Truth in Justice Newsletter
Wrongful Conviction News from April and May, 2008


RECENT CASES

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 Case Probed

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 investigation.  DNA 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 victim's husband.

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 arsenic.  A 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 been released.

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 identification.

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.

Madison County, Mississippi officials have dropped murder charges against Hattie Douglas in connection with the death of her son Kadarrius.  Initial 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. 


DEATH PENALTY

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 injection.

Eighty-six 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.


INNOCENT IMPRISONED

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 assignment.  Since 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.

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.

badge 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

Like 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.




POLICE/PROSECUTOR MISCONDUCT


North CarolinaA 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 Case Probed

OhioA 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. 

Mississippi
:  The 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 publicity.  The Mississippi system.

TexasThe 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 Prosecutors

Nevada: Roundly 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, an 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 prosecutor.

IllinoisIn 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 typical

False Allegations of Child Abuse

Shaken Baby Syndrome

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.
Link:
THE CHARLES SMITH BLOG
Harold 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 information.

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.

Burning 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. 

Burning 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 been dismissed.

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.

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 Alaska). 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.



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