was barred from retrying Giddens on double jeopardy grounds.  (Oklahoman) (ISI)  [7/05]

Oklahoma County, OK

Clifford Bowen

July 6, 1980

Clifford Henry Bowen was convicted of murdering Ray Peters, Marvin Nowlin and Lawrence Evans. The victims were killed as they sat around a poolside table at a Guest House Inn motel in Oklahoma City. Bowen was given three death sentences. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit Court overturned his conviction in 1986. The Court held that prosecutors in the case failed to disclose information about another suspect, Lee Crowe, a South Carolina police officer. The Court ruled that had the defense known of the Crowe materials, the result of the trial would probably have been different. Crowe resembled Bowen, had greater motive, no alibi, and habitually carried the same gun and unusual ammunition consistent with that used in the murders. Bowen, on the other hand, maintained his innocence, provided twelve alibi witnesses to confirm that he was 300 miles from the crime scene just one hour before the crime, and could not be linked by any physical evidence to the crime. Charges against Bowen were dropped in 1987.  (Bowen v. State) (Bowen v. Maynard)

Oklahoma County, OK 

Malcolm Rent Johnson

Oct 27, 1981 (OK City)

Malcolm Rent Johnson was convicted of the murder of Ura Alma Thompson, 76, based on testimony by police chemist Joyce Gilchrist that semen found at murder scene matched Johnson's. Johnson was sentenced to death and executed by lethal injection on Jan. 6, 2000. Later it was determined that no semen was found at the scene, Gilchrist had performed no tests, and that her testimony was completely fabricated.  (NY Times) (AP)

Oklahoma County, OK

Curtis McCarty

Dec 10, 1982

Curtis McCarty was convicted in 1986 for the 1982 stabbing and strangling of teenager Pamela Kaye Willis. He was sentenced to death. The conviction was overturned because an appeals court ruled that DA Robert H. Macy Sr. had acted deplorably during the trial and that police chemist Joyce Gilchrist had omitted key information from her forensic reports. McCarty was retried in 1989, convicted, and again sentenced to death. The death sentence was reversed on appeal, but after a new penalty trial in 1996, McCarty was sentenced to death for a third time.

Gilchrist was fired in Sept. 2001 for performing shoddy work and giving false or misleading testimony in other cases. She was involved in more than 1100 cases. She helped to send 23 men to death row, 11 of whom have been executed. In May 2007, a judge hearing McCarty's appeal ruled that Gilchrist had acted in “bad faith” and “most likely did destroy or intentionally lose” hair evidence that was crucial at McCarty's trial. Because potentially exculpatory evidence had been destroyed, McCarty could never get a fair trial. Citing the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. Youngblood, the judge released McCarty and dismissed charges against him.  (L.A. Times)  [6/07]

Oklahoma County, OK

Jeffrey Todd Pierce

May 8, 1985

Jeffrey Todd Pierce was convicted of rape and robbery. Pierce was part of a landscaping crew that had been working around the victim's apartment complex. The initial description of the perpetrator did not match Pierce and, when the victim was asked if he was the perpetrator she replied, “I don't think so.” Months later, police arrested Pierce and placed his picture in a photo lineup wearing a tan shirt, which was an item in the victim's initial description. The victim identified him from this lineup. At trial the victim told jurors, “I will never forget his face.”

Pierce's innocence was proven during the investigation of Joyce Gilchrist, a former scientist at the Oklahoma City Police Laboratory. Gilchrist was investigated for giving false testimony and for presenting shoddy forensic work. Pierce's case was one of over a thousand involving Gilchrist's testimony. Gilchrist claimed that hairs from the victim's apartment, the scene of the rape, matched Pierce's hair. These findings were disputed in 2001 by the FBI's laboratory. DNA testing exonerated Pierce and provided a preliminary match to another man. Pierce served 15 years of a 65-year sentence.  (IP)  [6/05]

Oklahoma County, OK

Robert Miller

1986

Robert Lee Miller, Jr. tried to help police solve two rape-murder cases by playing psychic and reporting on what he saw through the killer's eyes during a 8 1/2 hour taped interview. The victims were Anne Laura Fowler, 83, and Zelma Cutler, 92. Miller's statement had 112 inconsistencies, according to his lawyers; he had earlier told investigators that he was the Lone Ranger and an Indian warrior and that his family had visionary powers. Police used the tape as a confession and Miller was convicted. The case also involved complicated forensics. Miller was sentenced to death for 2 murders, 679 years for 2 rapes, 40 years for 2 burglaries, and 10 years for an attempted burglary. Miller only served 9 years before DNA tests exonerated him.  (IP) (NY Times)  [5/05]

Oklahoma County, OK

Alfred Mitchell

Jan 7, 1991

Alfred Brian Mitchell was convicted of raping and murdering 21-year-old Elaine Marie Scott at the Pilot Community Recreation Center in west Oklahoma City. The conviction was due to testimony of lab technician Joyce Gilchrist, a woman who has helped to falsely convict other defendants. Federal Judge Ralph Thompson overturned Mitchell's conviction and ruled that Gilchrist's testimony about hair and fluid evidence “was terribly misleading, if not false.”  (Appeals)  [10/05]

Oklahoma County, OK

Kenneth Trentadue

Aug 21, 1995

(Federal Case) Kenneth Michael Trentadue, a prisoner at the Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center, was murdered by federal authorities. Trentadue was mistaken for Richard Guthrie, a second suspect in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. There is reason to believe Guthrie knew too much about FBI involvement with individuals directly involved in the bombing. This bombing, which occurred four months before Trentadue's death, killed 168 people and injured more than 680 others.
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Osage County, OK

Gregory Wilhoit

May 31, 1985 (Tulsa)

Gregory Ralph Wilhoit was convicted of murdering his estranged wife, Kathryn, and sentenced to death. The prosecution presented evidence that the bite mark found on his dead wife came from Wilhoit's teeth and that there was a rare type of bacteria found around the bite mark that traced back to Wilhoit. The conviction was overturned for attorney incompetency because Wilhoit's counsel had suffered brain damage in an accident a year before trial and was abusing alcohol and prescription drugs. Wilhoit was released in 1991. At retrial in 1993, his defense had 11 forensic ondontologists refute the bite mark findings. They also stated that the “rare” bacteria were quite common. Wilhoit was acquitted.  (PC)  [7/05]

Pontotoc County, OK

William Awbrey

Aug 4, 1931

(Federal Case)  On Aug. 4, 1931, the postmaster of Franks, OK, was beaten and robbed by two men of $28.72 in postal receipts. The postmaster said he recognized William Awbrey as one of the assailants. Both Awbrey and another man, Emmett Poe, were found guilty of the crime and sentenced to three years at the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, KS. In Aug 1932, Awbey filed an application for a pardon supported by an affidavit from Poe acknowledging his own guilt but identifying his accomplice as Lawrence Springfellow. Springfellow was indicted for the crime the following month. In Nov. 1932, Awbrey was released from prison after U.S. President Herbert Hoover granted him an unconditional pardon.  (CWC)  [4/09]

Pontotoc County, OK

Calvin Lee Scott

Aug 29, 1982 (Ada)

Calvin Lee Scott, a black man, was convicted of raping a white woman identified as M.F.  DNA testing later exonerated Scott and identified Steven Wayne Sauls as the real rapist. Sauls could not be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations. Scott was released in 2003.  (IP)

Pontotoc County, OK

Williamson & Fritz

Dec 8, 1982 (Ada)

Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz were convicted of the rape and murder of Debra Sue Carter. The two were sentenced to death and life respectively. At one point, Williamson came within 5 days of execution. Both spent 11 years in prison. At trial the prosecution failed to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense. DNA tests exonerated both Williamson and Fritz and implicated prosecution witness Glen Gore. The case (against Williamson especially) is the subject of a 2006 book, The Innocent Man by John Grisham. The prosecution of Williamson and Fritz occurred after two other innocents, Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot, were convicted of another Ada murder, even though that murder occurred 16 months later. Grisham suggests the Williamson-Fritz prosecution was initiated to deflect criticism made regarding the Ward-Fontenot convictions. Dennis Fritz has also written a book entitled Journey Toward Justice.  (IP1) (IP2) (JP) (NYT) (Book Review) (Frontline:  RW, DF)

Pontotoc County, OK 

Ward & Fontenot

Apr 28, 1984 (Ada)

Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot were convicted of murdering Denice Haraway. Haraway, 24, worked part-time at McAnally's convenience store. She was last seen leaving the store with a man who had his arm around her waist. The two appeared to be a pair of lovers. The store was found deserted with the cash register drawer opened and emptied. Haraway's purse and driver's license were found inside, and her car nearby.
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Seminole County, OK 

Paul Goodwin

July 4, 1936

Paul Goodwin was convicted of the murder of Officer Christopher C. Whitson of the Seminole Police Department. Another man, Horace Lindsay, gave a statement in which he confessed to shooting Whitson. Lindsay also led police to the location where he had hidden Whitson's gun. Some time later Lindsay gave a second statement in which he implicated Goodwin as the shooter, but he refused to testify against Goodwin at his trial. At Goodwin's trial, Lindsay's second statement was read into evidence before the jury by the Chief of Police of Seminole County. Goodwin was permitted no opportunity to cross-examine Lindsay, nor was he permitted to introduce Lindsay's earlier statement which contradicted the presented statement. Although paroled in 1961, Goodwin was reincarcerated in 1962 on a parole violation. In 1969 Goodwin was released from prison after the 10th Circuit Federal Court ruled that he was denied due process.  (Appeals) (Seminole PD) (ISI)  [10/09]

Stephens County, OK 

Lefty Fowler

Jan 23, 1948 (Duncan)

E. L. “Lefty” Fowler was convicted of the murder of Helen Beavers. Fowler was a Duncan policeman and had been with her a short time before she was killed. Following Beaver's murder, Fowler quit his job, failed to pick up his last check, and engaged in conversation indicating that he was considering suicide. He also began an excessive round of drinking.

Less than two months after Beavers' murder, Fowler was arrested in Waurika and imprisoned for drunkenness in the Jefferson County Jail. Three Crime Bureau Agents then fraudulently conspired to transport Fowler to Stephens County for interrogation. They freed Fowler (by paying his fine) on condition he drive a supposedly drunk cellmate, who was actually an agent, to Stephens County. Once in Stephens County, Fowler was arrested on bogus charges that were never filed. He was then denied access to a magistrate and a lawyer, and interrogated under coercive conditions for 12 days.

Fowler eventually confessed to the murder of Beavers, but the County Attorney thought the confession was inconsistent with the facts. Beavers was then required to give another confession, which was signed at 5 a.m., apparently after an all night grilling. Even this confession was not regarded as sufficient and Beavers had to give two more before authorities were satisfied.

In 1960, Fowler was granted habeas corpus relief due to his coerced and illegal interrogation. He presumably was released.  (Argosy)  [4/08]

Tulsa County, OK

Arvin McGee

Oct 29, 1987

Arvin Carsell McGee, Jr. was convicted of raping a 21-year-old woman and sentenced to 365 years imprisonment. The victim picked McGee out of a photo lineup although she initially had picked another man. McGee's first trial resulted in a mistrial, and his second trial resulted in a hung jury. DNA tests exonerated him in 2002 and implicated another man, Edward Alberty, then imprisoned in an Oklahoma facility.  (IP)  [10/05]

Tulsa County, OK 

Timothy Durham

May 31, 1991

Timothy Durham was convicted of raping an 11 year-old girl, Molly M., and robbing her house. Durham had 11 alibi witnesses who placed him at a skeet shooting competition in Dallas, TX at the time of the attack, but he was convicted anyway and sentenced to over 3,100 years imprisonment. His trial featured a dubious forensic analyst who implied Durham's hair matched hair left by the attacker. DNA tests exonerated him in 1997.  (IP)  [10/05]

Tulsa County, OK

James Bauhaus

Oct 17, 1972 (Tulsa)

James Scott Bauhaus was convicting of the murder of Jefferson Dee Hunt. According to the state, the victim and his wife returned home and found Bauhaus in the process of burglarizing their home. Bauhaus then shot and killed the victim. The victim's wife positively identified Bauhaus. In addition, a bystander outside the home identified Bauhaus as the individual running away from the direction of the victim's home shortly after the crime.

Bauhaus alleges that the testimony of the two eyewitnesses was procured by police misconduct, and that blood and fingerprint evidence retrieved from the crime scene could reveal the real killer if it was analyzed by modern forensic technology. The state has refused to test this evidence and the courts have refused to order such testing. A police sketch of the perpetrator does not match Bauhaus.  (www.jamesbauhaus.org)  [5/08]

Washington County, OK

Louis Bennett

May 1957

Following the murder of 70-year-old Barltlesville resident Fred F. Ernest, police informed Louis William Bennett that they found his fingerprints on a doorstop that they believed was used to kill the victim. At police insistance Bennett confessed to the crime. He had been drinking for several days, had no recollection of events, and assumed that he was guilty. It wasn't until later that he recalled he had painted the doorstop for the victim, with whom he had been friendly. Though he realized he was innocent of the crime, he pled guilty to it and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. He said he was afraid that he would get the death penalty if convicted at trial. Three years later, after a Texas prisoner, Leonard McClain, gave a verified confession to the crime, the Oklahoma governor pardoned Bennett.  (ISI) (The Innocents) (News Article)  [10/05]

Oklahoma

Ralph Ploner

Convicted 1984

Ralph Ploner, a wealthy oil company owner, was convicted of forcible oral sodomy. During a civil suit in 1986 when the victim tried to recover money from him, testimony emerged which exonerated Ploner. The nurse at the hospital where the victim went testified that the victim told her that her attacker was her doctor boyfriend. Ploner paid nothing to her. He was released from prison after serving two years, but as of 2001, his conviction has not been overturned.  (FJDB)  [10/05]