Tennessean Clarification sought in Workman case
Tennessean Editorial:  A Review in Workman Case


Wednesday, 02/11/04
Shelby County M.E. indicted; effect on Workman unclear

By ROB JOHNSON
Staff Writer

A federal grand jury indicted the Shelby County medical examiner yesterday after concluding what has long been rumored — that O.C. Smith faked his own abduction.

On June 1, 2001, Smith was found outside his Regional Forensic Center office in Memphis. He was chained to a stairwell, wrapped in barbed wire and had a bomb hanging around his neck. He told officers that an attacker had thrown a caustic substance in his face.

The presumptive attack stumped local, state and federal agents. Then last year, Gov. Phil Bredesen abruptly halted the planned execution of death row inmate Philip Workman, citing an unspecified and unresolved case in the state's western federal district.

The development immediately put the spotlight back on Smith.

Smith had testified for the state in Workman's 2001 parole board hearings, and Workman's attorneys long claimed that the medical examiner perjured himself then.

Smith's attorneys repeatedly have said that the medical examiner never lied about the attack.

At the time, authorities speculated they were looking for a death-penalty foe angry at Smith because of testimony against Workman at his clemency hearing.

Now Smith has been indicted on three federal charges: illegal possession of a bomb and counts of making false statements to agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

While Smith's case winds through the federal courts, Workman's fate is unclear.

''The governor is making no statements tonight on the Smith case,'' said Bredesen's spokeswoman, Lydia Lenker.

Workman received the death sentence after his conviction for the 1981 shooting death of Memphis police Lt. Ronald Oliver. He does not deny that he robbed a Wendy's restaurant, but he says that he did not fire the shot the killed the officer who responded.

Shelby County prosecutors contend that the evidence that Workman killed Oliver is overwhelming.

Workman's attorneys said that with one of the state's witnesses charged with lying to government agents, their client should have his entire capital case re-examined.

''Governor Bredesen granted a reprieve to Philip Workman because the investigation of O.C. Smith raised serious questions about the fairness of the proceedings against Philip,'' Workman attorney Kelley Henry said yesterday.

''Philip Workman presented irrefutable proof, from the nation's foremost forensic experts, that he did not shoot Lt. Oliver. The only opposing expert witness was O.C. Smith. Smith perjured himself before the clemency board in Philip Workman's case.''


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