Truth in Justice Newsletter - December, 2003


In Boston, MA, Shawn Drumgold walked out of jail after Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Rouse vacated his conviction, saying "justice was not done" at his 1989 trial and that the "system had failed."   Shawn served 15 years in prison for someone else's crime.

Shawn Drumgold 
Shawn Drumgold

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered the State of Ohio to release or retry Wyman Castleberry because the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office and the Columbus Police Department hid evidence of Mr. Castleberry’s innocence.  Their misconduct is a black stain on the State of Ohio.


For the first time in more than 16 years, Barry Laughman of Hanover, PA is surrounded by family and friends rather than bars, guards and other inmates.  The DNA that freed him was tracked down by investigative reporter Pete Shellem of the Harrisburg, PA Patriot News.  

Barry's conviction was based entirely on the "confession" Troopers Blevin and Holtz obtained from him.  Read the actual "confession" (online Powerpoint presentation) and decide for yourself: Did a retarded man write this?  Or did Troopers Blevin and Holtz write it?  Confession


A couple who became fugitives in 1984 following accusations that they abused their 4-year-old daughter left jail feeling vindicated after prosecutors dropped the charges, but said their lives had been ruined.  Edward and Karri LaBois fled Minnesota with their daughter 19 years ago after the abuse accusation was made. They were arrested Nov. 10 when an informant tipped police that they were living in a Salt Lake City suburb.



After three indictments, two trials and a handful of appellate proceedings, some of the best legal minds in Virginia still are trying to decide whether Merry Pease was a domestic-violence victim or a cold-blooded killer. It is the claim of prosecutorial misconduct -- which was one of the reasons the case was overturned the first time around -- that is drawing new attention to it.  What Can Go Wrong, Did Go Wrong

UPDATE:  On October 31, 2003, the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed Merry's conviction.  As ordered, Merry reported to the Wise Co. jail on Nov. 3rd, and the paperwork to send her to prison for 18 years was begun.   Then new counsel stepped into the picture, Anthony Collins of Wise, VA.  Collins brought a motion to re-empanel the jury and question them individually in chambers.  Judge Stump sidestepped the motion, but indicated he would take it up again once Merry has exhausted all appeals to the Virginia Supreme Court.  In the meantime, the judge Released Merry on Bail.


When a 19-year-old black man was charged with the murder of 25-year-old Deborah Sykes, it set off a case that has helped define race relations in Winston-Salem for nearly 20 years.  Hunt was convicted twice despite the lack of physical evidence and DNA tests that excluded him.  Although such DNA test results have freed numerous others in rape and murder cases, Hunt remains in prison.
Landmark Series from the Winston-Salem, NC Journal
Murder, Race, Justice
The State of North Carolina v. Darryl Hunt



A coalition of anti-death-penalty groups yesterday called for a moratorium on capital punishment in Virginia until changes can make it fairer for the accused.  The organizations contend that problems with Virginia's system, from misconduct by prosecutors to limits on appeals, have led to wrongful death sentences and possibly the execution of innocent people.
Lethal Injection Chamber


Massachusetts:   Ending a two-year investigation into the 40-year history of the FBI's organized-crime informant program in New England, a congressional committee has branded the program as "one of the greatest failures in the history of federal law enforcement" and has vowed to turn its attention to nationwide FBI management practices.  FBI Corruption



Other so-called forensic identification sciences, including microscopic hair analysis, handwriting identification, bite-mark analysis, ballistics, and even fingerprints have also been under attack in recent years. The Supreme Court, in its 1993 Daubert decision, established the “known rate of error” as one of the indicia of scientific reliability.  Yet courts continue to admit "ear witness identification" and juries continue to convict innocent people believing witnesses are much better at voice recognition than research indicates.


Wrongful convictions are being uncovered in greater numbers than ever in Louisiana (19) and other states.  More than half of all wrongful convictions in Louisiana have come to light in the past five years, and so have dozens of others around the country.  Most are not declared innocent or cleared of involvement in the crime that sent them to prison in the first place.  Living in Limbo

Saying that Shawn Drumgold is the "tip of the iceberg," the head of the Massachusetts public defender's office has called on the state to create an innocence commission to review the cases of other inmates, and Drumgold's attorney demanded that the police who investigated his case be held accountable.  Innocence Panel Proposed


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 Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota. 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.


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


There are now over 800 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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