Wichita A Wichita man who has served 30 years in prison for a murder conviction that some legal advocates have questioned has lost another bid for parole.
Ronnie Rhodes learned Monday that the state's Prisoner Review Board denied his eighth request for parole. He was convicted in 1981 in the stabbing death of Cleother Burrell in an apartment in Wichita. Rhodes has always vehemently denied that he committed the murder.
Questions about Rhodes' conviction intensified after students at Washburn School of Law said they discovered problems with case, including that evidence had been destroyed or lost in the 1980s before DNA testing was available, The Wichita Eagle reported Tuesday.
"It's almost like they want to keep me in here until I admit to committing this crime, and I just can't do that," Rhodes said in a telephone interview from the Lansing Correctional Facility.
Rebecca Woodman, an adjunct professor at Washburn who presented the students' finding to the review board, was unhappy with the review board's decision.
"It's simply a travesty of justice that Ronnie would be denied parole after 30 years, given a trial record so full of holes as his is, and evidence that could prove his innocence once and for all has, unbelievably, been destroyed, lost, or remains unaccounted for," Woodman said.
The Washburn students also raised questions about an eyewitness, Bruce Elliott, who shared an apartment with Burrell and was covered in blood when picked up by police. Elliott testified that Rhodes didn't kill Burrell. They also questioned whether Rhodes received adequate legal counsel or a thorough review by Kansas appellate courts.
Rhodes presented the review board with nearly 20 letters recommending him for parole written by mentors from inmate programs and from correctional officers at Lansing.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections said the review board would not discuss its decision.
Rhodes, who will face the parole board again next summer, said the board ordered him to seek a minimum-wage job with two private businesses inside the prison and remain free of disciplinary reports. He said those were the same conditions the parole board gave him in 2000.
He said he's held a job while he was in prison and filled out an application for the private industries on Monday.
"I'm not giving up," he said.