Judge Rules that DNA Results Do Not Exonerate Midwest Innocence Project Client


In a ruling issued on Christmas Eve, St. Louis Circuit Judge Robin Vannoy said that post-conviction DNA results of hair evidence found at a crime scene do not provide sufficient enough proof to exonerate Rodney Lincoln of murder and sexual assault. Lincoln has served nearly 30 years in prison after being convicted of the rape and murder of a 35-year-old mother and the physical and sexual assault of her two daughters. Lincoln maintains that he is innocent. 

According to the

St. Louis-Post Dispatch

, Lincoln was arrested in April 1982 just two days after JoAnn Tate was found dead in her St. Louis, Missouri, apartment. She had been stabbed and sexually assaulted. Her two young daughters, Melissa and Rene, were with her. Melissa had been stabbed 10 times and Rene’s throat had been cut open. Both girls survived. In photo and live lineups, the young victims identified Lincoln as the attacker.  

Lincoln went to trial twice.  The first resulted in a hung jury. At the second trial, the prosecution presented expert testimony which said that a hair sample recovered from Tate’s blanket matched Lincoln’s hair. Based on the expert testimony and the girls’ positive identification of Lincoln as the attacker, Lincoln was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences plus 15 years. 



reports that in 2003, the office of Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce chose Lincoln’s case as one of six cases — from among 1,400 pre-DNA-era convictions — for post-conviction DNA testing, but later “reversed its support once more was learned about the evidence available for testing.”  At that point, the Midwest Innocence Project took on the case to ensure that the testing would be conducted. After showing that the expert testimony regarding the hair analysis was wrong and that the hair sample found at the crime scene did not belong to Lincoln, attorneys at the Project had additional evidence tested, with the aim to get Lincoln released and exonerated. The results showed no male DNA, only that of the victims. In a ruling released on Thursday, Judge Vannoy said that the test results are not enough to prove Lincoln’s innocence.

Prosecutors on the case argue that it wasn’t physical evidence, but the girls’ eyewitness identification that “sealed Lincoln’s conviction,” reports the


. But Lincoln’s attorneys assert that the identifications were unintentionally fed to the young girls by detectives who were eager to pin down the attacker. 

Lincoln’s daughter, Kay, told the


, “The decision was not what we wanted. . . . It was disappointing, but we’ll just carry on to the next step.” Laura O’Sullivan, legal director at the Midwest Innocence Project, said they will appeal the ruling.

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