Rodney and his daughter Kay

Rodney Lincoln was wrongfully convicted of the murder of JoAnn Tate and an attack on her two young daughters that occurred on April 27, 1982. At trial, Mr. Lincoln presented a solid alibi defense, however, the State relied on now discredited forensic evidence and the suggestive identification of a traumatized young victim to secure his conviction. For over 36 years, Mr. Lincoln has maintained his innocence. Mr. Lincoln recently wrote a poem about the time he’s spent as an innocent man in prison.

Mr. Lincoln was convicted in part because of the testimony of a crime lab analyst who testified that a hair found on a blanket at the crime scene “matched” Mr. Lincoln’s hair. DNA testing conducted over a decade later determined that the hair did not come from Mr. Lincoln. The surviving victim, M.D. (referred to by her initials to protect her privacy), the only eyewitness in the case, has since recanted her identification of Mr. Lincoln and supports his exoneration and release. Additional documents previously withheld by the State now reveal that on several occasions, social workers and state actors also collaborated with the prosecutor’s office to prepare M.D. for trial, including identifying the chair where ‘the Bad Man’ would sit and rehearsing M.D.’s testimony.

rodney and sons (from kay)

Rodney and his sons

The Midwest Innocence Project now represents Mr. Lincoln in his last hope for freedom. On June 16, 2016, Judge Green of the Cole County Circuit Court denied Mr. Lincoln relief on his claims of innocence. The decision came just one day after Judge Green denied Mr. Lincoln furlough to attend the funeral of his 23-year-old granddaughter who had been shot and killed earlier that week. On July 12, 2016, MIP filed an appeal with the Western District of Missouri. The Court of Appeals denied relief on October 11, 2016, finding that innocence is not a claim in non-death penalty cases.

On December 5, 2016, M.D. asked Governor Nixon for Mr. Lincoln’s release. Read her letter asking for clemency. Governor Nixon did not grant this request. On June 1, 2018, outgoing Governor Eric Greitens reviewed that same application and made the decision to commute Lincoln’s sentence to “time served,” releasing him after 36 years, 9 days in prison. “Mr. Lincoln walks out of prison a free and innocent man, whether the courts recognize it or not,” said
Tricia Bushnell, MIP Executive Director. “This is a big step toward justice, but until his conviction is overturned, justice is yet again denied.” Read the press release.

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