Truth in Justice Newsletter - December, 2005 - January, 2006

RECENT CASES

Don't thank the legal system for Clarence Elkins' exoneration.  The "system" failed him at every turn of an 8-year, nightmare saga.  Thank Elkins himself.  Elkins nabbed the cigarette butt discarded by another inmate, Earl Mann, and sent it to his lawyer.  Mann's DNA matched that of the person who raped and killed Elkins' mother-in-law and raped his niece.  Even then, Summit County prosecutors scraped the ground, looking for some way to keep Elkins in prison.  Only when the Attorney General and Governor became involved did the Summit County prosecutor decide to throw in the towel, free Elkins and charge the real killer.

A St. Louis, Missouri woman was viciously attacked and raped in her own home.  Stephen Judd was arrested and, inexplicably confessed, but DNA tests excluded him.  Then a cold hit matched the DNA of James Fujimoto, who had never been a suspect in the attack.  Kudos to St. Louis police and prosecutors who did not prosecute Judd anyway,  based on his false confession, and were rewarded by getting the right man.

On March 13, 1986, Pittsburgh, PA police came by Olivia Doswell's, to have a word with her son. There'd been a rape nearby, and, though Mr. Doswell bore no resemblance to the description given police, the victim and a witness picked him out of a photo array, triggering a cascade of injustice: an arrest, a conviction, and a 12- to 24-year sentence. But Doswell never strayed from his story of innocence. And on Aug. 1, 2005 he was freed - exonerated by DNA evidence.  Ironically, his honesty - the persistent claim of innocence - cost him more than guilt would have. He refused to confess to gain leniency or parole, and served at least six years more than he would have if he'd confessed. He also refused to harbor anger, adopting an attitude of such peace that he has become a model of forgiveness, his story broadcast worldwide.


INNOCENT IMPRISONED

It was one of the most terrifying crimes ever to hit Kaukauna, WI, a community of 13,000.  On June 25, 2000, Shanna Van Dyn Hoven, a 19-year-old UW-Madison student, was stabbed to death as she jogged by a quarry near her home about 6 p.m.  Prosecutors said Hudson stabbed Van Dyn Hoven, a stranger, in a fit of misplaced rage, and that they caught him red-handed, covered in her blood.  Newly uncovered evidence, however, appears to support Hudson's contentions -- and raises more questions about the conduct of the police and the prosecutor, Vince Biskupic.


Is David Gladden INNOCENT?
The murder of 67-year-old M. Geneva Long of Susquehanna Township, PA left many questions unanswered, including the guilt of the man who was convicted in her death.  Journalist Pete Shellem takes an in-depth look at the evidence of David Gladden's innocence in this 3-part series.

Norfolk Four
Police were convinced that Michelle Moore-Bosko, a young Navy wife, was raped and murdered by eight men in her small Norfolk, VA apartment in 1997 while her husband was away at sea. And five of them confessed. But Bosko's apartment showed no signs of mass attack, and the DNA left behind matched only one man: Omar A. Ballard, a convicted sex offender, who gave details of the killing and said he acted alone.  The four others who confessed  -- Danial J. Williams, Joseph J. Dick Jr., Derek E. Tice and Eric C. Wilson, all Navy sailors -- later recanted but were convicted anyway, and three of them are serving life sentences. Three of "the Norfolk Four," as their attorneys call them, plan to ask outgoing Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) for clemency. The fourth sailor's request is pending.

Anthony Ray Hinton
Six mangled lead slugs, supposedly fired from a rusty, Smith & Wesson .38 special found in his mother's home near Dora, Alabama sent Hinton to Death Row in 1986. Police recovered the spent slugs from victims of a string of robbery/murders at fast-food restaurants in the Birmingham area in 1985. It was the only evidence they had, but Jefferson County prosecutors used that evidence to help convince a jury Hinton committed the crimes and should be put to death. But the questions loom large.  How were state forensics experts able to match the six slugs to each other and to test bullets fired from the same gun when national experts were unable to replicate their findings? Why won't the state's experts work with the national experts to resolve their differences? How could Hinton have clocked in to work at midnight and been assigned his tasks at 12:10 a.m. on the night of the Smotherman shooting, yet driven to Quincy's 15 miles away in just four minutes?

Gregory Bruce Dunagan
There are basically four reasons Gregory Bruce Dunagan feels he is serving a life sentence for murder in the Texas penitentiary: 1) his criminal record from an incident when he was 18 years old, 2) a setup by a lying jailhouse informant, 3) sloppy police work and 4) an ineffective job by his defense attorney at trial.  Yet even if the state offered him time served and agreed to let him out of prison, Dunagan says, "I would tell them to go to hell, because I'm not guilty."


DEATH PENALTY ISSUES


Texas executed its fifth teenage offender at 22 minutes after midnight on Aug. 24, 1993, after his last request for bubble gum had been refused and his final claim of innocence had been forever silenced. 
Four days after a Bexar County jury delivered its verdict, Cantu wrote this letter to the residents of San Antonio: "My name is Ruben M. Cantu and I am only 18 years old. I got to the 9th grade and I have been framed in a capital murder case."  A dozen years after his execution, a Houston Chronicle investigation suggests that Cantu was likely telling the truth.

HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS

Nationally  American prisons are full of wrongfully convicted persons. Many were coerced into admitting to crimes they did not commit by prosecutors' threats to pile on more charges. Others were convicted by false testimony from criminals bribed by prosecutors, who exchanged dropped charges or reduced sentences for false testimony against defendants.  Not all the wrongfully convicted are poor. Some are wealthy and prominent people targeted by corrupt prosecutors seeking a celebrity case in order to boost their careers.  Paul Craig Roberts holds a mirror to One Nation Under Prosecutors

Colorado - and every state  No firm numbers exist on the use of jailhouse informants in criminal trials, but experts say it is common, especially in high-stakes cases such as murder trials in which prosecutors are under pressure to get a conviction.  Offering people deals in exchange for testifying is "tantamount to bribery," says Rob Warden, Director of Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions.  Colorado Springs' Ronnie Archuleto could be the poster child for lying jailhouse snitches.


Canada  Think our neighbors to the north are immune to the same systemic flaws that have led to an epidemic of wrongful convictions in the US?  Think again.  The legal systems of Canada and the US have common roots, and common pitfalls.  North of the Border

POLICE/PROSECUTOR/JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT

Wisconsin: Newly uncovered evidence in the Kenneth Hudson case appears to support Hudson's contention that he was framed for the murder of Shanna Van Dyn Hoven in 2000.  But this isn't the first time questions have been raised about the conduct of the prosecutor, Vince Biskupic.  Biskupic's Tactics

FALSE ALLEGATIONS OF CHILD ABUSE

Brandy Briggs, accused by Dr. Moore of shaking her baby son to death, followed her lawyer's advice in 1999 and pled guilty to injury to a child.  Subsequent review demonstrated that the child died of natural causes coupled with medical malpractice, and was neither abused nor neglected.  Now the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals has thrown out Briggs' conviction based on her lawyer's Deficient Performance.

JUNK SCIENCE

CNN Presents:
Reasonable Doubt:  Can Crime Labs be Trusted?
A joint investigation by CNN and the Center for Investigative Reporting examines the lack of standards, quality controls and training at many of the nation's forensic laboratories and raises serious doubts about some forensic scientists.
 
Key Cases
The Labs


GSR -- or BSR?
A New Scientist investigation has found that someone who has never fired a gun could be contaminated by someone who has, and that different criminal investigators use contradictory standards. What's more, particles that are supposedly unique to GSR can be produced in other ways.

A Legacy of Freedom and Hope
(2/13/2003) Scientist Mary Jane Burton was devoted to her work in the Virginia Forensic Science Lab.  She "invented" rape kits and put them together for police use on her own time.  When crime novelist Patricia Cornwell referred to "the lab", she mean Mary Jane Burton.  Mary Jane's habit of preserving a swatch of test material in case files was one of the practices that led to her forced retirement in 1990.  She died in 1999.  Since her death, two innocent men have been cleared of rapes they didn't commit because of the very practice her supervisors disapproved.  Mary Jane Burton's legacy is one of freedom and of hope.

UPDATE (12/15/2005):  The legacy goes on.  Two More Men Cleared Thanks to Mary Jane Burton.

UPDATE(12/25/2005): 
Only 10% of the first 300 cases ordered reviewed by Gov. Mark Warner have been examined, resulting in 2 more exonerations.  "It's pretty clear there's going to be other exonerations. I can't imagine we got the only two out of all those cases," said Paul B. Ferrara, director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science.  Virginia Slogs through DNA Tests

RECOMMENDED READING
Surviving Justice Surviving Justice: America's Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated
by Dave Eggers and Lola Vollen


Beverly Monroe spent seven years in prison for murdering her companion of thirteen years; in fact, he had killed himself. Christopher Ochoa was persuaded to confess to a rape and murder he did not commit, and served twelve years of his life sentence before he was freed by DNA evidence. Michael Evans and Paul Terry each spent twenty-seven years in prison for a brutal rape and murder they did not commit. They were teenagers when they entered prison; they were middle-aged men when DNA proved their innocence.

The thirteen men and women portrayed here, and the hundreds of others who have been exonerated, are the tip of the iceberg. There are countless others—thousands by all estimates—who are in prison today for crimes they did not commit. These are the stories of some of the wrongfully convicted, who have managed, often by sheer luck, to prove their innocence. Their stories are spellbinding, heartbreaking, unimaginable, and ultimately inspiring. After reading these deeply personal accounts, you will never look at the criminal justice system the same way.


Wilkie Collins' The Dead Alive : The Novel, the Case, and Wrongful Convictions
by Rob Warden


Wilkie Collins might well be the first author of a legal thriller. Here is the lawyer out of sorts with his profession; the legal process gone awry; even a touch of romance to soften the rigors of the law. And here, too, recast as fiction, is the United States' first documented wrongful conviction case. Side by side with the novel, this book presents the real-life legal thriller Collins used as his model-the story of two brothers, Jesse and Stephen Boorn, sentenced to death in Vermont in 1819 for the murder of their brother-in-law, and belatedly exonerated when their "victim" showed up alive and well in New Jersey in 1820.  Rob Warden reconsiders the facts of the Boorn case for what they can tell us about the systemic flaws that produced this first known miscarriage of justice-flaws that continue to riddle our system of justice today.

Click HERE for Chicago Sun-Times review.



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. 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 1,200 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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