Wrongful Conviction News from June and July, 2008
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Allegations of Child Abuse
Jonassen, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, spent
four months in jail based on information that turned out to be
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.
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
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.
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
and South Dakota -- So Far. Saami
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
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.
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 Oregon and Tennessee, whose programs are undergoing
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
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!