Waiting is a Beast

I hadn’t heard of this approach before “Present to prosecutors, victim’s families.”

Wrongful Convictions Blog

Below is a link to a 17 minute video. This is Prof. Theresa Newman giving a recent TED Talk. She is co-director of the Duke Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic.

I have had the distinct honor and privilege of working with this lady on a number of wrongful conviction cases in North Carolina. She is one of those people who we should have many, many more of in this world.

Interestingly, I was deeply involved in both the cases she talks about. And I can say that, for all of us, the decision in Derrick’s case was truly a gut punch, as you will see. Unfortunately, this came at the same time that we lost “Al’s” case here in Ohio. Al had documentation and witnesses to prove he was in NY City at the time the murder was committed in Lorain, OH; but because of false eyewitness testimony, he was…

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Our justice system is altogether broken.. because the people leading it are often sick, disturbed racists

Our justice system is altogether broken. This brokenness, though, must not be understood in some abstract way. It’s broken because the people leading it are often sick, disturbed racists who care very little for those on the receiving end of their sickness.

It’s not good enough to simply give wrongfully convicted men an insufficient check and an apology. We must repair the broken system so these instances go away for good.


See also Leaked Documents Reveal Dothan Police Department Planted Drugs on Young Black Men For Years, District Attorney Doug Valeska Complicit December 1, 2015


UK’s Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) subject of critical report.

A paragraph that caught my eye:

4. We are concerned that there may be some miscarriages of justice which are going uncorrected because of the difficulty the CCRC faces in getting some such cases past the threshold of ‘real possibility’, as a result of the Court of Appeal’s approach. While it is important that the jury system is not undermined, properly-directed juries which have seen all of the evidence may occasionally make incorrect decisions.

Wrongful Convictions Blog

The Criminal Cases Review Commission of England and Wales (Scotland has their own Commission) has been the subject of a recent inquiry by the UK Parliament’s Select Justice Committee (see here). The inquiry received 47 written submissions and heard oral evidence from a select group of experts, lawyers and campaigners on miscarriages of justice. The Committee today released it’s highly critical report that can be read here….  It made a series of recommendations including increased funding from government, but also that the CCRC ‘relax’ it’s narrow interpretation of the ‘real possibility’ test when referring cases back to the Court of Appeal. There have been media reports highlighting the critical tone of the report:

Miscarriage of justice review body is dismissed as the Court of Appeal’s ‘lap dog’ in hard-hitting report

The report concluded:

19. We conclude that the CCRC is performing its functions reasonably well, and we have identified areas…

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Eldon Schurz

“To back him up, Levy threw in a transient, Ronnie Yazzie, who was “reimbursed” twice to travel to Phoenix and stay in a motel, and the testimony of a dubious detective, Armando Saldate who was also involved in the Hyde and Milke cases among many others that are very questionable. Saldate was the “fire expert,” though there were several fireman present at the scene.”

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Lester Bower

Lester Bower was convicted of a a quadruple murder after lying to his wife and authorities, about his efforts to buy an ultralight plane, when four people were found shot to death in an airplane hangar on the B&B Ranch north of Dallas

For more than 30 years, Mr. Bower has steadfastly maintained his innocence and has accumulated both withheld and newly discovered evidence of his innocence.

Bower was a Texas A&M University graduate, with a good job, family man, father of two daughters, soccer dad, stable marriage, no mental disabilities, no history of childhood abuse, no previous criminal record.

The State continually argued throughout trial that the victims were killed using a rare form of subsonic ammunition that only a handful of people had access to. Mr. Bower previously had purchased some such ammunition. Yet, there was no way to conclude that subsonic ammunition was in fact used in the murders;the prosecution knew as much but relied on it as fact just the same. Documents the prosecution withheld before trial also show that this ammunition was much more widely available than the prosecution led the jury to believe.

The State further contended that Mr. Bower owned the same type of pistol that was used in the killings. Mr. Bower, however, lost this pistol long before the murders, and the State’s own firearms examiner found that Mr. Bower’s gun had a different firing pin than the one used in the killings—a finding that the prosecution decided to ignore.

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March 23, 2015: Supreme Court won’t hear appeal of Texas inmate who has been on death row for 30 years

March 25, 2015: Execution set for June 3, 2015

May 22, 2015: U.S. court denies motion to halt execution of long-serving Texas inmate

According to Bower’s court filings, he has faced imminent execution on six occasions during his time in prison.

Execution set for June 3, 2015

Guardian Article May 29, 2015

Article June 2015 The Intercept “Doubts Still Plague the 31-year-old Lester Bower Case but Texas Is About To Kill Him Anyway.”

June 3 2015 “Lester Bower Executed In Texas Despite Serious Doubts Over His Guilt”

Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson was convicted in 2003 of murdering his second wife, Kathleen Peterson.

Prosecutors were never able to establish a clear motive and didn’t find a murder weapon, but argued that Peterson likely killed his wife with a fireplace blow poke during an argument and then made it appear as if she fell down the stairs.

In late 2009, Peterson’s attorneys raised a new theory of Kathleen Peterson’s death, that she had been attacked by an owl outside, fallen after rushing inside, and been knocked unconscious after hitting her head on the first tread of the stairs. The owl theory was raised by Durham attorney T. Lawrence Pollard, who raised this possibility after reading the SBI evidence list and finding a “feather” listed.

On December 15, 2011, Peterson was granted a new trial. Retrial is set for May 8, 2017.

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Was an Owl the Real Culprit in the Peterson Murder Mystery? November 12, 2016

February 24, 2017 N.C. novelist walks free after agreeing to plea deal in wife’s death

Lead prosecutor apologizes for role in sending man to death row

Via the Innocence Project. An extraordinary read, a true mea culpa, even though this prosecutor did little wrong, except suffer from the very common will to win rather than to seek justice.

In 1984, I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning. To borrow a phrase from Al Pacino in the movie “And Justice for All,” “Winning became everything.”

After the death verdict in the Ford trial, I went out with others and celebrated with a few rounds of drinks. That’s sick. I had been entrusted with the duty to seek the death of a fellow human being, a very solemn task that certainly did not warrant any “celebration.”

In my rebuttal argument during the penalty phase of the trial, I mocked Mr. Ford, stating that this man wanted to stay alive so he could be given the opportunity to prove his innocence. I continued by saying this should be an affront to each of you jurors, for he showed no remorse, only contempt for your verdict.

Full Article Here

Washington Post

Daniel Benjamin Blan

Daniel Blan was convicted of the murder of Michael K. Bernos on July 27, 1994.

Daniel was convicted on very weak evidence, however Tony Quience was arrested on March 11, 1995 and convicted of the same murder. The jury that convicted Daniel were not aware of Quience’s involvement.

One state witness was a woman who was forced to lie. Another was a drug addict who was in jail with Daniel. Later he admitted he was too high on drugs to remember anything, and days after he testified that he was not being compensated for his testimony. He was charged with 12 counts of first degree robbery. Four of those were life with no parole. All but 7 were dropped and those were taken down to misdemeanors. And he later admitted he wrote the Attorney General office for a favor and was given that favor.

The death certificate says Bernos died approximately 6 pm. Daniel clocked out of work at 5:01. It takes an hour and a half to get from Daniels work to the victims home. without traffic.

A witness told police that two black men were in a car driving fast from the house hours before the murder, and they ran the witness off the road.

Bernos was a pedophile, and one of Quience’s school teachers.  While in jail, Quience confessed to 2 undercover officers than he killed Bernos, who owed him money for drugs.

Rosa Davis of the attorney general office was aware that Bernos had raped and molested numerous boys. That information was never disclosed to the defense.

Despite numerous appeals, Daniel remains in prison. Daniel had an alibi. Two witnesses testified that he was with them till 8:30 pm. At one appeal his court appointed lawyers weree asked why they did not get the charges dropped due to alibi. Both answered “I don’t know”.

Transcripts and other documents are available here.

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The Debra Milke Lawsuit – A Perspective

” Could it possibly be that this case, and this suit, will be the crowbar that finally pries the lid off the slimy justice system snake pit called Maricopa County?”

I hope so! Go Debra!

Wrongful Convictions Blog

Camille Tilley, whose daughter Courtney was wrongfully convicted in Maricopa County, was kind enough to post a link to the lawsuit recently brought by Debra Milke against a number of Phoenex and Maricopa County, AZ officials regarding her wrongful conviction for the murder of her 4 1/2 year-old son. This post was contained in a comment to our recent story about the Debra Milke case.

If you haven’t had a chance to read the lawsuit, I think it deserves some special comment. You can access it directly here:  Debra Milke-lawsuit. It’s very interesting to note that Milke is represented in her suit by the firm of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin. You probably know that Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck are the founders of the original Innocence Project.

I’ve read the suit, and if you think this kind of thing can’t happen to you, you need to…

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Cathy Woods

Woman found guilty of murdering teen nursing student in 1976 gets a new trial after DNA links convicted rapist to the killing… and deaths of FIVE other girls Cathy Woods, 64, was convicted of killing University of Nevada student Michele Mitchell in 1976.
However, new DNA evidence connects an Oregon inmate named Rodney L Halbower to the murder Woods’ attorney believes she confessed to the murder in order to get a better room at the mental hospital where she was being treated at the time
Now 64, Woods is set to be released from prison this week to await a retrial.

Daily Mail Article September 9, 2014 | Report at National Registry of Exonerations

Note: Another Edward Edwards case? Apparently not, even though it is claimed by Cameron.

Exonerated March 6, 2015: DNA frees woman after 30 years locked up for murder

Rodney Halbower, 66, was serving a 30-year sentence for attempted murder in Oregon when he was extradited to San Mateo County, California, and charged in January with murder in the 1976 deaths of Paula Louise Baxter, 17, and Veronica “Ronnie” Anne Cascio, 18, near Pacifica.

Halbower had been arrested for the rape of a 33-year-old woman in Reno in November 1975 — three months before Mitchell was killed not far away. He was released on bail and barely a month later, the series of “Gypsy Hill” murders began. Cascio’s body was found Jan. 8, 1976, and Baxter’s on Feb. 4. Mitchell was killed Feb. 24.


Michael Skakel

Long article in The Atlantic by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. January 2003

Celebrity trials can turn into media lynchings. Last year a Connecticut jury convicted Michael Skakel of killing his neighbor Martha Moxley twenty-seven years ago, even though the prosecution had no fingerprints, no DNA, and no witnesses. The author, a former New York City prosecutor, argues that his cousin’s indictment was triggered by an inflamed media, and that an innocent man is now in prison

Ruling overturning conviction October 2013

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Report on bail hearing Nov 21, 2014

Michael Skakel settles lawsuit against HLN host Nancy Grace, claiming slander over murder case Nov 12, 2014

News report Dec 12, 2014

Please see this January 2, 2017 article for an update and full case description.

Donald Deardorff

Donald Deardorff was falsely implicated in the 1999 home invasion, robbery and  murder of businessman Ted Turner in 1999 by the true perpetrator Millard Peacock, convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

Peacock had given him the a box to hold for safekeeping for two days. Donald became curious about the contents of the box and opened it and was surprised to see a gun and money.

When Donald heard Turner was missing, he got in a car with his girlfriend, Christy Andrews, and they rode around looking for Peacock so they could return the box to him. They stopped at a Wal-Mart, and were then stopped by the police, who were investigating the murder.

Peacock was arrested in Mississippi on October 5, 1999. He gave numerous conflicting statements to the police, and in July 2001, he agreed to “cooperate fully” and led the police to Turner’s remains.

Peacock testified against Donald at trial. In exchange for his testimony, Peacock pleaded guilty to two theft charges and received a 15-year prison sentence.

Recovered DNA, recovered handwriting samples, hair samples and other evidence excludes Donald. At this time no testing has been done to determine who it belongs to. Phone records prove that Donald was somewhere else, in a Rule 32 hearing a witness who was friends with the victim testified that she saw Peacock and the victim together at a time when Peacock claims that the victim had already been kidnapped. There are many many other issues that point to innocence.

There is no reliable independent evidence against Donald, only the word of Peacock, whose guilt is not in doubt.

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Debra Milke Case — She Remains Free — and IT’S DONE !!

Debra Milke, the end, AT LAST! ( In case anyone didn’t notice! )

Wrongful Convictions Blog

Today, the Arizona Supreme Court refused to grant the prosecution a retrial for Debra Milke. Milke’s conviction had been overturned by the US 9th Circuit for prosecutorial misconduct, and sent back to the Arizona courts.  See the AZ Central story here.

We’ve covered this case extensively. See here, here, here, and here.

And …….. Debra Milke has filed suit against Maricopa County, AZ, the prosecutor (Bill Montgomery), the detective (Armando Saldate), and twelve other officials. See the Courthouse News Service article here.

All I can say is …. YOU GO, GIRL!

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Anthony Ray Hinton

Anthony was convicted of two shooting murders at fast food restaurants near Birmingham, Alabama in 1985. There were no eyewitnesses to either crime, and the fingerprints lifted from each crime scene did not match Mr. Hinton. The only evidence linking Mr. Hinton to the murders stemmed from a third shooting at a fast food restaurant in Bessemer. The victim in the third shooting did not die and misidentified Mr. Hinton as the assailant. At the time of the third shooting, Mr. Hinton was working in a locked warehouse 15 miles from the crime scene. His supervisor and other employees confirmed his innocence.

The State claimed that bullets recovered from all three crimes were fired from the same weapon and claimed that they matched a weapon recovered from Mr. Hinton’s mother.

In June 2002, three of the country’s top gun experts testified that they had examined the state’s evidence and concluded that the crime bullets could not be matched to the weapon recovered from Mr. Hinton’s mother and that the state had erred in making that claim.

After a long legal saga (including a successful appeal to the US Supreme Court), on September 25, 2014, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Laura Petro ordered a new trial for Mr. Hinton, and the Court of Criminal Appeals upheld that decision on November 21, 2014.

On April 2, 2015 the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Anthony was represented by the Equal Justice Initiative.


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Report at National Registry of Exonerations

The Oral Argument – Change of venue

Charles Ajokolo‘s appeal heard by UCF law students.


Yesterday, March 17th was the oral argument. Originally, I had entertained the idea of watching it live from my home in Alabama. My son’s attorney told me that we could watch it live. I had been weighing the idea back and forth.

I decided to present my questions and concerns to the Wrongly ConvictedGroup. I especially want to thank George Barwood and Don Rehkopf. I am so glad that I joined the group. Their advice kept me from a lot of heartache. 

It is a good thing that I attended because the argument was not held at the normal venue. Instead of being held in the courtroom, where it is video-taped; it was held at the UCF Student Union, where it is not videotaped. This was a chance for law students at UCF to ask questions at the end of each segment.

Imagine that. If had I not attended and…

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Shawna Forde

Shawna was leading her own minuteman group called MAD in AZ border by Mexico at a time when the border violence was spilling over into AZ from Mexico. She was working on a case with the FBI to expose some high level members of law enforcement and was making a documentary on it. She had apparently talked about maybe hitting an empty stash house near Arivaca and stealing arms and money from it (empty as in no one living there); she gave a map of it to an undercover FBI agent.

Later three men and a woman knocked upon a man’s home in Arivaca and barged in saying they were law enforcement looking for fugitives, once in the one man shot the husband and killed him, shot the wife and she played dead, shot the 9 year old girl and killed her.

Then two more entered the home and raided it, the female said someone was coming and they all stepped out. The woman survivor got into the kitchen and called 911 and got a gun out of a drawer in there; she screams to 911 they are coming back and as the woman that entered sees her she runs out and tells the guys to finish her off, the guy shooter runs in and gunfire breaks out, the wounded female runs him off and shoots him in the leg, the shooters leave. The survivor cannot pick Shawna Forde out of a police line up and describes a woman that doesnt fit Shawna’s description or hair color.

No neighbor can pick Shawna out of photo line up. No evidence of Shawna is found on the crime scene. Just prior to trial the FBI agent that got the map destroys it knowing it’s major evidence and admits he destroyed it.

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News report with 911 call, June 17, 2009 | 911 call

Another Summary

EVERYBODY Is Supposed to Tell the Truth in Court ……. Right??

Why not? Counter argument would be people might be reluctant to do the job, for fear of being accused. But same argument applies to witnesses – they could have fear of testifying. Why are lawyers entitled to special protection?

Wrongful Convictions Blog

The genesis of this post was the recent action by the US 9th Circuit in California, in which the court recommended perjury charges against a prosecutor who had lied to the court. Please see our previous post on this case here.

When I first saw this, my initial reaction was “holy smoke!” This is precedent shattering. But when you read the details, the potential perjury charges were recommended because the prosecutor in question had lied while testifying. This situation does not cover a prosecutor’s lying in court when not officially sworn in and under oath, which is basically all the time.

That’s when I had the epiphany. Here’s my idea. Let’s have all trial counsel, prosecutors and defense attorneys, sworn in at the beginning of each trial. It’s so SIMPLE, and would COST NOTHING. At most, this would take 60 seconds of the bailiff’s time at the beginning…

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Christy Phillips

Christy was convicted as a juvenile and has been imprisoned for 13 years. She was arrested and detained two months after she had turned 15 years old. During her 48-hour detention, the police denied her contact with her mother, a lawyer, food, and water. She did not sleep during this time. She was coerced into making a false confession. Aged 16, she was tried in an adult court, and sentenced to two life sentences for a crime she did not commit.

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