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Exonerations

The Kentucky Innocence Project (KIP) was created to provide a resource to men and women incarcerated in Kentucky state prisons who have legitimate claims of innocence. Through December 2015, twelve (12) men and women have been released from prison due to the efforts of the Kentucky Innocence Project.

KIP does not limit itself to investigating claims of innocence based only upon testing of physical evidence for a DNA profile.  KIP will review, investigate and litigate any case of factual innocence if new evidence can be developed or found through the investigation.  KIP’s cases have involved the same leading factors found in wrongful convictions throughout the country:  mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, the use of jailhouse informants, etc.

Law students at three of Kentucky’s law schools investigate assigned cases, under the direct supervision of KIP staff and the respective faculty advisors, using a defined methodology of criminal investigation.  Externs collect and review court records, interview the client and witnesses, visit the crime scene, and if required, draft motions on behalf of KIP’s clients.

SUCCESS STORIES

Norman Graham

Cause of Convication: Murder & Rape
County: Todd
Trial/Plea: Trial
Race: White
Year 2008
Sentence: 40
Time Served: 9
Date Sentence Vacated: October 5, 2017
Reason Sentence Vacated: Newly discovered evidence
Cause of wrongful conviction: Reliance on circumstantial evidence

​Norman Graham’s girlfriend was raped and killed in Norman Graham’s trailer in 1980, where she often stayed. On the night of her death, Norman Graham was in a neighboring county. Though there was no direct evidence tying Graham to the crime, in 1981, the Commonwealth charged Graham with the crime and proceeded to trial on a charge of murder.  The case ended with a hung jury in 1982.   More than 20 years later, cold case detectives reviewing the case again recommended prosecution of Graham.  This time he was convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to 40 years. 
 
KIP got involved in Graham’s case shortly after his conviction.  They obtained DNA testing, and while that testing revealed the DNA of an unidentified person, it was viewed as inconclusive because it could not exclude Graham.  This was in spite of the fact that the victim often stayed at Graham’s trailer and they were engaged in a consensual sexual relationship, so the presence of his DNA at the scene and on her person was to be expected. 
 
KIP continued investigating and was eventually able to secure statements from several individuals who were in the same trailer park on the evening of the offense.  One witness gave a sworn statements that her brother – now convicted of two other murders under similar circumstances – was the perpetrator.  She claimed that she was aware of what he was doing on the night of the offense but did not come forward at the time because she was terrified of her brother and her mother, who protected him.  A first cousin of the true perpetrator also came forward saying that she too saw him coming from the direction of Normans trailer, after hearing a scream, the night of the murder.
 
Based on the newly discovered evidence, the trial court vacated Graham’s conviction in October 2017.  


Robert Yell

Cause of Convication: Arson & Manslaughter
County: Logan
Trial/Plea: Trial
Race: White
Year 2006
Sentence: 52
Time Served: 12
Date Sentence Vacated: December 28, 2016
Reason Sentence Vacated: Expert Arson Testimony
Cause of wrongful conviction: Junk Science

​In 2004, Yell’s trailer burned down, killing one of his children and severely injuring another.   Arson investigators, using discredited techniques, determined it was arson. Though testing could not find the presence of any accelerant in the home, the Commonwealth was allowed to present testimony that an accelerant detection dog had alerted at several places in the trailer.   Yell was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, first-degree arson, fourth-degree assault, and PFO 2nd, and sentenced to 52 years in prison.
 
The convictions in this case were based upon the dog-sniff and discredited beliefs regarding flashover and whole-room involvement.  In 2016, DPA Post-Conviction Branch lawyers, using a KIP grant, were able to hire an expert who submitted an affidavit attesting to the scientific errors that were made in the initial investigation.  The national Innocence Project filed an amicus brief supporting the motion.  Based on this, the trial court held a two-and-a-half day evidentiary hearing where they heard from nationally recognized experts in arson detection, who testified that the fire was not arson.   After granting a new trial on the bench, the trial court found that the opinions given by the experts at trial were based on obsolete and erroneous techniques, rules of thumb, and assumptions none of which can be relied upon as true.  The court has urged the Commonwealth to reexamine the evidence with new arson scientists who have not previously been involved in the case.


Juan Carlos Gonzales-Barbosa

Cause of Convication: Rape 3rd
County: Henderson
Trial/Plea: Plea
Race: White-Hispanic
Year 1994
Sentence: 5
Time Served: 5
Date Sentence Vacated: November 3, 2016
Reason Sentence Vacated: DNA testing​
Cause of wrongful conviction: Unreliable witness testimony and ineffective assistance of counsel

​Mr. Barbosa is a foreign national who was accused of Rape in 1994.   The DNA evidence which would conclusively identify the perpetrator was sent for testing, but those test results had not been interpreted when, in 1994, his attorney convinced him to plea guilty to a considerably reduced sentence.  The fact that both the prosecution and defense counsel were eager to consummate such an arrangement reflects the extent to which the justice system values results over factfinding.   The Commonwealth’s incentive to arrange a plea today was that the testing would not be interpreted, which could have exposed that they had charged the wrong person with the crime.  Defense counsel’s incentive to agree to this was to ensure that that the testing was not interpreted, which would have ruined his leverage to obtain a favorable plea agreement.  The truth of the case was readily at hand, but neither side was willing to wait for it because of how it would undermine their ability to claim a favorable result.
 
Mr. Barbosa served out his sentence.  Several years after Barbosa was released from prison, his rape conviction would be presented as a predicate offense for another charge.  KIP got involved and had the previous DNA testing results interpreted.  The results of the testing conclusively established that Barbosa was not the perpetrator.  Nevertheless, even though Barbosa was undeniably innocent, the Commonwealth litigated the legal significance of the test results for over three years, arguing that the results should not be considered because they were obtained too late.  The Kentucky Court of Appeals found that these procedural arguments should not trump the evident fact that Mr. Barbosa had not committed the crime, and the Kentucky Supreme Court refused to consider the Commonwealth’s request to review that decision, and Mr. Barbosa’s conviction was finally vacated. 


Jeffrey Clark

Cause of Convication: Murder
County: Meade
Trial/Plea: Trial
Race: White
Year 1995
Sentence: Life
Time Served: 22
Date Sentence Vacated: July 14, 2016
Reason Sentence Vacated: DNA testing​
Cause of wrongful conviction: Perjury; Invalidated Forensic Science; Police Misconduct

​Jeff Clark and his co-defendant, Garr Keith Hardin, were convicted after a 1995 trial of the 1992 murder of Hardin’s girlfriend, Rhonda Sue Warford. Mr. Clark and Mr. Hardin’s defense was one of complete innocence to the crime.  The Commonwealth’s theory was that Clark and Hardin were involved in satanic worship and that served as the motive for the murder. To that end, the Commonwealth argued that blood found on a cloth in Hardin’s home was that of animal blood used in a ritualistic sacrifice. The only physical evidence that allegedly tied Clark and Hardin to the victim was a single fingerprint lifted from Clark’s car belonging to the victim (about which the Commonwealth’s expert testified couldn’t be date/time stamped) and a hair found on the victim’s sweatpants that was deemed, through microscopic hair analysis, to “have characteristics similar to Hardin’s head hair” and about which the Commonwealth argued was “exactly like” Hardin’s. A jailhouse snitch testified that Clark had confessed the murder to him not once, but twice. After a trial, a letter surfaced indicating that the snitch had lied at trial about Clark’s “confessions” in order to gain favor by the Commonwealth and receive shock probation.
 
In July of 2009, KIP got involved in the case and moved for DNA testing of the physical evidence in the case, namely the hairs found at the scene and the blood-stained cloth. The Circuit Court denied the motion. Eventually, the Ky. Supreme Court remanded the case back to the trial court, directing the Commonwealth to release the evidence for DNA testing. Mitochondrial DNA testing subsequently affirmed the hair did not match Hardin or Clark.  Testing also proved that the blood found on the cloth was not animal blood but human blood belonging to Hardin, as he had always claimed.
 
Thereafter, the KIP, representing Clark, and the National Innocence Project, representing Hardin, filed another CR 60.02 Motion for New Trial, arguing that the DNA testing in the case proves their clients’ innocence.  On July 14, 2016, Judge Bruce Butler entered a 25-page order vacating the clients’ convictions and sentences. He found that the newly-discovered DNA results undermined the credibility of the Commonwealth’s case and that no credible evidence was presented at trial supporting the Commonwealth’s inaccurate and misleading theory of Satanism.  The Court also found that the testimony and credibility of the investigating officer in the case had been significantly undermined by the fact that he had been criminally investigated for giving false testimony in other cases, including that of exoneree Edwin Chandler, and that his testimony was material in the jury’s determination of Clark and Hardin’s guilt.  The Court quoted Bedingfield and noted that Clark and Hardin were convicted based on “suppositions that we now know to be fundamentally false” and that this false evidence “casts a long shadow” on the trial.
 
The Commonwealth appealed the ruling, but on August 24, 2017, the Kentucky Supreme Court denied the appeal and upheld the trial court’s order vacating the convictions of Clark and Hardin.


William Virgil

Cause of Convication: Murder
County: Campbell
Trial/Plea: Trial
Race: African-American
Year 1988
Sentence: 70
Time Served: 28
Date Sentence Vacated: ​December 18, 2015
Reason Sentence Vacated: ​DNA testing
Cause of wrongful conviction: Unreliable witness testimony;

In 2010, the Linda Smith, the supervisor of DPA’s Kentucky Innocence Project, wrote a letter to the Campbell Commonwealth’s attorney asking for permission to perform DNA testing on evidence related to the trial of William Virgil, which was at the time in the possession of the Campbell Circuit Court Clerk’s office.  Mr. Virgil had been convicted of the brutal murder of Retha Welch, a psychiatric nurse at the VA hospital,  based principally on snitch testimony from a person who had been thoroughly discredited in later proceedings.   Ms. Smith pointed out that DNA testing was not available at the time of Mr. Virgil’s trial, and that his case was not a strong one.  There was a bloody palmprint which had been left at the scene of the offense by somebody other than Mr. Virgil, and the evidence established that Ms. Welch had been sexually active shortly before the offense.   As the Commonwealth’s theory was that Mr. Virgil and Mr. Welch had sex shortly before the murder, testing this evidence could conclusively establish Mr. Virgil’s guilt or innocence.   Even though the testing would be paid for by grant funds, the Commonwealth’s attorney refused to grant permission to test.


What followed was an extraordinary journey through the courts, the legislature, and three DNA labs, which on Friday, December 18, 2015 resulted in an order granting Mr. Virgil a new trial.  When it became clear that testing would not go forward by agreement, Ms. Smith filed a motion on Mr. Virgil’s behalf requesting permission from the Court.  That motion was ultimately denied because Kentucky’s DNA statute at the time did not authorize DNA testing in non-capital cases.  In 2013 a bill sponsored by Rep. Johnny Bell and Sen. John Schickel changed the statute to authorize DNA testing for non-capital offenses.   Later that year, the Kentucky Court of Appeals vacated the order denying testing and remanded the case for reconsideration under the new statute, and testing was ordered shortly thereafter. 

More surprises were in store.  When the lab finally received the evidence from the clerk’s office, they opened envelopes marked “rape kit”, “vaginal swab”, etc. only to find that the envelopes were empty, because the material had been consumed by the testing which had been conducted at the time of the offense.  While there was some evidence which could be tested and the results of those tests were helpful, without a rape kit result it was unlikely to result in a new trial.  Then, KIP learned that during the original testing process slides had been made of the material on the rape kit.  Fortunately, those slides were still in the custody of the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab, and those slides were sent for testing.   The testing revealed that Ms. Welch had been sexually active with three different gentlemen in the days leading up to the offense, but Mr. Virgil was not one of them.

Even in the face of this evidence, the Commonwealth contended that hairs found on Ms. Welch might still belong to Mr. Virgil and if so those would establish his involvement in the offense.  The hairs were tested using mitochondrial DNA testing, and the results were that none of the hairs matched Mr. Virgil.   Faced with a crumbling case, the Commonwealth conceded that the evidence was sufficient to warrant a new trial.  However, based on one item which showed that at some point in the past Mr. Virgil had sexual relations with Ms. Welch – testing which proved nothing we did not know already, as Mr. Virgil’s past relationship with Ms. Welch was how he became a suspect – the Commonwealth announced its intention to retry Mr. Virgil and argued that Mr. Virgil should be held on at $1,000,000 bond prior to that trial. 

On Friday December 18, 2015, after 28 years in custody, the Campbell Circuit Court ordered Mr. Virgil released from the Kentucky State Penitentiary and returned to jail. He was released from jail on December 24, 2015.​​

Edwin Chandler

Cause of Convication: Robbery; Manslaughter
County: Jefferson
Trial/Plea: Trial
Race: African-American
Year 1995
Sentence: 30
Time Served: 9
Date Sentence Vacated: October 13, 2009​
Reason Sentence Vacated: Modern digital fingerprinting technology​
Cause of wrongful conviction: Coerced Confession; Police Misconduct​

Chandler was convicted of manslaughter and robbery for the shooting death and robbery of a convenience store clerk in 1993, and served 9 years before being paroled in 2002. He was on parole for an additional 7 years before he was exonerated.


Shortly after the offenses, the police recovered a surveillance tape which depicted the crime.  Unfortunately, the tape was accidentally destroyed by a Louisville police officer shortly after it was recovered.  The police also had a bottle which the killer had set on the table prior to killing the clerk, but the police did not obtain a print from the bottle at the time of the offense. 

Chandler, who was in the neighborhood at the time, was picked up by police on suspicion of the offense and interrogated.   He eventually gave a confession, where he admitted shooting the clerk and claimed that the gun went off accidentally.  Chandler recanted that confession at trial, telling the jury that it was a coerced confession and that the police had told him they were going to arrest his sister for harboring a fugitive and take her children away from her.

Other than the confession, the trial evidence was not strong.  An eyewitness to the offense told the jury that Chandler was not the man he saw in the store that night. Nevertheless, Chandler’s appeals and post-conviction actions were denied due to the allegedly “overwhelming” nature of the evidence against him – principally, the confession. 

After his conviction was affirmed and post-conviction procedures were complete, the Kentucky Innocence Project sought and eventually discovered the bottle the killer had left on the counter.  Using modern digital fingerprinting technology they were able to get a solid print which was a match to the alternative suspect.  During the time after Chandler’s conviction, the suspect had committed another assault, and was in prison for that new offense at the time the evidence came to light in Chandler’s case.

In October, 2009, the Jefferson Circuit Court vacated Chandler’s conviction, saying “It is absolutely clear there has been a grave miscarriage of justice.” On that same date, the alternative suspect that KIP had provided to LMPD was indicted for the robbery and murder of the convenience store clerk.

Lacy Bedingfield

Cause of Convication: ​Rape
County: Fayette
Trial/Plea: Trial
Race: African-American
Year 1996
Sentence: 25
Time Served: 14
Date Sentence Vacated: September 11, 2007
Reason Sentence Vacated: ​DNA testing; Perjury
Cause of wrongful conviction: Coerced Confession; Improper Forensic Evidence; Perjury​

Bedingfield was convicted of the rape of his girlfriend’s daughter’s friend and of being a persistent felony offender in 1996.  He served 12 years of a 25 year sentence before his release in 2008. Bedingfield, his girlfriend, her daughter, and the complaining witness were together at Bedingfield’s girlfriend’s house on the night of the offense.  Later that evening, the complaining witness was found by police wearing only a T shirt, shaken and upset.  She claimed that Bedingfield had raped her.


A rape kit was taken from the complaining witness, and Bedingfield was ordered to submit to an examination. During the examination, he was told that a swab would be inserted in to his penis.  He became agitated and upset, and told one of the officers that he would tell them he did it if they would not insert the swab into his penis.  The officers agreed, and Bedingfield stated that he had engaged in consensual sex with the complaining witness, and that he did not know she was underage.

Though evidence recovered from the rape kit showed the presence of semen on the complaining witnesses clothes and in her vaginal swab.  Though the quantity was not sufficient for testing with the technology available at the time, much was made at trial of the fact that semen was found.  Bedingfield, testified that he had spurned the complaining witness’ sexual advances earlier in the evening, and that he had confessed to having sex with her only to avoid having a swab inserted into his penis.   Bedingfield’s counsel argued that the complaining witness could have been engaged in sexual intercourse with another earlier in the day, but that argument was belittled as “bizarre” by the Commonwealth.   The jury ultimately convicted Bedingfield. 

In 2005, DNA testing was done on the physical evidence and the test results excluded Bedingfield as the source of the physical evidence found in the victim’s rape kit and clothes.  Rather, the evidence showed that the complaining witness had engaged in sexual intercourse with three different men prior to the incident. Despite the exonerating value of the test results, the trial court denied Bedingfield’s motion for a new trial.  The Kentucky Court of Appeals denied Bedingfield’s motion, but in a unanimous decision in a case of first impression, the Kentucky Supreme Court remanded the case back to the trial court for a new trial in 2008.

On remand, the Commonwealth continued to maintain that Bedingfield was guilty of rape, but agreed to permit Bedingfield to plead to a lesser offense in exchange for time served.​ 

Jason Girts

Cause of Convication: Sexual Abuse
County: Bullitt
Trial/Plea: Plea
Race: White
Year 2004
Sentence: 5
Time Served: 3
Date Sentence Vacated: ​April 29, 2008
Reason Sentence Vacated: Perjury​
Cause of wrongful conviction: ​Perjury

In 2004, Girts’ stepson accused Girts of having abused him many years earlier.  There was no physical evidence or other corroboration of the offense.  Nevertheless, Girts was convicted of sexual abuse in 2006, and sentenced to seven years for the offense.  He served four years before his exoneration.


After trial, the stepson recanted the statement and stated that he made up the accusations because he didn’t like Girts and wanted him out of his and his mother’s life.  The stepson was given a polygraph concerning the statement, and passed.  Nevertheless, the case went to an evidentiary hearing where the young man repeated his recantation. Immediately following the hearing, the Commonwealth’s Attorney requested the court to dismiss the indictment against Girts being as the stepson’s testimony had been the only evidence against him. Girts was released from prison the next day in April 2008.

Sam Plotnick

Cause of Convication: Sexual Abuse
County: Whitley
Trial/Plea: Trial
Race: White
Year 2001
Sentence: 18
Time Served: 7
Date Sentence Vacated: January 2008
Reason Sentence Vacated: Perjury​
Cause of wrongful conviction: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel​

In 2000, Plotnick’s girlfriend’s young son accused Plotnick of sexually abusing him with a tent pole.  He was sentenced to 20 years, and served 8 years before his release in 2008.

The complaining witness in this case allegedly told his mother that Plotnick had sexually abused him with a tent pole.  His mother took him to be examined the next day, and the examination revealed bruising around the complaining witness’s rectum.  The complaining witness’s mother was aware of the fact that she had given him a couple of enemas because of constipation about the time of the accusations, and the child often rode a bicycle that did not have a seat on it, but did not provide those alternate explanations to officials because she was afraid she would lose custody of her children.  She later claimed in an affidavit that the prosecutor had threatened to take her children away if she did not testify against Sam.  Sam’s attorney had conducted no independent investigation in to the offense, and knew nothing of these alternate explanations for the child’s injuries.

At trial, the complaining witness originally repeated his allegation against Plotnick.  On cross examination, the child testified that another of his mother’s boyfriends had hurt him; specifically, that he had steel or metal tips on the toes of his cowboy boots and that he had fallen on the toe of his boot.  Eventually, the child’s testimony became so fanciful that in the opinion of the Kentucky Supreme Court further cross -examination would have been “futile.” 
 
In order to bolster the credibility of the complaining witness the prosecution relied on testimony from the child’s grandmother, doctors, nurses and social workers about statements the child had made to them.  Plotnick’s counsel waived any objection to those statements.  On post-conviction, the Kentucky Court of Appeals found that counsel’s failure to object to incompetent evidence of the child’s prior statements was ineffective assistance of counsel, and reversed the conviction.  The prosecution was dismissed several months later, in 2008.​ ​

Jacqulynn Green

Cause of Convication: Complicity to Commit Murder (EED)
County: ​McCreary
Trial/Plea: Plea
Race: White
Year 2000
Sentence: 18
Time Served: 7
Date Sentence Vacated: December 11, 2007
Reason Sentence Vacated: Clemency​
Cause of wrongful conviction: Government misconduct; Ineffective Assistance of Counsel​

In 2000, Green was accused of murder after her husband threw their infant child against a wall in their home.  Green pled guilty and was sentenced to 18 years for the offense, and served 6 years before receiving clemency from Governor Ernie Fletcher based on newly discovered evidence. 

 
After Green’s husband seriously injured their infant child by throwing the child against a wall in their home, Green immediately wanted to seek medical attention.  She was prevented from doing so by her husband, who later admitted that he had verbally, physically and sexually abused Green throughout their marriage.  Green was finally able to get the child to the hospital almost 24 hours after the injury, but the child died of her injuries.
 
Green pled guilty to the lesser offense of manslaughter on the advice of her attorney.  She later sought post-conviction relief, but that claim was denied.   Based in large part on the investigation and facts provided by the Kentucky Innocence Project in its various motions that were used in the request, Governor Ernie Fletcher granted clemency to Green on his last day in office in 2007.

John Phillips

Cause of Convication: Assault
County: ​McCreary
Trial/Plea: ​Trial
Race: White
Year 2005
Sentence: 10
Time Served: 4
Date Sentence Vacated: April 20, 2007 (conviction reversed); December 4, 2008 (acquittal on retrial)​
Reason Sentence Vacated: Jury not properly instructed​
Cause of wrongful conviction: Unreliable witness testimony; Inadequate forensic evidence​


Ben Kiper

Cause of Convication: Sexual Abuse
County: ​Butler
Trial/Plea: Trial
Race: ​White
Year 1999
Sentence: 55
Time Served: 7
Date Sentence Vacated: May 6, 2006
Reason Sentence Vacated: Perjury​
Cause of wrongful conviction: Perjury​

Ben Kiper was convicted of sexually abusing his stepdaughter and sentenced to 55 years in 1999.  He served six years before he was released based on new evidence.

Kiper was charged with Rape and Sexual Abuse after his stepdaughter supposedly told her mother, Kiper’s wife, that Kiper had abused her two years earlier.. The allegations were raised during a custody hearing between Kiper’s wife and the stepdaughter’s father.  There was no physical evidence or other evidence that any abuse had occurred.
 
Shortly after Kiper’s conviction, his stepdaugther was placed in a children’s hospital. During her stay, she told care providers that the accusations were false and that her stepmother had told her what to say to law enforcement and the court. The girl, at age 15, testified in an evidentiary hearing about why she made the allegations and what her father and stepmother had threatened to do if she did not say what they told her to say.

Recanted testimony is not readily accepted by the courts in Kentucky but in Kiper’s case there was no other proof that the abuse had ever even happened. With no other evidence against Kiper, the trial court granted him a new trial and the indictment was dismissed through an agreed order in 2006.​ ​
 

Tim Smith

Cause of Convication: Sodomy
County: Kenton
Trial/Plea: Trial
Race: ​White
Year 2000
Sentence: 20
Time Served: 7
Date Sentence Vacated: May 5, 2006
Reason Sentence Vacated: Perjury​
Cause of wrongful conviction: False expert testimony; Perjury​


Denarrius Terry

Cause of Convication: ​Murder; Robbery; Wanton Endangerment
County: ​Logan
Trial/Plea: ​Trial
Race: African-American​
Year ​2003
Sentence: 45
Time Served: 4.5
Date Sentence Vacated: January 20, 2005 (conviction reversed); September 2, 2005 (acquittal on retrial)
Reason Sentence Vacated: Principal evidence at trial was not subject to cross-examination​
Cause of wrongful conviction: Unreliable witness testimony


Herman May

Cause of Convication: ​Rape; Sodomy
County: ​​Franklin
Trial/Plea: Trial
Race: White
Year 1988
Sentence: 40
Time Served: 13.5
Date Sentence Vacated: September 18, 2002​
Reason Sentence Vacated: ​DNA testing; Improper ID
Cause of wrongful conviction: Eyewitness misidentification

May was convicted of rape and sodomy and received a 20 year sentence in 1990. He was exonerated in 2002, after serving 13 years, more than 50% of his sentence.

The victim in May’s case described her attacker to police immediately after the rape occurred.  She described a man in his 20’s or early 30’s that had long, greasy dark brown hair.   Later, at the hospital, she gave the same information but described his hair as chocolate brown.  May did not fit either description – he had striking red hair and was only 18 when the rape occurred.  After May was arrested for another matter, the investigating detective called the victim, who was in California on a pre-planned vacation.  The detective asked the victim if he could fly to California to show her a photo lineup.  She agreed, the detective flew to California and showed the victim a photo lineup that included May’s picture.  The victim first picked three from the lineup as looking like the man that attacked her.  She finally picked May from those three and later identified May in court. 

After all other avenues were exhausted; KIP recovered the physical evidence and sought requested DNA testing. After the initial tests excluded May, the Commonwealth requested testing on all of the physical evidence. After months of testing, the Franklin Circuit Court ruled that if the results were presented to a new jury that a different verdict was likely, ordered May’s immediate release from prison, and granted him a new trial.  In spite of inconsistency between the victim’s description at the time of the offense and Mr. May’s appearance, and the fact that the DNA evidence points to an unidentified third party as the attacker, Franklin County prosecutors continue to maintain that May is the guilty party. 

Larry Osborne

Cause of Convication: Murder (x2); Arson; Burglary; Robbery
County: ​Whitley
Trial/Plea: ​Trial
Race: ​White
Year 1999
Sentence: Death
Time Served: 4
Date Sentence Vacated: April 26, 2001 (conviction reversed); August 8, 2002 (acquittal on retrial)
Reason Sentence Vacated: Principal evidence at trial was not subject to cross-examination
Cause of wrongful conviction: Reliance on coerced testimony of a juvenile witness​

On December 14, 1997, the mother of 17-year-old Larry Osborne reported to the police that her son had heard the sound of breaking glass coming from the direction of the Davenport home. He heard this sound while riding a motorbike nearby with his 15-year-old friend, Joe Reid. 
The police determined that an intruder had broken a window before entering the home, and brought Reid in for questioning. Reid initially denied any involvement in the crime, but after 4-hours, he changed his statement and implicated Osborne. Forty minutes of the interrogation tape is mysteriously missing from the police records. In the moments following the missing portion of the tape, police assure Reid that the prosecutors will be told that he cooperated. To this, Reid responded, “Is this going to get me out of all this stuff.” Reid was taken before the grand jury where he implicated Osborne.
Reid passed away prior to trial and there was no other evidence connecting Osborne to the murder. The judge allowed Joe Reid’s Grand Jury testimony to be played to the trial jury. Prosecutors further contended that Osborne could not have heard breaking glass over the sound of the motorbike. Osborne was convicted and sentenced to death. He was the youngest person on Kentucky’s death row.
In 2001, Osborne’s conviction was overturned by the Kentucky Supreme Court, ruling that the admission of the grand jury testimony violated Osborne’s 6th Amendment right to cross-examine his accuser. Osborne was retried in 2002 where his defense team presented the testimony of a sound engineer who showed it was possible for Osborne to hear glass breaking while on a motorbike, some distance away. Osborne was acquitted and released from custody. 

William Gregory

Cause of Convication: ​Rape; Attempted Rape; Burglary
County: ​Jefferson
Trial/Plea: Trial
Race: African-American
Year ​1993
Sentence: ​70
Time Served: ​7
Date Sentence Vacated: July 5, 2000
Reason Sentence Vacated: ​Cross-Racial ID; Fabricated Hair Comparison
Cause of wrongful conviction: Eyewitness misidentification; invalidated forensic science

William Gregory was convicted of one count of Rape, one count of Attempted Rape, and one count of Burglary, in conjunction with two attempted or completed rapes which occurred at the apartment complex where he lived.  He was sentenced to seventy years, and served seven years in prison before being exonerated by the Innocence Project (NY).

Prior to trial, both victims identified Mr. Gregory as her attacker, the second victim through a show-up procedure.  Forensic evidence consisted of hairs found in the stocking cap worn and left behind by the assailant. A forensic analyst testified that the hairs were of Negroid origin, that they shared "unusual characteristics" with Gregory's hairs, which the examiner had never seen before except in cattle.  As a result of these unusual characteristics the examiner testified that the hairs were "more than likely" from Gregory.

After his appeal was denied, the Innocence Project located the evidence in his case and arranged to have the hairs in the stocking cap tested using mitochondrial DNA testing, which at the time was a relatively new form of DNA testing. Gregory was excluded after this DNA testing established excluded him as a possible contributor to the hairs found in the stocking cap.

When Mr. Gregory was released in 2000, he became the first person to be exonerated by mitochondrial testing alone and the first inmate to be exonerated based on DNA testing in Kentucky.  Well after his exoneration, in 2009, the National Academy of Sciences report found a total absence of evidence establishing the statistical reliability of hair comparison evidence.  The report pointed to one FBI study found a “false positive” rate of 12.5%, meaning that in more than 1 out of every 10 cases, trained hair analysts found hair to be a “match” when DNA evidence established that it was not.  Mr. Gregory was clearly a victim of that phenomenon.​ ​
 

Michael VonAllmen

Cause of Convication: Rape, Sodomy, Robberty
County: Jefferson
Trial/Plea: Trial
Race: White
Year 1983
Sentence: 35 years
Time Served: 11 years (paroled 1994)
Date Sentence Vacated: May 4, 2010
Reason Sentence Vacated: Evidence that another person committed the offense
Cause of wrongful conviction: Eyewitness Misidentification

​Michael VonAllmen was convicted in 1983 of a rape committed in a Jefferson County park.   He served 11 years in prison and 16 years on parole before finally being exonerated in 2010.

The rape for which VonAllmen was convicted was extremely similar to another rape which had been committed in the same location approximately four years earlier.  The suspect in that case, who died in a car crash around the time VonAllmen was convicted, looked remarkably similar to VonAllmen.  The most significant difference in their appearance is that the alternative suspect fit the victim’s description as having blue eyes (VonAllmen’s eyes are brown). 

Investigation by the Kentucky Innocence Project established that VonAllmen could not have been at the crime scene at the time of the offense.  A Jefferson County judge dismissed VonAllmen’s conviction, stating that the evidence shows he did not commit the crimes.


Kerry Porter

Cause of Convication: Murder
County: Jefferson
Trial/Plea: Trial
Race: African-American
Year 1996
Sentence: 60 years
Time Served: 14 years
Date Sentence Vacated: December 19, 2011
Reason Sentence Vacated: Evidence that another person committed the offense
Cause of wrongful conviction: Eyewitness misidentification

​Porter was convicted of the 1996 shooting death of his ex-girlfriend’s husband where the only evidence left at the crime scene was the remnants of a homemade silencer. Porter’s conviction was based solely on the testimony of an eyewitness who identified Porter a month after the crime when the victim’s brother showed him a picture; another witness who saw the shooter flee the scene told police that he could not possibly identify the perpetrator and no physical evidence tied Porter to the murder. Additionally, the Judge blocked defense attorneys from telling the jury that there was another suspect in the case. 

In 2010, hope was renewed for Porter’s case when an informant/cooperating witness for the government, told a detective and two prosecutors that Porter was innocent and another man was the real perpetrator. However, this testimony was withheld from Porter’s defense attorneys.  The only eyewitness also recanted his testimony, stating that Porter should be freed.

DNA testing was not readily available and/or reliable at the time of Porter's trial, prompting the Kentucky Innocence Project to request testing be completed on the silencer.  In 2011, DNA analysts were able to identify a male and female DNA profile from the silencer and Kerry Porter's DNA was excluded as being a contributor. 

With help from the Kentucky Innocence Project, Porter’s case was finally re-examined by Sgt. Denny Butler of the Louisville Metro Police Department’s cold-case unit. Multiple interviews were conducted with witnesses, and they all stated that another man committed the murder. Consequently, two likely alternate suspects have been identified in the case.  In December of 2011, a Circuit Court judge ordered the 1998 indictment against Porter to be dismissed.​ 


Susan Jean King

Cause of Convication: Manslaughter
County: Spencer
Trial/Plea: Plea
Race: White
Year 2008
Sentence: 10 Years
Time Served: 6 Years
Date Sentence Vacated: October 9, 2014
Reason Sentence Vacated: Evidence that another person committed the offense​
Cause of wrongful conviction: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel; Police Misconduct

Susan King holding a dog

​In 1998 Susan King’s ex-boyfriend was shot twice and his body was dumped from the Gratz Bridge into the Kentucky River. King was then 38 years old, 108 pound female whose left leg had been amputated from the hip down. Kentucky State Police investigated and pursued many leads, interviewed over 40 people, and reconstructed Breeden’s movements on the day that he disappeared, however, Breeden’s murder remained unsolved. During the initial investigation in 1998, King was a suspect, but was not arrested after the chief detective determined she was not involved. In 2006 Detective Todd Harwood re-opened the cold case. Harwood decided that King had killed Breeden in her kitchen, then tied him up and scooted along the floor of her home, put his body in the trunk of her car and thereafter dump the body into the river. Harwood perjured himself during his testimony before the grand jury regarding forensic evidence, telephone activity between King and Breeden and neglected to tell grand jurors about her amputation. The grand jury indicted King for murder and tampering with physical evidence in 2007.   King entered a guilty plea pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25 (1970), to the amended charge of Manslaughter, 2nd degree with a sentence of ten (10) years, and to the charge of Tampering with Physical Evidence with a sentence of five (5) years.  The sentences in King’s two cases were run concurrent, for a total of ten (10) years. 

The Kentucky Innocence Project investigated King’s case, assisted by law students from the University of Kentucky School of Law. In 2012 KIP was contacted by Louisville Metro Police Detective Barron Morgan, who had arrested Richard Jarrell for the attempted murder of a confidential informant. Jarrell volunteered to confess to two Jefferson County murders in addition to the Breeden murder in exchange for a lighter sentence for his brother.  He then confessed, in vivid detail, to killing Kyle Breeden on Jarrell’s 21st birthday. The confession evidenced knowledge of the murder that only the killer could have known. Jarrell stated that he was aware that a woman had been convicted of Breeden’s murder, and that she was currently incarcerated for the crime. 

Harwood interviewed Jarrell days later, and claimed he had recorded the conversation, but that later he had lost the recording. Morgan thereafter recorded a conversation with Jarrell where he claimed that Harwood told him he would not get help for his brother and that the case against King was airtight. Harwood advised Jarrell that Susan only had a couple of years left on her sentence. After Harwood’s interview of Jarrell, Jarrell ceased cooperating and did not disclose information about the other two (2) unsolved murders he committed in Jefferson County. Harwood was subsequently ordered to only have contact with Jarrell if a Supervisor was present. 

A hearing was held on KIP’s motion for a new trial. The circuit court denied the motion, believing that because King had entered a plea, she was not entitled to a new trial. KIP appealed that decision and in 2014 the Kentucky Court of Appeals overturned the decision and ordered a new trial. Finally, on October 9, 2014, the Commonwealth of Kentucky dismissed all of the charges against King. King now lives close to her family and has adopted a poodle mix dog named Emmy. ​ ​