Truth in Justice Newsletter - October, 2003


After more than 20 years behind bars, Calvin Willis was set free Friday after DNA tests showed he did not rape a 10-year-old girl.  Louisiana does not compensate the wrongly convicted.   It's a slap in the face.

Steven A. Avery was a 23-year-old father of five, including 6-day-old twin boys, when he was arrested for rape in July 1985 at his rural Manitowoc County, Wisconsin  home.  As many as 16 witnesses eventually would say that Avery could not have been on the beach at the time. But the victim was sure Avery was the man who raped her; a jury found him guilty of sexual assault and attempted murder, and a judge sentenced him to 32 years in prison.   At long last, he's been cleared by DNA.


Jimmy "Spunk" Williams, 32, was freed from prison after 10 years when a woman recanted testimony identifying him as the man who raped her when she was 12 years old. He agreed Monday to a $750,000 settlement. The state also will pay about $84,600 in fees to two lawyers -- Ohio's largest award for wrongful conviction.
Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
Steven A. Avery was released from prison 18 years after being wrongly convicted.


In a plot twist few involved could have imagined, the Baltimore County state's attorney's office now believes the killer in the 1984 slaying has been hiding behind bars since a month after the crime.  Kirk Bloodsworth was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death. His sentence was overturned in 1987, but he was convicted again and given life without parole. After his pardon and release -- his was the first DNA exoneration in this country of someone who had been on death row -- a growing cadre of supporters urged Baltimore County prosecutors to use the same scientific technology to try to identify the true killer.


The State of North Carolina remained utterly determined to kill Henry Lee Hunt.  Since 1989, the state has had a sworn confession from one of the four men responsible for the murders for which Hunt was condemned, clearing Hunt of any involvement.  But it took until 2002 for the state to turn it over to Hunt's lawyers.   On September 13, 2003, North Carolina killed him.


IllinoisAt first, Verlie Hicks of Peoria, Illinois was frightened and confused when she was arrested, held naked in a mental health unit at the Peoria County Jail because she refused to remove braids from her hair, and falsely accused of burning a baby in her care with cigarettes. Now she's angry and is looking for a lawyer.  Guilty Until Proven Innocent

A woman convicted of killing her husband of 17 years was cleared yesterday after the Pima County Attorney's Office admitted its prosecutor intentionally withheld documents that could have helped her case. At the request of Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, Superior Court Judge Virginia Kelly dismissed Carolyn June Peak's case with prejudice, meaning she can never be tried for her husband's death. Dan White's Legacy

:  In Gaylord, MI, three men have been convicted, imprisoned and subsequently exonerated in the death of Jerry Tobias in 1986 -- all on the coached, perjured testimony of a mentally ill woman.  She committed crimes, faked her own kidnapping and had sex with a state trooper sent to "protect" her while in witness protection.  One member of the 3-judge Court of Appeals panel that overturned the first conviction charged the prosecutor -- now a judge -- and police with "severe and reprehensible misconduct".  The judge is still on the bench, the police retired with full pensions, the state paid millions to settle lawsuits by the wrongfully convicted men -- and still no one knows what really happened when Jerry Tobias died.  No Accountability, No Justice



Small wonder the DNA analysts at the Houston Police Crime Lab did such a poor job.  None of them were qualified by education and training to do their jobs.  The founder of the DNA lab, James Bolding, retired rather than be fired.  Among other things, he failed both algebra and geometry in college, though he later passed both, and he never took statistics.

Death and Justice

Since leaving the Los Angeles Police Department in disgrace after O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder, homicide detective Mark Fuhrman has evolved into a prolific author with a one-track mind.

Fuhrman's previous three books use the word "murder" in the title: Murder in Brentwood, Murder in Spokane and Murder in Greenwich. The new book does not use that word in the title, but murder is very much on Fuhrman's mind.

Death and Justice is a transformative book for Fuhrman and an important book for his considerable audience. He takes readers on his first-person journey from death-penalty advocate to death-penalty opponent, using Oklahoma City as his backdrop.

Click HERE for Steve Weinberg's review.


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Sheila and Doug Berry

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