"There is no crueler tyranny than that which is exercised under cover of law, and with the colors of justice ..."
- U.S. v. Jannotti, 673 F.2d 578, 614 (3d Cir. 1982)
Note: We add links to updates with the original news articles reporting police and/or prosecutor misconduct, so be sure to scroll down to check for "new news".
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The Open File
A website about prosecutorial misconduct & accountability.
Washington. There is one detective in Tacoma, WA who refused to reshape evidence (lie under oath) to help prosecutors convict a woman of crimes they could not prove -- most likely because she did not commit them. They turned their wrath on (now former) Pierce Co. Sheriff's Det. Mike Ames for following the rules and telling the truth. God help the honest cop.
Arizona. The Phoenix Fire Department's elite fire investigations unit, once lauded as the most successful arson squad in the country, is being investigated for allegations of misconduct. They made arrests in more than half of the fires they said were arson. The problem? They conducted shoddy, biased investigations that led to false arson findings, and the arrests of innocent people for crimes that never happened in the first place. Phoenix, AZ Arson Squad Questionable Arrests.
Louisiana. Following a stunning admission of intentional abuse decades ago at the hands of prosecutors — including one who became a judge and then landed in federal prison for his role in a judicial corruption scandal that rocked the Jefferson Parish courthouse — Reginald Adams walked free on May 12, 2014, exonerated after 34 years behind bars on a murder rap. Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro didn’t stop with a concession that Ronald Bodenheimer and another former prosecutor, Harold “Tookie” Gilbert Jr., deliberately hid a detailed police report in the case in two separate trials. Harry Connick's Legacy.
Virginia - with national implications. Wolfe v. Clarke is about a murder conviction and death sentence that unraveled under the force of the truth. It is a case about state prosecutors getting caught hiding exculpatory evidence, and getting scolded for it by the federal courts, and then violating the federal court order sanctioning them by threatening a witness and spoiling the retrial of a man they helped to wrongly convict. It is a case where prosecutors did all of this, right up to the brief they filed with the justices, without an evident shred of public contrition for their improper conduct. Will the US Supreme Court let them get away with it?
New York. Antoine Stone, a street preacher, in Far Rockaway, Queens, was shot to death on Sept. 10, 1994. Joan Purser-Gennace testified at Robert Jones' trial that she saw the killing from her second-story window, but she now insists that she could not identify the gunman. She said the detectives made threatening comments about her husband and children, and hinted that her immigration status could come into play. And when she tried to tell an assistant district attorney, Debra L. Pomodore, that she could not identify the gunman, she said Ms. Pomodore became enraged. “It was eating me up inside,” she told Justice Joseph A. Zayas, who will decide if Robert goes free, or remains in prison for a crime he did not commit. Police fed her lies.
Across the United States. ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms) agents use rogue tactics in storefront stings across the United States. Among other tactics, ATF agents used mentally disabled persons to "drum up business," opened drug and gun buying operations next to churches and schools, and encouraged burglary and theft with fake pawn shops that paid sky-high prices for stolen weapons. We pay for this, in every way possible.
Virginia. It is no source of pride in Culpeper County that two of the best-known trials ever held in the 140-year-old courthouse ended in wrongful capital murder convictions. Just last year, a federal judge cited prosecutorial and police misconduct in tossing out the conviction of Michael Wayne Hash, prompting Commonwealth’s Attorney Gary Close to resign out of concern that he had become a distraction to law enforcement. But distractions continue to this day at the courthouse, where the blunt-talking, gun-toting Megan R. Frederick, elected commonwealth’s attorney last November, is bitterly at odds with Sheriff Scott Jenkins., who was the lead investigator in the Hash case, and who was called out as a liar by U.S. District Judge James C. Turk. The good ol' boys are out to get the new prosecutor.
Washington. Recently retired PI Paul Henderson of Fremont, WA, has found evidence to exonerate 23 people. But wrongful convictions will continue, Henderson says, as long as police and prosecutors are not punished for them. “They should be held criminally responsible, in my view,” he says. “In the 23 exonerations I handled, some of them involved egregious misconduct, including police coercing witnesses into going along with a totally fabricated scenario of a murder. In a Pennsylvania case, the cops sat down like they were writing fiction and got three teenage kids to go along with the confession. But over the years not one cop or prosecutor in my cases who got caught red-handed making up stuff was ever charged with a crime. They were not even demoted. In fact, they are rewarded.
Wisconsin. Oshkosh, WI detective Phil Charley can't remember who told him to destroy all the DNA evidence in a rape case in which the defendant had already been chosen. It was 1991, Joe Paulus was DA and his best friend, Vince Biskupic, was Dep. DA. Another 13 years would pass before Paulus went to prison for taking bribes to fix cases, and Biskupic pretended not to know him. Joseph Frey was bagged for the rape and sentenced to 102 years. Then a clerk found a scrap of bedsheet that Det. Charley missed, one thing led to another, and not only was Frey cleared, but the actual rapist (who died in 2008) was identified. The Oshkosh Legacy.
Brooklyn, NY. Back in 1995, Asst. DA Michael Vecchione suborned perjury by Edwin Oliva against Jabbar Collins in the murder of a Brooklyn man by revoking his work release privileges, then restoring him when Oliva falsely testified. Sadly, it appears that CBS Television has become complicit in the corruption in the Brooklyn DA's office by promoting it in a reality series, "Brooklyn DA." The cat, however, is out of the bag.
Virginia: In 1990, police and prosecutors cooked up quite a murder charge against David Boyce of Newport News. A little police perjury here, a jailhouse snitch ready to sell his mother for a deal there, a pinch of withheld exculpatory evidence, and voila! you've convicted an innocent man with no real evidence. It helps, of course, that state judges, at all levels, acknowledged this mountain of evidence of egregious misconduct, but let the conviction stand. At long, long last, it landed in the court of Judge James R. Spencer, who has ordered Mr. Boyce to be freed. A ray of hope for an innocent man.
UPDATE: September 17, 2013 -- All charges against David Boyce have been dismissed by Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney Harvey L. Bryant, who determined there wasn't enough evidence to retry the case.
UPDATE: May 30, 2014 -- David Boyce sues Newport News, VA, police for $25 Million.
New York. In the wintry darkness in 1990 on a back street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a jewelry thief fleeing a botched robbery panicked and shot Hasidic Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger in the head. The “Slain Rabbi” was front-page tabloid news. Swaggering, cigar-chewing Detective Louis Scarcella soon arrested an unemployed printer named David Ranta. Mr. Ranta was convicted in May 1991 and sentenced to 37.5 years in maximum-security prison. He is almost certainly not guilty. Now Brooklyn DA Charles J. Hynes, after a lengthy investigation that uncovered some of the most egregious police misconduct on record, is asking the courts to set Mr. Ranta free. Apparently no consequences for Detective Scarcella.
Illinois. A Chicago Tribune investigation finds that Chicago police have long ignored voluntary standards for polygraph exams, even as those methods and the examiners themselves have factored into cases costing the city millions of dollars in damages. Polygraphs and false confessions in Chicago.
Related: How the polygraph works.
A Thumbnail Sketch of USDOJ"s "Public Integrity" Unit
On October 27, 2008, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, a pillar of the Senate for 40 years, was convicted of a seven-felony string of corruption charges -- found guilty of accepting a bonanza of home renovations and fancy trimmings from an oil executive and then lying about it. The conviction came just in time to cost him re-election. After all, who has more credibility, a convicted felon or an elite team of prosecutors brought together to ensure that elected officials maintain the highest level of integrity? As it turns out, it's the felon who is more credible. The hot-shot "Public Integrity" prosecutors hid evidence of Sen. Stevens' innocence in order to get a conviction. They acted no more honorably than cheating prosecutors all over the country, the kind that distraught citizens turn to the "Public Integrity" Unit to rein in.
Sentor Stevens was exonerated more than a year before he died in a plane crash on August 9, 2010. Six weeks later, Nicholas Marsh, one of the "Public Integrity" prosecutors, committed suicide. The official investigation of the USDOJ prosecutors continued at a snail's pace, and appears to be wrapping up with evidence of criminal misconduct that will go unpunished. Below are some highlights of the investigation, food for thought that leads inexorably to the question, If they can do this to a ranking U.S. Senator, what do they do to regular citizens?
December 23, 2008. A special agent with the FBI is accusing government prosecutors in the Ted Stevens case of intentionally withholding exculpatory evidence from Stevens' lawyers and scheming to conceal a witness from the defense team. Did the government cheat to convict the Senator?
February 14, 2009. An angry federal judge held Justice Department lawyers in contempt yesterday for failing to deliver documents to former senator Ted Stevens's legal team, as he had ordered. "That was a court order," U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan bellowed. "That wasn't a request. I didn't ask for them out of the kindness of your hearts. . . . Isn't the Department of Justice taking court orders seriously these days?" Judges rarely hold prosecutors in contempt. They're following in Mike Nifong's footsteps.
November 21, 2011. The lawyer investigating allegations of misconduct in the investigation and prosecution of the late Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is not recommending that any of the government's lawyers face criminal charges. Still, the special prosecutor's report, filed in the chambers of U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, revealed "systemic concealment" of favorable information that would have corroborated the former Republican senator’s defense that he did not knowingly file false Senate financial disclosure forms. They're getting off a lot lighter than their victim did.
Texas. The Texas Tribune analyzed 86 overturned convictions, finding that in nearly one quarter of those cases courts ruled that prosecutors made "mistakes" (actually, nearly always deliberate) that often contributed to the wrong outcome. Sadly, the people targeted for prosecution pay the price of prosecutors' misconduct; the prosecutors get off scot free.
Arizona. An Arizona ethics panel has disbarred Maricopa County's former top prosecutor for failed corruption investigations he and America's self-proclaimed "toughest" sheriff conducted, targeting officials who crossed them. A Local Version of the Ted Stevens prosecution.
Virginia. When Mike Hash was 15 years old, 74-year-old Thelma B. Scroggins was murdered in her Lignum, VA home. In 2001, despite any physical evidence connecting him to the crime, Mike was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. How did the State do it? By withholding evidence of Mike's innocence and presenting witnesses the prosecutor knew were lying. U.S. District Judge James C. Turk has reversed Mike's conviction and given the State 6 months to re-try or free him.
Texas. In Dallas, TX in 1994, Richard Ray Miles was convicted of murder and attempted murder. The only evidence against him was the testimony of the sole eyewitness, who was coerced into identifying him by both the investigating officer and the prosecutor. Centurion Ministries uncovered the truth, which has set him free. Miles' attorney is filing a complaint accusing then prosecutor Tom D'Amore of misconduct in office.
Louisiana. Juan Smith, of New Orleans, LA, was convicted of killing five people in 1995, when a group of men burst into a house in search of money and drugs. They ordered the occupants to lie down and opened fire. Mr. Smith was the only person tried for the killings. He was convicted based solely on the eyewitness testimony of a survivor, Larry Boatner. Prosecutors presented no DNA, fingerprints, weapons or other physical evidence. Mr. Boatner’s testimony proved sufficient, but it later emerged that an hour after the shootings, and again five days later, he was unable to identify any of the gunmen. The witness just did as the prosecutor told him to do.
Texas. The former prosecutors who tried Michael Morton for murder in 1987 — District Judge Ken Anderson and Round Rock lawyer Mike Davis — didn't mind hiding exculpatory evidence or keeping a serial killer on the street to kill again. Getting a conviction was their only goal. Now that Morton has been cleared, after a quarter century in prison, Anderson and Davis don't want to answer questions under oath about what they did to him. Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies.
UPDATE: April 19, 2013 -- Judge finds that Anderson hid evidence in Morton murder trial, orders former DA arrested.
California. Seventeen years after he was set up by police and prosecutors and convicted of a murder he didn't commit, Obie Anthony is free. Attorneys from the Northern California Innocence Project brought a state habeas petition, which was granted on the basis of the cumulative harm done by egregious prosecutorial misconduct. And while Mr. Anthony sat in prison, the real killer got away with murder.
North Carolina. Pity Durham County. First there was the fiasco of publicity hound Mike Nifong, eventually disbarred for his handling of the infamous "Duke LaCrosse Rape Case." An investigative series by the Charlotte News & Observer examines evidence that his successor, Tracey Cline, may be following in Nifong's footsteps, literally.
Missouri. Kenny Hulshof once excelled at asking tough questions in Missouri courtrooms. But did Hulshof push the rules to win? And in doing so, did he convict innocent people?
Maryland. In 1988, the centerpiece of the prosecution's murder case against William Ray -- in fact, the only physical evidence the state had -- was a baseball cap worn by the man who killed Baltimore restaurant owner George Prassos. But when Ray's defense team sought the cap for DNA testing, prosecutors say it has been lost. How convenient; how unbelievable.
North Carolina. The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission has decided unanimously that a three-judge panel should review the cases of Kenneth Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxsin. Both pled guilty to 2nd degree murder in the death of Walter Bowman of Fairview, NC, even though both maintained their innocence before and after their pleas. DNA results have excluded both men. Worse, convenience store surveillance tape that would have supported their alibis was taped over with footage from a soap opera while in the sheriff's department custody. The ghost of Rosemary Woods must be haunting the Buncombe County Sheriff's Department.
UPDATE: September 22, 2011 - Kenneth Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxson walked free when a panel of judges ruled they didn't kill a man during a home invasion despite their guilty pleas a decade earlier. They pled to avoid the death penalty.
Illinois. In Zion, IL, on Mother's Day in 2005, 8-year-old Laura Hobbs and her friend, 9-year-old Krystal Tobias, disappeared while bike riding. After searching all night, Laura's father, Jerry Hobbs, found them, stabbed to death. There followed a marathon, 48-hour police interrogation, after which it was announced that Jerry had confessed. It was a classic, coerced, false confession, but the media went with it. Nancy Grace called him "a monster." When the physical evidence -- DNA -- proved him innocent, the state took another 2 1/2 years to set him free and look for serial killer Jorge Torrez. How many lives did the coerced false confession cost?
California. Caramad Conley of San Francisco spent 18 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit because then-homicide investigator Earl Sanders, who would later become police chief, had stood by in court while the star prosecution witness, a paid snitch, lied under oath. Business as usual.
California. Only a tiny percentage of prosecutors who engaged in misconduct were disciplined by the State Bar of California during a 12-year period, according to a report released October 4, 2010. Among 707 cases between 1997 and 2009 in which courts explicitly determined that prosecutors had committed misconduct, only six prosecutors -- 0.8% -- were disciplined by the State Bar of California. Only 10 of the 4,741 disciplinary actions by the state bar during the same period involved prosecutors. "Preventable Error: A Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct 1997-2009," issued by the Innocence Project's Northern California chapter, was written by Kathleen Ridolfi and Maurice Possley, a visiting research fellow at the project. Possley won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting at the Chicago Tribune. Ridolfi is a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law. Click HERE to download the full report (pdf format).
North Carolina. SBI agent Duane Deaver will likely face a judge to explain why he shouldn't be sent to jail for making shifting explanations about criminal blood tests in the case of Greg Taylor, found innocent by the NC Innocence Inquiry Commission. The most likely question a judge will consider in Taylor's case is simple: Did Deaver lie to the commission in September 2009 about blood tests performed on Taylor's SUV in 1991. The answer should be obvious.
Missouri. A northwest Missouri judge has ordered all evidence thrown out in a decade-old murder case in which a former Kansas City attorney is accused of beating his law partner to death in their downtown office. This is some of the most egregious prosecutorial misconduct documented by a court in a long time. When the defense says "show me," the prosecution says "no."
Texas. Police in Richardson, Texas put a lot of effort into coercing a rape confession from deaf teenager Stephen Brodie back in 1990. Maybe that's why they continue to insist they had the right guy, even though the physical evidence tied the crime -- and 15 other rapes in the area -- to Robert Waterfield. Brodie spent 10 years in prison for the crime. He has now brought a petition to establish his innocence, based on Waterfield's fingerprint on the window of the victim's bedroom. The cops remain in denial.
UPDATE: Stephen Brodie was exonerated and freed on September 29, 2010.
Wisconsin. In response to the title of an article posted (below) just a few weeks ago, about the rarity of discipline for Wisconsin prosecutors, we can only add: "You're darn tootin'!" Both the Office of Lawyer Regulation and the Wisconsin Department of Justice determined in 2009 that it was neither unethical nor illegal for Calumet County DA Ken Kratz to send sexually charged text messages to the victim of a vicious domestic abuse case he was prosecuting. His conduct doesn't look so good in daylight. The rats who covered for him have deserted his sinking ship, but remember: The people now prosecuting Kratz are the same ones who covered for him.
UPDATE: Kratz resigned from his post as Calumet County DA on October 1, 2010.
New York. Prosecutors' failure to disclose that hypnosis was used to help a witness recover memories of alleged sex abuse as a child does not invalidate a defendant's guilty plea, a federal appeals court has ruled. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to grant the habeas petition sought by Jesse Friedman, who was seeking to undo his 1988 guilty plea in a molestation case that rocked Nassau County, N.Y., and became the subject of the documentary "Capturing the Friedmans." While the Court denied the appeal, the judges urged the Nassau DA to reopen the case. In the interest of justice.
Wisconsin. The Office of Lawyer Regulation has recommended that only three prosecutors be reprimanded since 2007 -- two public reprimands and one 90-day suspension. DAs rarely disciplined in Wisconsin.
New York. The trial judge should have caught this, but instead put his seal of approval on a coerced Alford plea by Rashjeem Richardson and sent him to prison for a knife attack someone else committed. Rochester prosecutors said four witnesses identified Mr. Richardson, when only one did so, and she retracted the next day because she had been drunk when she fingered him. When faced with a choice between a conviction and truth, prosecutors in Rochester choose a conviction.
Florida. Now that Anthony Caravella's conviction for the 1983 rape and murder of Ada Cox Jankowski has been tossed by DNA, officials there are forced to face the fact that now-retired Sheriff's Deputy Tony Fantigrassi 's real talent was extracting false confessions from innocent people. And then there's the crime lab. A legacy of corruption.
New Jersey. An assistant Camden County prosecutor accused of withholding evidence resigned yesterday after prosecutors agreed they never turned over all the information required when a Camden man charged with murder tried to prove his innocence. Harry Collins, who has been with the office for more than 15 years, resigned after the prosecution of Perman Pitman came under scrutiny. Pitman was freed last month shortly after officials discovered a handwritten note by Collins that said a witness had been paid to lie. "Please destroy this note."
Maryland. In Baltimore, Donnie Chestnut's trial was delayed 15 times. Small wonder. The state had no basis for the drug charges filed against him, and no justification for shooting him four times. He was acquitted -- and filed suit the same day.
North Carolina. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) agent Michael Deaver stands with a foot in each camp -- junk science and egregious police misconduct. He can take a great deal of credit for Greg Taylor's conviction for a crime he didn't commit, because Deaver selectively reported -- and testified to -- finding blood in Taylor's truck, when he knew that more sophisticated tests showed the substance wasn't blood at all. SBI Director Robin Pendergraft stands behind Deaver, but there is a growing call across the state: Re-examine Old Cases.
Colorado. So just what have cops and prosecutors in the Rocky Mountain State learned from the case of Tim Masters--a vulnerable kid targeted to clear a disturbing murder, railroaded through court and convicted on speculation and innuendo because there was no evidence against him? Douglas County Sheriff David Weaver and DA Carol Chambers give a resounding answer: Nothing, absolutely nothing.
Massachusetts. Frankly, we never thought we would see it happen. Between 1991 and 1993, Boston U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Auerhahn concealed evidence that might have cleared Vincent Ferrara and Pasquale Barone of murder charges. No big deal. Business as usual. In 2005, the USDOJ Office of Professional Responsibility found Auerhahn acted with "reckless disregard of discovery obligations," but all he "suffered" was a private reprimand. But Auerhahn's conduct has been referred to a state agency, and he'll face a 3-judge disciplinary panel. The Tide is Turning. Click HERE for the back story.
Illinois. A case that was about whether a convicted man is innocent has morphed into an increasingly personal brawl between two heavyweights unwilling to back down—with academics, prosecutors, freedom of the press advocates, and students hanging on the judge’s decision. The Professor and the Prosecutor.
Iowa. The U.S. Supreme Court announced late on January 4, 2010 that it had dismissed an important pending case over prosecutorial immunity after being alerted that the dispute had been settled. The action stops in its tracks a case that could have produced a landmark decision that many believed would have reined in the longstanding tradition that prosecutors cannot be held liable for their actions as prosecutors. Close call for crooked prosecutors.
More U.S. Federal Court. This time it's the federal court in Columbus, GA, where U.S. District Judge Clay D. Land issued a 19-page order harshly criticizing the U.S. Attorneys Offices for the Middle and Southern Districts for offering sweetheart deals to big-time drug dealers in order to fabricate a case against defense attorney J. Mark Shelnutt -- who was acquitted of all charges brought by the feds. Same song, east coast verse.
U.S. Federal Court. A federal judge on December 15, 2009 dismissed the entire criminal stock-options backdating case against two former Broadcom Corp. executives, concluding that the government's handling of the case "distorted the truth-finding process" and made a "mockery" of the defendants' due process rights. Before a courtroom packed with observers and other parties in the case, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney of Santa Ana, Calif., entered a judgment of acquittal for former Chief Financial Officer William Ruehle, who has been in trial since Oct. 23. Carney's decision was met at first with stunned silence. These prosecutors aren't used to losing or getting caught.
California. Ed Jagels, renowned as one of California's toughest district attorneys, built his career on the Kern County child molestation cases of the 1980s, putting more than two dozen men and women behind bars to serve decades-long sentences for abusing children. Appellate judges now say most of those crimes never happened. Since the late 1980s, all but one of 26 convictions Jagels secured have been reversed. Kern County has paid $9.56 million to settle state and federal suits brought by former defendants and their children. But he's retiring, leaving on his own terms, not held accountable for his actions. Why not? Because Kern County voters kept re-electing him.
Florida. William Dillon spent 27 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit based on fraudulent "evidence" from dog handler John Preston (discredited in 1984) and perjured "snitch" testimony from another jail inmate. Now that the snitch testified at a legislative hearing about how Brevard County detectives got him to lie under oath, the Brevard County Sheriff's Office reopened the homicide investigation. Isn't it a bit late?
Florida. Actually, all over the US, but the latest example of a wolverine prosecutor who gets convictions regardless of guilt is in Broward County, Florida -- Robert Carney. Of course, he's a judge now, and that's typical, too. A belt full of scalps qualifies prosecutors to move up to the bench and apply the same, twisted legal rationales to the cases tried by and before them. Congratulations, Judge Carney. Strike Four.
Wolverine prosecutors travel in packs. Robert Carney's successor, Carolyn McCann, launched a full-court (no pun intended) effort to assault the credibility of Edward Blake and his lab, Forensic Science Associates. Why? Blake not only found DNA in the Anthony Caravella case, but his tests cleared Caravella of rape and murder charges. In 2001, the Broward County Sheriff's crime lab "couldn't find" any DNA evidence. They travel in the same pack. Seek the truth? No. Protect the conviction.
Mississippi. Former Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Bobby DeLaughter, 55, has resigned his job and pled guilty to misleading authorities. His plea means he'll be spending a little over a year--18 months--in a federal prison, and he will lose his law license. He'll not have to answer for what he did to Cedric Willis. DeLaughter sent an innocent man to prison for the rest of his natural life, even though evidence was available to the contrary. DeLaughter is no victim.
California: As Michael Gressett waited for a jury verdict in a molestation trial, the Contra Costa County sex crimes prosecutor had what he called a "nooner," bringing a fellow prosecutor to his Martinez home for intercourse. What happened next, on May 8, 2008, is the subject of an explosive rape case brought by the state attorney general. It involves a gun and an ice pick, but rests on a simple question that Gressett often asks juries to decide: Was the sex consensual or forced? Do as I say, not as I do.
Illinois: A Cook County judge ordered a new trial for convicted murderer Victor Safforld on May 22, 2009 after finding three Chicago police detectives once supervised by disgraced former Cmdr. Jon Burge likely beat him into confessing. "... I have a more complete history of the behavior of these detectives," Circuit Judge Clayton J. Cranesaid. "That evidence is staggering. That evidence is damning."
Wisconsin: Records show that over the past four years, Michael Froehlich, the son of Outagamie County (Appleton) Circuit Judge Harold Froehlich, has been arrested more than a dozen times for allegedly making threatening phone calls, drunken-driving related offenses, resisting arrest, battery, false imprisonment and threatening a sheriff’s deputy. During that time, Froehlich has been criminally prosecuted just once — in 2008 — after he was caught driving drunk for the third time with a 0.361 percent blood-alcohol level, more than four times the legal limit. Is there a quid pro quo here between the judge and the DA? (See Morphing DNA, Disappearing Evidence.) There's just something fishy about it.
Virginia: A top state lawyer defending Virginia death sentences has been accused of misconduct by the Virginia State Bar, an agency of the Virginia Supreme Court. The Virginia State Bar alleges that Katherine Baldwin Burnett, senior assistant Virginia attorney general and director of the office's capital litigation unit, made false statements during a bar hearing in April 2006 and interfered with another lawyer's access to evidence. Scaring jurors into silence after the trial is over.
Illinois: When Johnny Savory was 14, Peoria, IL police and prosecutors used his coerced, false confession to convict him of murdering two of his friends. When he was re-tried, the state trotted out two prison snitches who claimed Johnny confessed the murders to them, and again got a conviction. The snitches have recanted, Johnny has been paroled, but he continues to seek his own exoneration and the real killer's identity. Hoping DNA will do it.
New York: Nineteen years ago, police in Huguenot, NY forced 17-year-old Kevin Keller to sign a confession to the murder of Elaine Ackerman. Kevin spent 18 months in jail before the local court suppressed the confession and threw out the state's shaky case. Then, in early 2009, a DNA cold hit was made, identifying James Babcock as Ms. Ackerman's rapist/killer. Will Keller finally clear his name?
Wisconsin: About 14 years ago, Dane County Assistant District Attorney John Norsetter allegedly got a call that attorneys for Ralph Armstrong say would've blown the murder case against their client apart — if only they'd known about it. A proposed rule pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court would require prosecutors who receive such explosive information to reveal it to the defense — and possibly to investigate it. The current Supreme Court rules for prosecutors require only that exculpatory evidence be turned over to the defense before trial. No more turning a blind eye.
ARMSTRONG UPDATES: 4/1/09 -- John Norsetter, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted Ralph Armstrong for the murder of UW-Madison student Charise Kamps in 1980, testified Wednesday that he didn’t recall until recently that he’d gotten a telephone call in the mid-1990s from a Texas woman who claimed Armstrong was innocent. "The only thing that I clearly remember is (saying) we convicted the right man," the now-retired prosecutor said. Armstrong Hearing, Day 1.
4/2/09 -- The 29-year-old murder case against Ralph Armstrong appeared in jeopardy Thursday after a judge found that a Dane County prosecutor failed to notify the defense of a reported confession by Armstrong’s brother in 1995. Reserve Circuit Court Judge Robert Kinney also found that Assistant District Attorney John Norsetter violated a court order in 2006, resulting in destruction of key DNA evidence. Armstrong Hearing, Day 2.
8/1/09 -- Ralph Armstrong’s long wait for freedom, four years after his conviction for the 1980 rape and murder of a UW-Madison student was overturned, came closer to an end Friday after a judge dismissed the charges against him. Reserve Judge Robert Kinney, of Rhinelander, said a Dane County prosecutor in 1995 should have told Armstrong’s attorneys about a reported confession to the murder of Charise Kamps by Armstrong’s brother. He also said a prosecutor-ordered test in 2006 caused the destruction of a semen stain on a piece of evidence that could have eliminated Armstrong as a suspect in Kamps’ murder. Is it really almost over?
Wisconsin: It was one of the most terrifying crimes ever to hit Kaukauna, WI, a community of 13,000. On June 25, 2000, Shanna Van Dyn Hoven, a 19-year-old UW-Madison student, was stabbed to death as she jogged by a quarry near her home about 6 p.m. Prosecutors said Kenneth Hudson stabbed Van Dyn Hoven, a stranger, in a fit of misplaced rage, and that they caught him red-handed, covered in her blood. Newly uncovered evidence, however, appears to support Hudson's contentions -- and raises more questions about the conduct of the police and the prosecutor, Vince Biskupic. Morphing DNA, Disappearing Evidence
Click HERE for full coverage of Wisconsin's Vince Biskupic money-for-leniency scandal.
Click HERE for more on Vince Biskupic's approach to cooking up a case.
California. As part of a criminal justice review unprecedented in county history, the Santa Clara County public defender's has launched a massive project to revisit 1,500 or more sexual assault convictions dating back two decades to determine whether innocent people may have been put behind bars. Members of Valley Medical Center's Sexual Assault Response Team have been videotaping examinations of patients since 1991, but prosecutors failed to inform defense attorneys in cases involving those patients that such critical evidence existed. Under pressure to answer for the failure, District Attorney Dolores Carr has since revealed there are 3,300 such tapes in existence, and this week she vowed to inform defense attorneys of each case involving a medical-exam videotape where a defendant was convicted. Better late than never.
Pennsylvania. For years, the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre, PA operated like a conveyor belt: Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses. The explanation, prosecutors say, was corruption on the bench. In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have pled guilty to taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers. $2.6 Million in Payoffs.
But that's just the beginning. The two former judges, now admitted felons, are cooperating with federal law enforcement officials as they continue their probe into corruption at the courthouse Conahan used to run. The U.S. Attorney's Office is, in fact, investigating possible case fixing in Luzerne County's uninsured and underinsured motorist cases and has been for some time. So you think it's just bad kids and adult criminals who were abused? Everybody suffers.
North Carolina. It used to be that all you needed for a conviction was a vague allegation of sexual abuse by a very young child and a signed confession by a day care worker. But jurors in Franklin, NC are picky. In Michael Bradley's case, they demanded actual evidence. All that the state could give them was the word of a detective who thinks he can tell in minutes if someone is guilty and will use harsh techniques against a timid person to coerce a conviction to a crime that may not have happened at all. Their verdict: Not Guilty.
California. Herbie Gonzalez of Los Angeles, CA spent 196 days in jail, framed by two sheriff's investigators, Katherine Gallagher and Randy Seymour, who didn't hesitate to perjure themselves to make murder, robbery and residential burglary charges stick. When Judge Cary Nishimoto dismissed the charges because Herbie's "confession" was clearly coerced, Detectives Gallagher and Seymour implied he got off on a "technicality." And when the real killer, Milton Gallardo, was identified by DNA, Gallagher and Seymour continued to claim that Herbie was "somehow" involved in the crime. Once you frame a suspect, never admit you are wrong.
Illinois. DNA evidence has been widely embraced over the last two decades as a powerful forensic tool to prove a defendant's guilt or innocence. But in Lake County, authorities have sometimes pressed for convictions even when the DNA doesn't match a suspect. When DNA evidence excluded a man convicted in the rape and battery of a 68-year-old woman, Mermel suggested the victim had consensual sex with someone else. When DNA evidence excluded Juan Rivera in the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl, Mermel and another prosecutor suggested that the girl may have been sexually active. The DNA, he said, was a "red herring." And, just recently, when lawyers for the man charged in the killing of his 8-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old friend said in court that DNA evidence from semen excluded him as the perpetrator, the Lake prosecutor had another explanation. Never let scientific facts stand in the way of a conviction.
UPDATE: December 10, 2011 - The Illinois Court of Appeals has not only reversed Juan Rivera's conviction, it has barred prosecutors from trying him again. Smelling the coming storm, Asst. State's Attorney Michael Mermel announced he will retire on January 1, 2012. A stinging rebuke to prosecutors, justice after a quarter century for Juan Rivera.
Illinois. At last, former Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge has been arrested. Burge or police officers who were under his command systematically tortured suspects to get confessions. The torture included suffocation, burns, electric shocks to the genitals, heads slammed with phone books and "games" of Russian roulette. But it's too late to charge Burge with torturing people. He's charged with lying about the torture.
Cook County Judge Dennis Dernbach is the last remaining defendant in the multi-million dollar lawsuits that four alleged torture victims brought against the city and county. The lawsuits claim murder confessions were coerced by former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his officers. He is being sued by Leroy Orange, a Death Row inmate who was pardoned and freed from prison by Gov. George Ryan in 2003. Orange accuses Dernbach, who was an assistant Cook County state’s attorney at the time, of coaching Orange’s confession. Orange also claims he told Dernbach he was tortured. Last man standing.
It doesn't get much more ironic. On the same day Jon Burge was arrested, former Cook County Judge Thomas Maloney died. He was the first—and remains the only—Cook County judge to be convicted of rigging murder cases for cash when he was found guilty in April 1993 of taking thousands of dollars to fix three separate murder trials and a fourth felony case. Not so tough on crime.
California. Contending that a top local prosecutor repeatedly sought to subvert justice, the state bar is recommending that Ben Field be suspended from practicing law for three years — a punishment that would represent an unheard of public discipline against a Santa Clara County deputy district attorney. Defense lawyer Jamie Harmon is facing trial in late October, 2008 on a 20-count state bar complaint, accusing her of neglecting the cases of some criminal defendants and misrepresenting what would happen to other clients if they pleaded guilty without going to trial. And the 6th District Court of Appeals has overturned several convictions in recent months after finding errors by Santa Clara County judges in their conduct of cases — including four cases in the past six months that were presided over by Judge Paul Bernal. Held accountable in Northern California.
UPDATE: A California State Bar Court appellate panel has upheld a four-year suspension for former Santa Clara County prosecutor Benjamin Field, despite an amicus curiae brief from the California District Attorneys Association warning of a chilling effect on prosecutions. Not Dissuaded.
Maryland. In at least nine homicide, sex assault and burglary cases, Baltimore police detectives instructed crime lab technicians not to follow up on convicted criminals' DNA found on evidence at crime scenes because they determined it was not relevant to their investigations. How tunnelvision works.
North Carolina. An all-white jury in Concord, NC convicted Ronnie Long of the rape of a prominent white widow -- the wife of a Cannon Mills executive -- in 1976, a crime Ronnie has always denied committing. His conviction was based on the victim's eyewitness identification of Ronnie. Now staff and attorneys with the NC Center on Actual Innocence have uncovered laboratory evidence that clears Ronnie -- evidence the state had all along and hid from Ronnie's defense for 32 years. The state cheated to keep a rapist free.
Maryland. Baltimore crime analysts have been contaminating evidence with their own DNA -- a revelation that led to the dismissal of the city Police Department's crime lab director and prompted questions from defense attorneys and forensic experts about the professionalism of the state's biggest and busiest crime lab. Baltimore police are talking out of both sides of their mouths, saying, 'Oh, it's not a problem at all,' and on the other hand they have fired the crime lab director. How did this lab get accreditation?
California. In Bakersfield, the crime lab is part of the DA's office. There is no "firewall" between the prosecution side and the science side of the office. This creates a conflict that recently moved prosecutor Nick Lackie to tell a jury, "So what?" This conflict issue has come to a head in a recent case in which a lawyer, Daniel Willsey, stands charged with causing the death of Joe Hudnall, a local deputy by driving under the influence of methamphetamine and causing Hudnall to crash. Defense attorneys have learned that testing of the defendant's blood was conducted by a lab analyst who is a close friend of the dead deputy's family. Cops in lab coats.
But wait -- there's more. When Daniel Willsey's defense attorneys went back to court to argue motions related to mishandling evidence by the DA office's crime lab, everyone got a big surprise. The crime lab had "inadvertently" destroyed the sample of Willsey's blood that the lab claimed tested positive for methamphetamines. Gosh, it's not like the DA wanted to make sure Willsey's defense attorneys can't have a private lab test the sample. Ooops -- Butterfingers.
Maryland. Raymond Jonassen, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, spent four months in jail based on information that turned out to be false. In charging documents related to a burglary from earlier in 2008, county police Detective Tate, wrote in an application for arrest warrant that Raymond H. Jonassen's fingerprints matched a set discovered at the crime scene. In fact, there was no match, and the county crime lab never indicated a match. It took another two weeks to dismiss the charge against Raymond. Neither the county police nor the chief prosecutor see a problem in what happened. Business as usual.
Prince Edward Island, Canada. In 1989, prosecutors wedged Anthony Hanemaayer between a rock and a hard place, convincing that despite his innocence, he needed to plead guilty to a rape he did not commit in order to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison. He took the deal, spent 2 years in prison, and has endured the stigma of a rapist since then. And when notorious rapist/killer Paul Bernardo confessed to police and prosecutors in 2006 that he, not Anthony, had committed the crime, they didn't bother to tell Anthony. Defense counsel in another case stumbled on it.
Illinois: In 1995, Alan Beaman of Normal, IL was convicted of murdering his former girlfriend, Jennifer Lockmiller, in 1993. The prosecutor, James Souk, didn't tell the jury about evidence that showed Alan was 140 miles away when Jennifer died, or that forensic evidence linked another man, not Alan, to the murder scene. Thirteen years later, the Illinois Supreme Court has reversed Alan's conviction, calling the evidence against him "tenuous." James Souk was rewarded for his misconduct in the usual way -- he's a judge now. The current county prosecutor, Bill Yoder, says he is "saddened for the family of Jennifer Lockmiller." Apparently Mr. Yoder thinks it is okay to let a killer go free, so long as somebody does the time. Career advancement at its typical
Ohio: In 1998, when he was 12 years old, Anthony Harris of New Philadelphia, OH was subjected to a brutal interrogation, then charged and convicted of the murder of Devan Duniver, who lived near Anthony. Two years later, an Ohio appeals court threw out the conviction, ruling that the interrogation was so coercive that Harris "had no choice but … to confess." Prosecutor Amanda Spies got mad and got even; when Anthony tried to enlist in the Marines, she told military officials he was a murderer. But vindictive conduct is not protected conduct. The 6th US Circuit Court has ruled that Anthony can sue the prosecutor.
Nevada: Roundly denouncing a Las Vegas federal prosecutor for withholding 650 pages of evidence potentially helpful to two lawyers charged in a stock fraud case, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld dismissal of all 64 charges and refused to allow a retrial. The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, not surprisingly, cleared Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Greg Damm of any misconduct, and did so without contacting defense attorneys. Conduct in flagrant disregard of the United States Constitution
Texas: The Dallas County district attorney who has built a national reputation on freeing the wrongfully convicted says prosecutors who intentionally withhold evidence should themselves face harsh sanctions – possibly even jail time. "Something should be done," said Craig Watkins, whose jurisdiction leads the nation in the number of DNA exonerations. "If the harm is a great harm, yes, it should be criminalized." Punish Unethical Prosecutors
Mississippi: The exonerations of Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks exposed the corrupt underbelly of rural and sparsely populated Noxubee County. But the corruption isn't limited to small towns with little outside oversight. Take a look at Jackson, where judges take money from prosecutors to guarantee "justice" and consider exonerations bad publicity. The Mississippi system.
Ohio: A judge dismissed aggravated murder charges against Arian S. O'Connor after Summit County prosecutors asserted that Youngstown police ''compromised'' ballistic evidence in the 2002 slaying for which O'Connor was charged. When they say "compromised," they mean "planted" evidence. That's fraud.
Pennsylvania: It took a Fayette County, PA jury just 25 minutes to figure out Bret Shallenberger was innocent of hiring a former employee to burn down Shallenberger's profitable business. It's the local prosecutor, who promised the actual arsonist immunity in exchange for framing Shallenberger, who should be on trial. Wrong Defendant
North Carolina: A day after Glen Edward Chapman was freed from death row, the State Bureau of Investigation agreed to review allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice against Dennis Rhoney. The former Hickory police detective led the 1992 double-murder investigation that resulted in Chapman's convictions. Ex-Cop Who Led Discredited Case Probed
California: A federal appeals court removed a controversial judge, U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real of Los Angeles, from another case, accusing him this time of "excessive and biased interventions" that denied two defendants a fair trial. Biased Judge
California: The Orange County case against James Ochoa for robbing three restaurant workers was tainted at every level: police misconduct in manipulating the victims' identification of James and misrepresenting the responses of a police tracking dog; efforts by the DA's office to bully crime lab scientists into lying about the DNA exclusion of James as the robber; and the inexcusable conduct of Judge Robert Fitzgerald in extorting a guilty plea from James by threatening him with life in prison.
In a rare series of real-time reports about the prosecution of James Ochoa, R. Scott Moxley told readers of the Orange County Weekly exactly which public servants were perverting justice and how they were doing it. As you read these, keep in mind that for the police, prosecutors and judge, business goes on as usual. Moreover, the DA is starting up his own crime lab, so he won't have to put up with scientists who refuse to lie about their findings.
Also see how the California Attorney General played games with James Ochoa's compensation: Making a Chew Toy of Justice
Alabama and the U.S.: Don Siegelman, former Democratic Governor of Alabama, has a lot in common with Georgia Thompson. Both were prosecuted for acts that were not crimes, by politically motivated U.S. Attorneys, at the behest of vengeful politicos highly placed in the Bush administration. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals tossed Thompson's conviction at the conclusion of oral argument, ordering her immediate release from prison. It has taken longer, but the foundation of lies and corruption underlying Siegelman's conviction is starting to crumble. Sadly, Bush and his cronies have turned the U.S. Department of Justice into a cadre of political operatives. Justice in Amerika.
South Dakota: Start with a 20-year-old cold case, two missing teenagers, and call their disappearance murder. Pick a suspect, a rapist serving a long prison term. Use a state psychologist to "help" the suspect's sister come up with "recovered memories" of seeing the missing teens at her family's farm. Recruit a seasoned snitch to get a confession on tape. Voila! You've got a conviction -- almost. Then someone noticed it wasn't the suspect's voice on the taped confession ...
Texas: After he was snared in a net of swirling controversies including an e-mail scandal and the high-profile indictment of a sitting Supreme Court justice followed by an immediate move to dismiss that case, Harris County (Houston), Texas, District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal resigned from office. It was a stunning reversal of fortunes.
In a press release, Rosenthal said prescription drugs had impaired his judgment. But it was what happened inside a southeast Houston home six years earlier that led to events in a federal courtroom and to Rosenthal's resignation. Erik and Sean Ibarra -- the power of common men.
Mississippi: The Innocence Project has asked the state to fill the long-vacant position of State Medical Examiner, and to stop using state pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne. Dr. Hayne's work lies at the heart of the wrongful convictions of Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks. His credentials and the results of his work have been solidly discredited for several years, but he is under no oversight because the State Medical Examiner position has been vacant for more than a decade. How many more wrongful convictions before the state acts responsibly?
But Dr. Steven Hayne is only half of the despicable duo. Forensic odontologist Dr. Michael West found "bite marks" no one else could see on the bodies of the little victims in both cases, and in both cases, testified that Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks were each guilty. "If you fabricate evidence in a capital murder case, where you know that if the person's convicted they are going to be executed -- as far as I'm concerned that's the crime of attempted murder,'' says Peter Neufeld. "He's a criminal."
Massachusetts: Stephan Cowans spent nearly seven of his 37 years of life behind bars, locked up for a crime he did not commit. Exonerated in January 2004, Cowans sued and ultimately received a $3.2 million settlement from the city of Boston in 2006. This past October (2007), he was shot dead in his Randolph home. Cowans never learned how, or why, he came to be blamed for the non-fatal shooting of Boston police officer Gregory Gallagher in 1997. Now, the Boston Phoenix has uncovered substantial new information about the Cowans case. These revelations are troubling, as they suggest that key members of the Boston Police Department (BPD) knew that Cowans was innocent, even as they forged the case to prosecute him. Incompetent--or Corrupt?
New York: New York state investigators are probing how police and prosecutors handled the 1988 bludgeoning and stabbing deaths of Seymour and Arlene Tankleff, whose son, Marty Tankleff, served 17 years in prison for their murders before being released in December, 2007. What Took So Long?
New York: A teen shooting suspect's quick decision to record his interrogation with a hidden MP3 device has played out as a perjury case against a veteran detective. Testifying at the trial of Erik Crespo in April, Detective Christopher Perino, 42, emphatically stated that he hadn't questioned the then-17-year-old about a Christmas Day 2005 shooting in The Bronx before the kid's mother and aunt showed up at the 44th Precinct station. But Crespo had secretly pressed record on his MP3 player - a small device used to download music from the Internet - hidden in his pocket and captured the bullying interrogation. "Testilying" vs. Tape.
Hawaii: A hard-won victory for the common man: Pinkerton v. KPD (Link)
Arizona: In a breathtaking abuse of the United States Constitution, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, and special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik, used the grand jury to subpoena "all documents related to articles and other content published by Phoenix New Times newspaper in print and on the Phoenix New Times website, regarding Sheriff Joe Arpaio from January 1, 2004 to the present." More alarming still, Arpaio, Thomas, and Wilenchik subpoenaed detailed information on anyone who has looked at the New Times Web site since 2004. Taking a Sledgehammer to the Constitution
Within hours of the Phoenix New Times blowing the whistle on Sheriff Arpaio, County Attorney Thomas and special prosecutor Wilenchik, the two top executives of the newspaper were arrested. By the next day, public outcry was such that the charges were dropped and Wilenchik was fired. Which leads to our question: Why are Sheriff Arpaio and County Attorney Thomas still in office?
North Carolina: A Durham, NC judge on October 8, 2007 dismissed murder and robbery charges first filed in 1993 against a mentally retarded defendant, ordering his release from a state hospital after 14 years in custody without a trial. Floyd Brown, a 43-year-old Anson County man with an IQ of 50, was charged in the robbery and beating death of 80-year-old Katherine Lynch in 1993. He was found at the time to be incompetent to stand trial, and has remained in state custody at Dorothea Dix Hospital ever since as prosecutors refused to drop the case against him. (Hey, wasn't Mike Nifong the Durham County DA?) The System Failed Him at Every Level.
Canada: The Supreme Court of Canada, in a 6-3 decision, has broken new legal ground by ruling suspects can sue police investigators for negligence in cases of shoddy detective work. In a judgment that said police officers are not immune from civil liability, the court set its eyes squarely on combating wrongful convictions and institutional racism, requiring police to face the same legal consequences as other professionals who fail in their public duties. Ruling Applies Across Canada.
Illinois: Not since club-swinging cops in baby-blue helmets chased demonstrators through clouds of pepper gas at the 1968 Democratic National Convention have Chicago police been so awash in trouble. Federal prosecutors have charged special operations officer Jerome Finnigan with planning the murder of another member of the unit to keep him from talking to the government. U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald has announced the federal government was stepping into the torture case, saying it would seek evidence of "perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice by members of the Chicago police department." It's political, it's cultural, it's systemic.
Wisconsin: Award-winning journalist Dee Hall of Madison, WI's Wisconsin State Journal has filed a stunning series on the prosecutorial misconduct of Dane County Asst. DA Paul Humphrey, as well as the response -- or lack of response -- of Wisconsin's Office of Lawyer Regulation to Humphrey's conduct in particular and prosecutorial misconduct in general.
Justice Demands Higher Standards
Wisconsin State Journal Editorial
A 1999 Classic - and Nothing has ChangedMichigan: Now that evidence points to serial rapist/killer Matthew Macon as the man who brutally raped and murdered Lansing (Michigan) Community College Prof. Carolyn Kronenberg, experts are taking a careful look at what police and prosecutors called Claude McCollum's "confession" to that murder. "It's shocking to me that this was enough to charge, and ultimately convict somebody," said Prof. Steve Drizin, one of the false confession experts who reviewed transcripts of the two-hour interview. Read it for yourself. Keep in mind that McCollum was excluded by DNA, and the state still called him a killer. McCollum Police Interview Questioned.
UPDATE: 9/22/07 - Ingham County DA Stuart Dunnings, III has joined Claude McCollum's lawyer in asking the Michigan Court of Appeals to grant Claude a new trial. According to the joint motion, Lansing Community College Police turned over a videotape which apparently showed that Claude was somewhere else on campus at the time of Carolyn Kronenburg's murder. Dunnings said if he knew in 2005 what he knows now, he would still prosecute Claude. Why wasn't the videotape turned over before trial?
UPDATE: 9/24/07 - The Michigan Court of Appeals has granted Claude McCollum a new trial.
UPDATE: 10/16/07 - Claude McCollum released on bail. State says he poses no danger to public. Translation: He's innocent.
UPDATE: 10/24/07 - Charges against McCollum dismissed
Pennsylvania: Sometimes justice happens in spite of the justice system. Sometimes it only happens when the people in the justice system get their noses rubbed in their messes. On 9/11/07, Lancaster County District Attorney Donald R. Totaro did the right thing by freeing Charles T. "Ted" Dubbs from a 12- to 40-year prison term in two sexual attacks he probably did not commit. Dubbs was sentenced in May 2002. Wilbur Cyrus Brown, a serial rapist who confessed to 13 other rapes, including one on the same jogging trail where Dubbs supposedly committed his crimes, confessed to those attacks in November. But Totaro had to spin things to portray his office as a well-oiled machine that immediately turned to fix an honest error when it came to their attention. That’s not what happened.
Wisconsin: In a three-year span, Milwaukee Police Department Sgt. Jason Mucha was accused at least 10 times of beating suspects, planting drugs or both - claims so similar that judges took notice. Mucha's record shows how an individual can be the subject of numerous misconduct allegations and continue to advance his career inside a department that lacks a reliable way to track problematic behavior. His story also shows how a single officer was instrumental in changing the way Wisconsin courts consider claims of police misconduct. Forceful Impact
Mississippi: Kennedy Brewer of Macon, Mississippi, a mildly retarded, Black defendant, was convicted of raping and killing a 3-year-old girl and sentenced to death in 1992. In 2002, he was cleared by DNA, but he wasn't released. He has spent the past 5 years in the local jail, awaiting retrial. Because you can bet, the local authorities plan to get another conviction and another death sentence. The Sheriff says he can't look for a DNA match because Mississippi doesn't have a DNA database -- which is news to the state's crime lab director. The prosecutor will bring back his star witness, dentist Dr. Michael West, whose bite mark testimony has been disproven by DNA in other cases, and who resigned from professional forensic dentistry groups to avoid expulsion. Prosecutors are so sure they're right about Kennedy's guilt that they're Willing to Bet His Life on It.
UPDATE: 2/9/08 - Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, both convicted of killing 3-year-old girls in Noxubee County, Mississippi, and both cleared by DNA, are slated to be released. What did it take to reach this point? Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood had to take the prosecutions of these murders away from the Noxubee County DA, something almost unheard of in the state's history. The Attorney General has charged Albert Johnson with the murders of both children.
California: A coalition of national nonprofit groups has asked the Justice Department to investigate and suspend FBI employee Danny Miller, who was found by a jury to have falsified evidence against Herman Atkins, a man who served 12 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence. Miller is in a position to continue doing harm to the innocent.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin Dept. of Justice special agent Greg Eggum put away a lot of people during the time he worked as an arson investigator for the state. It was the means he sometimes used that caused the problems -- forensic fraud, hiding and tampering with evidence, committing perjury -- and state agencies that should have investigated his conduct refused to do so. In 2006, Milwaukee investigative consultant Ira Robins asked the state supreme court to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Eggum's conduct. The state high court instead converted Robins' petition to an appeal in John Maloney's criminal case and dismissed it. Robins is back with a federal lawsuit detailing Eggum's misconduct and asking for a federal investigation. Click HERE to read the Complaint (pdf format).
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 defenders: "I 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 believe him?
Joshawa Webb won't answer the door. Joe Ward won't leave his room. Lowestco Ballard's wife had a miscarriage. And Geneva France is a ghost. Collateral damage when police become criminals.
Wisconsin. A 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 witness. The 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.
United States. The power, if not the arrogance, of prosecutors grated on Angela Davis throughout her 12 years at the D.C. Public Defender Service, three as its director. Now a law professor at American University, she has made a mission of exposing that power--on radio and TV and in a new book, Arbitrary Justice--with hopes of reining it in. Her beef is not so much with prosecutors breaking the rules, although plenty do. Davis' greater worry is all the behavior considered within bounds but outside any reasonable notion of fair play. Abuse at the early stages.
Massachusetts. In 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.
Colorado. Somewhere between the spot Peggy Hettrick was abducted and the Fort Collins 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 evidence. The result: An innocent man goes to prison for life, and the real killer moves on. Tim Masters is the innocent man.
UPDATE: January 3, 2008: Innocence Bid Gets Boost. Fort Collins, CO authorities violated evidence-discovery rules when they withheld expert opinions that conflicted with their theory that a 15-year-old Tim Masters murdered Peggy Hettrick in 1987, according to special prosecutors.
UPDATE: January 22, 2008: Tim Masters released and his conviction vacated. DNA excludes Masters and points to another suspect.
UPDATE: September 9, 2008: Prosecutors in Tim Masters case get public censure for their misconduct. Both Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair are judges now, and this isn't Gilmore's first censure for prosecutor misconduct. Nonetheless, they are expected to be easily re-elected in 2010 -- assuming anyone runs against either of them -- because the public has such a short span of attention, and the voters don't really care.
UPDATE: July 30, 2010: Murder conviction was built on cop's lies. Lt. Jim Broderick, one of the lead investigators in the case against Masters, appeared before specially appointed Judge James Hartmann in a hearing that lasted about 12 minutes. Broderick listened to the perjury charges against him but waived his right to hear a formal reading of the indictment. He did not enter a plea. He is scheduled to be back in court for a status conference September 28, 2010.
Massachusetts Chief 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, Jeffrey Auerhahn, who withheld key evidence in a New England Mafia case from the early 1990s. His Victim Wants Auerhahn Disbarred. Click HERE for the back story.
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
Michigan After a house burned down on Bay-Arenac County Line Road near Bay City, MI, Pinconning-Fraser Fire officials called Michigan State Police fire investigator Jeffrey Wallace to the scene. They suspected arson, they told him. And when Wallace showed up with his arson dog named Cops and produced evidence that accelerants fueled the blaze, they had all the evidence needed to bring charges - against Wallace. That's because local firefighters intentionally ignited the abandoned structure - without using any accelerant - in a ''sting'' on Wallace executed in conjunction with Michigan State Police and other agencies. Faking Your Way to Glory.
Wisconsin: The trend of prosecuting non-criminal conduct has spread from New York, where former U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani initiated it, to the heartland. In Wisconsin, Georgia Thompson was a civil service employee when she was convicted of fraud, after being accused of steering a state travel contract to a firm whose top officials were major campaign contributors to Gov. Doyle. Never mind that she knew nothing about the campaign contributions and was just trying to save the state money. In a stunning and extremely rare move, a 3-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals acquitted Thompson at the conclusion of oral arguments on April 5, 2007, and ordered her immediate release from prison.
Not a politically motivated prosecution? Not a thinly veiled attempt by U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic to wound a sitting (Democrat) governor in the heat of an election? If not, then why was Thompson repeatedly offered deals, even after she was convicted, if she would "talk about higher-ups." Of course it was. And an innocent woman was Caught in a Political Squeeze Play.
UPDATE: 9/12/07 - The federal case against Georgia Thompson is long dead, and she is back to work in her state job. But questions about the feds' failed prosecution of Thompson just won't go away. And with good reason. Questions on Thompson case won't quit.
from Liestoppers Blog
"An amazing performance of journalism on the fly."
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Wisconsin: Prosecutors retrying a 1980 murder charge against Ralph Armstrong in Madison, WI cannot use the results of a DNA test on a key piece of evidence because the results were obtained in violation of a court order, a judge has ruled. Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser said the state acted in "bad faith" when it went ahead with the testing without notifying the defense and, in the process, used up the material - in violation of the judge's order. Bad Faith.
UPDATE - 4/25/08: Now we know why the state violated a court order to test -- and use up -- key evidence. The state, and specifically, Assistant DA John Norsetter, has known for 13 years that Ralph Armstrong's brother confessed to the crime of which Ralph was convicted. Norsetter, who retired from the office last year, allegedly not only failed to investigate or notify Armstrong’s defense attorneys of this confession, he subsequently ordered a test that destroyed evidence that could have established Steve Armstrong’s guilt. Worse Than Bad Faith
North Carolina: Durham County DA Mike Nifong has made himself the national poster boy for prosecutorial misconduct by his handling of rape allegations against Duke University lacrosse players. Nifong made inflammatory comments about the accused to the media, withheld exculpatory evidence, and continued to pursue convictions long after it was obvious the defendants are innocent. Why did he do it? He was running for election, and as Nifong himself said, 'I'm getting a million dollars of free advertisements.'
Texas: In deciding Ex Parte James S. Masonheimer, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that Taylor County prosecutors (including now Judge Robert Harper) intentionally withheld exculpatory evidence with the specific intent to avoid an acquittal on three separate occasions. The CCA granted Mr. Masonheimer double jeopardy relief stating this prosecutorial misconduct met the Oregon v. Kennedy standard. Third Trial Barred.
New York: Bruce Mason was convicted of arson and other charges in a federal bench trial in Binghamton, New York before the Hon. Thomas J. McAvoy. Although government and insurance fire investigators found no evidence of arson at the fire scene (i.e., no accelerant, no incendiary device), the record shows these experts devised a physically impossible arson scenario, and ignored, destroyed, suppressed, or lied about evidence which disproved it. When this wasn't enough to win the conviction, authorities fabricated a witness. Link: Bruce Mason
Texas: The Dallas County, TX district attorney's office has acknowledged that prosecutors illegally withheld evidence that might have saved a man from a 1983 rape conviction and 10 years in prison. Newly discovered evidence amassed by attorneys for James Curtis Giles "strongly suggests" that he was misidentified as one of three men involved in the gang rape, prosecutors said. They said his conviction should be overturned, but stopped short of declaring Mr. Giles innocent. Instead, they asked state District Judge Robert Francis for additional time to investigate Mr. Giles' claim that a man with a nearly identical name was the true rapist. What's in a Name?
Similar: Kerry Sanders was whisked from Los Angeles, CA to prison in Stormville, NY when he was mistaken for fugitive Robert Sanders. For 2 years, no one would listen when he insisted, "My Name is Not Robert."
New York: Following a "trend" begun by former US Attorney (now a presidential hopeful) Rudy Giuliani, criminalizing non-criminal conduct, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Michael J. Garcia went after David Finnerty and 14 other NY Stock Exchange floor specialists for "interpositioning." Interpositioning means that instead of matching pending buy and sell orders, the specialists repeatedly trade for their company's proprietary account, making a profit from the slight differences in pricing. The government said Finnerty cheated customers out of $4.5 million. Judge Denny Chin overturned a jury's guilty verdict, however, concluding that no one was defrauded of any money and that interpositioning is not a crime. A Page from The Tyranny of Good Intentions
Minnesota: Minnesota prosecutors, the people accustomed to dishing out punishment, have found themselves on the receiving end of two recent state Supreme Court decisions that targeted improper closing arguments and other out-of-bounds trial behavior. Prosecutors are bristling over the decisions, but many defense lawyers and legal experts think it's about time that courts stop warning prosecutors about misconduct and start doing something to stop it. Crackdown on Prosecutor Misconduct
Nebraska: Matt Livers of Murdoch, Nebraska, the latest false confessor to a murder, was set free after evidence that two other persons committed the crime surfaced. The State's own expert agreed with the findings of the defense expert that Livers was mentally retarded, vulnerable to the tactics used by the police, and the confession was almost certainly false. Still to be explained are findings in the car police said Matt drove the night of the murders. Interestingly, no DNA is found in the car on first inspection. It is only on second inspection, using a wet swab, that the DNA is found, in the only area searched. Meet Matt Livers.
Vermont: In Burlington, VT, District Court Judge Michael Kupersmith has had it with police who violate suspects' rights willingly and repeatedly by ignoring the precept of reciting a Miranda warning. "It's unfortunate that in this country there are people who believe that the rules do not apply to the executive branch, and they do; and the courts are here to enforce that," says Judge Kupersmith. "At least," he continued, his voice rising, "these courts are." Sidestepping Miranda.
California: A Huntington Beach police officer's exoneration for planting a loaded gun in a suspect's car has led to the revelation that police routinely plant evidence in unsuspecting civilians' vehicles for training exercises. Police admit planting evidence.
Illinois: In Chicago in 1997, June Siler mistakenly identified Robert Wilson as the man who slashed her wish 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 says, "I have to make this right."
Michigan: 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 these folks really believe that "Harry Potter" and "The Lion King" are "nonerotic pornography." If you need your hair curled, read the following news reports:
Lawyer seeks new trial or dismissal of chargesNorth Carolina: The Robeson County District Attorney has had to dismiss 180 drug cases because a state and federal investigation has led to corruption charges against former drug enforcement deputies. Three of those deputies — Roger Taylor, C.T. Strickland and Steven Lovin — have been charged in a 10-count federal indictment. The indictment alleges that they burned two homes and a business, assaulted people, paid informants with drugs, and stole and laundered public money. Power Corrupts
Conviction in sex case doesn't pass the smell test
Judge reviews assault case
Judge frees teacher in sex abuse case
Perry's jury, too, was railroaded
Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca is no stranger to prosecutorial misconduct
South Carolina: An investigation by The Post and Courier (Charleston) uncovered endemic failures in the state's system for tracking police officers that allow problem cops to keep their badges despite histories of misconduct and even criminal behavior. Systemic Failure
New Jersey: Superior Court Judge Wilbur Mathesius thinks two N.J. Supreme Court justices are too prejudiced against him to be objective when they review the 6-month suspension Mathesius caught for, among other things, berating a jury for acquitting a defendant of illegal handgun possession; talking ex parte to jurors in the midst of deliberations in a murder case; making derogatory comments, some in public, about appellate judges; and gratuitous remarks that show bias about cases or defendants. Can't They Take a Joke?
Texas: The Bexar County district attorney's investigation into the possibly wrongful execution of Ruben Cantu had barely started early in 2006, but already DA investigators were scoffing at the three witnesses who contend Texas sent an innocent man named Ruben Cantu to his death. The DA denies bias.
Ohio: According to appeals court decisions, at least three men could be on death row because Cleveland's former star prosecutor Carmen Marino hid evidence. Three others had murder convictions set aside, one because of what an appeals court called Marino's "highly improper and highly prejudicial" conduct. The others, because he hid key evidence or lied about secret deals with jailed witnesses. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Daniel Gaul said Marino should be criminally prosecuted for the abuses. How Many Other Marinos are out there?
Missouri: Sandra Kemper, a suspect in an alleged arson that took the life of her son, denied nine times that she had anything to do with the fire. Then the St. Louis County police detective resorted to one of the oldest tricks in the book -- he told Kemper that she had failed a lie detector test. Later that day, Kemper admitted that she set the fire to get out from under the burden of being the sole provider to her family and to collect insurance proceeds. But the confession did not fit the facts of the crime, the motive evidence was weak, and Sandra had passed the lie detector test with flying colors. The trial judge declared a mistrial on issues related to the polygraph, and Missouri's high court has now ruled that Sandra cannot be retried. Police Lies Backfired.
Florida: Florida correctional officials -- already facing a surge of unwelcome scrutiny in the wake of the forced resignation of former commissioner James Crosby, nine firings of high ranking officials by Crosby’s successor, and the release of a videotape showing the fatal beating of a fourteen year old boy -- have been put on notice by former inmate Thomas Craig: I know where the bodies are buried. Payback Time.
Wisconsin: Two years after Winnebago County DA Joe Paulus pled guilty to taking bribes to fix cases, his iron-fisted approach is still practiced by local politicos. The Legacy of Joe Paulus Lives On.
Get the straight skinny on corruption in the Wisconsin legal system.
Illinois: In 1994, Chicago cops used a "reverse lineup" (in which a suspect is asked to identify his victims), along with threats and physical abuse, to coerce 17-year-old Lafonso Rollins into confessing to the rape of an elderly woman. He was convicted and sentenced to 75 years prison, but he was freed in 2004 when DNA proved his innocence. He sued. Discovery in his civil suit disclosed that the police crime lab had excluded him based on blood type before Rollins was ever tried. Oops. The great teamwork cost the city $9 million. Cops & Crime Lab, Working Together
Florida: With the help of testimony from convicted murderer Clarence Zacke, Brevard County prosecutors sent Wilton Dedge to prison for 22 years for a crime he did not commit. In December, 2005, Zacke was sentenced to life in prison for raping his adopted daughter 30 years earlier. Now, Dedge's attorneys are calling for an investigation of the state attorney's office after learning during Zacke's rape trial that the child-rape allegations were the subject of a grand jury investigation before Dedge's trial in 1984. Hidden Dirt, Hidden Deals
New York: A former FBI agent helped set up the 1992 shotgun murder of a Brooklyn mobster, a federal civil suit filed by the gangster's widow charges. The agent, Lindley DeVecchio, pulled a surveillance team shortly before the rubout of Nicholas Grancio as a favor to Mafia capo Gregory Scarpa Sr. - DeVecchio's secret informant, the suit contends. It's Nothing Personal; It's Just Business
New York: A Long Island, N.Y., judge has been arrested and charged by federal prosecutors with participating in a money laundering and fencing scheme with a suspected organized crime associate. According to a 71-page complaint unsealed Tuesday by the Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney's Office, Nassau County District Court Judge David Gross helped an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent posing as a stolen diamond trafficker unload merchandise as well as launder about $130,000 in illicit funds. A Cut in the Action
Tennessee: Two more former Campbell County sheriff's officers have been sentenced to prison for the beating and torture of a suspected drug dealer. The officers claimed they went to Lester Siler's home to serve a probation violation warrant, but in fact they tortured him, demanding drugs and money. And Siler's wife tape recorded it. Taped Interrogation
Illinois: In October, 2004, Kevin Fox of Wilmington, Illinos was arrested following a 14-hour interrogation in which investigators said he confessed to molesting and murdering his 3-year-old daughter Riley in June of the same year. The prosecutor, just days away from a hotly contested re-election bid that he ended up losing, vowed to seek the death penalty. A sheriff's officer called the FBI Lab at Quantico, Virginia in November and told them to stop working on DNA evidence sent there for analysis. Kevin's attorney convinced the new prosecutor to send the evidence to a private lab for testing, and the DNA test results "absolutely" exclude Kevin. Charges that could have led to his execution have been dropped. Riley's killer remains free. Political Overkill
UPDATE: 5/28/10 - Riley Fox's killer, identified by DNA as Scott Wayne Eby, has been charged with abducting the 3-year-old from her own bed, raping and murdering her. After putting the Fox family through hell with the bogus charges against Kevin, then losing a $15.5 Million lawsuit for malicious prosecution, Will County Sheriff Paul Kaupas has apologized to the Foxes. Well, sort of. He had a spokesman do it on his behalf. So Little, So Late.
Virginia: Cisco A. Olavarria was almost 1,000 miles away when 14-year-old LaBrian Harris was shot dead in South Richmond in the fall of 2004. Eleven days after the Oct. 16 shooting, Richmond police publicly named Olavarria, then 19, as a suspected accomplice in the killing and distributed his driver's license photo to the news media. Early the next month, a special grand jury began meeting over an intensive investigation by Virginia State Police into the killing of Olavarria's older brother, Santanna, by two Richmond police officers the preceding spring. It's Time to Set the Record Straight
UPDATE: Patrolman, ex-partner indicted in Santanna Olavarria's murder.
California: Kern County DA Ed Jagels put two dozen innocent people behind bars on charges that they molested their own kids -- while ignoring evidence that his friends were throwing orgies with teenage boys. So why is one of America's most reckless prosecutors still in power? Mean Justice's Dirty Secrets
Illinois: A lawsuit was predictable in the case of two teenagers who were wrongly charged in the February slaying of a Machesney Park, Illinois man. The lawsuit was brought by mothers of the two youths who were wrongly charged, and it names Winnebago County Sheriff Dick Meyers, his department, detectives and deputies. It's time for Safeguards to Protect Accused Kids.
Wisconsin: Suspicions about a 1998 4th offense drunken-driving case dismissed by former prosecutor Brad Priebe have prompted Winnebago County DA Bill Lennon to refer the matter to the state Department of Justice for review of the case. Lennon said he did so in response to “red flags” that appeared as prosecutors prepared a new drunken driving case against the same man, whose 1998 case was dismissed as a result of a motion by Priebe, then a Winnebago County assistant district attorney. Priebe, appointed judge in Outagamie County Circuit Court and running for election in his own right, said he was ordered to dismiss the charge by then-DA Joe Paulus, now in prison for taking bribes to fix cases, and "had no choice". The Paulus Legacy Shines On
Click HERE for full coverage of Wisconsin's Joe Paulus bribery scandal, from initial allegations to sentencing.
Ohio: Derrick Jamison has been released from Ohio's Death Row. His 1985 murder conviction was overturned by two federal courts, which ruled he was denied a fair trial by prosecutors who withheld evidence that might have cleared him. 119th Innocent Person Released from Death Row
USA: The popularity of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and its increasingly numerous progeny has spawned what some folks are calling the "CSI Effect." That is, most people who might end up on a jury know, or think they know, a great deal about forensic science and the kind of evidence needed to solve crimes. All this has been widely noted. What hasn't been noted is how years of cop shows have already formed our background ideas about the criminal justice system. What this suggests is that we ought to be a good deal more suspicious of prosecutorial infallibility than television shows suggest. Cop Show Effect
Wisconsin: A Milwaukee police officer has been charged with a criminal civil rights violation for trying to shake down a parolee for money and guns, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Milwaukee. The officer, Ala W. Awadallah, 26, also threatened to plant drugs on the man and to have him sent back to prison, according to an FBI agent's affidavit filed in support of the complaint. If convicted, Awadallah faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison and $200,000 in fines. The Price of Staying Out on Parole
One day before Milwaukee cop Ala Awadallah was busted this week by the FBI on charges of shaking down a parolee, he was in the most unlikely of places: Sitting in the witness stand testifying for federal prosecutors in a drug/illegal immigration case. Can you say "appeal"?
Illinois: An Illinois State Police lieutenant says he was stopped from investigating the possible involvement of a Downstate businessman in a double homicide because the man had made significant political donations. The lieutenant does not allege wrongdoing by the politician, former Gov. George Ryan, whose campaign fund received the businessman's donations. But he alleges that state police brass were guided by fear of political reprisals, even in an investigation with the highest possible stakes--a death penalty murder case. Demote the Messenger
Make no mistake. Nearly 19 years after the fact, this case is now a bigger mess than it's ever been. State police officials are the subject of very serious allegations of misconduct, and the attorney general's office is representing the state police against the man leveling those allegations. Who will step in to clean it up?
Wisconsin: Dale Chu's conviction is proof that, in Wisconsin, you can convict someone of arson even when the cause of a fire cannot be determined. All it takes is a win-at-all-costs prosecutor like Vince Biskupic, perjured testimony from state "arson experts", the lies of a paid-off snitch and a dummied-down jury. Fixing It Up
The current DA in Winnebago County is conducting a secret John Doe investigation into the conduct of Vince Biskupic and his friend and mentor, Joe Paulus, when they controlled the prosecutor's offices in Winnebago and Outagamie Counties. He calls their actions in the cases they made against Mark Price "an abuse of the justice system of the worst kind."
Click HERE for full coverage of Wisconsin's Joe Paulus bribery scandal, from initial allegations to sentencing.
Click HERE for full coverage of Wisconsin's Vince Biskupic money-for-leniency scandal.
Massachusetts: Eighteen years ago, three Boston-area men were convicted of fatally shooting a Lynnfield couple in the basement of their Main Street home as their two young children slept upstairs, a brazen crime that sent shock waves through the quiet, prosperous suburb. Richard Costa, Dennis Daye, and Michael DeNictolis are each serving two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for the 1985 slaying of Robert Paglia and his wife, Patricia, in a robbery at the couple's house. But now a retired FBI agent says in an affidavit that a former colleague gave false and misleading forensic testimony -- deemed crucial to the prosecution's case -- at the trial. BS Bullet Matching
Florida: The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is joining the investigation of Broward Sheriff's Office detectives suspected of falsifying crime reports. Prosecutors recently filed criminal charges against two deputies who are charged with falsifying documents and making up confessions to clear cases in Weston and Southwest Ranches. Dozens more deputies have been informed that they are under investigation or have been asked to give statements to prosecutors. Exceptional Clearance
Florida (but could be anywhere in the US): James Faller claimed innocence in a complicated loan fraud from the time he reported it to Florida regulators more than 10 years ago, when he tried to explain it to an FBI Agent, when he was indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced to prison. Along the way he infuriated federal prosecutors by making hundreds of allegations of misconduct at virtually every stage of his prosecution in the $3.6 million fraud because, he claims, they got the wrong guy. They'll Get You if You Tick Them Off
Illinois: Cook County, Illinois prosecutors have dropped murder charges against Dan Young, Jr. and Harold Hill, who have spent more than 12 years behind bars, after DNA test results undermined their (coerced) confessions and testimony from a dentist who implicated the two through a bite mark and a hickey. A Chicago Tradition
Illinois and Missouri: A federal jury has awarded nearly $6.6 million in damages to former Chicago police Officer Steven Manning, finding two veteran FBI agents framed him for a Cook County murder that put him on Death Row. The jury also held that one of the FBI agents also framed Manning in a Missouri kidnapping case. Manning spent 14 years in prison before both convictions were overturned and the prosecutions were dropped. Framed by FBI
Arizona: Last year, former Pima County DA Kenneth Peasley was disbarred for intentionally presenting false evidence in death-penalty cases—something that had never before happened to an American prosecutor. In a 1992 triple-murder case, Peasley introduced testimony that he knew to be false; three men were convicted and sentenced to die. Peasley was convinced that the three were guilty, but he also believed that the evidence needed a push. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since the mid-nineteen-seventies a hundred and seventeen death-row inmates have been released. Defense lawyers, often relying on DNA testing, have shown repeatedly how shoddy crime-lab work, lying informants, and mistaken eyewitness identifications, among other factors, led to unjust convictions. But DNA tests don’t reveal how innocent people come to be prosecuted in the first place. The career of Kenneth Peasley -- and the case of Martin Soto-Fong -- do. Killer Instincts [pdf format]
Nevada: Police and prosecutors in the Las Vegas Valley routinely try to keep essential information from defense lawyers, violating the constitutional rights of those accused of crimes, defense attorneys and the county public defender say. Putting Away the Innocent
Wisconsin: Everything was hunky-dory at the Department of Corrections when the TV show "Lie Detector" proposed filming a polygraph exam of prisoner Mark Price. But when Penny Brummer and Audrey Edmonds were added to the slate, Deputy Corrections Secretary Rick Raemisch pulled the plug, claiming the show is "entertainment", not news. Why the 180 degree switch? Perhaps it's because Raemisch was Dane County Sheriff and at the helm of the Brummer and Edmonds investigations. Conflict of Interest
Virginia: Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. of Albemarle County Circuit Court should be removed from office because of his vindictiveness and extremely serious questions about his truthfulness, the state's Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission has recommended. He Got Mad and Got Even
Florida: In the 1989 nationally syndicated television program on the case, A Matter of Life and Death, television journalist Ike Pappas noted: ``In 1975, Tommy Zeigler was attempting to clean up corruption right in his hometown of Winter Garden, Florida. He was helpful in shutting down the old Edgewater Hotel, a center of prostitution and drug dealing. But he was also trying to gather information on other illegal activities such as gun running and, most importantly, loan sharking. The loan sharks made a fortune letting [black] migrant workers buy groceries on credit at an interest rate of 520 percent per year. And Tommy Zeigler alleges that certain members of the Winter Garden police force were in on the action.''
On Christmas Eve that year, there was a multiple murder at the Zeigler family furniture store. Zeigler was charged with the murders. Maurice Paul, who openly opposed Ziegler's efforts, was the trial judge who presided over Zeigler's fate. Paul overrode the jury's recommendation and sentenced Zeigler to death. Zeigler has maintained his innocence. Now DNA evidence offers Zeigler the hope of a Very Different Future Christmas.
Washington, DC: Former Asst. U.S. Attorney G. Paul Howes is a generous guy. He's so generous that he handed out payment vouchers not just to witnesses in cases he prosecuted, but to cooperating witnesses, their families, friends, even their lawyers. And Howes didn't limit his generosity to federal cases he prosecuted. He even handed out federal vouchers in DC Superior Court cases in which he was involved. High Level Misconduct
Massachusetts: James Rodwell was convicted of the November 1978 fatal shooting of Louis Rose Jr. outside a Somerville, MA bakery. The state's key witness against him was David P. Nagle, a law enforcement snitch who made a career out of committing armed robberies to support his drug habit, according to court documents. But prosecutors not only failed to disclose the sweetheart deal Nagle got in exchange for his testimony -- 7 to 12 years for 10 armed robberies --, they actively concealed it. Business as Usual
Michigan: The Justice Department has secretly opened an investigation into two drug cases handled by a Detroit prosecutor already accused of misconduct in a high-profile terrorism case. It's the first indication that the department's review of Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard G. Convertino, a 14-year prosecutor in Detroit, has expanded beyond his handling of the nation's first post-September 11 terrorism trial. In that case, a judge dismissed terror convictions in September against two men after the Justice Department acknowledged that Convertino withheld key evidence from defense attorneys. Probe Widens
Georgia: U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Lawson has sentenced Robert B. Ellis Jr., formerly district attorney of the Alapaha Judicial Circuit, to 18 months in prison and levied a $5,000 fine against him for making a false statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. What did he lie about? Having sex with a suspect who was acting as a confidential informant. Illegal Liaisons
Michigan: A special prosecutor is being appointed to probe the conduct of police and the prosecutor in the case of a man wrongfully convicted of rape, a spokesman with the Michigan Attorney General's Office has confirmed. The probe is the latest development stemming from Ken Wyniemko's year-old federal lawsuit, which lays out evidence that suggests witnesses were coached, evidence was buried, conflicting leads were ignored and justice was forsaken for a conviction. Winning at Any Cost
Pennsylvania: PA State Police have a unique track record for charging accidental fires as arson. They have taken this to a new low, using pizza and candy to get a 7-year-old boy to confess to setting a fatal fire at a neighbor's home that occurred when the child was miles away. The child is too young to be prosecuted, even as a juvenile. Instead, the authorities want to put him in a treatment facility for mentally disturbed kids -- Go in Normal, Come Out Twisted.
Massachusetts: Louis Greco died behind bars in 1995 from cancer and heart disease. He suffered horribly, losing a leg to amputation because he was denied proper care for his diabetes. Along with co-defendants Peter Limone and Joseph Salvati, Louis was framed for murder by the Boston FBI to protect their informant, mob hit man Steve "The Rifleman" Flemmi. Nine years after Louis' death, the prosecutor has acknowledged he was an innocent man. Too Little, Too Late
Texas: James Masonheimer of Abilene, TX said he shot Gilbert Sanchez in self-defense. Masonheimer claimed Sanchez's abuse of steroids resulted in dangerous fits of rage, one of which led to their encounter. But two mistrials were declared because the prosecutor withheld evidence of Sanchez's steroid abuse. Now John Robert Harper, who prosecuted the first trial and has since become a judge, is charged with ethics violations in the case. The Judge Goes on Trial
Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Michigan and Panama: Internationally known dog handler Sandra Anderson dazzled police in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Michigan and Panama with the ability of her dog, Eagle, to find evidence that eluded everyone else. Of course Eagle could find it -- Anderson planted the evidence. Anderson has pled guilty to federal evidence tampering charges. How Many Cases did She Taint?
Massachusetts: Twenty-three years after he was convicted of murdering a Braintree, MA man in an ambush, Frederick Weichel has won a new trial because of newly discovered evidence and allegations that the case was tainted by James "Whitey" Bulger and the fugitive mobster's associates -- including the FBI. Unraveling Legacy of Corruption
Louisiana: In 1997, Jefferson Parish police extracted from Travis Hayes what Prof. Steve Drizin of Northwestern University Law School calls "the most naked, uncorroborated false confession I've ever seen" in the murder of a Bridge City, LA grocer. Prosecutors withheld evidence that could have cleared Hayes. That evidence included witness statements, a supplementary police report and the DNA evidence that excluded co-defendant Ryan Matthews as the killer. But prosecutors are determined to keep Travis in prison for the rest of his life for a crime they know was committed by another man -- who remains free to continue killing. A Forgotten Man
Pennsylvania: Citing pervasive misconduct by prosecutors, a judge has reversed convictions against David Munchinski, imprisoned for nearly 20 years in a double murder case in Fayette County, PA. Visiting Judge Barry Feudale accused three former Fayette County prosecutors -- two of whom are now judges -- of "seeking and maintaining convictions to the detriment of the search for the truth" in the case of a grisly murder of two men in a Laurel Mountains cabin in 1977. "Patent and Egregious Misconduct"
Florida: Kevin Coleman of West Palm Beach, who spent 13 years in prison for a murder he said he didn't commit was freed after a judge learned investigators suppressed evidence that indicated he wasn't guilty. Circuit Judge Lucy Chernow Brown called the murder investigation ``shameful'' and said Coleman's conviction was "a Stain on the Record of this Court."
Texas: Abilene Judge Robert Harper will see the judicial system from a different perspective in a disciplinary suit brought by the Commission for Lawyer Discipline. In 2002 when he was an assistant DA, Harper allegedly withheld exculpatory evidence in a murder case. Reckless Conduct
Massachusetts: The Justice Department lost a major round in a battle to bury lawsuits against the FBI filed on behalf of four Boston men framed for a 1965 mob murder. U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner uled the government cover-up continued for decades until 2000 when a Justice Department task force uncovered secret FBI memos showing Peter J. Limone, Joseph Salvati, Louis Greco and Edward Tameleo had been wrongly convicted based on perjured testimony. Judge OKs Suits against Crooked Feds
Click HERE for more on how FBI agents fingered witnesses for mob murders and framed innocent people to take the fall.
Ohio: Hamilton County's (Cincinnati) tough-guy chief prosecutor Mike Allen insisted on addressing the Northern Kentucky Law Review's Innocence Symposium held in Cincinnati in February, 2003. He said he vigorously pursues the death penalty because he believes in life, and insisted he does not make the kind of mistakes that send innocent people to Death Row. What a surprise, then, to learn about the mistakes he was making -- forcing an assistant prosecutor to have sex with him and retaliating against her when she stopped. Allen has been forced to drop out of the race for re-election -- he had been unopposed -- and has stepped down as Chairman of Ohio's Bush/Cheney Re-election Campaign.
August 24, 2004: Allen admits affair with employee
August 26, 2004: Text of lawsuit filed by Rebecca Collins
September 2, 2004: Ohio Attorney General to investigate claims
September 5, 2004: Accuser says Allen advised 'lie and deny'
September 14, 2004: Disgusted by Allen, voters cheer his decision to quit
Wisconsin: Well, maybe the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation just followed its normal procedure in failing to discipline Charles Hausmann, who remained in good standing while serving a prison sentence for ripping off his clients. Two Winnebago County, WI judges filed complaints against Oshkosh lawyer Milton Schierland for splitting bribe money with former DA Joe Paulus in their long-running case fixing scheme. The FBI found grounds to investigate; both lawyers have pled guilty to federal charges. But the OLR kicked the complaints back, saying there was "Insufficient Information to Suggest Misconduct".
MORE: Back in 1997, another Winnebago County judge became suspicious of a "fix" when one of Paulus' assistants wanted to dismiss a speeding ticket for the nephew of a Paulus political supporter. Judge William Carver refused to dismiss the ticket and filed a complaint with the ethics board. "We had a suspicion somebody wasn't telling the truth," one of the investigators acknowledged. Nonetheless, the grievance was Dismissed as Usual
Click HERE for full coverage of Wisconsin's Joe Paulus bribery scandal, from initial allegations to sentencing.
Michigan: In June, 2004, a man opened fire at the International Freedom Festival fireworks and shot 9 people; one later died. Detroit Police lost no time arresting Darren Caldwell. Just as quickly, witnesses protested the cops had charged the wrong man. No matter. Detroit Police altered their reports to make the charges stick and on September 1, 2004, added the charge of murder. Caldwell remains in jail with bond posted at $100 million. It is clear the criminal legal system offers Caldwell no hope. Rather, investigative journalists -- print and television -- are keeping the truth in focus as this travesty continues to unfold.
Massachusetts: When the Massachusetts State Police arrested Edmund Burke for the murder of Irene Kennedy in 1998, they already knew he was innocent; Burke had been excluded by DNA. So they lied to get a warrant and kept Burke in jail for 41 days. They used the time to ransack the house Burke shared with his ill, elderly mother; they cut off the electricity and heat, forcing the 88-year-old woman out of her home. She died two days after his release. Judge Rules Burke Can Sue
Illinois: Edward Egan, a former judge from the Illinois Appellate Court and semiretired lawyer, was appointed special prosecutor in 2002 to investigate allegations of torture by former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge. Two years and four months later, he's still not done. Neither is Justice
UPDATE: Yes, Chicago Police tortured suspects, but it happened too long ago to charge the officers. And Mayor Daley, who was state's attorney at the time, did nothing "prosecutable" by handing off a request from then-Police Supt. Richard Brzeczek to investigate a murder suspect's torture allegations. Daley passed the request to top aide Dick Devine, who passed it to the office's No. 3 man William Kunkle, who handed it off to another prosecutor. It was never investigated. Report is $6.2 Million Whitewash
Texas: The Houston Police Department has discovered evidence from thousands of cases that was improperly tagged and lost in its property room, Chief Harold Hurtt said Thursday, suggesting that problems with handling evidence may go back 25 years. Time for Probe?
Florida: Wilton Dedge of Port St. John, Florida has been freed after 22 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. His conviction rested on the word of notorious snitch Clarence Zacke, who got a sweetheart deal from prosecutors in exchange for lying under oath. When DNA excluded Dedge, a Florida Assistant Attorney General told the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that even if she knew Dedge to be innocent, it would not matter. Zacke provided the only evidence in Gerald Stano's murder case, and subsequently recanted it. Stano was executed in 1998 anyway, still insisting he was innocent. But in the words of the Florida Assistant Attorney General, "That is not the issue". Infamous Justice
Massachusetts: Ever wonder about the reliability of unrecorded confessions -- the ones with no audio or video tape -- or the ones where ten minutes of confession is recorded but not the ten hours of interrogation that preceded it? In Massachusetts, jurors will now be instructed to be skeptical when "'interrogating officers have chosen not to preserve an accurate and complete recording of the interrogation". New MA Jury Instructions
Arizona: When a jailhouse snitch seeking a deal on charges against her accused Robert Louis Armstrong of a 1998 triple murder, Armstrong met willingly with Maricopa County investigators. He knew he had been in Oregon when the murders occurred. A cop put a clip on Armstrong's shirt that he said was a "sensitivity test" and declared Armstrong was lying. Armstrong was charged with 3 counts of capital murder. A determined Public Defender Investigator found Armstrong's bus ticket and the bogus case began to unravel. Ticket to Freedom
Pennsylvania: The "sheer heft of the truly damaging and irrelevant conduct" of Asst. U.S. Attorney James D. Clancy led to Darrick Moore's conviction for arson in federal court in Pennsylvania. Now the 3rd Circuit has ruled that Clancy's closing speech was not only unfairly prejudicial, but that it capped a trial studded from beginning to end with unfairly prejudicial evidence relating to alleged prior bad acts by Moore. Inflammatory Closing
California: The California Highway Patrol is investigating claims that two of its officers were pressured to lie on the witness stand in a lawsuit by a Ramona man awarded $4.5 million by a jury in April, 2004. Under Pressure
New York: In 1991, Ronald Bower was framed for two rapes that were probably committed by the cop who arrested him. In 1996, New York State prison investigator Timothy Huff kept his promise to Bower and called the Queens, New York special victims unit about Bower's case. The investigator who answered told Huff he believed Bower's innocence claim. Eventually the two investigators were joined by an FBI agent and one of New York's top criminal justice officials. At last, Bower's case is under judicial review and he could get a new trial. Making It Right
Georgia: Weldon Wayne Carr will not be retried for murder and arson in the death of his wife. His conviction was originally overturned in 1997, when the Georgia Supreme Court cited the unreliability of evidence that a trained dog found a fire accelerant at the scene. The Court also rebuked then-prosecutor Nancy Grace -- now host of Court TV's "Closing Arguments" -- of engaging in "inappropriate and, in some cases, illegal conduct in the course of the trial." Retrial Denied
Arizona: Twice named prosecutor of the year, former Pima County prosecutor Kenneth Peasley has been disbarred by the Arizona Supreme Court for knowingly eliciting perjured testimony in the 1993 capital murder trials of Andre Minnitt and Christopher McCrimmon, and again in Minnitt's 1997 retrial. The Price of Perjury
California: Superior Court Judge William Danser of California's Santa Clara County was found guilty on all counts in his obstruction of justice trial. The judge was convicted of improperly dismissing 20 traffic tickets for professional athletes and acquaintances, and of transferring two DUI cases to himself so he could hand out lenient sentences. Playing Favorites
Michigan: Carl Marlinga, Macomb County, Michigan's top law enforcement officer, has been indicted with a state senator and a real estate agent on charges of taking $34,000 in campaign contributions to help rape suspects in two cases. The Price of Justice
Cheryl Stepnioski is giving indicted Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga the benefit of the doubt despite his hiding evidence her son and another young man were innocent in the 2000 slaying of a New Baltimore, MI teen. Getting Back More Than He Gave
UPDATE: Two people who donated to Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga’s campaign for Congress visited two separate bank branches on the same day and illegally divided thousands of dollars into smaller cashier’s checks to disguise campaign contributions, according to government documents. Similar schemes are documented in checks and bank statements totaling $87,000. How Marlinga Hid the Money
UPDATE: A federal grand jury on September 14, 2005 issued a new indictment against former Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga. The six-count indictment accuses Marlinga of bribery, mail and wire fraud, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and violating federal campaign finance laws. This time, Marlinga is the Only Defendant.
UPDATE: Marlinga acquitted -- political future uncertain.
Wisconsin: On April 26, 2004, Joe Paulus, the former Winnebago County district attorney, pleaded guilty to taking bribes to fix cases. As shocking as the bribery scandal is, the full story behind Paulus' tenure in the Fox River Valley is even more disturbing, said Bill Lennon, who beat Paulus in 2002 to become district attorney. Did Paulus Cheat to Get Convictions?
A lot of people had to know what Paulus was up to. How did he keep them quiet? Several Paulus Critics Say He Damaged Them
Click HERE for full coverage of Wisconsin's Joe Paulus bribery scandal, from initial allegations to sentencing.
And what about Paulus' Deputy District Attorney, political protege and close friend, Vince Biskupic? The state has been urged to investigate his handling of a 1995 murder case as part of the widening probe of Paulus. Destroying Evidence, Then Lying About It
Click HERE for more about Vince Biskupic, deal maker extraordinaire.
New York: A Manhattan judge has rebuked New York City for its challenge to the disability benefits of a former police officer who helped uncover corruption and became a pariah within the New York Police Department. Retaliation for Whistleblower Cop
New York: A Brooklyn gang murder case is in disarray after a federal judge overturned the conviction of Angel DeAngelo for the killing, saying prosecutors had relied on "blatant, critical perjury by all of the key witnesses." "How many other people did they do this to?'' Mr. DeAngelo asked in a telephone interview from Latham, N.Y., near where he now lives. "They believe anything these people say. It's all about a collar; It has Nothing to do with Justice.''
Michigan: A New Baltimore, MI man wrongly jailed for six months in the 2000 slaying of a teenage pizzeria worker says a $300,000-plus settlement of his civil suit against police will help him start a new life -- but it won't end his family's nightmares or stop the accusing stares that follow him. And while the settlement is about to change Jonathon Kaled's life, legal experts said the suit's outcome won't affect how police handle interrogations and false confessions. Misconduct as Usual
Virginia: Kenneth Maurice Tinsley raped and murdered Rebecca Williams in 1982 in Culpeper, VA. Police took advantage of mildly retarded farmhand Earl Washington, feeding him details of the crime to win a quick conviction that put Washington on Death Row for 9 1/2 years. Tinsely was identified in 2000 through the same DNA tests that exonerated Washington. But there are no plans to prosecute him. In fact, the Commonwealth had to be ordered by a federal judge to turn over turn over records identifying Tinsley to Washington's lawyers. And what about Rebecca Williams' husband and children? Where is Justice?
North Carolina: Sentenced to die for the murder of a man he had never met, Alan Gell got a new trial when it was learned prosecutors withheld an audio tape of their star witness saying she had to "make up a story" about Jenkin's death. At Gell's retrial, it took the jury only 2 1/2 hours to return its verdict: Not Guilty
Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald News Editor Cal Bryant sat through all 7 days of testimony. He concludes the not guilty verdict was a "no brainer". While the final outcome was predictable, there remain so many Unanswered Questions.
The N.C. State Bar has charged that two former prosecutors in the Attorney General's Office withheld evidence and made false statements to a judge in the 1998 murder trial that put Alan Gell on death row. Gell faced death. The most these two stand to lose is their law license. A Small Step Forward
In Keith Hoggard 's opinion, what the prosecutors did in the first Alan Gell trial is criminal. An investigation into this matter should be launched and heads should roll if it is found that evidence was deliberately withheld from Mr. Gell's first trial. But Attorney General Roy Cooper has closed the investigation. Why? Governor Mike Easley was in charge of the prosecution team Sent to Convict, Not to Seek Justice.
Chicago-Based FBI: The Feds made two cases against former Chicago police officer Steve Manning, a murder in Illinois and a kidnapping in Missouri. They based both on the perjured testimony of notorious snitches, and put Manning on Death Row for the Illinois murder. Manning was cleared of the murder conviction in 2000, but was left to serve a life sentence in the Missouri kidnapping. Now he has been cleared of that bogus conviction as well, and it appears the Kidnapping Never Even Happened.
Prosecutorial Misconduct in Two Federal Courts: Federal prosecutorial misconduct has turned two recent high profile cases -- one involving allegations of murder, the other involving allegations of a terrorist conspiracy -- upside down. Attorney Elaine Cassel examines the specifics of the two cases and the factors that allow federal prosecutors to engage in misconduct without fear of penalties. Contempt of Court
California: A day after a federal appeals court spared the life of convicted killer Kevin Cooper and ordered further testing of evidence, the death row inmate's defense team called for an independent investigation of the case. The appeals court ordered testing to determine whether a blood drop left outside Doug and Peg Ryen's bedroom had been treated with a preservative known as EDTA, commonly used to take calcium out of solutions, which could indicate the evidence was deliberately planted. Reliability of Evidence
Nevada: Clark County DA David Roger is taking an innovative approach to dodging Rick Tabish's complaint that Roger suborned perjury in order to obtain an extortion conviction against Tabish. Roger is claiming that Tabish's prosecutorial misconduct complaint is really a complaint of ineffective assistance by his own trial counsel. Moreover, Roger wants a judge to throw out Tabish's complaint unless Tabish waives attorney-client privilege so Roger can grill Tabish's trial attorney. Speaking of Extortion ...
California: On Dec. 4, 2003 a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the State of California to release Thomas Lee Goldstein without bail after finding that 24 years ago prosecutors had denied him a fair trial. But California ignored the Court and has kept Goldstein in custody. On January 30, 2004, the judgesrepeated their original order, putting in capital letters their directive for Goldstein's "IMMEDIATE RELEASE FROM CUSTODY."
Hours after a judge dismissed Thomas Lee Goldstein's 24-year-old murder conviction, Goldstein was right back where he started his long legal struggle: standing in a courtroom, entering a plea of innocent. Superior Court Judge Arthur Jean granted a defense motion on February 2, 2004 to dismiss the conviction, but prosecutors refiled the case almost immediately. Innocence is Irrelevant
On April 2, 2004, Thomas Lee Goldstein was finally freed when LA Deputy DA Patrick Connolly admitted the state lacks sufficient evidence to retry him. Justice Delayed 24 Years
Minnesota: In White Bear Lake, a 13-year-old girl was abducted at gunpoint and molested, then dropped off behind a movie theater in neigboring Oakdale. But police closed the case one day later after the investigating officer missed crucial evidence, then subjected the child to a brutal interrogation in which he repeatedly accused her of lying. She Was Telling the Truth
Wisconsin: Jenny Doe, a Madison, WI juvenile, was charged with obstructing (lying to police) because of two minor inconsistencies in her testimony against another juvenile who admitted he raped her. The inconsistencies? Whether her assailant pushed her onto a bed or forced her down with his hand on her shoulder, and whether or not she wore a different shirt after the rape because her own shirt had been ripped. Two days after she was charged, her father beat Jenny Doe severely, calling her a slut, because he no longer believed she had been raped. State v. Jenny Doe
Link: Cry Rape - A blind woman is raped at knifepoint, grilled by detectives who don't believe her, and criminally charged with filing a false report. The charges were eventually dropped, but even after the woman's rapist was identified (by DNA) and convicted, the police have continued to stand by the treatment she received at their hands.
Pennsylvania: When 80-year-old Anna Knaze was robbed and beaten to death in 1992 in Johnstown, PA, Det. Richard Rok decided Ernest Simmons had done it. Problem was, he had no evidence. Rok recruited Simmons' girlfriend to secretly tape record conversations with him, but instead of confessing, Simmons denied committing the crime 19 times. Finally, Rok was able to convince another elderly robbery victim to identify Simmons as her attacker and claim he threatened to give her "the same thing Anna Knaze got". She lied -- she never saw her assailant's face. But Rok got the conviction he wanted. Ernest Simmons Got the Death Penalty
And what about Det. Rok? Over the years he was accused of assaulting suspects, conducting searches without warrants and pushing a witness to make false identifications. He's in Federal Prison Now
North Carolina: After 12-year-old Amanda Cope of Rock Hill was found raped and beaten to death in her own bed in 2001, her father Billy was subjected to 4 days of unrecorded, non-stop interrogation, until he confessed on videotape. In 2003, DNA matched the semen found in Amanda to James Sanders, a sex offender who moved to the Copes' neighborhood shortly before Amanda's murder. So the state has amended the charges against Billy to conspiracy, because You Can't Waste a Coerced False Confession.
Oklahoma: Why was Kenneth Trentadue, picked up for a parole violation in Oklahoma City, beaten to death in a cell at the Federal Transfer Center? Why were the FBI and the Justice Department so insistent that his death was suicide? Why has the federal government worked so hard to maintain a coverup? Columnist Paul Craig Roberts examines this disturbing case. The Trentadue Coverup
Massachusetts: Ending a two-year investigation into the 40-year history of the FBI's organized-crime informant program in New England, a congressional committee has branded the program as "one of the greatest failures in the history of federal law enforcement" and has vowed to turn its attention to nationwide FBI management practices. FBI Corruption
Ohio: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered the State of Ohio to release or retry Wyman Castleberry because the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office and the Columbus Police Department hid evidence of Mr. Castleberry’s innocence. Black Mark on Franklin County, Ohio
Massachusetts: Saying that Shawn Drumgold is the "tip of the iceberg," the head of the Massachusetts public defender's office yesterday called on the state to create an innocence commission to review the cases of other inmates, and Drumgold's attorney demanded that the police who investigated his case be held accountable. Innocence Panel Proposed
Illinois: Michale Callahan, the Illinois State Police lieutenant who was assigned in 2000 to reinvestigate the 1986 murders of newlyweds Dyke and Karen Rhoads in downstate Paris, has sued three state police officials in federal court. His complaint alleges that the officials demoted him in part for concluding that earlier state police investigations had blown the Rhoads case and helped put the wrong men in prison. The saving grace is that AG Lisa Madigan continues her investigation into this case. Madigan Passes the First Test
Massachusetts: Congress is intensifying its probe into FBI misconduct, with the powerful House Judiciary Committee now planning its own national examination of the way FBI agents handle criminal informants. Congressional Probe
Hopefully, they'll look at the case of Pasquale Barone, Jr. His brother-in-law was forced to commit perjury, naming Barone the killer of his own best friend. When notified in a police memo of the recantation, the US Attorney not only hid the memo from defense attorneys, he forged a new memo and forced the witness to lie under oath. Barone is free, but Still Under a Cloud
Massachusetts: The jury got it wrong when it acquitted former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. of leaking information that prompted his longtime informants, James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, to kill two men, according to court documents unsealed October 15, 2003. Flemmi says the FBI agent fingered an undercover informant and a witness ready to talk, both of whom were promptly murdered. Boston FBI = Vipers Nest
Massachusetts: "What do you want, tears?" sneered retired FBI agent H. Paul Rico, when asked how he felt about the wrongful imprisonment of one of the four, Joseph Salvati, for more than 30 years. He was unrepentant and arrogant with a congressional committee investigating the case of four men jailed for decades for a murder they did not commit. The stunning injustice, the congressmen charged, was orchestrated by FBI agents to protect the real killer: a prized informant. Now Rico's been charged with murder for orchestrating a mob hit. Don't Expect Tears
UPDATE: H. Paul Rico dies under guard. Truth Follows Rico to Grave.
They say H. Paul Rico was one of J. Edgar Hoover's favorite G-men - a law enforcement hellion who had it in for the Mafia and could turn an informant like a flapjack. Founder of Trenchcoat Mafia
UPDATE: Now that H. Paul Rico is dead, Congressional investigators have released the transcript of an interview with New England Mafia boss Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme that the Justice Department previously insisted be kept secret for use as evidence against Rico. In gritty and blunt details, Salemme painted an unsettling picture of FBI agents protecting their mob informants, warning them of indictments and, at times, helping them murder troublesome enemies. Mafia Rat
Illinois: At 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
Arizona: 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
Michigan: 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
Maryland: 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. What Took So Long?
California: Thirteen years ago, when he was a homicide detective, San Francisco Police Chief Earl Sanders hid evidence that John Tennison and Antoine Goff were innocent of killing Roderick Shannon -- the real killer's confession. Tennison and Goff went to prison; Sanders' duplicity helped take him to the top of the heap. Now a federal judge has overturned those convictions and pinned the blame squarely where it belongs. The Slippery Road to Promotion
Illinois: Eddie Harkins was locked up in the Cook County, Illinois jail and looking for a deal that would get him out of jail, so he volunteered to become part of the mainstay of the criminal justice system -- a jailhouse snitch. "Under the influence of freedom", Harkins was coached and rehearsed by prosecutors to tell a grand jury that James Ousley confessed to stomping a man to death. But that had never happened, and at Ousley's trial, Harkins decided to Finally Tell the Truth.
Florida and More: After seeing more than 130 prisoners freed by DNA testing in the last 15 years, prosecutors in Florida and across the country have mounted a vigorous challenge to similar new cases. Prosecutors acknowledge that DNA testing is reliable, but they have grown increasingly skeptical of its power to prove innocence in cases where there was other evidence of guilt such as confessions (often coerced or even forged) or eyewitness identification (wrong as much as 80% of the time). It's All About Winning
New York: Okay, it's not just the cops and the prosecutors. Judges want a piece of the action, too -- Brooklyn courts have been rocked by scandal involving bribes and kickbacks paid to judges to fix cases. Above the Law
Texas: Eleven years into a 40 year sentence for sexually assaulting a 3-year-old girl, John Michael Harvey's innocence is finally being examined. But the former Assistant DA who hid exculpatory evidence and coached a child to lie is Off the Hook.
UPDATE: In an unprecedented move, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has found John Michael Harvey "actually innocent" and released him from prison. Free After 12 Years
Link: Why Prosecutorial Misconduct and Abuses are Taking Place So Brazenly
Virginia: After three indictments, two trials and a handful of appellate proceedings, some of the best legal minds in Virginia still are trying to decide whether Merry Pease was a domestic-violence victim or a cold-blooded killer. It is the claim of prosecutorial misconduct -- which was one of the reasons the case was overturned the first time around -- that is drawing new attention to it. What Can Go Wrong, Did Go Wrong
Illinois: State Trooper Joan Blomenkamp, charged two years ago with issuing dozens of phony charges for driving under the influence, has resigned and has pleaded guilty of writing two false reports. Making Quota
Maryland: In Prince Georges County, just outside Washington, DC, police have now interrogated, locked up and charged a total of five absolutely innocent people for the murder of Denise Mansfield -- including three tourists extradited from their homes in Arizona. Each time around, the PG County cops claimed they got confessions. Somebody's Lying
Link: Inside the Office of Orange Co., CA District Attorney Tony Rackauckas (Don't miss the DA's response to the grand jury report on corruption in the DA's office.)
Michigan: 17 Detroit police officers have been indicted on federal charges ranging from looting money from drug dealers and prostitutes to possession of stolen firearms. Busted.
California: In 1991, Rick Walker of Santa Clara County, CA was convicted of murder, thanks to an amoral trial prosecutor willing to trade truth for a deal with a liar and a near-vegetative defense attorney. Thanks to a dogged defense attorney and an honest prosecutor, Rick has been freed and declared Factually Innocent.
Texas: Two grand juries investigating problems in Houston's police crime laboratory have widened their inquiry to include local prosecutors, asking about their potential culpability for winning convictions with Tainted Evidence.
Pennsylvania: The biggest "stars" converged on Adams County, PA in 1987 to convict Barry Laughman of murdering his elderly relative, Edna Laughman. State Trooper Jack Holtz--who took $50,000 from author Joseph Wambaugh for information on the case against Jay Smith, framed for a murder he didn't commit--got Barry, who is retarded, to "confess" by saying "yes" to whatever Holtz suggested. Then crime lab chemist Janice Roadcap came up with the fanciful theory that antibiotics Edna was taking at the time of her death changed Barry's blood type from B to A, the killer's blood type. Holtz and Roadcap have been exposed as frauds. Barry is Still in Prison.
UPDATE: Barry Laughman Released from Prison. For the first time in more than 16 years, Barry Laughman of Hanover, PA is surrounded by family and friends rather than bars, guards and other inmates. The DNA that freed him was tracked down by investigative reporter Pete Shellem of the Harrisburg, PA Patriot News. A Life Regained
California: All Andrea Torres wanted was to get home after a hard day of work. Instead, she and two other family members wound up battered, arrested and spending the night in jail. The Night They Pulled Me Over
Illinois: Madison Hobley, one of four Death Row inmates pardoned by Gov. George Ryan before he left office in January, has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Chicago police of torturing and framing him for setting a 1987 fire that killed seven people, including his wife and infant son. A Manufactured Confession
Links to Important Series
Haunting Questions: The Stephanie Crowe Murder Case
Florida: In February, 2002, ten years after teenagers Timothy Brown and Keith King were sent to prison based on coerced confessions to the 1991 murder of a Broward County Sheriff's Deputy, another deputy confessed to the killing. (See The Real Killer has Confessed ) The killer subsequently recanted, but even after Timothy Brown's confession was thrown out, the State of Florida refused to let him go. Finally, 15 months later, an innocent man has been freed -- and a killer remains on the loose. "I'm Finally Going Home"
New Jersey: When Atlantic City police officer James Andros, III came home to find his wife dead at her computer, he was charged with killing her. Then a defense expert found evidence of a rare heart condition that caused her death, not murder; the charge was dismissed and the medical examiner was blamed. Trying to rebuild his life, Andros says it was more than a botched autopsy -- it was knowing and deliberate. He has filed a federal civil rights claim against Atlantic County officials, alleging that they "conspired to concoct a motive" with his in-laws and distorted or misrepresented evidence. More Than a Botched Autopsy
Wisconsin: The Oshkosh Northwestern has a long track record of supporting former Winnebago County, WI DA Joe Paulus, which may explain the editorial it published on April 24, 2003. Sheila Berry wrote an opposing view and received a non-sequitur response with threatening overtones from the newspaper's managing editor. We bring you here what Northwestern readers will not see. Dialogue with the Northwestern
More on the DA allegations from Eye on Oshkosh.
Texas: Dallas PD undercover narcotics investigator Mark Delapaz received accolades and decorations for busting drug dealers. The secret to his success? Use paid snitches to set up dozens of innocent people by planting fake drugs on them. Now he's been Indicted for Setup Arrests
North Carolina: For the second time in 4 1/2 months, a judge has ordered a new trial for a death row inmate -- this time, Jerry Lee Hamilton -- because prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence. The State's Star Witness is the Killer
Read the Raleigh, NC News-Observer's riveting series on the framing of Alan Gell: Who Killed Allen Ray Jenkins?
UPDATE: Sentenced to die for the murder of a man he had never met, Alan Gell got a new trial when it was learned prosecutors withheld an audio tape of their star witness saying she had to "make up a story" about Jenkin's death. At Gell's retrial, it took the jury only 2 1/2 hours to return its verdict: Not Guilty
Texas: It's not just Houston's police crime lab that is under fire -- and under investigation. A review of three years' worth of DNA evidence processed by the Fort Worth Police Department's crime lab is under way after a proficiency test revealed that a senior forensic scientist did not follow proper procedures and protocol. Police Crime Lab Subject of Criminal Inquiry
California: We're a year late with this story, and we apologize it took us so long to learn of it. In March of 2002, LAPD Det. William Douglass was caught -- by the presiding judge -- submitting phony fingerprint test results in an attempted murder case. The judge dismissed the charge and issued a stinging 8-page opinion against Det. Douglass. But don't worry. Douglass wasn't charged. (If you're in LA -- be careful out there.) LAPD Fiction
Florida: A federal jury convicted 4 Miami cops of conspiracy in planting guns on unarmed people they had shot; 3 other cops were acquitted and the jury deadlocked on the remaining 4. Civil rights advocates were ambivalent about the verdicts, but a newly unsealed ruling that prosecutors had met the civil "preponderance of evidence" standard as to all 11 defendants opens the door to winning millions in civil lawsuits alleging police misconduct. Judge Opens Door to Civil Suits
Colorado via Atlanta, GA: A federal judge in Atlanta has examined the 1996 murder case of 6-year-old Colorado beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey and determined there is "virtually no evidence" to support theories that her parents killed her. U.S. District Judge Julie E. Carnes, a former federal prosecutor, sharply criticized the botched investigation that followed the discovery of JonBenét's body; accused Boulder police of using the media to target the Ramseys; and stated that the Ramseys, despite widespread criticism to the contrary, attempted to cooperate fully with detectives investigating their daughter's murder. No Evidence Ramseys Killed Jon Benet
Five years after Judge Carnes figured it out, two years after Patsy Ramsey died, Boulder County, CO DA Mary Lacy has cleared JonBenét Ramsey's parents and brother of any involvement in her death. "No innocent person should have to endure such an extensive trial in the court of public opinion," she told John Ramsey. "Touch DNA" makes it official.
Texas: When a single undercover investigator put away 12% of Tulia's blacks on drug charges -- without drugs -- pro bono lawyers from Texas, New York and Washington, DC smelled a rat. They have smoked him out and won a class action habeas for 38 defendants. Justice in a Small Town
Don't miss the details on how these lawyers and their staffs broke the case. Tulia, Texas Back Story
Texas: The head of the DNA division of the Houston Police Department's crime lab has offered testimony in at least three cases that has later turned out to be wrong, according to court transcripts. "They intentionally mislead," said Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, the former head of the DNA lab at the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office who now often works as a consultant for criminal defense teams. "And in all the cases I've been involved in, they always mislead in favor of a conviction." Houston Democratic state Rep. Harold Dutton says, "We have a name for that in Texas, and that is Perjury."
Pennsylvania: Janine Kirk was murdered in 1988 in Erie County, PA. The investigation reached a dead end in 1990, so then-DA William Cunningham began consulting psychics and Tarot card readers. In 2000, James Fleming was charged with Janine's murder, based on evidence authorities say they obtained from a profiler. Cunningham is now a judge, and he doesn't want to talk about the use of psychics to direct the investigation. Call it Eerie
Florida: A double header for Broward County (Miami).
A federal judge has thrown out a murder conviction against Timothy Brown, a retarded man, in the 1990 killing of a sheriff's deputy. The ruling eliminated a confession the judge called "the only meaningful evidence" against Brown, who was 15 at the time of the killing, and had a mental age of 7 or 8. The Real Killer has Confessed
Three years earlier, in 1987, Broward Sheriff's detectives put Michael Rivera on death row for the abduction, rape and murder of 11-year-old Staci Jazvac. A crime lab technician testified 2 hairs found in Rivera's van "could be concluded as being" from Staci's head. A jailhouse snitch -- subsequently found to be a habitual liar -- sewed up the case. Similar murders in the same area continued -- Linda Kalitan, Terry Gilchrist, Ellen Stowe. And now it turns out the Hairs Did Not Come from the Victim.
Maryland: Baltimore County police are reviewing 480 cases worked by former police chemist Concepcion Bascanot in the wake of DNA tests that exonerated Bernard Webster in 2002. The DNA tests demonstrate Bascanot lied when she said the rapist and Webster both had type A blood. Forensic Fraud
A Stunning Series from the Bakersfield Californian
"There were two different
the crime lab — scientific incompetence and corruption," Law Professor
Dow of the University of Houston said. "That's a deadly combination.
you have corruption, there is no reason to think that this is limited
DNA cases or cases where there is scientific evidence of any sort." The Houston Police
The new LA police chief, William Bratton, calls the original
investigation into police corruption "flawed" and has ordered
an independent investigation. Rampart
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
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.
After Steve and Marlene Aisenberg's baby daughter Sabrina was
taken from their home in 1997, local and federal authorities put all
their energy into a malicious and baseless attempt to
prosecute the parents. Magistrate Judge Mark Pizzo described
the investigation as "bizarre, baseless, distorted and
careless." The federal government (our tax dollars) must pay the
Aisenbergs' $2.9 million legal tab. And the people who
perpetrated this abuse? No One Has Even
Apparently crime is way down in Baltimore. Why else
would the Baltimore State's Attorney charge Darrell Kifer and Kenny Der
with 1st degree murder when they interrupted a burglar in their
warehouse and shot him when he threatened them with a hammer? Or
was it Malicious
Island: Jeffrey Scott Hornoff, the veteran RI police
officer convicted of a murder he did not commit, exonerated by the real
killer's confession, speaks out about fellow officers
who scrambled to set him up, reporters who have no respect for
truth, prosecutors and judges who will not admit when they are
wrong, and more ... In
His Own Words
Lawyers say the case against Bob Gondor and Randy Resh could be
Insider's Guide to
Update: Resh Not Guilty
Update: Charges Dropped
Florida: For nearly 19 years, William Kelley, a thief, bartender, and stagehand from Boston, has lived on Florida's death row, convicted of a hired hit on a millionaire citrus grower in 1966. Now, he could be about to trade his near-total isolation for the spare bedroom in his brother's Tewksbury split-level, thanks to a federal judge's decision to throw out his conviction. Last fall, US District Judge Norman C. Roettger ordered a new trial, based on ''prosecutorial misconduct'' and the ''deficient'' representation of Kelley's lawyers. Hope Beckons
COERCED FALSE CONFESSIONS
quite so convincing to jurors as a defendant's confession.
explains why police are willing to coerce confessions or, failing that,
make them up, and why prosecutors turn a blind eye to the practice.
nice short primer on the kinds
of interrogations techniques that are seen time and time again in false
confession cases. Notice that there is not even the
hint of the possibility of false confessions and the complete
confidence of the interrogator in his ability to read the "buy signs"
of his suspect—the body language and other physical reactions
that suggest the
suspect's guilt and that he is ready to confess. How to Get A False
Confession in Ten Easy
A 1981 Philadelphia 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. Coerced
At least 38
false or questionable murder confessions have been thrown out by
Broward County courts, rejected by juries or abandoned by police or
prosecutors since 1990. The Miami Herald has turned a Spotlight
on False Confessions.
In the past few years,
Indiana appellate courts have affirmed confessions by defendants who
were told lies by police before confessing. The courts tolerated the
use of deception in cases where police told suspects they had ballistic
information, fingerprints, DNA evidence and eyewitness identifications
when there were none. False
Confessions Rarely Questioned
Illinois: Rolando Cruz and Gary Gauger,
of coerced, false confessions, urge that all interrogations -- start to
-- be videotaped. "Let's put some heat on people who are
shifting blame to innocent people," said Lawrence Marshall, an attorney
for Gauger, of the call for police recordings. Require Videotaping
Four Chicago men convicted of a 1997 drug-related murder have been
exonerated. Police and prosecutors are taking credit for clearing
them. But somebody in the cop shop wrote confessions in
English for defendants who only speak Spanish, and the defendants deny
signing the Bogus
New York: Contrary to arguments made by a prosecutor at two trials in 1990, four strands of hair were never "matched" to any of the Harlem teenagers accused of beating and raping a jogger in Central Park, according to a former police scientist. DNA has since cleared all five defendants, and the actual rapist has confessed. No Match
does this say about the "confessions" obtained by police from five
Jogger's Rape Calls Evidence into Question
In November, 2000, Marshall King,
Virginia State Trooper, and Bruno Crutchfield, Brodnax, VA Police
were convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Those
based on perjured testimony by snitches, were vacated by U.S. District
Judge Thomas Payne, who observed, "This trial has a taint on it that
awful." Crutchfield has been released on bond, but federal prosecutors
trotted out yet another snitch to claim King did what they did --
perjury -- to keep the former cop in prison while he awaits retrial.
Cops are Framed
Narcotics investigators Mark Watson and Christie Richardson face
hundreds of counts of burglary, theft, perjury and tampering with court
records for forging judges' signatures to search warrants, entering
residences without valid warrants and shaking down informants.
Now they are Indicted
Texas: What are the cops up to in Texas? The ACLU of Texas is keeping tabs. Texas Copwatch Blotter
California: Steven Wallen didn’t respond when two El Dorado County, CA Sheriff’s deputies told him to get off his motorcycle. He eventually paid for his resistance with his life. Is This A Lethal Weapon?
Michigan: Eighteen years ago, Eddie Joe Lloyd confessed to a horrific murder. The confession was the only evidence the state had. The judge lamented Michigan lacked the death penalty so he could not sentence Eddie to death for the crime. Now DNA has proven that the State's Only Evidence was False.
let's not forget it was Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan who used
every legal and public-relations trick he knew to suppress the fact
that authorities had sent Cruz and
co-defendant Alex Hernandez - a pair of handy scapegoats - off to die
for a crime that another man had committed. Attorney General's Role
Won't Go Away
Update: Illinois voters have rejected Jim Ryan's bid for
Governor. Voters apparently took seriously what Ryan's spokesman
said (in a different context): "The best indication of what
somebody's going to do in the future is what they've done in the past."
2002 in Winnebago County
With Joe Paulus rejected by his own party at the polls, Wisconsin Republicans stepped up efforts to put Vince Biskupic in office as Wisconsin Attorney General. Vince Biskupic's "Nixon-like" campaign approach, branding the state's teachers as his "enemies", and Biskupic's long term entanglements with Paulus probably played a role in derailing those efforts. Biskupic is Paulus' political protege, his former Deputy DA, best man at Paulus' wedding and co-prosecutor with Paulus in such blatant frame-ups as John Maloney and Mark Price cases. Despite efforts to distance from Paulus and wash his hands of his own responsibility -- and culpability -- in the routine abuse of power, Wisconsin voters found out all about Vince.
UPDATE/LINK: Click HERE to view WFRV-TV's investigative series on both John Maloney and Mark Price cases.
November 1, 2002
July 13, 2003: More AboutAs investigators closed in on him, Appleton, WI resident Floyd Banks tipped the scales of justice in his favor. He pulled out his checkbook. Wisconsin State Journal reporters Dee Hall and Andy Hall take a closer look at the sweetheart deals former Outagamie County DA Vince Biskupic -- who reportedly now has his eye on the U.S. House of Representatives -- cut in exchange for cash. Buying Their Way Out of Trouble
July 15, 2003
August 2, 2003
Prosecutor Deals Under Fire
August 9, 2003
WI AG Would Outlaw DA Deals, But Judges Fail to Take a Stand
August 13, 2003
When a Law Partner of a Biskupic & Paulus Crony Got Busted
The Charges went Up --- and Away
you're a prosecutor, and you have a problem. Rumors are flying
that the man whose body was fished out of the river didn't commit
suicide -- as the coroner ruled just before he released the remains for
cremation -- but that he was murdered. How do you build a
case? Simple. You get the coroner to Commit Perjury.
United States: Purportedly Christian US Attorney General John Ashcroft thinks it is sinful to smoke, drink, dance, and take drugs (including medically-prescribed marijuana). Doing real justice as prescribed by the Bible, however, is another matter. Ashcroft and Justice: Mutual Exclusives
Alabama: Robert Keahey, District Attorney for the First Judicial Circuit of Alabama, obtained convictions against three retarded people for killing a baby that never existed. He's proud of his accomplishment -- after all, he had no physical evidence -- and he's fighting the reversal of one of the convictions by the state appellate court. Justice Mocked
Pennsylvania: When Edward Muchinski's motion for a new trial is heard in Fayette County, PA, 3 of the county's 6 judges -- 2 of them former prosecutors who convicted him -- may be forced to testify. They will be asked why they withheld exculpatory evidence at his trials in 1983 and 1986, and in his appeal in 1992. A Pennsylvania Tradition
Florida: Broward County sheriff's polygrapher Richard Hoffman testified he was ordered to perform a lie detector test as a ruse. He didn't use control questions and falsified his report. It was basically an interrogation while the guy was hooked up to a polygraph. Polygraph was Useless
United States: When the still-unraveling Boston FBI scandal initially broke, it was portrayed as a rogue aberration -- protecting mob hitmen as "valued informants" and sending innocent men to prison for the crimes committed by these informants. It turns out that FBI headquarters in Washington, DC knew for over 20 years what their Boston buddies were doing. FBI's Bargain Written in Blood
cleaning house poses a problem: 18 of Cook County's 61 felony court
judges played key roles in the torture cases when they were
prosecutors. In many instances, they vouched for and defended the
use of torture to obtain confessions. Outside Judges Needed
Mother Jones Magazine's takes a look at how Chicago cops get confessions and close cases: Trial by Torture.
Alabama: Authorities in Chatom, Alabama did themselves proud last year when they charged a mentally retarded woman, Dianne Tucker, with helping to kill her sister's newborn baby. Facing the death penalty, Ms. Tucker pled to manslaughter and was sentenced 15 years in prison. Now Ms. Tucker has been released because the Victim Never Existed.
Illinois: When he was 11 years old, A.M. was convicted of murdering an 84 year old neighbor based solely on a confession coerced by Chicago police. Years later, his sentence served, he has been vindicated. Conviction Thrown Out
Pennsylvania: Jay Smith was the victim of some of the most egregious police and prosecutorial misconduct ever exposed in the US. In his own words, "The Pennsylvania State Police tried to kill me." Yet when you search the internet for the truth about what happened to him, all you get are links to Echoes in the Darkness, the book and movie that were part of travesty perpetrated against him. Until now. Court Frees Jay Smith
Illinois: "The time has come to find out how this cancerous sore on our criminal justice system got to be there," said attorney Locke Bowman of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Chicago. Special Prosecutor Appointed in Chicago Police Torture Probe
California: Gloria Killian has been imprisoned for 16 years, convicted on the word of a snitch she barely knew who swore Gloria masterminded a 1981 robbery and murder in Sacramento, California. She was framed by a "thoroughly discredited" perjurer who -- in his own words -- lied his a** off for the government -- in exchange for a reduced sentence that the prosecutor concealed from the jury. Conviction for Murder Reversed
United States: There’s a great movie playing, a rendition of Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. Go to see it. It speaks to the injustice of our own time--only our legions of wrongfully convicted lack the power of the Count of Monte Cristo to take revenge on the snitches and corrupt prosecutors who frame them. Paul Craig Roberts commentary: American Prosecutors Deserve Count of Monte Cristo
California: What happens if you're a prosecutor and you get caught altering key evidence (in the state's favor, of course) in a capital murder trial? If you cry alligator tears and tell the judge you're sorry, not much. LA Asst. DA Michael Duarte's wrist must be stinging from the slapping it got. Altering Evidence
Alabama: Montgomery, Alabama's police chief says "idiotic judgment," not racism, was behind the actions of eight white officers accused of planting evidence and beating blacks. Good Ol' Boys Gone Bad
United States: Faulty eyewitness identification, junk and fraudulent science, coerced confessions and bad lawyering are all factors in the epidemic of wrongful convictions. But one of the main causes is police and prosecutor misconduct, says conservative columnist Paul Craig Roberts, who asks, Where's the Justice?
Illinois: In 1985, Lathierial Boyd was a hot young model gracing the pages of the Chicago Tribune Style section. But in 1990 he was convicted of shooting and paralyzing a man -- without physical evidence and in spite of a solid alibi. WGN-TV reporter Muriel Clair's investigation has turned up an eyewitness who never testified in court. The witness says she told detectives -- 12 years ago -- they had the wrong man. Reasonable Doubt
Florida: Nearly a decade after two teenagers, Timothy Brown and Keith King, were convicted of murdering Broward (Florida) sheriff's Deputy Patrick Behan, a 32-year-old Miami-Dade County man has admitted committing the crime. New confession in old murder
Illinois: Terrence Griffin's murder conviction has been thrown out by the Illinois Appellate Court because the coercive methods used by the Calumet City Police rendered his confession involuntary and unreliable. This is the 248th Illinois case (71 of which involved murder charges) to unravel because of police misconduct in interrogations of suspects. Big Trouble in Calumet City
United States: Steve (the Rifleman) Flemmi committed 10 murders while on the FBI's payroll as a "valued informant." The FBI promised Flemmi immunity even as he continued to kill people. The House Government Reform Committee's investigation into the FBI's long-running abuse of power has been stonewalled at the highest level. William Safire: Executive Privilege Again
Florida: Juan Melendez had been on Florida's death row since the beginning of Ronald Reagan's second term as president. In 1984, he was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. He has spent seventeen of his fifty years on this planet in prison for a crime he didn't commit. What is especially disturbing about this case is that it appears that there was little doubt about Melendez's innocence from the very beginning.Dead Man Walking ... Toward Freedom?
Illinois: Chicago Police Detective Kenneth Boudreau has helped to get confessions from more than a dozen defendants in murder cases in which charges were dropped or the defendant was acquitted at trial. Murder Confessions Unravel
Illinois: False confession may close cases, but they don't solve crimes. The overwhelming majority of false confessions are undocumented, secured in secrecy through tactics ranging from trickery to torture. Yet there is a simple solution to The Problem of False Confessions.
Florida: Victims of police wrongful shootings and other abuses have won millions from Miami in court. Is this simply the city's cost of doing business? Blood Money
Missouri: A group of journalism students got a new trial for a man on death row when they uncovered evidence that prosecutors had encouraged another suspect in the case to lie about the severity of his possible sentence. Making a Difference
California: A defense lawyer's suit against Los Angeles District Attorney Stephen Cooley for fabricating evidence and filing false charges against him was reinstated July 17, 2001 by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It is a further demarcation between absolute and qualified immunity, as the unanimous panel held that allegations of false reports or any investigations done by a prosecutor before probable cause exists can be grounds for a civil suit. The LA D.A.
Florida: In another chilling move that bodes ill for all criminal defendants, and particularly those with innocence claims who must counter junk science used by the prosecution, Florida special prosecutor Harry Shorstein has decided to go after defense experts who disagreed that Kay Sybers was murdered. Intimidating the Experts.
Florida: A senior Justice Department official recently told Miami, Florida lawyer Neal Sonnett, "We hope to make it impossible for any drug dealer to hire a lawyer." How? Prosecuting them for being paid attorney's fees. Mocking the Sixth Amendment.
United States: "Remorse for what? Would you like tears or something?" remarked the FBI agent who framed Joseph Salvati and Peter Limone for a murder in which they had no part. Members of the House Government Reform Committee, however, offered an Apology to Wrongly Jailed Men.
"Did you stab a woman in Culpeper?" the state police detective
asked. Earl Washington's answer launched the biggest mistake in
Virginia's judicial system -- and landed Earl on Death Row. Missteps on the Road to
February 7, 2004: Lawyers representing Earl Washington in his lawsuit against the Culpeper, Virginia police who orchestrated his conviction for the brutal 1982 rape and murder of Rebecca Williams have gathered evidence "including the identity of the convicted rapist whose DNA was identified in the semen mixed with the victim's bodily fluids on the . . . blanket on which she was stabbed and sexually assaulted; his criminal history; circumstantial evidence of his motive and opportunity to commit this crime; and admissions by him". Yet Virginia authorities have no intention of prosecuting Ms. Williams' killer, and have kept the evidence under seal to protect themselves. Release of Sealed Documents Sought
Louisiana: It was New Orleans Assistant District Attorney Lionel Lon Burns' third try to convict police officer George Lee, III of rape. Two earlier trials ended in mistrial and then a hung jury. So Burns planted evidence -- and got caught. DA Jailed for Evidence Tampering
Oregon: Those looking for potential curbs on the now proverbial overzealous prosecutor might be interested in the McDade bill, which requires federal prosecutors to comply with state ethics laws. No big deal? Not quite. In August, the Oregon Supreme Court forbade all lawyers in the state to lie, or encourage others to lie, cheat, or misrepresent themselves. Under McDade, the ruling now applies to Oregon's federal prosecutors. McDade's Legacy
States: What are the lawyer ethics rules in your state? Click
HERE for the
ABA's ethics resources.
current and former LAPD officers claim a code of silence
is enforced by retaliation against those who report
misconduct. They have filed a Whistleblowers' Suit.
Virginia: While federal courts and many other jurisdictions require prosecutors to turn over police reports and other discoverable evidence, commonwealth attorneys in Virginia are pretty much setting their own policies on what they show the other side. Just try to counter criminal charges with The Paperless Defense.
and prosecutors had no evidence against Ellen Reasonover, but that
didn't stop them. They just cut deals with Snitches.
New York, Vermont & Connecticut: A prosecutor who conspires to fabricate evidence can be sued in a civil action for violating a defendant's constitutional rights. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides: Prosecutor's Immunity Limited
California: After Herman Atkins was convicted of raping a woman in a town he had never visited--never even heard of--he fought a 13 year battle to regain his freedom. With the help of the Cardozo Innocence Project, he sought release of the physical evidence, and met the stiffest opposition yet, the DA's battle to keep him from obtaining the evidence that could clear him. It was a Worst Case Scenario
Wisconsin: Bill Lueders, News Editor of the Isthmus newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin asks who's to blame when prosecutors abuse their power. His answer: We all are. Cruel Zealotry
Illinois: Think the LAPD and NYPD are corrupt? Over two decades, a single brutal unit of the Chicago Police Department allegedly tortured confessions out of dozens of suspects, including 10 who are now on death row. Now, some of them are finally getting another day in court. Trial by Torture
New York: How do you address the senseless murder of a storekeeper beloved in his community? Take the word of a crack addict who says "My mind wasn't there. My mind was just about getting high." Have him finger an innocent man, then build a case out of smoke and mirrors, without regard for truth. It doesn't matter that you've charged The Wrong Man.
United States: James McCloskey, Director of Centurion Ministries, Inc., describes the factors that lead to wrongful conviction in excerpts from his law journal article: "Convicting the Innocent."
United States: Should federal prosecutors be exempt from state ethics rules that ensure due process to other defendants who are merely suspected of criminal acts? All Powerful Prosecutors
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and US Virgin Islands: The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office is not an "arm of the state" and therefore can be sued under civil rights laws for the conduct of its investigators.TCan't Use Immunity to Dodge Case.
Prosecutorial Misconduct Study