But most news overlooks a Christian convicted of murder who is struggling to clear his name.
Just a few weeks before Gary Dotson and Cathleen Crowell Webb became household names across America, a lawyer representing Steven Linscott appeared before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board to ask clemency for his client. Linscott, a former Bible school student, was convicted in 1982 for a murder he says he did not commit. He has been in prison ever since (CT, Feb. 4, 1983, p. 42).
When the Dotson rape case came before the Prisoner Review Board, it took priority over many cases that had been heard earlier, including Linscott’s. Dotson had become a type of folk hero after Webb came forward in March to recant her 1977 testimony that he had raped her. In April, after a judge stood behind his original guilty verdict, the public rallied behind Dotson. He was viewed as an innocent, unsophisticated underdog, the victim of a cruel and unjust system. However, for many that perception was tempered by the ambiguities and apparent contradictions that surfaced in Webb’s recanted testimony.
Dotson is free today because Illinois Governor James Thompson, following a special clemency hearing before the Prisoner Review Board, commuted Dotson’s 25-to 50-year prison sentence. (It is unusual for Thompson to participate in Prisoner Review Board hearings. Normally, the board hears petitions and then makes a recommendation to the governor.)
The Dotson case held a special interest for evangelicals, because Webb cited her Christian conversion in 1981 as her reason for recanting. She said she waited four years before coming forward because at first she “had only a small amount of faith, like a baby.… I had to grow until my faith could overcome my fears … that ...1
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