It has been nearly 3 years since Kerry Porter was exonerated in the 1996 shotgun killing of a Kentucky truck driver, Tyrone Camp.  No one else has been charged, despite evidence pointing to another man.  After serving 14 years of his 60 year sentence, Porter was cleared in 2011 by then-prosecutor Dave Stengel, who cited a statement from a government witness that another man committed the crime so that he and Camp’s wife could share the insurance payout.  That man is Juan Leotis Sanders, a convicted murderer.  However, despite evidence that points to a known killer, the police are questioning Porter’s innocence, why?  Because they are attempting to fend off his bid for compensation.

Sgt. Phil Russell, a police spokesman, said in an interview that he didn’t know whether “the word exonerated is appropriate” in describing Porter’s case, while Sgt. Donnie Burbrink, who heads the department’s cold case unit, said, “We are not going to say one person did it over another.”  Louisville has already paid over $12 million to other wrongfully convicted individuals, including Edwin Chandler and William Gregory.

“On the one hand, Metro (government) has an obligation to the Camp family and to the citizens of Louisville to seriously investigate the heinous murder of Tyrone Camp and other violent crimes,” Elliot Slosar, Porter’s attorney said, “On the other hand…a legitimate investigation that results in charges against the obvious perpetrators would be an admission that the original investigation was wrong.”

In depositions for the civil case, many people have stated that they offered evidence to investigators that implicated Sanders, but they were ignored. In one deposition, taken in September, government witness Francois Cunningham said that Sanders offered him $50,000 to kill Camp.  Cunningham testified that he declined, but later Sanders said he “took care of it himself”. Camp was ambushed as he was warming up his truck at Active Transportation Inc. on December 27, 1996. Within a few months, Sanders was rich, according to Cunningham.  Sanders later married Tyrone Camp’s wife, Cecilia.  Cunningham also said that Sanders was questioned by police, but that he wasn’t concerned because it was going to be put on “Kerry [Porter]”.  Sanders, 38, is serving 17 years for manslaughter.  He shot three people and killed one about 7 months after Camp was murdered.  He is eligible for parole early next year.

Cecilia Sanders, 51, who is still married to Sanders, denied having anything to do with her first husband’s murder.  In her deposition taken in June of this year, she said she didn’t know why she married Sanders.  She also said she didn’t know about the life insurance policy on Camp until after he died.

Cunningham, 37, who has been convicted of 3 homicides got reduced sentences for cooperation.  He currently lives under an assumed name.  In his deposition, he said that he and Sanders were part of Murder Inc., a group of contract killers, and that he first told a detective that Sanders was guilty and Porter was innocent in 1998. Attorneys for the defendants of the civil case said that Cunningham’s credibility is at issue because of his frequent incentivized testimony, but current prosecutors said that they still use Cunningham.

Porter’s exoneration began in 2010 when Cunningham told a detective and two prosecutors that Porter wasn’t guilty.  That statement wasn’t disclosed to the Kentucky Innocence Project until the Courier-Journal, a local newspaper, fought for it to be unsealed. Sgt. Denny Butler, then the head of the police department’s cold case squad, subsequently concluded that Porter was innocent. The newspaper’s investigation showed that both Porter and Sanders were suspects after the murder.  Porter had a rap sheet as a small-time thief and drug addict.  Sanders, according to prosecutor McKay Chauvin who worked on Porter’s case, was “capable of killing everybody in this courtroom just for fun.”

Court records show that detectives heavily considered Sanders, but abandoned him as a suspect and instead focused on Porter.  The police theorized that Porter was jealous that Camp married his ex-girlfriend Cecilia, whom he shared a child with. Another truck driver, Ken Brown, who had seen someone running from the murder scene, picked him out of a six picture line up.  However, Camp’s twin brother, Jerome, had spoken with the eyewitness before the lineup and even had shown him a picture of Porter. Jerome Camp stated in his deposition that it was Cecilia who gave him the photo of Porter and suggested he show it to the eyewitness.

In Porter’s 1997 trial, Sanders was marched into the courtroom by prosecutors and placed near Brown.  The prosecution asked Brown, the eyewitness, to identify the shooter and he pointed out Porter.  The tainting by Camp’s twin brother apparently could not overcome this.

Judge Tom Wine, who presided over Porter’s case, said that he still believes Porter is guilty. Wine is currently the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

“I don’t know that there’s another individual that I would feel comfortable putting my name to saying they need to prosecute,” he said.

Many people have accused Detective Rodney Kidd of tunnel vision.  Jerome Camp said that only Cecilia knew when her husband would have been at work.  He told Kidd before Porter’s trial that Cecilia constantly checked on Camp’s life insurance policy leading up to his death.  Camp said that the detective told him that his brother’s wife was “running around with a drug hit man, a guy named Juan Sanders…”  Former Louisville Police Officer Jackie Hollingsworth said she brought a witness to Kidd who said he taught Sanders how to make a homemade silencer, like the one found at the crime scene.  She said that Kidd said, “I got the killer.  It’s Kerry Porter.”

Porter, 52, said that he is “just glad to be exonerated” and continues to “pray for justice”.

No trial date has been set in the lawsuit, which alleges that Kidd and other since-retired detectives and supervisors concealed evidence that showed Porter was innocent and used improperly suggestive identification procedures.

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