Wrongful Conviction News from April and May, 2008
The bologna and cheese
sandwich that Glen Chapman savored on April 2, 2008 could have been his
last meal. Instead, it was his first as a free man after almost
14 years on death row. Chapman,
40, was released from Central Prison on Wednesday after Catawba County,
North Carolina District Attorney James Gaither Jr. dismissed murder
charges against him.
Related: A day
after Glen Edward Chapman was freed from prison, the State Bureau of
Investigation agreed to review allegations of perjury and obstruction
of justice against Dennis Rhoney. The former Hickory police detective
led the 1992 double-murder investigation that resulted in Chapman's
convictions. Ex-Cop Who Led Discredited
The Innocence Project at
Cooley Law School in Lansing has secured a new hearing for Nathaniel
Hatchett, who was convicted in 1998 in Macomb County Circuit Court on
charges of kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct and carjacking.
One of the main issues raised by the project's law students was why the
court and defense were never notified of additional DNA samples that
were taken from the victim's husband as part of the
samples taken from the victim did not match Hatchett, either, but the
prosecutor led the judge to believe that the DNA samples were from the
UPDATE: On April 14,
2008, the Macomb County prosecutor's office dismissed all charges
against Nathaniel. He left the courtroom a free man, in the arms
of his family.
What were you doing in May of 1985? That's when
Thomas McGowan of Dallas, Texas was misidentified by a rape victim as
her assailant. He was sentenced to life in prison. On April
16, 2008, after being excluded as the rapist by DNA -- 23 years later
-- Thomas' freedom was restored. He is the 17th Dallas man to be
exonerated by DNA since 2001.
A judge has dismissed
charges against Cynthia, who was convicted of killing her Marine
husband with arsenic, after new tests showed no traces of poison.
Prosecutors who were preparing for a second trial found that previously
untested samples of Marine Sgt. Todd Sommer's tissue showed no
recently retained government expert speculated that the earlier samples
were contaminated, prosecutors wrote in a motion filed in San Diego
Superior Court. The expert said he found the initial results "very
puzzling" and "physiologically improbable."
After serving 27 years in
prison for a murder he did not commit, James Lee Woodward of Dallas,
Texas has been exonerated by DNA and freed from prison. James maintained his innocence throughout his
time in prison. But seven letters to police and prosecutors, six writs
with appeals courts and two requests for DNA testing went nowhere.
Eventually, he was labeled an abuser of the system. Without the
DNA review program authorized by Dallas DA Craig Watkins and
coordinated by the Cardozo Innocence Project, James would never have
For the past seven years,
a photo of Guy Randolph has been posted at Boston, MA 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 on May 1, 2008, 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.
After almost 26 years in
prison, Walter Swift of Detroit, MI has been officially cleared of
raping a pregnant mother who was surprised in her Indian Village home
as she played with her infant child. In a joint motion both the
Innocence Project and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office asked Wayne
County Circuit Court Judge Vera Massey Jones to set aside Swift’s
conviction -- one based on what authorities now concede was a shaky
In 1995, Alan Beaman of
Normal, IL was convicted of murdering his former girlfriend, Jennifer
Lockmiller, in 1993. The prosecutor, James Souk, didn't tell the
jury about evidence that showed Alan was 140 miles away when Jennifer
died, or that forensic evidence linked another man, not Alan, to the
murder scene. Thirteen years later, the Illinois Supreme Court
has reversed Alan's conviction, calling the evidence against him
"tenuous." James Souk was rewarded for his misconduct in the
usual way -- he's a judge now. The current county prosecutor,
Bill Yoder, says he is "saddened for the family of Jennifer
Lockmiller." Apparently Mr. Yoder thinks it is okay to let a
killer go free, so long as somebody does the time.
County, Mississippi officials have dropped murder charges against
Hattie Douglas in connection with the death of her son Kadarrius.
test results showed that Douglas' son had an alcohol level of 0.4
percent when he died May 11, 2006. But an independent pathologist's
report said tests came back with conflicting results. The independent
pathologist ruled the child died of pneumonia. A doctor
prescribed an iron supplement for Kadarrius, which contained a small
percentage of alcohol.
DNA tests have exonerated
Dean Cage, a South Side Chicago man who has served nearly 14 years in
prison in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl who was attacked in
the fall of 1994 as she walked to school. Dean, who is now 41, was convicted by a jury and sentenced to 40
years in prison despite his assertions that he was innocent and was
home at the time of the attack.
After nearly 15 years in
prison, most of which were spent on death row, Levon Junior "Bo" Jones
of Kenansville, NC is now a free man -- and saying he is innocent of
the crime that put him there. His release comes as states ramp up
executions in the wake the U.S. Supreme Court decision approving lethal
A Waco, TX attorney has
launched an innocence project at Baylor University, choosing one of the
most gripping cases in McLennan County history as the group’s first
February, Walter M. Reaves Jr. and three Baylor Law School students
have been poring over evidence from the 1988 trial of Ed Graf. The
Hewitt resident was convicted of killing his two stepsons by burning
them alive in a storage shed behind their home. He is serving a life
sentence in a Gatesville prison. Graf's conviction was based
entirely on circumstantial evidence. Deciding someone’s guilt on such measures
is not prudent, Reaves said. Once someone is painted as a criminal,
almost any action they take can be construed to fit that theory, he
said, even though there may be innocent explanations for it.
years after Colin Ross of Melbourne, Australia was hanged for the rape
and murder of 12-year-old Alma
Tirtschke, he has been officially pardoned. The pseudo-science of
microscopic hair comparison put Colin on the gallows, despite his
protestations of innocence. Recent tests show that the hairs
found at Colin's home, said to be from young Alma, weren't even from
the same head.
Aquil K. Wiggins has spent nine
years fighting what he says was a wrongful conviction in 1999 for a
robbery and attempted carjacking outside a Hampton, VA Food Lion.
Now Wiggins, 31, may
have an opening that his lawyer said could lead to the case being
reopened — and possibly Wiggins' exoneration — before his scheduled
release in 2012.
Why has SD Gov.
Rounds failed to sign Howard's commutation papers?
Emerson is anything but a
sympathetic figure. A thief and forger, he told Pennsylvania
police that he witnessed two men rape a woman and throw her off a 44-foot-high
Juniata County bridge in 1977. He was looking for a break for
himself by making up lies to frame others, and it backfired.
Emerson was charged with the murder, and former star junk scientist,
police chemist Janice Roadcap, clinched the conviction when she
testified that a "uniquely shaped" hair on the victim's leg came from
Emerson's chest. But DNA has cleared Emerson, who appears to be
what he has said all along that he is -- innocent of murder.
Okay, Lt. Chism isn't a cop. He's a 20-year
veteran fire fighter from Spokane, WA. In Todd's case, this works
much the same way being a cop has worked against the other men and
women featured here. His years of service made him a
target. When his wife's identity was stolen and used to download
child pornography from the internet, what did the Washington State
Police do? Arrested Lt. Chism, of course. He's been
suspended with pay since January 29, 2008. The WSP may not always
be right, but they are never wrong. Even though no pornography
could be found on Lt. Chism's computers, WSP investigator Lt. Chris
Gunderman says that "doesn't mean he isn't guilty."
UPDATE: On May 1, 2008, the Stevens
County (WA) prosecutor's office announced that Lt. Chism will not be
charged with possession of child pornography. The Washington
State Patrol reaffirmed that no evidence of child pornography had been
linked to Lt. Chism. The officer who headed the investigation has
been reassigned due to "performance" issues.
HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS
shooting fish in a barrel. That's the analogy for getting a
"felon in possession of firearm" conviction. Did the defendant
have a felony record? Did he or she have possession of a
firearm? Answer yes to both questions and the defendant is
transformed to inmate. But the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has
added a new requirement for police and for defense counsel:
Rational thought. John David Mooney of Huntington, WV will be
helping them learn that requirement by suing the cops and defense
lawyers who helped put him in prison for a crime -- felon in possession
of a firearm -- that he did not commit.
North Carolina: A
day after Glen Edward Chapman was freed from death row, the State
Bureau of Investigation agreed to review allegations of perjury and
obstruction of justice against Dennis Rhoney. The former Hickory police
detective led the 1992 double-murder investigation that resulted in
Chapman's convictions. Ex-Cop Who Led Discredited
judge dismissed aggravated murder charges against
Arian S. O'Connor after Summit
County prosecutors asserted that Youngstown police
''compromised'' ballistic evidence in the 2002 slaying for which
O'Connor was charged. When they say "compromised," they mean
"planted" evidence. That's fraud.
Allegations of Child Abuse
exonerations of Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks exposed the corrupt
underbelly of rural and sparsely populated Noxubee County.
But the corruption isn't limited to small towns with little outside
oversight. Take a look at Jackson, where judges take money from
prosecutors to guarantee "justice" and consider exonerations bad
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." Punish Unethical
denouncing a Las Vegas federal prosecutor for withholding 650 pages of
evidence potentially helpful to two lawyers charged in a stock fraud
case, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld dismissal of all 64
charges and refused to allow a retrial. The
Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, not
surprisingly, cleared Assistant
U.S. Attorney J. Greg Damm of any misconduct, and did so without
contacting defense attorneys. Conduct
in flagrant disregard of the United States Constitution
Ohio: In 1998, when
he was 12 years old, Anthony Harris of New Philadelphia, OH was
subjected to a brutal interrogation, then charged and convicted of the
murder of Devan Duniver, who lived near Anthony. Two years later,
Ohio appeals court threw out the conviction, ruling that the
interrogation was so coercive that Harris "had no choice but … to
confess." Prosecutor Amanda Spies got mad and got even; when Anthony tried to
enlist in the Marines, she told military officials he was a
murderer. But vindictive conduct is not protected conduct.
The 6th US Circuit Court has ruled that Anthony can sue the
1995, Alan Beaman of Normal, IL was convicted of murdering his former
girlfriend, Jennifer Lockmiller, in 1993. The prosecutor, James
Souk, didn't tell the jury about evidence that showed Alan was 140
miles away when Jennifer died, or that forensic evidence linked another
man, not Alan, to the murder scene. Thirteen years later, the
Illinois Supreme Court has reversed Alan's conviction, calling the
evidence against him "tenuous." James Souk was rewarded for his
misconduct in the usual way -- he's a judge now. The current
county prosecutor, Bill Yoder, says he is "saddened for the family of
Jennifer Lockmiller." Apparently Mr. Yoder thinks it is okay to
let a killer go free, so long as somebody does the time. Career advancement at its
|Dinesh Kumar was told
in 1992 by his lawyers that
the country's leading forensic pathologist - Charles Smith - was going
to testify against him at his trial for murder in the death of his
five-week-old baby, and that his chances of an acquittal were
minuscule. Although he knew he was innocent of causing any harm
to his son, Dinesh accepted an extraordinarily lenient sentence -- 90
days in jail -- and pled guilty to criminal negligence causing
death. Now that Dr. Smith has been exposed as a quack, Dinesh is
seeking to restore his good name.
Levy, author of The Charles
Smith Blog, tells us: I recently retired from the Toronto Star where I
have been reporting on Dr. Charles Randal Smith - a former pediatric
pathologist at the Hospital for Sick Children - for the past six years.
I intend, through this blog, to periodically report developments
relating to Dr. Smith in the context of the on-going public inquiry,
the on-going independent probe of cases he worked on between 1981 and
1991, and cases which have been launched, or will be launched in the
civil courts. I am currently researching a book on Dr. Smith and
would appreciate hearing from anyone who can provide me with useful
||If your house
caught fire, could you prove you didn't commit arson? WTHR-TV's 13
Investigates looks into the case of an Indiana man whose arson
conviction was reversed by an appeals court. The case raises questions
about how arson investigations are run.
Injustice Part One - In a small river town known to take a gamble,
there is a smoldering burn of injustice. A midnight fire in April 2000
sent flames belching from Robin Montgomery's house and claimed
everything he owned - including his freedom.
Injustice Part Two - They are supposed to be Indiana's elite in
fire investigation. But a nationally reknown scientist says state arson
teams here and across the country are using outdated, unproven
techniques. Some experts say it's putting innocent suspects behind bars
and even to death.
UPDATE - May 12, 2008: The charges against Rob Montgomery have
It took a Fayette County, PA jury just 25 minutes to
figure out Bret Shallenberger was innocent of hiring a former employee
to burn down Shallenberger's profitable business. It's the local
prosecutor, who promised the actual arsonist immunity in exchange for
framing Shallenberger, who should be on trial.
Projects provide representation and/or investigative assistance
to prison inmates who claim to be innocent of the crimes for which they
convicted. There is now at least one innocence project serving each
state (except Alaska).
Most of these innocence projects are new and overwhelmed with
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
for our slide presentation, "The Truth About Wrongful
The links pages at Truth in Justice are frequently updated. Be
to check them for resources, "must" reading, websites of inmates with
innocence claims and more. Start at
SITE SEARCH ENGINE
There are now over 1,500 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!