Kris Helton

Kris Helton was convicted in 1992 for the murder of twenty-two month old Marshall Gunderson.   At the time of Marshall’s death, Kris was living with Marshall’s mother, Marcella Gunderson and her three sons, Michael, age four, Matthew, age six, and Marshall.

However gastric contents evidence, and the observations of a doctor who examined Marshall after he was rushed to hospital, suggest that Marcella lied about what took place, and Marshall died much earlier than she claimed.

The Third District Court of Appeal in Miami, Florida unanimously reversed Kris’ wrongful conviction for first-degree murder — with directions to discharge him outright — because the purely circumstantial evidence adduced at trial didn’t preclude the reasonable possibility that the crime wasn’t committed the crime “hours earlier” than alleged by the prosecution, when Kris was not at home.

Later, though, Judge Gerald Cope and Judge Alan Schwartz granted a motion for rehearing filed by the State of Florida, withdrew the three-judge panel’s original, unanimous opinion; and issued a split opinion affirming Kris’ conviction based upon an entirely new analysis of the circumstantial evidence.

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Wrongly Convicted Group – Third Annual Review

Since the second annual review, 20 cases have been featured, bringing the featured total to 161 cases, and 39 cases have been adopted, bringing the adopted total to 90, and the overall total to 251. One featured case was removed from the list.

Sadly Billy Wayne Cope died on February 9, before he could be exonerated.

Jimmy Dennis and Rodricus Crawford were exonerated from death row. Michael Amick and Jason Sadowski were exonerated after retrials. Other exonerations (or time-served plea deals) during the year were Lorinda Swain, Jerome Morgan, Davontae Sanford, Ingmar Guandique, Darryl Howard, Robert Jones, Charles Johnson, Larod Styles, Michael Peterson and Chris Tapp.

In addition, Courtney Bisbee, David Mark Temple, Lamarr Monson, John Horton, Rodney Stanberry, Patrick Pursley and Emerson Stevens were released either on bail, parole or time-served.

See the Featured and Adopted case list for full details.

There is now a spreadsheet with contact and birthday information for each featured or adopted case, to help letters and cards to be sent on holidays or birthdays, many thanks to Kaylene for organising this.

Thank you again to everyone for proposing and voting on featured cases, let’s hope that at least some of the many wrongly convicted people we support are freed in the coming year.

George

 

 

 

 

 

Tactics for the Trenches

Prosecutorial Misconduct and Negligence : Tactics for the Trenches is a presentation given by Don Rehkopf on April 21, 2017 to give defense lawyers the law and the tools to increase the odds of prevailing against Prosecutorial Error.

It covers four areas:

1. A linguistic suggestion that is perhaps less psychologically antagonistic than the phrase “prosecutorial misconduct;”

2. A synopsis of the various sources of discovery that must be asserted pretrial in an effort to prevent, but if not, preserve, these discreet issues;

3. A discussion of how to determine just what constitutes prosecutorial error; and

4. Suggestions on how to properly preserve issues of prosecutorial misconduct or error, pretrial and during trial.

“Prosecutors are far less likely to try and take advantage of a defense attorney who is ready to pounce on misconduct by objections and calls for sanctions.”

Full Presentation Here.

Belynda Goff

In 1994 Belynda, then 32 years old, lived in Green Forest, Arkansas and worked at the local Tyson plant. She was a mother of three – Stephen Lee, 3 years old, Mark, 7, and Bridgette, 15.

On the night of June 11, 1994 she was home with her husband, Stephen, and their son, Stephen Lee. Around 9:00 pm Stephen received a phone call and told Belynda he was going out for cigarettes even though, as Belynda told him, the store was closed. She headed to bed around 10:00 or 10:30 pm. Stephen was still not home. During the night Stephen Lee crawled into bed with her.

At about 2:00 am her upstairs neighbors heard a knock on the Goffs’ door, and then shortly later, what sounded like banging on the ceiling.

Between 4:00 and 4:30 am Belynda’s alarm went off. She went into the bathroom, then the living room. It was there that she saw Stephen, in the corner of their doorway, bloodied. His blood spattered keys lay nearby. She became hysterical and dialed the Operator for help. The paramedics and police arrived shortly thereafter.

The police could not find bloody weapons or clothing in Belynda’s home so they surmised she must have cut up the clothing and flushed it down the toilet. While the police failed to find evidence to corroborate their theory, evidence that someone else had killed Stephen began to emerge.

On the morning her trial was to begin, Belynda, facing the prospect of a life sentence, was offered a plea deal of 10 years. She rejected it.

More at Huffington Post

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Christopher Charles Forbit

Christopher Charles Forbit was 25 on July 10, 2010. He spent the afternoon in Archer Park in Tulsa, OK with some acquaintances, drinking beer and talking, letting his daughter play in the water. He went home, where he took a phone call from me around 5:15pm. He was still drinking, as was normal for him, and had several people in the house, his minor cousin, Stacy Turner, his 4 year old daughter, and 2 homeless men, the victim, Kenneth Allen Barrett, and one known only as “Hillbilly.” During the course of the evening, as intoxicated people are prone to do, Barrett passed out. After passing out, the other three decided it would be funny to shave his head. Around 9pm, after several times on and off the phone, Chris remembered that his girlfriend would be home from work soon and that he needed to get the homeless guys out of their house so that she wouldn’t be upset (understandably). He placed the phone, with me on the line, down on a hard surface (I heard the thump of the phone), woke Barrett up, and proceeded to tell them they had to go. Barrett got belligerent when he realized they had shaved his head, and Chris and Stacy pushed him to the door, hitting him in the arms and chest a few times each. Let me stop the story here to say that I was on the phone the whole time, and this was not a huge squabble with a lot of yelling and cussing and screaming or noise. It was quite literally a minute and a half, with a few words said and then the door slamming. Chris was back on the phone, laughing a little because Barrett was so angry. Shortly after, Stacy told Chris that he was going to walk to Quick Trip down the street to get something to drink. Not long after he left, we disconnected our call as Chris was falling asleep. His girlfriend returned home around 1030pm, and everything was fine inside and outside the house. The next morning, they awoke around 9am, and found Barrett deceased, with his pants down, in their daughter’s playhouse in the yard. Tulsa police were called and they took statements from Chris, his girlfriend (who later testified against him, and was friends on Facebook with at least one of the jurors), and his cousin, Stacy. They took x-rays of Chris’s hands, checking for broken bones, photographs for any bruising (there were no broken bones and no bruising). They took video statements from his girlfriend (this statement was later lost and she had to give another, over a year later). The initial medical examiners report was “lost” as well. Barrett’s blood alcohol level at the time of his death was well over the legal limit, and dangerously close to the lethal limit. There was no physical evidence to show that Chris was responsible for Barrett’s death.

Shortly after Barrett’s death, Chris realized that he needed to make some changes in his life. Never having been in any real trouble before, he realized how his life choices were affecting others and went, on his own, to the HOW foundation. A six month rehab program that focuses on staying sober and working to support your family. During that time, he was sober for the first time since he was 15 and made the decision to stay that way. He has not drank since he left rehab. After returning home, his girlfriend refused to stop smoking marijuana and drinking, and he realized he could not live in a household where that was a factor any longer, so he left. She was angry and hurt, and did everything she could to hurt him in return. Including testifying against him in court, and keeping his daughter from him. Chris got married, was given visitation with his daughter, and it seemed that things were moving on when he found out he had a warrant out for his arrest for murder. Knowing he was innocent, he got a bail bondsman, turned himself in, bonded out, and hired an attorney, prepared to go to trial. He was offered 5 years in prison and 5 on probation (which we now know he should have taken). He declined the offer and went to trial.

The lawyer that he retained was not the lawyer that went with him to trial. His trial lawyer was a junior associate who had never been to trial before in his career. Chris found out later that the lawyer that went to trial with him used to work with the team of lawyers that prosecuted him. He was a researcher for that exact same prosecution team. He was told that there was no need for my phone records or for me to testify because it was an open and shut case. His cousin, Stacy, testified that he didn’t know anything and did little more than cry and blubber on the stand (we later found out that he was on methamphetamine). His ex girlfriend, who he was in the middle of a hate filled, heated child custody battle with, also testified. During the trial, the judge was made aware that she was friends with at least one (believed to be 3, but we could not prove this) of the jurors. He refused to dismiss the juror and continued on with the trial. Chris was convicted and sentenced to 15 years. Oklahoma’s truth in sentencing is 85%, so he will serve 12.5 years before he is eligible for release.

After his conviction, his cousin Stacy, has bragged to several people that he is the one responsible for Barrett’s death. His version of the story to others, is that he left to walk to Quick Trip to get a drink, and ran into Barrett and “Hillbilly” on his way. Barrett called him several names referring to his sexuality and it made him angry so he beat him up. He has threatened others, including his nephew (now 17) by saying, “if you tell anyone what I did, I will beat you to death. And you know I will get away with it. I’ve already gotten away with killing one man.” He said this to his nephew to keep him quiet about the fact he had been sexually assaulting him for 3 years. He also threatened his sister, brother in law, and several friends with the same threat.

Chris’s time in prison has been spent bettering himself. He graduated from the Faith and Character Program December of 2016. It is a faith based program that teaches life skills, anger management, sober living, and taking responsibility. He is a facilitator and teacher of the faith and character program this year, and runs a workout program for several other inmates who are trying to get clean and stay off drugs. We have letters from the program administrator, his case manager, the warden’s office, and other prison personnel recommending his release, and have been told by several that they don’t understand why he is even there. That they can’t imagine him hurting anyone.

Source

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Marvin Cotton

Marvin Cotton, age 22, was convicted of the shooting death of Jamond McIntyre on January 24, 2001.

Jailhouse informant Ellis Frazier testified that Cotton confessed to the crime while behind bars, however in a March 2014 affidavit Frazier stated “he did not confess to me about being a part of any crime like I testified to at the trial. All of the information and details in the police statement was pre-written and wholly composed by the homicide detective.”

In April 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals granted an evidentiary hearing. According to a September 2016 article published in the Detroit Metro Times:

“The inconsistencies in Cotton’s case — arguments of ineffective counsel, freshly produced affidavits testifying to Cotton’s innocence, and an alleged host of problems with the detectives who investigated the murder — have given him hope. Bolstering that hope: a full recantation from the jailhouse informant (“I have never met or even talked to Marvin Cotton”), evidence that Lockhart was pressured to provide his testimony, and an alibi witness interviewed by Metro Times who has not previously spoken publicly about the case.”

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