Truth in Justice
Newsletter - October - November, 2006
Of note: All four of these exonerated men were misidentified by
victims and cleared by DNA.
Pendleton of Chicago, Illinois says, "I always knew I was innocent,"
although the woman who picked him out of a line up was certain he was
her assailant. His repeated requests for DNA testing went
while he served the first 10 years of his 100 year sentence for
U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow heard his plea and ordered DNA
testing. The results absolutely exclude Marlon as the
victim, however, remains convinced that she picked the right man.
In April 1981, a
Dallas woman was attacked and raped in her bedroom.
When police showed her photographs of potential suspects two days
later, she did not identify Fuller. Several
days later, police showed her a second group of photos. The photograph
of Fuller was the only one that appeared in both arrays. Although the
victim said her attacker did not have facial hair, and Fuller was
pictured with a full beard, she identified him and he was
arrested. Twenty-five years later, Fuller has been exonerated by
Nine years after he was convicted of rape and
and 11 years after his arrest, DNA tests have cleared Allen Coco's name
and record. The
38-year-old Louisiana man had insisted since his arrest in 1995 that he
innocent. The 28-year-old victim had chosen his picture from a photo
If not for a chance inventory of DNA samples
dust in a
Connecticut warehouse, Scott Fappiano might still be lifting weights in
prison. But after the samples were discovered by
Mr. Fappiano finally had the evidence he had sought for half of his
life. A New York State Supreme Court judge has vacated his conviction
the 1983 rape of a Brooklyn woman, after the tests showed he had not
committed the crime for which he spent more than two decades in
prison. “It’s the easiest thing in the world to
get into jail,” Mr. Fappiano said, “and the hardest thing in the world
to get out.”
In Chicago in
1997, June Siler mistakenly identified Robert Wilson as the man who
slashed her with a razor blade, after viewing a suggestive photo line
up and being told he had confessed. This is a chilling reminder
of how easy it is for police and prosecutors to manipulate a witness'
testimony. Now, June wants to make things right for Robert.
were summoned to the Bethlehem, NY home of Joan and Peter Porco in the
early hours of November 14, 2004, they found Peter hacked to death and
Joan terribly wounded. Det. Chris Bowdish felt he knew as soon as
he walked into the house that one of the two Porco sons, Jonathan or
Christopher, had to have been responsible. He asked Joan if
Jonathan had done it, and she shook her head "no." Then he asked
if Christopher did it, and he says she nodded "yes." There was
never any turning back after that; no other suspects were ever
considered, and the state built a single-minded case to convict
Christopher -- despite Joan's strong support of Christopher's innocence
and the irrelevance of a "head nod" as evidence of anything at all.
the morning of Sept. 19, 1992, a man
named Leonard Aquino
stood with another man in front of a building in
Woodside, NY. He was approached by a couple of men who spoke briefly,
opened fire. Mr. Aquino was killed; another man, Paul Peralta, was
shot, but survived. Mr.
Rivera's picture was
picked out of an array of photos by Mr. Peralta and
another witness, and in February 1993, five months after the shooting,
Mr. Rivera was charged with killing Mr. Aquino and shooting Mr.
Peralta. He was convicted in December 1995. The eyewitness now
says he did not see the killer long enough to identify him, and new
witnesses have come forward to assert that Mr. Rivera was not even
present at the scene of the crime.
were convinced that Michelle Moore-Bosko, a young Navy wife, was raped
and murdered by eight men in her small Norfolk apartment in 1997 while
her husband was away at sea. And five of them confessed. But
Bosko's apartment showed no signs of mass attack, and the DNA left
behind matched only one man: Omar A. Ballard, a convicted sex offender,
who gave details of the killing and said he acted alone. The
others who confessed -- Danial
Joseph J. Dick Jr., Derek E. Tice and Eric C. Wilson --
all Navy sailors, later recanted but were
convicted anyway, and three of them are serving life sentences.
UPDATE: Derek Tice wins
state habeas. Because
of one mistake by his lawyers, one of the men convicted
in the 1997 rape and murder of a young Navy wife could be set free, a
judge has found. The state, of course, says it will appeal and
wants Tice kept in prison while it does so. Click HERE to read
the judge's decision.
|DEATH PENALTY ISSUES
was hanged on February 10, 1956 in Quebec, Canada, for the murders of
three American hunters. Now the
Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted has
taken up the battle for Wilbert Coffin's exoneration, a battle that
gained momentum this year. In September, the federal justice
department's Criminal Conviction Review Group began poring over trial
records to determine if there are grounds for setting aside Coffin's
conviction or referring the case to an appeal court for review. The
review is expected to last about another year.
It's believed to be
the first time the government has considered reopening a murder case
HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS
Western Australia In
Western Australia, Andrew Mallard spent 12 years in prison for the
murder of a woman he had never met. His exoneration was historic,
of Public Prosecutions Robert Cock QC tagged him "the prime suspect''
despite dropping the wilful murder charge. Thanks to Cock's "last
tag," Mallard is locked out of shops, and mothers steer their children
away from him. No Different Down Under.
lawyer for Bill Conradt, a Chicago, IL man whose illegal arrest led to
more than eight
years behind bars pleaded with the Supreme Court to allow his
client to sue the police who arrested him. To
do otherwise, lawyer Kenneth Flaxman said, the justice system would
be saying, "It's just tough. You're seized for 8 1/2 years, and you
can't go to state court, and you can't go to federal court." But
all depends on whether the clock starts running on the statute of
limitations when the illegal arrest happens, or after you have been
exonerated. Don't Count on
WRONGLY CONVICTED COPS
APPEALS MURDER CONVICTION
The attorney for Laurie Bembenek has asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court
to overturn her 1982 conviction, arguing "there remains no more
evidence linking her to the murder."
The appeal contends new DNA and ballistics tests show Bembenek is
innocent in the 1981 slaying of her then- husband's ex-wife, Christine
Schultz of Milwaukee.
False Allegations of Child Abuse
It took egregious
misconduct by both
police and prosecutors to hold
together a case against teacher James Perry long enough for a jury to
convict him of molesting 2 kindergarteners in suburban Detroit's
Oakland County. Well, it was either deliberate misconduct or
folks really believe that "Harry Potter" and "The Lion King" are
"nonerotic pornography." If you need your hair curled, read the
following news reports:
days before he was to go on
trial for the shaking death of his infant son, Andy Houser of
Manchester, Tennessee was summoned
to his lawyer's office. Andy
Houser had been a murder defendant for
nearly two years. The allegation had already cost him heavily: his
marriage dissolved, a hoped-for career in law enforcement evaporated,
numerous friends abandoned him and strangers accusingly stared at him.
And his son was dead, a victim of shaken baby syndrome, police
Houser knew life could get worse. In three days, prosecutors planned to
spell out their explanation of how Ethan died at the hands of the
father. A forensic pathologist would testify that Ethan's small brain
was bruised on both sides and that clotted blood was present, a sign of
fresh injury. In addition, tiny blood vessels on the surface of the
baby's right eye had ruptured. Both are telltale signs of a shaken
attorney Robert Carter handed his puzzled client a piece of paper, a
fax from the
state medical examiner's office.
Near the top, in capital letters, were three powerful words, whose
force still reverberate strongly in Coffee County: "Amended Autopsy
adds horror to father's grief for his baby
Former FBI Agent
James Wedick, a superstar at the agency, is the latest casualty in the
war on terror. After viewing the interrogation tapes of Umer and Hamid
Hayat, Wedick, the G-man though and through, was stunned. He
immediately called the defense attorney and told him -- "it's the
sorriest interrogation, the sorriest confession, I've ever seen." As
hard as it was for him to criticize his former colleagues and his
beloved former employer, he felt compelled to testify for the defense,
the first such time he had ever opposed the agency. But, as Mark Araz
writes in his excellent story reposted here from the LA Times, the
judge refused to allow him to testify. Arax's story is not only a story
of two wrongful convictions
-- it is a powerful story of how the FBI has changed since 9/11.
Desperate to sniff out Al Qaeda cells, millions of dollars in taxpayer
money is being spent on investigations being led by rookie agents who
lack the expertise to lead them. Caution is being thrown to the wind,
procedures are being tossed out the window, civil liberties are being
trampled, all in the name of catching terrorists.
any jury trial begins in the United States, prospective
jurors are instructed that a defendant is presumed innocent. It’s up to
prosecutors to prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and the
potential jurors are asked if they can abide by that rule. Hamid Hayat’s
terrorism trial last year was no exception, and
the 12 jurors who heard the Lodi man’s case raised no objections to
jury rules. But the foreman who led them to a guilty verdict later said
publicly that it was better to risk convicting an innocent man than to
acquit a guilty man. It's Okay to Make
the Innocent Pay
April 2002, a Rapides Parish, Louisian grand jury
indicted Amanda Hypes on
charges of arson and murder in relation to a house fire that took the
lives of her three children. The charges were based on a
California fire expert's
findings—an analysis conducted more than a year after the blaze was
extinguished and the house was razed. Prosecutors said they would
demand the death penalty. Hypes
remained in jail
for more than four years awaiting trial
until June, 2006, when a judge dismissed the indictment and ordered her
released. He ruled that the initial arson finding by Louisiana
authorities was based "merely on an old wives' tale" and that "every
shred of evidence to prove or disprove a possible crime was destroyed
and placed in a pile."
|The Innocent Man
by John Grisham
nonfiction for the first time with The Innocent Man, a true tale about
murder and injustice in a small town. The Innocent Man chronicles the
story of Ron Williamson, how he was arrested and charged with a crime
he did not commit, how his case was (mis)handled and how an innocent
man was sent to death row. Grisham's first work of nonfiction is
shocking, disturbing, and enthralling--a must read for fiction and
Click HERE to
read review by Steve Weinberg, author of Harmful Error.
||Anything You Say
True Story Of One Man's Ordeal With A Derailed Murder Investigation
by Christopher DiStefano
suggest that approximately 10% of all
people convicted of committing a crime are factually innocent.
And 90% of those wrongfully convicted people pled guilty or no
contest. Why did they plead to something they didn't do?
This book can help you understand. It is the true story of a man
imprisoned for 6-1/2 years for a brutal murder he did not commit on the
basis of a false confession. The confession was ultimately thrown out
as involuntary. The case ended with a nolo contendere plea to
Involuntary Manslaughter and release on time served.
Click HERE to
read the review by Steve Drizin, expert on false confessions and
Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern
University School of Law.
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
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
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 1,300 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!
Sheila and Doug Berry