Innocents In Prison News & Views 2006












News & Views












 (Personal Observations)




Criminal Law Index


Death Penalty


Innocents In Prison

prison reform





Children's Rights


Family INFO  (General)

family LAW (archives)

family LAW articles
  Courtesy lawyers weekly


Fatherhood Archives











(Pro Se News)











































2006 Innocents in Prison News & Views

Click Headline for Full Story

December 2006


And Justice For None - The Life and Death of an Innocent Man

You have read John Grisham's book, now read the rest of the story.

(PRWEB) -- And Justice For None - The Life and Death of an Innocent Man by Mary Ann West gives a new and personal view of this story that became the lynchpin case in how DNA evidence changed the face of forensic science in criminal trials. (The State of Oklahoma, Plaintiff, vs. Ronald Keith Williamson and Dennis Leon Fritz - Case No. CRF - 87 - 90). . . . In 1988, two men, one a former professional baseball player and the other a high school math teacher, were arrested, charged and tried for the rape/murder of a twenty-one year old woman in a sleepy Oklahoma town five years after this woman's death in 1982. The only evidence against these men was hair - eleven hairs that were determined to be similar to those of these men, but the town wanted someone arrested and the prosecutor wanted a resolution to this five-year old case. These men were convicted. The former baseball player received the death penalty and was five days from execution by lethal injection when a federal judge granted a stay and prefaced his decision by the following statement: "While considering my decision in this case, I told a friend, a layman, I believed the facts and law dictated that I must grant a new trial to a defendant who had been convicted and sentenced to death. My friend asked, 'Is he a murderer?' I replied simply, we won't know until he gets a fair trial. God help us if we turn our heads while people who have not had fair trials are executed. That almost happened in this case." . . . The teacher was given life without parole and they spent twelve years in prison before this new science freed them and finally, in July of 2006, convicted the man whose testimony convicted them.


Georgia Man Fights Conviction as Molester

By Shaila Dewan

12-19-06 -- Genarlow Wilson, 20, is serving a prison sentence that shocked his jury, elicited charges of racism from critics of the justice system and that even prosecutors and the State Legislature acknowledge is unjust. . . . He was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s Eve party, an offense that constituted aggravated child molesting, even though Mr. Wilson himself was only 17. . . . With Mr. Wilson — a football player, honor student and the first homecoming king at Douglas County High School — nearing two years in prison, the Georgia Supreme Court declined last Friday to hear his appeal. . . . Mr. Wilson, who is black, is trapped in a legal vise intended to ensure severe penalties for child molesters and other sex offenders, navigating a maze of legal technicalities that for him seems to hold nothing but dead ends. Some critics of the sentence also say Mr. Wilson is caught in a system that metes out disproportionately harsh sentences to black defendants. . . . Disturbed by Mr. Wilson’s conviction, the Legislature changed the law in March to ensure that most sex between teenagers be treated as a misdemeanor. But the State Supreme Court said legislators had chosen not to make the law retroactive.

Order justice under righted sex law
OPINION By Maureen Downey, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The legal system must stop offering Genarlow Wilson condolences and start giving him justice. . . . Sentenced last year to 10 years for consensual oral sex with a classmate two years his junior, Wilson saw his prospects for freedom dashed last week when the Georgia Supreme Court declined to take up his case. . . . Because he was 17 and the girl was 15, Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation, which carries a mandatory 10-year prison sentence. A year after Wilson's conviction, the Legislature rewrote the sex offender law in recognition of the inherent unfairness of criminalizing sexual behavior between two consenting high school students. . . . Now, consensual oral sex is a misdemeanor rather than a felony if the victim is at least 13 and the suspect is no more than 4 years older, but not older than 18. It carries a maximum sentence of only 12 months. . . . But the Legislature did not speak to teens jailed under the old draconian law, a fact that the high court says tied its hand in Wilson's appeal.


Ex-Springfield mayor testifies in false-imprisonment case

By Dan Ring

12-20-06 -- Former Springfield Mayor and state Parole Board member Michael J. Albano yesterday testified that the FBI never provided him with information that three men convicted of murder were innocent. . . . "To the contrary, no information was provided to show their innocence," Albano testified yesterday in a civil trial in U.S. District Court in Boston in which two men and the families of two deceased men are suing the government for more than $100 million for wrongly putting the men in prison. . . . Two of the men - Joseph Salvati and Peter Limone - were in prison for more than 25 years before a judge tossed out their convictions in January 2001. They were exonerated after secret FBI documents were released indicating that the bureau knew the men were innocent but helped set them up to protect an informant who actually committed the murder of Edward "Teddy" Deegan in Chelsea outside Boston.


Lawyer Sues Judge Alleging False Imprisonment

New York Lawyer, By Mary Alice Robbins, Texas Lawyer

12-20-06 -- A Sherman, Texas attorney who alleges that 336th District Judge Lauri Blake had him removed from her courtroom in Fannin County and detained in a holding cell has sued Blake for false imprisonment. . . . In his original petition filed Dec. 5 in the 336th District Court, solo David Stagner alleges that on July 29, 2005, he failed to show up for a hearing in a divorce case, because he had requested a jury trial and assumed that the case had been removed from the court's nonjury docket. Later that day, Blake summoned Stagner to her courtroom and ordered him to go to the district court's office to pay the jury trial fee. . . . According to a hearing transcript attached to Stagner's petition in David M. Stagner v. Laurine J. Blake, Stagner was attempting to have an exhibit that showed he had already paid the fee marked for identification as evidence, when Blake ordered him to give the exhibit to the bailiff. [See the plaintiff's original petition and request for disclosure.]

Legal, effective credit report repair

US judge asks FBI why information withheld in civil trial

By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff  

12-14-06 -- A federal judge ordered the Justice Department last night to ask FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III to explain why the bureau has refused to share crucial information with the government's own lawyers, disrupting the civil trial being held on behalf of four men who were wrongly imprisoned for decades. . . . US District Judge Nancy Gertner wrote that the FBI's position is "chilling," given that the suit brought on behalf of Peter Limone , Joseph Salvati , Henry Tameleo , and Louis Greco is about informant abuse and FBI agents allegedly "hiding the ball" by withholding information that would have helped exonerate the four men in a 1965 gangland slaying. . . . She ordered the Justice Department to notify Mueller of her concerns and report back by Monday on why she should not find the government in contempt and impose punitive fines. . . . Gail Marcinkiewicz , a spokeswoman for the FBI in Boston, said the case was being handled out of Washington and "because it's an ongoing matter, we can't comment on it." . . . A Justice Department spokesman could not be reached last night for comment.


Walpole man is awarded $400k for wrongful arrest

12-12-06 -- A Walpole man wrongfully arrested for the brutal 1998 murder of a 75-year-old relative was awarded $400,000 yesterday by a US District Court jury in Boston, which found that the trooper who arrested him had violated his rights. . . . For Edmund Burke, 56, who spent 41 days in jail for the slaying of his sister-in-law's mother, Irene Kennedy of Foxboro, the long-awaited verdict meant vindication. . . . "It took a long time for true justice to be achieved for Ed Burke," said Robert Sinsheimer, his Boston-based lawyer. "We're grateful that 12 conscientious citizens could see the truth. . . . This jury said he was wronged. No one has ever said that before formally." . . . The jury found that Trooper Stephen McDonald violated Burke's rights because he knew of DNA evidence clearing the suspect before arresting him in December 1998, nine days after Kennedy was beaten, strangled, and repeatedly stabbed in Walpole's Bird Park.


Inmate uses petition for rare chance to clear name in murder case

By Michelle Washington, The Virginian-Pilot

12-04-06 -- In the world of law, judges put a premium on finality. . . . Asking a judge to overturn a conviction or to reopen a case is asking for a new beginning, said Mary Kelly Tate, the director of the Institute for Actual Innocence at the University of Richmond law school. . . . "You're asking for something quite extraordinary," Tate said. . . . That's why a judge's decision last week to vacate Derek E. Tice's convictions for murder and rape and to declare his imprisonment unlawful is so unusual. . . . Tice was convicted of the 1997 killing of Michelle Moore-Bosko, an 18-year-old whose body was found by her husband in their apartment when he returned from a Navy deployment. . . . Tice was one of eight men charged in the crime. Charges against three men were withdrawn for lack of evidence. The five men convicted all made confessions to police. Of those, Tice and three others say their confessions were coerced and have appealed to the governor for clemency. The fifth, Omar Ballard, was the only suspect to be linked to the crime by DNA and now says he acted alone. . . . Tice succeeded in court by using a legal petition called a writ of habeas corpus, filed last year. It's a Latin term that means "you have the body," and it's often addressed to the prison warden. In his petition, Tice claimed that his convictions were invalid because of witness tampering by police and prosecutors, mistakes by the trial judge and ineffective assistance of counsel.


Judge sets in motion wrongfully convicted man's release

By Sophia Tareen

12-01-06 -- A Cook County judge agreed Thursday to release a man serving a 20-year-prison sentence for a 1992 rape that DNA tests showed he didn't commit. . . . "That's not justice," Circuit Judge Stanley Sacks said of Marlon Pendleton's imprisonment. "It's an injustice." . . . Sacks vacated Pendleton's sentence and ordered him released on a personal recognizance bond for a separate sexual assault for which he's already served his full prison term, setting in motion a release from prison that might come as early as Thursday. . . . Pendleton appeared stunned by the judge's ruling, dropping his head and covering his face with his hands _ the moment, his attorney said, when it hit him he was going to get out of prison. . . . "He's been in prison for over a dozen years," said attorney Karen Daniel. "He's lost a huge chunk of his life, he's lost his family. He doesn't have any money, he doesn't have a job. It's not a happy day for Marlon Pendleton." . . . Sacks set another hearing for Dec. 8, at which time the Cook County State's Attorney's Office will likely drop the case, spokesman John Gorman said.


Lawyers: wrongful conviction statute mired in bureaucracy

Process to recover compensation seen as slow

By David Frank

Nearly two years after its enactment, the state's wrongful conviction compensation statute is bogged down by bureaucratic red tape and needless delays, lawyers complain. . . . Particularly when dealing with convictions overturned by DNA, practitioners note that unnecessary discovery battles and requests by the government to further investigate claims have unjustly slowed down the process. . . . In fact, in the 2005 case of Stephen Cowans, his lawyer — Robert N. Feldman of Boston (who declined to comment for this story) — became so frustrated with the system that he brought the matter to the court's attention. . . . According to a letter in Cowans' case file, Feldman wrote that because his client had already received public apologies for his wrongful conviction from Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley and acting Police Commissioner James J. Hussey, the government's request for a second extension was unfair. . . . "In light of these public comments, it is difficult to understand why there is a need for additional time to confirm Mr. Cowans' claim of innocence," Feldman wrote. "By April 7, 2005, your office will have had Mr. Cowans' initial pleadings for six weeks. Now you seek an additional thirty days and your office inexplicably has moved to have Cowans' case taken off the 'expedited' track to which it was assigned. All of this is unacceptable under the unique circumstances of this case." . . . Feldman's frustrations have been felt by others handling cases under the statute. . . . "It may be just a product of the statute being new, but there has been a feeling that it's taking longer than it should to get these cases resolved," said Joseph F. Savage Jr., chairman of the New England Innocence Project. "I'm sure the AG's Office feels they're moving as fast as they can, but from the perspective of the wrongly convicted guy, it shouldn't take a minute to decide that they've got to pay, so any delay has to make you wonder why it's taking so long."

November 2006


U.S. to pay $2M, apologize for false terror arrest


Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield was falsely accused of being involved in terrorism.


• Brandon Mayfield settles his false arrest suit against the government
• The
Oregon lawyer will receive $2 million and a written apology
• Mayfield was falsely accused of taking part in the 2004
Madrid train bombing

From Henry Schuster and Terry Frieden
(CNN) --
11-29-06 --An Oregon lawyer wrongly arrested and accused of involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings has settled a lawsuit against the U.S. government for $2 million, attorneys told CNN on Wednesday. . . . Brandon Mayfield was arrested in Portland, Oregon, on a material witness warrant in May 2004, less than two months after the train bombings. . . . The settlement was confirmed by both sides. It was reached Tuesday during a conference with a federal judge, attorneys said. . . . The FBI identified Mayfield's fingerprint on a blue plastic bag containing detonators found in a van used by the bombers. However, the FBI's fingerprint identification was wrong and Mayfield was released several days later. . . . Mayfield and his family later sued the U.S. government for damages. The Portland-area attorney contended that he was a victim of profiling because he is a Muslim convert.


Statewide panel to study ways to prevent wrongful convictions

Martha Raffaele, Associated Press

11-27-06 --A special committee will examine the cases of Pennsylvanians who were convicted of violent crimes, but later exonerated by DNA or other evidence, in a study intended to find ways to prevent wrongful convictions. . . . State Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, said Monday the advisory committee on wrongful convictions is one of a series of measures he has advocated in recent years to balance tougher criminal penalties with measures ensuring that only the guilty are convicted. . . . Greenleaf, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sponsored a resolution that the Senate adopted Tuesday to create the advisory committee. He also sponsored a 2002 state law giving inmates wider access to post-conviction DNA testing. . . . "Now that people are using this, we're finding people on death row and otherwise who have been mistakenly convicted of crimes," Greenleaf said. "All too often, we forget that justice is also served when the innocent are acquitted." . . . In an article published earlier this year, John T. Rago, a professor who heads the Innocence Project at Duquesne University Law School, discussed the cases of eight former state inmates who were cleared by post-conviction DNA testing. A ninth was freed at around the time the article appeared in the Widener Law Review. . . . "What that gives us is the perfect little laboratory" to determine what went wrong, Rago said.


In Murder Case, New Evidence but Same Cell

By Jim Dwyer

Joshua Rivera, 36, was sentenced 37 years for a 1992 murder.

11-16-06 -- More than two years ago, investigators from the Queens district attorney’s office sat in Jaime Acevedo’s living room and listened to him describe a night in 1992 — an instant, really — that has yet to end. . . . Mr. Acevedo, seen by the authorities as an ordinary, law-abiding, working man with no reason to lie, said that he knew the inside details on a little-noticed murder in Woodside, one that seemed to have been solved and settled long ago. . . . Investigators had never spoken with Mr. Acevedo or realized that he knew anything about the case. But in fact, Mr. Acevedo told them, he had unwittingly given the killer a ride to and from the murder scene. The man he named had never been connected or charged with the crime. . . . There was more. . . . Mr. Acevedo said the one person accused and convicted of the murder had nothing to do with it. That man, Joshua Rivera, sentenced to 37 years, had not even been present, according to Mr. Acevedo. . . . The story did not end there. The district attorney’s investigators found another man who told essentially the same story as Mr. Acevedo: he, too, said that he had been in the car with the killer and that Mr. Rivera was not involved.

Trial to weigh cost of being framed

Cash compensation sought for lost years

By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff  

11-13-06 -- When small-time hoodlum Edward "Teddy" Deegan was gunned down in a Chelsea alley on March 12, 1965, the FBI had a pretty good idea who did it. . . . Agents knew from an illegal bug that notorious hitman Joseph "The Animal" Barboza and FBI informant Vincent "Jimmy" Flemmi had sought permission from the boss of the New England Mafia to kill Deegan, according to FBI reports. And other informants named Barboza, Flemmi, and two other men as Deegan's killers, according to FBI memos. . . . But the case took a dramatically different turn when the FBI recruited Barboza to testify in a series of Mafia-related trials under a deal that gave him leniency for his own crimes. He admitted his role in Deegan's slaying and implicated others -- but not Flemmi -- leading to the wrongful convictions of four men who spent decades in prison before they were exonerated. . . . In a lawsuit that could cost the government more than $100 million in damages if it loses, lawyers allege the FBI sat on documents that would have helped those four men prove they were framed by Barboza. The suit is scheduled to go to trial Thursday in US District Court in Boston. . . . Peter Limone, now 72, and Joseph Salvati , 74, who were each in their early 30s with four children when convicted in 1968, spent more than 30 years in prison. Louis Greco and Henry Tameleo died in prison before being vindicated.

Ex-Death Row Inmate Krone Speaks to The Sun

By Molly OToole, Sun Staff Writer

11-13-06 -- The Sun interviewed Ray Krone, who was released from the Arizona state prison in 2002, after being wrongly convicted of sexual assault and murder. Krone was brought to Ithaca last week by the Cornell Death Penalty Project, to speak at the law school. . . . On April 8, 2002, Ray Krone walked out of the Arizona state prison in Yuma where his family and friends, as well as the media, greeted him. To his loved ones, Krone was an important man. But to the media, he was an important number — the 100th death row inmate freed because of innocence. . . . Thus, in his first precious minutes of freedom after 10 years, Krone answered questions. . . . “How did you survive?” one reporter asked. . . . Krone replied he had survived by holding on to the truth; that those who mattered most, knew his innocence — himself, his family and friends and God. . . . Another reporter questioned, “Given your faith in God, how do you justify his leaving you in prison for 10 years?” . . . Krone was speechless. He questioned the purpose of his experience. For what was maybe the hundredth time in those 10 years he asked himself, “Why me?”


As innocent man freed, lawyer criticizes system

Dallas: Police say eyewitness policies reformed since wrong conviction

By Robert Tharp / The Dallas Morning News

11-01-06 -- First the judge apologized, then the prosecutor. Finally, after 25 years in prison, 58-year-old Larry Fuller triumphantly walked out of the courthouse Tuesday a free man. . . . "There's no bitterness," he said. "This is what life is about – trial and tribulation." . . . But outside the courtroom, those who worked five years to secure the DNA testing that would prove his innocence had harsh words for the Dallas County justice system. They demanded that Mr. Fuller's exoneration become more than just the latest case of DNA testing righting a legal wrong from a generation ago. . . . With 10 such exonerations in the last five years, Dallas law enforcement should undergo a critical self-examination and embrace tighter standards when relying solely on eyewitnesses, said lawyer Barry Scheck, co-director of the national Innocence Project. . . . "Every time a case like Larry's occurs, we have to learn a lesson," Mr. Scheck said. . . . But police and prosecutors say they understand that eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable and that they no longer operate under the practices that resulted in Mr. Fuller's wrongful 1981 rape conviction and 50-year prison sentence. . . . Dallas police have volunteered to be a test city to try out progressive new eyewitness identification techniques recommended by the Police Executive Research Forum. The proposed changes have been delayed until grant funding occurs, police officials said. . . . Mr. Scheck also asked that prosecutors review the 10 recent exoneration cases to determine how they occurred and make sure the same mistakes are not repeated.

October 23, 2006


Award to DNA-freed man

City to pay $1 million over false confession
City officials agreed Tuesday to pay $1 million to a Hyde Park man whose DNA exoneration helped persuade state lawmakers that police should videotape interrogations--and not just confessions--of murder suspects. . . . Corethian Bell, 30, confessed on videotape to murdering his mother in 2000 but was exonerated 17 months later when DNA evidence linked another man to the crime. . . . In a lawsuit filed in 2002, Bell said he confessed only because police held him for more than two days and that, at one point, a detective struck him on the head. . . . Bell also was vulnerable because he suffered from mental illness and mild mental retardation, the lawsuit stated.

Jury awards $9 million to man cleared of rape by DNA evidence

Associated Press

A federal jury awarded $9 million Tuesday to a 33-year-old man who spent four years in prison before DNA evidence cleared him of rape charges. . . . "It's a day for justice," said Jon Loevy, an attorney representing Alejandro Dominguez in a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Waukegan and a now-retired police lieutenant. .. . . Dominguez was 16 years old when he was convicted of a 1989 home invasion and rape in Waukegan and sentenced to nine years in prison. He served half that before being released in December 1993 with time off for good behavior. . . . DNA tests eventually showed Dominguez could not have produced semen recovered from the victim, and a judge overturned his conviction in 2002. He was pardoned by the governor in August 2005, officially clearing his record.

October 17, 2006


DNA truth-seeking


DENNIS MAHER was a brutal serial rapist, until he wasn't. In 1984, the Lowell mechanic was convicted of three sexual assaults, attacking one victim at knife point and punching another into submission. Two victims identified him and two juries convicted him; his appeals failed. But in 2003, after Maher had spent 19 years in prison, the juries, victims, prosecutors, and judges were proven wrong when DNA evidence exonerated him. . . . With all the talk in the gubernatorial campaign decrying support of DNA testing for certain felons, Maher's story is worth remembering. It is a reminder that our justice system is not perfect, and sometimes demands that a convicted rapist get a second look (or a third or fourth look, in Maher's case).. . . But in Massachusetts, it is tougher for the wrongly convicted to set those wheels of justice in motion, because Massachusetts is one of just a handful of states -- along with Alabama and Mississippi -- still lacking laws giving inmates access to testing of DNA evidence. . . . Massachusetts has seen nine convictions overturned based on DNA evidence; it cannot afford to postpone passing such a law any longer. . . . Three bills have been filed in the Legislature. They should be combined into legislation reflecting the best aspects of the laws in other states.


October 9, 2006

 For Grisham, a new turn into non-fiction

By Carol Memmott, USA TODAY

John Grisham's downtown office in this quaint college town is packed with 12-inch-high stacks of court documents, box after box of medical records and hundreds of photographs. . . . They are part of the paper trail that tells the story of Ron Williamson, a once promising ballplayer who spent 11 years on Oklahoma's death row for a rape and murder he did not commit. It might have been the whole story of Williamson's life — until Grisham read his obituary in December 2004. . . . Grisham found Williamson's real life just as compelling as the stories he has told in his hugely successful legal thrillers. "It just had everything," Grisham says. "A wrongful conviction, the near execution, the exoneration, the mental illness, the insanity, the baseball." . . . Grisham, 51, was so taken by the Ada, Okla., native's story that it has changed the course of his career. The author of 18 best-selling novels has now written his first non-fiction book, The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town (Doubleday, $28.95), on sale Tuesday.


Judge rules Sarsfield deserves $13.6M for wrongful conviction
By Jennifer Kavanaugh/ Daily News Staff
 Seven months after the city settled a wrongful rape conviction lawsuit for $2 million, a federal judge ruled this week that Eric Sarsfield deserves $13.6 million for the decade he spent in prison. . . . Wednesday's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel doesn't change the $2 million settlement the city reached with Sarsfield in March, but it does give Sarsfield's lawyers the option to chase after other parties, to the extent they exist, for the rest of that money. . . . The judge's decision comes almost four years after Sarsfield first sued the city and several police officers over his 1987 conviction for a rape he did not commit. She wrote that Sarsfield's "social and communal life has been shredded" by his conviction and incarceration. . . . "It is, of course, impossible to make plaintiff whole and to give back to him his lost liberty, the time he lost from ordinary life, and his emotional and physical health," Zobel wrote in her decision. "Translating such losses into dollars is, at best, an attempt at reasoned judging."

Eric Sarsfield info on The Innocence Project


A question of innocence

OPINION – Baltimore Sun

James Owens Jr. believed he would die in prison. Sentenced to life without parole for a rape-murder, he saw no other future - until last week, when a DNA test cast serious doubt on his conviction in the 1987 slaying of a young Southeast Baltimore woman. . . . The testing, opposed by prosecutors and delayed by a judge, supports claims of innocence by Mr. Owens and his co-defendant, James Thompson Jr., who is serving a life sentence. It reaffirms the potential of this technology to identify innocence - and guilt - and underscores why requests for post-conviction DNA testing should be handled swiftly and judiciously. . . . The integrity of the judicial system and the search for the truth depend on it. . . . Although Maryland has one of the more progressive laws in the country on post-conviction DNA testing, it took lawyers for Mr. Thompson and Mr. Owens nearly 18 months to win approval to test semen found at the scene of the robbery and stabbing of 24-year-old Colleen Williar. Baltimore prosecutors opposed the testing, in part because Mr. Thompson had confessed at trial to being present at the murder, which he said was done by his friend, Mr. Owens. After sitting on the DNA motion for a year, a judge denied it in late 2005 and then changed her mind a month later after more review.


If DNA is Nobel-worthy, so is innocence

NY Daily News

The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded on Friday, but there is little chance it will go to two truly deserving New Yorkers, the two being Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld of the Innocence Project. . . . For all the knuckleheads who have taken up the old street chant "No justice, no peace," the essential truth remains: There truly can be no peace without justice. . . . And nobody of late has done more for the cause of justice than the nonprofit outfit that Scheck and Neufeld founded in 1992 with the noble notion of using DNA evidence to free the wrongly imprisoned. . . . The most immediate and vital result of the Innocence Project's work has been the freeing of 183 souls who never should have been jailed in the first place. These include a Bronx man who was freed in June after serving 22 years for a rape he did not commit, a Peekskill man who was freed in September after serving 16 years for a rape and murder he did not commit and a Brooklyn man who was freed last week after serving 21 years for a rape he did not commit. . . . Scott Fappiano was ordered released Friday in Brooklyn Supreme Court. Scheck was out of town due to a previous commitment, but he used a wonderful word to describe the hearing. . . . "I couldn't be at the exoneration," he said.

Innocent man freed after 16 years, guilty man confesses

Steven Cunningham


Jeffrey Deskovic

KARE11 -- Steven Cunningham knew it would come out someday. But for almost 17 years, he kept a secret from relatives, friends and law enforcement - a silence that sent a naive teenager to prison for more than half his life for a crime Cunningham committed. . . . In a jailhouse confession yesterday, the 46-year-old convicted murderer admitted that he killed 15-year-old Angela Correa in the woods behind Peekskill's Hillcrest Elementary School in November 1989 - four years before the slaying of a schoolteacher would land him behind bars. . . . "I strangled her," he told The Journal News of Correa. "It was during (sex). Like a rage." . . . Two weeks ago, Correa's Peekskill High School classmate, Jeffrey Deskovic, was released from prison after a DNA match linked Cunningham to the crime. The inmate insisted yesterday that he had no idea anyone was ever charged or sent to prison for his crime, and that if he had, he would have spoken up sooner. . . . But Deskovic, now 32 and staying with a friend in Peekskill until he finds an apartment, said it was unfathomable that someone who remained in town in the wake of Correa's high-profile slaying would have been oblivious to the outcome of the investigation.

Men in Black' Blasts High Court

While news coverage tends to focus on developments in the White House and with Congress, most folks pay little or no attention to what happens on the Supreme Court. . . . That's a shame, says constitutional scholar and former Reagan Justice Department official Mark Levin, since the Court wields so much unchecked power affecting the everyday lives of Americans, often in ways detrimental to the nation.

October 5, 2006


Court lets innocent inmate sue

Federal judges refused to throw out the case of a man wrongly jailed 22 years.

By Emilie Lounsberry, Inquirer Staff Writer

A federal appeals court has refused to throw out a civil-rights lawsuit brought by former Pennsylvania death row prisoner Nicholas Yarris, who spent 22 years behind bars until after a long-sought DNA test cleared him of a Delaware County rape and murder. . . . Yarris, now 45 and living in England, sued Delaware County after his 2004 release, contending that prosecutors and detectives destroyed evidence pointing to the real killer, manufactured evidence against him, and thwarted his demands for DNA testing. . . . The lawsuit is one of a growing number of suits filed across the country by defendants who were freed as a result of DNA testing after spending years in prison. . . . Prosecutors and detectives had sought dismissal of the suit under the long-recognized legal principle that prosecutors and investigators should be immune from lawsuits as long as they act in accordance with the law when they prosecute someone. . .. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in a decision filed Monday, said that the prosecutors "are not entitled to absolute immunity from suit for constitutional violations caused by their alleged deliberate destruction of exculpatory evidence."

September 28, 2006

DNA Tests Prove Justice Has Failed
Alberto Cremonesi

(IPS) - When we talk of capital punishment there is no room for mistakes; no allowances for doubt or indecision. There is definitely no mechanism for review of guilt or innocence after someone has been killed. . . . Yet, consider these people:
Jeffrey Mark Deskovic, 33, spent nearly half his life in a
New York prison for a rape and murder he did not commit. DNA testing cleared Deskovic and he was released Sep. 20 from prison.  . . . "I was supposed to finish out my education…begin a career," Deskovic, choking up, told reporters when leaving the court room. "Marry, have a family, spend some time with my family…share the last years of my grandmother's life with her." Deskovic was 17 years old when he was ordered to spend his life in prison. . . . In 2004, Ryan Matthew, convicted for the murder of a local convenience store owner in Louisiana, escaped the death penalty after prosecutors dropped all charges on the basis of DNA testing results.  . . . There are other stories of executions conducted too fast, trials completed too quickly and mistakes too easily made. And yet, the state-sanctioned killings continue. Now, DNA testing is helping to prove that innocent people continue to be killed or placed on death row. It proves that the U.S. judicial system is flawed; it sends innocent people to jail and, worse, puts them to death.


Bill could help put an end to wrongful convictions

By Ray Krone

In an important move toward improving the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania, the state Senate in April unanimously passed The Innocence Commission Act . . . . The legislation (Senate Bill 1069), introduced by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, with a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, would establish the commission to study the reasons why innocent people are convicted of crimes. . . . SB 1069 now awaits action in the House Judiciary Committee. Several representatives from south-central Pennsylvania are members of that committee, and I strongly urge them to ensure that the bill finds its way out of the committee and to the full House for a vote.


Exonerated man awaits legal reversal of rape convictions

By Duane Bourne, The Virginian-Pilot
Arthur Lee Whitfield, who was exonerated for two 1981 rapes by DNA
evidence, remains on the state's sex offender registry because his convictions have not been legally overturned by a court or the governor. . . . The question arose Monday when The Virginian-Pilot accompanied a state trooper on Operation Vigilant Locator, which aims to find 300 sex offenders who have not provided current employment information to the state registry. . . . Whitfield was among 160 people on the registry who provided law enforcement agents with updated information Monday.

September 26, 2006


DNA Exonerates Westchester Man Convicted In 1990 Rape And Murder

District Attorney Consents To Have Newly Developed  DNA Test Performed On Evidence

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore will join in a motion today to vacate the murder conviction of Jeffrey Deskovic (DOB 10/27/73) of Sing Sing Prison, Ossining, New York based on evidence made possible by new DNA testing secured by the District Attorney’s Office.

On November 17th, 1989, the strangled, beaten and partially nude body of fifteen year old Angela Correa, a Colombian émigré, was found in the woods near the Hillcrest Elementary School in Peekskill, New York. She was last seen on November 15th, 1989 when she left home to take pictures for a photography class.

On December 7th, 1990, sixteen year old Jeffrey Deskovic, a Peekskill High School sophomore and classmate of the victim was found guilty of felony murder, rape in the first degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree and depraved indifference murder after a jury trial. Although DNA testing available at that time, Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) was able to develop a profile which excluded Jeffrey Deskovic as the donor, no test existed that could identify the donor.

Deskovic was sentenced to fifteen years to life for the murder, eight and one third to twenty five years to life for the rape and one year for possession of a weapon, all sentences to run concurrently.

Earlier this month, the Innocence Project, on behalf of its client Jeffrey Deskovic, requested that biological evidence collected at the scene of the crime be retested by Short Tandem Repeat (STR), a test not available in 1990.

The District Attorney’s Office consented and a subsequent search of the profile in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) came up with a “hit” and matched another individual who is currently serving a life sentence in the New York State prison system.

District Attorney Janet DiFiore commented, “Nothing protects the integrity of the criminal justice system more directly than the expectation of fairness. As prosecutors we vigorously and aggressively prosecute the guilty, and the foundation that gives us the moral as well as legal ability to do so is that we just as vigorously protect the rights of the innocent. If and when new technology allows us the opportunity to exonerate the innocent as well as convict the guilty it is our duty to do so.

Jeffrey Deskovic will be immediately released based on the vacate order.

Last year, in the United States, there were eighteen exonerations based on DNA evidence.  


Man freed after 12 years in prison

Associated Press

9-21-06 -- A man granted a new trial after serving 12 years in prison was freed after the murder charge against him was dropped. . . . The El Paso District Attorney's Office dismissed the charge Monday because of inadequate counsel in the first trial and a lack of physical evidence connecting Alejandro "Alex" Hernandez to the murder of Robert A. Cobb, a homeless man who was stabbed and beaten to death with a steering column lock in 1994. . . . Earlier this summer, a state appellate court overturned Hernandez's 1994 conviction and ordered a new trial. The court ruled that Hernandez's attorney failed to exploit inconsistencies in the testimony of a witness and did not call to the stand a second man who would have testified that his roommate confessed to the murder. . . . There was no physical evidence linking Hernandez to the crime, and subsequent DNA testing could not establish a link, said Renee Railey, a spokeswoman for the district attorney.

September 18, 2006


After 22 years on death row, Nick Yarris has a new start on life.

John Roman, Of the Times Staff

After spending nearly half his life on Pennsylvania’s death row, ex-con Nick Yarris -- cleared through DNA tests in the 1981 rape-murder of an Upper Chichester woman -- has had nearly 32 months to start a new life. . . . He now calls England his home. He’s been living overseas the past two years with his wife, Karen, and their newborn daughter, Lara Rebecca. . . . It’s a life he never dreamed of after being diagnosed in prison with hepatitis C and serving 22 years behind bars while awaiting execution. It was 8,057 days of living hell he’ll never forget. . . . Yarris, 45, a native of Southwest Philadelphia, was not only the first person convicted of murder to request unprecedented DNA testing (in 1988) in both Delaware County and Pennsylvania, but also in the United States, he says.

September 12, 2006

Defendants' Web Sites Make Their Lawyers Squirm

By Peter Geier, The National Law Journal

Gregory Wright has spent the last decade as a death row inmate in Texas, as the sole perpetrator of a murder for which another man later was convicted. . . . Or so say Wright's wife and supporters on the newly launched Web site, . . . Wright's supporters recently joined the growing number of criminal defendants and convicts seeking public exposure of perceived injustices by posting their stories on the Internet -- in this case with the aim of getting the Texas courts to take his appeals seriously. . . . But criminal defendants and their supporters who use the Internet to advance their cases are causing at least one unintended effect: They're making their own attorneys uncomfortable. . . . Bruce Anton of Dallas criminal defense firm Sorrels, Udashen & Anton, who now represents Wright, said that he is philosophically against such Web sites. He believes that cases should be tried in court. But Anton said he cannot prohibit clients and their supporters from having Web sites -- especially those on death row. . . . "A Web site can be a two-edged sword," Anton said. "On the plus side, publicity about a case can help bring in additional investigation funds and support outside the legal community, but it can be a problem when something posted on a Web site can be inferred to be an official statement from the defendant."


Judge: New trial on money for Hillsborough jail inmate

A federal judge has ordered that more money be paid to a man who spent five months in solitary confinement at the Hillsborough County jail in Goffstown (New Hampshire) because of false accusations by a guard. . . . The former prisoner, Antonio King, is one of several who sued the jail and correctional Officer Cesar Rivas, saying Rivas falsely accused them of threatening to hold him hostage in 2002.

September 7, 2006


Ex-suspect may testify in slay trial
By Laurel J. Sweet
A Walpole man whose life became “a house of horrors” after he was wrongfully accused of torturing an elderly woman to death may be called to testify at her murder trial. . . . Their contention is (police) had the right guy the first time,” Edmund Burke said of why he’s on the witness list for Martin Guy, 45, a convicted killer indicted two years ago for the gruesome 1998 slaying of Irene Kennedy, 75, in Walpole’s Bird Park. . . . “I can see a suspect as good as anyone else, and Ed Burke is a good suspect,” said Guy’s defense attorney Robert Jubinville. . . . Nearly eight years after Kennedy was bludgeoned, stabbed 32 times and had both her breasts bitten while on a walk, town tormentors still drive by Burke’s house beside Bird
Park and hiss, “Murderer!” . . . “I should be dead, when I think about it,” said Burke, 55, whose brother is married to Kennedy’s daughter. . . . Burke is pressing a federal civil suit accusing town officials of malicious prosecution, which is scheduled to be heard in December.


Louisiana Justice: The Long Struggle of Gary Tyler
by Joe Allen

8-28-06 -- Gary Tyler, at one time the youngest person on death row, turned forty-eight years old this July.  He has spent thirty-two of those years in jail for a crime he did not commit.  The case of Gary Tyler is one of the great miscarriages of justice in the modern history of the United States, in a country where the miscarriage of justice is part of the daily routine of government business.  "This case is just permeated with racism all the way through it," declared Mary Howell, Gary's longtime attorney, "from the initial event all the way up to the pardon process."  Yet, far too few people are aware of Gary Tyler's case, which in the mid-1970s mobilized thousands across the country for his freedom and led Amnesty International to declare him a political prisoner.  Over the last twenty years, hundreds of death row inmates and scores of others have been exonerated for the crimes they were falsely convicted of by racist and corrupt prosecutors.  It's long past time that Gary Tyler should have gone free.


Lawyers want full acquittal

The Associated Press, Culpeper Star Exponent

8-28-06 -- Lawyers for Earl Washington Jr. plan to ask Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to fully exonerate their client in the 1982 rape and murder of a Culpeper woman, for which Washington was wrongfully convicted and nearly executed. . . . Washington, now a maintenance worker in Virginia Beach, was pardoned by Gov. Jim Gilmore in 2000 after testing showed that DNA at the crime scene belonged to convicted rapist Kenneth M. Tinsley. Tinsley is serving life in prison for an unrelated rape conviction. . . . “Governor Kaine should amend Earl Washington’s pardon and make it on the grounds that he is actually innocent,” said Peter Neufeld, a lawyer who represents Washington.


Innocent woman vindicated of embezzling

By Patrick Center

8-23-06 -- A year ago, Lisa Hansen finished her shift as a receptionist at Panapolous Salons and made the nightly money-drop at the Huntington Bank branch on Breton SE. . . . But when the money didn't show up in their account, Hansen was charged with - and found guilty of - embezzlement. . . . Now, the money has been found, right where she told authorities to look from the very beginning. . . . Hansen, 25, was fired by Panopolous, the first in an ongoing saga of her versus the world. . . . She gave her statement to the police, always maintaining her innocence. She even took a polygraph test. "I was amazed that I didn't pass. Completely amazed," she told 24 Hour News 8.


Wrongly convicted man goes home to Milpitas


Nhat V. Meyer/Mercury News

Michael Hutchinson, 39, gets a warm welcome home Thursday in Milpitas, after he was freed from prison.


Case File: Michael Hutchinson (PDF)

The series: Tainted Trials

New Life Awaits Man Freed After MN Investigation

By Fredric N. Tulsky, Mercury News

8-18-06 -- Michael Hutchinson arrived home in Milpitas on Thursday, more than six years after he was convicted of a 7-Eleven robbery based on shaky identification evidence. . . . Hutchinson, 39, was finally freed from a prison in Susanville in the remote northeast part of California, eight weeks after a federal judge overturned his conviction based on ``persuasive evidence'' developed by the Mercury News that he is too tall to have been the man caught on a store camera in 1998. . . . A crowd of more than 25 family and friends gathered in the front yard of his parents' home, within blocks of the 7-Eleven where the robbery had occurred. He called the scene ``surreal'' and said ``reality has not sunk in yet.'' . . . ``This all happened for a reason,'' said Hutchinson, who said he spent his time in prison preaching. Court records show Hutchinson was considered a model prisoner. He said he hoped to return to counseling youth and to use his experience to help troubled kids. He said he is eager to regain contact with his children, Marcel, now 11, and Alyssia, now 9.

Free inmate now, judge orders state

Conviction Overturned After MN Investigation

By Fredric N. Tulsky, Mercury News

8-18-06 -- State officials said late Wednesday they expected to release Michael Hutchinson within hours from prison, eight weeks after a federal judge overturned the Milpitas man's robbery conviction citing ``persuasive independent evidence'' uncovered by the Mercury News. . . . The impending release of Hutchinson, 39, came after his attorneys, frustrated by a series of delays, asked U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White to hold a state warden in contempt if Hutchinson were not released by the end of the day. . . . Even though his conviction was overturned June 22, Hutchinson's release has been hampered by a series of obstacles that his attorneys contended were ``artificial hurdles'' created by the prison system to delay freeing him.


Boston man awarded $3.2 million for wrongful conviction

8-14-06 -- A man who spent 6 1/2 years in prison after a faulty fingerprint match led to his conviction for shooting a Boston police officer was awarded $3.2 million by the city, equaling what's believed to be the largest amount the city ever paid in a wrongful conviction case.. . . The award to Stephan Cowans, 35, of the city's Mattapan section, stemmed from the 1997 wounding of Sgt. Gregory Gallagher. Cowans was exonerated by DNA evidence through the New England Innocence Project and freed in January 2004. . . . In March, the city agreed to pay $3.2 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Neil Miller, who served 10 years in prison after being convicted of raping a 19-year-old Emerson College student. In 1989, DNA tests proved another man had committed the crime.


Goal: Free the innocent

By Andy Grimm / Post-Tribune staff writer

8-14-06 -- Students don’t get paid for the hours of drafting briefs, interviewing witnesses and poring over decades-old court files at the Indiana University Law Clinic, but there are some rare perks. . . . For students in the Wrongful Convictions section of the law clinic four years ago, they got a rare thrill: One of their non-paying clients, Gary native Larry Mayes, walked out of prison 19 years after a jury convicted him of rape and robbery. . . . “It is something you don’t get to do a whole lot,” said Fran Hardy, the law professor in charge of the Indiana University Innocence Project. “You get a lot of experience, and you get to get someone who is innocent out of jail.” . . . Mayes, who spent 22 years imprisoned from the time of his arrest in 1981 to his release, was the first Indiana convict — and so far the only one — who the Innocence Project at Indiana University has freed. . . . “We had his case before we had enrolled the first students,” Hardy said. “He was right at the top of the pile.” . . . In 2000 Hardy received Mayes’ file from the New York-based Innocence Project, which serves as a national clearing house for wrongful conviction cases. . . . Mayes was the 100th person freed from prison by the Innocence Project and affiliated law schools nationwide. To date, more that 170 convicts — including 14 who were on death row — have been exonerated, most relying on DNA evidence.

Larry Mayes info on The Innocence Project


North Carolina creates a new route to exoneration

An official innocence commission can revisit death penalty convictions.

By Patrik Jonsson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

8-10-06 -- Eighty-five percent of all executions in the US take place in the South. . . . For that reason alone, anti-death penalty activists claimed a major victory when North Carolina last week became the first state in the union to establish a government commission that will review evidence and, if warranted, send a recommendation of innocence to a three-judge panel. . . . The creation of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission fits in with a broader national inquiry into the moral responsibility of legal executions. In North Carolina, it was primarily those who work inside the justice system who helped bring about the commission. . . . It's an idea with appeal: Lawmakers in at least 12 other states - including Texas, where nearly half of all executions take place each year - are considering filing similar legislation next year, according to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. . . . "North Carolina is now the center of gravity in the death penalty debate," says David Elliot of the coalition. "That's significant because the death penalty increasingly is a Southern phenomenon." . . . Ever wonder what life is like inside the California Prison System? Here is a first hand account of the horrors of what is like in the Chowchilla prison for women, located in the Central Valley.


Pardoned man seeks millions from cops who worked his case

By Natasha Korecki Federal Courts Reporter

8-7-06 -- A man who wrongfully spent 27 years in an Illinois prison before DNA freed him should be paid up to $58 million to make up for his misery, his lawyer told a federal jury Thursday. . . . Pardoned inmate Michael Evans should get up to $2 million for each of the 27 years he spent in prison. On top of that, Evans should get $1 million in punitive damages from each of the four main Chicago police detectives accused of conspiring to bring a sham case against him, his lawyer, Jon Loevy, said in closing arguments Thursday. . . . "Michael Evans spent three decades in the worst hell imaginable," Loevy said. . . . In all, Evans, 47, is suing 10 former police officials for allegedly fabricating a case against him in the 1976 South Side rape and murder of 9-year-old Lisa Cabassa. Loevy said the officers faked evidence, manipulated witnesses and withheld favorable evidence. . . . But Andrew Hale, a lawyer for the officers, said they had cause to arrest Evans after witness Judy Januczewski said she saw Evans with Cabassa the night she disappeared. . . . "The police officers in this case did their job," Hale said.

Michael Evans info on Center on Wrongful Convictions


Gagging Baran’s lawyers — for justice or politics?

First amendment

By: David S. Bernstein

Bernard Baran


8-7-06 -- It took a lot of loud lawyering to finally, after 21 years, get some measure of justice for Bernard Baran, who was convicted in 1985 of molesting children at a day care center and won the right to a retrial in June. Now, the district attorney of Western Massachusetts’s Berkshire County — fighting a political battle to keep his office — wants to shut those lawyers up. . . . DA David Capeless, who is personally handling the Baran case, has asked a judge to place a gag order on Baran’s lawyers to prevent them from making public statements about the case. Capeless argues that by talking about how Baran was screwed by county prosecutors, the attorneys will prejudice potential future jurors. Whether they might also prejudice voters in the September 19 Democratic primary, pitting Capeless against Judith Knight, is left unsaid. (Capeless was not available for comment.) . . . The unfair trial received by Baran, and the possibility of his innocence, was reported by the Boston Phoenix in June 2004, in collaboration with the Boston University Investigative Journalism Project (see “The Trials of Bernard Baran,” News and Features, June 18, 2004). Nine months later came the breakthrough in the long-stalled case, when Capeless found and turned over five unedited videotapes of interviews with the alleged victims. “The unedited versions contain statements in which the children deny that Mr. Baran had done anything to them, and statements where they accuse other persons of abuse,” wrote Superior Court justice Francis Fecteau in vacating the convictions this June and ordering a new trial.

See Victims-of-Law Bernard Baran Webpage


NC Gets Country's First Felon Innocence Commission

8-7-06 -- North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley signed into law Thursday the creation of the country's first state panel to evaluate felons' innocence claims. The N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission will start reviewing such claims Nov. 1. The commission's proponents say it will address inadequacy in the current criminal appeals process. The panel will focus on determining whether a defendant received a fair trial as opposed to evaluating guilt or innocence. Several North Carolina inmates who were later exonerated had to file as many as 11 appeals before they were freed. . . . "As a state that Oness in the review of our cases," Easley said in a statement. The eight-member panel will consist of a judge, prosecutor, defense lawyer and others. Five of the eight members must agree that a defendant deserves judicial review. Then a three-judge panel must unanimously agree that a defendant has presented "clear and convincing evidence" of factual innocence to be exonerated.



Murder, then rush to judgment

By Laura A. Bischoff and Mary McCarty, Staff Writers

8-7-06 -- In the joyful pandemonium nobody notices the girl hanging back, reluctant to join in the mass embrace of Clarence Elkins — her Uncle Clarence — as he walks out of the Mansfield Correctional Institution. Elkins steps through the security gate and flashes the back of his hand under a blue light that shows it has been swabbed to indicate he is free to go. . . . Just yesterday, he was Inmate Number A375856, convicted killer, child rapist. Now, he is Clarence Elkins, husband, father, devout Christian, avid fisherman. As he hugs his mother and father, his wife Melinda and their boys Clarence and Brandon, Elkins can't stop smiling. . . . "He's home, finally," Brandon thinks as he clutches his father. . . . It is Dec. 15, 2005, nearly eight years since Clarence Elkins was hauled away in handcuffs for a crime he didn't commit. Brooke Sutton watches shyly, feeling like a wallflower at the party. She is 14 now, looking like Little Orphan Annie almost grown up. She is the girl with the curly, reddish-brown hair, the dimpled cheeks and the crushing guilt. . . . She is the only one in the family for whom the joy and anticipation are mixed with dread and anxiety. She is the one who was in the house the night her grandma was killed, the night she herself was raped and beaten. . . . She is the one who said, "Uncle Clarence did it." . . . She was only 6 years old the day she said it. But in her mind that doesn't exonerate her. She knows that her words put him behind bars, tore her family apart.


FORGOTTEN : D.A. put him in jail to assure his testimony

By Theresa Conroy

8-7-06 -- KORVEL ODD was in the Twilight Zone. . . . For two months, from mid-November 2004 to mid-January 2005, Odd languished in the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, trying to figure out why he was there, and desperately trying to convince somebody - anybody - to set him free. . . . Odd, 42, was jailed at the request of a Philadelphia assistant district attorney - not as punishment for a crime, but to ensure his testimony as a witness in a murder case. . . . Yet, even after the murder charges were dismissed, no one bothered to release Odd from prison. . . . Odd - who finally obtained his freedom after sending a written plea to a public defender - is suing the assistant district attorney who jailed him, Tom Malone, and the district attorney's office. His suit was filed in federal court in May.

July 31, 2006


Innocent man haunted by decades in prison

By Laurin Sellers, The Orlando Sentinel

Wilton Dedge hits the brakes every time he sees a patrol car, even if he's driving under the speed limit. He keeps boxes of receipts from gas stations, stores and fast-food places - just in case he might have to prove where he was. . . . And he rarely goes anywhere alone. . . . Nearly two years after being freed from prison, the man who served 22 years for a rape he didn't commit is terrified of being sent back. . . . "I still get nervous around police," said Dedge, 44. . . . Twenty-four years ago, he was a high-school dropout who loved to surf and party when a sheriff's agent came looking for him at his parents' home in Port St. John. He ended up being convicted twice and sentenced to life because a 17-year-old girl said he attacked her Dec. 8, 1981, and he couldn't prove he was somewhere else. . . . .  Dedge finally was released in August 2004 after DNA testing confirmed his innocence. But nearly two years later, he remains scarred by all those years in jail as an innocent man.

Wilton Dredge Info on The Innocence Project


DNA evidence brings new trial for man serving life in rape

Innocence Blog -- The Associated Press

A man sentenced to life for rape will get a new trial because the DNA found on the victim did. Although prosecutors conceded that Allen H. Coco's DNA wasn't a match for that from a man stabbed after raping a woman in 1997, District Attorney John DeRosier said he was not conceding that the Lake Charles man is innocent. . . . Coco, convicted in 1997 by Judge Greg Lyons, has said from the first that he was misidentified. His attorney, Ron Ware, noted that the victim never mentioned tattoos, and Coco's arms are covered with them. . . . State district court Judge Kent Savoie ordered a new trial for him Wednesday. . . . Assistant District Attorney Wayne Frey, who tried the case in November 1997, said DNA wasn't used as evidence because the sample obtained from the victim was too small to be tested at the time.

July 17, 2006


Supreme Court agrees Missoula man's rape conviction deserves new review

By Matt Gouras, Associated Press

A man convicted of rape a decade ago, and subsequently released from prison, deserves a new review of the case because his daughter has since recanted the testimony that helped convict him, the Montana Supreme Court says.. . . Daniel Crosby was convicted in 1996 in Missoula of raping his daughter, then 10, who testified against him. He was sentenced to 10 years at the Montana State Prison, released in 2000 and his sentence expired in 2005. . . . His daughter recanted her testimony as an adult in 2004. She said her mother had influenced her to accuse her father. She said the events she had described to the court did not occur.


Cry of innocence

A new layer of review for North Carolina prisoners who claim innocence should have to operate openly and independently


Citizen juries long ago proved that justice could be safe in their hands. All in all, they've shown a remarkable ability to sift the truth from complicated and conflicting evidence. . . . Unfortunately, the history of democracy also includes examples of jury verdicts against people who were in fact innocent. Those disturbing cases cry out for efforts to counteract flaws in the judicial system, as state lawmakers are poised to do with the creation of the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission. . . . The idea was advanced several years ago by former state Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr. Based on the work of an expert task force, Lake saw the innocence commission filling a gap in the present appeals process. In criminal cases, appellate courts generally rule on a trial's fairness, based on the existing body of evidence. It's possible to obtain a new trial because of important new evidence, but the bar is set high. If the commission receives final approval, North Carolina would be the first state in the nation to provide this additional check on the work of citizen jurors.


Baumgartner Denied Good Time Credit, Competency Hearing Due

© 2006 North Country Gazette

In most states and in county jails, if an inmate has no disciplinary problems during his or her incarceration, good time is awarded, a reduction of time served. . . . In Ohio, that amounts to a half a day a week or in the case of a 45-day sentence, early release by three days. . . . Unless your name is Dr. Elsebeth Baumgartner. . . . Dr. Baumgartner of Oak Harbor, now a disbarred attorney, was sentenced to jail for 45 days on June 1 after retired visiting judge Richard Knepper found her in direct contempt for being "obstreperous". He ordered that she undergo a third competency evaluation at the Lucas County Court Diagnostic and Treatment Center, continuing the trial until Monday, July 17 at l:30 p.m. when an additional pre-trial hearing will be held to set a new trial date and for a hearing on the competency evaluation.

July 10, 2006


Freed by DNA, and Expressing Compassion for Rape Victim

By Timothy Williams

Before Alan Newton was taken out of his holding cell and escorted into a Bronx courtroom yesterday, three other criminal cases had to be adjudicated — of people charged with theft, drug possession and assault. . . . Only then, after 22 years spent in prison for crimes he did not commit, did Alan Newton get his chance. . . . He blinked in the courtroom's bright light and appeared tense as lawyers talked on either side of him. . . . His lawyer, Vanessa Potkin — of the Innocence Project, a legal service that seeks to free convicts through DNA evidence — told the judge that newly tested DNA evidence had cleared her client of the 1984 rape, robbery and assault charges on which he had been sentenced to 13 1/3 to 40 years.

New York Fails at Finding Evidence to Help the Wrongfully Convicted

By Jim Dwyer

Alan Newton

Alan Newton, a former bank teller from the Bronx, is due to leave prison today after serving 22 years for a rape he did not commit — a victim first of mistaken identification, then of a housekeeping problem of epic scope. . . . For more than a decade, Mr. Newton, 44, pleaded in state and federal courts for DNA testing that was not available when he was tried, but Police Department officials said they could not find the physical evidence from the case. That evidence, a rape kit taken from a woman who was kidnapped and assaulted, was located only after a special request was made last year by a senior Bronx prosecutor to a police inspector. . . . The rape kit, it turned out, was in its original storage bin from 1984, Barrel No. 22, in the same police warehouse that the authorities said they had searched at least three times since Mr. Newton first asked in 1994.


Court Approves Ohio's Largest Wrongful Imprisonment Award

(AP) -- The Ohio Court of Claims approved the largest wrongful incarceration settlement in state history, agreeing to a $2.5 million award for a man found innocent after serving 26 years for a bank robbery and a guard's murder. . . . Timothy Howard, 52, of Columbus, will receive monthly payments for the next 30 years under the ruling Wednesday, as well as a lump sum of about $700,000, said James D. Owen, Howard's attorney. . . . The money will come from a state emergency fund but must be approved first by the state's Controlling Board, a panel of mostly lawmakers who review many of the more costly government expenses. The settlement is more than twice the $1.075 million the state agreed to earlier this year in an unrelated case.

July 5, 2006


Man Haunted by Arrest for Crime He Didn't Commit


By Radhiya Teagle, The Ledger

It is a December night he will never forget. Christmas was a week away, and Joseph Lehr, his wife and three stepchildren were preparing to go to bed. . . . A knock on the door of his home on Avenue G Southeast in Winter Haven on Dec. 18, 2002, would put him behind bars that Christmas Day on an arrest warrant for a robbery that happened about 1,200 miles away in Connecticut -- while he was at work in Winter Haven. . . . He would stay in the Polk County Jail for nearly 120 days fighting to prove his innocence. . . . "I opened the door and (the officers) immediately grabbed me and dragged me across the lawn," he said in a recent interview. "Guns were pointed at me and my family."

June 27, 2006


Freed man wants justice and for the world to know the truth

Jailed for more than 10 months for a murder he did not commit, William "Billy" White wants the world to know the truth - and he wants justice. . . . The 36-year-old former Johnson City resident, carrying all of the evidence that was filed in his case, doesn't understand why he was arrested and charged in the shootings of two men near the Almeda Apartments at the corner of Watauga Avenue and Roan Street in 2004. Don Jackson died at the scene and Douglas Sayers was shot in the mouth and leg. . . . In spite of several statements from witnesses that pointed to the presence of two black men at the scene, White, who is blond and blue-eyed, was arrested.

June 6, 2006


False Conviction Gives Cause For Recording Of Interrogations

DNA tests prove that Douglas Warney did not commit a murder in Rochester for which he was convicted and served a decade in prison. The DNA evidence points to another man who is already in prison and has since confessed to the crime. . . . In New York Supreme Court in Monroe County on May 16, Warney's conviction was vacated and he was released. . . . In 1996, Warney was convicted of murdering William Beason in Rochester. Beason was stabbed to death in his home sometime between Dec. 31, 1995, and Jan. 2, 1996. Warney, who has a recorded IQ of 68 and a history of mental health issues, was convicted based almost entirely on a confession he gave police after hours of interrogation-even though the confession was riddled with inconsistencies, he had a history of making false reports to place and the physical evidence at the time failed to link him to the crime. Warney was initially charged with capital murder, though he was ultimatel sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

May 30, 2006


Case closed: Prosecutor won’t retry man who’s conviction overturned on DNA proof

Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi dropped the charges against Larry L. Peterson yesterday ending any speculation of a retrial. . . . Over the last 18 years, Peterson continually proclaimed his innocence despite the rape and murder conviction which was upheld repeatedly until science proved otherwise. . . . Last September Larry Leroy Peterson, 54, became the first person in New Jersey to have his 1989 conviction for the murder of Jackqueline Harrison, 25, overturned because his DNA evidence didn’t match that found at the scene. Both were residents of the Lake Valley Acres Apartment Complex. . . . "I am announcing today my decision to terminate the prosecution of Larry Peterson. I make this announcement satisfied that I have exercised my responsibility as the county prosecutor fairly and impartially after a comprehensive review of the body of evidence against Mr. Peterson," Bernardi said. . . . Peterson’s lawyer was elated.


New trial sought in death-row civil case

Lawyers say judge in Earl Washington case erred in jury selection

Lawyers want to retry the civil case in which exonerated death-row inmate Earl Washington Jr. won a $2.25 million jury award this month. . . . The Charlottesville jury awarded him the damages after finding that Curtis Reese Wilmore, a former Virginia State Police investigator who died in 1994, fabricated evidence against Washington. . . . Washington was nearly executed in 1985 for a murder he did not commit. . . . On Monday, Wilmore's estate filed for a new trial on the grounds that U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon erred by refusing to let the defense eliminate a juror -- the only remaining black in the pool -- during jury selection for the civil suit.

May 15, 2006


Man Wrongly Imprisoned For 12 Years Graduates From UW Law School

Former Inmate Speaks At Graduation Ceremony

It is graduation weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Friday's ceremony was extra special to one UW law school graduate. . . . Five years after the UW Innocence Project helped free Christopher Ochoa from prison, he's living a dream instead of a nightmare. . . . "Maybe it's the start of a new beginning as far as maybe I can finally start putting everything behind me," said Ochoa. . . . On Friday, Ochoa graduated from the UW Law School -- the same school that found the DNA evidence that got him released from prison in 2001. . . . Ochoa spent 12 years in prison for a rape and murder he didn't commit after confessing under the threat of the death penalty, WISC-TV reported. . . . "It's almost 10 years to the day when I had lost hope -- all hope. I know in 1996 in prison, I had really contemplated suicide because I lost all hope," said Ochoa. . . . His parents, uncle and other family members flew up from El Paso, Texas, for Ochoa's law school graduation ceremony at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. . . . "This is the best Mother's Day gift I can get from him in 12 years since he was in prison -- (the) best!" said Ochoa's mother, Dora. "No card, no nothing -- this is the best gift I'm going to get this Mother's Day from him, and I'm very proud."

May 8, 2006


Error left man with label of 'molester'

Mistake Took Decades To Fix

By Fredric N. Tulsky and Sean Webby, Mercury News

Nobody listened to Longino Acero as he insisted over and over that he never had molested a child. . . . Instead, one public defender after another told Acero he had no defense for failing to register as a sex offender and no choice but to plead guilty. . . . As a result, Acero, 47, spent more than a year in state prison. A flier with his picture that labeled him a high-risk offender was distributed at his daughter's elementary school. His photograph appeared in the Mercury News accompanying an article on high-risk sex offenders. . . . Only last year did officials discover that Acero had been right all along: He never was convicted of child molestation. On March 22, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Diane Northway overturned Acero's three convictions for failing to register and declared him factually innocent of those crimes. . . . Acero was the victim of a simple, but critical, clerical error that occurred 28 years ago. When he was convicted in 1978 of the misdemeanor of soliciting lewd and lascivious acts with an adult, a court clerk omitted a set of parenthesis in recording the section of the penal code that Acero violated. That parenthetical error, in the confusing structure of the state penal code, changed his misdemeanor act into child molestation. . . . Acero, who has a history of past crimes that include repeated drug offenses and assault with a deadly weapon, described in an interview years of futility as he insisted to lawyers, probation officers, prosecutors and judges that the records were wrong. . . . ``I kept saying to people that I don't have a case like this,'' he said of the child molestation charge that erroneously appeared on his record. ``They didn't want to listen. They kept saying, `It's here.' '' . . . To Mary Greenwood, the chief public defender in Santa Clara County, Acero's case represents a cautionary tale that she blamed on a lack of diligence and a lack of resources. She said that when she is asked whether she worries about innocent people being wrongly caught up in the criminal justice system, she answers that she worries ``far more about people with long records who say they are innocent.'' . . . It is too easy, she said, to disbelieve such claims. And, she said, budget limitations affect the ability of her office to ``provide enough paralegals to look up records, and to provide enough time to permit people to think.''


Junk Justice: Stolen Time, 10 Years For Crime He Didn't Commit

By Donald Winkfield

How would you feel after spending 10 years, 3 months and 11 days in prison for a crime you did not commit? How would you feel, knowing even the judge was aware you were innocent and transcripts from the trial clearly exonerate you? After someone finally realized a mistake had been made and was shocked that you had been sent to prison in the first place - what state of mind would this leave you in? Don't answer just yet, read on. . . . This is a story for heartless District Attorneys, lawyers and judges; for racist cops and prison officers. This is a story for everyone. Every concerned Citizen must read this story. . . . Curtis Randy Leggett's fate was put in the hands of a legal aid lawyer named Philip E. Sicks when he was arrested in September of 1992. Two soda delivery men had been allegedly robbed of $2,700 in Brooklyn three weeks earlier. The cops were on the lookout for a Black man and a Latino man. Lord have mercy. . . . Leggett, now 44, says it didn’t help that John Menso, a white NYPD detective with red hair and red freckles from the 79th Precinct house in Brooklyn had it in for him. Menso had arrested Leggett previously after he had sold fake jewelry to a white customer. The white customer returned a week later with Menso and claimed Leggett had robbed him rather than admit that he had willingly purchased fake jewelry from a street vendor– Leggett was simply trying to earn a living like thousands of vendors, many of whom like Leggett, are unlicensed. Even after Menso and the white accuser testified at trial, Leggett was acquitted, no small feat. “I’m gonna get you on something one day,” Leggett recalls Menso saying.


The second part of Leggett’s ordeal will be published next week in The Black Star News. Leggett is now represented by attorney Neville Mitchell at (212) 619-2800 and (347) 619-2800. Contact senior columnist Winkfield at or On The Spot, Post Office Box 230149, Queens County 11423 if you have a compelling story about injustice. To contact The Black Star News write or call (212) 481-7745. Subscribe to this newspaper and advertise to build power. “Speaking Truth To Empower.”

March 20, 2006


Howard found ’actually innocent’

By Alan Johnson, The Columbus Dispatch

Tom Dodge | Dispatch Photo

Timothy Howard waits for the decision yesterday.

After a 29-year wait, Timothy Howard heard the word he fought and prayed he would hear: Innocent. . . . A jury in Common Pleas Judge David E. Cain's court, after deliberating two days until about 11:10 a.m. today, declared Howard "actually innocent" of a 1976 bank robbery and murder. . . . Howard slapped the table hard and jumped up and cheered with his lawyers when he heard the verdict. . . . "I finally got what I deserved. I'm just glad this is over with. This is a good thing," Howard said. Howard got votes from six of the eight jurors, the minimum needed. . . . The verdict in the civil case means Howard can go to the Ohio Court of Claims seeking what could be a record financial payback from the state for 26 years spent behind bars.


Legislation targets false convictions
By Penny Cockerell, The Oklahoman
Slaying victim's family supports proposed panel

During the past 23 years, Debra Sue Carter's family has sat through three murder trials with the hope of sending her killer to prison. . . . Over and over, they heard the graphic details of Carter's 1982 rape and strangulation. But each trial was terribly flawed. And because of yet another flaw, a fourth trial will begin in June. . . . Carter's family has stood by helplessly throughout this saga -- but not any more. Carter's cousin, Christy Sheppard, and other relatives have rallied behind state Senate Bill 1471, which would create the Oklahoma Innocence Commission. . . . Fixing flaws in system . . . If passed, an eight-member commission will investigate cases where convictions were overturned because of exoneration. They would figure out the flaws and find solutions to avoid similar problems. . . . Oklahoma has had 11 exonerations in recent years -- eight proven through DNA sampling, said state Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, who sponsored the bill. . . . The proposed Oklahoma Innocence Commission is modeled after similar commissions in North Carolina and Wisconsin. . . . "As a result of their commissions in North Carolina, they also found better ways of doing their eyewitness procedures," Paddack said. . . . SB 1471 passed the Senate and now goes before a House committee. . . . "This is something positive to do in her name -- not to place blame on anyone, but to figure out what went wrong in these cases, so families don't have to go through trial after trial," Sheppard said.

March 13, 2006

Human error always a possibility

Powerful, Fallible Evidence Sends Many To Prison

By Fredric N. Tulsky, Mercury News

Michael Hutchinson was convicted of robbing a Milpitas 7-Eleven based largely on the eyewitness identification of the clerk who was on duty when a masked intruder burst through the doors. . . . Hutchinson's appellate attorney was convinced an expert could prove that his client was too tall to be the robber shown on a store surveillance camera. But the 6th District Court of Appeal in 2001 rejected the attorney's request for money to hire an expert, and later denied Hutchinson's bid for a new trial. . . . Now, with Hutchinson hoping a federal judge will overturn his conviction, new evidence has raised significant questions about his case: An outside expert, hired by the Mercury News to perform the analysis Hutchinson was denied in state court, believes he is not the robber. . . . Eyewitness identification is one of the most powerful types of evidence a prosecutor can present to a jury. But that same evidence is too often untrustworthy, even when a sympathetic witness takes the stand and says with certainty that the defendant committed the crime. . . . Elizabeth Loftus, a University of California-Irvine professor, has studied memory and mistaken identification for two decades. In recent years, DNA testing has established what she has long warned: Too often, eyewitnesses are mistaken. ``DNA testing has confirmed just how unreliable eyewitness identification can be,'' Loftus said. ``It is the cause of most cases of wrongful conviction.'' . . . Wednesday, the frailties of eyewitness identification will be the topic when a new state commission begins examining issues that plague the criminal justice system. The commission chair, former state Attorney General John Van de Kamp, said eyewitness identification is ``at the top of the list'' of problems.


Case File: Michael Hutchinson (PDF)

Special Package: The series, photos, multimedia & more


City to pay $3.2m in wrongful conviction suit

Record settlement follows DNA tests

By Andrea Estes, Globe Staff

The city of Boston has agreed to pay $3.2 million to settle a wrongful conviction suit filed by Neil Miller, who served 10 years in prison for raping a 19-year-old Emerson College student before DNA tests proved that another man committed the crime. It is believed to be the largest settlement Boston has paid in a wrongful conviction case. . . . Miller, 39, had been convicted of breaking into the woman's apartment Aug. 24, 1989, and raping her while holding a screwdriver to her neck after the woman identified him in a police lineup. He was freed May 10, 2000, after tests requested by the New York-based Innocence Project proved that his DNA didn't match that found in semen on the victim's body and bed. . . . Yesterday, Miller's lawyers, Howard Friedman and Innocence Project codirector Peter Neufeld, charged that testimony in their 2003 lawsuit shows the Boston police manipulated evidence to help prosecutors win a conviction.


State appellate court rejects Carpitcher's innocence claim

By Laurence Hammack

Recanted testimony by a young girl who accused Aleck J. Carpitcher of molesting her is insufficient to reverse his conviction, the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. . . . The decision means Carpitcher will likely spend the rest of his life in prison based solely on the questionable word of his accuser -- who was deemed "no longer credible" by the Roanoke County judge who heard her recantation last year. . . . Despite those questions, the simple fact that the girl recanted is not enough on which to grant Carpitcher a new trial, a three-judge panel of the appellate court ruled. . . . "There must be clear and convincing proof that the witness testified falsely at trial, and not merely proof that by reason of conflicting statements [the] testimony is unworthy of belief," the court stated. . . . Carpitcher's case had posed one of the first tests of a state law passed two years ago that allowed his innocence claim to be heard. The court cited a ruling that showed "suspicion" toward recanted testimony in general.

Related Court ruling

Read the complete ruling from the Virginia Court of Appeals (PDF required)

Past stories

Read past coverage of the Aleck J. Carpitcher case


EXCLUSIVE: My Father Is Innocent

A Plea From A Convicted Rapist's Daughter

By Kristy Bower - Photos by Kathleen Voege

This letter is from Kristy Bower, the 18-year-old daughter of a convicted rapist who has served time since 1991 for crimes many insist he did not commit. Ronald Bower was jailed as the Silver-Gun Rapist who attacked women and girls in 1990 and 1991 in Queens and Nassau—but even after his arrest, the identical attacks continued. Bower's supporters say that another man, a retired New York City police officer who closely resembles Bower, is responsible, but he was acquitted of similar attacks. Bower's defenders also fault the prosecution for not notifying Bower's trial attorneys about the other suspect—an omission which may have led jurors to convict the wrong man.
The Press' initial cover story on Ronald Bower

In March, a motion that would have meant a new trial was overturned. The 21-page decision overturning the motion discounted the other man's resemblance to Bower and maintained that the prosecutors did not need to reveal details on the other man's arrest and criminal history. . . . Ronald Bower's attorneys say the next step is a federal appeal. . . . For more detailed information about the Bower case visit our March 24, 2005 cover story "Free Him", and Amy Fisher's column "Proving His Innocence".



Who suffers when a prosecutor is cited for misconduct?

Click here for full text from
Justice on Trial


The Complicity of Judges in the
Generation of Wrongful Convictions




Open Discussion

Click here to join victimsoflaw_discuss
Click to join victimsoflaw_discuss



From: Death Penalty Information Center

Ernest Willis became the eighth person exonerated from Texas's death row on October 6, 2004, and the 117th person freed nationwide since 1973. Willis was sentenced to death 17 years ago for allegedly setting a house fire that killed two people.

U. S. District Judge Royal Ferguson held that the state had administered medically inappropriate antipsychotic drugs without Willis' consent; that the state supressed evidence favorable to Willis; and that Willis received ineffective representation at both the guilt and sentencing phases of his trial. He ordered the state to either free Willis or retry him. The state attorney general's office declined to appeal, and prosecutors dropped all charges against Willis.

Read more about Ernest Willis' case.






It is better that ten guilty escape than one innocent suffer.
-- Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England --

The punishment of a criminal is an example to the rabble; but every decent man is concerned if an innocent person is condemned.

-- Jean de la Bruyere quotes (French satiric moralist, 1645-1696) --



Victims-of-Law has compiled this list for educational & research purposes.
The inclusion of links to any site in no way constitutes an endorsement by Victims-of-Law.

You are visitor number

Hit Counter

Inaugurated on January 6, 2007
Updated 11/19/2009