In October 1992, 25-year-old Lee Keifer was accused of sexually assaulting a female relative in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The girl, who was then 12, said the molestations began in 1988 when she was eight years old.
Keifer was charged with first-degree rape, lewd molestation and rape by instrumentation. He went on trial in Tulsa County Criminal District Court in February 1993.
The victim testified that Keifer digitally molested her. Another witness, 22-year-old Sherrie Lynn Livingston, who was Keifer’s cousin, testified that she saw Keifer molest the girl as well.
On February 19, 1993, a jury convicted Keifer of rape by instrumentation and lewd molestation. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the rape charge and it was dismissed. Keifer was sentenced to 151 years in prison.
While the case was on appeal, the victim and Livingston told Keifer’s attorney that they had lied and that no molestation occurred.
A motion for a new trial was filed and District Court Judge Clifford Hopper, who had presided over Keifer’s trial, held a hearing in January 1994. The victim testified that she had lied after being pressured by family members and by the district attorney’s office. Livingston also testified that she lied. The prosecution denied pressuring the witnesses to implicate Keifer.
On January 14, 1994, Judge Hopper denied the motion for a new trial. He also ordered Livingston jailed after the Tulsa County District Attorney’s office charged her with perjury. Ultimately, Livingston pled guilty, but was never sentenced because she became a fugitive and was never re-arrested.
Keifer’s appeal of his conviction—which did not address the recantation evidence—was upheld by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in 1995.
Meanwhile, a new attorney for Keifer filed a separate appeal of Judge Hopper’s denial of the post-conviction motion. In August 1996, the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Hopper’s decision and ordered a new trial. The court held that Judge Hopper had failed to make any specific findings to support his denial of the motion for new trial and that Keifer was likely innocent.
Keifer was released on bond on September 25, 1996 and on January 21, 1997, the prosecution dismissed the case.
– Maurice Possley