Wrongful Conviction for both Daniel Risher and Nikki Zinger
Thirty years ago, my cousin Daniel Wayne Risher and his girlfriend of several years Nikki Sue Zinger, were both sentenced to life in prison on first degree murder charges. Nikki’s mother, Linda Holley, was brutally murdered (stabbed and beaten) in her home in Magnolia, Arkansas (March 10, 1991). The two were arrested on April 18, 1991 after they put the police at the scene of the crime. Until then they were not even suspects. They were charged and wrongfully convicted from false evidence.
Daniel was a hunter, and his hunting jacket was used in court as evidence against Daniel and Nikki stating there was blood on the jacket, however, it never had DNA testing done on it to prove whether or not it was human blood. The jacket amongst other items were pulled from the closet of Daniel Risher’s home via a search warrant on April 18th or nearly (39) days after the body was found.
The murder scene was never secured right away and people were allowed to come and go. Nikki Zinger was released to get her things for the funeral of her mother on March 16th. It was after this time the police took up evidence.
A neighbor said he had seen a police car at the home and a man in the yard the day of the murder, but during the trial, the trial lawyers were restricted from asking whether a police car was seen that night and could only ask if one was seen that week. We do know that Linda Holley was dating a police officer at the time. We also know 2 other murders were committed just like this one, in areas not too far away from Magnolia, but the person guilty of those murders was never considered as a suspect in this one.
On January 17, 1992, Daniel W. Risher (“Risher”) was convicted (with co-defendant Nikki Zinger (“Zinger”) for the first degree murder of Linda Holley (co-defendant’s mother) in Columbia County, Arkansas. Risher was sentenced to life in prison for that murder on January 13, 1992. Risher pled not guilty at trial and has maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration. Mr. Risher’s innocence claim is supportable as there are troubling issues in the case including, but not limited to (a) poor police investigation; (b) inconsistent police testimony regarding the scene of the crime;(c) questionable theories of guilt; and (d) junk science.
In 2005, the Innocence Project accepted Daniel’s case. The Innocence Project provides pro bono legal representation on behalf of people seeking to prove their innocence post-conviction. Since its inception in 1992, the Innocence Project has only taken cases where DNA testing can prove innocence.
In January 2011, Daniel W. Risher was represented by Innocence Projects’ staff attorney Craig Cooley from NYC who appeared before Judge Larry Chandler in Circuit Court. It was then requested that certain evidence be allowed to have DNA testing which was granted. It was proven through the DNA testing on the hunting jacket, that there was “no human blood” on any of the state’s evidence that convicted the two. However, the Innocence Projects’ representation is limited in scope to DNA and not on false evidence.
It was determined that “luminol” was used to support the two’s supposedly “staged burglary and clean-up theory” to collect on a $90,000 life insurance policy. (“Luminol is a substance which can react with blood that is invisible to the naked eye.”) It has since been discovered that the way the luminol test was done, by using a hair dryer, creates false evidence. It is proven and stated in the legal documentation via the FBI Crime Lab Report that “luminol remains a preliminary blood screening test which is insufficient to conclusively established the presence of blood.” It is also not Federal Protocol as stated in an affidavit. According to Herbert Leon MacDonnell from Independent Forensic Labratory, “Luminol testing is not accepted as a positive test for blood.” “Luminol testing is merely presumptive because Luminol reacts with substances other than blood.”
Daniel now is searching for a lawyer who will argue the false evidence case. Additionally, argue regarding the judgment sentencing Daniel and Nikki to life in prison was dated January 13, 1992, however, it was actually (5) days later before the jury gave a verdict on Jan.17th, 1992 per a notarized court document stating so. Also, suppression of witnesses and statements, private communications going on between the Judge and jury which are not allowed and not on record, reported fraud on the court that missing trial transcripts were certified as missing, and checked out by the prosecuting attorney.
Based on false testimony by a Criminologist regarding the luminol, and since it was not corrected, it violated the Defendants’ right to due process and impaired the jury’s judgement. According to legal documents, the 5th, 6th, 9th and 14th amendments were violated, and the crime photographer never testified.
The Innocence Project DNA testing has not found the DNA belonging to anyone. DNA under the victims fingernails, was her own. The victim was killed, and then the scene was made to look like a burglary. The killer cleaned up the scene. Once again, the hunting jacket that they used as evidence showing blood on it, proved by DNA testing, to not have any human blood on it. Since the Innocence Project work's on the Perry Mason theory, even though they know Daniel and Nikki are innocent, they are not moving forward. Help is needed to help investigate and present the case fully to show their innocence and get them exonerated even though the DNA testing proved in their favor.
The Innocent Project is all about DNA and the Perry Mason theory. If they can’t find DNA that points to the guilty party…they don’t move forward. Even though they can prove Daniel didn’t do it, they won’t move forward. It isn’t enough that they have tested multiple items, including the hunting jacket that convicted Daniel. They found NONE of the victim’s blood on anything! They did not find any of Daniel’s DNA under the victim’s finger nails. Although they are 100% sure he didn’t do it, they have to find the DNA for the person who did, while Daniel and Nikki sit in prison. Well, I once again understand why folks are disillusioned in the law. They let innocent people sit in jail while they try and find the real killer. They don't do junk science, and removed them selves from the case.
June 9, 2016 Daniel went before the Parole Board. We have found this to be our only avenue at this time to try to attain his freedom. We felt we had a good case. Aside from the fact he has been a model prisoner, served 25 years for a crime he did not commit. We will also show that Arkansas Supreme Court passed a law showing that Luminol was not admissible without follow up testing. However in their trial they allowed it. Follow up testing proved that the victims blood was not found on any clothing or shoes belonging to Daniel. There was no DNA found to belong to Daniel or Nikki under the fingernails of the victim. They have no evidence to prove Daniel or Nikki or anyone else killed Linda Holley. Daniel and Nikki would both like to know who killed Nikki's mother, but they know it wasn't them.
Nikki's case went before the Parole Board on June 7th, 2016. She too has been a model prisoner, even earning her GED while incarcerated.
With a full board recommendation, The Arkansas Parole Board recommended that Gov. Asa Hutchinson commute the sentences of Nikki Sue Zinger, 52, who was Holley’s daughter, and Zinger’s boyfriend, Daniel Wayne Risher, 48.
A commutation of sentence is a legal action that reduces the length of a prison term. After 25 years in prison for the Holley murder, a commutation could make both eligible for parole.
The Governor failed to commute the sentences even though there is DNA evidence to clear Daniel Risher and Nikki Zinger. We are in the process of trying again today.
We had Columbia County police officers who were unequipped to handle a murder investigation at the time. They did not secure the scene as they should, they let too many people through before they gathered all the evidence. Over 30 days later they still have no idea who committed this crime so they needed someone to pin it on, and these two young adults were it.
We have DNA evidence that there was no blood on the hunting jacket or boots or anything else testing was done on. Supreme Court said Luminol was not admissible without followup testing, but they did it anyway. What more do you need Mr. Butler? Did they ever find out who killed the lady 30 miles away a few days after Linda Holley? Could it have been the same person that killed her? We want to know who killed Nikki's mother, but we know it wasn't Daniel or Nikki. There is NO evidence to convict them of murder.
At this time we just ask for your prayers for their freedom and that justice will be served. No innocent person should have to spend one day in jail, much less over 25 years.
If you would like to correspond with Daniel W. Risher, you may mail letters directly to:
(Please Note: This Address Is For Correspondence Only)
(Please note that you can not use any stickers, return address labels for example.)
Daniel W. Risher
ADC 98275 MSU
2501 State Farm Rd.
Tucker, AR 72168
Contact: Sherry K. Scales for more information including;
all case legal documentation, photo(s), more facts and other important contact info. 512-925-8928