Prison System Rewards False Testimony -- the Troy Hickey Story

As told by Troy Hickey

Editor: Kira Caywood

Editor's note: Troy Hickey needs your help. Convicted of a jailhouse murder solely on inmate testimony, he faces a life sentence unless he finds effective legal assistance. His accusers have benefited greatly from their willingness to testify falsely. In the following account, Troy outlines the grim situation in which he finds himself. -- Kira Caywood


When I was eighteen years old, I was arrested for burglary and placed on house arrest. In 1987, then age nineteen, I was sent to Oklahoma State Reformatory at Granite to serve two 2-year sentences for that burglary, in addition to the sentence I was given for an escape from house arrest.

On January 21, 1988, inmate Richard Allen Payne was murdered in his cell in C-4 pod. At the time of the murder, I was in my cell in C-1 pod watching TV. Afterwards, the whole prison was locked down. When they let us off lockdown the next day, some C-1 pod inmates were randomly selected for questioning. My name was called. Guards put me in handcuffs and leg irons, and took me to a glass-enclosed room. While the guards stood around me, the victim's cellmate, Bobby Petkoff, was walked past to look at me. This is called a "show up identification," and is illegal.

Petkoff, who was serving a life sentence for murdering his brother, first told authorities that he had returned to his cell and found his cellmate lying on the floor, bleeding. Later, Petkoff changed his story and claimed that inmate Steve Ness stabbed Payne while another inmate held Petkoff at knifepoint.

Petkoff said he knew Ness, but not the other inmate. When shown a photo lineup, Petkoff picked out the other inmate. After seeing me, he changed his story yet again, and said I was the inmate who held him at knifepoint during the crime.

Before charges were filed against Steve Ness and me, Petkoff was conveniently paroled after serving only five years and four months on his life sentence.

Shortly before the murder, Petkoff had gone before the parole board and had been denied parole, with reconsideration in no less than three years. Just a few months after Payne's murder, Petkoff was paroled. However, the state claimed that no deals were given for his testimony! During my trial, Petkoff claimed that the parole board members had simply changed their minds.

I found out later through an O.S.B.I. statement that Petkoff was originally a prime suspect in the murder, and had been covered in the blood of the victim. In the statement, an O.S.B.I. agent and Oklahoma State Reformatory's security major, E. K. McDaniels, said they could understand how Petkoff would have the victim's blood all over himself, because blood was flying everywhere during the stabbing. I had no blood on any of my clothing nor on anything I owned. None of these facts came up in court.

A guard wrote in an incident report that he did not see me in C-4 pod that day. The knife I allegedly used was found, but my fingerprints were not on it.

Security major E. K. McDaniels offered deals in exchange for testimony. Three inmates testified -- Bobby Petkoff, Russell Woolman and Larrie Massie. As I mentioned before, Petkoff was paroled after serving only five years and four months of a life sentence.

Woolman received credits back that he had lost due to bad behavior. Massie was sent to a minimum security institution, from which he later escaped. That is the truth, and the prison records of these inmates prove it. At that time, it was not illegal to give deals in exchange for testimony. However, it is illegal to lie in court about the existence of such deals -- and the prison system officials did that.

After a jury trial, on November 17, 1988, Steve Ness and I were found guilty of first degree murder. Two months later, we were both sentenced to life imprisonment. The state's case relied solely on inmate testimony, and was based on the motive of robbery.

In 1996, I hired a lawyer for $1500. When Steve Ness found out about this, he wrote a sworn affidavit claiming that he murdered Richard Payne and that I was not with him at the time. His affidavit also stated that he hardly knew me at the time of the crime, and that my conviction was due to mistaken identity by inmate witnesses, after weeks of pressure and coercion by state authorities. My lawyer was court-appointed, and did absolutely nothing to aid in my defense. She filed for a speedy trial, then later tried to file for a trial postponement. The court granted the funds for a private investigator to find out why Petkoff picked out someone other than me in the photo lineup. My lawyer refused to hire the private investigator, because the court had refused to grant an extension of the trial. Now, I have no funds to hire another lawyer and I do not know how proceed. I am stuck, and I need help badly.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Troy Hickey #156708
O. S. P.
PO Box 97
McAlester, OK 74502

Justice Denied