Deskovic on Criminal Justice Reform

Jeffrey Deskovic,  executive director of The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, has specific proposals to reform New York’s criminal justice system,  he addresses Misconduct, Discovery and other specific issues. Read the full article here.

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George Fleshman

Jurors deliberated for three hours before finding George Fleshman, Jr., guilty of 2nd Degree Murder, stemming from the death of his wife in 2015, according to Jackson Co. Attorney Shawnee Miller.

Fleshman, who had been free on bond, was taken to the Jackson Co. Jail and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 12, 2018, Miller added.

Fleshman’s wife Elizabeth died on October 21, 2015, the day after her husband called 911 and said he found her unresponsive. Mrs. Fleshman was rushed to a Topeka hospital where she later died.

The Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office said it opened an investigation because of the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death. An autopsy found she died because of a trauma to her spleen.

Source: News Report

Discussion

Lee Calvert

50-year old Barry Selby was attacked in the bedroom of his home, in Rayleigh Street, East Bowling, shortly after 2am on Monday, October 14, 2013, while his wife and daughter were present. Five men drove to his home and smashed open the front door . Three of the intruders went upstairs and confronted him.

Mr Selby was shot in the leg and doused from head to foot in sulphuric acid. He suffered 50 per cent acid burns and died in hospital four days later when his vital organs failed.

Lee Calvert, 23, of Stirling Crescent, Holme Wood; Joseph Lowther, 22, of Copgrove Road, Holme Wood; Robert Woodhead, 28, of Fred’s Place, Tyersal; and Andrew Feather, 23, of Heysham Drive, Holme Wood; had all denied murder, but were convicted.

According to Lee’s family, there was no forensic evidence to connect the men to the attack. Four months after the attack, the victim’s wife identified Lee in an identity parade, but she admitted her family had shown her pictures of Lee on facebook. The only other evidence was a drug addict who subsequently admitted he was lying. Two witnesses have come forward to say that the addict had bragged about stitching Lee up. “He was convicted from an identity parade months after the murder. He had to wear a balaclava and he was convicted because someone said they recognised his eyes.” according to Lee’s mother.

News article on conviction July 2104

Solicitor of Lee Calvert says fight to acquit him of murder continues August 2016

Discussion | Proposal Post

Justin Erskine

Justin Erskine was convicted of first degree murder after being an unwilling witness to murders committed by two other men.

On June 5th 2006, Justin was working for a man named David Hamilton in Dover, Delaware. David was the foreman of the landscaping company Justin was employed with and also a friend. On this day, the weather was bad and both Justin and David took the day off and decided to drive to Baltimore in the company truck. At the time, contained within the truck was a 12-gauge shotgun that David had borrowed from his friend, Matt.

Before leaving for their trip, they visited Matt at his property. Matt asked David if he could obtain some drugs for him, Percocet pills, and David agreed that he would attempt to secure a deal. Matt gave David some money and then both David and Justin left Matt’s home. As they were leaving, David saw two men who he knew could possibly obtain some Percocet pills, the men were Trevor Moncrief and Raymond Ward. Both Trevor and Raymond joined David and Justin in the vehicle and some calls were made by both men to see if the drugs could be obtained.

After a short while driving around, Justin was taken back to Matt’s house by David and Justin remained there until David returned. David explained that the deal he had pursued had been unsuccessful and told Justin and Matt that he thought he had secured a deal via Trevor and Raymond and asked Justin if he would ride with him to make the deal. David felt uncomfortable about going alone and so Justin agreed so as to show support to his friend. All four men, David, Justin, Trevor and Raymond drove to make the deal which turned out to be unsuccessful also.

Eventually, 3 Percocet pills were obtained and the men drove to a gas station. David, Trevor and Raymond went inside while Justin remained in the truck. Shortly after leaving the gas station, David received a call from a friend, Jesus Aviles. David asked the three passengers if they would mind riding with him to a friend’s house and they each agreed.

David vacated the truck alone to speak to Jesus and soon both men returned to the vehicle. David was in the driver’s seat, Jesus by the passenger door and Justin seated in the middle. Directly sat behind David in the back seat was Trevor Moncrief and behind Jesus sat Raymond Ward.

The shotgun was positioned next to David. Jesus asked David if he could see the gun and David obliged and passed over the gun. Justin remained in the middle seat, silent. Once the gun had been passed to Jesus, the men in the back seat knew something wasn’t right and began asking to be let out of the car. Jesus turned around in his seat and began yelling at both men, pointing the shotgun at them; he began shouting at them about money and the fact that they had tried to rob his friend. This continued for around 10-15 minutes. Jesus encouraged the men to plead and told them to pray.

Jesus Aviles then shot Raymond Ward point blank in the head and turned the gun on Trevor Moncrief shooting him in the side of the head. Justin, still sat in the middle, went into shock and couldn’t speak. Jesus began screaming and yelling to be let out of the truck, acting hysterically. David drove Jesus to his mothers, who lived close by.

Before exiting the vehicle, Jesus told both David and Justin,” I know where you live. I know where your family lives. Nobody better say anything about this”.

David immediately called his friend and sister’s boyfriend, Raymond ‘Joey’ Gleaser and told him ,’’I’ve got two I’ve got to get rid of’’ This struck Justin as odd, as though it was a normal practice.

David and Justin drove to David’s sister, Randi’s house and went inside to talk to both her and Joey. Justin was instructed to remain in the vehicle. Justin in complete shock at this point…each movement and conversation felt surreal. Soon, David returned to Justin and the vehicle and took him inside. At this point, David threatened everyone in the room saying ‘If anyone had a problem with what happened he had a loaded shotgun for them too’. As Joey and David held a private discussion, Justin and Randi talked. Randi expressed a deep concern to Justin that she believed the threat that David had made.

Many conversations were held of which Justin held no part over a period of two hours. Soon, David went outside, followed by Justin and Joey. As they stood outside, David heard noises coming from the truck and went to discover that the man who had been sat directly behind him in the vehicle, Trevor Moncrief, was still breathing although in a vegetative state. David issued the instructions that they were all leaving and Justin went to get in the truck with Joey while David returned to his truck where the victims remained. David then came to Joey’s truck to the passenger side, where Justin sat. David told Joey and Justin that Trevor Moncrief was still alive and asked Justin for the butterfly knife he usually carried with him in his bag. David took this knife and returned back to his truck to slit the throat of Trevor Moncrief.

Justin remained in the truck with Joey and didn’t see exactly what happened. Within minutes, David returned back to Justin and Joey and told them that the victim wouldn’t die. Justin responded ‘’Please just hurry up I want to get out of here’’.

Justin just 18 at the time, having witnessed two men brutally murdered just inches away from where he sat, and then receiving threats on his life from both Jesus and David, was desperately trying not to antagonise the situation or David any further.

Joey vacated the vehicle and reached into the bed of the truck into the toolbox he kept there to obtain something, Justin was unaware of what that was, then both Joey and David retuned to the truck with the victims and Justin observed both men reach inside. David told Joey and Justin that they needed to get rid of the bodies and so they drove to Goldsboro, Maryland to some property owned by Joey’s mother. After finding an appropriate location to bury the victims, David dug two holes.

David instructed Justin to help him carry one of the victims to a hole, Justin did this but then refused to help any further. The three men left the property early morning on June 6th, Joey returned home to burn any evidence and David took Justin back to his friend, Matt’s house where Matt gave Justin a ride home. David explained to Matt what had happened and returned his shotgun, telling him to clean the weapon. David returned the truck to the owner of the landscaping company, Bradford Yaeger.

David explained what had happened but said he acted in self- defence after Trevor and Raymond had tried to rob him. David did not mention Jesus Aviles’s involvement and said that Justin had nothing to do with it either.

This story was then repeated in the presence of a neighbour friend of Bradford Yaeger’s who consequently informed the police.

The police arrested David and he admitted to killing both men, he also showed the police where he buried the bodies. David made a statement that said Justin was in no way involved with the death of either man. The police took Justin in for questioning. Justin gave a statement but, like David had, failed to mention Jesus Aviles involvement for fear of his own life and that of his family.

Seven and a half month later, Justin felt compelled to talk to the police again and contacted them himself to go and give them a new statement that told of Jesus Avile’s role in the murders.

A couple of month after this, the police arrested Joey, Matt and Justin.

Justin was arrested and charged with First Degree Murder, Possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, Conspiracy 1st, Conspiracy 2nd and Tampering with physical evidence on March 21st 2007. Justin was held in custody for 18 months while the case went to trial on September 29th 2008.

The prosecution offered David a plea bargain and used the strategy that Justin had encouraged the murder by ‘giving’ David the butterfly knife that killed Trevor Moncrief, they also used a statement given to the police to say that Justin supported the murders when he had told David to ‘Hurry up because he wanted to get out of there’.

The prosecution used this comment as ‘Instruction to murder’. David took a plea bargain and was charged with Second Degree Murder and sentenced to 15 years.

Justin’s lawyers presented a duress defence. The judge in the trial gave the instruction to the jury of the exceptions for a duress defence, where it would fail, but did not give instructions to exceptions to which accomplice liability could be applied. The judge failed to give the jury a complete and accurate statement of the law under Section 11. Del.C 274 which requires a jury to independently assess the state of mind and culpability for any aggravating circumstances when making a determination as to guilt or innocence of the crime charged. A conviction of accomplice shouldn’t be passed as, the outcome-death of the victim- would have been the same.

The jury actually expressed frustration in its inability to assess Justin’s mental state and although passed a conviction, because of the’letter of the law’ wrote the judge a letter to ask for parole and leniency. The jury felt that a lengthy sentence would be pointless, unjust and inappropriate:

25360726_844520872395904_1040720542_n
Jury Letter

The expert witness that testified in Justin’s trial, Dr Mechanick assessed Justin and found that he acted under duress. The prosecutor commented that this witness was ‘bought and paid for’ amongst several other comments that should have been cited a prosecutorial misconduct. Although the judge commented that he had never heard a prosecutor pass a comment about a defence witness being ‘bought and paid for’ he asked only that the jury disregard the comment, making no other instruction for the other improper comments voiced by the prosecution. These comments should not be considered harmless. The doctor’s testimony was central to Justin’s case and his duress defence.

The only evidence used against Justin in this trial was the co-defendant testimony and police interviews. No physical evidence was present that indicated Justin had anything to do with the death of either victim. Both David and Jesus took plea bargains and received reduced sentences and lesser charges despite their involvement and actions being axiomatic in the murders of Trevor Moncrief and Raymond Ward.

Justin was convicted of First Degree Murder under accomplice liability and sentenced to Natural Life without the possibility of parole. He is currently incarcerated at James T Vaughn Correctional Center in Delaware.

Proposal Post

John Bernard Feit

John Bernard Feit, 85, was convicted in December 2017 for the murder of 25-year-old beauty queen schoolteacher Irene Garza in McAllen, Texas.

Garza disappeared April 16, 1960. Her bludgeoned body was found days later. An autopsy revealed she had been raped while unconscious, beaten and suffocated.

Link to Edward Wayne Edwards:

The crime was at Easter, the victim was found in water with two altar candles laid across her chest. Signed by the cross. Anonymous letters targeting a priest and an item owned by the priest planted at the scene.  Edwards was 27, on parole from Montana. He mentions the candles in his autobiography. He killed the couple on Lovers lane in Portland on thanksgiving, 1960. (JAC)

Discussion

Zach and Dylan Adams

Zach and Dylan Adams were wrongfully charged with the 2011 murder of Holly Bobo. Zach was convicted in September 2017; Dylan is set to go to trial in spring 2018. Cell phone pings prove conclusively that these men did not abduct Holly.

On April 13, 2011, around 7:45am, 20-year-old nursing student Holly Bobo was abducted by a man wearing camouflage outside her Darden, Tennessee home. Her brother, Clint, awoke to the sound of their dogs barking furiously and witnessed the man walking his sister into the woods.

Holly’s cell phone shows her and her abductor driving north about 20 miles, stopping for 20-30 minutes near I-40, then traveling south again using a different route. Her cell phone was disassembled around 9:25am, and the case went cold. In September 2014, Holly’s partial remains were found by ginseng hunters in a wooded area off of I-40. She had been shot in the back of the head.

Investigators initially focused on a local sex offender named Terry Britt, and for good reason: Britt has a history of stalking and rape; many of the women he stalked were blue-eyed blondes like Holly. Britt matched the physical description given by Clint and Clint identified Britt in a voice line-up. While this isn’t conclusive, Britt also couldn’t be excluded as the source of a handprint on Holly’s car. And lastly, Britt not only didn’t have an alibi for that morning, it appears he attempted to fabricate one. He told investigators that he spent the morning with his wife, who stayed home from work to help him install a bathtub. Upon further investigation, it turns out that his wife actually went to work, but Britt called and made her come home and say that she’d been there the whole time. So, Britt was clearly a good suspect, but the case against him never gelled and he was never charged.

In 2014, for reasons that have never been made public, investigators turned their attention to Zach Adams. But instead of questioning Zach directly, they decided to go through his brother Dylan, who is mentally disabled. Dylan was arrested on unrelated weapons charges by the same prosecutor who was working on the Bobo case.

Dylan was threatened with a lengthy prison sentence, but mysteriously given a plea deal where he avoided jail time, but was required to go live with a retired police officer and Bobo family friend named Dennis Benjamin who Dylan had never met. After five weeks of living with Dylan, Benjamin called 911 to report that he had someone who wanted to confess to the murder of Holly Bobo. Dylan was taken in, and indeed he gave a confession. The problem is that when all was said and done, the confession he gave didn’t match any of the physical evidence. Dylan later recanted and claimed that he’d been coerced, but that faulty confession that had no basis in reality formed the basis for Zach’s arrest.

At this point, they went after the men he was with that day: his brother Dylan, and two friends, Shayne Austin and Jason Autry. During the course of questioning, Shayne Austin was offered total immunity if he would agree to flip on Zach. Shayne agreed, but just like Dylan, he was unable to give them anything useful, and he had no idea where the body was. The prosecution withdrew his immunity and spent the next year trying to charge him with murder until he committed suicide.

Jason Autry held out the longest, swearing over and over that he was innocent.

So what was the evidence against these men? Aside from Dylan’s confession, there wasn’t much of anything.

Trial by media

Prosecutors told the media all about Dylan’s confession. They made sure the media knew that Zach threatened his brother that he’d “put him in a hole beside her,” but in terms of actual forensic evidence, there was nothing. And it’s not just that they were hiding the evidence from the public, they were refusing to turn anything over to the defense. The reality of the situation is they were stalling. It’s not that they were hiding evidence, they were hiding the fact that they didn’t have any. And there’s plenty of evidence to support this.

Playing keep-away with the evidence

Every time there was a hearing where the defense was going to complain about the lack of evidence and may have a reasonable chance of the case being dismissed, something would always happen. They would drop the charges and file something else and that hearing would go away and they wouldn’t have to answer any questions about why they weren’t turning over any evidence to the defense.

They did this a few times, but the most notable example of this involved two other men. In the summer of 2014, a woman came forward claiming that her friend Jeff Pearcy showed her a video of Holly Bobo being assaulted. They arrested Jeff and his brother Mark, who allegedly shot the video. They went crazy trying to find the video and any connection between the Pearcy brothers and the other men, but it never materialized.

Mark Pearcy’s preliminary hearing came. Ostensibly, his attorney was planning to ask for the charges to be dismissed against him because at that point, all they had was hearsay. So the prosecution claimed they “forgot” about the hearing and neglected to arrange transfer for him from the jail. The judge rescheduled the hearing, but the day before that hearing, they dropped the charges. But instead of admitting they had no evidence, they made up some story about how they forgot he had federal charges and invoked some law that doesn’t exist where he can’t have federal and state charges against him at the same time. Eventually the state quietly dropped the case against both brothers, but not after ruining both of their reputations.

Their treatment of the main suspects was even worse. In December of 2014, months after the arrests, the defense attorneys were complaining that not only had they not received the evidence, they hadn’t even received a bill of particulars detailing what the men were being accused of doing. The judge ordered them to turn the evidence and the bill of particulars over now. He set a deadline before the end of the year. At this point assistant district attorney Jennifer Nichols withdrew from the case, leaving DA Matt Stowe. Right after the discovery deadline passed, Stowe withdrew from the case and Jennifer Nichols came back on as lead prosecutor. Matt Stowe never was held in contempt over the issue and although Jennifer Nichols was only off the case for a matter of days, she claimed she needed a couple months to “catch up”, a request that was granted and the prosecution was legally allowed to keep stonewalling the defense.

Nothing can be proven, but it is suspicious that there’s this counsel change and it conveniently makes the discovery deadline go away. Following that heated December hearing, there was a meeting between the prosecutors and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), who were responsible for analyzing the forensic evidence. Whatever was said during that meeting was so dramatic that it caused the TBI to pull its services from the entire district. An email was later leaked revealing that Stowe accused the TBI of moving “so slowly that the culprits were always one step ahead and that TBI… was leaking information and possibly covering up evidence”.

So it seems pretty clear that in December 2014, there was no evidence aside from Dylan’s confession, which he had recanted by that point. They continued to stall well into 2015. There was a dispute where the defense opposed Jennifer’s appointment as prosecutor, so she claimed she legally had the right to continue withholding evidence until that was settled. It was just getting silly. This continued well into the summer. The defense filed a motion to dismiss the case on the basis of stonewalling by the prosecution. But surprise, surprise: that hearing was, again, cancelled because they dropped the charges and refilled, this time for first degree murder.

Please keep this in mind when you read about the evidence. It’s not like they arrested and charged them on the basis of solid evidence. Very little of what they used to convict Zach even existed at the time of Zach’s arrest. Even a year later when they were all charged with first-degree murder, the case against them was flimsy at best. They arrested these men on the basis of a faulty confession, then used threats and intimidation to build a case against them.

A deal is struck

In early 2017, just a few months before Zach’s scheduled trial, Jason Autry finally agreed to testify for the prosecution as part of a plea deal that has yet to be disclosed publicly. According to Jason Autry, he himself was not involved in the abduction, and this is one detail that we can be relatively certain of: Jason Autry’s cell phone was pinging from a great distance away from both Holly and the other men at the time of the abduction.

On the stand, Autry claimed that he went to Shayne Austin’s home that morning to buy drugs where he saw Holly’s body wrapped in a multi-colored blanket in the back of Zach’s white truck. Zach, Dylan, and Shayne were there, allegedly disposing of evidence from the crime in a burn barrel. According to Autry, Zach later told him that Zach, Dylan, and Shayne went to the Bobo residence that morning to teach Clint how to make meth. Clint was never asked about this at trial, but he later denied this claim and no evidence was ever presented to substantiate any methamphetamine use by Clint or any relationship between him and these men. When they arrived, Holly allegedly came out of the house “screaming and hollering” and at that moment, they decided to abduct her. She was taken to a local barn that was owned by the grandmother of both Shayne Austin and Jason Autry, who were second cousins. (Note: Jason Autry was also a second cousin to Holly Bobo).

The story told by Autry was extremely inflammatory and included incest between the two brothers. After Autry joined the men at Shayne’s house, Shayne and Dylan stayed behind, while Zach and Autry drove off with the body in the back of Zach’s truck. They drove to a spot along the Tennessee River with plans to dump the body in the river, but as they unloaded her body, they realized she was still alive, so Zach shot her in the back of the head. Fearing that the noise of the gunshot may attract attention, they abandoned their plans and loaded the body back into Zach’s truck. Zach dropped Jason off and Jason wasn’t sure where the body went from that point on.

The prosecution presented some other dubious circumstantial evidence against Zach—but the main issue with the case is that it’s simply impossible for them to have committed this murder.

A problematic case

The first issue, which the prosecution tried to gloss over, was that Clint Bobo gave police a very detailed description of the man who kidnapped Holly and none of these men match that witness description. Clint described the perpetrator as being between 5′10″ and 6 feet tall, weighing 180–200 pounds and having dark hair sticking out from under his cap that was long enough to cover his neck and touch his collar. Clint said the man was wearing a hat and camouflage clothing from head to toe. He described the male voice he heard as a “deep, raspy, smoker’s voice.” As mentioned earlier, Clint identified Terry Britt as being a match to the voice he heard that moment. Since that day, Clint has either heard them speak in court or spoken to each of these men personally and has never identified any of them as having the “deep, raspy, smoker’s voice” that he described that morning. His physical description is even more clearly exculpatory. Jason Autry is out of the question. Not only was his phone pinging many miles away at the time, but he’s 6’8” and was nearly 300lbs at the time. Zach Adams has the right hair color, but he is 6’4” and (due to his meth addiction) was a gaunt 145lbs at the time. The height and weight of Dylan at the time is not known, but he was slim, and didn’t weigh anywhere close to 200lbs.

The only one of them who was about the size that Clint described was Shayne Austin. But he didn’t have a deep voice and he certainly didn’t have collar length dark hair; his hair is short and strawberry blonde.

Now of course, the prosecution tried to get around this exculpatory evidence by presenting a storyline that Clint was somehow involved in his sister’s abduction and was therefore an unreliable witness. It’s pretty heartbreaking: Clint lost his sister and despite compelling evidence that he had nothing to do with it, the state threw him under the bus to convict an innocent man.

But the most compelling exculpatory evidence is the cell phone pings. We know that Holly was attacked sometime between 7:42am and 7:46am. At 7:42am, Holly made her last phone call. At 7:46am, her next door neighbor called his mother to report hearing a scream from Holly’s home; his mother relayed the message to Holly’s mother. At 8:17am, we have the first first cell phone ping away from the home tower. Her cell phone moved north until about 8:30am, stopping for 20-30 minutes near the area off of I-40 where her remains were eventually found. At around 9:00am, her cell phone began traveling south again using a different route, passing through the area where Shayne Austin lives. Two papers belonging to Holly were found on the road in front of Shayne’s home, so the killer likely took this road and disposed of evidence on the way. Her cell phone pinged for the last time at 9:25am in the area where her phone was later found. The SIM card had been removed.

When determining who the killer is, we would expect one of three things:

1. Cell phone pings that match Holly’s exactly

2. No cell phone information at all because the cell phone is turned off, or

3. (If they left their phone at home) a cell phone that never leaves their home tower and isn’t being used by anyone during that time frame.

As mentioned earlier, Jason Autry was miles away. There is no cell phone information for Zach at the time when she was abducted, but at 8:19am, Zach was several miles away from Holly. Her cell phone was on the move at this time, so he almost certainly wasn’t in whatever vehicle was being used to kidnap her.

At 8:28am, when the attacker likely stopped his vehicle to rape and kill Holly, Zach’s cell phone was being actively used and was several miles away from Holly’s cell phone. At 9:00am, Holly’s phone moved closer to Zach’s phone, but they’re still not in the same sector. At 9:10am, their phones finally move into the same sector. This is the first overlap that morning.

How is Zach actively using his phone AND kidnapping Holly Bobo if he’s so far away from her during critical time periods? Zach was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in September, 2017. His brother Dylan will be tried for her murder in spring 2018. The details of Jason Autry’s plea deal have yet to be disclosed.

Discussion | Proposal Post

Deontae Fulton

Deontae Fulton was convicted of first-degree murder for shooting Juan Reyes in June 2013, based on the testimony of his cousin, Atarius Bishop.

The defense argued it was Bishop that shot the victim not Fulton, after Morisha McCoy jilted first Bishop, then Fulton for Reyes, who she had dated before.

Another witness testified that she had overheard Bishop admit to having shot and killed Reyes.

News report | Appeal Ruling | Proposal Post

Victoria Rickman

In the early morning hours of Sept. 13, 2013, Victoria Rickman called 911 to report she had repeatedly shot her boyfriend, Will Carter Jr. She said he raped her. Rickman said she shot to stop the attack.

Defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer says”She didn’t invite him over. She didn’t want him over there. She didn’t plan to kill him. And she didn’t murder him. I 110-percent believe she shot him in self-defense.”

Source: 48 hours, Nov 11, 2017

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Dana Chandler

Dana Chandler was convicted in 2012 of the murder of her ex-husband, Michael Sisco, and his girlfriend, Karen Harkness, on July 7, 2002.

The prosecution case was entirely speculative. There was no evidence to place her at the scene, no forensic evidence to link her to the crime. She did make a credit-card purchase of two gas cans on the day before the murders, which the prosecution suggested were to help conceal her long trip to commit the murder, however they would not have been sufficient to complete the round trip. Police could not confirm her alibi, but videos of the locations she visited were not complete.

In addition, the prosecutor told the trial jury that Sisco secured a court protective order in 1998 to shield him from Chandler, but there was no evidence for the claim.

The prosecutor made other claims that were either false or unsupported by evidence.

Discussion | Proposal Post

 

Michael Sullivan

Michael Sullivan was wrongly convicted of an 1992 murder case of a Southside Chicago IL cross-shooting incident without actual physical evidence.

He was convicted and sentenced to natural life without the possibility of parole based on the state prosecutor’s two key eyewitnesses identifying him in the backyard as the shooter at the house party where two people were fatally shot in the basement. The same two key eyewitnesses have now come forward recanting their original trial stories & providing two signed affidavits saying that they did not witness Michael shooting or at the crime scene. One of the witnesses said he was in the basement and witnessed one of his friends who fatally shot one of the victims.

He has also received four additional affidavits from 4 other witnesses indicating Michael’s innocence stating they were in the basement and saw their own friends shoot and kill both victims. They all have provided Michael with a total of six signed affidavits supporting his innocence that he’s been maintaining and fighting to prove for 25 years.

During his trial, Michael’s public defender didn’t represent him to the fullest as he should have. He tried to remove himself as his attorney, but the judge denied his request.

There was NO actual physical evidence (such clothing & bullets from all victims bodies or even a gun used at the scene) submitted to support the prosecutor’s case.

Michael was at the railroad tracks with his friends as the cross-shooting was occurring, but the prosecutors indicated that the victims were killed at a far distance by Michael.

The state prosecutor failed to mentioned that the other rival boys at the party in the basement and in parked cars were also shooting at Michael and his friends. They made it seem like Michael and his friends were the only ones shooting and killed the victims.

However, the lost or destroyed evidence (clothing & bullets) would have proven that Michael was innocent and the victims were actually fatally shot at a close range in the basement by their own friends. Now he has spent 25 years of his life behind bars and has been working diligently daily to prove his innocence. He didn’t receive a fair trial.

The medical examiner, prosecutor and detectives somehow lost or destroyed ALL of the victims clothing and bullets that were removed from their bodies. These key important pieces of evidences would have freed Michael, but instead have been improperly mishandled, lost or destroyed to prevent a fair trial. The gunpowder residue from the victim’s clothing and the size of the bullets removed from the victims would have proven that they were fatally shot at a close range by their friends in the basement. Now an expert is needed to prove the ranges, angles & distances.

Over several years, Michael has been reading and studying law books persistently as well as eagerly trying to fight and prove his innocence. He couldn’t afford an attorney so he began to study and file his own briefs/motions/petitions in court. But when Michael filed a brief/motion/petition to the courts to advise of the affidavits as new evidence, he was denied indicating that the same eyewitnesses recantations were not credible and enough to exonerate him.

Because he’s representing himself & filing his own motions/briefs/petitions, has no attorney or any other groups assisting to support him, the courts will not view him the same as they would an attorney or organization that would fight on his behalf. However, we have reached out to an expert to see if he can test or determine if the victims were shot at a close or far distance and at which angle based on the reports & documentation he has. The state’s attorney provided him with all of the testing materials to perform his own testing as needed. Unfortunately, the cost & fees always seems to be the main issue.

He (WE) is/are needing help with either getting him a new trial or exonerated. He has always kept a positive attitude as well as spirit while maintaining to prove his innocence. He smiles and continues to develop himself refusing to allow his circumstances to determine the man he truly is. He’s a family oriented man who has been deprived of raising his children and being with his family who loves him dearly.

Case description taken from

Proposal Post

Vernon Bateman

Vernon Bateman was accused, with two others, of holding a woman at gunpoint in the early morning hours of January 23, 1998, and sexually assaulting her.

However (according to a petition) the Doctor who examined her could find no signs to confirm her story, and the rape kit was mysteriously lost.

The woman initially failed to attend court in September 1998, but after a continuance was granted, did eventually identify Vernon as one of her assailants.

Following the trial, the woman gave a taped statement, gave a sworn statement, and wrote a letter to the Lake County Prosecutor, in each of which she recanted her trial testimony and indicated that she could not positively identify Bateman as one of the men who raped her and that Corporal Mary Banks had coached her into selecting his picture from the photo array. However the woman re-affirmed her identification in 2008 at an evidentiary hearing, saying that she lied in her statement to Vernon’s PCR counsel.

Discussion

Bryan Anthony Adams

On August 7, 2013, Floyd Myers reported he and his friend, John Hamlett, were victims of an armed robbery at a park by two men. He claimed his car was taken. Police found the car the same day two miles away, drug paraphernalia was found inside the vehicle.

A partial fingerprint was found on the steering wheel of the vehicle, and was matched to Bryan Adams, who was interviewed by police on September 18, 2013. Bryan was unable to remember what he was doing that day, but was positive he had not been at the park on the day in question, had never been in Myers’ vehicle, and, further, did not drive, as he did not have a license.

At trial, Myers testified that he did not recognize Adams as the man who robbed him, nor had he seen the assailant who confronted Hamlett during the subject robbery. Hamlett did not turn up to testify.

The defense failed to vigorously challenge the reliability of the fingerprint identification.

Solely on the basis of the partial fingerprint match, Bryan was convicted and sentenced to consecutive sentences of 20 years for armed carjacking and 20 years imprisonment, all but ten years suspended, for the use of a handgun in the commission of a felony, as well as a concurrent sentence of 15 years for the robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Source: Ruling denying an appeal.

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Donna Hockman

Donna Hockman shot and killed Dustin Stanley in self-defense on July 25, 2008.

Stanley was a criminal informant, and had a record of 12 arrests for property destruction, assault and battery, disorderly conduct and annoying phone calls. He was also violent and had been stalking Donna for many months after being released from jail in February 2008 after signing a Confidential Informant Agreement.

On June 7, 2008, at a wedding, Stanley’s family told Donna that he had abused “every woman he’s ever dated”. Shortly after, a fight broke out between Stanley and his family, and later that night Stanley beat Donna bloody, bashed her head into her headboard and threw her onto the floor kicking her repeatedly.

Despite complaints to police, Stanley was not arrested, and Donna could not obtain any protection from him, apparently due to his status as a paid police informant.

On July 25, Donna shot Stanley at her home after he threatened to kill her and her son.

Donna was convicted of first degree murder on the basis of the testimony of six jailhouse informants who claimed she gave different accounts of events on July 25 and sentenced to life without parole.

More information at http://commonwealthcoverup.com/

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Stacy Ramsey and Deion Harris

Stacy Ramsey and Deion Harris were wrongly convicted of felony murder, and sentenced to life without parole, on the word of the murderer, Walter Smothers, who had the strongest possible motive to lie – the threat of execution.

The murder took place on July 29, 1993. Smothers gave seven different versions of events, adding details to support the charges against Stacy and Deion, who were unwilling participants in the hijack of a truck, and the eventual murder of the driver, Dennis Brooks.

For the full story see here:
https://dissidentvoice.org/2010/07/the-witch-trial-of-teresa-deion-harris-framed-for-murder/

and/or here: http://www.just-us-justice.com/stacy-ramsey.html

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Brenda Fay Nelson

Brenda Nelson was convicted of the murder of her husband.

No murder weapon was ever found, and neither was the supposed trigger man identified. Brenda maintains her innocence. The case was entirely circumstantial, and no forensic or eyewitness evidence connects Brenda to the murder.

Police claim that cellphone evidence placed her at the scene, but the cell phone tower covers a wide area. An alternative suspect was not investigated by the defense.

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Bobby Montaque

Bobby Montague was wrongly convicted of a 1999 murder based on informant testimony and a false confession. Bobby, age 18, was with his girlfriend at the time of the crime.

According to an appeal ruling, the defense argued that “the trial court erroneously admitted his confession in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, refused to instruct the jury it could request read back of testimony, admitted anonymous handwritten rap lyrics and a photograph album found in appellant’s room. He also argues the prosecutor’s late disclosures of a witness’s background as a police informant violated appellant’s constitutional and statutory discovery rights”, however the appeal was denied.

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Looking at wrongful convictions and the politics of US incarceration

FORENSICS and LAW in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends

A time line on the growing trends for future increase of innocents being convicted. Police forensics clearly has a hand in this.  Racial targeting is another. 

Although Gross says there’s no way to know an exact number, “at least tens of thousands of people who are in prison are likely to be innocent,” he said. If just 1 percent of the prison population were exonerated that would be upward of 20,000 people. For context, a study published in 2014 made “a conservative estimate” that 4.1 percent of those sentenced to death are innocent.

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Marcellus Williams

Marcellus Williams was convicted of the August 11, 1998 murder of Felicia Gayle.

Post-conviction new DNA tests that show Williams’ DNA was not on the weapon that killed Felicia Gayle. The DNA of another unidentified man was on the weapon. The victim was stabbed 43 times, and it stands to reason that the male DNA on the weapon is that of the actual culprit.

The state of Missouri said that the other evidence in the case is still strong. Yet that evidence consisted of the testimony of informants, both drug addicts, who received financial incentives to testify against him. The footprint at the crime scene and the hair samples from the crime scene do not match Williams either.

To be sure, Williams had a number of items belonging to the victim and sold a laptop belonging to the victim’s husband. That is strong circumstantial evidence. Then again, those items were found by one of the cooperating informants, Williams’ girlfriend at the time. The case was built around the informants. Both had hoped to get a $10,000 reward.

The jury that convicted Williams never heard about the DNA evidence, and it is hard to imagine that if he was tried today that he would get a death sentence, given the new doubts about guilt. That DNA evidence has never been presented in court.

Source: Washington Post article, August 2017

There is evidence that the informants, Cole and Asaro, spoke on the phone while Cole was still in jail, suggesting a conspiracy between Cole and Asaro. And Asaro was a prostitute, and might have got the laptop from another of her clients. Moreover it was apparently Asaro that sold the laptop, not Marcellus.

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Chris Ferrell

Chris Ferrell was convicted of 2nd degree murder for picking up a .22 pistol and firing three times at Wayne Mills after Mills had twice threatened to kill Ferrell. The third bullet hit Mills in the back of the head. He later died of his injuries.
According to an appeal ruling:
The Defendant and the victim had been drinking throughout the night before and that morning when, in the early morning hours of November 23, 2013, they engaged in an argument over the victim‟s decision to smoke inside the Pit and Barrel. That argument included the Defendant‟s smacking a cigarette either from the victim‟s mouth or his hand.
Both men began swearing and yelling at each other, and this culminated with the victim‟s threatening to kill the Defendant. After walking towards the doorway, the victim threatened to kill the Defendant one last time. The victim then threw his glass down on the ground and turned towards the Defendant.
After the trial, Ferrell’s attorney made a strong statement stating that his client was wrongly convicted.
“We will appeal this case through the court. We feel there is significant appellate issues in this case regarding self-defense, which is the center of our case. It’s easy for a lawyer to say we are going to appeal. I’ve been an attorney for 40 years and I’ve appealed many homicide cases. We feel very comfortable that this man will get a new trial, and a new day in court. He testified in his own defense that this was self-defense, and I stand by that decision.
I’m not going to speculate why the jury considered what they did. Unfortunately this investigation as you all heard lacked much, and I blame the verdict on the failure of the government and the police to fully investigate this case at the time. Unfortunately it was my burden to present as much evidence as I could. A lot of the evidence was lost and destroyed by the police department. That’s not fair. That’s not just. We do everything we can to leave no stone unturned. It’s the failure to the government to preserve evidence. It is unfair to Mr. Mills and his family, and unfair to my client.
The jury made the decision based on what evidence they had. We believe it was an incorrect decision based on the absence of evidence that should have been preserved by police.”
Also according to the appeal ruling:
“One of the Defendant‟s friends testified that the Defendant was “a good man” and that he had never known the Defendant “to be violent in any way.” The Defendant also introduced over fifty letters from family and friends attesting to his good character.”

Shane O. Todd

Shane Todd was sentenced in July 2017 to 30 years to run concurrently on multiple counts of rape of a child, 10 years to run consecutively for solicitation of a minor, and five years to run concurrently for aggravated sexual battery.

Shane’s family and friends say that there was no physical evidence, and the testimony of a doctor did not support the accusations. Shane was married to Sandra, the mother of the children involved, Erica (age 9) and Natalya (age 7), who were from two previous marriages. Rhonda was Erica’s grandmother, and made the initial complaint.

Rhonda accused Shane of abusing Erica on Sunday, March 13th,2016. After this initial complaint was not believed, Sandra accused Shane of abusing Natalya on Wednesday, March 16th, 2016. The motive to make false accusations could be to break up Shane and Sandra’s marriage, and restore the original family, which is reported to have happened. Rhonda went to school with the prosecutor, and apparently played a large part in the prosecution.

According to one of Shane’s relations, the judge fell asleep multiple times and was playing on his phone during the trial.

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