Age at the date of crime: 31 (Mr. Lawrence) and 39 (Mr. Jenkins)
County of Conviction: Lewis and Clark County
Convicted of: Murder, Robbery, and Kidnapping
Sentence: 100 years each
Years Served: 23 years
Cost of Wrongful Incarceration: $828,000 each (in 2015 dollars)
Fred Lawrence and Paul Jenkins spent over 23 years in prison for a crime they did not commit.
On February 24, 1995, Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Jenkins were convicted of the Murder, Robbery, and Kidnapping of Donna Meagher. They were each sentenced to 100 years in prison.
As there was no physical evidence linking Mr. Lawrence or Mr. Jenkins to the crime, the state’s case relied largely on the testimony of Mary Jenkins, Mr. Jenkins’s wife. The prosecution relied on her despite the fact that Dr. William Stratford, a forensic psychiatrist, concluded that Ms. Jenkins suffered from dementia and had an IQ of 70, which reflects a severely diminished mental capacity.
Based on the DNA evidence and the statement from Mr. Nelson’s nephew, Lewis and Clark District Court Judge Kathy Seeley granted the Montana Innocence Project’s motion to overturn the convictions of Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Jenkins. On June 1, 2018, the prosecution dismissed the charges.
Unfortunately, despite Mr. Nelson’s nephew attempt to alert law enforcement about his uncle’s confession, law enforcement chose not to pursue Mr. Nelson. Mr. Nelson was later convicted of a 2015 double murder in Deer Lodge and sentenced to life in prison. These murders occurred 17 years after Mr. Nelson’s nephew originally warned law enforcement about his uncle.