Missouri Governor Eric Greitens has decided to issue five pardons, and commute four sentences Friday. He is expected to resign from office at 5 p.m. Friday.
Rodney Lincoln's sentence has been commuted to time served.
"Rodney Lincoln was wrongly convicted of capital murder and has served 34 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. DNA evidence and one eyewitness were used to convict him. Now, we know the DNA evidence was wrong and the eyewitness—the daughter of the victim—says he is innocent and wants him to be free," Greitens said in a statement.
Lincoln killed a man in a bar fight in 1973 and served prison time for that crime. He has always declared he is innocent of the Tate murder. From prison, Lincoln has said, "God knows I'm no angel. Yes, I killed a man. Never in my life could I, or would I harm a child. No way."
Here is a timeline of the Rodney Lincoln case:
1973: Rodney Lincoln kills a man in a bar fight, convicted, serves two years in prison.
April 27, 1982: JoAnn Tate found murdered in her apartment in St. Louis, Mo. She was stabbed and sexually assaulted. Daughters Melissa, 7, and Renee, 4, were found with JoAnn. Melissa was stabbed 10 times; Renee had her throat cut. Both girls survived. Melissa identified Lincoln as the attacker from photo and live line-ups.
JoAnn Tate and daughters Melissa and Renee
Police line-up, Rodney Lincoln second from right.
May 23, 1982: Lincoln is arrested.
August 1983: First trial. 7-5 split verdict, hung jury.
October 1983: Second trial. Convicted of manslaughter and two counts of 1st-degree assault. Sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years.
June 2003: St. Louis, Missouri Circuit Attorney's Office chooses Lincoln's case in review of 1400 old cases.
January 2005: Midwest Innocence Project begins investigating Lincoln case.
October 2005: St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper publishes article featuring information gathered by investigative reporter Steve Weinberg and a class he taught.
January 2010: Circuit Attorney's Office agrees to test DNA samples from crime scene.
November 2010: Final report determines hairs found at crime scene do not match Lincoln.
November 2010: Midwest Innocence Project files motion to have Lincoln released; motion opposed by Circuit Attorney's Office.
December 24, 2013: St. Louis Circuit Judge Robin Vannoy rules post-conviction DNA results of hair evidence isn't enough to exonerate Lincoln.
Tommy Lynn Sells. Sells, linked to 18 murders, was executed by the state of Texas on April 3, 2014.
November 28, 2015: Melissa DeBoer recants: "Rodney Lincoln did NOT kill my mom. He did not attempt to kill my sister and I. It was Tommy Lynn Sells. When the veil fell from my eyes I was horrified. I have kept an innocent man in prison for 34 years.. I did not know I was wrong but I was.. and realizing it is so painful. When I saw a picture of Tommy Lynn Sells, I had a horrible, horrible feeling. And when I think about that terrible night, I now see how I could have gotten mixed up. This is all I can really say right now."
November 28, 2015: Melissa DeBoer calls Kay Lincoln, Rodney's daughter, to offer her personal apology after three decades and ask for the Lincoln family's forgiveness.
December 4, 2015: DeBoer meets with the St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
December 7, 2015: Melissa DeBoer visits Rodney Lincoln in prison to deliver the news directly to him and ask him face-to-face for his forgiveness. "I have nothing to forgive you for," Lincoln tells her. "You are completely blameless. I thank you for your courage, but you only have my love, not any anger from me. I'm so sorry for you, and for losing your mom."
March 17, 2016: Rodney Lincoln is scheduled to have his case heard in court on Thursday and Friday, March 17-18, 2016 for a judge to review his conviction.
March 18, 2016: Evidence presentation and witness testimony have completed for the two-day hearing. The judge is now reviewing elements of the case.
Supporters urge those concerned to write a letter, make a phone call, submit an email or send a tweet to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to express support for Rodney Lincoln. Governor Nixon leaves office on January 8, 2017.