In the pre-dawn hours of December 27, 1996, 35-year-old Tyrone Camp was fatally shot in the head and back as he was warming up his truck at Active Transportation Co. in Louisville, Kentucky.
Kenneth Brown, another driver in the lot, told police he saw the gunman flee on foot, but that he did not believe he could identify him.
Police initially focused on Juan Leotis Sanders as a suspect because Sanders was married to Camp’s former wife. But a few weeks later, on February 8, 1997, Camp’s brother showed Brown a photograph of 34-year-old Kerry Porter, who had formerly been married to Camp’s former wife, Cecelia, and with whom he had a son.
Brown identified him as the gunman. On February 10, 1997, police showed Brown a photo-spread containing a photograph of Porter and Brown again selected Porter.
Porter was charged with murder and went on trial in 1997. On the day before the trial, Brown told prosecutors he had become uncertain and asked to see photographs of Sanders and Porter.
After viewing photographs of the two men, Brown came into court and identified Porter as the shooter before the jury. Other witnesses included a friend of Porter’s, who testified that Porter had threatened to kill Camp a month before the shooting.
A jail inmate testified that Porter admitted killing Camp and that he remembered the conversation specifically because he and Porter were watching an episode of the television program “Bay Watch.”
Porter contended that he was with a girlfriend in the hours before the shooting, but the woman testified she was in a drug treatment center at the time.
Porter’s lawyer contended that Sanders had killed Camp so that he and Cecilia Camp could collect on a $150,000 insurance policy that she had taken out on Camp. The defense also presented evidence that seven months after Camp was murdered, Sanders shot three people, killing one. Sanders was convicted of manslaughter and assault for those shootings and sentenced to 17 years in prison.
The jury rejected that defense and convicted Porter of murder. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
In 2009, law enforcement authorities were investigating a series of murders in Louisville allegedly committed by a hit man for a narcotics organization. They interviewed Francois Cunningham, who had been involved in the crack cocaine trade during the mid-1990’s, and he told them that Porter was innocent.
Cunningham said that Sanders came to him in 1996 and offered $50,000 to kill Camp, but that he refused. A few days later, Cunningham said, Sanders told him that he had killed Camp.
Cunningham’s statement was initially withheld from Porter’s post-conviction attorneys at the Kentucky Innocence Project but came to light in August 2011 after it was obtained by a reporter at the Louisville Courier-Journal, who began an investigation of the case.
As part of that investigation, the reporter discovered that there was no episode of “Bay Watch” airing on the day the jail inmate said Porter had confessed to the killing.
Based on Cunningham’s statement and the newspaper’s revelations, the Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office commenced a re-investigation. DNA tests on duct tape used to make a homemade silencer found at the scene excluded Porter.
On December 19, 2011, Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Stengel and Melanie Lowe, Porter’s attorney, presented a joint motion asking that Porter’s conviction be vacated and the charges dismissed.
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Irv Maze granted the motion and ordered Porter released.
In December 2012, Porter filed a wrongful conviction lawsuit against the City of Louisville and eight Louisville police officers alleging the officers fabricated evidence, used improper identification procedures and hid evidence that would prove his innocence.
– Maurice Possley