A man serving a life sentence for the 1997 Tampa murder of a nine-year-old girl may be looking at a new trial. His co-defendant in the same matter is likely on the same path to filing a similar motion.
New evidence challenges conviction
Imprisoned for over 20 years, Gary Steven Cannon’s attorneys recently uncovered new evidence that dismantles the prosecution’s case.
Among the major components of the prosecution’s evidence are a few strands of hair and other DNA evidence. A confidential informant was also a source of information, indicating Cannon in the murder.
The motion, filed by the Innocence Project of Florida, argues the DNA analysis conducted during the original investigation did not match that found in the victim. There was no evidence it belonged to either Cannon or his co-defendant, Gary Elishi Cochran.
The defense team argues lack of disclosure
The defense attorney suggests that prosecutors initially did not disclose key information that casts doubt on witness credibility, especially the informant, Randy Kernan, who supplied testimony of an alleged jailhouse confession from Cannon. The motion claims that the informant expected favorable treatment from law enforcement.
According to The Innocence Project, Kernan worked extensively for law enforcement in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The defense claims to have possession of a letter Kernan sent to a state attorney investigator, claiming he got “nothing, not a dime” from law enforcement or the prosecutors for his testimony.
Among the curious statements in the letter, Kernan said, “All things considered, I don’t think I’m asking for much. I got on the stand and came through like a champ, and I, of course, still have to testify at the murder trial … at least if I’m at a small work release center, I won’t have to worry about being attacked, and I can go home on the weekends.”
Another discrepancy raised by Cannon’s attorneys is a shirt Cannon wore that night. The shirt was allegedly seen bloodied the day after the killing, but it tested negative for blood, and the prosecution chose not to disclose this finding to the defense team.
A Tampa judge gave the prosecution 45 days to respond to Cannon’s motion before deciding on granting the defense’s request.
While the justice system was created to bring guilty parties to justice and protect the innocent, this case demonstrates how it is possible for someone to fall victim to a crime that they did not commit. An experienced defense attorney is the first step to help find the truth.