He was wrongly convicted of murder. Now Tom Rhodes wants ‘unreliable’ medical examiner held accountable

Exonerated Man Suing Medical Examiner

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(KSTP) – The man who spent nearly 25 years in a Minnesota prison for a murder he did not commit is now suing the longtime medical examiner whose testimony helped seal his fate.

Thomas Rhodes, with the help of the Great North Innocence Project, walked out of prison a free man one year ago this month. 

He honored the anniversary Friday by filing a federal lawsuit against former Ramsey County Medical Examiner Dr. Michael McGee, along with prosecutors and detectives who worked on his case.

The lawsuit says, “Defendants not only fabricated evidence… they fabricated a crime that never occurred.”

Thomas Rhodes was released from prison on January 13, 2023, more than two decades after he began his life sentence

Rhodes was convicted in 1998 of murdering his wife in Kandiyohi County. But last year, his conviction was thrown out due to flaws in the case, including testimony from Dr. McGee, the medical examiner labeled as “unreliable” in court.

“He indicated that I did something to my wife,” Rhodes said to 5 INVESTIGATES last year in his first interview since leaving prison. “I was trying to save her.”

Rhodes’ wife, Jane, died in August 1996 after a late-night boat ride on Green Lake in Spicer, Minn. Prosecutors argued Rhodes killed his wife by pushing her into the water and then intentionally ramming her with the boat.

The case hinged on findings from Dr. McGee, and his testimony helped convict Rhodes of murder, leading to a life sentence in prison.

But the lawsuit says McGee’s opinions were “unsupported by scientific evidence.” 

“McGee fabricated evidence against (Rhodes),” the suit reads. “Specifically, he drafted and completed a report with the false determination that Jane’s death was a homicide.”

McGee has not responded to a request for comment.

Several experts, including one retained by the state’s Conviction Review Unit, disagreed with McGee’s findings. None of them said they would have called Jane’s death a homicide.

Attorney General Keith Ellison, who leads the Conviction Review Unit, conceded in January 2023 that McGee’s testimony in Rhodes’ case was also “flawed.” 

Dr. McGee’s credibility has also suffered several jarring blows since Rhodes’ conviction.

In 2021, a federal judge in North Dakota said McGee had a “well-documented history of providing false or inaccurate testimony in court.”

As 5 INVESTIGATES first reported last year, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office launched a review of more than 70 convictions where McGee’s testimony or expertise played a significant role, in light of the new developments about Dr. McGee.

A Ramsey County spokesperson said that review is still ongoing.

The defendants named in the lawsuit include Dr. Michael McGee, Kandiyohi County Attorney Boyd Beccue, and Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Captain William Joseph Chandler.

A spokesperson for Hennepin County said it cannot comment due to pending litigation.