Inmate's innocence claims get boost from prosecutor

Published: Aug. 31, 2011 at 6:04 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2011 at 6:06 PM EDT
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source: Kentucky Department of Corrections
source: Kentucky Department of Corrections
Tyrone Camp with his twin brother, Jerome
Tyrone Camp with his twin brother, Jerome
The scene of Tyrone Camp's murder in Old Louisville in 1996
The scene of Tyrone Camp's murder in Old Louisville in 1996

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) -- In a rare move, the prosecutor's office said Wednesday it's moving in the direction of clearing Kerry Porter, a man in prison for a 1996 murder who may be innocent.

"We are moving in the direction of clearing Mr. Porter, but we're not quite there yet," Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel said at a news conference Wednesday.

WAVE 3 has been following the case of Porter since last week. He's been in prison since 1998 for killing Tyrone Camp in Old Louisville, but many, including Camp's twin Jerome, now believe he didn't do it.

Stengel was the Commonwealth's Attorney when Porter was convicted in 1998 and still is today.  Now he says he's working with the Kentucky Innocence Project in its efforts to clear Porter.

LMPD Cold Case unit detective, Sergeant Denny Butler, said Wednesday that he had been working with KIP since September of 2009.  He said that's when KIP lawyers brought Porter's claims of innocence to him.

"We are moving now, if that conviction is incorrect, we'll set it aside," Stengel said.

But by scouring Porter's court file and parts of the police investigation, WAVE 3 uncovered that much of the evidence that now could clear Porter has been around for years.

In a 1997 police interview, the only eyewitness, Kenneth Brown, said Tyrone's twin, Jerome, showed him a photo of Porter.  Brown later identified Porter in a photo lineup, and told police, "he resembled a whole lot" the killer.

But in a second interview with a defense investigator that was put in porter's court file a year later, Brown said he wasn't sure Porter was the right man.  He added Juan Sanders, who defense lawyers brought into the courtroom at Porter's trial, looked just like Porter.

Brown said, "If I had seen Juan's picture, Kerry might not be charged now."

Even after that information surfaced, prosecutors went ahead with Porter's sentencing for Camp's death.

Sanders is identified in court papers as the boyfriend of Tyrone's wife.

Sanders' friend, Francois Cunningham, who was trying to beat a double murder charge of his own, agreed to talk with police in March 2010 regarding a string of homicides. One of those killings was Camp's.

In part of that interview, Cunningham said Sanders asked him to kill Camp for $50,000.  Cunningham claimed when he said no, Sanders killed Camp himself then worked to frame 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 told police.

Sanders is currently serving time behind bars for a 1997 killing and a charge of marijuana cultivation. As of now, he's not been charged in Camp's death.

Melanie Lowe Stratton with the Kentucky Innocence Project says Cunningham statements already backed up a lot of what KIP investigators discovered since they began work on Porter's case in 2007.

"Our investigation was so clear that he was innocent and that he is the wrong man behind bars," she said.

She says Porter always has said he's innocent and provided us with an interview Porter did with police less than two weeks after Camp's death.

"I was not involved in it definitely," Porter told police. "I don't know anything about it other than hearsay on the street."

Now it appears people are listening to those claims.

"Obviously he's excited at the prospect that all of this nightmare for him could be over soon," Lowe Stratton said. "He's anxious to get back to his life and try to put what's left of it back together."

Stengel says prosecutors and police are waiting on testing on DNA evidence right now.  It could come back within a couple of weeks to a couple months.  If it clears Porter, he could walk out of prison a free man.

Previous stories on WAVE 3:

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

Twin of slain Louisville man works to free man convicted of killing

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