Truth in Justice Newsletter - February - March, 2005

RECENT CASES

Cook County, Illinois prosecutors have dropped murder charges against Dan Young, Jr. and Harold Hill, who have spent more than 12 years behind bars, after DNA test results undermined their confessions and testimony from a dentist who implicated the two through a bite mark and a hickey.

Conviction Reversed
Ken Richey's Death Penalty and Conviction Tossed

The American Dream that Died in a Death Row Cell

More About Kenny Richey's Case
Ken Richey

Colombus Grove, Ohio
Complete transcript of Frontline Scotland'sKilling Time profile of Kenny Richey's case!



INNOCENT IMPRISONED

Katie Hamlin, a 15-year-old Cherokee County, Georgia girl, met a terrible end.  In the early morning hours of July 2, 2002, she was raped, strangled and then her body was set on fire.  Roberto Rocha, the 20-year-old mentally disabled son of a preacher, was charged with her murder -- police claim he confessed -- and although Rocha can prove he was in Brazil when the crime occurred, Cherokee County DA Garry Moss refuses to dismiss the charges.

Vishnu Persad
The victim, shot while riding on the back of her husband's motorcycle in South Florida, identified someone else as her assailant.  The best-positioned eyewitness was unable to pick out Persad from a photo lineup; he, too, picked someone else.  He couldn't identify him in court, either.  The same eyewitness said there was nothing unusual about the assailant's car, while Persad's car had foreign slogans written all over it.  Moreover, three witnesses testified Persad was studying for an exam with them when the incident happened.  But the victim's husband was shown a photo of Persad by an ex-FBI investigator, told Persad was the assailant, identified him in court -- and Persad is doing 43 years in prison.

Martin Soto-Fong and the DA with Killer Instincts [pdf format]
Last year, former Pima County, AZ DA Kenneth Peasley was disbarred for intentionally presenting false evidence in death-penalty cases—something that had never before happened to an American prosecutor. In a 1992 triple-murder case, Peasley introduced testimony that he knew to be false; three men were convicted and sentenced to die. Peasley was convinced that the three were guilty, but he also believed that the evidence needed a push. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since the mid-nineteen-seventies a hundred and seventeen death-row inmates have been released. Defense lawyers, often relying on DNA testing, have shown repeatedly how shoddy crime-lab work, lying informants, and mistaken eyewitness identifications, among other factors, led to unjust convictions. But DNA tests don’t reveal how innocent people come to be prosecuted in the first place. The career of Kenneth Peasley -- and the case of Martin Soto-Fong -- do.

Anthony Graves
Students at the Texas Innocence Network have uncovered new evidence, never presented at trial, that death row inmate Anthony Graves was not involved in  the 1992 slaying of six people.   The students believe Graves would be acquitted if he were retried.  But this is Texas, the state has what it wants -- a conviction -- and despite grave prosecutorial misconduct, U. S. Magistrate Judge John Froeschner thinks Anthony should keep his appointment with the executioner.

DEATH PENALTY ISSUES


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.

SCOTUS Strikes Death Penalty for Juveniles

There's a reason adolescents are overrepresented in every form of reckless behavior. Sometimes they lack the judgment, the impulse control, the maturity and the character to resist harmful peer pressure. 
Every parent knows this. So do most legislators. That's why young people are prohibited from serving on juries, voting, marrying, serving in the armed forces and drinking.  The U.S. Supreme Court now knows this, too. In a landmark ruling Tuesday, the court found that it is unconstitutional to put to death those who were under age 18 at the time of their crime. A 5-4 majority of justices acknowledged what common sense already tells us: Adolescents inherently are different from adults.

POLICE/PROSECUTOR/JUDICIAL MISCONDUCT

Florida: The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is joining the investigation of Broward Sheriff's Office detectives suspected of falsifying crime reports.  Prosecutors recently filed criminal charges against two deputies who are charged with falsifying documents and making up confessions to clear cases in Weston and Southwest Ranches. Dozens more deputies have been informed that they are under investigation or have been asked to give statements to prosecutors.  Exceptional Clearance

Florida (but could be anywhere in the US)James Faller claimed innocence in a complicated loan fraud from the time he reported it to Florida regulators more than 10 years ago, when he tried to explain it to an FBI Agent, when he was indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced to prison.   Along the way he infuriated federal prosecutors by making hundreds of allegations of misconduct at virtually every stage of his prosecution in the $3.6 million fraud because, he claims, they got the wrong guy.  They'll Get You if You Tick Them Off

Illinois and Missouri A federal jury has awarded nearly $6.6 million in damages to former Chicago police Officer Steven Manning, finding two veteran FBI agents framed him for a Cook County murder that put him on Death Row.  The jury also held that one of the FBI agents also framed Manning in a Missouri kidnapping case. Manning spent 14 years in prison before both convictions were overturned and the prosecutions were dropped.  Framed by FBI

Wisconsin:
The current DA in Winnebago County is conducting a secret John Doe investigation into the conduct of Vince Biskupic and his friend and mentor, Joe Paulus, when they controlled the prosecutor's offices in Winnebago and Outagamie Counties.  He calls their actions in the cases they made against Mark Price "an abuse of the justice system of the worst kind."


JUNK SCIENCE


BS Bullet Matching 
Eighteen years ago, three Boston-area men were convicted of fatally shooting a Lynnfield couple in the basement of their Main Street home as their two young children slept upstairs, a brazen crime that sent shock waves through the quiet, prosperous suburb.  Richard Costa, Dennis Daye, and Michael DeNictolis are each serving two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for the 1985 slaying of Robert Paglia and his wife, Patricia, in a robbery at the couple's house.  But now a retired FBI agent says in an affidavit that a former colleague gave false and misleading forensic testimony -- deemed crucial to the prosecution's case -- at the trial.

Bite Mark Baloney  Cook County, Illinois prosecutors have dropped murder charges against Dan Young, Jr. and Harold Hill, who have spent more than 12 years behind bars, after DNA test results undermined their confessions and testimony from a dentist who implicated the two through a bite mark and a hickey.

More Bite Mark Baloney  Jeffrey Moldowan, who spent 12 years in prison before winning a retrial and acquittal in a Warren rape case, has sued the victim, the police, a trial witness and Macomb County prosecutors.  The witness is Dr. Alan Warnick, whose bogus bite mark testimony railroaded an innocent man.

Gunshot Residue  This evidence, used for years in thousands of investigations, is not as clear-cut as it has often been portrayed in court, or in the television crime dramas that have made forensics popular.  Across the country it is under increasing scrutiny as defense attorneys, prosecutors and police officials evaluate how easily suspects' hands can be contaminated by other items already covered in gunshot residue: handcuffs, car seats, even police officers themselves.

Digital Fingerprint Identification  The Chicago Tribune has found that the same digital technology that has allowed the FBI to speed fingerprint checks so dramatically has created a new risk -- in an already subjective and non-scientific field -- of accusing the innocent.


Dale Chu's conviction is proof that, in Wisconsin, you can convict someone of arson even when the cause of a fire cannot be determined.  All it takes is a win-at-all-costs prosecutor like Vince Biskupic, perjured testimony from state "arson experts", the lies of a paid-off snitch and a dummied-down jury.


How the System Works (or Doesn't)


Canada, US and the World
Wrongful convictions continue to plague justice systems in Canada and elsewhere despite studies and reports on the issue, says a report by federal, provincial and territorial prosecutors and police.  What is startling, however, is that some problems, themes and mistakes arise time and time again, regardless of where the miscarriage of justice took place.  It's Everyone's Problem



False Allegations of Child Abuse

Unfounded Physical Abuse Allegations
The Darke County, Ohio prosecutor has said he is closing the homicide investigation into the death of 5-year-old Daniel Crow Jr. because a rare genetic disease may be the cause of the boy's death, not abuse.  It's too late for the rest of the family.  Their other children were seized by the state and adopted by other families.  Officially Sanctioned Abuse

RECOMMENDED READING


True Witness

by James Doyle

Honest but mistaken eyewitnesses are the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States. As the innocent go to prison their lives are shattered; as the criminal goes free, the public remains vulnerable. With a vivid cast of brilliant scientists, street-wise cops, and former prosecutors--all haunted by the legacy of wrongful convictions, some directly involved with one--Doyle sheds light on the intersection of personal ambition, legal and political principles, and scientific inquiry. He highlights real possibilities for improved identification, their challenges to the legal tradition, and persuasively argues that the promises of improved justice must be realized before another wrongful conviction lets the guilty go free. This is an important look at a pressing issue in the news with every exoneration.


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 Hawaii. 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 900 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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