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Jeffrey Pierce

Jeffrey Pierce

15 Years in Prison: Innocent

Cause: Eyewitness Misidentification, Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science
Real Perpetrator Found: Yes
State: Oklahoma
Convicted:
1986
Exonerated:
2001
Jeffrey Pierce
2001 
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In May 2001, Jeffrey Pierce walked out of an Oklahoma prison after being exonerated by DNA testing. His innocence was proven during the investigation of Joyce Gilchrist, formerly a scientist at the Oklahoma City Police Laboratory, for falsifying testimony and shoddy forensic analysis. Pierce's case was one of more than one thousand involving Gilchrist's testimony.

Pierce was convicted in 1986 of raping and robbing an Oklahoma City woman. The prosecution relied on the testimony of their forensic expert, Joyce Gilchrist. In 1985, the victim was returning to her apartment complex when she was confronted, raped, and sodomized. Pierce was part of a landscaping crew that had been working around the apartment complex. The initial description of the perpetrator did not match Pierce and, when he was pointed out to her, the victim could not identify him. Months later, police arrested Pierce and placed his picture in a photo lineup wearing a tan shirt, which was an element of the victim's initial description of her attacker. The victim identified him from this array.

At trial, Gilchrist testified that hairs collected from the victim's apartment, where the rape took place, shared unique characteristics with Pierce's hair. Because there is not adequate empirical data on the frequency of various class characteristics in human hair, it is invalid for an analyst to characterize whether consistency is a rare or common event. Gilchrist's analysis of the hairs were disputed in 2001 by an FBI review. DNA testing was then conducted on evidence from the crime scene, conclusively proving Pierce's innocence and implicating another man in the crime.

Pierce now lives in Michigan with his family, including twin sons who were infants at the time of his conviction. He had spent fifteen years in prison.

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The Causes

  • Eyewitness Misidentification
  • Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science
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The Facts

Incident Date: 5/8/85
Jurisdiction: OK
Charge: Rape, Robbery
Conviction: Rape, Robbery
Conviction Date: 10/15/86
Exoneration Date: 5/7/01
Sentence: 65 Years
Served: 15 years
Real Perpetrator Found: Yes
Compensation: Civil Suit
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