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Death Row Dilemma: New Evidence

Convicted killer Philip Ray Workman is set die in Tennessee nxt week, but compelling new evidence has raised serious questions about his case.

Workman's lawyers are making a last-ditch effort to save his life, rreports CBS News Correspondent Phil Jones. A federal appeals court is considering Workman's request to present the new evidence at a hearing.

Tennessee has not executed a prisoner since the Supreme Court lifted a ban on executions in the U.S. in 1976. The last execution in Tennessee was 40 years ago.

Robert Glen Coe came within 16 hours of being Tennessee's first person executed when a federal judge indefinitely delayed his March 23 death by lethal injection to consider a motion that the state's process for determining mental competency was flawed. The stay was lifted this week and an execution date of April 5 was set.

Workman will die in the electric chair April 6 unless he wins this last-effort appeal based on what he claims is new evidence proving his innocence.

"For so many years, you know, I've always just figured I'm dead and that's that -- that there's nothing I could ever do to change things," Workman says.

His journey to death row started at a Wendy's restaurant in suburban Memphis on an August night in 1981. After robbing the restaurant, he tried to run from police. There was a scuffle in the area. Shots rang out and Lt. Ronald Oliver, a 20-year veteran of the Memphis police department, was carried off with fatal injuries.

Workman admitted firing his pistol, and police said the fatal bullet came from his weapon. but now, that's disputed by a national expert on forensics - Cyril Wecht.

"The bullet that killed Officer Oliver did not come from Mr. Workman's gun," Wecht says.

He says Workman's bullets were the type that usually fragment upon penetration or leave a large hole when exiting. The bullet that killed Oliver went all the way through his body without lodging or leaving a large wound.

Jefferson Dorsey, a public defender for the state, is arguing in Workman's appeal that it was a police bullet that killed Oliver.

"One of the officers was firing - probably at Philip - and missed and hit Lt. Oliver and killed him," Dorsey theorizes.

A recent videotaped confession by Harold Davis, the key eye witness against Workman, also is raising troubling questions. Davis testified that he was at Wendy's that night. He said he saw Workman shoot Lt. Oliver, but he's now recanted to defense lawyers.

"I don't want to see him die for something he didn't do," Davis, a drifter, sobbed on the tape.

He has admitted not being there and claimed he was pressured by prosecutors to lie.

"They basically told me what happened - how it happened, when it happened and all that," he said in the taped interview. "I said, 'Well, I didn't see all that.' And they said, 'Well, this is what you are going to say.'"

Five jurors have ow signed affidavits saying they now have reasonable doubt as a result of questions about the bullets and the possibility of perjured testimony.

Tennessee Attorney General Paul Summers says the affidavits should be ignored.

"What they decide 18 years later, after the fact -- that does not count," Summers says.

He says he's reviewed all the evidence and he's adamant that the jurors' verdict was justified.

"Any new information that they claim is only new information that the defense has given them," he says. "None of that information has gone through the crucible of cross-examination."

That's the very point that jurors and the defense is making - that it should go through another another hearing before this man gets his punishment.

But Summers said, "When you gonna stop? When do you stop? People are looking for two things in this country, in this state. They're looking for justice, they're looking for finality."

In Nashville this week, there was an extraordinarily emotional moment as the daughters of Workman and Lt. Oliver met for the first time. The daughter of the slain policeman had come with her own appeal.

"Taking her father will not bring mine back," said Paula Dodillett. " And I am really interested in the truth, whatever that may be. And I just think they should know for sure whatever that may be before they execute him."

If the appeal is denied and Workman is executed, his daughter will not be there.

"I may be right where we're at, on my knees, but this is as far as I'll go," she said. "I won't go inside. I'll be on my knees wherever I am at," she says.

Workman himself fully expects to be executed. "I just don't have any confidence in the system the way it is," he says. While he waits on death row for a favorable court ruling or a grant of clemency, he believes only a miracle will save him.

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