Man convicted of murder gets new hearing after pulled testimony

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JEFFERSON CITY - A man convicted of murder 34 years ago was granted a new hearing scheduled for Thursday after testimony was retracted and DNA tests came back negative.

Rodney Lincoln was convicted for the murder of JoAnn Tate and the sexual assaults of two of Tate's daughters in St. Louis in 1983. Tate's daughter Melissa was 7 years old when she identified Lincoln as her mother's murderer. She took back her identification in November of last year. 

Before taking back her statement, post-conviction DNA evidence in 2013 failed to place Lincoln at the crime scene. A hair found at the scene was used in Lincoln's conviction, but the 2013 test showed it did not belong to Lincoln. Robin Vannoy, a St. Louis Circuit judge, ruled it was not enough to free Lincoln of the crime.

People from St. Louis and other parts of the state traveled to Jefferson City to show their support for Lincoln and pack the courthouse Thursday afternoon. Tammy Emily is one of Lincoln's supporters, and she said the lack of evidence should help prove what she said is a wrongful conviction.

"I think he should've been freed," Emily said. "I believe in Rodney's innocence, and I think there needs to be justice for his family and the victim's family."

Lincoln's youngest child Kellie Porter said the feeling would be amazing if he were to be released. 

"I was ten years old when my father went to prison. He's missed my entire life, my children's lives, my grand children's lives. The possibility of him coming home, ecstatic," Porter said. 

Lincoln's grand-nephew Aaron Lincoln has never met his great uncle outside of the prison walls. 

"For me to see him walk outside those prison walls would be like a tidal wave, in a good way. He was locked up before I was born. I'm 25, and he's been in there for 34 years," Lincoln said. 

Judge Daniel Green granted the hearing on Monday as a part of Lincoln's proceedings in his attempt to overturn his conviction. Emily said Lincoln has maintained a positive outlook throughout the process.

"It's sad what has happened to him, but he keeps his spirits up," Emily said. "He keeps a very positive attitude after all this time, even. He just deserves to be free."

The hearing began at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Cole County Courthouse. The hearing will continue Friday.