Truth in Justice Newsletter
Wrongful Conviction News from August - September, 2007


RECENT CASES

In the fall of 1995, a man wearing a nylon stocking over his face broke into the Yakima, Washington home of a young mother.  He taped a mask to the woman's face and raped her while her child screamed in the background.  Ted Bradford was convicted of the rape and served a 9-year sentence, but always said he was innocent.   DNA from the tape used on the mask excluded him and an appeals court has vacated his conviction.  Yakima deputy prosecutor Kevin Eilmes plans to retry Bradford.

A defense lawyer was found ineffective because he failed to inquire into the effects of blood loss and heavy sedation on the memory of a robbery victim who identified a defendant 11 days after the crime, a federal appeals court has ruled.  The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the conviction of Derrick Bell, who is serving 12 1/2 to 25 years in prison for the robbery and shooting of Brentonol Moriah in Brooklyn in 1996.  Moriah, who suffered enormous blood loss from a single shot to the thigh, spent the next 11 days under heavy sedation and in a near-comatose state. He did not name Bell as his assailant at the scene of the crime, instead giving only a general description of "male black, wearing a lemon-colored shirt," even though he knew Bell from having shared space with him in a rooming house for more than a year.

In 2005, Claude McCollum was convicted of the rape and murder of Lansing (Michigan) Community College Prof. Carolyn Kronenberg in her classroom.  The conviction was based on what police termed a "confession" -- speculation whether McCollum could have committed the crime while sleepwalking -- and despite his exclusion by DNA.  Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III has reopened the case; he has been urged to test the same DNA that excluded McCollum against that of serial killer Matthew Macon.  Macon is linked to 5 recent murders similar to Prof. Kronenberg's, and another that occurred in 2004.

Now that evidence points to serial rapist/killer Matthew Macon as the man who brutally raped and murdered Lansing (Michigan) Community College Prof. Carolyn Kronenberg, experts are taking a careful look at what police and prosecutors called Claude McCollum's "confession" to that murder.  "It's shocking to me that this was enough to charge, and ultimately convict somebody," said Prof. Steve Drizin, one of the false confession experts who reviewed transcripts of the two-hour interview.  Read it for yourself.  Keep in mind that McCollum was excluded by DNA, and the state still called him a killer.  McCollum Police Interview Questioned.

UPDATE:  9/22/07 - Ingham County DA Stuart Dunnings, III has joined Claude McCollum's lawyer in asking the Michigan Court of Appeals to grant Claude a new trial.  According to the joint motion, Lansing Community College Police turned over a videotape which apparently showed that Claude was somewhere else on campus at the time of Carolyn Kronenburg's murder.  Dunnings said if he knew in 2005 what he knows now, he would still prosecute Claude. 
Why wasn't the videotape turned over before trial?

UPDATE:  9/24/07 - The Michigan Court of Appeals has granted Claude McCollum a new trial.

Charles T. "Ted" Dubbs was convicted of sexually assaulting two women in Dauphin County, PA in 2000 and 2001.  Both women identified him as their attacker.  Wilbur Cyrus Brown, II has been convicted of a series of similar attacks, and has confessed to the two attacks Dubbs was convicted of committing.  Did the eyes deceive?
Charles Dubbs in 1999
Dubbs in 1999
composite sketch
Composite Sketch
Wilbur Cyrus Brown, II in 2001
Brown in 2001
UPDATE:  On 9/11/07, Judge David Ashworth dropped all charges against Ted Dubbs after prosecutors admitted the crimes he was convicted of committing were perpetrated by Wilbur Brown.  Dubbs'  Conviction  Thrown  Out.

COMMENTARY:
Sometimes justice happens in spite of the justice system.  Sometimes it only happens when the people in the justice system get their noses rubbed in their messes.  On 9/11/07, Lancaster County District Attorney Donald R. Totaro did the right thing by freeing Charles T. "Ted" Dubbs from a 12- to 40-year prison term in two sexual attacks he probably did not commit. Dubbs was sentenced in May 2002.  Wilbur Cyrus Brown, a serial rapist who confessed to 13 other rapes, including one on the same jogging trail where Dubbs supposedly committed his crimes, confessed to those attacks in November.  But Totaro had to spin things to portray his office as a well-oiled machine that immediately turned to fix an honest error when it came to their attention. That’s not what happened.

In 1982, a rape victim riveted a Dallas, Texas jury with her identification of Steven Phillips as her attacker.  She spoke at length about his "striking blue eyes."  So did the victims in 8 other sex crimes.  Phillips' eyes are green.  But when the jury convicted him anyway, Phillips pled guilty to the other crimes, which involved fondling.  Now Phillips is the first to benefit from Dallas DA Craig Watkins' joint initiative with the Cardozo Innocence Project, to identify and free the innocent.



DEATH PENALTY
Link:
Thomas Arthur, Alabama death row inmate Z-427 has sat on death row for 20 years for a crime he did not commit.  The State of Alabama will execute another innocent person 09-27-2007 unless you reach out and act NOW to help fight for his life. Time is running out!! 

UPDATE:  On 9/27/07, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley issued a 45-day stay for Arthur's execution, solely to tinker with the death process.  Gov. Riley continues to refuse to allow DNA testing that could confirm Arthur's guilt or innocence.



INNOCENT IMPRISONED
Reasonable Doubts

Frederick Freeman sits in a Michigan prison, sentenced to life, for a small-town murder 20 years ago. A team of advocates, from former FBI agents to a veteran TV newsman, says he was railroaded while the real killer remains free. 

In a remarkable series published in the Detroit Metro Times,
Sandra Svoboda explores the first investigation, years of re-investigation, and the crucial role of eyewitness identification.

Part I
Eyewitness to What?
Part II


A retrial could be in the works for two men convicted of murdering a woman outside a convenience store 11 years ago in West Texas.  Judge Felix Klein found that the jury might have reached a different verdict in the cases of Alberto Sifuentes and Jesús Ramírez had it heard about an alibi witness who could place the men almost 35 miles from the crime scene minutes before the murder in Littlefield, and if defense attorneys had investigated two other suspects who matched descriptions given to police.

Kennedy Brewer of Macon, Mississippi, a mildly retarded, Black defendant, was convicted of raping and killing a 3-year-old girl and sentenced to death in 1992.  In 2002, he was cleared by DNA, but he wasn't released.  He has spent the past 5 years in the local jail, awaiting retrial.  Because you can bet, the local authorities plan to get another conviction and another death sentence.  The Sheriff says he can't look for a DNA match because Mississippi doesn't have a DNA database -- which is news to the state's crime lab director.  The prosecutor will bring back his star witness, dentist Dr. Michael West, whose bite mark testimony has been disproven by DNA in other cases, and who resigned from professional forensic dentistry groups to avoid expulsion.  Prosecutors are so sure they're right about Kennedy's guilt that they're willing to bet his life on it.

For 14 years, Lynn DeJac of Buffalo, NY has steadfastly denied that she killed her 13-year-old daughter, Crystal Girard.  All along, she has accused her estranged boyfriend, Dennis Donohue, of strangling her child when Lynn was out for the evening.  A jury didn't believe her.  A judge called her accusation against Donohue a "red herring."    Now -- finally -- Donohue has been charged with one murder and is under investigation for two others.  One of those murders is that of Crystal Girard.

WRONGLY CONVICTED COPS

Defense attorneys for James A. Kulbicki offered a string of alibi witnesses, and he flat-out said he didn't do it. He was, after all, a Baltimore police sergeant, and, he insisted, not a killer.  But a state police ballistics expert named Joseph Kopera helped convict the officer by saying that bullet fragments found in his truck and in his mistress' head could have come from his gun - testimony that is now being questioned.  Kopera recently killed himself after being confronted with evidence that he lied about his credentials.  Kublicki's attorneys challenged Kopera's findings and assertions in court papers filed a year earlier, arguing that the firearms examiner's testimony did not match his notes. And that was before they discovered that Kopera claimed to have degrees that he never earned.
UPDATE:  It's easy to understand why the Baltimore DA wanted to blindside James Kulbicki and his attorneys.  They have to be steaming mad after Kulbicki's lawyers exposed the systematic forensic fraud committed by police ballistics expert Joseph Kopera.  But their reach exceeded their grasp when they did DNA tests -- without court approval or notice to Kulbicki's lawyers -- on bone fragments that were contaminated 14 years ago when they were collected.  Will One-Upsmanship Replace Law and Science? [Includes full texts of state and defense motions]

HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS

Abuse at the early stages 

The power, if not the arrogance, of prosecutors grated on Angela Davis throughout her 12 years at the D.C. Public Defender Service, three as its director. Now a law professor at American University, she has made a mission of exposing that power--on radio and TV and in a new book, Arbitrary Justice--with hopes of reining it in.
Her beef is not so much with prosecutors breaking the rules, although plenty do. Davis' greater worry is all the behavior considered within bounds but outside any reasonable notion of fair play. 



POLICE/PROSECUTOR MISCONDUCT

CaliforniaA coalition of national nonprofit groups has asked the Justice Department to investigate and suspend  FBI employee Danny Miller, who was found by a jury to have falsified evidence against Herman Atkins, a man who served 12 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence.  Miller is in a position to continue doing harm to the innocent.

Wisconsin:  In a three-year span, Milwaukee Police Department Sgt. Jason Mucha was accused at least 10 times of beating suspects, planting drugs or both - claims so similar that judges took notice.  Mucha's record shows how an individual can be the subject of numerous misconduct allegations and continue to advance his career inside a department that lacks a reliable way to track problematic behavior. His story also shows how a single officer was instrumental in changing the way Wisconsin courts consider claims of police misconduct.  Forceful Impact

Wisconsin:  Award-winning journalist Dee Hall of Madison, WI's Wisconsin State Journal has filed a stunning series on the prosecutorial misconduct of Dane County Asst. DA Paul Humphrey, as well as the response -- or lack of response -- of Wisconsin's Office of Lawyer Regulation to Humphrey's conduct in particular and prosecutorial misconduct in general.

A Prosecutor Accused
Homicide ... or Tragic Accident?
Ignoring Police, Humphrey Leaves Teen in Jail
Charging Bankrupt Man was Wrong
Some of Humphrey's Questionable Cases
30% Longer to Handle Felonies
Related
Devastating Consequences
25 Prosecutors Disciplined since 1981


False Allegations of Child Abuse

How much damage can be caused when a teenager dies because of medical malpractice, an incompetent forensic pathologist can't tell the difference between pre-mortem injuries and artifacts of autopsy, and a "child protection" system marches on in its destruction of the family, in blind disregard of the findings that the death was caused by medical malpractice?  Roman and Lynette Finnegan of Franceville, Indiana know, and they tell us, In Their Own Words.


LIFE AFTER EXONERATION


Link

NPR
Larry Peterson:  Beyond Exoneration
Larry Peterson spent more than 17 years in prison for murder and rape before DNA testing led a judge to overturn his conviction. This special report chronicles the New Jersey man's long journey from incarceration to vindication.



RECOMMENDED READING



Arbitrary Justice
by Prof. Angela Davis

"This book is not simply timely. It is timeless. It chronicles the expansion of prosecutorial powers and, better yet, offers a compelling set of reforms that all can agree will help to curb unnecessary abuses of power. Public officials, law enforcement, and everyday citizens will all find this book informative and accessible. It is a must read, and a phenomenal read."
--Charles J. Ogletree Jr., Jesse Climenko Professor, Harvard Law School

"Finally, a book by a scholar that not only describes what's really going on in the trenches--a dangerous shift in power from judges to prosecutors in sentencing and charging decisions--but provides a sensible agenda of reforms that will protect victims and defendants alike. This is a very important work."
--Barry Scheck, Professor, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and Co-Director, Innocence Project
.
Arbitrary Justice


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.


Politicized, angered by societal injustice, and fresh out of Cornell University in 1997 with a degree in English, Huy  Dao figured that if he was going to work for peanuts, he didn't want to be getting someone's coffee. So he took a job as case director for the Cardozo Innocence Project, delivering freedom.  Innocence Project Gatekeeper

SLIDE PRESENTATION

Click HERE for our slide presentation, "The Truth About Wrongful Convictions."

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

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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.

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