Truth in Justice Newsletter - February - March, 2007

RECENT CASES

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has pardoned a Sanford man who spent more than five years in prison for a 1998 armed robbery in Goldsboro.  There was no physical evidence against Steve Snipes, only testimony that the masked robber of the convenience store sounded like Snipes trying to disguise his voice.  Snipes presented alibis and a witness who testified that a man named Terrance Wyatt was the robber. Wyatt was caught committing an identical robbery while Snipes was in prison.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan -- who presided over Timothy Atkins' murder trial 23 years ago -- overturned his conviction Thursday and ordered the Venice, CA man released immediately. Atkins, who is now 40, was still a teenager when he was convicted of killing Vincente Gonzalez on New Year's Day 1985.  The California Innocence Project, a law clinic at California Western School of Law in San Diego that seeks the release of the wrongfully convicted, was instrumental in securing his release after a key witness recanted her testimony that he confessed to the murder.


David Gladden
<>12/11/05:  A mentally retarded man is convicted of murder. A serial killer lived next door to the victim. Testimony is suspect. After a decade in prison, Pete Shellem of the Harrisburg, PA Patriot-News asked:  Is David Gladden INNOCENT?

<>4/7/06:  Patriot-News' Gladden series leads witness to come forward with important evidence he thought the police did not need. New evidence for a new trial?

<>2/17/07:  David Gladden was freed from a life in prison after authorities agreed evidence uncovered by a series of Patriot-News stories raised doubts about his guilt in the slaying of a woman.  Gladden freed from life term


Following a "trend" begun by former US Attorney (now a presidential hopeful) Rudy Giuliani, criminalizing non-criminal conduct, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Michael J. Garcia went after David Finnerty and 14 other NY Stock Exchange floor specialists for "interpositioning."  Interpositioning means that instead of matching pending buy and sell orders, the specialists repeatedly trade for their company's proprietary account, making a profit from the slight differences in pricing.  The government said Finnerty cheated customers out of $4.5 million.  Judge Denny Chin overturned a jury's guilty verdict, however, concluding that no one was defrauded of any money and that interpositioning is not a crime.

The case began on the evening of July 21, 1994. Police officers all over Queens, NY were looking for four Latino men suspected of snatching three cases of Tahitian black pearls from vendors returning to their hotel in Elmhurst from a gem show in Manhattan. The vendors estimated the jewels’ value at $1.5 million.  As they escaped, the thieves rushed at a man in his driveway, demanding his car. The man was an off-duty police officer, and he managed to shoot his service weapon, a 9-millimeter Glock, before he was knocked unconscious. He told detectives later that he thought he had hit a robber who was grabbing at the barrel of the gun. That same night, Napoleon Cardenas accidentally shot himself in the hand .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol that he had been showing to two visitors.  Witnesses who couldn't pick Napoleon out of a line up immediately after the incident decided they could identify him after days and even years had passed.  After 7 years in prison, Cardenas was able to prove his innocence with the bullet fragments in his hand -- from a .380-caliber pistol, not a 9-millimeter Glock.

The Dallas County, TX district attorney's office has acknowledged that prosecutors illegally withheld evidence that might have saved a man from a 1983 rape conviction and 10 years in prison.  Newly discovered evidence amassed by attorneys for James Curtis Giles "strongly suggests" that he was misidentified as one of three men involved in the gang rape, prosecutors said.  They said his conviction should be overturned, but stopped short of declaring Mr. Giles innocent. Instead, they asked state District Judge Robert Francis for additional time to investigate Mr. Giles' claim that a man with a nearly identical name was the true rapist.

Antonio Beaver was convicted in 1997 in the carjacking of a woman near the St. Louis, MO Arch the year before. The robber, wielding a screwdriver, was stabbed during a struggle with the victim.  Blood inside her car was not Beaver's, according to recent DNA test results. Prosecutors said the sample had not been tested before trial because it was too small for the technology of the day.  Beaver's ordeal began when the carjacking victim described a man with a baseball cap and gap in his front teeth. Six days later, a St. Louis police officer noticed Beaver on the street and thought he fit the description. Beaver voluntarily participated in a line-up.  The victim picked him from among four men.

Anthony Capozzi of Buffalo, NY, an innocent man who has been in prison for almost 22 years after being wrongly convicted of two Delaware Park rapes, was exonerated March 29, 2007 by DNA evidence — evidence that had been stored in a cabinet at Erie County Medical Center for as long as he has been behind bars.  Capozzi, who resembled Altemio Sanchez, identified through the same DNA testing as the perpetrator of the attacks, had been convicted based on the testimony of the rape victims, who had picked him out of police lineups.



INNOCENT IMPRISONED

Barry Allen Beach has maintained his innocence every day since he confessed two decades ago to the brutal 1979 murder of 18-year-old Kimberly Nees outside Poplar, Montana.  Centurion Ministries believes Beach and hopes to free him as the group has 40 others who were wrongly imprisoned across the nation.  They have good reason to believe Beach is innocent, and that a trio of jealous females killed Kimberly.

David Thorne
The conviction of David Thorne of Alliance, Ohio of murder for hire is a textbook example of sloppy crime scene processing, lazy investigation, unreliable and contradictory witnesses, unqualified experts and incompetent defense lawyering.  In fact, criminal profiler Brent Turvey, M.S., uses it to teach investigators and lawyers how not to handle a murder case. 


HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS

'Sorry.  Have a nice day.'  Andre Wallace of Chicago, IL was a 15-year-old kid when he was picked up by police, subjected to 'good cop/bad cop' interrogation, beaten and forced to confess to a murder he did not commit.  He spent 10 years in prison and was released in 2002.  In 2003, Andre sued the officers who falsely arrested him.  The US Supreme Court has ruled he filed way too late, that the clock on the 2-year time limit to sue for civil rights violations starts running at the time a person is arrested, not when he is exonerated.  It's a slap in the face of the wrongly convicted, and another 'attaboy' for the cops who beat a confession out of a kid.



WRONGLY CONVICTED COPS

Defense attorneys for James A. Kulbicki offered a string of alibi witnesses, and he flat-out said he didn't do it. He was, after all, a Baltimore police sergeant, and, he insisted, not a killer.  But a state police ballistics expert named Joseph Kopera helped convict the officer by saying that bullet fragments found in his truck and in his mistress' head could have come from his gun - testimony that is now being questioned.  Kopera recently killed himself after being confronted with evidence that he lied about his credentials.  Kublicki's attorneys challenged Kopera's findings and assertions in court papers filed a year earlier, arguing that the firearms examiner's testimony did not match his notes. And that was before they discovered that Kopera claimed to have degrees that he never earned.

False Allegations of Child Abuse

Researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill were taken aback at results of a radiology study looking into early brain development.  MRIs of normal, healthy infants found intracranial bleeds in 26% of the babies.  Intracranial bleeding, which can cause serious brain damage or even death, is one of the hallmark characteristics of Shaken Baby Syndrome.  Or is it?

Saying defense attorneys were ineffective, the Utah Supreme Court ordered a new trial Tuesday for a man convicted of fatally shaking his girlfriend's baby, who remained alive in a vegetative state for 12 years.  The court's decision focused on brain images of the boy, Luther Deem. A defense expert didn't see them until the morning of trial, and a judge said that person was unqualified to interpret them.  A fresh look at old evidence.

After being accused of shaking a baby boy to death last October, Cypress, CA neighborhood day-care operator Lorrie Mae Stoddard lost her livelihood, her standing in the community and many nights of sleep. 
Prosecutors told a judge there was no evidence to back up the charges and the case was dismissed.  Deputy Dist. Atty. Sonia Balleste said a recent, more in-depth brain analysis showed that 4-month-old Noah Samuel Gusto of Cypress did not die from being shaken and that he suffered two of three brain hemorrhages before Stoddard ever came in contact with him at the day-care center in her Cypress home.  No shaking happened.

Less than a month before Jamie and Ryan Page were to go on trial in Oshkosh, WI for homicide in the death of an infant for whom they provided day care, prosecutors have dismissed the charges.  The state continues to allege that the Pages caused the baby's death by shaking him, but says it can't prove which of them did the shaking.  Perhaps medical testimony in Audrey Edmunds' case (below) played a role.  Charges Dropped.

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: 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 SBS Diagnosis

UPDATE: 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 Flawed Science

UPDATE:  2/23/07 -
In tense, combative testimony, a medical witness for the state forcefully rejected recent studies that raise doubts about shaken baby syndrome.  The 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 Conviction

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 surface."
But That's More Than Simply Shaking, Doctor ...

UPDATE: 3/29/07 -
Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser has denied Audrey Edmunds a new trial.  What 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.




Link:
Bruce Mason
Imprisoned for an Electrical Fire

On a warm August night in 2004, Michael Espalin and his dog watched Riverside, CA firefighters douse seven burning palm trees on a residential street. It was 1 a.m., an unusual time to be walking a dog, or so thought an arson investigator.  After answering a number of questions, Espalin, then 31, was asked to rub his face and hands on a gauze pad and sent on his way.  Half a year later, Espalin was charged as a serial arsonist, accused of lighting 21 fires, mostly trees and bushes, in Riverside.  No eyewitnesses or traditional evidence linked Espalin to the crimes. But the Riverside County district attorney's office built a case against him based on a bloodhound allegedly picking up his scent on a charred incendiary device and cold crime scenes and matching it to the pad.  After Espalin spent two years in jail awaiting trial, a jury deadlocked 9 to 3 in January for acquittal. Most jurors did not believe that the bloodhound, Dakota, found Espalin's scent at the scene of the fires days and weeks after they were set.  Prosecutors say they intend to try Espalin a second time.


EYEWITNESS IDENTIFICATION

On the same day -- March 29, 2007 -- in Buffalo, NY and in St. Louis, MO, two innocent men were cleared of crimes in which the only evidence against them was their identification by the victims as the perpetrators.  The eyewitnesses were wrong.



Anthony Capozzi
Anthony Capozzi of Buffalo, NY, an innocent man who has been in prison for almost 22 years after being wrongly convicted of two Delaware Park rapes, was exonerated March 29, 2007 by DNA evidence — evidence that had been stored in a cabinet at Erie County Medical Center for as long as he has been behind bars.  Capozzi, who resembled Altemio Sanchez, identified through the same DNA testing as the perpetrator of the attacks, had been convicted based on the testimony of the rape victims, who had picked him out of police lineups.

Antonio Beavers
Antonio Beaver was convicted in 1997 in the carjacking of a woman near the St. Louis, MO Arch the year before. The robber, wielding a screwdriver, was stabbed during a struggle with the victim.  Blood inside her car was not Beaver's, according to recent DNA test results. Prosecutors said the sample had not been tested before trial because it was too small for the technology of the day.  Beaver's ordeal began when the carjacking victim described a man with a baseball cap and gap in his front teeth. Six days later, a St. Louis police officer noticed Beaver on the street and thought he fit the description. Beaver voluntarily participated in a line-up.  The victim picked him from among four men.

Could this man be the Blue Ridge parkway rapist?

Authorities in Nelson County, Virginia are investigating the circumstantial case against Michael Nicholaou, now dead by suicide, in a 1984 rape.   Edward Honaker was convicted of the rape and served 10 years in prison before his DNA exoneration.

"Folks, everybody is human, everybody is subject to making mistakes. A mistaken identity is what we are talking about here today." - Kenneth Farrar, Honaker's defense attorney, to jury at trial.
Michael Nicholaou
Michael Nicholaou
Brutal Assault, Mistaken Identity
A Life of Heroism and Violence

RECOMMENDED READING

Until You are Dead
Until You Are Dead
by Julian Sher

Until You Are Dead chronicles the loss of Canada’s innocence. Prior to June 11, 1959, Canadian parents could allow their children to play outdoors, unsupervised, in places children traditionally love: schoolyards, fields and nearby swimming holes. But on that hot summer day, when the body of a twelve-year-old girl turned up in a woody area near Clinton, Ontario, that innocence was shattered.  The girl’s name was Lynne Harper and she had been raped and murdered. The summer was barely over before a popular schoolboy named Steven Truscott, fourteen years old at the time, was tried, convicted and sentenced to hang. Truscott spent ten years in prison after the federal cabinet commuted his death sentence. He has always maintained his innocence.  His trial in 1959 was the most famous and controversial in Canadian history. As a producer at CBC TV’s the fifth estate, Julian Sher spent two years investigating the Steven Truscott story for an explosive documentary.

Click HERE to visit the book website.

Journey to Justice
Journey to Justice
by Dennis Frtiz

Dennis Fritz, who, along with Ron Williamson, was convicted of a murder he did not commit, tells the rest of the story begun by John Grisham in The Innocent Man.  Before his conviction, Dennis Fritz taught middle school science and coached football, basketball and track. Since his release, Dennis has been enjoying his freedom to the fullest. He is a spokesman for the Innocence Project at fundraising events and works first hand with inmates. He serves as a board member of the Coalition to Demolish the Death Penalty.

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.


TRUTH IN JUSTICE RADIO
As part of its educational outreach, Truth in Justice offers a series of radio programs aimed at alerting listeners to problems in the legal system that lead to the conviction of innocent people for crimes they did not commit.  Your hosts, Sheila Berry and Ira Robins, discuss issues that play significant roles in making, reversing and avoiding wrongful convictions.  Listen to Truth in Justice Radio.

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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