Truth in Justice
Wrongful Conviction News from December, 2007 - January, 2008
you are not familiar with Kenny's case -- one of the most compelling
cases of innocence we have seen -- please read the following:
Complete transcript of
Frontline Scotland's Killing Time profile
of Kenny Richey's case.
Truth in Justice
has followed Marty Tankleff's case for years. His exoneration
came suddenly, after decades of struggle. The following reports
give perspective to a saga that, at last, has a happy ending.
In 1988, Arlene
Tankleff was slashed across the throat and bludgeoned to death, and her
husband, Seymour, was mortally wounded in the middle of the night in
their affluent Long Island home. Their son, Martin, 17, confessed, then
recanted. But in 1990 he was convicted of their murders in a highly
publicized trial that was featured on Court TV. Ever since, he
and the other surviving relatives have insisted that he did not kill
his parents. Seymour Tankleff's brother, Norman, said that he never
doubted the son's innocence. Mrs. Tankleff's sister, Marcella Falbee,
said, "From the beginning, none of us ever believed he did this." Now
Martin Tankleff's supporters claim to have new evidence, obtained by a
former New York City homicide detective, that they say points to the
real culprits. Pushing
to Clear His Name
times during his nearly 27 years in prison, Charles Chatman went before
a parole board and refused to tell them what they wanted to hear: that
he had raped a woman in his Dallas, TX neighborhood. Chatman
always maintained his innocence, and on January 3, 2008 a judge
affirmed it. Chatman, 47, won his freedom after new DNA testing
excluded him as the rapist, adding to Dallas County's nationally
unmatched number of wrongfully convicted inmates.
Johnson of Leesville, LA spent 25 years in prison for a rape he did not
commit. His 2007 Christmas gift was being excluded by DNA,
leading to his release. How will he cope with a strange new
just take one day at a time. That's the way I learned it in prison; one
day at a time. Wherever the Lord leads me, that's where I'll be."
We have followed the cases of Randy Steidl and Herb Whitlock for years,
too. First Randy was exonerated and freed. Now Herb has
been freed -- but the state continues to deny that he is innocent of
the Rhoads' murders.
Tim Masters of Fort
Collins, CO is yet another inmate who struggled for years to prove his
innocence. Cracks began to appear in the wall of psychobabble on
which Masters' conviction was built in July of 2007. The entire
fabrication fell six months later.
between the spot Peggy Hettrick was abducted and the Fort Collins,
Colorado field where her partially clad body was dumped, her killer
would have shed pieces of himself, mothlike. As he pulled her through
the grass that dark morning on Feb. 11, 1987, his skin cells could have
sloughed off onto her black coat. A strand of his hair could have
hooked onto her shoes. A sneeze could have dampened her blouse. This is
the law of forensic science: When two people come into contact, they
leave cells on each other. But in the Hettrick murder case, authorities
strayed from this law by losing some of these biological relics and
destroying evidence linked to a prominent doctor they never
investigated for the crime. In doing so, they may have covered the
killer's genetic tracks. This
happened in Fort Collins, where a detective clung to his belief that a
15-year-old boy committed the crime, despite no physical evidence. In a
county where prosecutors opposed saving DNA, let alone testing it. In a
state where the law doesn't create a duty to preserve forensic
innocent man, Tim Masters, goes to prison for life, and the real killer
UPDATE: January 3, 2008: Innocence Bid Gets
Collins, CO authorities violated evidence-discovery rules when they
withheld expert opinions that conflicted with their theory that a
15-year-old Tim Masters murdered Peggy Hettrick in 1987, according to
January 22, 2008: Tim Masters released
and his conviction vacated. DNA excludes Masters and points
to another suspect.
Scott, 39, of Terre Haute, IN, had been serving a 50-year prison
sentence for the 1984 murder of Loretta Keith, who was bludgeoned to
death in her bed with a hydraulic jack. Authorities said that DNA
testing not available in 1984 — including analysis of blood found on a
nylon stocking at Keith’s home — cleared Scott. Prosecutors
said the DNA test results showed that Kevin Mark Weeks, 44, of
LaGrange, Ky., was the person who killed Keith.
all happened so fast,” said Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt, who
filed a joint petition with Scott for his release. Not
really. Four months after Scott was convicted, Scott's public
defender, Larry Wagner, presented evidence from Weeks' accomplice that
Weeks killed Ms. Keith, and that Scott had nothing to do with it.
The Indiana courts, all the way up to and including the state supreme
court, rejected the evidence, but the PD Investigator
Always Knew Scott was Innocent.
a 44 - 36 vote largely along party lines, the New Jersey State Assembly
on December 13, 2007 took the final legislative step toward abolishing
the death penalty in New Jersey and replacing it with life in prison
without parole. Gov.
Jon Corzine has said he will sign the bill, S-171, which the Senate
passed on December 10, 2007 without amendment by a vote of 21-16, also
along strict party lines.
Flores was told not to testify. So he sat in silence in 1997 while
prosecutors convinced a jury that he had murdered an innocent woman
caught in a gang-related gunbattle during rush-hour traffic. Now,
Flores and his new attorney claim to have new evidence that he was not
responsible for the shooting death of Phyllis Davis. A
national expert says the most powerful revelation uncovered by Flores'
defense could set him free: A gang member told the FBI and Los Angeles
police before Flores' trial that another man, Raphael Robinson, shot
|THOMAS ARTHUR FIGHT
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.
UPDATE: On 12/5/07, the United States Supreme Court granted a
stay of execution pending his application for a write of certiorari.
do you get when you take one ambitious prosecutor, four cold cases, a
couple of cooperative snitches and four defendants with compelling
innocence claims? You get three death sentences and one life
When Flores was sentenced, jury foreman Samuel McCrorey said he
regretted the verdict: "I feel horrible that a young man is going to
prison for life for a crime he didn't commit." McCrorey was
lambasted by the trial judge for his honesty. Click
read about the attack launched against Mr. McCrorey by Judge Richard
John Spirko is hard to like. He's
lived a life of crime that makes him virtually incredible. But he
says he's innocent of the murder of Betty Jane Mottinger, a crime that
put him on Ohio's death row. An investigation by the Cleveland Plain Dealer strongly supports
Spirko's claim that he did not commit this crime.
Click HERE to read Bob
Payne's full series about John Spirko at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
governor commutes Spirko death sentence to life without parole.
Investigative Report by Christine Young
New York Times-Herald
HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS
the System SHOULD Work. When Craig Watkins took office as
Dallas County (Texas) District Attorney in January, 2007, prosecutors
found mounted on the walls of their workrooms a large, black-framed
blowup of Article 2.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, with
only one sentence highlighted: "It shall be the duty of all prosecuting
attorneys, including any special prosecutors, not to convict but to see
that justice is done." Watkins said he
had the code provision framed and mounted to serve as a daily reminder
to his 234 assistant DAs of their ethical obligations and as a message
to criminal-defense attorneys that what he termed the
"conviction-at-all-cost" era had ended.
Felons Not Being Told
of New Evidence. Virginia
felons convicted of crimes before DNA testing was widely in use are not
being notified when biological evidence is found in their old forensic
case files. As
a result, it is largely being left up to authorities to determine
whether DNA testing is warranted in such cases and to interpret whether
the results have any bearing on innocence.
In a groundbreaking project far larger than first envisioned, the
Virginia Department of Forensic Science has searched 530,079 paper
files dating from 1973 to 1988, finding 2,215 that contain crime-scene
biological material and include a suspect's name. Five
men wrongly convicted of rape have been cleared with evidence from the
old files. Advocates and others are concerned that for the most part,
only authorities are being told the evidence exists and not the felons
who potentially have the most at stake.
investigative report of a year-long review of Ohio's system for
testing DNA to uncover wrongful convictions.
New York: New
York state investigators are probing how police and prosecutors handled
the 1988 bludgeoning and stabbing deaths of Seymour
and Arlene Tankleff,
whose son, Marty Tankleff, served 17 years in prison for their murders
before being released in December, 2007. What Took So Long?
New York: A
teen shooting suspect's quick decision to record his interrogation with
a hidden MP3 device has played out as a perjury case against a veteran
at the trial of Erik Crespo in April, Detective Christopher Perino, 42,
emphatically stated that he hadn't questioned the then-17-year-old
about a Christmas Day 2005 shooting in The Bronx before the kid's
mother and aunt showed up at the 44th Precinct station. But
Crespo had secretly pressed record on his MP3 player - a small device
used to download music from the Internet - hidden in his pocket and
captured the bullying interrogation. "Testilying" vs. Tape.
Allegations of Child Abuse
Shaken Baby Syndrome
Salcedo is a 38 year old nanny who has been held in the Placer County,
CA jail since May, 2006 charged with the second degree murder of
16 month old Hannah Rose Juceam. Her first trial lasted six months and
ended in a mistrial due to a hung jury. On 12/10/07, the Placer County
District Attorney announced that she will be re-tried in April, 2008.
Mrs. Salcedo has maintained her innocence and has rejected plea
bargains. Meanwhile, the father of the deceased child has waged a
widely advertised campaign in attempts to deny Mrs. Salcedo of her
rights to due process and presumption of innocence through
billboards and a purportedly educational website.
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
symptoms not accurate.
UPDATE: 1/26/07 - 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
2/22/07 - Audrey
Edmunds says life would have crushed her by now, if not for her faith
in God -- and her belief that she will soon be reunited with her
daughters. The Human Toll of
UPDATE: 2/23/07 - In
tense, combative testimony, a medical witness for the state forcefully
rejected recent studies that raise doubts about shaken baby
combative testimony of Dr. Betty Spivack reflects the divide among
physicians in shaken-baby cases. One camp believes certain signs and
symptoms are proof of abuse, while the other side argues that such
indicators also can be seen in children who've been sick or had minor
accidents. Defending the
UPDATE: 2/24/07- One of the physicians who cared for Natalie Beard at
University (now UW) Hospital in the final hours of her life testified
Friday he's certain that the 7-month-old was shaken to death and that
the injury occurred shortly before she came to the hospital. "She died
from inflicted traumatic brain injury -- that is, she was shaken," said
Dr. William Perloff, retired head of pediatric intensive care for the
hospital. "In her case, there was evidence of her head hitting a
That's More Than Simply Shaking, Doctor ...
UPDATE: 3/29/07 - Dane
County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser has denied Audrey Edmunds a new
it came down to, Moeser said, was whether there was a "reasonable
probability" that a new jury, hearing the evidence presented earlier
this year and in 1996, would've reached a different verdict. He
determined it would not. Edmunds
supporter Michelle Urso of Waunakee said she believes one thing is
true: "There is no doubt in my mind that there is an innocent woman
sitting in jail. Not a single doubt." And the Innocent
Woman will Stay in Prison.
years after she was sent to prison on charges of shaking a baby to
death, a former Waunakee day-care provider should get a new trial, a
state appeals court has ruled. New
evidence in the case "shows that there has been a shift in mainstream
medical opinion since Edmunds' trial as to the cause of the types of
injuries Natalie (Beard) suffered," the three-judge panel unanimously
Attorney General is mulling whether to appeal the ruling.
False Allegations of Sexual Abuse
It started with a
phone call from CPS, telling North Texas home builder Douglas Buchar
that his 12-year-old adopted daughter had accused him of sexually
assaulting him. Over the next two years, his wife was also
charged, although the charges were dismissed, and the couple lost their
business, their home and their two biological children. A jury
has found him not guilty of the sexual assault charge. But getting his kids back
is a separate, uphill battle.
The Chaparral Murders: Dollar Store Justice
by Margaret Stoddart
The Chaparral Murders re-examines the 1982 deaths of Glenn Roberts and
his son, Timmy, in Parsons, WV, and the subsequent conviction of Rusty
Phillips in Timmy Roberts' death.
Stoddart is the stepdaughter of Edith Roberts, the mother of Timmy and
the widow of Glenn. Given that relationship, the author reaches
conclusions that might not be expected, questioning whether Rusty
Phillips had any role in Timmy Roberts' death, and whether Timmy's
death was a homicide in the first place.
Click HERE to
read Norm Goldman's review in American
|15,543 and Counting
By D. L. Carcara
On September 2,
Jimmy Lee Gray died smashing his head into a metal pole located behind
his head as a result of being strapped to a chair and forced to inhale
a deadly mixture of sulfuric acid and hydrogen cyanide. On May 4, 1990,
Jesse Tafero, at the time living and breathing, died after being set on
fire while completely incapacitated being bound to a chair. These
instances sound much like the works of a sadistic serial killer
torturing his victims, but they are in reality the works of State
Departments of Corrections here in America. These documented cases as
well as many more wrongs involving the administration of capital
punishment in the United States are found in 15,543 and Counting. Each
and every step, from the very beginning of the guilt trial to the very
end of the cooling of the corpse, is addressed and accounted for in
15,543 and Counting. Among the countless informative sources are
testimonies of corrections officers assigned to the care and custody of
death row inmates, as well as actual quotes from death row inmates
and the Corruption of Justice
by Ethan Brown
A chilling investigative look behind the scenes at a criminal justice
system corrupted by its use of cooperators, and into the complex
meaning of the "Stop Snitching" movement.
In Snitch, investigative
reporter Ethan Brown shows through a compelling series of case profiles
how the sentencing guidelines for drug-related offenses, along with the
5K1.1 section, have unintentionally created a "cottage industry of
cooperators," and led to fabricated evidence. The result is wrongful
convictions and appallingly gruesome crimes committed by the snitches
who are turned loose for their "cooperation."
Click HERE for
Steve Weinberg's review of this book.
|Police Interrogation and
by Richard Leo
Incriminating statements are necessary to solve crimes, but suspects
almost never have reason to provide them. Therefore, crime units have
developed sophisticated interrogation methods that rely on persuasion,
manipulation, and deception to move a subject from denial to admission,
serving to shore up the case against him. Ostensibly aimed at
uncovering truth, the structure of interrogation requires that officers
act as an arm of the prosecution. Skillful and fair interrogation
allows authorities to capture criminals and deter future crime. But Leo
draws on extensive research to argue that confessions are inherently
suspect and that coercive interrogation has led to false confession and
wrongful conviction. He looks at police evidence in the court, the
nature and disappearance of the brutal "third degree," the reforms of
the mid-twentieth century, and how police can persuade suspects to
waive their Miranda rights.
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
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