Truth in Justice Newsletter - December, 2006 - January, 2007

RECENT CASES

DNA evidence has cleared an Atlanta, GA man who has served 21 years in prison after being convicted of raping and kidnapping a woman at a Sandy Springs apartment complex in 1985, the man's lawyers said on January 19, 2007.   Willie O. "Pete" Williams, who is now 44, was convicted largely on the eyewitness testimony of the rape victim and of another woman who was assaulted — though not raped — a few days later in the parking lot of another Roswell Road complex.

James Waller
A 50-year-old Dallas man whose conviction of raping a boy in 1982 cost him nearly half his life in prison and on parole won a court ruling on January 17, 2007 declaring him innocent. He said he was not angry, “because the Lord has given me so much.”  The parolee, James Waller, was exonerated by DNA testing, the 12th person since 2001 whose conviction in Dallas County has been overturned long after the fact as a result of genetic evidence, lawyers said.

Richard Trudel and James Sauve
Over the years, it simply became known as "the Cumberland case."The cold-blooded murders of Michel Giroux and his pregnant common-law wife, Manon Bourdeau, in their Cumberland, Ontario (Canada), home on Jan. 16, 1990, ignited two of the longest criminal trials in Canadian history. Four men -- Richard Trudel, James Sauve, Robert Stewart and Richard Mallory -- were convicted of the slayings in two separate trials.  the charges against Trudel and Sauve were stayed.  Superior Court Justice Colin McKinnon said the case had been "ravaged over time" and the 16 years of delays -- due to adjournments, lack of proper disclosure, lost evidence and witnesses lying under oath -- called into question the integrity of the justice system.

Matthew Fields
Twenty-three times Matthew Fields told the Louisville detective interrogating him that he had nothing to do with an October 2005 break-in and sexual assault of a woman in her Parkridge Parkway home. But the detective told the 18-year-old that police could prove he did it. Midway through his two-hour interrogation, Fields told the police what they were waiting to hear -- he did it, although much of the information he gave them about the crime was wrong. For the next year, Fields sat in jail, awaiting trial.  But on January 10, 2007, prosecutors asked a Jefferson County judge to dismiss the case, because DNA tests on semen found at the woman's home didn't belong to Fields.

We may be jumping the gun, since a final decision must await further DNA tests on the remains of the real killer, but it appears that the persistence of Roy Brown of Auburn, NY will at last turn the key to his prison cell.  Jailed for a murder he did not commit, Brown unearthed statements withheld from the defense that implicated another man, Barry Bench, as the killer.  And DNA backs him up.

UPDATE: 
Defense lawyers for Roy Brown on January 22, 2007 revealed that in a conference call earlier today, District Attorney Jim Vargason agreed to join the motion to vacate Brown's conviction for the 1991 murder of social worker Sabina Kulakowski.

In light of DNA evidence, a Duval County, Florida judge has thrown out the guilty verdict against Chad Heins, who was convicted 10 years ago for the 1994 murder of his 20-year-old pregnant sister-in-law in Mayport.  State Attorney Harry Shorstein, who previously said the DNA evidence was not sufficient to overturn the verdict, said he has not decided whether to retry Heins.  Barry Scheck, director of the Innocence Project, the New York-based legal group that took Heins' case, met with Shorstein. Scheck said Shorstein is a "thoughtful, responsible prosecutor" and he's "hopeful" that Heins can be set free.

Matt Livers of Murdoch, Nebraska, the latest false confessor to a murder, was set free after evidence that two other persons committed the crime surfaced.  The State's own expert agreed with the findings of the defense expert that Livers was mentally retarded, vulnerable to the tactics used by the police, and the confession was almost certainly false.  Still to be explained are findings in the car police said Matt drove the night of the murders.  Interestingly, no DNA is found in the car on first inspection. It is only on second inspection, using a wet swab, that the DNA is found, in the only area searched.





INNOCENT IMPRISONED

Elizabeth Golebiewski was 23 in 1983 when a Lucas County (Ohio) Common Pleas Court jury convicted the North Toledo woman of using a toy gun to sexually assault her daughter and then killing her.  A convicted thief testified at trial that Elizabeth had confessed to her during conversations in jail that she had killed the child, offering grisly details that authorities contend only investigators and the killer would have been aware of at the time.  Elizabeth's request for DNA testing of the toy gun and other evidence has been granted.  And, while it is a long shot, DNA tissue from someone other than the mother or child might just be enough to prompt a judge to review the 1983 conviction.

John R. Myers, II [Link]
Jodie Myers of Bloomington, IN holds two beliefs about her son.  One is that he is innocent of murdering Indiana University student Jill Behrman.  The other is that, sooner or later, he will be back home with his family.  These are not "wishful thinking" beliefs.  No physical evidence connects John to the crime; speculation, innuendo and words taken out of context formed the basis of his conviction.  And then there were the jurors, who spent more time drinking alcohol, having food fights, painting their toenails and wearing the bailiff's high-heeled shoes than they did deliberating.

John Myers' website:  JusticeforJohnSite.com


Dewayne Cunningham
Dewayne Cunningham has spent 11 years of a life sentence in Alabama's Atmore prison for a rape he insists he did not commit.  The evidence that might confirm his claim -- a condom wrapper recovered from the Flomaton park where the rape occurred and a pubic hair taken from the victim's body -- remains locked in a vault in the Escambia County circuit clerk's office.  Alabama is one of nine states that has no law allowing for DNA testing after a conviction, and authorities have resisted Cunningham's requests for access to the evidence. So his last hope for exoneration rests in a federal lawsuit filed in Mobile by lawyers from the University of Wisconsin Law School's Innocence Project.


JUNK SCIENCE

Perjury on Behalf of the State.  Thomas Siller and Walter Zimmer of Cleveland, Ohio were convicted of the 1997 beating murder of 74-year-old Alice Zolkowski, based in large part on the testimony of a third man arrested in the same incident.  Police crime lab analyst Joseph Serowik testified the informant had only one drop of blood on his shirt, supporting the man's claim that he was an observer, not a participant in the crime.  A lab audit found seven blood stains on the informant's shirt.  Serowik either lied about or failed to conduct thorough blood tests on the clothing of an eyewitness who said Siller and Zimmer had beaten the woman into a coma. Serowik's testimony amounted to perjury on behalf of the state's case, Barry Scheck of the Cardozo Innocence Project said.


HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS

Early Access to Police Reports can Save the InnocentWeighing in on the case of a theology teacher charged with sexually assaulting a student 16 years ago, the Wisconsin Innocence Project and state public defender's office are calling for the end of the long-standing practice of withholding police reports from defendants in the early stages of prosecution.  "The ability of defense counsel to access investigative information in a timely manner has been identified as a major cause of error in criminal cases," the agencies said in the filing. "Exoneration cases show that a suppression of evidence was a major factor in a significant number of wrongful convictions."



WRONGLY CONVICTED COPS



A 19-year veteran of the Green Bay, WI Police Department, John was convicted in 1999 of murder, arson and mutilating a corpse in the death of his estranged wife, Sandra.  Since then, some of the top forensic experts in the US have reviewed his case and concluded no crimes occurred in the first place.  Moreover, the lead prosecutor has been turned out of office and is under FBI investigation, and John's trial attorney is on the ropes for structuring his defense to match the script of a movie he was negotiating.

UPDATE:
Medical Examiner doubts his ruling in Maloney case.


False Allegations of Child Abuse


Audrey Edmunds
Audrey Edmunds, a former Waunakee, WI baby sitter imprisoned for nearly 10 years after being convicted in the shaken-baby death of a 7- month-old girl, is seeking a new trial, arguing that the scientific evidence used to convict her is no longer valid. "Since Audrey Edmunds' trial . . . a large body of new scientific evidence has emerged that supports her claim of innocence," according to a brief seeking a new trial for Edmunds filed by attorneys and law students for the Wisconsin Innocence Project.

UPDATE: In a two-day hearing, six physicians challenged the medical validity of the evidence that convicted Audrey Edmunds in 1996.  Among them was the forensic pathologist who testified against her at trial.  No Confidence in SBS Diagnosis




The clues were everywhere. A young woman lay dead in a burned cabin at a church camp near East Stroudsburg, PA, while her father survived.  Most of the lessons taught to budding fire investigators stood out at the scene. The local experts — the county fire marshal, a state-hired fire analyst, a chemist — spoke without hesitation that it all proved arson — and murder.  No one questioned their conclusion. It was a textbook case, and the father, Han Tak Lee, was dealt a guilty verdict and a life sentence.  Except the textbooks were wrong. Within a few years of Lee's conviction, scientific studies smashed decades of earlier, widely accepted beliefs about how fires work and the telltale trail they leave behind.

Also see John Lentini's report regarding Mr. Lee's case, "A Calculated Arson," in pdf format.




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 1,300 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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