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.
FELIX RODRIGUEZ AND RUSSELL WEINBERGER
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.
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.
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.
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
|A LEGACY OF FREEDOM
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.
MEDICAL EXAMINER MALPRACTICE
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
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 MISCONDUCT . . . THE BEAT GOES
The new LA police chief, William Bratton, calls the original investigation
into police corruption "flawed" and has ordered an independent investigation.
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?
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.
|THE "OTHER" TRUTH IN 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
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
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Sheila and Doug Berry
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