A recent article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette called Belynda Goff’s imprisonment “appalling”. Goff is currently seeking clemency from outgoing Governor Mike Beebe or incoming Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson. Goff was convicted of murdering her husband, Stephen, in their home in 1996. She has always maintained her innocence. There is evidence that Stephen was killed by people he may have stolen money from, who were involved with an “arson for hire” scheme.
The Innocence Project is currently conducting DNA testing of crime scene evidence that could prove Belynda’s innocence, but because pieces of crucial evidence have gone missing, testing may not be enough. If Governor Mike Beebe does not act on her case before his term expires then the clemency request will move to Governor-elect Hutchinson.
Democrat-Gazette columnist Mike Masterson writes that officials should “take a careful look and do the right thing”.
It all began on June 11, 1994 at 9 p.m. when Stephen Goff left the family apartment after receiving a phone call. He told his wife, Belynda he was going out to get cigarettes. Belynda had recently undergone a hysterectomy. She put her 3-year-old son to bed and around 4:30 a.m. she awoke to an alarm. She discovered her husband lying face up beside the front door. The doctor who performed the autopsy testified that he died from multiple blunt-force trauma injuries to the front and back of the head. The beating was so violent that blood spatter went in “two directions of force”. Hairs were discovered in his hands and on his shirt. Belynda immediately called 911. A video of police searching the crime scene shows that police immediately suspected Belynda.
Two claw hammers were discovered, but showed no trace of blood. The hammers were none the less introduced at trial as evidence. Belynda was charged a year after Stephen’s murder with his death. There was no physical evidence against her.
Even the state’s crime lab contradicted the testimony of investigator Archie Rousey, who said that they discovered enough blood in the shower drain to run “down [your] hand”. The crime lab testified that there was such a “minute” amount of “genetic material” in the shower drain they were afraid they would destroy it.
A year before the crime, Stephen had been trying to recruit Belynda’s brother, Chris Lindley, into an arson-for-hire ring. Just a few days before the murder, Stephen told him that his life was in danger. A year later, Belynda’s home would be burned to the ground in a still-unsolved arson.
Belynda was offered a plea bargain, but she stated that she would never plead guilty to a crime she didn’t commit.
The Innocence Project of New York is working on Belynda’s case.
Staff attorney Karen Thompson said, “The circumstantial evidence used against Belynda did not show guilt. Instead, evidence pointing to alternate perpetrators who are at large and may have killed again was ignored while Belynda remains behind bars.”
There were multiple witnesses who saw men with bats outside of Belynda’s home that night. One of the witnesses reported this not once, but twice to police, who ignored it.
Key defense witnesses were not allowed to testify at trial and a “confession” witness for the prosecution’s credibility is deeply undermined by her husband, who was also barred from testifying. A witness told the jury that Belynda told her that she would “bash” her husband’s head in if he kept cheating on her. That woman’s husband says that his wife’s testimony is a complete lie and that she was a jealous gossip, who traded her testimony for preferential treatment on a bad-check charge.
Michael West, a private investigator with Arkansas Investigations, was disturbed to learn that after he conducted a court-ordered search of the sheriff’s office, exculpatory evidence in the Goff case went missing, “The evidence that should have been at the sheriff’s department and that a deputy went to the Crime Lab where records show he retrieved it never was logged in back in Carroll County.” No one knows what happened between the crime lab and the sheriff’s office.
Mike Masterson ends his column with, “I speak on this woman’s behalf only because 20 years later, many buried truths remain so obvious. I hope incoming Gov. Asa Hutchinson, as a former U.S. attorney with integrity, top U.S. law enforcement leader and a defense attorney will take a careful look and do the right thing after 20 years of what many out here are convinced was a wrongful conviction based on zero physical evidence…”
The governor’s office has received at least 2,000 letters of support for clemency in the case.
- TAKE ACTION: Bring Belynda Home for the Holidays! (Innocence Project)