Oklahoma's "Death Squad Duo"
The Oklahoma City Forensics Lab Scandal
Gilchrist's own attorney, Melvin Hall has been quoted stating: "The criticism of her around here is second only to that of Timothy McVeigh."
Joyce “Black Magic” Gilchrist
A Deadly Legacy of Misconduct & Junk Science!
Robert Macy is said to have conspired with Joyce Gilchrist, a forensic chemist, to secure convictions in several high-profile cases. However, their methods were called into question when it was discovered that Gilchrist had provided false or misleading testimony in multiple cases, and had also mishandled or contaminated evidence.
Gilchrist's ability to sway juries and win convictions earned her the nickname "Black Magic" and she worked on 1,700 cases under Macy's leadership.
In 1999, a U.S. District judge called Gilchrist’s testimony “untrue” and “misleading.” The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has repeatedly criticized Gilchrist’s testimony, saying her reports were “at best incomplete, and at worst inaccurate and misleading.”.
A later investigation found that Gilchrist had made serious errors in additional cases and had a history of misconduct, including providing false testimony and failing to follow proper forensic procedures. Macy was accused of overlooking Gilchrist's errors and continuing to rely on her testimony in his prosecutions.
The Washington Post reported in 2001, a preliminary review flagged about 165 cases that merit further review.
Gilchrist worked on 1,700 cases under Macy's leadership
The scandal led to a review of thousands of cases that Gilchrist had worked on, and resulted in the overturning of several convictions. Macy retired in 2001, and Gilchrist was eventually fired from her position. In 2001 Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating ordered a review of the cases Gilchrist touched between 1980 and 1993, starting with 12 in which death sentences were handed down. By then, defendants in 11 cases Gilchrist had previously testified in, had already been put to death. The state gave the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System $725,000 to hire two attorneys and conduct DNA testing of any evidence analyzed by Gilchrist that led to a conviction. An FBI study of eight cases found that in at least five, she had made outright errors or overstepped "the acceptable limits of forensic science." Gilchrist also appears to have withheld evidence from the defense and failed to perform tests that could have cleared defendants.
The exact number of Bob Macy's cases that were overturned as a result of the Joyce Gilchrist scandal is not clear. However, it is known that Gilchrist worked on thousands of cases during her tenure as a forensic chemist, and her misconduct led to the overturning of several convictions. Some sources suggest that as many as 11 death penalty cases were overturned due to Gilchrist's errors and misconduct. The scandal produced long-lasting effects on the criminal justice system in Oklahoma, leading to reforms in forensic science and the handling of evidence. According to Think Progress the 2002 U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is quoted as saying:
“Macy’s persistent misconduct has without doubt harmed the reputation of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system and left the unenviable legacy of an indelibly tarnished legal career.”
Defense lawyers of the time feared that the innocent who took plea bargains in the face of Gilchrist's expertise will never come to light. Jack Dempsey Pointer, president of the Oklahoma Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, was quoted by Time Magazine, stating his group had been fighting for an investigation "almost since the time she went to work" at the lab. "We have been screaming in the wind, and nobody has been listening." In regards to the eleven (11) people executed, Pointer added a troubling truth: "Nobody cares about the dead," he said "The state is not going to spend money to find out that they executed someone who might have been innocent."