At age 73, Rodney Lincoln became a free man after serving 36 years and 9 days in prison for a crime he did not commit. He was taken away from his family, especially, his four children, missing almost 4 decades of moments as a father and grandfather. Now, though free, justice for Mr. Lincoln falls short -- He will receive zero compensation for the years taken from him.
Rodney Lincoln was wrongfully convicted of the April 27, 1982 murder of JoAnn Tate and an attack on her two young daughters. After Lincoln’s first trial resulted in a hung jury, he was convicted in a second trial after the City of St. Louis presented evidence of then seven-year-old MD's identification and a hair found at the crime scene, which the prosecutor said “matched” Lincoln’s. DNA testing of the hair later proved it was not Lincoln’s. Further, MD, the only eyewitness in the case, recanted her identification of Mr. Lincoln and advocated for Mr. Lincoln’s exoneration and release. Additional documents previously withheld by the State later revealed that her identification of Lincoln was manipulated by the state.
After an evidentiary hearing on March 17-18, 2016 in Cole County (Mo.), Circuit Judge Daniel Green denied Lincoln’s petition for habeas relief on June 16, 2016, four months after the hearing. Lincoln's legal team at the Midwest Innocence Project (MIP) then filed a motion for the transfer of Lincoln’s case to the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri in December 2016, after the Missouri Court of Appeals (Western District) denied a motion to rehear or transfer the case. “Because the Missouri Supreme Court has not recognized a freestanding claim of actual innocence in cases where the death penalty has not been imposed, we are not at liberty to expand Missouri habeas jurisprudence to permit consideration of the claim in this case,” Appellate Judge Cynthia L. Martin wrote in the court’s ruling.
“I can’t imagine a judicial system where innocence is not a ground for relief from a conviction,” said Sean O’Brien, founder of the Midwest Innocence Project and professor at the University of Missouri (Kansas City) School of Law. “We’re still trying to wrap our heads around that.”
On December 5, 2016, MD, wrote this letter
asking Governor Nixon for Mr. Lincoln’s release. Governor Nixon did not grant this request, but 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 nearly four decades in prison. “Mr. Lincoln walks out of prison a free and innocent man, whether the courts recognize it or not,” said MIP Executive Director, Tricia Bushnell.
In an interview shortly after his release, when asked if he has any words for his supporters, Mr. Lincoln said “God bless each and every one of you - and thank you so much - for giving me the strength to go on. I’ll never forget.”
(Read this poem by Mr. Lincoln
.) Now, he needs our help building a life and making up for lost time.
Please donate now and share this fundraiser to help Mr. Lincoln rebuild his life. The proceeds of this GoFundMe will go directly to Mr. Lincoln. www.gofundme.com/RodneyLincolnFinallyFree