Truth in Justice Newsletter - March, 2003

Two days after a fire broke out at Woodgrains Furniture in Albert Lea, MN, an insurance investigator removed an extension cord from the scene.  The female end of the cord was suspected to have caused the fire, but it disappeared.  Then owner Bryan Purdie was charged with arson and -- guess what -- insurance fraud.  But it was the insurance company that perpetrated the fraud, and after an exhaustive 26-month battle, the arson case has been dismissed.
Bryan Purdie

A 1981 Philadelphia, PA murder case is not unusual.  Two pair of men confessed to it.  The pair that didn't do it -- one spoke no English, the other has an IQ of 60 to 65 -- spent 20 years in prison for it.

Julius Ruffin
Over 21 years ago, a rape victim in Hampton Roads, VA saw Julius Ruffin on an elevator and insisted he was her attacker.  After two mistrials, he was convicted at a third trial and sentenced to five life terms.  Now he has been cleared by DNA.

You don't always get what you pay for.  When Diomedes Polonia was charged with robbery and attempted murder, he turned down a New York Legal Aid lawyer and paid $5,000 to a private attorney whose incompetence got Diomedes convicted.  Five years later, two young attorneys working pro bono have obtained his freedom.

The Missouri Supreme Court has overturned the convictions of Danny Wolfe, sentenced to death for a double murder six years ago near the Lake of the Ozarks. ``This court's confidence in the fairness of the trial and the reliability of Wolfe's conviction is seriously undermined,'' Judge Richard Teitelman wrote for the state's highest court, which reversed the convictions and ordered a new trial.


In 1999, Alan Yurko of Orlando, FL was convicted of shaking his 10-week-old son to death and sentenced to life without parole.  But the autopsy performed by Dr. Stashio Gore doesn't come close to minimum standard of care --  and Dr. Gore admits to all the bad science.  Yet Alan remains in prison.


Scientist Mary Jane Burton was devoted to her work in the Virginia Forensic Science Lab.  She "invented" rape kits and put them together for police use on her own time. When crime novelist Patricia Cornwell referred to "the lab", she mean Mary Jane Burton.  Mary Jane's habit of preserving a swatch of test material in case files was one of the practices that led to her forced retirement in 1990.  She died in 1999.  Since her death, two innocent men have been cleared of rapes they didn't commit because of the very practice her supervisors disapproved.  Mary Jane Burton's legacy is one of freedom and of hope.
DNA double helix

When James Andros, III, a veteran Atlantic City, NJ police officer, the son of a police captain, found his young wife dead, Medical Examiner Dr. Eliot Gross concluded she has been suffocated.  James was charged with murder.  He lost his job and his children, was vilified by the media and shunned by his neighbors.  But charges were dropped when it was discovered the ME botched the autopsy.  Now the NJ State Medical Examiner has disciplined Dr. Gross for professional incompetence.

A 77-year-old great-grandmother who spent a year in prison for a crime she didn't commit has won a $1.77 million malpractice suit against her attorney, who had advised that if she pleaded guilty not withstanding her claim of innocence she'd get probation.

police badge

California:  The new LA police chief, William Bratton, calls the original investigation into police corruption "flawed" and has ordered an independent investigation.  Rampart Redux

California:  A grand jury has indicted the San Francisco police chief, the assistant chief, two deputy chiefs and six police officers on charges of conspiring to obstruct justice.  West Coast Watergate?

Massachusetts: Eric Sarsfield of Marlborough spent 10 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit before DNA cleared him.  Now he's suing the police for $10M for their tactics.  Both he and the rape victim were Denied Justice.

Debbie Davis and Beth Albright are not your typical law students.  They already had careers -- Debbie as a registered nurse, Beth as an educator and counselor -- when they decided to study law at Northern Kentucky University's Salmon P. Chase School of Law. There they signed up for the Kentucky Innocence Project and helped free Herman May, who spent 13 years in prison for a rape he did not commit.  But they didn't stop there. Recognizing the difficulties faced by the wrongfully convicted trying to rejoin society after years in prison and the lack of resources available, they founded Truth in Justice Foundation. The Foundation provides grants for food, shelter, clothing, counseling, education, medical treatment and legal fees.  Help them help the innocent.  Truth in Justice Foundation

Debbie Davis, Herman May, Beth Albright
Debbie Davis, Herman May, Beth Albright


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


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Sheila and Doug Berry

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