Oklahoma cases to be reviewed for tainted testimony

Monday, April 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Gov. Frank Keating refused Monday to block the execution of a woman who was convicted in part on the testimony of a police chemist accused by the FBI of wrongly linking defendants to crime scenes.

Keating said he will not seek to delay Tuesday's execution of Marilyn Plantz for bludgeoning her husband to death in 1988.

``There was no question about her guilt or innocence,'' he said. ``This lady admitted she did it.''

However, Keating said all felony cases involving Oklahoma City police chemist Joyce Gilchrist should be reviewed. He said FBI findings released last week raise the possibility that innocent people were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to prison.

``If that is the case, that is a horror,'' Keating said. ``That is completely, utterly, irredeemably unacceptable.''

Oklahoma County prosecutors say no innocent people have been executed as a result of Gilchrist's work or testimony. However, the Oklahoma Criminal Defense Lawyers Association is reviewing the cases of 10 men put to death since last year following convictions in trials involving the chemist.

Gilchrist hasn't worked in the city's forensic lab since 1993 and is on paid administrative leave. She hasn't been charged with a crime and her attorney said she disagrees with the FBI findings and believes she will be vindicated.

The FBI has recommended a review of cases where Gilchrist linked hair or fibers with a suspect or victim and the evidence was significant to the trial's outcome. Its report said Gilchrist gave testimony ``that went beyond the acceptable limits of forensic science'' or misidentified hair and fibers in at least six criminal cases.

Any names in the report have not been released publicly.

The attorney general's office is examining the convictions of 12 death row inmates in which Gilchrist testified or helped prepare evidence. State officials say she worked on as many as 3,000 criminal cases in her 21-year career.