Truth in Justice Newsletter
Wrongful Conviction News from June and July, 2008


RECENT CASES

Imagine this scenario: Your employer gives you a laptop computer that is a ticking time bomb full of child porn, and then you get fired, and then you get prosecuted as some kind of freak.  That's what happened to Massachusetts state employee Michael Fiola.  Now defense and prosecution computer experts agree that the laptop was running corrupted virus-protection software, and Fiola was hit by spammers and crackers bombarding its memory with images of incest and pre-teen porn not visible to the naked eye.

Since Fiola's employer, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA), provided him with the infected laptop in the first place, you'd expect an apology and an offer of reinstatement, right?  Wrong!  The DIA stands by the wrongs it has committed against Fiola.

A 54-year-old upstate New York man serving a murder sentence will get a new trial after DNA testing cast doubt on his 13-year-old conviction.  Sammy Swift was sentenced in 1995 to 20 years to life in state prison for the murder of Stephen DeLuca, who died five months after being beaten and left unconscious in his Auburn home during a robbery in April 1994. 

Raymond, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, spent four months in jail based on information that turned out to be false.  In charging documents related to a burglary from earlier in 2008, county police Detective Tate, wrote in an application for arrest warrant that Raymond H. Jonassen's fingerprints matched a set discovered at the crime scene.  In fact, there was no match, and the county crime lab never indicated a match.  It took another two weeks to dismiss the charge against Raymond.  Neither the county police nor the chief prosecutor see a problem in what happened.

In 1989, prosecutors in Prince Edward Island, Canada wedged Anthony Hanemaayer between a rock and a hard place, convincing that despite his innocence, he needed to plead guilty to a rape he did not commit in order to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison.  He took the deal, spent 2 years in prison, and has endured the stigma of a rapist since then.  And when notorious rapist/killer Paul Bernardo confessed to police and prosecutors in 2006 that he, not Anthony, had committed the crime, they didn't bother to tell Anthony.  If defense counsel in another case hadn't stumbled on it, Anthony still wouldn't know.

DNA testing, two confessions and a polygraph test all show that Patrick Leondos Waller did not commit the robbery, kidnapping and rape for which he was blamed more than 15 years ago, Dallas county prosecutors and defense attorney Gary Udashen agree.   Patrick has been exonerated and released from prison, the 18th Dallas County, Texas convict cleared by DNA.  But one of the victims refuses to believe Patrick is innocent.  That's how deeply witnesses can come to believe their own faulty identifications.


Robert Gonzales of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a mentally retarded man who falsely confessed to the slaying of an 11-year-old girl in 2005 has been released from jail after a national database matched DNA in the case to another man in custody for another crime.  His attorneys had long argued for his release, saying none of the more than 60 scientific tests of items seized as evidence connected him to the victim.

Timothy Cole died in prison of an asthma attack, at the age of 38. He proclaimed his innocence until his final days. But he left this world a convicted rapist.  Cole's loved ones never believed he kidnapped a fellow Texas Tech student from a church parking lot and raped her. They began to get confirmation a year ago, when they received a letter from Jerry Johnson, a man serving life in prison for two rape convictions, who said he was the rapist.   DNA  tests confirm it.  Now Timothy's family wants his name cleared.

During 18 years in prison, Robert McClendon of Columbus, Ohio has steadfastly denied the rape that put him there -- claims from a former drug dealer that few took seriously.  Now, he has a favorable DNA test.  The Ohio Innocence Project delivered the test results on July 22, 2008. The semen on the 10-year-old victim's underwear could not have come from McClendon.  But what happens next is unclear, and Robert is still in prison.

UPDATE:  August 11, 2008 -
Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Charles Schneider, citing the DNA test, freed Robert McClendon.  Prosecutors are expected to drop the charges within the next few weeks.  Free at last!

INNOCENT IMPRISONED

For almost 22 years, Robert Conway of Norristown, PA has proclaimed his innocence in the brutal stabbing murder of shopkeeper Michele Capitano.  The only evidence authorities had was testimony from a jailhouse snitch who claimed Robert confessed to him.  The commonwealth failed to identify a single droplet of Ms. Capitano's blood on Mr. Conway's person, clothing, shoes and pocket knife.  Now Robert is seeking DNA tests to prove his innocence.

It was a hot, humid August night in 1995 when two men entered E.T.'s Sandwiches Almighty Deli in Newark, NJ ordered "a corn beef sandwich with everything" and shot the owner dead.  Newark detectives quickly zeroed in on a suspect, Darrell Edwards, who lived in the neighborhood, and arrested him on Sept. 15, 1995 based on a "police-directed" identification of him by a heroin addict, who has since recanted.  After three mistrials, a jury convicted Edwards of store owner Errich Thomas' murder.  Now, DNA proves what Darrell has said all along:  he wasn't there.  The state, of course, is wrapped in denial and opposing a retrial.

Link:
Decade of Doubt
The teenager’s brutal 1997 murder shocked Fairbanks, Alaska. Four young men are serving decades for the crime. Yet, 10 years later, questions remain about the Hartman verdicts. Was justice served? This series presents the results of a six-year, independent investigation by a University of Alaska Fairbanks journalism professor and his students. The Daily News-Miner provided financial and editing support for this project.

William Dillon
What were you doing in 1981?  Had you even been born yet?  William Dillon of Brevard County, Florida started a life prison term that year for a crime he didn't commit.  His case had all the hallmarks of a wrongful conviction; now DNA confirms his innocence. 

Michael Morton of Georgetown, TX was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife, Christine, in August 1986. His attorneys are teaming up with the family of another murdered woman, Mildred McKinney, whose case remains unsolved, to file a federal lawsuit seeking DNA testing.  The DA, of course, is opposing their efforts.

HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS

In lieu of DNA evidence, exoneration is much tougher.  But that is just what innocence projects are facing, especially in states where there is no requirement to preserve DNA evidence.  Only 10% of the California Innocence Project's current cases are DNA cases.

DNA not preserved in half the states.  Evidence preservation has been the key to over 200 exonerations -- and numerous cold cases where the science had not been developed until more recently.  See where your state stands on this issue.




POLICE/PROSECUTOR MISCONDUCT

MarylandRaymond Jonassen, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, spent four months in jail based on information that turned out to be false.  In charging documents related to a burglary from earlier in 2008, county police Detective Tate, wrote in an application for arrest warrant that Raymond H. Jonassen's fingerprints matched a set discovered at the crime scene.  In fact, there was no match, and the county crime lab never indicated a match.  It took another two weeks to dismiss the charge against Raymond.  Neither the county police nor the chief prosecutor see a problem in what happened.  Business as usual.

False Allegations of Child Abuse

Shaken Baby Syndrome

More than 1,200 U.S. children are diagnosed with Shaken Baby Syndrome and one in four of those children die from it.  Dr. Michael Laposata of Boston, MA believes in cases of potential Shaken Baby Syndrome, the medical community should perform a whole battery of blood tests rather than performing the simplest or most common tests to be absolutely certain of whether there's been child abuse.   Too easy to play the hero.

Veronica Martinez Salcedo is a 38 year old nanny who was 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. While she waited to be retried, the father of the deceased child 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.  After another hung jury and mistrial -- with jurors voting 9 to 3 to acquit -- prosecutors have decided not to try Veronica a third time.

Harold Levy, author of The Charles Smith Blog, tells us: I recently retired from the Toronto Star where I have been reporting on Dr. Charles Randal Smith - a former pediatric pathologist at the Hospital for Sick Children - for the past six years. I intend, through this blog, to periodically report developments relating to Dr. Smith in the context of the on-going public inquiry, the on-going independent probe of cases he worked on between 1981 and 1991, and cases which have been launched, or will be launched in the civil courts.  I am currently researching a book on Dr. Smith and would appreciate hearing from anyone who can provide me with useful information.


JUNK SCIENCE

Wisconsin, Washington and South Dakota -- So FarSaami Shaibani often testified for the prosecution in big murder cases, taking the stand as an expert in what he called "injury mechanism analysis" — a combination of physics, trauma medicine and engineering that he used to determine whether, say, a woman fell down the stairs or was beaten.  But after years of helping lock up killers, Shaibani could be the one in trouble.  The physicist lied under oath about his credentials, and now some of the convictions he helped secure are in jeopardy. At least one has been overturned so far.  Resume-Padding comes home to roost.




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 Oregon and Tennessee, whose programs are undergoing reorganization). 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.



SLIDE PRESENTATION

Click HERE for our slide presentation, "The Truth About Wrongful Convictions."

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 1,500 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!


Back to Top

Truth in Justice

















Free Hit Counter
free hit counter