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Innocents in Prison News
& Views 2008

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December 2008


Louisiana Must Pay $14 Million to Man Exonerated From Death Row

12-23-08 -- he U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a $14 million award to John Thompson, a former death row inmate in Louisiana who was exonerated after withheld evidence was revealed.  Thompson spent 18 years in prison, including 14 years in the solitary confinement of death row in Angola Prison.  He came within one month of being executed in 1999 when his attorneys discovered blood evidence that should have been turned over to the defense years ago.  The new evidence cleared Thompson of an armed robbery conviction, which in turn had influenced his trial for an unrelated murder.  At his re-trial on the capital murder charge, Thompson was acquitted in thirty-five minutes by a jury in 2003.  Thompson sued the District Attorney's Office of Orleans Parish in 2003 and won a jury verdict in 2007.  The jury also awarded $1 million for attorneys' fees. . . . The state argued that the $14 million award was excessive because Thompson did not suffer that much.  The 5th Circuit rejected that notion, briefly describing his years in confinement: . . . The evidence at trial showed that Thompson was arrested when he was twenty-two years old and was not released until he was forty. He spent the first two and a half years in the Orleans Parish Prison, where he was housed with the hard core criminals, four or five to a cell. He witnessed multiple rapes and lived in fear of becoming a victim himself. During his time at the Orleans Parish Prison he received only two visits from his family.


Conn. man imprisoned for 20 years gets new trial

The Associated Press

12-19-08 -- A Connecticut judge has granted a new trial and ordered the release of a man who has been imprisoned for 20 years for the 1988 killing of a Hartford teenager. . . . Superior Court Judge David Gold's ruling on Friday in the case of 52-year-old Miguel Roman comes a week after another man was charged with the killing and officials revealed that new DNA tests eliminated Roman as a suspect.


Prosecutor, DNA at odds

In 3 cases, Lake County prosecutor Michael Mermel (left) is willing to pit other evidence against genetic tests that exclude defendants

By Steve Mills | Tribune reporter

12-15-08 -- DNA evidence has been widely embraced over the last two decades as a powerful forensic tool to prove a defendant's guilt or innocence. But in Lake County, authorities have sometimes pressed for convictions even when the DNA doesn't match a suspect. . . . Consider three active cases overseen by Michael Mermel, chief of the criminal division for the Lake County state's attorney's office: . . . When DNA evidence excluded a man convicted in the rape and battery of a 68-year-old woman, Mermel suggested the victim had consensual sex with someone else. . . . When DNA evidence excluded a man in the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl, Mermel and another prosecutor suggested that the girl may have been sexually active. The DNA, he said, was a "red herring." . . . And, just recently, when lawyers for the man charged in the killing of his 8-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old friend said in court that DNA evidence from semen excluded him as the perpetrator, the Lake prosecutor had another explanation. . . . Mermel said DNA may have gotten inside the 8-year-old's body as she played in the woods at what became the crime scene—a place where Mermel said some couples go to have sex. The girl was found fully clothed.


Inmate cleared by DNA to be free on bond

By Juan A. Lozano Associated Press Writer © 2008 The Associated Press

12-12-08 -- A Houston man who spent five years in prison for the sexual assault of an 8-year-old boy was to be freed Friday after DNA evidence — which was collected after the 2002 attack yet never tested — showed he didn't commit the crime. . . . A judge approved a personal recognizance bond Friday for Ricardo Rachell, was to be released while the paperwork is completed to officially overturn his conviction. Rachell, transferred from a state prison to the Harris County jail earlier this week, did not appear at a brief court hearing where his bond was approved. . . . Rachell, 51, had been sentenced in 2003 to 40 years in prison. . . . "This is a horrible mischaracterization of justice I think on everybody's part," said Deborah Summers, Rachell's attorney. "It's this kind of case that really is frightening for our system."


Criminal-libel laws' overreach

Laws that permit criminal-libel prosecution for online trash talk fly in the face of the 1st Amendment.

Los Angeles Times Editorial

12-11-08 -- In keeping with Shakespeare’s observation that "he that filches from me my good name ... makes me poor indeed," someone suing for libel ordinarily seeks financial compensation from the person or publication that injured his or her reputation. But archaic laws in several states also allow libel to be prosecuted as a criminal offense, and a Colorado man accused of defaming his ex-girlfriend online now faces the possibility of 18 months in prison. . . . The prosecution of J.P. Weichel is an affront to the 1st Amendment, and a federal or state court should declare Colorado's law unconstitutional. Allowing the prosecution to proceed any further also would encourage prosecutors in 14 other states with criminal-libel laws to resurrect this "crime" in response to trash talk on the Internet. That in turn might galvanize legislators in states without such laws to enact them. The 1st Amendment would be the loser.


After 15 Years in Prison, Innocent Man Collects $2.6 Mil

Reported by: Sean Carroll  

12-10-08 -- On Tuesday, a man from Syracuse agreed to a $2.6 million settlement with New York State after spending 15 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. . . . Roy Brown was convicted for the 1991 murder of a woman in a Syracuse suburb. DNA evidence eventually linked that murder to another man who had taken his life while Brown sat in a prison cell.  Brown was exonerated and set free in 2007. . . . Brown spent time in Rochester when he received a liver transplant at Strong Medical Center. He was diagnosed with a liver disease while behind bars and wasn't allowed on the transplant list until after he was released.


Judge: Clear Ky. record of former death row inmate

By Brett Barrouquere - Associated Press Writer

12-5-08 -- A federal judge has ordered Kentucky to clear a former death row inmate's record in a rape and slaying case that resulted in the state's first death sentence after states resumed executing inmates. . . . U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves's order on Thursday eliminates 62-year-old Eugene Williams Gall Jr.'s arrest, conviction and sentence in the 1978 kidnapping, rape and death of 12-year-old Lisa Jansen. . . . Jansen's death and Gall's trial sent shivers through northern Kentucky and southern Ohio. . . . "I remember being afraid that random people on the street would snatch you," said Linda Tally Smith, who was 9 years old at the time and is now the top prosecutor in Boone County, where she grew up and Gall was convicted. "It was scary."


Man who won wrongful conviction suit faces new organized crime charges

By Shelley Murphy, Jonathan Saltzman, and Kathy McCabe, Globe Staff

12-4-08 -- Peter Limone, one of the men who won millions last year in a lawsuit over their wrongful murder convictions decades ago, has been arrested on gambling and loan-sharking charges, law enforcement officials said. . . . Limone, who was arrested today at his Medford home, is accused of leading an organization that profited from gambling, loan-sharking, and extortion in the Greater Boston area, the Middlesex District Attorney's office said in a statement. . . . Prosecutors said another man was arrested and 18 others were indicted. More details were expected to be released at a 6:30 p.m. news conference. . . . A federal judge ruled last year that the government should pay $101.7 million in damages for the wrongful imprisonment of Limone and three other men. Limone had spent 33 years in prison before he was released. The federal government has filed an appeal; the award has not yet been made.

November 2008


Mother’s Sting Faces Stiff Legal Obstacles

By Manny Fernandez & Kareem Fahim

11-30-08 -- Doreen Giuliano concocted an elaborate undercover sting operation to free her son from prison, changing her appearance and her identity to pursue a flirtatious relationship with a man who was a juror in her son’s trial. But legal experts said on Saturday that she would have a difficult time persuading a judge to overturn her son’s conviction. . . . Ms. Giuliano, 47, secretly recorded her conversations with the man, Jason Allo, a contractor in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, for several months, beginning in October 2007. She said she recorded Mr. Allo saying that he knew members of her son’s clique — people who “used to abuse” his brother — but kept the information to himself during jury selection. She also said he told her that he guided other jurors and that he said he never should have been on the jury. . . . Ms. Giuliano’s son, John Giuca, was one of two men convicted of murdering Mark Fisher, a 19-year-old Fairfield University student who was shot five times and found on a quiet Brooklyn street after a night of partying in New York City in October 2003. Mr. Giuca and the other man, Antonio Russo, were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. . . . Based on the recorded conversations, Mr. Giuca’s lawyer, Lloyd Epstein, is expected to file a motion this week to overturn the conviction.


Almost 14 years after Campbell burglary, woman's conviction overturned

By Fredric N. Tulsky Mercury News

11-29-08 -- Two years ago, authorities realized that Mashelle Bullington was not the gun-toting burglar they thought when they locked her away for more than three years in prison. . . . But it was not until last week, during a brief hearing in a Sunnyvale courtroom, that her name was finally cleared. . . . Victimized initially by a wrongful conviction, Bullington then watched helplessly as her case stayed stuck for months in a complicated legal morass until Judge Douglas Southard finally overturned the felony conviction. . . . The court action resulted from the combined efforts of the Northern California Innocence Project and Deputy District Attorney David Angel, who wrote in court papers that Bullington had been the victim of "perjured testimony and false evidence" at trial. . . . Authorities knew that much since Thanksgiving week two years ago, when they arranged the release of Kenneth Foley in connection with the same incident. But Bullington's case ended up posing bigger legal challenges than Foley's. . . . On Wednesday, Angel called Bullington a "heroine," saying of the overturned conviction, ''I am so glad we were able to accomplish this."

Psychologist had dual role in confessions of Beatrice 6
By Paul Hammel, World-Herald Bureau

11-29-08 -- How could so many people admit in vivid detail to a horrendous crime that they didn't commit? . . . That was the question after the Central Park 5. . . . After the Norfolk 4. . . . And now, the Beatrice 6. . . . The murder case out of Beatrice, Neb., in which six people were wrongfully convicted in 1989 of the slaying of a 68-year-old woman, is a new national record for the most people exonerated in one case by DNA evidence. . . . Two national experts who study false confessions said the Beatrice case appears to fit patterns of other cases: The suspects were young people with low-esteem or mental problems who were abusing alcohol or drugs. They were easily influenced, easily confused and worn out by aggressive questioning. . . . But Saul Kassin, a professor of psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, and Richard Leo, a law professor at the University of San Francisco, said the Beatrice case had an unusual aspect: the role played during interrogations by a police psychologist who previously had served as private therapist to some of those being questioned. . . . In general, false confessions, even by several people in the same case, are not that unusual, Kassin said. About 25 percent of the cases where DNA evidence has led to exonerations involve false confessions.

Types of false confessions

Voluntary: Without prompting from police, people profess guilt to crimes they didn't commit for attention, to protect someone else or because they suffer from delusions.

Compliant: A suspect confesses falsely to avoid punishment, escape from a stressful interrogation or gain an implied reward.

Internalized: Vulnerable suspects, due to young age, mental problems and other factors, exposed to highly suggestive interrogation tactics, not only confess but grow to believe that they committed a crime.

Sources: Saul Kassin, psychology professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; World-Herald files


Utica court releases man exonerated in murder case by DNA evidence

By Glenn Coin, Staff writer

11-26-08 -- Steven Barnes stood, free of handcuffs and out of state custody for the first time in nearly 20 years, and embraced his mother and sister. . . . A man's voiced boomed from the back of the courtroom: "Barnes you're home where you belong, buddy!" . . . Barnes had spent nearly two decades in prison for a murder he didn't commit. It took a judge just six minutes Tuesday to set him free. . . . "Mr. Barnes, I rule that you be released immediately," Oneida County Court Judge Michael Dwyer told Barnes, who had been in state prison since 1989 for the murder of a 16-year-old girl. . . . Friends and family who had jammed the courtroom in Utica erupted into applause. . . . Barnes was convicted of rape and second-degree murder in the strangling death of a Whitesboro High School student. Tests concluded last week showed that Barnes' DNA matched none of four samples found on Kimberly Simon's body and clothing.


Court overturns 1991 murder conviction of Arizona teen who confessed; 8-year-old's interrogation is similar

Johnathan Doody -- said to have slain nine at a Buddhist temple -- was questioned at length with no adult support. This month, so was a third-grader accused of killing his father and a boarder.

By Carol J. Williams 

11-21-08 -- A federal appeals court Thursday threw out the conviction of an Arizona man in the 1991 killings of nine worshipers at a Buddhist temple, ruling that police had coerced the then-17-year-old's confession by interrogating him for 12 hours without a lawyer or supportive adult present. . . . The decision could signal that Arizona authorities might face judicial censure for their treatment of an 8-year-old boy charged with two counts of murder earlier this month. The boy was subjected to interrogation with neither an attorney nor a relative at the videotaped session. . . . In the earlier case, Johnathan Doody was 17 when he was relentlessly questioned and was told that others had implicated him in the temple slayings, rendering the confession he gave "involuntary" and insufficient to sustain his murder conviction, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.


Lawyers: Inmate of 27 years not guilty

United Press International 

11-20-08 -- Lawyers at Northwestern University say they have evidence the wrong man was convicted in 1981 of killing a security guard at a Chicago-area Masonic Temple. . . . Anthony McKinney was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for the robbery and murder of Donald Lundahl outside the temple in Harvey, a small community south of Chicago. Lundahl's body was found in his car on the night of the Muhammad Ali-Leon Spinks title match in 1978. . . . Karin Daniel and Steven Drizin of the Northwestern Law School's Center for Wrongful Convictions say Harvey police beat a confession out of the 18-year-old McKinney and statements implicating him in the killing out of two witnesses, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.


Lawyers: DNA exonerates Lake Co. murder suspect

By Tony Gordon | Daily Herald Staff

11-19-08 -- Lawyers for double murder suspect Jerry Hobbs III said Tuesday there is new evidence in the case that justifies releasing their client on bond. . . . But Lake County prosecutors claim that the evidence is neither new nor the key to the jailhouse door Hobbs wants it to be. . . . Hobbs, 36, has been held without bond since his arrest in the May 9, 2005, stabbing murders of his daughter, Laura, 8, and her friend Krystal Tobais, 9, in a Zion park. . . . The Lake County public defender's office claims a California scientist has discovered sperm on Laura Hobbs' body and clothing with a DNA profile that does not match her father's. . . . In a motion requesting a bond be set for Hobbs, the lawyers claim the DNA is that of the real killer of the girls. . . . "The defense has developed conclusive scientific evidence indicating that the charged offenses were committed by a male who has been identified by complete DNA profile," the motion reads.


Innocent Man Released After 27 Years

DNA Reveals Widespread Corruption in Brevard County

By Seth Miller, David Menschel and Melissa Montle

11-19-08 -- Today, at approximately 5 p.m., William Dillon will walk out of Brevard County Jail after being freed pending trial.  Last Friday, the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court vacated his murder conviction after DNA testing proved his innocence.  The Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) paid for the DNA testing and drafted the post-conviction pleadings in Dillon's case.  . . . Dillon's 27 years of wrongful incarceration equals the longest time served by any of the 223 DNA exonerees nationwide. He will be the third man to be exonerated in Brevard County in recent years. . . . The State Attorney's Office asserts that it plans to retry Mr. Dillon, though if it could or will do so remains to be seen.  "I don't see how they could re-try this case.  All they have is a fraud, an admitted perjurer, a snitch, and a half-blind eyewitness," said Melissa Montle, Staff Attorney with IPF. 


Sex convictions from '90s in question because of withheld evidence

By Jennifer Emily / The Dallas Morning News 

11-17-08 -- Antrone Lynelle Johnson twice was convicted of sexual assault as a high school student, earning him a life sentence. . . . Mr. Johnson, who is 31, contends that both cases from the mid-1990s were built on lies and prosecutorial misconduct. If a judge agrees, he could be set free as early as today. . . . Dallas County prosecutors illegally withheld evidence that might have cleared Mr. Johnson, court records show. . . . In one of the cases, a girl told the prosecutor that Mr. Johnson did not rape her. In the other, the girl gave conflicting statements about whether she had sex with him.


Attorney for exonerated man says lawsuit being considered

Associated Press

11-16-08 -- The attorney for 1 of the six people wrongly convicted in the 1985 rape and murder of a Beatrice woman says he'll contact the six to see if there's interest in filing a lawsuit against the state. . . . The 1985 case was the first time in Nebraska history that inmates have been freed based on DNA evidence. . . . Doug Stratton is attorney for Joseph White, 1 of the six exonerated people who served long prison sentences.


Man pays for county mistake

He lands in jail and loses job over wrong ID in support case

By Pete Shellem, Of The Patriot-News

11-16-08 -- When Walter Andre Sharpe Jr. signed for a certified letter from Dauphin County Domestic Relations in 2001, he didn't know he was signing on for a seven-year nightmare. . . . Since then, the Philadelphia man has been thrown in jail four times, lost his job, become estranged from his four children and spent more than $12,000 to support the child of another man. . . . It finally stopped in May 2007 when a judge reversed a finding that he was the father. . . . But the same judge has since ruled that Sharpe is not entitled to any compensation, not even the money he was forced to pay to support the child. . . . Sharpe's attorney, Tabetha Tanner, said the county Domestic Relations office "stole" Sharpe's identity by exchanging his date of birth, address and Social Security number for that of the father. . . . The agency fought Sharpe's attempts to have DNA testing and said it determined he was the father "after reasonable investigation." . . . Yet it took The Patriot-News less than an hour to track down the real father, Andre Sharpe, who said the girl that Walter Sharpe has been paying support for has been living with him for the last four years.


Former death row inmate, cleared by killer's confession, now fights death penalty

By Jennifer W. Sanchez, The Salt Lake Tribune

11-13-08 -- For almost 18 years, Juan Roberto Melendez sat on a Florida death row. . . . His cell was infested with roaches and rats that climbed into his bed. He couldn't work or take any classes. He watched his three daughters grow up in pictures. And his only visitors - his mom and aunt - just came twice early on because it was too painful for him to see them. . . . His only way out: suicide. But, he said, his belief in God kept him from hanging himself. . . .     "I don't know the language. I don't know the system. I'm lost in there," Melendez told an audience Wednesday at Weber State University. "I didn't know when they were coming to get me [for execution]." . . . After the Florida Supreme Court upheld Melendez's murder conviction and death sentence three times, he was awarded a new trial - in a different county - and was found innocent. . . . Melendez - the 99th person to be released from one of the nation's death rows since 1973 - shared his story with about 200 people as part of the university's Human Rights Week sponsored by Amnesty International.


DNA clears suspect, his lawyers say

Man is accused in '05 deaths of daughter, friend

By David Heinzmann and Steve Mills | Tribune reporters

11-13-08 -- Lawyers for Jerry Hobbs, a Zion man accused of murdering his 8-year-old daughter and her friend on Mother's Day 2005, say DNA evidence has excluded him as the killer, according to court documents filed Wednesday. . . . In a motion seeking a new bail hearing for Hobbs, who has been held without bail for three years, the lawyers said forensic testing did not match him to small semen samples recovered from Laura Hobbs' body and the fabric of her jean skirt. . . . Hobbs has been jailed since police say he signed a confession just days after Laura and her 9-year-old friend Krystal Tobias were found beaten and stabbed in Beulah Park in the far northern suburb.


Former county attorney connected to DNA case says he handled it the best he could

Associated Press

11-13-08 -- Former Gage County Attorney Richard Smith is defending his handling of a case even though DNA evidence shows six people he helped convict were wrongly imprisoned for years. . . . Smith says that he would have been called "nuts" for not filing the charges he did 20 years ago. He says he and others did all they could to make sure the right people went to jail. . . . But Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning released documents today he says show questionable interrogation and other tactics used to get the wrongful convictions for the 1985 rape and murder of Helen Wilson. . . . Three people have been released from prison in recent weeks after DNA evidence showed they were not involved. The DNA evidence has proved that an Oklahoma man who died in 1992 committed the crime.

October 2008


Crotzer Pardoned


10-21-08 --  Alan Crotzer, the man who spent 25 years in state prison for a rape he did not commit, asked the Governor for a fresh start Tuesday and got it. Crotzer has already received 1.25 million for his wrongful conviction. The Governor and Executive Clemency Board erased two old convictions, which will allow Crotzer to look to the future. . . . Alan Crotzer walked into the Capitol a convicted felon. He walked out with a clean record. Minutes earlier he asked the Governor for a pardon. . . . “I am not the monster that they tried to make me be. Every day in prison I tried to prove that.” . . . At 18, Crotzer was convicted of robbery when four of his friends grabbed cases of beer at a convenience store and fled. While in prison for the rape he didn’t commit, he was charged with possessing pot. . . . The governor decided he has paid enough. . . . “I make the motion that we grant a full pardon and expungement.” . . . “When someone has changed their life, you recognize that and you give them a second chance. I mean, the man works for the Department of Juvenile Justice now and I’m very proud of Alan Crotzer.” . . . With a crime free record, Crotzer wants a college education and to work for the prison system correcting the abuses he saw as an inmate. . . . “Prison offers nothing but corruption and chaos and mayhem. We can’t hardly clothe them, house them or feed them. I go in there to give them hope and let them know they can be inspired by me. That’s what I do. It makes me tick.”


Prosecutor Misconduct, at a Cost of $3.5 Million

By Jim Dwyer

10-21-08 --  In July 2003, Shih-Wei Su, who had been a resident of the state prison system for nearly 13 years, won a big criminal case: a federal appeals court said that a prosecutor in Queens had lied and had tolerated lies by a witness in order to convict Mr. Su of attempted murder for a shooting at a pool hall. . . . He was owed a new, honest trial within 90 days, the court said, or he should be released. . . . “After the conviction was vacated, they brought me to Rikers Island, and the D.A.’s office sent my Legal Aid lawyer to tell me that they would nail me to the wall unless I made a deal,” Mr. Su said on Tuesday. . . . He had gone to prison when he was 17 years old. At age 30, he could practically smell freedom from his cell. . . . “Their offer was, ‘Plead guilty, you’ll get time served, you could walk out of here today,’ ” Mr. Su recalled. “I said no. They kept me in Rikers until the 90th day. Then they released me.” Last week, the City of New York ended the matter of Mr. Su’s wrongful incarceration by writing a check for $3.5 million.


Eyewitness testimony still key to cases when there's no DNA

By Jennifer Emily & Steve McGonigle / The Dallas Morning News

10-14-08 -- The fallibility of eyewitness testimony revealed by DNA exonerations in Dallas County and nationwide is not a relic of the past. Police and prosecutors still depend on the same discredited identification procedures to ensure convictions today. . . . District Attorney Craig Watkins congratulates Johnnie Earl Lindsey, exonerated in a rape case last month after 26 years in prison. Mr. Watkins has made righting wrongful convictions a hallmark of his administration. . . . Police use these techniques in a variety of crimes from murders to robberies. The difference between today's cases and the 19 exonerations involving sexual assaults is that often there is no DNA to ensure guilt or innocence. . . . "We've shown how unreliable eyewitness testimony is in sexual assault cases," said Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University law school. . . . "But now the system itself is pretending that all of these armed robbery cases are just hunky dory when we know, if anything, it's no doubt less reliable in an armed robbery case than in a sexual assault case." . . . It's impossible to estimate how many wrongful convictions might be occurring in cases without genetic evidence, experts say. . . . "There is no question that there are many more mistakes that we will never know about because there is no DNA in those cases," said Edwin Colfax, an Austin researcher with the nonprofit reform group The Justice Project.


Rape victim studying science of memory after man dies serving wrongful sentence

By Steve McGonigle / The Dallas Morning News 

10-12-08 -- Michele Mallin said she was "100 percent sure" when she identified Timothy Brian Cole as the man who raped her. . . . Her resolve never wavered, Ms. Mallin said, until she learned last May that DNA testing had invalidated her 1985 identification. The revelation came nearly nine years after Mr. Cole died at 39 in a Texas prison from an asthma attack. . . . "I was more shocked than I think I had ever been in my entire life," Ms. Mallin said during a recent lawyers workshop in Fort Worth. . . . The Dallas Morning News is identifying Ms. Mallin because she has chosen to speak publicly about her rape to help Mr. Cole's family win a posthumous pardon.

At a glance: Overturned convictions

Dallas News

10-12-08 -- Of the 19 Dallas County convictions overturned by DNA testing, 18 were based on faulty witness identifications. One murder case had no eyewitness. . . . A review of the case files by The Dallas Morning News found that: / • Eight of the wrongly identified men lived, worked or socialized near the witnesses. / • Four were suspects in unrelated crimes. / • All the cases involved sexual assault, though not all the men were charged with rape. / • Fourteen cases were prosecuted during former District Attorney Henry Wade's tenure, which ended in 1986 and was marked by hardball trial tactics and high conviction rates. / • Five faulty convictions were recorded during the terms of two Wade lieutenants: John Vance, who had four, and Bill Hill, who had one. . . . Mr. Hill was district attorney in April 2001 when Texas prisoners won the right to file for post-conviction DNA testing. His prosecutors opposed genetic testing in 10 cases where that evidence ultimately invalidated the conviction.


$1.3 mil grant given for inmate DNA tests

by Najat Omer, The Arizona Republic

10-10-08 -- The Attorney General's Office as well as other state and federal agencies announced on Thursday that $1.3 million has been given through a grant for DNA testing that could overturn convictions of innocent inmates. . . . Representatives from the Attorney General's Office, Arizona Justice Project and the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission are administering the project, which was funded by the National Institute of Justice, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. . . . "There is a common interest in the application of justice that all of us in the criminal-justice system share," Attorney General Terry Goddard said. "We have no interest whatsoever - as a prosecutor I can say this affirmatively - in convicting someone who is innocent and sending them to prison."


"Actual Factual" Innocence?

Faulty ID Procedures At Heart of Bid to Overturn Murder Conviction

New York Lawyer, By Thomas Adcock, New York Law Journal

10-10-08 -- The fate of Fernando Bermudez, ever hopeful of leaving the cell he has occupied at Sing Sing since his 1992 conviction in the fatal shooting of a teen following a dispute at the Marc Ballroom on Union Square, now rests with a solo practitioner who operates from her suburban home office, backed up by a large-firm lawyer who helped get the conviction of Martin Tankleff overturned last December. . . . The latest move in the matter of Mr. Bermudez, a cause célèbre for legal scholars and the defense bar who has maintained his innocence through years of state and federal appeals, was last Friday's 440 motion in Manhattan Supreme Court to reverse his conviction for second-degree homicide. . . . Pro bono attorneys for Mr. Bermudez - at the moment including Barry J. Pollack, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Kelley Drye & Warren, and solo Lesley C. Risinger of Kearny, N.J. - base their motion on faulty police identification procedures as well as the first-time claim in any courtroom that their client is "actually, factually innocent . . . substantiated by abundant corroborative information, some of which is quite new."


Judge faces rare disciplinary hearing

Marion County judge and court commissioner accused of mishandling case of man cleared of rape

By Jon Murray

10-8-08 -- A man sat in prison for nearly two years waiting to be cleared of rape while a Marion County court dragged its heels, mishandled an order that would lead to his freedom and even lost his file. . . . Even after a judge and his court commissioner realized the mistakes, Harold David Buntin sat behind bars for another six weeks. That was the last of several missteps that launched rare disciplinary proceedings before a panel of three judges from other counties this week. . . . "Of the many regrets I have regarding this whole matter, that is one of my biggest ones," former Master Commissioner Nancy L. Broyles said Tuesday about the final delay. "I take full responsibility for that and regret it." . . . Broyles testified during a two-day hearing in the action against Judge Grant Hawkins, the elected judge overseeing the court where Broyles handled Buntin's post-conviction case.


Ex-Inmate Awarded $13.6M; Innocent Man Was Jailed For Rape
By Elaine Thompson Telegram & Gazette (MA)

10-7-08 -- A former Marlboro man who spent nearly a decade in prison for a rape he did not commit should be paid more than $13 million for the "terrible injustice" he suffered, U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel ordered this week. . . . Judge Zobel issued the $13.6 million award for Eric R. Sarsfield on Wednesday, after her consideration of evidence in a one-day bench trial on Aug. 14. The award includes the $2 million settlement the city of Marlboro reached with Mr. Sarsfield in March. The rest of the award, $11.6 million, will have to come from other liable parties, if possible. . . . In her three-page decision, Judge Zobel said Mr. Sarsfield's problems with alcohol and drugs before his wrongful imprisonment worsened and his "social and communal life has been shredded." She said that the phobia and panic disorders he suffers from are the direct result of his incarceration.

September 2008


Freed Man Calls for Boycott of Ex-DA Jeanine Pirro's New TV Show

New York Lawyer, AP

9-25-08 -- An innocent man who blames Jeanine Pirro for his 16 years in prison is calling for a boycott of her new television show. . . . Jeffrey Deskovic says the "Judge Jeanine Pirro" show on the CW Television Network "glorifies, promotes and compensates those who have participated in human and civil rights violations." He's calling for a boycott of the network, its affiliates and its advertisers. . . . Laura Mandel, a publicist for the show's production company, would not comment. . . . The 35-year-old Deskovic, who is suing Pirro, claims that when she was Westchester district attorney she refused his requests to run DNA tests after he was convicted of killing a teenage girl.


Man walks free after 7 years in prison

Judge throws out Durham case that put a youth behind bars

By Anne Blythe, Staff Writer

9-22-08 -- Erick Daniels spent nearly a third of his 22 years behind bars for crimes a judge said Friday he did not commit. . . . When he walked free Friday afternoon, one of the first acts as a freed man was something he might have done as a teen: He went to the mall with his mother to buy new underwear and clothes. . . . Then he stepped out with his younger brother and cousin for a haircut and a taste of the life he has missed. . . . "That haircut might take five days," Karen Daniel said. "You should see him. He is so happy." . . . Erick Daniels screamed "Mommy" in December 2001 when bailiffs led him out of a courtroom as a scared 15-year-old convicted of burglary and robbery.


Man joins Dallas County's roll call of DNA innocence

By Tiara M. Ellis / The Dallas Morning News 

9-20-08 -- For the first time in more than 25 years Friday, Johnnie Earl Lindsey embraced his son – and freedom. . . . "My son, he wasn't even 2 years old when I left," Mr. Lindsey said. "His name is Johnnie, but we call him J.J." . . . "Nah, it's just Jay," said 27-year-old Johnnie Cooper, his eyes red and wet with tears as he looked at the stranger he has been told is his father. . . . But more than a nickname has changed since Mr. Lindsey, 56, was wrongly imprisoned for a 1981 rape at White Rock Lake that DNA testing showed he did not commit. . . . The Internet, cellphone texting and other technological advancements will be foreign to the newly released man.

Judge Dismisses Libel Suit Against John Grisham, Barry Scheck

Sean Murphy, The Associated Press

9-19-08 -- A federal judge has dismissed a libel lawsuit filed against best-selling author John Grisham and two other writers over books they wrote about the wrongful conviction of two men in a 1982 murder. . . . The lawsuit was filed last year by former Pontotoc County, Ok., District Attorney Bill Peterson, former Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation investigator Gary Rogers and Melvin Hett, a state criminalist. All three helped win the original convictions in the slaying of cocktail waitress Debbie Sue Carter. . . . The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants conspired to commit libel, generate publicity for themselves by placing the plaintiffs in a false light and intentionally inflicted emotional distress. . . . But U.S. District Judge Ronald White rejected those claims in his ruling Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. . . . The two men initially convicted in the slaying -- Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz -- were later cleared by DNA evidence and freed after 12 years in prison.


After 26 years, wrongly convicted rape defendant could go free in Dallas today

By Tiara M. Ellis / The Dallas Morning News

9-19-08 -- After nearly 26 years in prison, Johnnie Earl Lindsey expects to walk out of a Dallas courtroom this morning a free man. . . . DNA test results proved that Mr. Lindsey was not the man who raped a woman who had been riding her bike near White Rock Lake in 1981. . . . He is scheduled to appear before a judge at 10 a.m. for a hearing that could lead to his release. . . . One of the first things Mr. Lindsey, 56, plans to do is see his invalid mother, who is living in nursing home, said his attorney, Michelle Moore, who is an assistant Dallas County public defender and a board member for the Innocence Project, a legal group that seeks to get wrongful convictions overturned. . . . “He’s scared to come out,” Ms. Moore said. “I mean it’s frightening after 26 years to come out and not have anything.” . . . Mr. Lindsey has long denied raping the woman -- even after he was convicted and sentenced to life. (The policy of The Dallas Morning News is not identify sexual assault victims.) . . . If released, Mr. Lindsey would be the 19th man cleared by DNA testing in Dallas County since 2001, when the Legislature began allowing post-conviction DNA testing.

John Grisham libel suit results

By Marjorie Kehe

9-18-08 -- Yesterday a federal judge in Oklahoma City dismissed a libel suit against bestselling author John Grisham and spoke in strong terms about the need to protect free speech when it comes to analysis of the US legal system. . . . “What two words best describe a claim for money damages by government officials against authors and publishers of books describing purported prosecutorial misconduct?,” asked US District Judge Ronald White in his ruling. “Answer: Not plausible.” . . . The suit involved Grisham’s book “The Innocent Man,” written about the 1982 killing of Debra Sue Carter, an Ada, Okla., cocktail waitress. Two men, Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson, were arrested and convicted of the killing, then later freed by DNA evidence after serving 12 years in prison. . . . Grisham’s book explores both the killing and the subsequent investigation. Former Pontotoc County District Attorney William Peterson, former Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation investigator Gary Rogers, and Melvin Hett, an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation criminologist, were plaintiffs in the case.


Secret of real estate agent's 1999 murder haunted lawyer

By Chris Tisch, Times Staff Writer 

9-12-08 -- Pinellas lawyer Jay Hebert held a secret that gnawed at him for nearly a decade. . . . In 1999, a 22-year-old client named Lesley Stewart admitted to him that she helped bury the body of Belleair real estate agent Rosemary Christensen. . . . Stewart told Hebert that her boyfriend, Robert Glenn Temple, murdered Christensen, his wife. Stewart said Temple talked her into helping him clean up the mess and burying the body. . . . Hebert urged Stewart to tell authorities, but she refused and left the state with Temple. The case was unsolved, and Christensen's whereabouts became one of Pinellas County's most enduring mysteries. . . . Hebert wished he could have helped solve the case. But the rule of attorney-client privilege — a lawyer cannot divulge client secrets — prevented him from doing so.


South Side man finally free after 26 years

Charges dropped in case where another man allegedly confessed

By Matthew Walberg | Chicago Tribune reporter

9-5-08 -- A South Side man who spent more than a quarter-century in prison for a murder that another man allegedly confessed to won't be retried because the Illinois attorney general's office dismissed the charges Thursday. . . . "I've been telling everybody for the last 26 years, 'I didn't do this,' and finally they did the right thing," Alton Logan, 55, said Thursday after his case was formally dismissed. "I'm happy that I can finally get on with my life, try to do some of the things I want to do." . . . Logan spent 26 years in prison for the 1982 slaying of Lloyd Wickliffe, a security guard at a South Side McDonald's restaurant. But a judge ordered his release on bond in April after two attorneys revealed that a former client had confessed to fatally shooting the guard.


Ex-internal affairs officer alleges retaliation, harassment from LAPD

Lt. Jim Gavin testifies that he was told to drop his inquiry into a 1985 murder conviction, and later was transferred against his will. Officials deny any mistreatment, pointing to Gavin's promotion.

By Scott Glover, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer 

9-4-08 -- A decorated Los Angeles Police Department lieutenant once assigned to the internal affairs division testified in federal court this week that he was retaliated against by his superiors after he unearthed evidence undermining a decades-old murder conviction. . . . Jim Gavin is suing his department for allegedly waging a campaign of harassment against him and his police officer wife in the wake of his work on the case of convicted killer Bruce Lisker. Lisker was convicted of killing his mother in 1985 and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison. . . . Gavin was a sergeant in internal affairs five years ago when he received a complaint from Lisker alleging that he was the victim of a sloppy, dishonest investigation by an LAPD detective. Gavin began delving into the allegations and soon discovered evidence supporting Lisker's claim. For example, he found that bloody shoe prints, presumably left by the killer and attributed to Lisker at trial, did not match Lisker's shoes. . . . Gavin told jurors that after uncovering the potentially exculpatory evidence, he was ordered to cut short his investigation by his then-boss, Lt. Mike Williams, who has since been promoted to captain.

August 2008


Attorney says report confirmed suspicions

Derek Wallbank From Lansing State Journal

8-21-08 -- An attorney for Claude McCollum in his civil case seeking monetary damages for McCollum's wrongful conviction said a report released Tuesday only goes to prove that prosecutors knowingly tried to convict an innocent man. . . . Hugh Clarke Jr. said he hasn't had time yet to fully study the 12-page attorney general's report, but said it's clear from his first read that Ingham County Assistant Prosecutor Eric Matwiejczyk knew McCollum was innocent during trial. . . . "It's going to further support some of the views and positions that we've said all along and that's that he knew all along," Clarke said. . . . Clarke said the report likely will feature prominently in the case going forward. . . . The civil case is set for mediation in October, Clarke said. If no agreement is reached, it could go to trial.


Keeping evidence safe

By Stephanie Taylor Staff Writer

8-19-08 -- DNA evidence could play a part in determining whether a man sitting on death row lives or dies by lethal injection. . . . If the state can find it. . . . Tommy Arthur was scheduled to be executed on July 31 for the murder-for-hire killing of his girlfriend's husband in 1981. . . . His attorneys contend that DNA evidence would conclusively prove whether Arthur was responsible, but prosecutors claim that it can't be located. . . . Across the nation, 25 states and Washington, D.C., have laws requiring local court clerks to preserve evidence presented at trial. Alabama is not among them. . . . Although the state Supreme Court and law enforcement agencies have policies in place to protect evidence, there is no statutory oversight. . . . In the Arthur case, Judy Wicker claimed that an intruder raped her at her Muscle Shoals home and killed her husband. But three different juries didn't believe the intruder story and found Arthur, her boyfriend at the time, responsible. . . . Days before Arthur was to be executed, a detailed confession from state prisoner Bobby Ray Gilbert gave the Alabama Supreme Court reason to delay the execution. . . . Arthur's attorneys have asked the Alabama Attorney General's Office to produce DNA evidence collected in the rape kit because modern analysis would indicate whether it matched Arthur, Gilbert or an unknown rapist. Attorneys with the Attorney General's Office say that they cannot find this evidence. . . . In many states, failure to keep track of evidence in a death row case would be against the law.


Innocence Project wins again

Tom Ramstack Washington Times

8-18-08 -- A man who spent nearly 20 years behind bars is walking free after new evidence showed that he was wrongfully convicted of murder in the 1988 shooting of a motorist in Southeast Washington. . . . A judge ordered the release of Aaron Michael Howard this month after the prosecutor withdrew from the case in open court, saying he could no longer represent the government in trying to validate the jury's guilty verdict. . . . The case represented another victory for the nonprofit Innocence Project but demonstrated a weakness of the legal system. In some cases, the Innocence Project has rescued convicted murderers from death row, helping to fuel political opposition to the death penalty. . . . Attorneys for the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project compiled statements from witnesses that included confessions from three other men convicted in the crime and implicated a fourth man as the killer. He has since died. . . . Mr. Howard agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and was released immediately for time served.

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Judge frees convicted Ohio rapist after DNA test

By Stephen Majors, Associated Press

8-12-08 -- A judge freed a man Monday who had spent nearly 18 years in prison on a charge of raping a 10-year-old girl after a lab re-examining cases across Ohio showed that his DNA profile didn't match evidence from the crime scene. . . . Robert McClendon, 52, was released by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Charles Schneider, who cited the DNA test. . . . "You know, you go through times where you feel it might not happen, but you never, ever give up hope," McClendon said after his release. "You don't ever use the word, 'never happen.' It's not healthy." . . . McClendon's relatives and supporters cheered and embraced McClendon upon his release, when he met his 20-year-old daughter Rahshea' Knaff and 9-month old granddaughter Sa'Rai Shelton for the first time.


Jail term starts for flood mitigation contractor

Lawyer confirms courts provides no relief

© 2008 WorldNetDaily

8-7-08 -- No relief arrived for Driggs, Idaho, developer Lynn Moses, who reported today to a federal prison in Oregon to begin an 18-month sentence for doing flood mitigation work in his hometown, according to his lawyer. . . . WND reported earlier this week that his attorney had filed a request with the trial court to overturn its own conviction and sentence, since the law appears to be on Moses' side, as does the U.S. Supreme Court. . . . The issue is that local officials in Driggs ordered Moses to do drainage improvements as part of a subdivision project on which he worked, and then, more than two decades later, federal officials said their regulations banned such work. . . . Bryan Fischer, the chief of Idaho Values Alliance, said the "crime" for which Moses has been sentenced to 18 months in prison was, "Protecting the city of Driggs from flooding." . . . Moses' lawyer, Blake Atkin of Salt Lake City, confirmed the circumstances of the case, explaining that although the federal government repeatedly has denied having jurisdiction over the work involved, an opinion shared by the U.S. Supreme Court, Moses nevertheless was convicted on charges relating to his work on the streambed of Teton Creek, an intermittent runoff channel that has water in it for about eight weeks of the year.


In cases of justice gone wrong, Dallas is willing to make it right

Dallas News

8-7-08 -- Steven Charles Phillips walked out of the courthouse this week in what has become something of a familiar ritual, even a cliché. . . . A wrongfully convicted man free at last, surrounded by joyful, tearful relatives – a mother grown old, children grown to adulthood. The obligatory what-will-you-do-first questions and the sweetly sentimental answers about fishing or home cooking or playing with the grandkids. The corny jokes about getting used to cellphones and the Internet. . . . Yet the atmosphere is heavy with the awful, nearly visceral horror of undeserved imprisonment. The story evokes the gothic misery of a real-life Count of Monte Cristo or the Dickensian sorrow of Alexandre Manette, whose lost years in the Bastille set the stage for A Tale of Two Cities. . . . And so many of these dark stories are here, on our front doorstep, in Dallas County. Mr. Phillips, whose ankle monitor was still beeping during his exoneration hearing, is one of 18 Dallas County defendants proven innocent through virtually incontestable DNA evidence since 2001.


Jailbird to judge: You know the real killer - so free me!

By Nicole Bode, Daily News Staff Writer

8-5-08 -- A wrongly convicted Queens man who spent more than a decade behind bars for murder before another man was caught on tape confessing to the crime wants the judge to release him from prison while he awaits his retrial. . . . Kareem Bellamy, 40, got a second chance in June when Queens Supreme Court Justice Joel Blumenfeld overturned his conviction for the 1994 stabbing death of James Abbott in light of the new evidence. But the father of two was ordered to stay in upstate Shawangunk prison while prosecutors determine whether to assemble a new trial.

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July 2008

Justice, 64 years later

'Long-overdue vindication' comes for 28 black soldiers cleared in a 1944 lynching.

By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer 

7-27-08 -- It was a crime so improbable that many had trouble believing it could have happened at all: Three black soldiers stood accused of lynching an Italian prisoner of war, found dangling from a wire on an obstacle training course at Ft. Lawton in the middle of World War II. . . . The subsequent trial of the three men, along with 40 other black enlistees charged with rioting, became the largest and longest Army court-martial of the war, and the only recorded instance in U.S. history in which black men stood trial for a mob lynching. . . . By the time it was over, 28 men had been convicted on rioting charges and two of them were also found guilty of manslaughter in connection with the 1944 hanging. . . . Despite their protests of innocence -- and the government's own secret investigation showing the prosecution's case was poisonously flawed -- the men were sentenced to hard labor and forfeiture of military pay and benefits, and were given dishonorable discharges. . . . Twenty-six of the men went to their graves with the stain of wartime dishonor still on their records. It wasn't until Saturday, in a low-key ceremony on a wide lawn at the Army base in Seattle, that history switched gears. A senior Army official handed out certificates setting aside the convictions and converting the discharges to honorable status, in recognition -- 64 years after the fact -- that prosecutors' "egregious error" had resulted in a trial that was "fundamentally unfair."


DNA tests reveal questions about a Newark killing

by Rick Hepp and William Kleinknecht/The Star-Ledger

It was a hot, humid August night a dozen years ago when two men entered E.T.'s Sandwiches Almighty Deli in Newark, ordered "a corn beef sandwich with everything" and shot the owner dead. . . . Based on eyewitness accounts, Newark detectives quickly zeroed in on a suspect, Darrell Edwards, who lived in the neighborhood, and arrested him on Sept. 15, 1995. After three mistrials, a jury convicted Edwards of store owner Errich Thomas' murder. . . . Now, attorneys with the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal clinic that specializes in trying to free the wrongfully convicted, say they have DNA evidence that exonerates Edwards, who is serving life in prison. Vanessa Potkin, who is handling Edwards' case with famed defense attorney Barry Scheck, who launched the Innocence Project, said the significance of test results is not what was found, but what wasn't found. . . . "His DNA is not there," she said.

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Innocent man finally finds justice

By Laurel J. Sweet

7-18-08 -- Award-winning court and crime reporter Laurel J. Sweet has been featured in the ABC miniseries "Boston 24/7" and the 9-11 documentary motion picture "Looking For My Brother." . . . Anthony Powell, who spent 12 years behind bars for a rape he didn’t commit, slipped nearly unnoticed into a Suffolk Superior courtroom yesterday to see the accused serial sex fiend prosecutors now admit he tragically took the rap for. . . . But Jerry Dixon, whose DNA was recently matched to four brutal unsolved rapes dating back to 1989, denied Powell, 38, even a glimpse, keeping a plaid shirt wrapped around his face as assistant Clerk-Magistrate Connie Wong ordered him held on $1 million cash bail. . . . Attorney Howard Friedman, who is representing Powell in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed last year against the city and several Boston police officers, later said on the quiet man’s behalf, “He really wanted to see this person. I’m sure it was very emotional for him.”

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June 2008


Inmate confesses to 1985 rape of Richardson woman after DNA evidence points his way, authorities say

By Steve McGonigle / The Dallas Morning News  

6-17-08 -- DNA evidence that recently exonerated one man of a 1985 sexual assault has helped identify a prison inmate who confessed to the crime, the Dallas County district attorney's office announced Tuesday. . . . Kenneth Wayne Woodson gave investigators an audiotaped statement last week in which he admitted raping a 19-year-old Richardson woman in her apartment, Assistant District Attorney Mike Ware said. . . . Prosecutors were led to Mr. Woodson by a match of his genetic profile in CODIS, the state's DNA database, to physical evidence from the May 7, 1985, rape. . . . Of the 17 DNA exoneration cases in Dallas County since 2001, this is at least the fifth time genetic testing has also identified the real perpetrator. . . . "Hopefully, today's news about who the real perpetrator is will bring some closure to the victim," District Attorney Craig Watkins said in a statement. . . . Mr. Woodson, also known as Kenneth Charles Bell, is a former South Dallas resident who is serving a 30-year sentence in a Panhandle prison unit for the sexual assault of another woman in Dallas in November 1986. . . . At 50, he is one year older than Thomas Clifford McGowan, the man convicted and imprisoned for the 1985 rape. Mr. Woodson also resembled Mr. McGowan, according to Richardson Police Chief Larry Zacharias.


Innocent Man Freed After 26 years in Jail

MyFox Detroit

6-3-08 -- In November 1982, Detroit native Walter Swift was wrongly convicted of rape and sentenced to 55 years' imprisonment. . . . Convicted at the age of 21 on the basis of evidence that has been discredited, Walter nonetheless languished behind bars for almost 27 years for a crime he did not commit. . . . Ten years ago his case came to the attention of the Innocence Project, a non-profit legal clinic founded in New York in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld. . . . "Evidence shows that the victim's eyewitness identification was tragically wrong", said Olga Akselrod, an Innocence Project attorney who was at Wednesday's hearing.

May 2008


False Prosecution, Ruined Lives & Taxpayer Money

By Edward Snook Investigative Journalist,

[Edward Snook's Note - Josephine County, Oregon isn’t the only place where corrupt prosecutors and bad police officers falsely charge the innocent and lie to accomplish their goal. This is happening in most every jurisdiction in this nation. Josephine County just happens to be one place where the US~Observer has completely exposed this corruption by making it public, thereby offering others, in all localities, the one and only blueprint for stopping this cancer – Public Exposure. False prosecutions cost taxpayers billions of dollars not to mention ruined lives of innocent people.]

5-27-08 -- Josephine County, OR – A small town district attorney bloated with pride and arrogance has been exposed and humiliated for incompetence - the jury that his office helped select voted in favor of the defendants. The following case should never have been brought to trial. It’s an indictment of the Josephine County District Attorney’s Office. . . . Shortly after 5:00 p.m. on Friday May 5, 2008, the life altering, 1 ½-year-long attempted false prosecution of Stanley Strange, Glen Seybold and Louis Pombo ended when a Josephine County, Oregon jury deliberated for a reported 13 minutes and returned Not Guilty verdicts on all false charges filed against the three by Josephine County District Attorney Stephen Campbell back in October of 2006. All three defendants were falsely charged with Reckless Driving and Strange was also falsely charged with Assault in the Fourth Degree. . . . As if the false charges weren’t enough, District Attorney Stephen Campbell forced these innocent defendants through three full days of costly trial, cost the jurors three days from their lives and the taxpayers a substantial and unwarranted amount of tax-dollars. . . . This nightmare for Strange and his fellow motorcycle riders began back on August 27, 2006 when a car driven by Eric Harris Hill attempted to run the three off Hwy 199, just north of O’Brien, Oregon. Hill was driving his 1984 yellow Mercedes accompanied by fellow cohort Alexander Golden and Hill’s girlfriend Samantha Pettigrew. The three were supposedly heading for the northern CA coast for a camping trip, but information received at the US~Observer would suggest something much, much different. . . . Upon reaching the town of O’Brien and after nearly being run off the road, Strange and Seybold pulled their bikes off to the side of 199, while Hill stopped his vehicle directly in the middle of the southbound lane of traffic. As Hill was backing up traffic, Strange went to the drivers window of Hill’s vehicle and started shaking his finger at Hill through the open window, as he yelled, “What in the hell did you think you were doing? Why were you riding my ass, etc.” Hill quickly hit his electric window button trapping Strange’s arm. According to eye witnesses, “Hill then took off at a fast rate of speed, dragging Strange down the Hwy about 20 ft.” Strange was able to get his arm loose, but only after it was badly injured, raw and bleeding. . . . Strange and Seybold immediately went to McGrew’s Restaurant for help. Upon entering the establishment Strange asked that someone call 911, which they did, and when asked what had happened Strange informed those present that the kids in the car had been trying to run them off the road for the past few miles.

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Costs of wrongful arrest case could go much higher

Jury award of $268,000 just a start

By Eric Nalder, P-I Investigative Reporter

5-20-08 -- The jury awarded $268,000, but the total costs to the city of Seattle for the wrongful arrest of a young man two years ago could be a lot higher. . . . The city will spend more than $500,000 -- perhaps a lot more -- as it pays for what a federal civil court jury found Monday was a violation of Romelle Bradford's civil rights. . . . The jury also found that Seattle patrol officers made a false and unlawful arrest and used excessive force when they detained Bradford on suspicion of obstruction and resisting arrest. . . . Plaintiff's attorney Lem Howell says the police could have spent half that much money, perhaps just a third of that amount, settling the lawsuit. . . . At one point, he said, the city offered $10,000, and later $25,000, which Howell considered far too low for what he called an "unseen injury" involving damage to Bradford's future by giving him an arrest record.


When Law Prevents Righting a Wrong

The Nation -- By Adam Liptak

5-4-08 --  STAPLES HUGHES, a North Carolina lawyer, was on the witness stand and about to disclose a secret he believed would free an innocent man from prison. But the judge told Mr. Hughes to stop. . . . “If you testify,” Judge Jack A. Thompson said at a hearing last year on the prisoner’s request for a new trial, “I will be compelled to report you to the state bar. Do you understand that?” . . . But Mr. Hughes continued. Twenty-two years before, he said, a client, now dead, confessed that he had acted alone in committing a double murder for which another man was also serving life. After his own imprisoned client died, Mr. Hughes recalled last week, “it seemed to me at that point ethically permissible and morally imperative that I spill the beans.” . . . Judge Thompson, of the Cumberland County Superior Court in Fayetteville, did not see it that way, and some experts in legal ethics agree with him. The obligation to keep a client’s secrets is so important, they say, that it survives death and may not be violated even to cure a grave injustice — for example, the imprisonment for 26 years of another man, in Illinois, who was freed just last month. . . . A lawyer’s broad duty to keep clients’ confidences is the bedrock on which the justice system is built, they argue. If clients did not feel free to speak candidly, their lawyers could not represent them effectively. And making exceptions risks eroding the trust between clients and their lawyers in future cases. Experts in legal ethics are quick to point out that the various players in the adversary system have assigned roles and that lawyers generally must tend to a limited one. . . . “Lawyers are not undercover informants,” said Stephen Gillers, who teaches legal ethics at New York University. Indeed, said Steven Lubet, who teaches legal ethics at Northwestern, few clients would confess to their lawyers if they knew the lawyers might some day choose to disclose that information.


DNA: Halfway to justice

Tests that clear those who have been wrongfully convicted often are not followed by tests to find the criminal

By Geoff Dutton and Mike Wagner, The Columbus Dispatch

5-4-08 -- DNA testing shone a spotlight on the injustice suffered by Walter D. Smith, proving the Columbus man's innocence in 1996 and releasing him from a 78-year prison sentence for two rapes that he didn't commit. . . . But the public never heard about the devastating collateral damage, the violent chain reaction set off by sending the wrong man to prison and leaving the real attacker roaming free. . . . In that sense, Smith's exoneration is like others sweeping the nation, a miscarriage of justice that ravaged more lives than most people realize -- and needlessly left disturbing questions unanswered. . ..  The wrongfully convicted are victims, certainly, but not the only ones and maybe not even the most tragic. . . . Smith was in jail less than a month, awaiting trial, when the man later identified by prosecutors as the real rapist struck again. That man continued to terrorize women and girls, primarily on the Northeast Side.


Dallas County district attorney wants unethical prosecutors punished

By Jennifer Emily & Steve McGonigle / The Dallas Morning News

5-4-08 -- The Dallas County district attorney who has built a national reputation on freeing the wrongfully convicted says prosecutors who intentionally withhold evidence should themselves face harsh sanctions – possibly even jail time. . . . "Something should be done," said Craig Watkins, whose jurisdiction leads the nation in the number of DNA exonerations. "If the harm is a great harm, yes, it should be criminalized." . . . Wrongful convictions, nearly half of them involving prosecutorial misconduct, have cost Texas taxpayers $8.6 million in compensation since 2001, according to state comptroller records obtained by The Dallas Morning News. Dallas County accounts for about one-third of that. . . . Mr. Watkins said that he was still pondering what kind of punishment unethical prosecutors deserve but that the worst offenders might deserve prison time. He said he also was considering the launch of a campaign to mandate disbarment for any prosecutor found to have intentionally withheld evidence from the defense.


Exonerated, 17 years late

Convicted of a sex crime he didn't commit, a Mattapan man imprisoned and long shunned has his innocence proclaimed

By Maria Cramer, Globe Staff  

5-2-08 -- For the past seven years, a photo of Guy Randolph has been posted at Boston police stations, labeling him the most dangerous type of sex offender. Neighbors who knew of his criminal record and the 10 years he spent in prison insulted him when they saw him on the streets. Police ordered him away from schools and playgrounds if he walked too close. . . . But yesterday, in a hearing that took less than 10 minutes, a Suffolk Superior Court judge said the wrong man had been convicted. More than 17 years after he was first arrested in the sexual assault on a 6-year-old girl, Randolph was exonerated of all charges and declared innocent. . . . Afterward, Randolph, a shy, small 50-year-old man who has struggled for years with schizophrenia and alcoholism, crumpled into the arms of his godmother, who pulled him into her tight embrace. . . . Randolph said little, but offered this: "Justice has been served." . . . "It's over," said his mother, Ruth Johns, as she stood with him in the courtroom. "He's free. He's free."


Former death-row inmate set free

5-2-08 -- A man who spent 13 years on death row in North Carolina was released from prison Friday after prosecutors decided to drop the charges against him. . . . Levon "Bo" Jones was sentenced to death in 1993 for the slaying of Leamon Grady, a bootlegger who was robbed and shot in his home in 1987. . . . "I'm innocent, that's what I've got to say," Jones told reporters as he walked out of the Duplin County Jail Friday afternoon. . ..  After meeting his grandson for the first time, he said he was "a little bit angry" about being on death row so long, but he just wanted to go home. . . . "It's wonderful that he's out. He's innocent, and I'm glad he's free," said his daughter, Evette Jones. . . . A federal judge overturned the conviction in 2006, declaring poor attorney performance had violated Jones' rights. Duplin County District Attorney Dewey Hudson planned to retry Jones on May 12, but decided to drop charges after a key witness recanted her story. . . . Lovely Lorden,  Jones' former girlfriend, was the only witness accusing Jones of the murder, but she admitted in an affidavit filed last month that she “was certain that Bo did not have anything to do with Mr. Grady’s murder” and that she did not know what happened the night Grady was murdered.

April 2008


DNA frees Texas man imprisoned for 27 years

(Reuters) - 4-30-08 -- A man walked out of a Dallas court on Tuesday after DNA testing overturned his conviction over 27 years ago for the murder and rape of his girlfriend, local media reported. . . . James Woodward, 55, spent more time in prison than any other wrongfully convicted inmate in U.S. history who was subsequently freed by DNA testing, local media reported. . . . He was also the eighteenth person freed in Dallas County based on a post-conviction DNA analysis, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center that specializes in righting grave miscarriages of justice. . . . That is more than any other U.S. county, highlighting problems in the local justice system that include what critics have said is a history of racism and racial profiling. . . . Woodward is a black male -- the typical profile of those wrongfully sent to prison in Dallas and elsewhere in the United States.

Exonerated Ex-Inmates Struggle to Shed Stigma

By Peter Slevin and Kari Lydersen, Washington Post Staff Writers 

4-28-08 -- Tabitha Pollock was asleep when her boyfriend killed her 3-year-old daughter. Charged with first-degree murder because prosecutors believed she should have known of the danger, Pollock spent more than six years in prison before the Illinois Supreme Court threw out the conviction. . . . "Should have known," the high court ruled, was not nearly enough to keep Pollock behind bars. . . . Five years later, Pollock remains in limbo, freed from prison but not free from the snags of a wrongful conviction that upended her life. With a felony record, she cannot become a teacher, as she wants. She cannot collect damages from the Illinois government. On a trip to Australia, where customs officials questioned her when she arrived, she learned that the murder conviction always follows her. . . . To fully clear her name, Pollock -- as well as a dozen or so other former Illinois inmates who have been exonerated -- needs an official pardon, which only the governor can give. She applied in 2002 but has received no word.


Lawyer Disbarred for Letting Innocent Client Sit in Jail for Months

New York Lawyer, By The Associated Press

4-23-08 -- The State Bar has charged a San Bernardino County criminal defense lawyer with taking thousands of dollars from clients, then abandoning them. William Gebbie surrendered his law license after filing of the 28-count complaint, which accused him of allowing a client to sit in jail for months even though he had evidence to clear the man. . . . The Rancho Cucamonga-based attorney, who practiced for 38 years in San Bernardino, Riverside and Los Angeles counties, declined comment on Tuesday. . . . The State Bar says Gebbie improperly withdrew from cases, failed to return unearned fees and collected "unconscionable" fees, among other things. . . . The most serious accusation involved Gebbie's handling of a case against Donald Stephens, whose wife paid the lawyer a $10,000 advance to handle a felony sex case. Stephens sat in jail even though Gebbie had evidence clearing him.


Man wants officers, lawyer to compensate him for wrongful imprisonment

By Steve Korris -Cabell Bureau

4-18-08 -- John David Mooney, who endured five years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, believes that officers who arrested him and the lawyer who represented him should compensate him for all he lost. . . . Mooney sued federal agent Todd Willard, attorney Michael Frazier of Huntington, the firm of Frazier and Oxley, and Huntington police officers Jeff Sexton, Scott Hudson and Chris Jackson in U. S. district court at Huntington on April 10. . . . Mooney's attorney, Nicholas Preservati of Charleston, claims economic loss, physical injury, mental anguish, compensatory damages and punitive damages. . . . "During his incarceration, the plaintiff's father passed away. Plaintiff was not allowed to attend his father's funeral," Preservati wrote. . . . "During his incarceration, the plaintiff's mother also passed away," he wrote. "Again, the plaintiff was not allowed to attend his mother's funeral."


Editorial: Injustice reigns

By Staff Rocky Mount Telegram

4-15-08 -- The slow turning of justice's wheels give plenty of folks something to complain about. . . . Why do death penalty cases take so long to wind through the appeals process? Where's the justice for victims? . . . All valid points, but in the case of Glen Edward Chapman, 14 years of sitting in prison was too long for the wrongful conviction that put him there. . ..  A judge last week released Chapman, and all charges against him were dropped. A jury convicted him in 1994 of murdering Betty Jean Ramseur and Tenene Yvette Conley. His release, tragically, means those murders are now officially unsolved. What's worse is no one can say for sure that Chapman didn't have anything to do with their deaths. . . . But that makes the miscarriage of justice against Chapman even more disturbing. Witnesses in his original trial say they felt pressured by police and prosecutors to testify against him. . . . Evidence that would have cast doubt on his guilt was suppressed by the prosecution. A lead investigator may even have lied in court.

Cigarrest to Stop Smoking in 7 Days!


Slow justice spares man’s life

Greensboro News Record

04-05-08 -- People who urge swifter justice on death row should think about Glen Edward Chapman. . . . He could have been executed long before spending 14 years on death row, but that wouldn’t have been justice. Just the opposite. . . . Chapman, 41, was released this week when all charges against him were dropped. Last year, a judge ruled he deserved new trials for the two 1992 murders in Hickory police and prosecutors said he committed; Wednesday, the Catawba County district attorney said there wasn’t enough evidence to try Chapman again. . . . The case against Chapman was badly flawed. Evidence that would have cast doubt on his guilt was withheld, and a lead investigator might have lied in court. Prosecution witnesses later recanted their testimony: "If anyone asked me at trial, I would have testified that police pressured me into testifying and that I did not believe Edward killed anyone," one said in an affidavit. . . . These aren’t technicalities but significant issues that were recognized in Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin’s 182-page order for new trials. It was the state that employed "technicalities," arguing against Chapman’s motion on the questionable grounds that his contentions should have been raised in earlier appeals.


The wrong man

Glen Chapman is free, but his case points to the dangerous imperfections in North Carolina's use of the death penalty

News & Observer Editorial: 

04-04-08 -- Were it not for a couple of good appellate lawyers and Superior Court Judge Robert C. Ervin, Glen Chapman might have been killed by the state in Central Prison's death chamber. He had been on death row for nearly 14 years, following a conviction for the 1992 murders of two women in Hickory. . . . After years of appeals, Judge Ervin ruled in November that Chapman deserved another trial. The Catawba County District Attorney, James Gaither Jr., then dismissed the murder charges against him, saying there was not enough evidence for a retrial. . . . So on Wednesday, the 40-year-old Chapman was released -- from death row to freedom. . . . Ervin, who held six hearings over five years, found that an investigator in the case, Dennis Rhoney, lied in his testimony about Chapman's involvement in the murders. . . . The judge found that Rhoney had withheld evidence from prosecutors that would have bolstered Chapman's claim of innocence. He also found that Chapman's trial lawyers overlooked evidence in the deaths of Betty Jean Ramseur and Tenene Yvette Conley and didn't investigate thoroughly. (The appeals lawyers argued that Chapman's trial attorneys were "excessive users of alcohol.")


"Mario's Story:" A tale of justice deferred

IU Law graduate to introduce documentary about California man's struggle for justice

04-02-08 -- Mario Rocha spent 10 years in California prisons after weak legal representation caused him to be convicted of murder for an incident that took place when he was 16. . . . He is now a free man, thanks to the efforts of a Roman Catholic nun and a legal team headed by a graduate of the Indiana University School of Law--Bloomington. . . . The attorney, Bob Long, will return to IU on Wednesday, April 9, to introduce and show Mario's Story, a documentary film that tells the story of Rocha's fight for justice. Directed by Jeff Werner and Susan Koch, Mario's Story won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2006 Los Angeles Film Festival. . . . "It tells a great story about the importance of making sure the system works right," said Long, who earned an undergraduate degree from IU Bloomington in 1968 and a law degree in 1971. "And it tells an important story for law students -- that what you do makes a difference."


Inmate not likely to get district attorney's backing in 1987 murder case

Prosecutor says office stands by eyewitness accounts in '87 slaying

By Jennifer Emily / The Dallas Morning News

04-02-08 --  The Dallas County district attorney's office is likely to object to a judge's opinion that a man convicted in a fatal aggravated robbery is actually innocent, a high-ranking prosecutor said this week. . . . Judge Rick Magnis said Friday in a 42-page written opinion that new evidence shows Ben Spencer did not rob and murder Dallas businessman Jeffrey Young in 1987. Mr. Spencer was convicted based mainly on eyewitness testimony, which is notoriously unreliable. . . . But First Assistant District Attorney Terri Moore said the district attorney's office stands by the witnesses' original identifications of Mr. Spencer. She also said standing by the witnesses did not contradict questioning eyewitness testimony in other cases. . . . "There are three witnesses that knew him well, not as a casual acquaintance," Ms. Moore said. "Three different people had three different vantage points. We don't have your typical stranger identification or cross-cultural identification."

March 2008


New effort launched to free Barry Beach
By Tristan Scott of the Missoulian

03-31-08 --  With renewed legal and grass-roots efforts under way to free convicted murderer Barry Beach - whose claims of innocence have persisted throughout his 25-year imprisonment - the inmate’s potential path to freedom is getting more attention, advocates say. . . . "We hope to one day meet him on the other side of those gates," said former Yellowstone County commissioner James "Ziggy" Ziegler, who met Beach 24 years ago through a prison ministry and recently helped organize a media campaign to free the 46-year-old convict. . . . Beach was convicted at the age of 22 on the basis of a detailed confession he and his defense team say was coerced by detectives in Louisiana, where Beach was arrested for an unrelated crime and interrogated under duress. . . . In January, a New Jersey-based innocence group called Centurion Ministries filed a petition seeking a new trial for Beach, basing its legal argument on so-called new evidence - namely, testimony that implicates a group of young girls in the 1979 killing of 17-year-old Kimberly Nees in Poplar. . . . Then in February, a Helena-based group called Montanans for Justice - the most recent joist in Beach’s support network of lawyers, elected officials and business professionals - launched a Web site advocating his release.


Judge voids conviction in '83 killing

Case against Willie Earl Green is overturned after key witness recants testimony. Prosecutors weigh a retrial.

By Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
03-11-08 -- A Los Angeles judge on Monday overturned the conviction of a man who has spent the last quarter-century in prison for a murder he insists he did not commit, concluding that the prosecution's star witness lied. . . . The ruling comes after the witness recently recanted his testimony and could lead to freedom for Willie Earl Green, a former chauffeur who was sentenced to 33 years to life in a 1983 execution-style slaying at a South Los Angeles crack house. . . . Los Angeles County prosecutors must decide whether to appeal the decision, retry Green or free him. Considering the judge's conclusion that the star witness was unreliable, prosecutors would probably have a difficult task if they chose to retry the case. . . . Legal experts say that the case underscores the perils of relying heavily upon eyewitness identification in criminal trials. Researchers have found that faulty identifications are the biggest factor in wrongful convictions. Yet judges rarely overturn convictions based on allegations of improper identifications.


Long road to freedom

Posthumous confession seems to exonerate prisoner after 26 years

By Kevin Roy

03-10-08 -- (WLS) -- Alton Logan appeared in court Monday hoping the hearing was the beginning of the end to his nightmare. Logan has spent the last 26 years in prison for a crime he says he didn't commit. . . . Imagine the pain of being in prison for 26 years for a crime you didn't commit. Imagine having information that would clear such a person, but not being able to share it for all those years. Attorneys say it was agonizing holding onto the truth about Alton Logan that long -- but they felt they were bound to silence by attorney-client privilege. . . . Alton Logan has sat in prison for 26 years, always maintaining his innocence in the 1982 shooting death of a security guard at a South Side McDonald's. And for most of that time attorney Jamie Kunz had information that Logan was indeed innocent. . . . "It bothered us, the way it bothers any citizen, to think an innocent person is in prison, except we had first-hand knowledge," said Jamie Kunz, defense attorney. . . . First-hand knowledge from his client, Andrew Wilson, who was convicted of killing two Chicago police officers. When Kunz and his legal partner were told by another attorney that Wilson had actually killed the security guard, they asked Wilson about it in prison. . . . "We said is it true, that you were the one with the shotgun? He said yep, that was me," said Kunz. . . . But Kunz says he was bound to keep it a secret -- bound by his word and attorney-client privilege.


Psst, Judge: I've Got a Secret

Two public defenders announced that their client, now deceased, killed a man nearly thirty years ago, but that attorney-client privilege kept them from telling the world -- and allowing the wrongfully convicted suspect, Alton Logan, to go free.

Conor Friedersdorf Atlantic Online

03-10-08 -- It's tempting to say that the public defenders should have come forward, accepted disbarment, and spared Alton Logan twenty-six years of wrongful imprisonment. Perhaps they could have sprung Logan without appreciably weakening clients' trust in their attorneys. Disbarment is a severe sanction, and after all, this case is an extreme one. Besides, what comes first -- lawyerly obligations, or human ones? . . . Better still, though, would be for the legal system to establish ways for lawyers to reveal certain secrets without damaging their clients' interests. One possibility is an "Innocence Panel" -- a closed courtroom of appeals court judges who could grant immunity from prosecution for confessions that (1) are demonstrably true; (2) could free an already convicted man from prison; and (3) reveal information that wouldn't have come to light otherwise. . . . Other approaches are bubbling up as law school students and legal bloggers debate this case. Meanwhile, Alton Logan remains in an Illinois prison, waiting to argue a motion for a new trial. A former Illinois governor once commuted 156 death sentences, fretting that one of the convicts might be innocent. Surely Governor Rod R. Blagojevich can grant a single speedy pardon for one irrevocably wronged man?


26-Year Secret Kept Innocent Man In Prison

Lawyers Tell 60 Minutes They Were Legally Bound From Revealing Secret

03-07-08 -- (CBS) Alton Logan doesn't understand why two lawyers with proof he didn't commit murder were legally prevented from helping him. They had their reasons: To save Logan, they would have had to break the cardinal rule of attorney-client privilege to reveal their own client had committed the crime. But Logan had 26 years in prison to try to understand why he was convicted for a crime he didn't commit. . . . Logan, still in jail, speaks to 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon in his first interview for a report that also includes the lawyers which will be broadcast this Sunday, March 9, at 7 p.m. ET/PT. . . . "Yes. Sympathize with [the lawyers’ dilemma], yes. Understand it, no," Logan tells Simon. "If you know this is an innocent person, why would you allow this person to be prosecuted, convicted, sent to prison for all these years?" asks the 54-year-old inmate. . . . Lawyers Jamie Kunz and Dale Coventry were public defenders when their client, Andrew Wilson, admitted to them he had shot-gunned a security guard to death in a 1982 robbery. When a tip led to Logan's arrest and he went to trial for the crime, the two lawyers were in a bind. They wanted to help Logan but legally couldn't. . . . "The rules of conduct for attorneys, it's very, very clear…. We're in a position to where we have to maintain client confidentiality, just as a priest would or a doctor would. It's just a requirement of the law. The system wouldn’t work without it," says Coventry.

February 2008


Judge dismisses case against man jailed for 16 months

Judge Burke dismisses defendant from indictment after 16 months in jail. Burke said mere presence at a crime is not criminal.

By Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune

02-29-08 -- A Hennepin County judge dismissed an indictment against a Minneapolis man who spent 16 months in jail, saying he should not have been charged with murder because he was merely a passenger, not a player in the killing of Carlos Hernandez Perez. . . . "To put it bluntly, this was not the criminal justice system's finest hour," District Court Judge Kevin Burke wrote in his four-page order released late Thursday. . . . Jose Manuel Saldivar-Alvillar was one of five people charged in the gang-related killing of 17-year-old Perez in Bloomington on April 30, 2006. The other four have been found guilty or pleaded guilty. . . . Saldivar-Alvillar's lawyer died shortly before the trial was to begin, so he got a new lawyer, James Austad, who made the motion for dismissal. . . . Austad was heading into court on another matter and not immediately able to comment on the case. . . . In his order, Burke noted that the prosecutors never sought to indict Saldivar-Alvillar, but the decision was made by the grand jury. He said the grand jury likely was confused about the degree of evidence necessary to support an indictment against Saldivar-Alvillar.


Exonerated man gets life back on track

Tara Lachapelle

02-27-08 -- Dennis Maher's red hooded sweatshirt was anything but lucky. He was wearing it the day a 23-year-old woman was sexually assaulted - and so was her attacker. Eyewitness misidentification landed Maher in prison, where he served 19 years of his life for crimes he did not commit. . . . On Thursday, Feb. 14, Maher, 47, shared his story with Suffolk in the C. Walsh Theatre. His lecture, sponsored by the Performing Arts Office in conjunction with their performance of "The Exonerated," captured the audience, all whilst wearing a t-shirt, jeans and a scruffy, graying beard. . . . One fall night in 1983, Maher, an average Joe from Lowell, Mass., was stopped by police and didn't know why. "I gave them my driver's license and they ran my name," said Maher. "Then they searched me and arrested me for possession of marijuana." But when Maher arrived at the Lowell police station, he learned the real reason for his arrest. He recalls the officer saying, "We're questioning you about a rape that happened last night and a rape that happened earlier today." . . . On Nov. 16, 1983, a 28-year-old woman from Lowell, Mass. was taking her usual walk home from work when she was attacked. The man that accosted her had tried to engage her in conversation before forcing her into a nearby yard and sexually assaulting her. The next day, a 23-year-old woman was attacked less than 100 yards from the site of the first assault. The second victim, who was able to escape her attacker after a struggle, described him as wearing a red hooded sweatshirt, a khaki military-style jacket and wielding a knife. . . . Maher, who had no prior criminal record and was a sergeant in the United States Army at the time, did not fit the vague description given by the victim but was dressed in similar attire.


Slaughter of the innocence

California treats exonerated people even worse than rightly convicted felons.

OPINION DAILY, By Robert Greene 

02-25-08 -- In November 1994, a Lodi man named Pete Rose — not the famous baseball player — was arrested for the kidnap and rape of a 13-year-old girl. Rose told a judge he didn't need a lawyer, since he wasn't guilty, but he nevertheless accepted San Joaquin County's appointment of attorney Harry E. Hudson Jr. to defend him at trial. It didn't help. A jury convicted Rose, who was sentenced to prison for 27 years. . . . Nearly a decade later, students at Golden Gate University School of Law's Innocence Project began investigating the case and obtained a semen sample from the rape victim's clothing; a DNA test proved that Rose was not the assailant. After he was released, the victim read about him in the newspaper and — according to a law review article on Rose's case by former Golden Gate Innocence Project Director Susan Rutberg — told the reporter: . . . "I was never sure. The pol . ce pressured me to name someone. I only went along with them because I thought they had other evidence lined up against Rose." . . . . In 2005 Rose, now released, was formally exonerated and found factually innocent — a rarity in criminal justice proceedings, well beyond a simple acquittal — of the charges against him. He had spent 10 years at Mule Creek State Prison, where he was incorrectly considered a child rapist.


Complete Coverage of The Martin Tankleff case

Set free

02-20-08 -- A man who spent half his life in prison for the murder of his parents is released from jail. Now, a new probe into the 1988 slayings.

Reaction Videos  / The case Photos  / Court documents PDFs


DNA tests fuel urgency to free the innocent

By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY

02-19-08--  After spending nearly 27 years buried in the vast Texas prison system for a crime he did not commit, Charles Chatman's first weeks of freedom have been overwhelming. . . . Each of the six rooms in his new apartment, including the bathroom, is larger than any of his previous cells. The gleaming entertainment system and sleek laptop from family, friends and attorneys might as well be hollow props on a movie set, because Chatman, 47, has little idea how to operate them — testimony to more than a generation lost behind bars. . . . Chatman was exonerated last month by DNA testing while serving a 99-year sentence for sexual assault. His release Jan. 3 marked the 15th such exoneration in Dallas County during the past five years, the most of any county in the nation. Aside from New York and Illinois, Dallas County also has produced more exonerations than any state.

Justice Department appeals $100M wrongful conviction judgment

By Associated Press

02-15-08 -- The Justice Department finally has decided to appeal a $101.7 million award in the case of four men who spent decades in prison for a murder they did not commit. . ..  A federal judge in July found the FBI responsible for framing Joseph Salvati, Peter Limone, Louis Greco and Henry Tameleo for the 1965 slaying of Edward "Teddy" Deegan. . . . The government filed notice of appeal Friday — just four days ahead of the deadline. . . . An attorney for one of the men has estimated that an appeal would take more than a year and could cost the government as much as $14 million in interest and legal fees if the judgment is upheld.


Bar lets lawyer keep license

By Paul Woolverton, Staff writer

02-13-08 -- Lawyer Staples Hughes jeopardized his career in 2004 when he violated one of a lawyer’s most sacred precepts — keep secret your client’s secrets — to try to free a man he thinks is innocent of murder. . . . His deed was rewarded with an investigation by the N.C. State Bar. The bar could have yanked Hughes’ license to practice law. Instead, its Grievance Committee considered the matter privately and decided on Jan. 24 there is no reason to prosecute Hughes. A State Bar official cited confidentiality rules and would not further discuss the decision. . . Hughes, who now heads an office that handles the appeals of indigent defendants, said he feels no vindication. . . . “I’m very grateful to the Grievance Committee for the decision they made and I’m glad that’s over with,” he said. “But my situation was sort of the tail wagging the dog. The primary, I mean the real, the paramount, issue here is that Lee Wayne Hunt is an innocent man and he’s locked up in prison for something he didn’t do.”

Kennedy Brewer is 127th
Death Row Inmate Exonerated

Kennedy Brewer, who spent 12 years on Mississippi’s death row for the 1992 murder and rape of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter, has been exonerated of the charges, and another man, Justin Johnson, has been arrested for the same crime. A 2001 investigation by the Innocence Project found that the semen on the victim’s body did not match Brewer’s DNA, but did match Johnson’s. Johnson was a suspect early in the case, and his blood was collected and preserved in the Mississippi State Crime Laboratory for more than 10 years.  (See  Innocence and 127: Kennedy Brewer.)


Wrongful conviction awards grow

Justice Dept. slow in filing an appeal

By Shelley Murphy , Globe Staff

02-08-08 --  More than six months after a federal judge ordered the government to pay $101.7 million to four men who spent decades in prison for a murder they did not commit, the Justice Department has not informed the court whether it will appeal. . . . As the government weighs its options, the award continues to grow, accruing another $100,000 in interest each week since the judgment was formally entered in late December, according to lawyers who represent the plaintiffs. The interest, the lawyers say, will continue to mount at an annual rate of about 5.1 percent until the case is resolved. . . . Charles Miller, a spokesman for the Justice Department, declined to comment on the case this week or on whether the government will appeal. . . . The government, which must notify the court by Feb. 19 if it wants to appeal, will be forced to pay the additional $100,000 a week in interest if it loses an appeal, the plaintiffs' lawyers said.


Lawyers gear up to free Jones

They feel conviction was 'something very wrong'

By Christine Young, Times Herald-Record

LeBrew Jones, above, has been in prison since 1989 for a crime he has always said he didn’t commit.
Times Herald-Record/Tom Bushey

02-08-08 -- Citing "a growing view that something very wrong happened here," a formidable team of lawyers is preparing to launch a strategy to free Lebrew Jones, an Otisville state prison inmate serving 22 years to life for a murder he has always maintained he did not commit. . ..  Jones had no previous criminal record when he was convicted in 1989 for the bludgeoning death of Michaelanne Hall, a 21-year-old Times Square prostitute. . . . Steven A. Drizin, director of Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions, made a personal plea to Barry Scheck, founder and co-director of the Innocence Project, and to James Benkard of Davis, Polk & Wardwell, one of Manhattan's oldest law firms, to represent Jones for free. . . . According to Benkard, the lawyers took an interest in Jones after reading an investigative story on He said they share "a growing view that something very wrong happened here."


Law on back pay proposed in Fort Lawton case

By Alicia Mundy, Seattle Times Washington bureau

02-04-08 -- Samuel Snow got a check from the Pentagon after the Army announced last October it would overturn convictions of Snow and 27 other African-American soldiers wrongly tried for rioting at Seattle's Fort Lawton in 1944. . . . The check was for $725 — the amount of pay that Snow, now 82, lost while serving a year in an Army lockup. . . . Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., have introduced legislation to make the military pay much more to Snow and the other surviving Fort Lawton soldier, and to the families of those who have died since the convictions. . . . The legislation would calculate the back pay in current dollars with interest. That could change the $725 sent to Snow to about $88,000, according to Nelson's office. . . . McDermott has been the strongest proponent of a review of the Fort Lawton incident. He became involved more than two years ago, after reading a book by local journalist Jack Hamann, "On American Soil," which documented the role of racism and inappropriate tactics used by the military to prosecute the men and stymie their defense.


Wrong man tried, convicted because of attorney-client privilege

By Maurice Possley, Chicago Tribune

02-04-08 -- For a quarter of a century, defense lawyers Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz were bound by the rules of law to hold onto a secret that now could mean freedom for a man serving a life sentence for murder. . . . The secret — memorialized on a notarized affidavit that they locked in a metal box — was that their client, Andrew Wilson, admitted that he shotgunned to death a security guard at a McDonald’s restaurant on Chicago’s South Side in January 1982. . . . Bound to silence by attorney-client privilege, Kunz and Coventry could do nothing as another man, Alton Logan, 54, was tried and convicted instead. . . . The two lawyers testified in court last week that they were bound by the attorney-client privilege and Wilson’s admonition that they only reveal his admission after his death. Wilson, who was serving a life sentence for the murders of two Chicago police officers, died of natural causes Nov. 19.

January 2008


The System Worked? A Defender Begs to Differ

By Robin Finn

01-14-07 -- BRUCE A. BARKET, a voluntarily overworked criminal defense lawyer whose under-eye circles rival those of any raccoon, cast a wishful glance toward the box of Montecristo cigars nestled among the family photos and professional citations on his office credenza. The perfect holiday gift, as-yet unopened. A lot like the long-awaited release of his client Martin H. Tankleff, who was hoping to learn on Wednesday that he would not be retried for his parents’ murders: almost the perfect ending. . . . “What we are left with is a brutal double homicide that is essentially unsolved and really was never properly investigated,” said Mr. Barket, one of several lawyers who represented Mr. Tankleff in his appeals. “People will say, ‘Look, the system worked for Marty!’ I say, bull: He was in prison for 17 ½ years.” . . . Mr. Barket, 48, wanted a Montecristo badly enough to break the law and smoke indoors, something he confesses to doing at times when working here alone on weekends.


State to pay wrongly convicted man $3.5M

County case remains open for Bromgard

By Clair Johnson Of The Gazette Staff

1-12-08 -- Former Billings resident Jimmy Bromgard, who spent more than 15 years in prison for a child rape he did not commit, on Friday settled for $3.5 million his lawsuit against the state of Montana. . . . The settlement is the largest amount the state has ever paid for a civil-rights violation, said Bromgard's attorney, Ron Waterman of Helena. . . . "Indeed, it is the most the state has ever paid to any individual for its misconduct except in cases in which the victim of the state's misconduct died," Waterman said. . . . "This has been a long journey for Jimmy that started in 1987 with a wrongful conviction," Waterman said. "There's no amount money that will compensate him for 15½ years in prison. This will start to heal the wounds."

The Complicity of Judges in the
Generation of Wrongful Convictions


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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) --



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