A Minnesota man, Thomas Rhodes, who spent nearly 25 years behind bars for the death of his wife, has filed a federal lawsuit accusing a former medical examiner, Michael McGee, and other authorities of fabricating and withholding evidence, leading to his wrongful conviction.
Rhodes, 64, filed the suit in federal court, seeking unspecified damages, and naming Michael McGee, now-deceased Kandiyohi County Attorney Boyd Beccue, and a Hennepin County investigator.
McGee’s questionable conduct has previously led to overturned convictions and sentences over the past two decades.
Convicted of first- and second-degree murder in his wife’s 1996 death during a boat ride on Green Lake in Spicer, Minnesota, Rhodes was sentenced to life in prison.
However, he became the first person to be released through Minnesota’s new conviction review unit last year.
The lawsuit alleges that McGee, Beccue, and the investigator fabricated unsupported conclusions and provided false testimony, describing Jane Rhodes’ death as a premeditated homicide. Rhodes, in a statement, expressed his desire for justice after gaining his freedom.
Jane Rhodes fell overboard during a late-evening boat ride in 1996, and the lawsuit states that neither party was wearing a life jacket.
Rhodes’ Murder Conviction Controversy
Rhodes, unable to locate his wife in the dark waters, discovered her body along the shore the next day, found by two fishermen.
A private meeting between McGee and Beccue, deemed improper by Rhodes’ attorneys, influenced the determination of the cause and manner of death.
McGee ultimately ruled the death as a homicide, alleging that Rhodes struck his wife on the neck, pushed her overboard, and ran over her body with the boat.
The Minnesota Conviction Review Unit, launched in 2021 by Attorney General Keith Ellison, investigated the case.
A forensic pathologist found that Jane Rhodes’ death was not inconsistent with an accidental fall, leading to the judge vacating Rhodes’ murder convictions in January 2023.
He accepted a plea to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to four years, credited for time served, resulting in his release.
Last year, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office announced a review of over 70 criminal convictions linked to McGee, who served as the county medical examiner from 1985 to 2019. McGee did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.