Manuel Ortiz

Sister Helen Prejean writes:

Manuel Ortiz has been on death row at Angola, Louisiana’s State Penitentiary, for 22 years. Manuel, originally from El Salvador, was convicted in 1994 of hiring someone to kill his wife, Tracie Williams, and of the murder of Tracie’s friend, Cheryl Mallory.

Manuel’s legal team believes he is innocent of these crimes. I am certain he is.

What makes me so sure? The case against him was riddled with inconsistencies, plagued by prosecutorial double dealing and built upon the testimony of one man, an FBI informant, who later confessed to the crime.

I have been visiting Manuel for a decade and a half and have grown to know him well. Rose Vines, who works with me at the Ministry Against the Death Penalty, has also been visiting Manuel for over a decade. Recently, Rose did an interview for Death: The Podcast, where she talked at length about visiting Manuel. Her account is simply told and both moving and profound. I encourage you to listen so you may learn something about this man who is such an important part of our work and our lives.

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McKinley Phipps

 

Huffpost Crime reports that in 2000, Phipps was a 22-year-old rising star from New Orleans, signed to Master P’s No Limit Records, when he was arrested for shooting and killing Barron Victor Jr., 19, at a concert at Club Mercedes in Slidell, Louisiana. Phipps, also known by his stage name, Mac the Camouflage Assassin, was charged with first-degree murder, although there was no forensic evidence to support the charge. He was eventually convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

From day one, the case against Phipps has been riddled with controversy. Along with no forensic evidence, prosecutors failed to perform ballistics on what could have possibly been the real murder weapon. Instead, they focused on gathering up witnesses, many of which later said they were bullied into providing false testimony.

The star witness, Yulon James, who was at the club the night of the shooting, testified that she saw Phipps pull the trigger, something she later recanted. She admitted that the only reason she lied was because the parish district attorney’s office, headed by DA Walter Reed, continuously bullied and threatened her.

Read more here

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Stephen Newman

On July 23, 2011, fire officers arrived at a garage in Selly Oak, Birmingham, and found two men crouching outside with severe burns, and a burning propane cylinder inside.

Mr Wilding, 41, had suffered fatal burns to half his body. Mr Cotterill, then 34, endured terrible injuries, spent 48 days in intensive care and lost all his fingers.

Stephen Newman, who admitted being present, was convicted in 2012 of deliberately directing  the flame from the cylinder at the two men, and sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Mr Wilding and Mr Cotterill had found the disused garage off an alleyway and turned it into a squat. Stephen and others visited the building the day before and the three had been drinking heavily.

Stephen says he did not light the cannister, and it was was activated by Mr Wilding in an attempt to dry damp trousers belonging to another individual. He heard the cannister hiss, and residents near the garage heard the same noise, believed an explosion was imminent and urged those inside to flee. CCTV footage shows him exiting the scene alone.

A local newspaper after  viewing witness statements and conducting interviews has concluded that there are, at the very least, significant questions that remain unanswered.

In January 2013,  Mr Cotterill stated: “I did not see Stephen light that gas cannister. I didn’t see what happened.”

There was no motive or reason for Stephen to attack the men, and his brother has said: “Stephen was placid, really. He would not harm a fly. Even if he tried, he couldn’t. He would not be capable of using a gas bottle to attack these people because that was not his character.”

After losing an appeal against his conviction, Stephen has been on hunger-strike, and has not eaten for three weeks.

Source: Birmingham Mail, April 21, 2016

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Ray Meyers

Ray Meyers was told to plead guilty to a child molestation case in Riverside County CA, by a court appointed attorney.

He is innocent, doc report came back with no physical evidence.

He is a cancer patient or was, almost paralyzed due to his extensive treatment. He had a stem cell transplant years ago but because of his on going medical issues, he is in a state prison hospital in Stockton.

He was helping out a friend of his who was homeless and living in a van with his two kids, my friend offered to help him out by opening up his home and offered to watch the two kids while the parents went/looked for work.

This is how he was repaid by being accused of molesting the little girl!

Scared and not having any money due to his disability, he listened to the lawyer because the lawyer told him if he plead guilty he would get a lesser sentence, this did not happen even though they had no evidence he is wasting away in prison and supporters are afraid he will die there without the proper care he needs.

He is coming up for his first parole, his sentence is 80 to life.

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Kyle Evans

In 2011, Kyle was arrested for failure to appear on trafiic citations, small traffic infractions. The same night, two African-American’s, a man and a woman, were arrested for a heinous crime. One week later, Kyle was charged with the heinous crime.

He had got a lift with the two people. The police were looking for two African-American men, and one Africa-American woman. Kyle is Caucasian .

Instead of turning in the guilty man’s brother, the two in custody named Kyle.

They asked the victim several times what the intruders looked like. She always stated it was three African-Americans, two male, one female. After hounding the victim, one week later they showed her a photo of Kyle.

Could he be the third? No, she stated. Several times she stated no. Finally after more coercion, she said “maybe”.

They offered Kyle a 12 year plea-deal to testify against the two in custody. Kyle stated he could not do that, he was not there. He asked for a jury trial, knowing he was innocent.

The public defender said it was an easy case to defend, and failed to object properly during the trial.

The State asked Kyle for a DNA sample, which he gave. However the State never tested the Kyle’s DNA against the evidence they had. However in court, the State claimed a match.

The two guilty parties testified against Kyle to obtain lesser sentences. The woman got seven years.

Kyle was convicted, and has now filed a motion to test the evidence against his DNA. The State had 60 days to respond, after 80 days they had not responded. Kyle has been sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

The family are trying to obtain a lawyer to help Kyle.

Source:

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Billy Wayne Cope

DNA proved that a complete stranger, a serial lone wolf sexual predator raped and killed Billy Wayne Cope’s daughter. But a jury convicted Cope even though his coerced confession never named the true perpetrator — James Earl Sanders.

Cope and Sanders never met. And why would they? Cope was an obese, loner, who lived at home in Rock Hill with his wife and three daughters and was active in a local evangelical church. Sanders was a black, recently released criminal from NC who in the span of six weeks attempted to assault or assaulted five women, including Amanda Cope who he also murdered.

The idea sold to this jury — that Cope conspired with Sanders and pimped out his own daughter to him — is so absurd that no right-thinking person could believe it.

But 12 jurors in SC did and two SC courts affirmed their decision. Hopefully, his new post-conviction lawyers can right this wrong before going to federal court.

Source

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On 9th February, Billy died before he could be exonerated.

Lorinda Swain

Lorinda Swain was convicted in 2002 for sexually abusing her adopted son.

But her son later told the court he’d lied about the abuse. After more than seven years in prison, Swain was let out on bond when a judge ruled she deserved a new trial.

But the Court of Appeals overruled that decision two separate times.

Source: What does an innocent person have to do to get their conviction overturned? April 4, 2016

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Calhoun Co. prosecutor won’t retry Lorinda Swain May 19, 2016
“In an order issued Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that Swain was entitled to a new trial. Later the same day, Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert told 24 Hour News 8 that his office would not move forward with the retrial.”

New Report Details Need for Greater Transparency and Accountability for Prosecutors

Wrongful Convictions Blog

The Innocence project (NY) has announced the release of a new report calling for greater transparency and accountability for prosecutors.

On the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Connick v. Thompson, which granted prosecutors broad immunity for their misconduct, a coalition of innocence organizations today released a new report, Prosecutorial Oversight: A National Dialogue in the Wake of Connick v. Thompson, calling for greater transparency and accountability for prosecutors. Although prosecutors have long argued that there are sufficient systems in place to guard against misconduct, the report reviewed court findings of misconduct over a five year period for five states, documenting 660 findings of misconduct – a likely undercount given the difficulties in identifying this behavior. Of these cases, we know of only one prosecutor who was disciplined for his misconduct, and that took a change of law by the Texas Legislature. The report, which was…

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David Johnson

David Johnson, aged 15, was with  his older brother Matthew Johnson and another man Matthew Marshall who committed a murder at a party on New Year’s eve 2008.

According to the police report, Marshall and Matthew Johnson showed up at the party after a female friend called them because she didn’t like the way she was being treated.

There were over 30 people at the party that night. All of those people were friends with the victim, none of them mentioned David took part in the murder.

Two years later, Marshall accused David in order to get a reduced sentence.

At trial, a witness stated that David was not in the house when the murder took place.

In spite of this, David was convicted.

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John Muise

John Peter Muise was convicted of the February 1, 2006 murder of Jeremy Magrette.

John testified that although he drove Michael Fladland to the trailer where Magrette was murdered, it was Fladland who committed the murder. Fladland was indicted as an accessory before the fact to murder. Fladland disappeared between John’s arrest and his trial, his lawyers complained in his appeal that this denied John a fair trial, as they were unable to call him as a witness and question him about his role. At trial, it was stipulated that Cherrie Mark Roach  had sold Fladland the gun that was determined to have been used to kill Magrette.

Forensic tests on John to see if he had fired a gun were negative. No tests were performed on Fladland.

The conviction rests on the testimony of a single witness Jamie Little, who may have been coached to secure a conviction. Little was taking  prescription medications, including Xanax, Tylenol 3, and Ultram, that could have affected the reliability of her testimony.

The shooting occurred at approximately 9:20 p.m.

When asked that evening, Little said it was dark and she saw the shooter in the doorway. Later she claimed it was John Muise, and she could see his face due to a night light, however the light would have been behind a person standing in the doorway.

Appeal denied December 2008

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Keith Allen Harward

In 2009, University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett was poring over old trial records, looking for questionable forensic science evidence, when he came across the case of Keith Allen Harward, convicted of rape and murder in Newport News in 1986.

Now, the Innocence Project says recent DNA testing proves Harward didn’t commit the brutal 1982 crimes, casting further doubt on the validity of bite-mark comparison — a forensic technique that two experts testified strongly linked Harward to the crimes. It was their testimony that drew Garrett’s attention and concern in 2009.

..

Garrett, after reviewing the trial transcript, is not persuaded the bite-mark testimony was valid and said that when he learned a petition for a writ of actual innocence was filed by Harward earlier this month, “It was really, really, really disturbing to think you can just come across innocent people’s cases by accident like that.”

Harward, 59, has not been exonerated. Lawyers with the Innocence Project and the Washington law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP filed the innocence petition on March 4.

Proceedings have been stayed by the Virginia Supreme Court so that more DNA test results — said by Harward’s lawyers to further support innocence — can be submitted to the court.

 Full article here March 27, 2016

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Update April 2, 2016:

DNA implicates a career criminal in the rape of a Newport News woman and the murder of her husband more than three decades ago and conclusively proves the innocence of his former Navy shipmate wrongly convicted of the crimes, according to the imprisoned man’s lawyers.

April 8, 2016 : Virginia man exonerated by DNA evidence walks free after 33 years in jail

 

Feb 7, 2017 : After wrongful imprisonment of 33 years, Virginia man will get $1.6 million

Keith Allen Harward, who served 33 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit, will receive nearly $1.6 million from the commonwealth of Virginia under a bill approved Monday by the House of Delegates.

Harward was convicted of a 1982 rape and murder in Newport News. He was released from prison last year after DNA testing proved he was innocent. The House unanimously passed HB 1650 to provide relief to Harward, now 60.