Truth in Justice
Wrongful Conviction News from June-July, 2007
Lackey of Wampsville, NY spent 3 years in prison for a rape that may
never have happened in the first place. The strongest evidence
against him was an unrecorded confession police claimed Lackey
made. But this was not a DNA exoneration. Rather, Judge Biagio
DiStefano vacated Lackey's conviction because his accuser's credibility
came into question. Just three months after Lackey was convicted,
she filed a false claim of rape, was convicted of false reporting and
did jail time herself.
December 2000, Henry Miller was at his sister's rural Louisiana home
recovering from a stroke that left him partially paralyzed, barely able
to speak and unfit for long travel. Until recently, Utah
prosecutors were convinced that despite the stroke, Miller had
journeyed to Salt Lake City, where he stole a woman's purse at
knifepoint in a convenience store parking lot. Miller spent 4 1/2 years
behind bars before he was freed because of newly gathered evidence that
supported his alibi.
Dake of Deerbrook, WI, who served nearly 10 years in prison for raping
a teenage girl before a judge freed him because he didn't get a fair
trial will not be tried again. Dake
was convicted of the sexual assault in 1997, a year after a 14-year-old
girl told investigators that Dake, a friend of her family who stayed in
her home occasionally, came home intoxicated and twice had sexual
intercourse with her over a two-week period. What the jury didn't
know was that the
girl's father had been charged with assaulting her two months before
The pending execution of Troy Anthony
Davis, scheduled to take place on July 17, 2007, is raising serious
questions about his guilt — and about the Newt Gingrich-era federal law
that has limited his appeals options and prevented him, say his
supporters, from getting a fair shake.
UPDATE: On July 16,
2007, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Troy Davis a
between the spot Peggy Hettrick was abducted and the Fort Collins,
Colorado field where her partially clad body was dumped, her killer
would have shed pieces of himself, mothlike. As he pulled her through
the grass that dark morning on Feb. 11, 1987, his skin cells could have
sloughed off onto her black coat. A strand of his hair could have
hooked onto her shoes. A sneeze could have dampened her blouse. This is
the law of forensic science: When two people come into contact, they
leave cells on each other. But in the Hettrick murder case, authorities
strayed from this law by losing some of these biological relics and
destroying evidence linked to a prominent doctor they never
investigated for the crime. In doing so, they may have covered the
killer's genetic tracks. This
happened in Fort Collins, where a detective clung to his belief that a
15-year-old boy committed the crime, despite no physical evidence. In a
county where prosecutors opposed saving DNA, let alone testing it. In a
state where the law doesn't create a duty to preserve forensic
innocent man, Tim Masters, goes to prison for life, and the real killer
Dallas County district attorney's office is looking into whether Clay
Chabot was unfairly convicted in the 1986 rape and murder of a Garland
woman after a recent DNA test connected another man to the crime.
Pabst was arrested on a capital murder charge on July 31, 2007, two
decades after he testified that Clay Chabot attacked Galua Crosby. Mr.
Chabot was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. DA
Craig Watkins said
Mr. Chabot, 48, could get a new trial. DNA does not link him to the
is from West Hartford, Connecticut, short, clumsy and mentally
impaired, with thick glasses and hearing aids in both ears, given to
telling the same stale jokes over and over. His nickname was Mr. Magoo.
He once was a dishwasher. He’s now a convict serving a life term for
rape and murder.
"They" are people who befriended him without knowing him: advocates for
the disabled, lawyers, writers, a detective, nurses, business people,
psychologists, teachers, perhaps 100 in all at different times, a core
group of perhaps 25. For years, many of them met every other Wednesday
at the Burger King in Wethersfield, Connecticut to plot strategy.
At last, they are taking his innocence claims back to court.
UPDATE: Judge calls LaPointe's
petition a waste of time.
only Roger Dean Gillispie knows for sure whether he kidnapped and raped
three Fairborn, Ohio area women in 1988. No physical evidence
tied him to the crime. He was convicted on the basis of
eyewitness identifications made two years after the crimes
occurred. His case illustrates the tough road for inmates who
insist they are innocent but cannot use DNA to prove it.
HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS
Making a Chew Toy of
Justice. James Ochoa of Los Angeles, CA was
20 years old when he was identified by two witnesses as the man who
committed a carjacking and robbery. The DA put him on trial, despite
of the fact that DNA from the carjacker's clothing had eliminated
Ochoa. After the first witness testified, the DA offered
Ochoa 2 years prison for a plea to second-degree robbery, and Judge
Robert Fitzgerald told Ochoa he would give him the max -- 16 years to
life -- if he was convicted. Ochoa took the plea deal, and served
almost half before the DNA was matched to another man convicted in a
similar carjacking/robbery. Ochoa has submitted a claim for
compensation, but the California Attorney General is opposing it,
claiming his clearly coerced guilty plea was voluntary, so he doesn't
New Evidence Law Too Tough? Three
years after felons were allowed to petition the Virginia Court of
Appeals with non-DNA evidence of innocence, few have done so, and none
has been found innocent. "The
criticism from the beginning was that the procedures were too
complicated and the hurdles too high," said Kent Willis, executive
director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. "While in
principal it was important to pass this bill, the practical effect was
groundbreaking study of the first 200 people cleared by DNA testing in
the U.S. identifies flaws that led to the wrongful convictions and to
the failures of appeals courts to detect and remedy them. The
author, Brandon L. Garrett, a professor at the University of Virginia
School of Law, said
the DNA exonerations provide an unprecedented opportunity to conduct
analyses on how things can go wrong despite the safeguards built into
the legal system to prevent and then correct such errors.
US District Judge Mark L. Wolf, in a rare rebuke to the US Justice
Department, has asked the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers to
launch disciplinary proceedings against a veteran federal prosecutor,
who withheld key evidence in a New England Mafia case from the early
Victim Wants Auerhahn Disbarred.
Manitoba, Canada There
has been intense scrutiny of cases handled by George Dangerfield, who
until his retirement was considered the most formidable prosecutor
toiling for Manitoba Justice. Since
his retirement, however, he has been dogged by allegations that some of
his most famous cases were miscarriages of justice. He was at the helm
of two confirmed wrongful convictions: James Driskell and Thomas
Sophonow. In both cases, judicial inquiries determined that Dangerfield
committed errors, and failed in his duty to disclose relevant evidence
to the defence. The
Hon. Roger Salhany, former justice of the Ontario Court, has
been retained to review the cases of former top Manitoba prosecutor
George Dangerfield. Prosecutorial
Misconduct Knows No Borders
Allegations of Child Abuse
what appears to be the largest sum of money ever awarded to people who
were wrongfully convicted, a judge today ordered the federal government
to pay $101.8 million to make amends for framing four men for a murder
they did not commit. Two
of the men died in prison after being falsely convicted in the 1965
gangland murder. Another, Peter Limone, spent 33 years in jail before
he was exonerated in 2001. The fourth, Joseph Salvati, spent 29 years
in prison. Justice
-- Better Late than Never.
judge on July 25, 2007 threw out an Oshkosh man 's 1995 conviction for
threatening to kill disgraced former Winnebago County District Attorney
Joseph Paulus after authorities agreed that a prosecutor withheld
important evidence and solicited false testimony from a key
prosecution of the case by former Outagamie County District Attorney
Vince Biskupic "is an example of really egregious conduct " by a
prosecutor, said an attorney for the man, Mark Price. Vindication.
Ohio. Lee Lucas has
had an extraordinary career as a DEA agent in Miami, in Bolivia, and
now in his hometown of Cleveland. He's gotten a lot of
convictions, but with "issues" like evidence tampering, beating
informants, suborning perjury and lying under oath himself. Lucas
dodged all the investigative bullets, until May of 2007. That's
when one of his informants, Jerrell Bray, told federal public
could fill a room with the innocent people I've helped Lucas put away."
Jerrell Bray said he wanted to come clean. But would anyone
The nightmare began for Rodger Jones of
Orlando, Florida in August of 2004, when his youngest daughter accused
him of molesting her, a charge Jones absolutely and unequivocally
denies. His first trial ended in a hung jury. Jones was
convicted at his second trial in 2005, a conviction that the Fifth
District Court of Appeals concluded rested on claims that Jones
committed more serious offenses in another jurisdiction -- claims that
were never charged, much less proven. When the Court of Appeals
reversed Jones' conviction, the Orange County judge continued to refuse
to allow Jones' release from prison. The Court of Appeals had to
order his release.
Jones, who is awaiting his third
trial on the same charges, tells us: "I am 54 years old and must
have been sleeping all those years not to realize that the trial courts
and the prosecutors in this country are so corrupt only looking for the
conviction and not the truth. The people of this country need to be
told about the state of affairs in the judicial system in this country.
Until this happened to me I thought that this country was a very good
country to live in. The people of this country need to vote to change
the system back to what our founding fathers wanted. Without the
knowledge of the broken system though people will not know to make the
Click HERE to
read the Court of Appeals decision.
|A Good Conviction
by Lew Weinstein
Imagine yourself in Sing Sing prison, convicted of a
murder you did not commit. How do you survive? How do you keep hope
alive that your life will ever again be anything but terror and pain?
Then it gets worse: you begin to suspect that the Manhattan prosecutor
who tried your case knew you were actually innocent.
A Good Conviction is fiction, but it is drawn from real-life cases
that, we are learning, are all too common.
Click HERE to
read a message from the author, Lew Weinstein.
Mistakes were Made (But Not by Me)
Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Harmful Acts
by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson
Why was it so hard for our President to
there were no
W.M.D.'s in Iraq or that Saddam had no links to Al Qaeda? Why is it so
difficult for some prosecutors and police officers to accept the
reality of a wrongful conviction? Answers to these and other questions
can be found in a new book by eminent social psychologists Carol Tavris
and Elliot Aronson. In Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We
Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts,
Tavris and Aronson explain that the reason why humans have so much
difficulty in admitting error is our need for self-justification, an
all too human tendency.
Click HERE to
read Prof. Steve Drizin's entire review of this important book.
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 Alaska).
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
part of its
educational outreach, Truth in Justice Radio is broadcast every Sunday
evening from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Central/11 p.m. to midnight Eastern, on
WTKM, 104.9 FM, 1540 AM and streaming live on the internet at http://wtkm.com/ Your hosts,
Berry and Ira Robins, discuss issues that play significant roles in
making, reversing and avoiding
for our slide presentation, "The Truth About Wrongful
The links pages at Truth in Justice are frequently updated. Be
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innocence claims and more. Start at
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