Sunday, May 15, 2011

Justice demands revisiting any wrongful convictions

The following editorial was published by the Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times on May 13, 2011.

The case of Kenny Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxson, sentenced in the September 2000 murder of Walter Rodney Bowman, is detailed in a story from Citizen-Times reporters Clarke Morrison and Jon Ostendorff in today's paper.

It's well worth reading.

And worth reacting to.

The two men are at the center of N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission investigation. The commission ruled in April that there is enough evidence that they might have been wrongly convicted for the panel to grant a hearing before a three-judge panel in Buncombe County.

The commission was established in 2006 after exposes of a number of cases where evidence that potentially would have cleared suspects was apparently withheld.

To date, it has received requests for reviews of more than 800 cases. Only four have made it to the final review process. Only one person, Greg Taylor, who served 17 years for a murder he didn't commit, has been exonerated.

Under commission guidelines, those professing their innocence must bear the burden of proof.

In the case of Kagonyera and Wilcoxson, there are indications that proof might be abundant. A review of video depositions, interviews and documents indicates misstep after misstep and that DNA evidence that might have cleared the men never made it to defense attorneys.

And as recently reported, a critical segment of a security video that could have had the potential to clear the men was taped over with an episode of the soap opera “The Guiding Light.”

There's also the little matter of another man confessing to the crime.

In 2003, Robert Earle “Tricky” Rutherfordwas serving time in prison when he contacted Special Agent Barnabas Whiteis. During two days of telephone interviews, Rutherford told Whiteis he, Bradford F. Summey and Lacy “J.J.” Pickens were those involved in the murder. He said the trio wanted to rob Bowman's son of more than $100,000 in cash and marijuana. Summey is currently serving time in state prison. Pickens was killed by an Asheville police officer while trying to elude arrest in 2006.

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