Truth in Justice Newsletter - April - May, 2005

RECENT CASES

Larry Souter, 53, of Grand Rapids, Michigan has been freed after serving 13 years of a 20 to 60 year prison sentence.  Souter was convicted in 1992 of killing Kristy Ringler, whose body was found in the middle of a road in 1979.  Authorities theorized Miss Ringler was hit in the head with a whiskey bottle.  New evidence indicates she was struck by a passing motor home.

The Colorado Supreme Court has reversed the felony murder conviction and life sentence of Lisl Auman, who was found guilty even though she was in custody when a companion shot and killed a police officer.

DNA tests on evidence from the 1992 rape and murder of 11-year-old Holly Staker in Waukegan, Illinois have excluded Juan Rivera, the man who authorities say confessed and is serving a life prison sentence for the crime.  Rivera wept when he heard the news.

In May 1981, when Michael Williams was 16, a jury in Jonesboro, LA rejected his claim of innocence, deliberating for less than an hour before convicting him of the savage beating and sexual assault of his math tutor.  Nearly 24 years after his arrest, independent DNA tests by three laboratories, including the Louisiana state crime lab, show what Williams has long contended: He is not the man who committed the crime.


INNOCENT IMPRISONED

On Sept. 28, 2000, Kim Camm and her two children were victims of a triple murder in New Albany, Ind. They were found shot to death at home in their garage.  But just hours after the memorial service, police arrested their prime suspect, David Camm, for murdering his wife and two children. Camm, who claims his innocence, has a very good alibi. Eleven witnesses say they were with him at the time of the murder.  Nonetheless, he was convicted.  His conviction was overturned in August, 2004 -- but the charges were reissued and Camm is facing retrial.

William Coleman
Here's a new twist on SAID -- Sexual Assault Allegations in Divorce -- where one spouse levels false sexual assault allegations against the other as a ploy to obtain custody of the children.  Usually the children are the alleged victims, but in this case, the wife said she had been raped.  The allegation was made only after Mr. Coleman filed for divorce and sought custody and after Mrs. Coleman retained a divorce lawyer.  There was no physical evidence because Mrs. Coleman said undergoing a rape exam "wasn't a priority".  Yet a jury in Waterbury, CT convicted Mr. Coleman of rape.

Mohamed El-Tabech
In 1984, Mohamed El-Tabech of Lincoln, Nebraska went to get ice cream.  Upon his return home, he found his wife had been murdered.  He called 911 and responding police found him sitting on the floor, rocking back and forth in grief.  El-Tabech vowed to kill his wife's murderer.  Instead, he was convicted of killing Lynn El-Tabech himself.  His fight for DNA testing led to a new law in Nebraska but the state continues to oppose testing in El-Tabech's case.

Billy Kelley
In 2002, Broward (Florida) U.S. District Judge Norman C. Roettger, who died in 2003, granted Kelley a new trial. State prosecutors said they could not retry Kelley, clearing the way for his release from prison.  But a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned Roettger's decision and reinstated Kelley's conviction. Chief Justice Gerald Tjoflat wrote the opinion.  Now the only thing standing between Kelley, 62, and a lethal shot of potassium chloride is the petition to the U.S. Supreme Court by Tribe -- a legal giant who represented Al Gore in the recount battle after the 2000 election.

Valentino Dixon
Torriano Jackson died in a hail of gunfire from a machine gun one August night in 1991 in Buffalo, New York.  Today, two men sit in prison: one convicted of that killing but denying his guilt, the other insisting he is the killer.  Who is telling the truth, who is lying -- and why?  Read The Buffalo News series and see what you think.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

DEATH PENALTY ISSUES

Derrick Jamison has been released from Ohio's Death Row.  His 1985 murder conviction was overturned by two federal courts, which ruled he was denied a fair trial by prosecutors who withheld evidence that might have cleared him.  Jamison is the 119th innocent person to be freed from death row since 1973 and the first to be exonerated in 2005.


WRONGFULLY CONVICTED COPS

John Maloney Update

CBS 48 Hours Mystery web page companion to the program broadcast on March 26, 2005.

Justices consider 48 Hours program -- submitted by the AG's office -- as part of court record.



Evan Zimmerman

A former western Wisconsin police officer on trial for a second time in the murder of his ex-girlfriend was cleared on April 29, 2005 after a district attorney conceded he couldn't prove his guilt.  Eau Claire County District Attorney Rich White asked a judge to drop the first-degree intentional homicide charge against Evan Zimmerman, whose previous murder conviction was overturned on appeal.

TUNNEL VISION
What drove the case against Evan Zimmerman is the same phenomenon that drove the cases against Scott Hornoff, John Maloney and so many of the other innocent men and women -- those who have been cleared and those who languish in prison --  tunnel vision on the part of investigators and prosecutors.  Even when proven to be absolutely wrong, they cling to theories that keep dangerous criminals on the street and put us all at risk.


POLICE/PROSECUTOR/JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT

IllinoisA lawsuit was predictable in the case of two teenagers who were wrongly charged in the February slaying of a Machesney Park, Illinois man.  The lawsuit was brought by mothers of the two youths who were wrongly charged, and it names Winnebago County Sheriff Dick Meyers, his department, detectives and deputies. It's time for Safeguards to Protect Accused Kids.

WisconsinSuspicions about a 1998 4th offense drunken-driving case dismissed by former prosecutor Brad Priebe have prompted Winnebago County DA Bill Lennon to refer the matter to the state Department of Justice for review of the case.  Lennon said he did so in response to “red flags” that appeared as prosecutors prepared a new drunken driving case against the same man, whose 1998 case was dismissed as a result of a motion by Priebe, then a Winnebago County assistant district attorney.  Priebe, appointed judge in Outagamie County Circuit Court and running for election in his own right, said he was ordered to dismiss the charge by then-DA Joe Paulus, now in prison for taking bribes to fix cases, and "had no choice".   The Paulus Legacy Shines On

CaliforniaKern County DA Ed Jagels put two dozen innocent people behind bars on charges that they molested their own kids -- while ignoring evidence that his friends were throwing orgies with teenage boys. So why is one of America's most reckless prosecutors still in power?  Mean Justice's Dirty Secrets


JUNK SCIENCE


Sloppy Pathology  A three-member panel from the state Board of Medical Examiners has so far substantiated 18 violations stemming from the long-running inquiry into the practice of Dr. Charles Harlan, a pathologist who spent three decades performing autopsies throughout Tennessee.

BS Bullet Matching  Eighteen years ago, three Boston-area men were convicted of fatally shooting a Lynnfield couple in the basement of their Main Street home as their two young children slept upstairs, a brazen crime that sent shock waves through the quiet, prosperous suburb.  Richard Costa, Dennis Daye, and Michael DeNictolis are each serving two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for the 1985 slaying of Robert Paglia and his wife, Patricia, in a robbery at the couple's house.  But now a retired FBI agent says in an affidavit that a former colleague gave false and misleading forensic testimony -- deemed crucial to the prosecution's case -- at the trial.


More BS Bullet Matching A New Jersey appeals court overturned the 1997 murder conviction of Michael S. Behn on March 7, 2005, ruling that an FBI crime lab technique that prosecutors relied on to link the fatal bullets to the defendant was based on "erroneous scientific foundations."


Getting out of prison didn't free Jennifer Hall. Friends call and ask her to go out, but she mostly stays home. She takes college courses — online so she does not have to leave the house. Hall, who lives in Shawnee, KS with her parents, was convicted in 2001 of starting a fire at Cass Medical Center in Harrisonville, where she worked as a respiratory therapist. But last year a judge threw out the verdict and wrote a ruling highly critical of Hall's first attorney. At a second trial, in February, a jury took three hours to decide the fire was caused by an electrical short in an old clock cord. By then Hall, now 24, had been paroled after serving one day short of 12 months.


How the System Works (or Doesn't)

USAThe popularity of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and its increasingly numerous progeny has spawned what some folks are calling the "CSI Effect."  That is, most people who might end up on a jury know, or think they know, a great deal about forensic science and the kind of evidence needed to solve crimes.  All this has been widely noted. What hasn't been noted is how years of cop shows have already formed our background ideas about the criminal justice system. What this suggests is that we ought to be a good deal more suspicious of prosecutorial infallibility than television shows suggest. Cop Show Effect



RECOMMENDED READING

On American Soil
by Jack Hamann

When TV journalist Hamann was covering the expansion of a sewage-treatment plant at Seattle’s Discovery Park some 18 years ago, a ranger told him of an odd headstone at the park, dated August 14, 1944, with an Italian inscription. The offhanded remark would lead Hamann to investigate an unsolved murder of Italian POW Guglielmo Olivotto at the park, which was then an Army base known as Fort Lawton. More than 10,000 military personnel were at the base at any given time during the war, including soldiers leaving for, or returning from, the Pacific; Italian prisoners of war captured by Allied troops in northern Africa; and a large contingent of segregated black soldiers who served primarily as porters to load and unload ships in the Pacific theater. The storyline that Hamann uncovers is compelling enough. But it is the crime's historical context—wartime racial dynamics, colossal Army incompetence, international political implications, and the (humane) treatment of POWs, for example—that makes the book so relevant now.


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 Hawaii. 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.


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 1,000 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!

Sheila and Doug Berry



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