Texas Senate approves bill for commission to examine wrongful convictions

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Donnis George Musgrove

An Alabama inmate who has spent almost 30 years on death row for a murder he denies committing has an unusual supporter in his bid for freedom: A state judge who once represented the man’s co-defendant while working as a defense lawyer.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tommy Nail told The Associated Press in an interview this week he believes Donnis George Musgrove and another man were wrongly convicted of capital murder in 1988, and he hopes a federal court now reviewing Musgrove’s appeal corrects the error.

From a report in the Guardian:

The defense says in court documents that later scientific tests prove the 9 mm casing used as evidence against Musgrove was planted at the scene and wasn’t tied to the crime at all. And besides, Musgrove’s lawyers contend: Witness testimony and phone records showed he was in Florida, hundreds of miles away, at the time of the killing.

Add it all up, the defense claims, and Musgrove should be set free.

“To successfully plead actual innocence, a petitioner must show that his conviction resulted from a constitutional violation,” Musgrove’s lawyers wrote in court documents submitted to US district judge David Proctor, who is considering the case. “Here, the evidence shows decisively that Mr. Musgrove is innocent of the crime for which he was sentenced to death.”

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News

“Musgrove, 67, was sentenced to die for the gunshot killing of Coy Eugene Barron in 1986, but his attorneys maintain the prosecution falsified every piece of evidence against him, including witness statements and a shell casing that was used to link him to the slaying.”

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/24/death-row-inmate-alabama-wrongful-conviction

Death row inmate dies before ruling on whether to exonerate him November 27, 2015

Anthony Ray Hinton was released on Good Friday last year 2014. He was prosecuted by the same attorney, in front of the same judge, using the same ballistics expert. And the United States Supreme Court overturned his conviction last year. And after the time that had passed he was also on death row since the late 1980’s,” said Jackson.

Jackson says Musgrove will never get that chance.

“Donnis maintained his innocence the entire time from the moment he was arrested until his death. And the appeal had several issues, there were several problems. His constitutional rights were violated because the prosecution coached some witnesses and offered perjured testimony at the trial. The prosecution and the investigating officers switched some shell casings with some bullets that allowed the prosecution’s expert to try to link up a weapon with Donnis and his co-defendant,” said Jackson.

Jackson says that Musgrove’s defense attorney during the trial had never tried a capital murder case before and made several errors.

“So there were lots of reasons that Donnis’s conviction should never have happened and we continued to try to raise those on appeal over the last 20 years,” said Jackson.

A federal appeals court had yet to issue a ruling on those issues when Musgrove passed away on November 25th, 2015. The questions raised in the appeal have not been answered.

“Unfortunately they will not. This appeal will die with Mr. Musgrove. And we are so sad that he did not live to be exonerated because we firmly believe that he was an innocent man and wrongfully convicted,” said Jackson.

Timothy McEnany

Timothy McEnany was wrongfully accused and convicted of a crime in 1993, in Hummelstown, PA (USA).

The police ignored the obvious suspects, never even questioning them, and allowing them to “clean up” the crime scene, despite witnesses describing someone who easily fit the description of the victim’s grandson, fleeing from the scene.

Instead, they targeted and fabricated a sloppy case around an innocent chimney-sweep, based on evidence that would have been dismissed from any legitimate court procedings outside of Pennsylvania… a commonwealth, in which the State Police run the show, with no system of checks and balances.

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Ingmar Guandique

Ingmar Guandique was wrongly convicted of the murder of Chandra Levy in May 2001. He was implicated by Edward Edwards as witness #10 in the arrest affidavit dated March 2009. Edwards was not identified as the author of the affidavit and did not appear at trial. Edwards blogged on ZodiacKiller.com  from Levy’s hometown, four days before killing her. [ Source: It’s Me, page 338-339 ]. There is  more detail in the book about Edwards’ activities around this time.

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News May 26, 2015

Five years ago, a jury convicted Ingmar Guandique for the murder of Chandra Levy. It now appears that a new jury will re-hear the case.

Federal prosecutors have dropped their opposition to Gaundique’s defense attorneys’ requests for a new trial, paving the way for the case to return to court. Now the judge who presided over the first trial will decide if there will be a second.

Notice of withdrawal of opposition to new trial May 22, 2015

News June 3, 2015

Now, a neighbor of Levy’s has spoken with Guandique’s defense team, claiming she heard suspicious sounds on the last day Chandra was alive.

“She has told Mr. Guandique’s lawyers that she called 911 at 4:37 a.m., to report a ‘blood-curdling scream’ from a woman in extreme distress,” an insider told The ENQUIRER. “She said it may have come from Chandra’s apartment.”

Sources close to Levy’s relatives say that Chandra’s mother Susan — wanting “to know the truth” — approves of a new trial, The ENQUIRER reported.

News June 6, 2015 : Chandra Levy murder retrial granted by US judge.

June 12 : trial date set for March 1, 2016

July 14 :  to remain in jail until new trial

Nov 20 : Prosecutor in retrial of man charged in Levy murder acknowledges ‘mistake’

Dec 15 : Defense attorneys seek dismissal of murder charges

Jan 20, 2016 : “Defense attorneys point fingers at other potential suspects

July 28, 2016 : “Guandique to be released; No new trial in Chandra Levy case

Brian Davis

Brian Davis made a false confession to save his wife after she was involved in a murder.

In Brian’s false confession, he stated that the murder occurred on Sat August 10, 1991 at around 3-4 am, however the Medical Investigator who inspected the body around 2:30pm on August 13, stated that the body was in full rigor mortis and death had occurred within the last 12 hours. Thus Brian’s confession cannot have been true.

There is no physical evidence linking Brian to the crime. In 2011 DNA tests showed that two unidentified males were at the scene.

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Wrongly Convicted Group – First Annual Review

Today, 26th May 2015, is the anniversary of the first featured case proposal ( Kirstin Lobato ), I thought this would be a suitable day to take stock and review the group’s activities.

To mark the day, a new facebook page has been created Wrongly Convicted Group – Exonerees.

Many, many thanks to the many individuals who have contributed.

I hope to be able to report further successes over the next year.

George

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals soils itself again

Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals soiled itself again after its recent shameful refusal to find Dan and Frances Keller innocent of sexually assaulting children during satanic rituals in their Austin day care center case despite not a shred of physical evidence to support the fantastical false allegations. I wrote about the Keller case here.

This time they suspended David Dow from practicing in their court for a year for missing a deadline that he did not miss. He is the founder of the Texas Innocence Network and the leading death penalty lawyer in the state. Wrongfully convicted innocent clients on death row are depending on him to save their lives. He’s the best shot they have.

Mimi Schwartz of the Texas Monthly describes what happened.

It isn’t easy to get a stay of execution; attorneys have to present the court with a substantial amount of information to win…

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New Study Predicts Wrongful Conviction Rate in U.S. at 5,000 to 10,000 Per Year

Wrongful Convictions Blog

By Professor Marvin Zalman.   Full article here.

The conclusion states:

The ultimate question is whether the prospect of, at a minimum, 2,000 innocent defendants going to prison every year (with capital murder defendants a disproportionately higher part of this total as their wrongful conviction rates are demonstrably higher than 0.5%), and another 3,000 receiving lesser felony sentences, should move the innocence reform agenda. That question will be decided in the political and policy arenas. Whatever activists or policy makers do, scholars have an obligation to think clearly about the issue. This obligation led me to rethink the bases of my belief that the Estimate of a general wrongful felony conviction rate of 0.5% to 1.0% is correct, which reconsideration has been explained at length herein.

As the Estimate is an estimate it could be wrong in either direction. It is likely that the number-of-wrongful-convictions-is-vanishingly- small hypothesis is the…

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Court tosses convictions but won’t say couple is innocent

Wrongful Convictions Blog

No matter how much evidence of innocence might exist, it is sometimes next to impossible to get the courts to fully admit error. That’s what happened yesterday, when Dan and Fran Keller, who were convicted on “satanic daycare abuse” charges in 1992, finally had their convictions overturned by Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. While the court ruled that the Kellers were wrongly convicted, the Austin American-Statesman reports here, it just couldn’t come around to admitting the Kellers, who were released in 2013, were actually innocent.  The Kellers plan to continue their fight.

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LaTimes Op-Ed : Despite Tsarnaev, the death penalty is on the decline

This year two death row inmates were exonerated: Debra Milke, jailed from 1990 to 2013 in Arizona, and Anthony Ray Hinton, jailed since 1985 in Alabama by a prosecutor who said he knew Hinton was guilty “just by looking at him.” They were the 151st and 152nd U.S. death row prisoners so exonerated — the latest illustrations that the evidence in capital cases is often faulty or nonexistent.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-marazziti-tsarnaev-death-penalty-20150521-story.html

1,600 U.S. Exonerations Highlight Unacceptable Error in Criminal Justice

Wrongful Convictions Blog

The National Registry of Exonerations has announced a chilling milestone, the 1,600th known exoneration in the United States since 1989. The tally of persons known to have been convicted of crimes they did not commit has grown rapidly from the Registry’s launch three years ago. The 1600th exoneration, that of Michael McAlister, occurred last week.

Maurice Possley’s Registry report on Michael McAlister (here) provides the telling details — case unique and yet familiar — of a tragic miscarriage. Police and prosecutors would come to doubt McAlister’s guilt and subsequently joined a long effort to correct this stubborn error.

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Criminal Judicial Reform Petition

WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:

Criminal Judicial Reform: Create a Federal Commission to expedite and investigate wrongful conviction claim(s)

Wrongful convictions are NOT accidents: “2013 was a record-breaking year for exonerations in the United States,”Exonerations hit record high in 2014” Death Row exonerations, 153.

Since the DOJ and FBI refuse to investigate blatant constitutional violations by state prosecutors, we the people request there be a commission established to investigate and expedite legitimate claims of wrongful convictions.

Any knowingly false claim could be charged with perjury.

It is a known fact that American prisons currently house 10’s of 1,000’s of innocent people.

How can we as a Nation accuse other countries of human rights violations when we are the worse violator ourselves?

Are we truly asking too much, to have a commission to investigate egregious human rights violations we know have occurred?

Published Date: May 18, 2015

Sean Ellis

A man who’s spent nearly 22 years in prison for the murder of a Boston police detective on Tuesday was granted bail, set at $50,000, by the judge who ordered a new trial in his case.

Sean Ellis, now 40, was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1993 murder of Boston Police Det. John Mulligan, who was shot five times in the face as he sat in his car on a security detail in Roslindale. It was Ellis’ third trial. The first two trials ended with hung juries.

In granting Ellis a fourth trial, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol Ball last week found that exculpatory evidence was withheld from Ellis’ lawyers. That includes a report that one Boston police officer had implicated another officer in the murder.

Source: http://www.wbur.org/2015/05/12/sean-ellis-bail-set

A Boston-based petition requesting a new, fair trial for Sean Ellis garnered more than 5,000 signatures and was delivered to Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley in December 2014.

Sean’s murder and armed robbery convictions were overturned on May 5, 2015, with bail set at $50,000.

Sean’s mother is requesting donations to (a) help the family make bail, and (b) assist Sean’s re-entry to civilian life.

Source: http://www.justiceforseanellis.com/letter-from-sean-ellis/

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Michael Kenneth McAlister

Michael Kenneth McAlister was convicted in 1986 despite the only trial evidence linking him to the attack being the victim’s eyewitness testimony.

The exoneration came five days before a hearing that could have led to McAlister’s indefinite confinement as a violent sex offender under the state’s civil commitment law. Authorities, including the former Richmond police detective who investigated McAlister and former and current city prosecutors, say the real perpetrator was a serial rapist who three decades ago bore a striking resemblance to McAlister.

“My staff and I have carefully and thoroughly reviewed the documentation in this case and concluded that a pardon is appropriate in light of the overwhelming evidence, including a recent confession by another individual, pointing to Mr McAlister’s actual innocence of the crime for which he was convicted,” McAuliffe said in a written statement.

Source: Guardian Report

What makes for wrong convictions? Data for believers of “near perfect” forensics in US courts

FORENSICS and LAW in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends

5_13-2015 ContribFactors copy

Updated graphs of investigation and prosecution contribution factors  in nearly 1600 exonerations proved by the National Registry of Exonerations.  (wait a bit for download, scroll down for other stats).

Look for GREEN: False or Misleading Forensic Evidence 23% 363/1597

Look for ORANGE: False Confession 13% 202/1597

Look for Red: Perjury or False Accusation 56% 888/1597

Look for Purple: Official Misconduct 46% 727/1597

Look for Blue: Mistaken Witness ID 34% 535/1597

For a contrasting opinion, you can read this.

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Rodney Stanberrry

The end of Valerie Findley’s life began with a single shot from a 9-mm hand gun. But it took years for her to die. She had been on the phone with one of her best friends, her sister, when there was a knock at the door of her home in Whistler, Ala. It was March 2, 1992 between eight and nine in the morning.

The two men outside were there under false pretenses. That there were two men is not disputed. Their identities are. The reason they were there is also not in question. They came to steal the gun collection belonging to Mike Finley – Valerie’s husband – and they did. They stuffed the guns in a pillowcase and before both men left, one of them tried to snuff out Valerie’s life with a single gunshot in the style of an executioner. But to their chagrin, and to the surprise of many others, Valerie Finley lived. She lived long enough to remember, speak of, and testify about the crime.

At the end of it all, Rodney Stanberry was jailed for the crime. He was Mike Finley’s best friend. They collected guns together and had many of the same guns. After so many years, two questions remain: Why would Rodney Stanberry have an interest in stealing the guns of his best friend – many of which he already owned – and, why would he condone the shooting of his best friend’s wife?

The answer, according to Stanberry, is that he didn’t. He wasn’t even there when the crime happened, he says. At the time, Rodney Stanberry was a driver for BFI, the waste disposal service. Documents and statements from Stanberry’s bosses show that when Valerie Finley was shot, Stanberry was miles away at a BFI facility having his sanitation truck repaired. While those documents and testimony from a BFI manager were considered by the jury Rodney Stanberry was convicted anyway – some three years after the shooting of Valerie Finley – of being an accessory. While the jury saw that evidence, something they did not see was the confession of a man who admitted in a recorded conversation to being in Valerie Finley’s home when she was shot

Source: http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=2332

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March 13, 2017 : Released from prison

Tribeca Film Festival showcases “Dream Killer” docu on unjust justice

“Zellner “I could frame Mother Teresa if I wanted to.” We’re at a weird point where we have all this information available these days, as we have all of this incredible technology. Yet the judicial system, in of itself, is broken at its core. We’re incentivising prosecutors to just win cases, whether or not they disregard the truth.”

That’s the truth, it is happening too often, and wrongful convictions are not being reversed in a timely or efficient way.

FORENSICS and LAW in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends

The interview revolves around and within Ryan Ferguson’s ordeal of 10 years in MO prison. Characters include makers of the Dream Killer documentary and what they say about those involved with Ferguson’s conviction and later exoneration. This is NOT fiction.

http://www.shockya.com/news/2015/05/07/tribeca-2015-interview-andrew-jenks-talks-dreamkiller-exclusive/

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