Attorney: DNA Tests Show Inmate Innocent
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ DNA evidence proves that a man on death row for murdering a grocer is innocent, a defense attorney said Monday.
Ryan Matthews, who was 17 when he was arrested for the 1997 killing of Bridge City grocer Tommy Vanhoose, 43, was the victim of suppressed evidence and questionable identification by two witnesses, attorney Clive Stafford Smith said.
The defense lawyer said the actual killer is a man imprisoned for slashing a woman’s throat in 1997.
Stafford Smith also said that Matthews, now 23, fits the legal definition of mentally retarded and cannot be executed because of a decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.
``This is a classic case of wrongful conviction,″ he said during a news conference in front of the Louisiana Supreme Court building. ``He was a juvenile, mentally retarded, and put on death row for a crime he did not commit.″
Jefferson Parish District attorney Paul Connick didn’t return calls for comment.
In papers submitted to the Supreme Court, Stafford Smith said that while Matthews’ regular appeal was being prepared, attorneys learned that another man _ Rondell Love _ had bragged about killing Vanhoose to people he knew in and outside of prison.
Love is serving a 20-year manslaughter sentence for the throat-slashing death of a 20-year-old Bridge City woman, Chandra Conley, who was killed in her apartment Dec. 8, 1997.
Vanhoose was shot four times in the office of his grocery store in the small New Orleans-area town on April 5, 1997.
During the trial, an expert testified that DNA found on a ski mask allegedly used by the killer did not match Matthews. Stafford Smith said DNA test results from the mask were compared with DNA test results from Love that had been taken following the woman’s killing, and a match was made.
Love, 27, is confined to the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Prison officials said they could not make him available for comment. Since Love’s manslaughter case is considered closed, he does not have an attorney. The attorney who handled that case, Dwight Doske, could not reached for comment.
From the time of his arrest, Matthews said he was innocent, although he did not testify at his trial, Stafford Smith said. The attorney said Matthews and Love did not know each other.
``I hope the district attorney will do the right thing and allow Ryan to come home,″ said Matthews’ mother, Pauline Matthews.