Convicting the Innocent
DNA Exonerations Database

Ronald Williamson

First NameRonald
Last NameWilliamson
Year of Conviction1988
Year of Exoneration1999
Testing inculpated culpritCold Hit
State of ConvictionOklahoma
Trial, Bench Trial, or Guilty PleaTrial
Type of CrimeRape and Murder
Death SentenceYes
Gender of ExonereeMale
Race of exonereeWhite
Mentally Ill or Intellectually DisabledMentally Ill
Description / Quotes from Testimony Concerning Defense

● Defendant’s attorney argued that a prosecution witness, the last person seen with the victim, should have been a “prime suspect.”

Did the defendant testify at trial?Yes
Quotes from Exoneree Testimony

“Q: Did you kill [the victim]? A: No sir I did not.”

Types of evidence at trial
  • Confession
  • Forensic Evidence
  • Informant
Were non-public facts alleged?Yes
Type of Forensic Evidence
  • Fingerprint
  • Hair
  • Serology
Types of Flawed Forensics
  • Invalid
Reason why invalid(1) Masking
Brief Quote / Description of Testimony

The victim was type A (not tested for secretor status) and Williamson was an O nonsecretor. The analyst detected no antigen activity in the stains, but rather than attribute this to degradation, instead included Williamson, testifying: “Q: And that would indicate that the person could have been a nonsecretor, is that correct? A: That’s a possibility.” See Part II.A.1 for a description of the problem of masking and non-quantification and discussion of similar cases.

Examples of Non-Public or Corroborated Facts and Inconsistencies

● Female victim was killed by a cord wrapped around neck to strangler her and stabbing BUT – medical examiner concluded that wounds were not caused by a knife Williamson was mentally ill and actively psychotic at the time of trial.

Quotes from law enforcement testimony

“[T]he Defendant said, okay, I had a dream about killing Debbie. He said I was on her, had a cord around her neck, stabbed her frequently, pulled the rope tight around her neck”

Quotes from prosecution arguments

“Ronald Williamson told him… that he had been hanging out at the Coach Light looking for a pretty girl and thought he would follow her home. That he dreamed about killing [the victim], that he was on her with a cord around her neck, that he stabbed her and pushed – and pulled the rope around her neck tight.” The medical examiner “told you that her cause of death had been determined to have been from asphyxia from both the cord around her heck and from the washcloth that had been stuffed into the back of her throat.”

Jailhouse informant, Co-defendant, Incentivized WitnessJ
Examples of Non-Public or Corroborated Facts and Inconsistencies● Non-public facts – method of murder – and second informant was the actual perpetrator later inculpated by DNA testifying
Quotes from testimony #3

First informant testified: “A. He was telling–I guess in the bullpen, the guys back there–that he–he said he shoved a coke bottle up her ass and her panties down her throat.” When prosecutor tried to correct this testimony, since it was in fact a ketchup bottle, informant testified “He said a Coke bottle or ketchup bottle or bottle.”

Quotes regarding any deal or leniency with informant, or prior use of informant

Federal district court later found trial counsel ineffective for reasons including failure to develop leniency provided to the first informant.

Highest level reachedFederalHabeas
Claims Raised During All Appeals and Postconviction
  • Brady
  • Improper Capital Sentencing Instructions
  • Ineffective Assistance of Appellate Counsel
  • Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
  • Jackson Claim
  • Jury Instructions
  • Prosecutorial Misconduct
  • Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel
  • State Law Evidence Claim
Claims granted, resulting in preexon. reversal
  • Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Harmless Error Rulings
  • G
  • HE
  • NP
Citations to judicial opinions

Williamson v. State, 812 P.2d 384 (Okla. Crim. App. 1991)
Williamson v. State, 905 P.2d 1135 (Okla. Crim. App. 1991)
Williamson v. Oklahoma, 503 U.S. 973 (1992)
Williamson v. Oklahoma, 504 U.S. 968 (1992)
Williamson v. State, 852 P.2d 167 (Okla. Crim. App. 1993)
Williamson v. Oklahoma, 511 U.S. 1115 (1994)
Williamson v. Reynolds, 904 F.Supp. 1529 (E.D. Okla. 1995)
Williamson v. Ward, 110 F.3d 1508 (10th Cir. 1997)

Read more about this exoneration