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Truth in Justice Newsletter
Wrongful Conviction News for 2010

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After steadily increasing over the preceding decade, the rate of exonerations in the U.S. seems to have slowed.  We do not necessarily view this as a positive sign. There was a rush of DNA-based exonerations, but it is harder now to find cases in which DNA evidence can prove innocence, or in which such physical evidence still exists.  Authorities in many parts of the country have redoubled efforts to preserve convictions by attacking messengers, the individuals who uncover evidence of innocence and seek exoneration of the wrongly convicted.  In Illinois, for example, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez has defended convictions by subpoenaing notes and other investigatory materials developed by journalism students with the Medill Innocence Project.  In Columbus, Ohio, the police department announced a new policy regarding access to police records, clearly designed to halt uncovering embarassing police misconduct.  The public (including investigators and post-conviction defense attorneys) cannot access police records until the inmate has been executed or released from prison.  Speaking of post-execution exoneration, by mid-year, the Texas Forensic Science Commission was poised to issue a report concluding -- as did the forensic experts the Commission retained to advise it -- that Cameron Todd Willingham was executed for a fatal fire that was not arson.  Gov. Rick Perry fired the most "troublesome" members of the Commission and replaced them with folks that he says will "have the right answers," and who agree with Perry that Willingham "was a monster."

While we don't have as many cases to report each month as we did just a few years ago, the exonerations reported here are hard won.  The innocent people still imprisoned whose cases are profiled here represent merely the tip of the iceberg -- the few fortunate enough to have caught the attention of journalists, private investigators and/or innocence projects who have uncovered compelling evidence of innocence.  Some of the systemic failures that lead to wrongful convictions  -- mistaken eyewitness identification, for example --
are being addressed, but with a patchwork approach that does little to rectify the problem.  Police, prosecutor and judicial misconduct continues apace, under the guise of being "tough on crime."  Their motto is "I may not always be right, but I am never wrong."  Former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro and Manitowoc (WI) Assistant DA Mike Griesbach wrote painfully honest books that examine the fallacies and prejudices that underlie wrongful convictions, as well as the repercussions that destroy lives.  They are, unfortunately, exceptions in their insights and their candor. 

Whether exonerations ebb or flow, we will continue to profile them here.  This is, first and foremost, a resource for the innocent.  And while these people fade from public memory, their stories remain permanently relevant, and permanently available on our website. 

2010 EXONERATIONS

On Thursday, January 14, 2010, Michael Tillman walked out of the Cook County Courthouse and headed straight for Mac Arthur's Restaurant, a soul food institution on Chicago's West Side.  After 23 years of being wrongfully incarcerated and facing a life behind bars, the barbeque ribs tasted particularly sweet.  "If it weren't for the publicity that was brought to the case in the early stages, being only a couple of years ago, by AlterNet… he might still be in prison now," Flint Taylor founding partner of the People's Law Office and co-counsel in Tillman's case, told AlterNet.

In 2008, Waynesville, NC resident Donald “Pete” McCracken Jr., 40, was indicted on a charge of first-degree rape — a B1 felony that, at the time, carried a minimum sentence of 16 years in prison, with a maximum sentence of up to life without parole.  Almost 14 months later, the alleged victim recanted the accusation and the charge against McCracken was dismissed. He was declared innocent. But it cost him more than $100,000 and a “year of hell” to clear his name. Still, he fears his reputation may be tainted beyond repair.

He had proclaimed his innocence, to no avail, at his trial and sentencing and in his five years behind bars.  And when he was released from prison, Freddie Peacock, a churchgoing Rochester, N.Y., man with severe mental illness, persisted in what would become the defining mission of his difficult life: convince the world that he was not, in fact, guilty of rape.  At last, 28 years later, DNA has shown what Freddie said was true:  he is innocent.

Ronald Taylor and George Gould
Two Connecticut men imprisoned for 16 years in a murder that a judge says they did not commit were ordered freed on Thursday.  Rockville Superior Court Judge Stanley Fuger said in a ruling that the two men were victims of "manifest injustice" when they were convicted of the 1993 killing of a New Haven store owner. The star witness against them has since recanted, and a private investigator hired by state public defenders concluded the men's DNA was not found on a cord used to tie the victim's hands.

The Innocence Project Northwest is seeking — on the basis of DNA testing unavailable at the time of the crime — a new trial for two Orchards-area men convicted in 1993 of attacking a woman in La Center.  “New evidence has proven what the defendants have maintained for 17 years,” said John Pantazis, staff attorney for the Innocence Project Northwest Clinic in Seattle. “They are completely innocent.”

UPDATE:  
On April 21, 2010, Clark County Superior Court Judge Diane Woolard vacated the sentences of Alan G. Northrop and Larry W. Davis.


A former Rochester, NY truck driver who spent nearly 19 years behind bars for a 1988 slaying he didn't commit walked free April 28, 2010 after DNA testing exonerated him and instead pointed to a man who strangled a 4-year-old girl in 1994.  This is yet another case in which police coerced a false confession from an innocent man.  They got a conviction, but they allowed the killer to kill again.

Rochester, NY makes the news twice in one week, when the NY Court of Appeals threw out Mr. Richardson's conviction.  The trial judge should have caught this, but instead put his seal of approval on a coerced Alford plea by Rashjeem Richardson and sent him to prison for a knife attack someone else committed.  Rochester prosecutors said four witnesses identified Mr. Richardson, when only one did so, and she retracted the next day because she had been drunk when she fingered him.  When faced with a choice between a conviction and truth, prosecutors in Rochester choose a conviction.

New lab tests show that DNA recovered from the semen-stained underwear of a 12-year-old rape victim couldn't have come from the man who has served more than 27 years in prison for the crime.  Raymond Towler has maintained his innocence for nearly three decades, insisting he wasn't the man who abducted two young children from a Cleveland park on May 24, 1981.  His lawyers with the Ohio Innocence Project say the results prove Towler's innocence.

UPDATE:  On May 5, 2010, a beaming Raymond Towler was fold by Judge Eileen Gallagher:  "Mr. Towler, you are free to go."

A Los Angeles man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a 1994 murder and attempted robbery in South Los Angeles is a free man today.  There was nothing simple about his exoneration.  First, he was identified as the shooter by the real killer, even though absolutely no other evidence connected him to the crime.  Then he was attacked in prison and killed another inmate in self-defense.  After he was exonerated of the 1994 charge and resolved the prison attack charge, prison officials framed him up on a false charge of possessing a razor blade.  DNA cleared him of that, and he was supposed to be released on April 6, 2010, but the prison refused to let him go, saying "protestors" were gathered at the bus station.  Those were his family, waiting to greet him.  Finally, a judge ordered that Reggie be released, and he was welcomed home by his family on May 16, 2010.

A Charlotte, NC man wrongfully convicted of kidnapping and armed robbery is finally home after spending 12 years behind bars.  Shawn Massey, 37, was the victim of erroneous eyewitness identification, say researchers from Duke Law School, whose Wrongful Convictions Clinic and Innocence Project spent more than four years examining the case.

Tyrone Jones walked out into the hazy sunshine on the morning of May 25, 2010 and let out a deep breath on the steps of the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse, his shoulders light for the first time in a dozen years.  He had come to court prepared for trial on charges of conspiring to commit murder, only to be told he wouldn't be prosecuted. The case was dropped.  "It took all but 10 seconds to undo something that's been going on for 12 years," Jones said, still shocked.

William Avery, convicted in the 1998 strangulation of a Milwaukee prostitute has been released from custody after tests of DNA evidence linked another man to the killing, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said.  Mary Johnson, the mother of victim Maryetta Griffin, said authorities told her the DNA sample matches the profile of accused serial killer Walter E. Ellis.  Mr. Avery's conviction was based on jailhouse "snitch" testimony.  He had been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

In vacating a murder conviction and barring prosecutors from retrying the case, a federal judge in New York has lashed out at the Brooklyn district attorney's Office for failing to take responsibility for its prosecutors' alleged misconduct. At a contentious, 90-minute habeas corpus hearing on June 8, 2010, Eastern District Judge Dora L. Irizarry noted that petitioner Jabbar Collins, a renowned jailhouse attorney, had uncovered numerous documents while serving his 34-years-to-life sentence suggesting that prosecutors had withheld evidence, coerced witnesses and lied to the court and the jury.

It took 26 years for Douglas Pacyon to clear his name after being convicted of a 1984 rape and serving almost seven years in prison for an attack he didn't commit.  And then it took all of three minutes on June 21, 2010 for the criminal-justice system to officially exonerate him.

On July 6, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Charles P. Ginn ordered the release from Avery-Mitchell Correctional Center of Jonathan Scott Pierpoint, who served 17 years of a life sentence for a crime he did not commit.  Ginn's order overturned Pierpoint's 1992 conviction for first-degree sexual offense and dismissed the charges against him. Faculty and students in Duke Law School's Wrongful Convictions Clinic and its Innocence Project worked for two years to develop their claim that Pierpoint's conviction was the result of false testimony.

Allen Porter, of Houston, Texas, was sentenced to life in prison for a June 18, 1990, rape and robbery in southwest Houston. He was identified as one of three men who kicked their way into a drug dealer's residence in search of money and drugs. They terrorized the apartment's four occupants, repeatedly raping two women. Allen's nephew, Jimmy Hatton, and Perry Harrison told state District Judge Joan Campbell they committed the crime along with a third man. They said Porter was not at the crime scene.

A Houston man who's spent the last 27 years imprisoned for a rape he didn't commit got one step closer to freedom on July 30, 210.  During a court hearing, a judge granted Michael Anthony Green a personal bond that will let him walk out of jail.  Green's pending release was made possible after the Harris County District Attorney's Office reopened his case and new DNA tests it commissioned showed he did not commit a 1983 rape of a woman who had been abducted.

On July 30, 2010, it took a jury 20 minutes to decide Belmond Klemme, Iowa teacher Jodi Lynn Barrus' fate.  She was found not guilty of engaging in a pattern, practice or scheme of sexual exploitation of an 18-year-old male student.  The teen had a history of making up stories.

Koua Fong Lee, serving eight years for vehicular homicide because of a fatal crash involving his Toyota Camry, is hoping for exoneration amid concerns over unintended acceleration in some of Toyota's vehicles.  He has always maintained his innocence in the 2006 crash, which killed Javis Adams, 33, his 10-year-old son, Javis Adams Jr., and 6-year-old Devyn Bolton.  Mr. Lee is not the first innocent person convicted of murder due to a defective auto.  Sheila Bryan was convicted of killing her mother (and later cleared) because the defective ignition switch in her  Ford caused a fatal fire.  

UPDATE:  On August 6, 2010, Koua Fong Lee's conviction was vacated and he was released from prison.  The prosecuting attorney has decided not to retry him.

After almost 15 years in prison for another man's crime, Cody has finally been released -- at least, until the Brown County DA (Green Bay) can figure out some way to sandbag him again.  His conviction was overturned by the state court of appeals "in the interest of justice."  County investigators used every improper inducement to get the victim of a robbery and stabbing -- who had a .22% BAC at the time -- to pick Cody out of a photo line up.  If he is retried, it will be interesting to see what they can possibly use as evidence a second time around.

Although a jury convicted Malenne Joseph of Orlando, Florida of criminal mischief (property damage) in June of 2010, the case against her has unraveled.  It turns out that Malenne had absolutely no connection to the crime or the victim, ever.  Authorities are now investigating the circumstances that led to her arrest in the first place.

A judge in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on September 16, 2010 freed Bobby Ray Dixon and Phillip Bivens, who spent three decades in prison before DNA evidence showed they didn't rape a woman and cut her throat in a grisly 1979 attack.  Larry Ruffin, who died in prison in 2002, has also been cleared.

Mr. Winfrey, who was convicted of murder after three bloodhounds allegedly matched his scent to the victim, should be set free because the evidence against him was not legally sufficient, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled.  The court acquitted Richard Winfrey Sr., reversing his 2007 conviction in the murder of high school janitor Murray Burr in the small town of Coldspring, about 60 miles north of Houston.  Under the ruling, prosecutors will not be allowed to retry the case.

Police in Richardson, Texas put a lot of effort into coercing a rape confession from deaf teenager Stephen Brodie back in 1990.  Maybe that's why they continue to insist they had the right guy, even though the physical evidence tied the crime -- and 15 other rapes in the area -- to Robert Waterfield.  Brodie spent 10 years in prison for the crime.  He brought a petition to establish his innocence, based on Waterfield's fingerprint on the window of the victim's bedroom.  Stephen Brodie was exonerated and freed on September 29, 2010.

Matthew Norwood of HInds County, Mississippi spent more than a dozen years behind bars for a carjacking he did not commit.  On October 7, 2010, the 30-year-old man clutched the order issued by Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd tossing out Norwood's 1995 conviction.  "This is what I was looking for," said Norwood, who has been free since 2007 but not clear. "It's a blessing from God. In that prison, anything can happen."

Students at the Texas Innocence Network have uncovered new evidence, never presented at trial, that death row inmate Anthony Graves was not involved in  the 1992 slaying of six people.   The students believe Graves would be acquitted if he were retried.  But this is Texas, the state has what it wants -- a conviction -- and despite grave prosecutorial misconduct, U. S. Magistrate Judge John Froeschner thinks Anthony should keep his appointment with the executioner.

UPDATE:  Anthony Graves' conviction and death sentence were vacated by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.  
The appeals court in its decision accused Burleson County prosecutors of misconduct, including failure to disclose statements that could have helped Graves' defense. His retrial has not yet been scheduled, but when it occurs, Joan E. Scroggins a Burleson County assistant district attorney, will not be on the case.  The state court trial judge has ordered her recused.  Prosecutor Off Case.

UPDATE:  On October 29, 2010, capital murder charges against Anthony Graves were dropped.  He spent 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Diane Jennings of the Dallas Morning News reported on November 1, 2010:  "A provocative idea is being batted around in the wake of the release of Anthony Graves from Death Row after a special prosecutor declared he was an innocent man, found guilty due to prosecutorial misconduct. The statute of limitations on prosecutorial misconduct has expired but according to the Bryan Eagle, some defense attorneys are suggesting the prosecutor be charged with attempted murder."

Virginia LeFever, 59, who spent more than 20 years in prison for a murder she says she didn't commit was released after her conviction was overturned because a key prosecution witness admitted lying. She was sentenced to life in prison in 1990 on an aggravated murder charge, accused of killing her husband with poison.  Ms. LeFever has long maintained that William LeFever's 1988 death was a suicide by drug overdose, brought on by the couple's impending divorce.  The witness, James L. Ferguson, 64, a longtime Franklin County toxicologist, was sentenced to 30 days in jail for falsification earlier this summer. He had served as an expert witness during hundreds of trials while serving with the Franklin County coroner's office.

DEATH PENALTY ISSUES
Death Penalty
American Law Institute, which created the intellectual framework for the modern capital justice system almost 50 years ago, has pronounced its project a failure and walked away from it.  The ALI provided the only intellectually respectable support for the death penalty system in the United States.  The death penalty, the ALI has decided, is irretrievably broken.
Judge Declares Death Penalty Unconstitutional
A Houston judge on Thursday granted a pretrial motion declaring the death penalty unconstitutional, saying he believes innocent people have been executed.  “Based on the moratorium (on the death penalty) in Illinois, the Innocence Project and more than 200 people being exonerated nationwide, it can only be concluded that innocent people have been executed,” state District Judge Kevin Fine said. “It's safe to assume we execute innocent people.”

Unfortunately, Judge Fine reversed himself a few days later.  It's safe to assume we can't bring those innocent people who have been executed back to life.

Hank Skinner, who was eating his last meal when the justices stayed his execution in March, says a Texas prosecutor is violating his civil rights by not turning over DNA evidence that Skinner says will prove his innocence. The high court agreed Monday to hear the case.  Skinner was convicted and sentenced to death in 1995 for killing his live-in girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two mentally impaired adult sons. Skinner said he was passed out on the couch the night of the slayings after consuming alcohol and Xanax and could not have committed the murders.  In hearing Skinner's case, the nine justices could decide whether prisoners are empowered to file federal civil-right lawsuits to force DNA testing after their convictions. The decision could give hundreds of prisoners a powerful legal avenue involving DNA evidence, legal experts say.

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 14, 2010 sympathized with a Florida death row inmate whose lawyer missed a deadline for his habeas appeal and failed to communicate with him for years despite numerous written pleas for help.  By a 7-2 vote in Holland v. Florida, the Court said that the lawyer's misconduct may entitle convicted murderer Albert Holland to "equitable tolling," or a delay in what otherwise would have been a one-year statute of limitation for filing the appeal under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.  The lawyer's failures, wrote Justice Stephen Breyer for the majority, "seriously prejudiced a client who thereby lost what was likely his single opportunity for habeas review."

In April, 2007, an infant suffered cardiac arrest shortly after arriving at the day care operated by Lisa Randall in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.  He was rushed to the hospital but died a few days later.  In November of that year, Lisa Randall was indicted by a grand jury for murder, based on the testimony of pediatricians who said the baby died due to blunt force trauma to his head.  When former DA Andrew Thomas faced stiff opposition in his bid for re-election, he upped the ante by seeking the death penalty against Lisa.  He lost, but Lisa still faced being sentenced to death.  Finally, three years after the child's death, two defense experts and a prosecution expert agreed that the child died from natural causes, and the charges against Lisa Randall were dismissed.

The pending execution of Troy Anthony Davis, scheduled to take place on July 17, 2007, is raising serious questions about his guilt — and about the Newt Gingrich-era federal law that has limited his appeals options and prevented him, say his supporters, from getting a fair shake.

UPDATE:  On July 16, 2007, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Troy Davis a 90-day reprieve.

UPDATE: On April 16, 2009, in a 2-1 opinion, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Davis could not establish by clear and convincing evidence a jury would not have found him guilty. Tom Dunn, one of Davis’ lawyers, said he was disappointed, but would fight on. “Troy is innocent and this struggle is far from over.”

UPDATE:  May 20, 2009 -- 
Twenty-seven former judges, justices and prosecutors are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow death-row inmate Troy Davis’ innocence claims to be heard in federal court.  Group asks Supreme Court to send death row case back to federal court.

UPDATE:  August 17, 2009 -- U.S. Supreme Court orders new hearing for Troy Davis

UPDATE:  August 25, 2010 -- Davis failed to prove innocence, rules federal judge

UPDATE: November 5, 2010 -- A federal appeals court panel deflected a condemned Georgia inmate's appeal of a ruling that denied him a new trial in a decades-old murder case, saying that the appeal should have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court instead.

Strapped to a gurney in Texas' death chamber in February, 2004, just moments from his execution for setting a fire that killed his three daughters, Cameron Todd Willingham declared his innocence one last time.  "I am an innocent man, convicted of a crime I did not commit," Willingham said angrily. "I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do."  Four fire cause and origin experts -- Gerald Hurst, John Lentini, John DeHaan and Kendall Ryland -- agree.  "There's nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire," said Hurst, a Cambridge University-educated chemist who has investigated scores of fires in his career. "It was just a fire."

UPDATE
(In pdf format - Includes Report and Supporting Documentation)

UPDATE - August 15, 2008
Texas Panel to Probe Findings That Led to Willingham's Execution

UPDATE - September 14, 2010
Reconstituted Texas Panel Set to Whitewash Willingham Execution


INNOCENT IMPRISONED

Representatives from The Connecticut Innocence Project, a division of the state public defender services, have collected evidence in the case of Erik C. Rasmussen, who was 25 in 1990 when a jury convicted hm of murdering his wife, 22-year-old Loreli T. Rasmussen.  Rasmussen, who has maintained his innocence since his arrest, would be the first case examined with the help of a nearly $1.5 million post-conviction DNA federal grant awarded collectively to the Connecticut Innocence Project, Office of the Chief State’s Attorney and state forensic science laboratory.

In 1985, Cress was convicted of raping and battering Battle Creek, MI teenager Patty Rosansky, leaving her body in a trash-filled ravine.  Since then, his case has been argued through state and federal courts in a bewildering history of lost and destroyed evidence, contrary confessions from an Arkansas killer, pleas by a U.S. senator and demands of prosecutors and the Rosansky family that he never go free.  Now his bid for release is before the board that will advise Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Steve Haddock visits the grave of his mother, Barbara, a few times a year at the St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery in Lenexa,KS. The plot next to Barbara is reserved for Steve’s father, Ken.  The inscription on the headstone reads “Ken and Barbie Forever.”  In a complicated legal case, Steve and his two sisters, Jen and Jody, have been fighting for the release of their father for nearly two decades, never losing faith in his innocence.  “There was never, ever any thought in our minds that our dad could have done this,” Steve said.

Mr. VonAllmen spent 11 years in prison for a 1981 abduction and rape he has always insisted he did not do.  Although he has been outside prison walls for 16 years, he is still willing to risk being found guilty again in order to clear his name -- and the Kentucky Innocence Project is helping him.

Bennett was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in 1984 for the murder of his neighbor, Helen Nardi the year before. He has long maintained his innocence. He passed a lie detector test. He could not be tied to the case by a rape kit examination. And several people testified he was elsewhere when Nardi was sexually assaulted and murdered.  The state attorney's office used a familiar strategy in convicting Bennett -- employing testimony from dog handler John Preston in combination with a jailhouse snitch who came forward in return for promises of leniency.  There is no DNA in the Bennett case, but a strong case for his innocence nonetheless.

Justice was on trial last week in a small town in northwest Missouri.  For three days, a circuit judge was shown what happens when police officers give inaccurate testimony, prosecutors distort facts and a defense lawyer doesn't do his job.  The case concerned Dale Helmig, who is serving a life sentence without parole for the murder of his mother, Norma Helmig. Her body, weighted with a cinder block, was found in the flooded Osage River between Jefferson City and Linn on Aug. 1, 1993.  The lead prosecutor then was Kenny Hulshof of Columbia, who later became a U.S. representative and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2008. When Gov. Jay Nixon was state attorney general, Hulshof was Nixon's special prosecutor.  Hulshof would go around the state helping local prosecuting attorneys with difficult murder cases. He often got convictions. Since then, some have turned out to be tainted and were overturned.  Helmig's may be next.

The Neal Rankin murder case has confounded Akron, Ohio authorities for 17 years — and could be reopened through the science of DNA testing.  It took Akron police 15 months to make the first arrest in the Rankin case, and when it was announced in May 1994, the commander of the homicide unit told reporters: ''We had 45 suspects the first day.''  In fact, aggravated murder charges would be filed and dismissed against others before the final suspect, Dewey Amos Jones III, was convicted for the slaying of Rankin, a 71-year-old Goodyear retiree.  Now the case is returning to the Summit County justice system in the aftermath of a judge's order to conduct DNA testing — for the first time — on preserved samples of biological evidence from the crime scene.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals revived an appeal by George A. Souliotes, convicted of setting a 1997 fire that killed a woman and her two children, even though his lawyers missed a legal deadline in filing it.  Souliotes' prosecution relied heavily on evidence that the fire was started with a flammable liquid and that its residues were found on Souliotes' shoes. A scientist years later showed that the substance on the shoes was different from what was found at the fire. That evidence proves Souliotes is innocent.

Greg Brown Jr., 33, of Pittsburgh, PA who has been in state prison since 1997, serving three consecutive life prison terms, claims that he has new evidence that shows that two witnesses who received reward money after the trial did not disclose potential payment at trial and that the fire on Bricelyn Street in Homewood wasn't arson. That evidence came as a result of an investigation conducted by the Innocence Institute of Point Park University.

Reynold Moore, 62, one of six men convicted in October 1995 of being party to the murder of Tom Monfils in a Green Bay, WI paper mill,has enlisted the aid of the Wisconsin Innocence Project in seeking a new trial.  The new evidence in Moore's appeal concerns testimony by James Gilliam, a prison inmate who had testified at trial that Moore told him in jail that he participated in a group beating of Monfils at a water fountain in the mill.  WIP attorney Byron Lichstein claims Gilliam has since changed his story and now says Moore actually told him that Moore stepped in to try to prevent the beating, not to participate in it.  Without Gilliam's jailhouse snitch testimony, there is no evidence connecting Moore to Monfils' death.

UPDATE:  On January 21, 2010, Rey Moore's petition for a new trial was denied.

Related

In 1995, Michael Johnson, Mike Piaskowski, Keith Kutska, Michael Hirn, Dale Basten and Rey Moore were convicted of killing co-worker Tom Monfils in 1992 in a Green Bay, WI paper mill.  In 2001, Mike Piaskowski was freed when his habeas petition was granted.  Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Terrance Evans upheld his exoneration, saying that the "record is devoid of any direct evidence that Piaskowski participated in the beating of Monfils."  The same evidence that cleared Mike, clears the other five defendants.  So why are they still in prison?

Chad Evans is serving a 43 years-to-life sentence at the state prison in Concord, New Hampshire.  He was convicted of murder in the death of 21-month-old Kassidy Bortner, who died in November, 2000.  But he said new material, including DNA evidence, has come to light in his case.



HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS

Missed it by that much. The U.S. Supreme Court announced late on January 4, 2010 that it had dismissed an important pending case over prosecutorial immunity after being alerted that the dispute had been settled. The action stops in its tracks a case that could have produced a landmark decision that many believed would have reined in the longstanding tradition that prosecutors cannot be held liable for their actions as prosecutors.

Another reminder of the role of the press in exonerations On Thursday, January 14, 2010, Michael Tillman walked out of the Cook County Courthouse and headed straight for Mac Arthur's Restaurant, a soul food institution on Chicago's West Side.  After 23 years of being wrongfully incarcerated and facing a life behind bars, the barbeque ribs tasted particularly sweet.  "If it weren't for the publicity that was brought to the case in the early stages, being only a couple of years ago, by AlterNet… he might still be in prison now," Flint Taylor founding partner of the People's Law Office and co-counsel in Tillman's case, told AlterNet.


More innovation in Illinois to chill journalist investigations 
In 1994, Carolyn Nielsen was a graduate student at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism when she wrote stories that questioned the trial and subsequent murder conviction of a 14-year-old Chicago boy.  Nothing came of it then. The boy, Thaddeus Jimenez, was sent to prison and Nielsen went on to become an assistant professor of journalism at Western Washington University.  But Ms. Nielsen's work got the attention of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, and their efforts led to his exoneration in May of 2009.  Now that he's sued the cops who framed him, the police defense lawyers want Ms. Nielsen's notes from 1994.

The Wrong Man In the fall of 2001, a nation reeling from the horror of 9/11 was rocked by a series of deadly anthrax attacks. As the pressure to find a culprit mounted, the FBI, abetted by the media, found one. The wrong one. This is the story of how federal authorities blew the biggest anti-terror investigation of the past decade—and nearly destroyed an innocent man. Here, for the first time, the falsely accused, Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, speaks out about his ordeal.

A pawn in a legal chess match Shirley Ree Smith of Van Nuys, CA spent 10 years behind bars for the death of her grandson before her conviction was overturned. Now she waits on skid row as the courts sort out whether a jury's verdict — even if wrong — must prevail.

City of Columbus, Ohio halts post-appeal release of records.  Truth in Justice Board Member Martin Yant tells us: Here's another example of how police are trying to keep people from investigating wrongful convictions. In three of my exoneration cases, the courts overturned the convictions specifically because of undisclosed documents I obtained with public-records requests. Public-records requests provided good leads in most of my other cases, including the Clarence Elkins case. (Melinda Elkins volunteered to write a letter to the editor to point this out.) A recently filed new-trial motion based on an undisclosed exculpatory document A recently filed new-trial motion based on an undisclosed exculpatory document I obtained through a records request apparently is what spurred the prosecutor to shut off the police department's records.   I went to the Columbus Dispatch after our supposedly liberal mayor didn't respond to the letter I sent him. I'm glad I did. The story has generated support, including from the founder of blockparole.com, who has used records requests to get information that he used to stop inmates he felt didn't deserve parole. He says this policy will put his group out of business. Also as a result of this story, the attorney I asked to file a writ of mandamus is reconsidering my request. Newspapers still have a powerful role in our digital world.



POLICE/PROSECUTOR MISCONDUCT
Illinois A case that was about whether a convicted man is innocent has morphed into an increasingly personal brawl between two heavyweights unwilling to back down—with academics, prosecutors, freedom of the press advocates, and students hanging on the judge’s decision.  The Professor and the Prosecutor.

Colorado. So just what have cops and prosecutors in the Rocky Mountain State learned from the case of Tim Masters--a vulnerable kid targeted to clear a disturbing murder, railroaded through court and convicted on speculation and innuendo because there was no evidence against him?  Douglas County Sheriff David Weaver and DA Carol Chambers give a resounding answer:  Nothing, absolutely nothing

Massachusetts.  Frankly, we never thought we would see it happen.  Between 1991 and 1993, Boston U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Auerhahn concealed evidence that might have cleared Vincent Ferrara and Pasquale Barone of murder charges.  No big deal.  Business as usual.  In 2005, the USDOJ Office of Professional Responsibility found Auerhahn acted with "reckless disregard of discovery obligations," but all he "suffered" was a private reprimand.  But Auerhahn's conduct has been referred to a state agency, and he'll face a 3-judge disciplinary panel.  The Tide is Turning Click HERE for the back story.

North Carolina.  State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) agent Michael Deaver stands with a foot in each camp -- junk science and egregious police misconduct.  He can take a great deal of credit for Greg Taylor's conviction for a crime he didn't commit, because Deaver selectively reported -- and testified to -- finding blood in Taylor's truck, when he knew that more sophisticated tests showed the substance wasn't blood at all.  SBI Director Robin Pendergraft stands behind Deaver, but there is a growing call across the state:  Re-examine Old Cases.

Maryland.  In Baltimore, Donnie Chestnut's trial was delayed 15 times.  Small wonder.  The state had no basis for the drug charges filed against him, and no justification for shooting him four times.  He was acquitted -- and filed suit the same day.

New Jersey An assistant Camden County prosecutor accused of withholding evidence resigned after prosecutors agreed they never turned over all the information required when a Camden man charged with murder tried to prove his innocence.  Harry Collins, who has been with the office for more than 15 years, resigned after the prosecution of Perman Pitman came under scrutiny. Pitman was freed last month shortly after officials discovered a handwritten note by Collins that said a witness had been paid to lie.  "Please destroy this note."

Florida.  Now that Anthony Caravella's conviction for the 1983 rape and murder of Ada Cox Jankowski has been tossed by DNA, officials there are forced to face the fact that now-retired Sheriff's Deputy Tony Fantigrassi 's real talent was extracting false confessions from innocent people.  And then there's the crime lab. A legacy of corruption.

New York.  The trial judge should have caught this, but instead put his seal of approval on a coerced Alford plea by Rashjeem Richardson and sent him to prison for a knife attack someone else committed.  Rochester prosecutors said four witnesses identified Mr. Richardson, when only one did so, and she retracted the next day because she had been drunk when she fingered him.  When faced with a choice between a conviction and truth,prosecutors in Rochester choose a conviction.

New York In vacating a murder conviction and barring prosecutors from retrying the case, a federal judge in New York has lashed out at the Brooklyn district attorney's Office for failing to take responsibility for its prosecutors' alleged misconduct. At a contentious, 90-minute habeas corpus hearing on June 8, 2010, Eastern District Judge Dora L. Irizarry noted that petitioner Jabbar Collins, a renowned jailhouse attorney, had uncovered numerous documents while serving his 34-years-to-life sentence suggesting that prosecutors had withheld evidence, coerced witnesses and lied to the court and the jury.  The DA's wagons are circled.

Wisconsin The Office of Lawyer Regulation wants to publicly reprimand Outagamie County District Attorney Carrie Schneider, saying she didn’t disclose a plea offer made to a witness and allowed the witness to lie under oath about it.  The allegations against Schneider stem from a complaint filed in 2007 by Sheila Martin Berry, the former victim/witness coordinator for Winnebago County who runs Truth In Justice, an organization that publicizes wrongful convictions and misconduct by police and prosecutors.  DAs rarely disciplined in Wisconsin.

New York Prosecutors' failure to disclose that hypnosis was used to help a witness recover memories of alleged sex abuse as a child does not invalidate a defendant's guilty plea, a federal appeals court has ruled.  The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to grant the habeas petition sought by Jesse Friedman, who was seeking to undo his 1988 guilty plea in a molestation case that rocked Nassau County, N.Y., and became the subject of the documentary "Capturing the Friedmans."  While the Court denied the appeal, the judges urged the Nassau DA to reopen the case. In the interest of justice.

Wisconsin.  In response to the title of an article posted (below) just a few weeks ago, about the rarity of discipline for Wisconsin prosecutors, we can only add:  "You're darn tootin'!"  Both the Office of Lawyer Regulation and the Wisconsin Department of Justice determined in 2009 that it was neither unethical nor illegal for Calumet County DA Ken Kratz to send sexually charged text messages to the victim of a vicious domestic abuse case he was prosecuting.  His conduct doesn't look so good in daylight.  The rats who covered for him have deserted his sinking ship, but remember:  The people now prosecuting Kratz are the same ones who covered for him 

UPDATE:  Kratz resigned from his post as Calumet County DA on October 1, 2010.

Missouri A northwest Missouri judge has ordered all evidence thrown out in a decade-old murder case in which a former Kansas City attorney is accused of beating his law partner to death in their downtown office.  This is some of the most egregious prosecutorial misconduct documented by a court in a long time.  When the defense says "show me," the prosecution says "no."

California.  Only a tiny percentage of prosecutors who engaged in misconduct were disciplined by the State Bar of California during a 12-year period, according to a report released October 4, 2010. Among  707 cases between 1997 and 2009 in which courts explicitly determined that prosecutors had committed misconduct, only six prosecutors -- 0.8% -- were disciplined by the State Bar of California. Only 10 of the 4,741 disciplinary actions by the state bar during the same period involved prosecutors.  "Preventable Error: A Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct 1997-2009," issued by the Innocence Project's Northern California chapter, was written by Kathleen Ridolfi and Maurice Possley, a visiting research fellow at the project. Possley won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting at the Chicago Tribune. Ridolfi is a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law. Click HERE to download the full report (pdf format). 


Justice in the Balance (Link)
A USA TODAY investigation documented 201 criminal cases across the nation in which federal judges found that prosecutors broke the rules. The abuses put innocent people in jail, set guilty people free.



Junk Science

USA:  We've heard a lot about the "CSI effect," an alleged change in expectations of the power of forensic science among viewers of the wildly popular television series.  Forensic Science Magazine takes a comparative look at the "CSI effect:"  Fact or Fiction?

North Carolina.  State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) agent Michael Deaver stands with a foot in each camp -- junk science and egregious police misconduct.  He can take a great deal of credit for Greg Taylor's conviction for a crime he didn't commit, because Deaver selectively reported -- and testified to -- finding blood in Taylor's truck, when he knew that more sophisticated tests showed the substance wasn't blood at all.  SBI Director Robin Pendergraft stands behind Deaver, but there is a growing call across the state:  Re-examine Old Cases.

UPDATE - 3/5/10:  Ex-FBI Officials to Probe NC Crime Lab Practices.

UPDATE - 8/19/10:  Scathing audit of NC Crime Lab says 230 cases tainted by shoddy investigations.  No rules, bad science.




False Allegations of Child Abuse

Shaken Baby Syndrome

An acquittal should have brought Brian Kalinowski's nightmare to an end. Instead, it continues for the 33-year-old Palatine, IL man found not guilty of shaking and seriously injuring his infant son.  Kalinowski and his wife, who has not been implicated in any wrongdoing, still face charges they abused and neglected their son, says defense attorney Lawrence Lykowski. This despite a finding of not guilty from Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Etchingham. A spokeswoman for the Cook County State's Attorney confirmed an abuse case against the couple is pending in juvenile court.  They'll get you one way or another.

False Allegations of Sexual Abuse
In 2008, Waynesville, NC resident Donald “Pete” McCracken Jr., 40, was indicted on a charge of first-degree rape — a B1 felony that, at the time, carried a minimum sentence of 16 years in prison, with a maximum sentence of up to life without parole.  Almost 14 months later, the alleged victim recanted the accusation and the charge against McCracken was dismissed. He was declared innocent. But it cost him more than $100,000 and a “year of hell” to clear his name. Still, he fears his reputation may be tainted beyond repair.  The high cost of innocence.

Daniel Velez walked into Superior in Milford, CT on April 29, 2010, accused of committing vile acts against a child, but walked out a free man, exonerated of all charges against him.  At the end of a four-day trial, a jury deliberated for just two hours before finding Velez, 45, of New Haven, CT, innocent of raping a 9-year-old male relative in the boy’s West Haven home.  But the allegation alone is poison.


Links on the Tonya Craft witch hunt in Catoosa County, Georgia:  Truth for Tonya and William L. Anderson Blog


Arson or Accident?
The inability of arson investigators to recognize the difference could put YOU in prison - or worse.
arson

FIVE TEXAS ARSON CASES UNDER SCRUTINY

Five men charged with crimes that never happened.  Five men's lives ruined.  Two men freed.  One man executed.  Two innocent men still locked up.  This doesn't just happen in Texas.  It happens everywhere.  It can happen to anyone.  It can happen to YOU.

Man sentenced to life in prison will get to argue his innocence
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals revived an appeal by George A. Souliotes, convicted of setting a 1997 fire that killed a woman and her two children, even though his lawyers missed a legal deadline in filing it.  Souliotes' prosecution relied heavily on evidence that the fire was started with a flammable liquid and that its residues were found on Souliotes' shoes. A scientist years later showed that the substance on the shoes was different from what was found at the fire. That evidence proves Souliotes is innocent.

Toledo, Ohio Area Restaurateur Acquitted of Arson
Former restaurant owner Charles Bryan, Jr. was charged with arson and insurance fraud for a fire that destroyed his and 7 other businesses in Wauseon, Ohio in 2007.  The charges were based not on science, not on physical evidence, but on nothing more than speculation that he might financially gain from the fire.  Judge Charles Wittenberg ruled that the state failed to prove that Mr. Bryan had financial problems.  (Of course, the cost of defending himself has probably bankrupted him.)

Notorious Lowell arson case cast in doubt

Link:
Mike Ledford:  Innocent in Prison


Rose Kate Roseborough
On April 23, 2003, Rose was sleeping on the sofa in her living room in Ashland, Ohio when she awoke to find a fire on the home's second floor.  She tried to rescue her 11-month-old twin daughters, Lucie and Julia, but was driven back by the heavy smoke.  The children died of smoke inhalation.  Rose was charged with arson and 2 counts of murder, and the death penalty was sought.  The key evidence offered at trial was the "expert" testimony of EMT Kevin Rosser, who claimed that he noticed "large particle soot" on Rose's face at the fire scene.  Holding himself out as a fire expert, Rosser opined that such soot is only produced in the early stages of a fire, meaning Rose set the fire herself.  The presiding judge refused to conduct a Dauberthearing on the scientific validity of EMT Rosser's testimony.  Rose was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.  Fortunately, Judge James D. Sweeney recognized junk science proffered by an unqualified witness.  He has vacated Rose's conviction and ordered a new trial.  Click HERE to read his January 7, 2009 opinion.  

UPDATE:  The State of Ohio appealed Judge Sweeney's order for a new trial, alleging that he abused his discretion in so doing.  On April 23, 2010, the Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Sweeney's reversal of Kate's conviction. 

Gerald Hurst, Ph.D.
A one-man arson innocence project
"He is like the father of the science-based fire investigation, along with a couple others who were willing to take fire investigation from what was basically an art to a science," Jim Mazerat, a 37-year fire investigator from New Orleans, says. "That met a lot of resistance from your average fire investigator, so you have to have real character to be able to stand up to that."  Dozens of innocent people literally owe their lives to him.


life after exoneration

Life After Exoneration

Jarrett Adams. In 1998, 17-year-old Jarrett Adams, an African American from the South Side of Chicago, was falsely accused and ultimately wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman.  He spent 8 years in prison before he was exonerated in 2007 with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project.   Since his release, Jarrett has gone back to college and ultimately plans to attend law school so that he can become a criminal defense attorney. On December 23, 2009, Jarrett was inexplicably denied compensation for his wrongful conviction.  (A YouTube documentary by John Maki.)



INNOCENCE PROJECTS
Innocence Projects provide representation and/or investigative assistance to prison inmates who claim to be innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. There is now at least one innocence project serving each state (except Oregon and Tennessee, whose programs are undergoing reorganization). Most of these innocence projects are new and overwhelmed with applications, so waiting time between application and acceptance is long. Wrongfully convicted persons should not be dissuaded from applying to Innocence Projects because of this, but should have realistic expectations regarding acceptance and time lags.  Check the list for the innocence project in your area; we update it regularly.



RECOMMENDED READING

Three Felonies a Day
Three Felonies a Day
by Harvey Silvergate

Harvey Silverglate’s Three Felonies A Day focuses on how federal prosecutors invent creative interpretations of statutes, sometimes creating new felonies out of vague language or thin air, felonies never legislated by Congress. Federal criminal law is today so vast and so poorly worded that Silverglate reports, truthfully, each of us, every American, commits three felonies every day without knowing it.  A respected Boston civil liberties lawyer, Mr. Silverglate shows his readers why federal prosecutors target innocent people (career enhancement) and how they do it (dispensing with the need to show criminal intent in order to commit a crime).  The careers of Rudy Giuliani, William Weld and Michael J. Sullivan were built on the backs of innocent defendants.

Click HERE for L. Gordon Crovitz's review, published in the Wall Street Journal.

OF NOTE:  Phillip Finch's landmark book, Fatal Flaw: A True Story of Malice and Murder in a Small Southern Town, is once again available.  Fatal Flaw can be purchased in printed copy or may be downloaded free of charge from the website of the publisher, Libertary.com.  Click HERE for more information.


The Skeptical Juror and the Trial of Byron Case
by J. Bennett Allen

A young woman is brutally murdered, shot in the face at point blank range. Her boyfriend is found dead two days later, a suicide by shotgun.  The case goes nowhere for three years until, from the depths alcohol and drug addiction, a friend changes her story. Her ex-boyfriend stands accused of murder. Four teenage lives are shattered.

Only after your decision is irrevocable will you learn what really happened. Welcome to the world of The Skeptical Juror.

Is Byron Case guilty, or innocent? You decide.

Click HERE for a "real-life reader" review.
The Skeptical Juror

The Skeptical Juror: Cory Maye
The Skeptical Juror and the Trial of Cory Maye
by J. Bennett Allen

Police officer Ron Jones had worked hard to solve both the drug and race problems of Prentiss, Mississippi. He had earned the respect of those he served and protected, regardless of skin color. Now, in the waning hours of the first day after Christmas 2001, Ron is prepared to lead his motley team of officers into a darkened duplex to serve yet another search warrant for drugs. As the rear door is breached, Ron is the first to enter. "I'm hit," he says, making his way back down the steps. The bullet has punctured his aorta. He will bleed to death within minutes. Another drug raid gone wrong. Another police officer killed. Another citizen facing the death penalty. Join the fictional jury and form your own opinion. Become a Skeptical Juror in The Trial of Cory Maye.

Click HERE for a "real-life reader" review.

The Skeptical Juror and the Trial of Cameron Todd Willingham
by J. Bennett Allen

Cameron Todd Willingham refused to walk to his own execution. He was innocent, he insisted, and so the guards on the Texas Death Row carried him to his death. He died for the crime of arson, for killing his own three young children in the flames. The Skeptical Juror examines the crime and the trial through transcripts and court documents, and presents a fictionalized view into what a jury deliberation in such a sensational crime might have been like. Then, in the aftermath section, an examination of new discoveries in arson-investigation science show that Willingham may have been innocent. He may be the first conclusively demonstrated innocent person to be executed in America.
The Skeptical Juror - Todd Willingham

false justice
False Justice: Eight Myths that Convict the Innocent
by Jim Petro and Nancy Petro

"When most law-enforcement officials are confronted with an inmate’'s claim of innocence, they do everything they can to dispute it. Not Jim Petro. …False Justice is the compelling story of his pursuit of true justice."
                                 -- Martin Yant, Author, Editor, Investigator and
                                     Member of the Board of Directors of Truth in Justice

Serving as Ohio Attorney General, Petro was confronted with the nightmare of a family man convicted of murder and rape and sentenced to life in prison even when DNA proved his innocence. Hundreds of DNA exonerations prompted Nancy and Jim Petro to dig deeper. What they discovered was troubling and is shared in False Justice.  Click HERE to read more.

Framing Innocence: A Mother's Photographs, a Prosecutor's Zeal and
a Small Town's Response, by Lynn Powell

Ten years ago, amateur photographer and school bus driver Cynthia Stewart dropped off eleven rolls of film at a drugstore near her home in Ohio. The rolls contained photographs of her eight-year-old daughter Nora, including two of the child in the shower—photos that would cause the county prosecutor to arrest Cynthia, take her away in handcuffs, threaten to remove her daughter from her home, and charge her with crimes that carried the possibility of sixteen years in prison.

Framing Innocence brilliantly probes the many questions raised: when does a photograph of a naked child “cross the line” from innocent snapshot to child porn? What makes a photograph dangerous—the situation in which it is shot or the uses to which it might be put? When does the parent, and when does the state, know best?
Framing Innocence
Click HERE for review and more information about this case.


Unreasonable Inferences
Unreasonable Inferences:  A true story about a wrongful conviction and its astonishing aftermath
by Michael Griesbach

"Unreasonable Inferences is about tragedy, but it's also about hope. I survived my own personal nightmare when I was attacked on the beach that day only to learn years later that I unwittingly played a role in someone else's. The ripple effect of this single injustice has lasted for decades, with devastating consequences for other victims and their families.  We can't un-ring the bell of an injustice, we can't right the wrong, but we must joust with humility and learn from our mistakes – because to do anything less would be unforgivable."  - Penny Beerntsen, Victim

Click HERE for review and more information about this case.
 

The Confession
by John Grisham

In "The Confession," Grisham structures a story to illuminate one way a death-penalty conviction can go wrong. The novel is set mainly in the fictitious city of Slone, Texas, near Texarkana, for a reason. Texas is known as an execution-happy state. The East Texas setting lends itself to the novel's racial discrimination theme.

"When Texas wants to kill somebody, they're gonna do it. Got another planned later this month. It's an assembly line around here, can't nobody stop it," Grisham's wrongly convicted character tells his mother shortly before the execution date. "They don't care about guilt or innocence, Momma, all they care about is showing the world how tough they are. Texas don't fool around. Don't mess with Texas. Ever heard that?"
The Confession
Click HERE for review from the San Antonio News-Express

Barbarous Souls
Barbarous Souls
by David L. Strauss

Barbarous Souls is rekindling efforts to win a complete exoneration for a man convicted of killing his wife 55 years ago at their isolated residence in Lincoln, Nebraska.
 
Darrel Parker, now 79, has steadfastly maintained that he was coerced — through threats and exhaustive interrogation — into confessing to a crime he didn't commit.
The real murderer, Parker and many others say, was a Nebraska death-row inmate, Wesley Peery.

Click HERE for review and more information about this case.


LIVE CRIMINAL LAW INFORMATION

Truth in Justice is pleased to join with LivePerson to bring you live, online consultations with experts in criminal law, at low cost.  Follow the link on the main page, or click on the one here:


If you already know you need to retain a lawyer, but don't know who is best suited to your needs, click Legal Resources to use the free lawyer search provided by AVVO.

LINKS

The links pages at Truth in Justice are frequently updated.  Be sure to check them for resources, "must" reading, websites of inmates with compelling innocence claims and more.  Start at http://truthinjustice.org/links.htm

SITE SEARCH ENGINE

There are now over 1,800 pages at Truth in Justice.  The site search engine on the main page can make it faster and easier to find what you seek.

And remember, YOU can make a difference!


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