Exonerees

Greg Wilhoit, 1954-2014

Greg WilhoitGreg Wilhoit came from a middle-class Christian family in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He loved his wife and two daughters tremendously, yet he later spent five years on death row for allegedly killing his wife, Kathy, on June 1, 1985. The case against him was based on the testimony of so-called dental experts, who were barely out of dental school. They claimed that a bite mark found on Kathy’s body matched Greg’s teeth.

His parents hired a lawyer with a reputation as one of the top defense attorneys in Oklahoma. After no preparation whatsoever for Greg’s trial, he appeared in court drunk, vomited in the judge’s chambers, and presented no defense. Greg was consequently found guilty and sentenced to death. He remembers the judge’s words, “You are to die by lethal injection. If that fails, we’ll electrocute you. If the power goes out, we’ll hang you. And if the rope breaks, we’ll take you out back and shoot you.”

Greg was assigned an attorney, Mark Barrett from the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, to handle his appeal. Barrett, convinced of his innocence, worked tirelessly for over four years to help correct a terrible wrong. The nation’s top forensic odontologists examined the bite mark evidence, and testified that the mark could not possibly have come from Greg. A second trial was held in 1993, and Greg was cleared of all charges.

Greg lived in Sacramento, California, with his second wife, Judy, when he suddenly passed away in his sleep on February 13, 2014. He never received an apology or one penny in compensation, despite the fact that the Oklahoma Legislature voted overwhelmingly in 2003 to award exonerated inmates $200,000 for their time served in prison.

Read actor and abolition activist Mike Farrell's moving account of Greg's case here, and WTI Executive Director David Love's lovely farewell tribute to Greg here.

 

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