It's like something Kafka would have written.
A condemned prisoner’s attorneys uncover proof pointing to their client’s innocence: Ballistics experts say the bullets in his gun couldn’t make the wound in the dead man, and a key prosecution witness admits lying to the jury. But the state’s highest law-enforcement officer insists it’s too late for new evidence, and a succession of judges agrees that guilt or innocence is irrelevant at this stage of the proceedings. All refuse to reconsider the death sentence.
Welcome to the waking nightmare of Philip Workman.
Unless Gov. Don Sundquist grants clemency, Workman will die in the state’s electric chair on April 6 for the 1981 murder of Memphis Police Lt. Ronald Oliver.
It’s hard for the public to sympathize with Workman. By robbing a Wendy’s restaurant for drug money, he created the circumstances that led to Oliver’s death. But Workman has spent 19 years in prison for this robbery. He doesn’t deserve to die for it.
On the night of the killing, a Wendy’s employee tripped a silent alarm, and when Workman tried to flee the restaurant, the police were waiting. Workman fired his gun at them, and Oliver was killed by a through-and-through shot to his chest.
At his trial, Workman’s lawyers presented no evidence that the fatal bullet could not have come from Workman’s gun. They presented no evidence that Harold Davis, the only witness who testified that he saw Workman shoot Oliver, wasn’t even present at the Wendy’s that night.
Two experts now have submitted sworn statements that Workman’s bullets.45-caliber hollow-pointscouldn’t have made the fatal wound. And Davis, a drifter with a criminal record, now has recanted his testimony and told Workman’s new attorneys that the police pressured him into committing perjury.
Workman’s lawyers believe one of the other policemen at the Wendy’s shot Oliver by accident and that police framed Workman to cover up for that cop.
Oliver’s daughter and five of Workman’s jurors now say Workman shouldn’t be executed. So does Tennessee Supreme Court Justice A.A. Birch. He dissented from the court majority that set Workman’s latest execution date.
But state Attorney General Paul Summers seems more interested in executing Workman than in finding the truth. He has insisted throughout Workman’s appeals that procedural rules bar courts from hearing Workman’s new evidence. In one media interview, he said it didn’t matter whether Workman actually killed Oliver. Workman still would be guilty of a capital offense under the state’s felony-murder statute, Summers said.
But that’s far from definite, as Summers certainly should know. Under that statute, as it has been applied in the past, the bullet that killed Oliver must have come from Workman’s gun or from the gun of an accomplice. If another policeman killed Oliver, it would take an expansion of the statute’s present meaning to fit the circumstances of Workman’s case.
Even if Workman did kill Oliver, the murder clearly isn’t heinous enough to demand the death penalty. We urge the governor to commute Workman’s sentence to help restore sanity to the justice system.
Do you have any idea of if chidren'education are effected by growing up in Tennesse…
Some things are not meant to be. Check out the history of the college football…
>Today's fish wrapper contains an op-ed piece from Lt. Gov. >Ron Ramsey, in which the…
Can we follow Nelson Mandela on this one? Restitution and reconciliation should be the goal…
Have to put all the blame on the Democrat party leaders who failed miserably in…