The Daily Beast says that a man scheduled for execution tomorrow in Georgia has already been proven innocent by DNA testing.
In 1986, Carlton Michael Gary was identified in a courtroom by a 71-year-old rape and assault victim as her perpetrator. Gary was on trial for a series of crimes committed by the “stocking strangler,” who was a serial killer in Columbus, Georgia that murdered and raped seven elderly white women in 1977 and 1978.
Defense attorneys at the time suggested the witness’s recollection of the perpetrator’s identity may not be reliable. Nevertheless, Gary was convicted and sentenced to death for three of the seven rapes and murders that all followed the same modus operandi. The victims were Martha Thurmond, Florence Scheible and Kathleen Woodruff.
Prosecutors assured the public and jury they had the right guy, as Gary’s fingerprints were found at three of the homes where the attacks took place.
Now 67, Gary will die of lethal injection unless he is granted a stay.
DNA testing has revealed that semen recovered from sheets and clothes of the victim who identified Gary in court as the strangler did not come from Gary. This means that if the witness was attacked by the strangler, just as the other victims were, that Gary is not guilty of the crimes he’s been sentenced to death for.
While defense attorneys are asking the Supreme Court to save Gary’s life, prosecutors have argued that since Gary was not actually charged and convicted of raping the victim where the sample came from that it does not affect his sentence.
However, an additional DNA sample obtained from a woman who Gary was convicted of raping and murdering was contaminated and rendered useless just before testing it, seemingly by smearing their own semen on it to create a “control sample.” Defense attorneys argue that this occurrence demonstrated either deliberate sabotage or negligence so severe that Gary should be granted a new trial.
For several years, The Daily Beast says that authorities claimed there weren’t even any viable DNA samples to test in the cases. One of the former prosecutors on the case even testified in 1994 that the slides and samples from the cases were all destroyed, but this was false, as they were all in the evidence room at the Columbus Police Department.
The Georgia Supreme Court granted Gary a stay just hours before his original execution date in 2009. Prosecutors subsequently fought to halt any DNA testing in the case but failed.
Other evidence found at the crime scenes that suggest Gary’s innocence include footprints that were five sizes smaller than Gary’s and bite marks on the victims that did not match his teeth.
*Photo credit The Daily Beast