KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A 71-year-old Missouri inmate who says he was wrongly convicted of sexually attacking and killing a St. Louis woman more than three decades ago asked a state appellate court Tuesday to exonerate him.
The Midwest Innocence Project's appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals on Rodney Lincoln's behalf comes a month after Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled there was not enough evidence to back Lincoln's claim of innocence in the 1982 death of 35-year-old JoAnn Tate, who was killed in her home. Her two young daughters were assaulted.
Lincoln has served 34 years in prison and consistently has maintained his innocence.
Tate's daughter, Melissa Davis, is among those now supporting Lincoln, saying she was wrong when, at age 7, she implicated him in the crime. The Innocence Project also says testimony at Lincoln's trial indicated a hair found at the scene belonged to him, but genetic testing later disproved that.
With Tuesday's appeal, "we feel confident the court will see what we all know," Tricia Bushnell, the Midwest Innocence Project's legal director, told The Associated Press. Insisting "there's not a single shred of evidence" justifying his conviction, she added, "We can only believe the (appellate) court will do the right thing."
Lincoln originally was charged with capital murder but was convicted of manslaughter and two counts of first-degree assault. He was sentenced to life in prison as a "prior, persistent and dangerous offender," court documents say.
Davis began to question whether Lincoln was the real killer last year, when the TV show "Crime Watch Daily" questioned whether serial killer Tommy Sells, who once lived in St. Louis, could have committed the crime.
But Green, in last month's ruling, wrote that Davis' "recantation made three decades after the murder, after viewing a television show blaming the murder on a notorious serial killer, is not new reliable evidence."
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said through a spokeswoman that his office would not comment Tuesday, citing the pending litigation.