In January 2012 Casmer Volk was found guilty of raping a child and sentenced to 28 years to life. A medical exam performed 30 hours after the alleged attack showed no trauma or bruising. When questioned by police, the child repeatedly stated the allegation was a lie, before changing his story again. Underwear the child wore to the hospital, put on a day later, tested positive for blood and semen, but a DNA test excluded Casmer, and indicated the child’s father was the source of the semen.
Amber Hilberling admitted to pushing her husband, an Air Force veteran, out of their 17th-floor apartment in Tulsa during an argument in June 2011.
But she claimed in court she did not intend to kill him, and blamed his fatal fall on “dangerously unsafe” window glass that was too weak to stop his plunge.
Amber, who was seven months pregnant when her husband died, cited self-defense and even rejected a plea deal that would have given her only five years behind bars.
But a jury convicted her of second-degree murder in 2013, after only three hours of deliberation. A judge sentenced her to 25 years in prison.
Amber still stuck by her self-defense claim, repeating it in a televised prison interview with Dr. Phil.
“There was an altercation in which I defended myself,” she told Dr. Phil, adding that her husband flew into a rage after she called him a coward.
She also claimed in the interview that her husband abused her through their 11-month marriage, and she always kept quiet about it.
“I was really good at lying,” Hilberling said.
“That was our relationship: Josh getting in trouble over and over again and me saying, ‘Oh, no, it’s not his fault. That’s my fault. I did that.’
In October 2016, Amber committed suicide in her prison cell.
In January 2017, Kenneth Lee Hopkins, 27, was found guilty by a jury in the murder of 19-year-old Marshay Wesson and her unborn son. Wesson was found shot multiple times in her car while waiting on Hopkins near East 28th Street North and North Wheeling Ave in June 2012. She was eight-and-a-half months pregnant.
Prosecutors closed with arguments that Wesson was calling Hopkins right up until the moments before she was shot multiple times.
Hopkins’ attorneys said their client didn’t kill anyone and said the murder weapon was found in another man’s car.
In this lecture, Professor Richard Leo discusses false confession cases, exploring the phenomenon of false confessions, the impact of confession evidence, and the causes of false confession.
Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted in December 2015 of 18 of 36 counts of sexual assault, and was sentenced to 263 years in prison.
Daniel maintains his innocence, and has several credible supporters with detailed knowledge of the case. They point out that many of the allegations were disproven, and none of the allegations were corroborated by independent evidence.
This is a more detailed account of the featured case of Jason David Sadowski, who faces a retrial starting on March 6, 2017.
Update1: A dedicated wordpress site with case information was created on Feb 3, 2017:
Update2: Jason was found not guilty on all counts on March 17, 2017.
Two drug addicts, Angel Paris and Becky Bressette, accused Jason of assaulting and torturing them after they admitted stealing money from him, early in the early morning hours of July 2, 2013.
The appeal ruling reversing the 2014 conviction put it this way: “According to the victims, Sadowski essentially turned into a violent, abusive, sword-wielding captor the moment they confessed to taking a relatively minimal amount of money”.
Jason denies the allegations, the defense case (according to the winning appeal brief) is that “the women lied to the police to insulate themselves from arrest for the larceny. He testified the two women fought between themselves in a dispute over returning the stolen money to him, that he never forced them into the basement or bound them to the poles, that he did not physically assault or choke either woman, and did not solicit Ms. Paris to kill Ms. Bressette”.
Angel and Becky told conflicting stories that were contradicted by medical evidence, and there was no evidence to disprove Jason’s version of events other than Angel and Becky’s testimony. Other witnesses who were present corroborated Jason’s version.
Specifically, there are the following apparent lies and contradictions in their stories:
(1) Money stolen from Jason’s wallet.
At trial, Angel testified that she took four dollars, giving two to Becky. However, the first responding police officer testified that Angel informed him that she had stolen three dollars and Becky had taken ten dollars. Becky, on the other hand, testified that Angel took a couple of dollars while Becky grabbed a handful of change.
(2) After the theft.
Angel testified she asked to use the bathroom, confessed to Jason and gave him two dollars back. But Becky testified that only Jason went to the bathroom, and that when he returned he accused them of taking money.
(3) The curtains.
Becky testified that after being hit, she grabbed onto the curtains and pulled them off, but police pictures purported to show those curtains still intact and installed on the window.
(4) The vagina search.
Becky also testified that Jason made her lie on the bed and forced Angel to insert her hand inside of Becky’s vagina at least twice to check if money was hidden there. Angel, however, testified that while Jason wanted them to check each other’s vaginas, they refused.
(5) Duct-taping to poles.
Both victims testified that it was a joint effort of defendants in duct taping them to poles in the basement. But Charles Cope was repeatedly asked if Jason ever touched, hit or threatened Angel or Becky, and responded that did not happen. Then at sentencing he said “Downstairs … that’s all I know, he never touched ’em downstairs. I never seen him hurt ’em.” [ Note that Cope did not testify, so the jury never heard any of this ]
(6) They were taped to the poles for a long time.
Sarah Pietro, Jason’s ex-wife, testified that she was at the gym on the morning in question, the two victims were fine, there was no yelling or screaming, and they did not seem agitated.
(7) Both women were choked.
In Angel’s medical records there is no indication she complained of having been strangled. Dr. Vanderschaff found no physical signs of strangulation, including no neck swelling, hand marks on her neck, or signs of petechiae (broken blood vessels) in her eyes or on her face.
(8) Becky claimed that Jason burned her on the face with a lit cigarette.
Angel testified : while she heard Becky say that he had burned her with a cigarette, she did not see that happen. Dr. Vanderschaff saw no indication of a cigarette burn.
Angel admitted at trial that she had numerous problems in the past with opiate addictions. On one occasion, Angel assaulted three people then fled in a stolen vehicle. When police arrested her, she lied and said she had been the one that was assaulted and that the stolen vehicle was a misunderstanding. She then plead guilty and was convicted and had to write an apology letter. The judge is not allowing testimony from three witnesses who could testify to this earlier incident in the retrial.
Another witness was with Angel when she asked to be tied up with duct tape before and then asked to raped. Another circumstance is that Becky died of a drug overdose in September 2013, while with Angel, prior to trial.
Sarah Pietro, Jason’s ex-wife and good friend worked as an EMT Paramedic , 9/11 responder, a volunteer until her ambulance rolled over in 2003 and left her a paraplegic. Sarah has hired a lawyer with savings she had, but the money has run out and the attorney she hired is now working pro bono. The court has paid for one expert but won’t pay for anything else, including DNA testing that could conclusively prove Jason to be innocent.
Update: Cope was offered time-served if he would testify against Jason, he refused, was convicted and sentenced to to 25 to 40 years.
On March 17, 1997, security guard Richard Heflin was killed during an armed robbery of the Lindell Bank & Trust in St. Louis (Forest Park), Missouri, by two men.
William Green who was a customer at the bank dialled 911 and followed the getaway van to Forest Park, where it burst into flames ( prior to the robbery the van had been soaked in gasoline ). One of the men, Norris G. Holder, caught fire, and was arrested at the scene by police. The other ran into a wooded area, and was spotted soon after he left the van on the opposite side of the wooded area by city forestry employee Bobby Harris. After making up a story about why the hair on his head was burned, the man convinced Harris and another forestry employee to give him a ride to the nearest Metrolink station.
Billie Jerome Allen was arrested at his girlfriend’s apartment at about 2:00a.m. the next day. Around 3:00 a.m. Billie was placed in an interrogation room, handcuffed to the table, advised again of his Miranda rights, and allegedly treated for his burns and injuries. Subsequently, Billie was identified by Harris in a lineup and at trial.
It seems like an open and shut case, but allegedly, there is no documentation of Billie being treated for burns and injuries, and the photo lineup shows no bandage or sign he was treated:
Both Billie and Holder were found guilty in separate trials, and sentenced to death.
In June 2012 Schaeffer Cox was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and of various weapons offenses in a plot to kill government officials and law enforcement officers.
Defense attorneys said that plans for violent action were suggested by undercover informants. Supporters claim that the investigation of Cox amounted to entrapment, and the jury did not see the investigating special agent’s emails saying Cox was not a threat, witness intimidation, and audio recordings of Cox refusing to use violence at the suggestion of informants.
For the last 8 1/2 years, I have been working to ‘help’ overcome the devastating effects that incorrect, bogus, and non-scientific forensics has had on our justice system in producing wrongful convictions. And I’ve also been writing about it on this blog since its inception.
C.M. (Mike) Bowers has teamed up with Wendy Koen to produce a definitive work addressing many of these issues. Mike is forensic dentist who has been at the forefront of debunking the junk science of bite mark analysis. Wendy Koen is a former attorney with the California Innocence Project. Mike also maintains the website CSIDDS dedicated to promoting truth, reason, logic, and actual science in the discipline of forensics.
The data below from the National Registry of Exonerations shows that false or misleading forensic evidence is a contributing factor in 24% of all the wrongful convictions logged by the registry to date.
This book provides…
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On May 22, 1977, Karen and Sharon Sanders, 14-year-old twins, reported that they were raped two weeks prior. In statements to police, the twins claimed that they, along with their cousin Keith Laborde encountered a black man at the 7-11 filling station. They gave the man a ride and then claim that the same man produced a knife and ordered everyone into the trunk of the car. He then allegedly raped the twins one at a time and repeatedly before setting them free. The twins claimed that their attacker threatened to have his buddies come after them if they breathed a word.
In their statements, the twins were unable to identify their attacker because “all blacks looks alike.” With this information, Avoyelles Parish police picked up Vincent Simmons and placed him under arrest. Simmons was placed in a line-up in which he was the only one handcuffed. The Sanders twins and Laborde then identified Simmons as their attacker.
From 1977 until 1993 Simmons filed repeated motions to view the evidence file pertaining to his case, including police reports, arrest reports, victims’ statements, trial transcripts, the medical examiner’s report and other documents. After 16 years, his request was finally granted. Facts that came to light included the medical examination of the twins, which showed that Sharon Sanders’ hymen remained intact three weeks after the date of the alleged rapes and that she remained a virgin. This medical examiner’s report was never turned over to the defense for discovery during the trial.
There was no physical evidence presented in the Simmons case that the rapes actually occurred. Simmons’ defense also presented several eyewitnesses who claimed that Simmons was at a local bar with them the night of the alleged rapes.
Simmons was given a 100-year sentence, two counts of attempted aggravated rape.
Website : http://www.freevincent.com/
Danny Lee Thompson was convicted together with Andy W. Snyder for the murder of Michael W. Beauchamp, a homeless drifter.
Beauchamp was last seen with two men at the Viking Lounge. His body was found floating in the Flint River at a Genesee County parks fishing site off N. Irish Road in Richfield Township, in October 1996. Police said a pathologist said Beauchamp died from drowning, but was beaten before being tossed in the water.
DNA on discarded cigarette butts found at the murder scene linked the pair to the homicide. Snyder, who was already in prison when charged, was sentenced to 25-50 years in prison. He claimed that if he did not help Thompson that day, he also would have been killed.
At the sentencing hearing, Danny denied any involvement in the Oct. 7, 1996 killing, “I never laid my hands on him”, he said .
Source: News Report February 25, 2008.
Evidence shows that the testimony of Vega, the bartender, who testified that Danny wanted to beat the victim, was false, the person she described was not Danny. Danny’s confession was coerced, and Snyder also confessed. One of the confessions must have been false.
Source: see proposal post.
Ronald DiMambro Jr. was convicted in 2014 for the murder of Damian Sutton, the two-year-old son of his ex-girlfriend, and sentenced to life in prison.
Damian and his mother were living in the home of Ronald’s parents. Damian was in the care of Ronald at the time of the alleged assault in August 2013 while his mother was at work. The defense say Damian accidentally fell from a kitchen bar stool 1-3 days earlier, and that likely accounted for his death. Damian was taken to hospital, but was taken off life support and died six days later.
In October 2014 a judge ordered a new trial, ruling that 32 photographs withheld by the prosecution were crucial, stating that “The information provided by these photographs … would likely have materially changed how the jury viewed the relationship between the defendants’ conduct and Damian’s death. The nondisclosure may have been unintentional, but it was no harmless error.”
The photographs could have helped the defense, and its expert, Dr. Bader Cassin, because they more clearly show that bleeding on one side of Damian’s brain was caused by surgical incisions, not necessarily blunt-force trauma, the judge said. The information suggests Damian may have suffered only one blow instead of two, raising the possibility of a fall instead of an intentional act.
Source: Judge orders new trial for man in 2-year-old’s death 1 Nov 2015.
In December 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the judge’s decision. The county prosecutor’s office planned to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. In October 2017, the Michigan Supreme Court endorsed the decision.
On August 23, 2006, Cyril Smith was charged in nine counts with narcotics trafficking and the drug-related contract murders of Sanford Malone, Jamal Kitt, and Terrence Celestine in the Bronx, New York.
The jury trial was from May 14, 2007 to May 30, 2007. Cyril was convicted on eight counts, and acquitted on count four, which was killing Kitt while engaged in drug trafficking, nevertheless he was convicted of killing Kitt through the use of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
The State’s case ( from Governments-response-to-appeal-2011 ) is that Cyril murdered Jamal Kitt and Terrence Celestine three weeks apart in July 1998, using the same nine-millimeter semi-automatic pistol, at the behest of Bronx drug dealer Edgardo Colon, who wanted Kitt and Celestine dead because they were interfering with Colon’s drug business. Colon solicited Cyril to commit the murders by promising to give Cyril drugs to sell on his own. Cyril committed both crimes with his close associate Rafael Ramos, who testified about the murders and the conflicts giving rise to them under his cooperation agreement.
An issue is that Ramos’s account of the murder of Kitt on July 5, 1998, was contradicted by Keisha Lespierre, Kitt’s girlfriend at the time of his death, who testified that the person who shot Kitt was a light-skinned Spanish man, and not the Spanish man’s black companion.
The murder of Celestine was on July 30, 1998. A ballistics expert testified that the 9mm shell casings were fired from the same gun as those recovered from the scene of the Kitt murder. According to Charisma Adderley, Cyril admitted to her that he shot Celestine a few days later.
Sanford Malone, who was shot to death on February 14, 2000, was the leader of a large-scale retail drug organization. Two other people were seriously injured. The State alleges that Cyril killed Malone on behalf of Edwin Avilez who was the leader of a competing retail drug organization; and Charisma Adderley assisted Cyril in carrying out the murder, which was solicited and procured by Avilez and Ramos.
According to supporters, police questioned Adderley three times about the murders and she said she knew nothing, only after police told her they would take her kids and lock her up did she say what they wanted her to say, and Charisma recently apologized to Cyril’s mother at a parade in New York.
Further, according to a review of the transcript by “AC4L”, the three principle witnesses Ramos, Adderley and Avilez were all coerced and/or impeached.
[ Post under development]
- Governments-response-to-appeal-2011 Describes the alleged crimes.
Update: see Jason Sadowski is Innocent for full case details.
Jason David Sadowski was convicted in 2014 of assaulting and torturing Angel Paris and Becky Bressette at Jason’s gym in July 2013. The conviction was overturned in December 2015, a retrial has been set for March 6, 2017.
Angel, a drug addict and admitted thief, and Becky gave conflicting, changing and incredible accounts of what occurred. According to the ruling overturning the conviction “Although the police officers gave testimony regarding their observations, the prosecution highlights nothing from their testimony that disproves Sadowski’s rendition beyond a reasonable doubt. The victims also had many discrepancies in their account of the night and crimes.”
At the time Angel was on parole/probation. She was also in drug court and had an open CPS case. She had warrants out for her arrest for bail jumping. So, on the night in question, she had been out drinking and using drugs, she had her violated her probation, parole and drug court conditions, and was due in drug court in the morning for testing. She admitted to stealing money. She had also stolen jewelry and marijuana.
Becky was also a drug addict, who died of a methadone overdose between the preliminary hearing and trial. She was with Angel on the night she died.
What happened is this:
Jason wanted his money back ( the amount of stolen items totaled over $1,000 and would have been a grand theft charge ). When Jason said he was calling the cops Angel begged and pleaded for him not to. She turned on Becky, trying to shift blame. Angel was intent on getting the money back so Jason would not call the cops. She had plenty of motive to shift blame, and was fighting with Becky. Eventually, Angel persuaded another man present, Charles Leroy Cope, to help her tie Becky up to a pole with duct tape, to force her to say where the stolen items were. Then, bizarrely she started taping herself to another pole, apparently in an attempt to make it look as though she was a victim. When Jason came into the room, Angel told Jason no one was leaving until Jason recovered the remainder of his money. Shortly afterwards, Angel called 911, and eventually claimed that she and Becky were victims.
Charles gave statements to police consistent with Jason’s account. He was repeatedly asked if Jason ever touched, hit or threatened Angel or Becky, and responded that did not happen. However at trial, Charles’ attorney argued a “duress” defense consistent with the prosecution theory of events. Charles’ attorney failed to consult at all with his client before the preliminary hearing. Charles’ attorney later told Jason’s attorney if he had known Jason had witnesses and evidence to rebut the prosecution case, he would not have offered a duress defense. Charles had issues from heavy drinking and drug use for years, and was battling with dementia and Alzheimer’s and did not testify. During proceedings he was seen shaking his head, telling the assistant next to him no, that isn’t what happened, and that isn’t what he said.
At sentencing, Charles said he did not believe Jason could have done what he was convicted of, he never saw Jason hit either woman while they were all in the basement where he was living at the time. “I wasn’t upstairs, I don’t know, but I can’t believe him beating on those women,” he said. “Downstairs … that’s all I know, he never touched ’em downstairs. I never seen him hurt ’em.” He didn’t know what happened upstairs, he was sorry for it and said Jason was a good man who had helped him.
- Appeal Ruling Granting Jason a new trial
- Update Article Jan 22, 2017 – a more detailed account of the case.
Friday March 17, 2017 Sadowski found not guilty on all seven counts
Angelika Graswald was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Vincent Viafore, whose body was recovered from the Hudson River in April 2015.
Prosecutors said Graswald removed a nickle-sized drain plug on the top of the kayak to allow it to fill with water, however experts say the amount of water entering a small hole on the top of the kayak could be minimal compared to the amount of water splashing into Viafore’s open cockpit.
In a nearly 12-hour taped interrogation by police 10 days after Viafore disappeared, Graswald repeatedly denied killing her fiance and said her desperate calls to 911 were real.
Graswald also said during that interrogation, which she punctuated with yoga and hopscotch, that she was “OK” with Viafore’s death and “wanted him dead.”
Graswald told ABC News’ Elizabeth Vargas in a November 2015 jailhouse interview that she was at her “breaking point” during the taped interrogation.
“Well they kept me asking me the same questions like a hundred times. I knew that I was innocent,” Graswald told Vargas. “I was at my breaking point. I just, I had it so I just gave ’em what they wanted.”
She also denied in the interview that she removed the plug from Viafore’s kayak with the intent to kill him, saying, “No, I did not.”
Graswald’s attorney, Richard Portale, said in a court hearing that Graswald may have miscarried a baby during an interrogation. He also claimed that his client asked investigators who “Miranda” was after she was read her Miranda rights, according to The Associated Press.
- New Twist in Case of NY Woman Accused of Fiance’s Kayak Murder June 2016
- Trial for Angelika Graswald, Accused of Kayak Murder of Fiancé, Set for Valentine’s Day December 2016.
Trial is set for February 14, 2017.
See also “Death on the Hudson“, 48 hours, Sep 12, 2015.
July 24, 2017 Plea deal agreed According to her attorney, Richard Portale, Graswald “will be home in December.”
John Pecoraro was convicted of murdering Jimmy Ray Christian on December 6, 1982, and sentenced to death ( in 2011 Illinois abolished the death penalty, and sentences were commuted to life imprisonment ).
John was convicted on the basis of an unsigned confession, which he denies he made, and witnesses who may have had an incentive to lie.
According to a review in The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (see below), the State did not disclose information about a third person who allegedly confessed to the killing, and failed to disclose a promise of leniency it made to a witness, in exchange for cooperation.
* The review ( source ) titled “When exculpatory evidence never makes it to defendant”
Reading the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision in People v. John Pecoraro, No.78457 (Feb.6), one gets the distinct impression that the defendant got more vengeance than justice in his litigation.
In Pecoraro, the high court found that the state’s failure to disclose information about a third person who allegedly confessed to the killing – a killing for which the defendant received the death penalty – did not constitute a violation of Brady v.Maryland, 373 U.S. 83,10 L.Ed.2d 215, 83 S.Ct.1194 (1963), and its progeny. The court also found that the state’s failure to disclose a promise of leniency it made to a witness, in exchange for cooperation, did not impair the defense – since the defense had discovered different helpful information on its own. The Supreme Court reasoned that because the defendant did not allege or prove that the witness had testified falsely at trial, no harm had been done.
To justify its ruling regarding the harmlessness of the failure to disclose the statement by the third party, who had admitted to committing the crime, the court discussed the admissibility of that third party’s statement under established rules of evidence. In doing so, the high court reviewed the several predicates for the admissibility of a hearsay statement by a third party who admits to committing a crime, as set forth in Chambers v.Mississippi, 410 U.S.284,35 L.Ed.2d297,93 S.Ct.1038 (1973), and the court determined that the statement would have been inadmissible hearsay – thus not causing harmful error.
In regard to the state’s failure to disclose its promise of leniency to the cooperating witness, the court reasoned that no harm had been done since that information would have been of little help to the defense in light of all the other impeachment evidence the defense had acquired on its own. The court thus found that the state’s failure to disclose the additional impeachment material was harmless to the defendant’s case.
With all due respect for our Supreme Court, it appears this ruling either shows a callous indifference to procedural due process and the right to counsel or lack of common sense. Surely our state’s highest court knows that a defense attorney’s efforts are not limited to the four corners of the discovery information received from the state.
If the state discloses the name of a witness who claims to have committed the crime for which one’s client stands accused, a competent defense attorney would usually hire an investigator and try to obtain admissible evidence showing that the declarant – not the accused – committed the crime in question. Furthermore, an effective defense team might be able to convince the declarant to testify – in which case there would be no hearsay problem. But if the state is allowed to hide exculpatory information from the defense, investigation opportunities can be destroyed before they can ever begin. In essence, the state would be able to deny an accused the assistance of counsel by simply hiding exculpatory material.
Note that in U.S. v. Bagley, 473 U.S.667 (1985), the U.S. Supreme Court held that, regardless of whether information is requested by the accused, favourable evidence is material, and constitutional error results from its suppression by the government if suppression adversely affects an outcome.
With regard to the state’s failure to disclose the deal it had with one of its witnesses, and the Pecoraro court’s finding that the lack of disclosure was harmless in light of other impeachment information, how would the court have ruled had a defendant asked that the state not be allowed to introduce cumulative evidence?
For instance, if this defendant had been willing to stipulate to the cause of death in his murder case, would the court have barred the state from offering gory autopsy photos? Probably not.
The Supreme Court frequently has ruled that a party trying to prove a point has the right to present all of its evidence – including gory autopsy photos. People v. LeMay, 35Ill.2d 208, 220 N.E.2d 194 (1966). In the instant case, the defendant was trying to prove that a key witness for the state was not credible. The defense should have been allowed to present all of the evidence it had on the credibility issue – including any deals the witness had with the state.
The case against David Temple, recently released on bond, appears to be extremely weak, based on not much more than police alleging the scene was staged, and he had motive and opportunity. At the trial in 2008, according to this report :
DeGuerin’s key witnesses were brothers who lived directly behind Temple’s house.
“I heard a loud boom,” said one of the brothers. “Boom,” said the other.
The Roberts brothers were young boys when they told the police they heard what sounded like a gunshot.
They had started watching the movie “Dr. Doolittle” a little after 4 p.m., and nine years later, they remembered the exact point in the film when they heard that sound.
Using that point as a time reference, the defense figured they heard the boom around 4:30 p.m. And that is a critical time because David and his son, Evan, were seen on that store security video at 4:32 p.m.
“When they heard the gunshot, David Temple was six miles away,” DeGuerin told Schlesinger.
On the night of Belinda’s murder, Kenneth [David’s father] had given written statement to the sheriff’s investigators. Asked about the time that Belinda had dropped by his residence to pick up the homemade soup for the ailing ET on her way home, Kenneth maintained that he had gotten home from work at 3:30 pm, “and Belinda arrived about fifteen minutes later at approximately 3:45 PM.” She “visited with us for a few minutes” and then, “I guess it was around 3:55 PM. at the time she left.”
Testimony at trial indicated that the drive from Kenneth’s residence to Applicant and Belinda’s house takes about fifteen minutes. Thus, according to Kenneth’s original estimate, Belinda could not have arrived home much earlier than 4:10 pm. This would have left only a very narrow window of time—ten minutes or so—during which applicant could have forced or coaxed Belinda into the walk-in closet, killed her, potentially changed his clothes, staged a burglary, hustled ET into his truck, and still arrived at the supermarket by 4:32 pm.
When Kenneth testified before the grand jury in April of 1999, he gave the same time estimates: Belinda arrived at his house “at 3:45,” and they visited “for a few minutes standing there in the garage.”
“She probably was at my house from 3:45 to 3:55. I think she left about five minutes till 4:00.” He confirmed that the drive from his house to Applicant and Belinda’s home was “[a]bout 15 minutes.”
Inexplicably, Kenneth remembered the time-line differently at trial. He claimed once again that he got home at 3:30 pm. Defense counsel asked him to give his first estimate or if you looked at a clock, when did Belinda get there?” Kenneth told jury, “3:32, or close to that. ” A short while later, defense counsel asked, “And then did she leave Kenneth answered, “In minutes. 3: 45 at least.”
It seems that the defense have also discovered cell phone evidence, confirming this timeline to be correct:
“If she’s [Belinda Temple] in that parking lot between 3:20 and 3:30 and her cellphone records say she’s there at 3:30 too, then it’s virtually impossible for David Temple to have committed this crime,” Defense attorney Casie Gotro said. “So not only is this evidence beneficial to the defense, but it completely undermines the state’s entire theory of prosecution.”
Source: David Temple’s attorneys claim mountain of evidence will prove his innocence, July 2015
Also interesting is this additional evidence that the murder happened around 4:30 p.m in a 2013 blog by By ADA Alan Curry :
4:25 p.m. The Parkers’ dog was barking and running up and down along the fence line. The Temples’ dog was not barking.
4:30 p.m. Nothing unusual at the Temple home; the Temples’ dog was not barking. A four-door, light-colored sedan with two young men drove quickly out of the neighborhood.
[ Note: Shaka the family dog was locked in the garage, so wouldn’t necessarily be aware of any events, see here. ]
Finally, the confusion about when Belinda got home is very evident in Curry’s blog, as it has an impossible timeline:
3:32 p.m. Belinda calls David Temple at their house to say that she is on her way home. After leaving school, Belinda went to her in-laws’ home to pick up some soup, and she left their residence at about 3:45 p.m.
3:45 p.m. Belinda gets home
The drive from the in-laws to home is about 15 minutes, and certainly cannot be completed in ZERO time!!
Nathanial Allen was convicted of ordering the 2003 murder of Donald Wilder, Jr. he was jointly tried with two others who the evidence shows committed the murder. At least one witness against him lied, an appeal ruling denying one of his appeals stated:
“The Petitioner asserts that Atkins was present at a time Brassfield testified the Petitioner discussed the murder, and Atkins would testify that the Petitioner did not discuss a murder. Atkins would also testify that Brassfield had reason to testify against the Petitioner. Although Atkins’s testimony would have been relevant to impeach Brassfield’s trial testimony, the proof at the hearing showed another defense witness, Bronson Hollifield, contradicted Brassfield’s testimony that a similar conversation occurred at another location. Additionally, at least one other witness testified to Brassfield’s reputation for lying, and Brassfield was impeached with his prior convictions and his motives to testify against the Petitioner. Finally, the record shows trial counsel did much to discredit Brassfield’s testimony.”
Other witnesses were very dubious, and another witness who should have testified to a crucial meeting that allegedly implicated Nathaniel did not testify at all.
The State’s case
Nathanial did not take part in the killing, but he requested the murder be committed, provided drugs to assist in the killing, and provided money and drugs in exchange for the killing. George Arthur Lee Smith was the shooter and Shannon Lee Jarnigan assisted.
Connie D. Lawson, George Smith’s sister, testified that she talked with George Smith while they were at her house and that he was crying “really hard.” He told her that he had shot the victim in the back of the head. Jarnigan, who was also in the room, said, “We killed him execution style.”. Lawson testified that she refused to speak with the Defendants’ lawyers in preparation for this case because she had been threatened and did not know who to trust. Lawson conceded that the State’s attorney told her not to speak with the Defendants’ attorneys. Lawson agreed that she had previously been convicted in 1999 of misdemeanor forgery and in 2002 of criminal impersonation. She said that she violated her probation for criminal impersonation and had to serve three months in jail. Lawson said that she did not call the police after her brother and Defendant Jarnigan confessed because she did not believe what he said. More at pages 12-13 of 2007 ruling.
Michael Lynn Brassfield, Nathaniel’s brother, testified he went to the Super 8 Motel in Morristown where he saw Nathaniel and George Smith, Richard Atkins, and a girl named “Sissy.” While in the motel room, Defendant Allen mentioned two “Mexicans [who] had twenty-five thousand dollars on [the victim’s] head.” Brassfield recalled another incident around the same period of time when he was at a Days Inn in White Pine with Defendants Allen and Smith, West, and “Sissy.” While there, Nathaniel asked Brassfield and Defendant Smith to go to the bathroom with them, and he mentioned again about the two Mexicans who offered money in exchange for killing the victim. Nathaniel said that, if someone killed the victim, he would ensure they were paid. Nathaniel said that he wanted the victim killed because the victim “had indictments on him.” Brassfield agreed to kill the victim but could not get him “off the hill” ( meaning out of his house ). More at page 13 of 2007 ruling.
Phyllis West said that, on Tuesday, June 24, 2003, she and Epps went to the Days Inn Motel, and Epps paid for their room. The following day, she and Epps got a room at the Hillcrest Inn in White Pine. Later, Epps picked up Defendants Smith and Jarnigan, who rented a separate room at the same motel. Defendant Allen and a man named Darrell came to the room later with a black pistol. More at page 9 of 2007 ruling.
Danielle Lynne Epps testified that the State charged her in this case with first degree murder, alleging that she aided and abetted the Defendants in committing the victim’s murder. She testified she had reached a plea agreement with the State whereby she would plead guilty to attempt to facilitate first degree murder and testify truthfully at the Defendants’ trial in exchange for the State’s recommendation of an eight-year probationary sentence. Epps described Defendant Allen as her friend, and said Defendant Allen introduced her to Defendant Smith at the College Square Apartments in Morristown. He told her at the time of the introduction that Defendant Smith “was the one that was going to take [the victim] out.” Epps recalled another time when she heard West and Defendant Smith discuss that Defendant Smith would kill the victim. Epps said that, on June 24, 2003, she stayed at the Super 8 Motel with Defendant Smith and West. Defendant Allen made the statement that whoever “got” the victim first would get paid, but he did not disclose the amount. More at page 10 of 2007 ruling.
Stephanie Schaeffer (defense witness) testified that she knew Phyllis West well, as the two had been incarcerated together for about ten months. Schaeffer said that West discussed with her frequently the victim’s murder but never mentioned Defendant Allen’s name.
Bronson Hollifield (defense witness) testified that he has known Defendant Allen for approximately six or seven years, and, previously, he worked for the Defendant’s concrete business. Hollifield said he was present at the market when Defendant Allen saw Rucker, and Defendant Allen did not solicit anyone to kill the victim.
February, March 2001 Victim employed as an informant, victim and Nathanial contacted each other multiple times. The victim and the victim’s wife were paid confidential informants.
Febuary 2001 Michael Brassfield’s girlfriend murdered “She was beaten n had horrible burns no her face n body n around her neck was a rope n her eyes were gouged almost out .” per discussion here ).
June 24, 2003 Epps stayed at Super 8 Motel with West and Smith.
June 26, 2003 Some time after midnight, George Smith checked into Super 8 Motel located on East Andrew Johnson Highway.
June 26, 2003 Calls between the George Smith’s cell phone (# 423-312-3439) and the victim’s residence before 7:00 a.m., around the time that the victim became missing.
June 26, 2003 6:48 a.m. 3 minute call from victims phone to 423-312-3439.
June 26, 2003 6:52 a.m 1 minute call to victims phone from 423-312-3439.
July 2003 Detective Chad Smith asked by DA’s office to investigate the victim’s disappearance because the victim was an important witness in multiple pending drug cases.
August 20, 2003 Detective Chad Smith interviewed George Smith, Smith admits shooting the victim and gives a detailed account of events.
August 27, 2003 Sheriff’s Department told Agent Smith about skeletal remains found on River Road.
August 2003 Chad Mullins, a sergeant with the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department, testified that he received a message in August 2003 from Brassfield. Brassfield told Sergeant Mullins that, if the sergeant kept Brassfield’s family safe, he would take the sergeant to the victim’s body. A few days later, Brassfield took him to the body. Sergeant Mullins agreed that Brassfield told him that “another man” helped Brassfield move the body, and Brassfield did not mention Defendant Smith.
December 17, 2003 Police find .380 high point semi-automatic pistol with a laser sight and a clip or magazine in the area described by Jarnigan.
March 15, 2004 Victims wife dies.
January 2006, bond reduction request denied ( News report ).
March 2006 Nathanial, Smith and Jarnigan convicted after a single trial.
August 2011, Jarnigan’s State level appeal denied.
August 2015, Jarnigan’s federal habeas appeal is denied.
From the 2012 ruling, page 2:
Phyllis Allen, the mother of the Petitioner and Brassfield, testified that she was not called as a witness at the Petitioner’s trial and did not know why. Had she been called, she would have testified that Brassfield came to her house one day seeking money. He told her that he had committed some robberies and needed the money to flee. Brassfield threatened her, and attempted to run her over with a truck. When Brassfield was unsuccessful in getting any money from her and the rest of the family, he “said that he was going to get revenge against my son, Thomas Allen, and myself and my – daughter, Nikki Allen – Janan Allen and the whole family.”
The Petitioner asserts that Atkins was present at a time Brassfield testified the Petitioner discussed the murder, and Atkins would testify that the Petitioner did not discuss a murder. Atkins would also testify that Brassfield had reason to testify against the Petitioner. Although Atkins’s testimony would have been relevant to impeach Brassfield’s trial testimony, the proof at the hearing showed another defense witness, Bronson Hollifield, contradicted Brassfield’s testimony that a similar conversation occurred at another location. Additionally, at least one other witness testified to Brassfield’s reputation for lying, and Brassfield was impeached with his prior convictions and his motives to testify against the Petitioner. Finally, the record shows trial counsel did much to discredit Brassfield’s testimony.
“There are thousands of innocent people in prison serving long sentences for crimes committed by others; that their convictions could have been avoided and the real perpetrators brought to justice; that many segments of our criminal justice system are broken and must be fixed; that untold millions of dollars could be saved by criminal justice reforms, not to mention the avoidance of human suffering; that mass incarceration is not working at any level; that the death penalty is unfairly used; that the use and possession of most drugs should be decriminalized, not legalized; and that most prisons for women should be closed.”
John N. Prante was sentenced in 1983 to 75 years in prison for the June 20, 1978 murder of Karla L. Brown, in the city of Wood River, Illinois. Prante is held in the Pinckneyville Correctional Center and listed as eligible for parole in 2019, and for release in 2022.
There were no witnesses to Brown’s death, the only physical evidence against Prant was disputed bite-mark testimony, a dentist testified that less than 1 percent of people have teeth that could have left the mark.
Two prints on a coffee carafe that authorities said the killer clearly had touched did not match Prante.
An attempt to get a judge to order a DNA test for blood on a couch cushion in Brown’s basement was rejected in 1993 as coming too late in the appeals process. Illinois later passed a law to accommodate post-conviction forensic testing.
In January 2017, in response to news that attorneys from the Exoneration Project and the Innocence Project were filing for DNA tests to be conducted, and for the unidentified prints to be checked against a National database, Don W. Weber, the former prosecutor, called efforts on Prante’s behalf “intellectual malpractice”, writing “I already convinced 12 people beyond a reasonable doubt and feel no obligation to respond to a bunch of misguided liberal do-gooders who think every investigation is like a TV reality show”.
Source: Bite mark on Metro East woman slain in 1978 pointed to her killer. Or did it? St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 3, 2017