Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Familiar Themes in New Innocence Panel Case

Kenneth Kagonyera
In Asheville, the Innocence Commission is hearing the claims of Kenneth Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxson, who say they are not guilty of the 2000 murder of Walter Rodney Bowman.

A bandanna was found at the crime scene, believed to have been worn in the robbery-murder. SBI Lab agent Mark Boodee tested the bandanna, which came up with DNA that did not belong to Mr. Kagonyera or Mr. Wilcoxson. Agent Boodee testified that he passed this information on to the DA Ron Moore, who didn't share it with the defense. Both men pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty, under advice from their lawyers.

Robert Wilcoxson
Years later, in 2003, Robert Rutherford snitched in a federal case, offering up that he was involved the in the robbery murder with Bradford Summey, and Lacy Pickens. Despite in-court assertions otherwise, for years the state and DA Moore dragged its feet and failed to test the bandanna DNA against Rutherford, Summey, and Pickens. The bandanna DNA was finally tested, and matched Summey (who was killed by a police officer in 2006 in an unrelated incident).

What's striking is yet another incident of crucial, exonerating evidence being withheld from the defense. Now, 10 years later, the commission must decide whether or not to right that wrong by making a finding of innocence. The panel is hearing this and other evidence in Asheville to make that decision.


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