Friday, 31 October 2008

The 3 "credible" key witnesses of one Florida innocence case

Following Kathy Stevens report that she witnessed Mr.
Tompkins’ strangling Lisa at around 8:30 AM, Mrs. DeCarr was able
to remember that contrary to her earlier statements that she had
left the house before 8:30 AM, and at that time Mr. Tompkins was
still there, as was Lisa.

This statement contradicted Mr. DeCarr’s prior statements to police. Previously, her recollection
was that Mr. Tompkins left to take one of her sons to school and
Mrs. DeCarr’s shifting the time line of her account was
necessary because her previous story made Kathy’s story
impossible (between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM, Barbara had said she was
home and Mr. Tompkins wasn’t and that he did not return to the
house until after 10:00 AM, while Kathy said before going to
school at 8:30 AM or so she saw Mr. Tompkins was assaulting Lisa
on the couch).
Although it presented eight witnesses at trial, the State
advised the jury that “the key testimony will come from three []
witnesses”--Barbara DeCarr (the victim's mother), Kathy Stevens
(the victim’s best friend), and Kenneth Turco (the jailhouse
snitch)--and that “[t]hose three will provide the overwhelming
evidence” that Mr. Tompkins killed Lisa DeCarr on the morning of
March 24, 1983 (R. 108).
The jury did not learn of the information provided Mrs.
DeCarr and Wendy Chancey to a police officer regarding their
observations of Lisa on the afternoon of March 24, 1983, which
was inconsistent with the testimony of Kathy Stevens, Barbara
DeCarr, and Kenneth Turco.
According to an undated typed statement of Mrs. DeCarr that was provided to the
police before Kathy Stevens claimed to have witnessed Mr.
Tompkins strangling Lisa. In that statement, Mrs. DeCarr said,
“Wayne had taken Jamie (my youngest son) to school just before
8:00 a.m. and then went to his mother’s house for breakfast and
coffee. He stayed at his mother’s house until approximately 10:00
a.m. when he left to get some newspapers to pack dishes with.”
wasn’t home when she left after 9:00 AM.12
At trial,13 Wendy Chancey was unavailable and defense
counsel was precluded from cross-examining Mrs. DeCarr regarding
the statements attributed to her in the March 24, 1983, police

The State’s theory of the case was outlined in its
opening statement. According to the State, Wayne Tompkins and

At the 1989 hearing, the trial prosecutor, Mike Benito,
confirmed that his theory was that the offense occurred at about
9:30 or 10:00 a.m. on that date (PC-R. 87).
Mrs. DeCarr were boyfriend and girlfriend in March of 1983. Mr.
Tompkins was living with DeCarr, along with her three children,
including 15-year old Lisa (R. 107-08). On the morning of March
24, 1983, Barbara went to Mr. Tompkins’ mother’s house to help
her move; before she left the house between 8:30 and 9:00 AM, she
checked in on Lisa, who was in bed and was wearing a pink
bathrobe (R. 110). After Barbara left, Kathy arrived somewhere
between 8:30 and 9:00 AM and saw Mr. Tompkins strangling Lisa.15
During Mr. Tompkins’ trial, the prosecutor relied upon
Stevens’ testimony to urge the jury to convict Mr. Tompkins,
arguing, “[h]er testimony alone . . . convicts this man” (R. 346;
see also R. 346-49, 360). The prosecutor relied upon Stevens’
testimony to urge the jury to recommend a death sentence (R. 444-
45). Thereafter, the jury convicted and recommended a sentence of
death. The trial judge relied upon Stevens’ testimony to support
the “committed during a felony” aggravating circumstance (R.
In the course of the collateral proceedings, withheld
exculpatory evidence has surfaced, along with witnesses and
documents that were not presented by the defense which
demonstrate that Kathy’s story - the basis of the prosecution’s
theory of the case - could have been thoroughly impeached and
shown to not be true.

For example, in 2001, the State disclosed a
June 8, 1984, police report concerning an interview of an
individual named Maureen Sweeney taken on June 8, 1984, at 2130

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