On August 11, 2002, we received the following e-mail. So many cases of wrongfully imprisoned people have surfaced since ordinary people gained access to the Internet it is virtually impossible to keep track.
Here in the home of David Milgaard (population less than a million) where we know for sure there is at least one other wrongful conviction of murder (Leon Walchuk), we are not surprised that there may be several hundred such cases on this continent. It is discouraging to realize that in Texas, Florida and other southern states, new wrongful convictions are proliferating faster than old ones are exposed -- Sheila Steele
Below is the case of Ronnie Lee Wilson which we are in the process of re-investigating.
Ronnie Lee Wilson is serving a 66 year sentence and co-defendant Alvin Kelly was convicted of capital murder and is now on Death Row. Kelly is waiting on a response to his federal habeas petition. If the petition is denied, his execution date will be set.
The facts of the case, when viewed objectively, demonstrate clear evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. The close examination of Wilson's case has revealed serious inconsistencies and purposeful omissions which have convinced us the the testimony used to convict Wilson was completely false. I am hoping the case will be of interest to you and suitable for posting on your site.
The case came to me indirectly through a student who met an acquaintance of Wilson's. They asked if I would look over the material they had, which I did as a totally objective outside source. I approached the project with all due journalistic skepticism, thoroughly prepared for the possibility that Wilson's professions of innocence were false. After studying the documents, it soon became obvious that there were serious problems in Wilson's trial, the "evidence" presented by the purported "eyewitness" whose testimony comprised the entirety of the prosecution's case, and activity during the investigation and trial phases of the case verging on official criminality. Highlights include:
- Suppression of exculpatory and impeachment evidence (which the Longview Police Dept. recently reported as lost to officials of the Texas AG's Office) - Compelling, credible alibi witnesses and evidence
- Perjured, very likely coerced, testimony by "eyewitnesses"
- Absolutely no forensic evidence linking Wilson, the co-defendant or supposed "eyewitness" to the crime
- Failure to pursue another very promising avenue of investigation on two early suspects and others who had lived in or worked near the trailer preceding the murders
- Refusal to allow a change of venue for a highly publicized and sensational crime
- Refusal to allow impeachment cross examination of critical state witnesses - Errors in charges and directions given to jury and conviction (overturned on appeal)
Recent developments are promising to us. As part of Kelly's federal habeas process, DNA testing was being conducted on the only forensic evidence at the scene, African American hairs which were found on a towel under the the female victim's head (Wilson and all others are Anglo).
We are convinced that the hairs on the towel will provide a link one or both suspects who were arrested shortly after the crime to the crime scene. The men were interviewed but never properly investigated. However, I was told the DA refuses to turn over the hair samples on the towel to Kelly's attorney, though I have not been able to verify that. As a result, Kelly's attorney was only able to test hairs from vacuumings of the house and the stolen truck. Not surprisingly, the samples did not match that one suspect. There are, however, a baker's list of suspects to test against. In addition, a necklace found in the possession of the two initial suspects was also tested, but the lab said it had been "cleaned". It is identical to one owned by the female victim which has never been found. We recently requested DNA testing in Wilson's case and we are hoping we will get a lawyer who will not take no for an answer. Also, we intend to have the necklace re-examined.
It is an involved and complicated case but it has been well researched and there is a mountain of information available. Recent depositions (via Kelly's habeas petition) of the state's primary and secondary witnesses confirmed my suspicions about some of the inconsistencies in Wilson's case and some Brady material affecting both cases. The sisters of the primary witness were also deposed and it appears they are apparently privy to more of the truth than they initially indicated and that they changed their "facts" to reflect the state's case.
With the recent developments on wrongful imprisonment in Texas and the rising concerns about systemic prosecutorial misconduct, this is a timely and topical case. Wilson has spent nearly 10 years in prison (and an additional 2 years in Gregg County Jail prior to trial) for a crime he obviously did not commit.
My contact information is below should you be interested in this case.
Donna J. Strong
Work: Student Publications Office, Del Mar College (after Aug. 19) 101 Baldwin Blvd., Corpus Christi, TX 78404 361/698-1246, e-mail: email@example.com
Home (evenings and prior to Aug. 19): 1237 Cambridge Dr., Corpus Christi, TX 78404 361/851-0596 (also fax), 361/960-4323 (digital) e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
"I never considered him [Ronnie] a violent individual or one capable of committing, or even being present when such a horrendous crime was committed" -- Wilson's trial defense attorney
Editor's Note: Donna Strong teaches English and journalism lab at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. Ronnie Lee Wilson's case was brought to Ms. Strong's attention by a student in her Seminar in Justice class. Her reinvestigation of Mr. Wilson's case has convinced Ms. Strong that Ronnie Lee Wilson is wholly innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. Anyone with information about this case is urged to e-mail Ms. Strong at: email@example.com
Last updated April 22, 2004
The following account highlights inconsistencies and problems with the case against Ronnie Lee Wilson. The facts of the case show that Wilson is wholly innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. Wilson has spent nearly 12 years in prison (and an additional 2 years in custody in Gregg County prior to trial) as the result of a process with serious flaws and omissions. Much of the information was suppressed and only came to light in 1998 during the codefendant's appeal process. More material has been discovered during the federal appeal. Unfortunately, like many of the wrongfully imprisoned, Wilson does not have the financial means to hire a private appellate attorney to take his case before the proper officials.
4/30/84 - Longview Texas: Jerry and Brenda Morgan and their 18-month-old son, Devin, are murdered in their home. The motive for the murders was never determined. Though police and the DA's office tried to link the killings to drug activities during the trials, the Morgans were, by all accounts, law-abiding, decent, hard-working average people with no connections to criminal activity. Nothing of any value was stolen from the house. The only missing items are a gun, some small electronics and household goods; the only missing item of any consequence is a heart-shaped necklace worn by Brenda Morgan. The Morgan's car was taken and found the next morning 30 miles away in Tyler, Texas. No murder weapon was found, and there were no suspect fingerprints at the scene or in the car. The minimal forensic evidence recovered from the scene consisted of African-American hairs found on a towel under Brenda Morgan's head (both defendants are Anglo, as were the victims), and other hair and blood samples, and fingerprints. None of the samples matched the two men convicted of the crime or the prosecution's alleged eyewitness, Cynthia May Kelly (now Cynthia May Cummings). No motive meant there were no readily identifiable suspects and the investigation into the murders quickly went cold.
Winter 1985 -Detective Sgt. Roy Bean of the Longview Police Department (LPD) came across Cynthia May (Kelly) Cummings and her husband at the time, Alvin Kelly. The two had outstanding warrants and Bean arrested them. The investigation into the Morgan murders was still active and all detectives and police personnel were asked to pursue information about the case with all suspects. Cummings apparently volunteered information about her involvement in the murder of the couple's roommate, John Ford, 17 days after the Morgan murders. During this interview with Bean, Cummings also said she had information about the Morgan murders. Bean turned this information over to the two Longview homicide detectives in charge of the Morgan investigation, Henry Mize and Jim Nelson. Bean said neither detective interviewed Cummings after receiving this information. Cummings continued to contact Bean at his office asking if she could get an offer of immunity in the Ford case for information she claimed to have in the Morgan case. However, Bean did not have the authority to promise this. These contacts continued while Cummings was in jail for outstanding warrants and according to Bean, at no time did she mention Ronnie Lee Wilson. Bean said all interviews were taped as per LPD policy. Bean also said he spoke with 1st ADA Clement Dunn outside the interrogation room where Cummings sat shortly after her arrest. Bean told Dunn about Cummings' knowledge of the Morgan murders. Though Bean said he does not know whether Dunn made a deal with Cummings, he noted that shortly after Dunn interviewed her, Cummings was released from jail and went to Michigan to live with relatives. Bean continued to receive calls from Cummings and her boyfriend in Michigan, Chris Vickery, about the possibility of immunity in the Ford murder. The conversations continued through 1986. These conversations were also taped.
Nothing of note occurred in the Morgan murder investigation until six years later, 1990, when Vickery contacted the Gregg County DA's Office. Apparently, Cummings was ready to come forward and give a statement about her "knowledge" of the crime. Her information would implicate Ronnie Lee Wilson and her ex-husband Alvin Andrew Kelly. Though Bean garnered extensive information about the case from his conversations with Cummings, he was never called to testify in either the Wilson or Kelly trials nor was he contacted by the DA's office about the information he had in preparation for either trial. The prosecution suppressed this critical information and neither Wilson nor his defense attorney, Greg Neeley, or Kelly's defense team, knew about the 1985 conversations until 1998. The LPD has since told representatives of the Office of the Attorney General that these suppressed tapes and files, which were specifically requested by Kelly's appellate attorney, are missing.
April 30, 1984 -Jerry, Brenda and Devin Morgan are murdered between 6 and 9 p.m. according to the pathologist's report. Jerry Morgan left work at 5:30 p.m. that day and went to pick up his son at his mother's house. Brenda did not leave work until shortly after 6 p.m., stopped at a store and then went home. Between 7:30 and 8 p.m. that night, a relative called the Morgan house expecting to find the couple home and got no answer. When found the next morning, Jerry and Brenda were still in their work clothes, there was no evidence of a dinner having been prepared and no lights were on in the trailer.
The Morgans" neighbor called police and said she had seen an African-American male drive away from the Morgan home in the Morgan's car between 7:30 and 8 p.m. (it was Daylight Saving time and still light out). This information was never followed up on but the report was noted at trial. Also, a police official in nearby White Oak contacted the LPD to let them know that he had received another report about two black males being sighted in the Morgan car that same evening. This report was never investigated.
In Tyler, Texas, 30 miles from Longview, a Silverado pickup belonging to a Kimberly Boswell is reported stolen from Saunders Street.
May 1, 1984 -Morning: the Morgan's car is found 30 miles away in Tyler, Texas. No fingerprints other than the victims" are found on the car. The Morgan car recovery site is one block away from the location from which the Silverado was stolen.
May 7, 1984 -The stolen Silverado is recovered in Grand Prairie, Texas. The car is in the possession of two African American males, Fredrick Anthony Edney [King] and James Brown. Sgt. T. Jackson processes the car for physical evidence. The two men in the truck are interviewed about the murders by Grand Prairie and Longview police officials, released and never considered again.
May 11, 1984 -The evidence taken from the car included: assorted bath linen and shop towels, a man's wristwatch, assorted tools, black sunglasses, hair samples, vacuuming samples and a woman's gold flying heart necklace. Vacuuming samples were also taken.
May 14, 1984 -The Morgan murder investigation is still active and fresh, and the coincidence of the Silverado theft just blocks from the Morgan car recovery site is noted. Investigators decide to show the necklace recovered from the stolen vehicle to Brenda Morgan's relatives because it matches the description of the one reported missing from the crime scene. Brenda Morgan"s sister, Cindy McGrede Watts, and father, Robert Don McGrede, identified the necklace as Brenda's necklace. Cindy Watts said that her sister always wore three necklaces and that the floating heart was one of them. Robert McGrede said he remembered Brenda "always" wearing the necklace.
May 15, 1984 - Betty McGrede said she remembered her daughter having a necklace of the type she had looked at the day before. She also remembered that the necklace matched a pair of earrings Brenda owned. Cindy McGrede Watts showed Jackson a necklace she owned that was identical to the one Brenda had. Photos were taken of Watts' necklace. The floating heart necklace does not appear in photos taken of the jewelry Brenda Morgan was wearing at the time of her autopsy (May 3, 1984). According to an affidavit from Cindy McGrede Watts, police only had possession of Brenda Morgan's rings. To date, Brenda's necklace has not been found.
May 16, 1984 -The truck evidence is delivered the evidence to the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences. The necklace, towels and hair were not tested at the time. However, motions for testing on the hair samples and the necklace have been filed in Wilson"s case. Items were tested for DNA in conjunction with Kelly's case. The lab told Kelly"s appellate attorney that the necklace had been "cleaned" and would not produce material for testing. Longview and Gregg County officials have not submitted the African American hairs from the towel under Brenda Morgan"s head for testing in either case.
September 1990 - Over 6 years after the crime, Cummings becomes a viable, credible eyewitness for the prosecution. ADA Becky Simpson and DA's Investigator Russell Potts visited Cummings in Michigan to discuss her participation in the trials of Wilson and Kelly. Cummings provided one informal unrecorded statement, a second written statement that is used to obtain indictments and yet a third statement that is used at the trials. Cummings' account of the crime will be the bulk of the prosecution's case and she is essentially the prosecution's only witness. Supporting testimony, which is also questionable, will come from Kelly's brother, Steve Kelly. There is no supporting forensic evidence. Cummings still has not been charged in any way with the Ford murder for which Kelly received a 30-year sentence. In December 1990, Kelly, who is serving time in TDCJ for a previous conviction, is brought back to Gregg County and charged with the Morgan murders. Wilson, who was in the County Jail at that time for bond revocation on a charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, is informed he is also being charged with the Morgan murders. Investigators Potts and Chuck Willeford of the LPD, interview Wilson in jail and try to convince him to implicate Kelly before Kelly implicates him. Wilson declines the offer and tells them he was not involved. Wilson asks to speak to his lawyer and the conversation ends.
Cummings' second written statement to prosecutors clearly conflicts with her 1985 statement to Bean and her first written statement to prosecutors. The information in the second statement is used at Kelly"s trial and he is convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death November 1991. The same statement is used in Wilson's trial to implicate him in the crime for which he received 66 years in April 1992. Initially, Wilson was convicted of murder with the use a deadly weapon. Wilson's attorney had the deadly weapon charge overturned on appeal because of incorrect directions to the jury and Cummings' trial testimony that Wilson shot none of the victims. The second statement and testimony from Cummings upon which the prosecution based its case is rife with inconsistencies, irregularities and obvious untruths, primarily concerning Wilson's involvement.
The reopening of the Morgan case riveted the community. Wilson's trial came on the heels of Kelly's trial for capital murder of a child and a death penalty sentence. Judge Alvin Khoury denied Wilson's attorney's request for a change of venue. During Kelly's trial, Cummings was sequestered in a state apartment with her sister under close scrutiny of state officials and was taking prescription narcotics for her drug addiction. According to an affidavit from Cummings' sister, state officials made promises not to prosecute Cummings for her part in the Ford or Morgan murders. Such a tacit agreement, and numerous conflicting statements Cummings made to relatives over the years, cast significant doubt on Cummings "voluntary" participation and credibility. Cummings' varying statements to prosecutors contain numerous discrepancies, inconsistencies, and untruths but the defense was never allowed to question Cummings' credibility. Much of the information surfaced after the convictions through interviews conducted by defense investigators Barry Higginbotham and Jimmy Lancaster in the state appeals phase of the Kelly case. Among the more serious credibility issues are:
John Ford murder -Rickey Kelly, Alvin Kelly's brother, signed an affidavit in 1998 that he overheard Cummings tell his mother and his wife, prior to 1989, that she killed John Ford. Rickey Kelly said he relayed this information to prosecutors Willeford and Potts prior to Kelly's trial and that they "seemed not to want to hear this information".
Non-prosecution agreement -In an affidavit obtained by Higginbotham and Lancaster, Cummings' sister, Beverly Stemen, discussed a conversation she had with Simpson and Potts about Cummings' involvement as a witness in the case. She asked whether or not Cummings might be prosecuted or go to jail for her involvement in the crime. Simpson and Potts assured her Cummings would not. Cummings confirmed this information in a conversation with her sister after Cummings returned from giving her formal deposition in Texas. In a later conversation with defense investigators, Stemen says that prosecutors told her not to worry, because, even though they were not giving Cummings immunity, they were not going to prosecute her.
Cummings involvement in Morgan murders - In another affidavit, Higginbotham visited Beverly Stemen (now Beverly Frank) in October 1997 on behalf of Kelly's attorney at the time, Mark Breding. Though Stemen said Simpson and Potts told her not to speak with Higginbotham, she did. Higginbotham had recently interviewed another sister, Violet Brownfield, who told him Cummings admitted to her in 1985 that she had killed Jerry Morgan with a gun. Stemen said Cummings told her the same thing a little later. Stemen said she relayed this information to Potts and Simpson at the time and that they "did not seem concerned" with it and "told her that it was irrelevant".
The addition of Ronnie Lee Wilson as an accomplice -According to Bean, Wilson's name was never mentioned in Cummings' 1985 statement to him nor in any subsequent conversations with him or other officials. In affidavits about conversations concerning the crime prior to Cummings' 1990 statement, numerous relatives and acquaintances of the Cummings and Kelly verify that at no time did either one mention Wilson. If Wilson was a major participant in the crime as Cummings claims, why would his name not be mentioned from the start? Bean reaffirmed the absence of Wilson in the scenario in a recent deposition. Curiously, Cummings and Steve Kelly could not even properly describe Wilson when questioned by defense prior to trial and still have no idea what he looks like.
Missing murder weapon - Cummings testified that Wilson was at no time in possession of a gun. She claims that Kelly had the only gun, a .22 revolver (which she said he used wearing a pair of "black Harley Davidson gloves"). The conflict of the number of total gun shots (7) vs. the alleged murder weapon, a 6-shot revolver is never addressed. Other than these examples, there is little known about the murder weapon. Though the prosecution alluded to specific handguns at trial, none were shown to be the murder weapon.
More questionable weapon testimony - In Wilson's trial, witness Sam Little, taking the place of his wife Pat, relayed Pat"s story that Wilson told them a gun he had given them was used in the Morgan murders. Little claimed he turned two guns he claimed were related to the Morgan case over to a local police chief. But the chief testified that he was not told they were related to the murders and said he inspected the two guns and returned them to Little since they could not be tied to anything of importance. At the time, the Littles were under investigation for criminal activities and were acting as informants, actively gathering information on local drug activities for law enforcement authorities. They admitted their informant status was common knowledge to many people in the community, including Wilson, who was an old family friend. Also, a witness was willing to testify in Wilson's trial that Pat Wilson told him she lied in her deposition about the gun and was "sorry she got involved in Wilson's case". The prosecution placed Sam Little on the stand in Pat's place so the defense witness' testimony could not be used. None of this impeachment information was allowed at trial.
Lack of motive -Cummings testified that she had no idea where she, Kelly and Wilson were going, or the purpose of the trip to the Morgans. The prosecution claimed the murders were drug related and tried to portray Wilson and Kelly as "collectors" for Walter W. Shannon (convicted in 1998 of delivery of a controlled substance). However, Shannon's wife testified at Wilson's trial that she and her husband thought Wilson was an informant or "cop" and refused to have any contact or dealings with him. Additionally, Shannon was under indictment at the time of the murders and it was verified that he was not running any drug activities from his home as Cummings and Steve Kelly claim. Though the killings could have been random, information turned over to Kelly's appellate lawyer might well back up the drug-related aspect. In an interview with officials after the case was reopened and prior to the trials, Jerry Morgan's father said he believed that Jerry and his family were murdered because Jerry knew who had committed a 1983 murder and abduction in Kilgore and was telling everyone. His father noted that it is possible Jerry might not have had any concept of how dangerous that knowledge could be.
Purported visit to the Morgan home on day of the murders -Cummings said she, Kelly and Wilson stopped by the Morgan trailer on April 30 between the hours or 3 and 4 p.m. Cummings claims there were 3 cars in the driveway and people moving around inside the trailer. Cummings said Wilson went to the door, knocked and spoke calmly to a man (who she thought was Jerry Morgan). But records show Brenda and Jerry were both at work all day April 30. Jerry Morgan's mother also testified that the two were at work all day; she was babysitting Devin and said Jerry picked him up after work sometime between 5:30 and 5:45. Brenda left work at 6 p.m. This testimony,and the work records, successfully contradict Cummings' story.
Conflicts in Cummings' account of post-murder activities -In Cummings' statement of Sept. 1990, she says Kelly told her to drive their truck and follow him and Wilson in the Morgan's car to a wrecking yard outside Longview. Kelly then told Cummings to go home. She claims she did not see Kelly or Wilson until the following morning (May 1) when they pulled up with the Morgan car on a two truck. This statement was used to indict Wilson in 1990 but was never allowed into court for the trial. In a deposition hearing 11 months later, Cummings is questioned under oath and claims that, rather than driving to the wrecking yard, the three drove the Morgan car to Tyler, abandoned it a block behind Mother Francis Hospital and wiped it clean of fingerprints. Then she, Kelly and Wilson allegedly drove to the home of Kelly's brother Steve in Tyler, stayed for a short while and then drove to Waco where they spent the next day. Unlike her first account, the second version fits the evidence and explains how the car came to be in Tyler. The obviously tailored version also conveniently brings Steve Kelly into the equation thereby adding support to his subsequent testimony about his knowledge of the crime and Kelly's involvement.
The wrecker/tow truck omission - The information about the tow truck was not revealed to the defense in either trial, and directly conflicts with Cummings' second statement and testimony. Had the prosecution revealed the information during the trial, Wilson's defense attorney could have tried to verify or disprove the story about the wrecker.
Time frame inconsistencies - Cummings claims Wilson was in her presence from the morning of April 30 to the afternoon of May 2. The first inconsistency arises with her account of the time of the murders. She said she, Kelly and Wilson arrived at the Morgan home at 9 p.m. But autopsy reports indicate that the victims had no food in their stomachs strongly indicating they were killed before eating dinner that night. In addition, no lights were on in the trailer when the victims were found. Also, a sister testified that she called the house sometime between 7:30 and 8 p.m. and became concerned when she got no answer. Three alibi witnesses at Wilson's trial testified that he was at the Good Shepherd Hospital in Longview with his mother and stepfather between the hours of 2-5 p.m. on April 30 (when he is supposed to be in Rusk, Texas with the Kellys). There was also testimony that places Wilson at his parents' home the evening and night of April 30. A new alibi witness has come forward to verify this information. Finally, on the afternoon of May 2, when Wilson was allegedly in Waco and Rusk with the Kellys, he received a speeding citation from a Longview Police officer at 2:42 p.m. (verified by an NCIC inquiry on Wilson at that time and in court by the officer).
Suppression of prior interviews, conversations and evidence tapes -The critical evidence of the tapes and records of prior contacts with Bean was suppressed by the DA's office and are now reported as lost by the LPD. During the trial, Wilson"s defense attorney Greg Neeley found out about the material and tried to obtain copies. He was told the materials could not be found. The 1985 materials of Cummings' prior contacts with officials may well have provided crucial impeachment or exculpatory evidence.
False testimony about Wilson's vehicle - At the time of the murders, Wilson drove a 1981 black and silver Chevy truck (verified by GMAC loan records). He was in this truck when he received the traffic citation on May 1. However, Cummings testified that the only vehicle she had ever seen Wilson drive was an "old, little, white car" which she claims he was driving in the April 30-May 2 time frame. This story about a white car was never pursued and the information never verified. Information has recently surfaced, though, that a small white car would have been familiar to Cummings since former roommate John Ford purportedly drove an older white Ford Falcon.
Conflicts in gunshot testimony - Cummings testified that she saw Kelly shoot Brenda and Devin Morgan at close range. However, a forensic expert testified that there were no powder burns around the wounds on either victim. There is also no evidence that Devin was shot in the living room and then placed beside his father in the back room. Cummings' story was not corroborated by forensics and there is no report of the child's blood, or any blood, in the living room or the hallway to the other room.
Perjury by Cummings about contact with officials prior to trial -During the trial, Cummings perjured herself by denying that she had ever spoken with officials prior to her contact with the DA's office in 1990. In 1998, Bean signed an affidavit attesting to his interviews and conversations with Cummings in 1985. The discussions were taped as per LPD directives and would have been readily available to prosecutors. ADA Dunn (the person to whom Bean directed Cummings in 1985) sat in the audience at Wilson's trial and said nothing during Cummings' false testimony.
Cummings' assertion that no deal was made with prosecutors -Despite her self-confessed involvement in the Ford murder and her subsequent implication of herself in the Morgan murders, Cummings is a free woman who apparently need not fear prosecution for her involvement in these crimes. Though it may be technically true that no formal deal was made (ie: no immunity officially offered), there is clear evidence that a tacit agreement not to pursue prosecution for her involvement in the cases existed. Also, Cummings clearly qualified for an "accomplice witness" designation, but the trial judge declined to qualify her as such. Cummings claimed she and Wilson participated because they feared for their lives and that Wilson's sole participation was allegedly carrying stolen items from the house. Cummings herself admits helping dispose of the stolen car and wiping it for prints. Assisting in an ongoing crime makes her as culpable as she claims Wilson was since she testified they were both acting under equal duress. Had she been designate as an accomplice witness, her cooperation would have protected her from future charges for her part in the Morgan murders, and potentially the Ford murder.
Pressure, coercion, perjury - Since the trial, numerous witnesses have said Cummings admitted to them that she lied under oath because she was frightened. According to one witness, Cummings feared being charged with the Ford murder if she did not cooperate in the Wilson and Kelly trials. Alvin Kelly's sister and her husband said Cummings expressed her fears of personal injury and retaliation when they visited her in 1998 and warned the couple about "asking too many questions".
Corroborating testimony problems - Steve Kelly told family members he gave untruthful testimony to convict his brother. He said prosecutors told him they knew he had helped get rid of John Ford"s car and that they could implicate him in the murder. Steve testified that a few days prior to the Morgan murders, he went with Wilson and Alvin to a brick home in Longview. Steve said he heard shouting and went to the back yard where he said he saw his brother kick and pistol whip Jerry Morgan. This beating went on for seven to ten minutes according to Steve. However, the coroner testified that there were no injuries on Jerry consistent with such a beating. Family members testified there were no injuries or evidence of trauma to Jerry or his wife when the two attended a family event at his mother's house the Sunday prior to the murders. Steve said at Wilson's trial that he, Wilson and Alvin went to a home in Rusk a few days before the killings and said he remembered a lamp in the living room was on when they arrived. However, testimony at Alvin's trial established that the electricity to the house in Rusk had been terminated in April 4, 1984 until January of 1985. Two neighbors testified that it did not appear that anyone lived in this house as late as April 4, 1984. It is interesting to note that Cummings claimed she returned to this same house and took a bath after the Morgan murders. Steve also testified that the night of the murders, Wilson, Alvin and Cummings appeared at his house in Tyler in the early morning. Contrary to the testimony of Cummings that she stayed outside, Steve said there was no question that all three came into his house and that Steve's wife (since deceased) was present. Also contrary to Cummings, who said they arrived in the truck, Steve said that the three had a truck and a car. At Alvin's trial, Steve admitted untruths in the statement he gave to police. Steve subsequently told people on multiple occasions that he lied about his brother's involvement and in one case said "I turned state"s evidence against my brother for a crime he didn"t do."
Additional family impeachment evidence - Alvin Kelly's other brother, Rickey, signed an affidavit in 1998 saying that he was approached by prosecutors Potts and Willeford who said they would get rid of pending criminal charges against him if he would give them information leading to his brother's conviction. Rickey said he offered information concerning Alvin's innocence but the investigators were not interested. He told them he knew nothing about the Morgan murders, turned himself in and served time for forgery charges.
There are inconsistencies and discrepancies in the state's case against Wilson which warrant serious review. It is not enough to simply dismiss such inconsistencies by saying the jury heard the evidence and made its decision. Juries are made up of humans who are capable of mistakes - especially when deprived of all the evidence - a fact demonstrated quite effectively by the number of wrongful convictions being overturned. As a society, we fail ourselves when we adopt the position that factual innocence is no barrier to a sentence "properly arrived at". Eyewitness testimony - the primary evidence in Wilson's case - is being scrutinized more closely now than ever before in innocence cases. As noted by Rob Warden, journalist and Executive Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University: "Erroneous eyewitness testimony - whether offered in good faith or perjured - no doubt is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions in the U.S. criminal justice system." On May 2, 2001, the Center presented a study in which staff members "identified and analyzed 70 cases in which 84 men and two women had been sentenced to death but legally exonerated based on strong claims of actual innocence since capital punishment was restored following the U.S. Supreme Court's 1972 decision in Furman v. Georgia." Examples of Erroneous Eyewitness Identification can be found at: Victims of Erroneous Eyewitness ID.
To this day Wilson, while freely admitting he has had run-ins with law enforcement in the past, steadfastly maintains that he is innocent and was in no way involved with this crime. Rather than take a deal from the prosecution, which would have allowed him to spend only 2 to 2 and a half years in prison, he chose to defend his innocence - and paid with a 66-year sentence. Wilson's former defense lawyer said in a recent letter to the Board of Pardons & Parole "If I could have tried this case in a different county, I feel strongly he [Wilson] would have been acquitted. . . Ronnie's case presents a situation in which the system failed and an innocent man was convicted of a crime." Like many of the wrongly accused and falsely imprisoned, Wilson does not have the financial means to hire a private appellate attorney to investigate his case and take it before the proper court. Nor does he have the luxury of fruitlessly wasting his one chance at habeas corpus. He has already spent 12 years in prison as the result of a trial with serious flaws and omissions. To his credit, Wilson's defense attorney did his best against a biased prosecution and trial process with almost no resources for investigation. While in prison, Wilson has worked to better himself, taking advantage of all the educational and training opportunities he can. He has conducted himself in an exemplary manner, far removed from the behaviors of others convicted of such serious charges who are guilty. He spends much of his time working on his own case and towards an opportunity for parole, albeit for a crime he obviously did not commit.