Curtis McCarty, an innocent man who spent 19 years on death row in Oklahoma will be a special guest at the 11th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty. Curtis is coming as a member of the Journey of Hope and Witness to Innocence. He will join exonerees Shujaa Graham, Curtis McCarty, Ron Keine, and Greg Wilhoit at the march.
Juries frequently rely on the testimony of forensic evidence experts to reach just conclusions in criminal trials. What happens when an expert lies in order to win a conviction?
When 18-year-old Pamela Kaye Willis was raped, stabbed, and strangled in her Oklahoma City home on December 10, 1982, Curtis McCarty became a suspect because he was acquainted with her. Soon after the murder in 1983, forensic analyst Joyce Gilchrist examined hairs from the crime scene and found they didnot match McCarty’s. Police interviewed McCarty several times over the next three years, but he was not arrested until 1985. During the three years of police questioning, Gilchrist secretly altered her notes to declare that the crime scene hairs could have been McCarty’s. Attorneys for McCarty did not discover the change in Gilchrist’s notes until 2000, when she underwent investigation for fraud in other cases. When the defense requested retesting of the hairs, the evidence had either been lost or destroyed deliberately. Gilchrist, implicated in two other cases that sent innocent men to death row, was later fired from her job with the Oklahoma City police department.
Curtis McCarty was sentenced to die three times and spent 21 years in prison – 19 on Oklahoma’s death row – for a crime he did not commit before DNA evidence led to his exoneration and release in May 2007.