Group works to clear a man behind bars for 15 years for murder

Published: Aug. 26, 2011 at 8:23 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2011 at 6:56 AM EDT
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Tyrone Camp was killed on Shipp Avenue in December 1996
Tyrone Camp was killed on Shipp Avenue in December 1996
Melanie Lowe Stratton
Melanie Lowe Stratton

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Could one man working with police to cut a deal on two homicides actually clear another man serving time for murder?  Newly released recordings of Francois Cunningham taken in the Ricky Kelly cold case murders may give a boost to a group working to free a man who's spent the last 13 years locked up.

In 1996, Tyrone Camp was shot and killed at his work in old Louisville.  Some say he wasn't the only victim in the case.

"It has all the hallmarks of a wrongful conviction," said attorney Melanie Lowe Stratton with the Kentucky Innocence Project.

Since 1998, Kerry Porter has been behind bars in prison, serving a 60 year sentence for Camp's murder but Lowe Stratton says it's becoming increasingly clear Porter didn't kill Camp.

"It's hard to believe because I think we want to believe that our justice system does the right thing and works," she said. "It's not worked for Kerry."

Lowe Stratton says her office has been working on the case since 2007, based on the recommendation of several community groups and Porter's own application.  The Innocence Project re-interviewed witnesses and sent additional evidence off for DNA testing. None of it, she says, implicates Porter.

"Kerry was identified very early on by individuals we believe were directly tied to Mr. Camp's death," she said. "They pointed the finger at him and unfortunately the police investigation went that direction as well."

Lowe Stratton says, police now are taking another look as well and are helping the innocence project investigate.

"Because of some ties to some cases they are working on, they've been instrumental in helping us get evidence released for DNA testing," she said. She added the LMPD Cold Case Homicide Unit has been especially helpful.

In March of 2010, the Innocence Project's work on Porter's case got backup from an unlikely source. Francois Cunningham agreed to talk to detectives in exchange for a deal on his own double murder charges and one of the cases he had information on was Camp's murder.

"He said he had something, uh, something for me where I could, you know, uh, so I could make $50,000," Cunningham said in a recorded statement to police of a conversation he had with a friend.

"It's everything that our investigation indicated and everything that we intended to take to court for Kerry," Lowe Stratton said of the recording.

Cunningham said his friend first offered the job of killing camp to Cunningham, but Cunningham turned it down. Cunningham then claims his friend killed Camp himself and helped pin the murder on Porter.

"That was their intentions was to put it on him and give whatever information they could to make him look like the person who did it," Cunningham said in the recorded statement.

Cunningham's recorded conversations with police were just made public this week.

Detective: And when you say Kerry, who is Kerry?
Cunningham: Uh, Kerry, Kerry porter. I believe that's his name. Kerry Porter.
Detective: And he is actually in prison for this offense?
Cunningham: Mmm hmm
Detective: do you know if he was involved in any way?
Cunningham: Naw, he wasn't involved.

A Louisville Metro Police spokesman said Friday that investigators are aware of what's being said. Police say they're looking into the claims and are working with the Innocence Project.

Lowe Stratton says they're waiting on a few more additional DNA tests that she says could be finished within a month. Once those are back, she hopes Kerry Porter will be released from prison.

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