Sunday, 29 April 2007

USA (Tennessee) Philip Workman (m), aged 53

- From Amnesty International USA

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27 April 2007

UA 100/07
Death penalty/ Legal concern

USA (Tennessee) Philip Workman (m), aged 53

Philip Workman, white, is scheduled to be executed in
Tennessee on 9 May despite compelling evidence that a
key state witness lied at the trial and that the
police officer Workman was convicted of killing may
have been accidentally shot by a fellow officer. If
so, Philip Workman would be innocent of capital murder
and ineligible for the death penalty under US law. He
has been on death row for 25 years. He has been
scheduled for execution a number of times, and in 2001
was less than an hour from execution when a court
issued a stay.

Philip Workman was convicted of the murder of
Lieutenant Ronald Oliver in the course of robbing a
Memphis restaurant on 5 August 1981. Lt Oliver and two
other officers were first to arrive at the scene.
Philip Workman testified at his 1982 trial that as he
ran from the police, he fell, attempted to surrender,
and was struck on the head by an officer. Gunfire
erupted, and Lt Oliver was killed by a single bullet.
At the trial, the two surviving police officers
testified that they had not fired their weapons, but
admitted that they had not seen Workman shoot Oliver.
An alleged eyewitness, Harold Davis, said that he was
standing 10 feet (three meters) away and saw Workman
shoot the officer. The defense lawyers conducted no
forensic or ballistics analysis and did not
investigate Harold Davis. At the sentencing, they
presented no mitigating evidence.

Philip Workman has never denied responsibility for the
robbery that led to Lt Oliver being killed, and has
not denied firing his gun. Since the trial, however,
evidence has emerged which seriously undermines
confidence in the jury's verdict. The prosecution's
key eyewitness, Harold Davis, has retracted his
testimony. The results of a polygraph test reportedly
support his recantation. So does other evidence. No
one, including police officers or civilians, saw Davis
at the scene and his car was not where he claimed to
have parked it. An eyewitness has come forward to say
that at least one of the other officers fired his gun.
This is corroborated by the first police reports,
which stated that ''officers'' had fired their

A nationally renowned forensic pathologist, Dr Cyril
Wecht, has concluded that the bullet that killed Lt
Oliver did not come from Philip Workman's gun. He
bases this conclusion on the fact that the bullets in
Workman's gun were of a type that expand when they
strike a body, and therefore tend not to exit the
body. The bullet that killed Lt Oliver exited his
body, leaving an exit wound smaller than the entrance
wound. Dr Wecht's testimony in 2001 has not been
refuted by evidence presented by the prosecution in
any court.

At the trial, the prosecution presented the bullet
that it said killed Lt Oliver. An employee from a
nearby car parts dealer, Terry Willis, testified that
on the day after the shooting, he found the bullet in
the car park (in the middle of the crime scene that
had been searched the night before). He testified that
he had thought it was a ball bearing and put it in a
toolbox, before considering that it might have
something to do with shooting and calling the police.
However, at a 2001 clemency hearing, a former police
lieutenant said that he, not Willis, had found the
bullet that supposedly killed Lt Oliver. Workman's
appeal lawyers also claim that a digitally enhanced
crime scene photo shows an evidence cup turned upside
down on the car park between the restaurant and the
car parts dealer. However, neither the evidence cup
nor the item it marked appear in the crime scene
diagram, raising questions about whether another
bullet was found that was not revealed at trial.

In 2000, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
voted on whether to grant Philip Workman a hearing on
the new evidence. Workman required a majority vote to
prevail; the hearing was denied after the vote was
tied at seven votes to seven. In 2004, a judge on the
Tennessee Supreme Court stated that Workman had raised
''valid legal issues'' concerning whether the death of
Lt Oliver was the ''result of 'friendly fire' and not
his own unlawful acts''. Specifically, proof that the
'eyewitness' did not see Workman shoot the officer and
proof that the wound which caused the officer's death
is inconsistent with the type of wound which would
have been caused by a bullet from Workman's gun
dramatically affect the evidence in this case and, in
my opinion, may affect his eligibility for the death
penalty''. Several jurors from the original trial have
stated that they would not have voted for a
first-degree murder conviction or a death sentence if
they had been presented with the evidence that has
emerged since the trial. In 2000, with Philip
Workman's execution looming, the daughters of both Lt
Oliver and Philip Workman united at a press conference
to appeal for clemency. The former District Attorney
of Shelby County, the office which prosecuted Philip
Workman, came forward in 2000 to oppose the execution
because of the post-conviction evidence.

A newly published study, conducted under the auspices
of the American Bar Association (ABA), which takes no
position for or against the death penalty per se, has
found that ''Tennessee's death penalty is plagued with
serious problems''. Among these problems, the study
found, were inadequate procedures to address innocence
claims, inadequate qualification and performance
standards for defense counsel, lack of transparency in
the clemency process, and racial and geographic
disparities in capital sentencing.

Across the USA, legal challenges to the
constitutionality of lethal injection procedures
continue amidst evidence that they do not guarantee
the ''humane'' and painless death that the proponents
of lethal injection claim. On 1 February 2007,
Tennessee's Governor, Phil Bredesen, issued a
statement noting that the state authorities had
''identified deficiencies with our written procedures
that raise concerns that they are not adequate to
preclude mistakes''. In order ''to ensure that no
cloud hangs over the state's actions in the future'',
he said, he issued an executive order suspending
executions while the Department of Correction
conducted a ''comprehensive review'' of Tennessee's
execution procedures. The Commissioner of Correction
is due to report back to the governor by 2 May, only
days before Philip Workman is due to be put to death.

In any event, ''a cloud hangs over'' Tennessee's use
of the death penalty, as shown in the new ABA report,
and as illustrated in Philip Workman's case. The UN
Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of
Those Facing the Death Penalty prohibit execution in
cases where there is a lack of ''clear and convincing
evidence'' of the inmate's guilt ''leaving no room for
an alternative explanation of the facts.'' This is
clearly a case where execution would contravene this
standard. Amnesty International opposes the death
penalty unconditionally. The USA has executed 1,072
men and women since resuming judicial killing in 1977.
Tennessee accounts for two of these executions.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as
quickly as possible in your own words:

- expressing sympathy for the family, friends and
colleagues of Lieutenant Ronald Oliver;

- expressing deep concern that Philip Ray Workman is
facing execution on the basis of apparently perjured
testimony from the only alleged eyewitness to the

- noting expert forensic evidence that the fatal wound
was not caused by Philip Workman's bullet;

- noting that several jurors have said that they would
not have voted to convict Philip Workman of
first-degree murder, let alone vote for a death
sentence, if they had been presented with the evidence
that has emerged since the trial;

- noting that seven federal judges voted that there
should be a federal evidentiary hearing in this case,
and noting that a Tennessee Supreme Court judge has
questioned Workman's eligibility for the death

- noting the findings of the study conducted under the
auspices of the American Bar Association, including
Tennessee's inadequate procedures for addressing
claims of innocence;

- calling for Philip Workman's death sentence to be

- appealing to Governor Bredesen to extend his
moratorium on executions, at least to allow full
review of the Department of Correction's findings on
the state's execution protocols.


Governor Phil Bredesen
Office of the Governor
State Capitol
Nashville, TN 37243-0001.
Fax: 1 615 532 9711
Salutation: Dear Governor


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