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Rudolph Holton

Other Florida Cases with Perjury or False Accusations
On June 23, 1986, Katrina Graddy, a 17-year-old prostitute, was raped and strangled in an abandoned crack house in the Central Park Village housing project in Tampa, Florida. The house was then set on fire.
A neighbor told police he saw 33-year-old Rudolph Holton, a local drug addict with a $1,000-a-day habit and with more than two dozen arrests for theft and burglary, enter the house the night before.
After police found a pack of cigarettes with Holton’s fingerprints on it inside the house, Holton was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, sexual assault and arson.
Holton initially said he had not been in the abandoned crack house for ten days. When the police told him about the fingerprint, he said he had shot up drugs in the house several days before the murder.
Holton went on trial in December 1986. The prosecution presented witness Johnny Newsome, who said he saw Holton in or around the house the night of the crime.
Flemmie Birkins, a Hillsborough jail inmate who had known Holton from the streets, testified that Holton admitted to the murder.
Further, FBI microscopic hair examiner John Quill testified that three hair fragments found in Grady’s mouth exhibited "Negroid characteristics" and therefore could have come from Holton's body.
On December 5, 1986, a jury convicted Holton of murder, sexual assault and robbery. Following a brief sentencing hearing, the jury voted to sentence him to death the same day.
In the years after his conviction, much of the evidence used to convict Holton unraveled. Not only did Birkins and Newsome recant their testimony, DNA testing showed that the hair in Grady’s mouth was not Holton’s.
In addition, police records were found that showed that at the exact hour that Birkins claimed Holton was confessing at the jail, he was at the Tampa Police Department being interviewed by detectives.
At trial, prosecutors told the jury that Birkins got no deal in exchange for his testimony on pending charges for burglary and grand theft. But after Holton was sentenced to death, the prosecutor asked a judge for leniency for Birkins, who could have gotten life as a habitual offender. Instead, he got probation. Holton’s defense lawyers were never told of the deal.
Prosecutors also withheld evidence that Graddy had reported being raped days before she was murdered.
After numerous appeals, a Florida judge granted Holton a new trial in 2001, based on the evidence that had surfaced since his conviction. Prosecutors dismissed the charges and Holton was released on January 4, 2003, after he had spent 16 years on death row.
Birkins and Newsome were charged with perjury and both pleaded guilty. In November 2003, Birkins was sentenced to 13 years in prison and Newsome received 14 years.
In August 2003, Holton married a woman he met after his release. In June 2004, Holton pleaded guilty to aggravated battery for striking the woman with a golf club and to misdemeanor assault for a confrontation with a cousin. He was sentenced to two years in prison.
In 2006, Holton was convicted of attempted murder and domestic battery for choking his wife. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
- Karen Oprea

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Sexual Assault, Robbery
Reported Crime Date:1986
Age at the date of reported crime:33
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes*