Category Archives: Adopted Case

An “adopted” case has a similar procedure to a “featured” case.

It is used where there are safety or sensitivity considerations, where limited public information is available, for pre-trial cases or for similar reasons.

James Dailey

James Dailey was convicted in the 1985 murder of a 14-year-old girl in Pinellas County.

According to the Innocence Project of Florida:

“There is nothing more shocking than the thought of executing an innocent man,” Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project of Florida, said in the statement. “Yet, that’s what will happen if Florida proceeds with the execution of James M. Dailey, a Vietnam veteran who has spent more than 30 years on Death Row for a crime he did not commit. There is no physical or eyewitness evidence tying Mr. Dailey to this tragic crime. Prosecutors used discredited snitch testimony to wrongfully convict him.”

News report Oct 4, 2019

“Despite a lack of evidence, James Dailey will likely be executed for the 1985 murder of a Pinellas girl”

https://www.cltampa.com/news-views/florida-news/article/21090718/despite-lack-of-evidence-or-eyewitnesses-james-dailey-will-be-likely-executed-next-month-for-the-murder-of-a-pinellas-girl

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Lindsay Partin

Lindsay Partin was with Hannah Wesche for a matter of seconds or minutes on March 8, 2018, before she collapsed.

The child’s father, Jason Wesche, who dropped her off that morning, could have caused her injury, or it could have been a fall.

In an appeal filed October 2019 Linday’s appellate attorney Neal Schuett said the state should have disclosed to the defense that Jason had a friend staying at his home on March 7, 2018, and that he “lied to investigators that he did not go to Walmart with Hannah to get milk on March 7, 2018, and that he lied to investigators for over a year.

News Report October 2019: https://www.journal-news.com/news/crime–law/linday-partin-appeals-conviction-death-toddler/Qe8Pw3y32hfKQApEDI133I/

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Toforest Johnson

Just after midnight on July 19, 1995, Jefferson County, Ala., deputy William Hardy was moonlighting as a security guard for the Crown Sterling Suites hotel in Birmingham.  Around 12:30 a.m., Hardy must have heard something in the parking lot that got his attention, because he stepped away from his post to investigate, and was shot dead.

At the time William Hardy was killed, Toforest Johnson, then 22, and his friend Ardragus Ford, 21, were partying at a nightclub called Tee’s Place on the other side of Birmingham. Johnson’s appellate attorneys would later provide 10 witnesses who saw him at the club.

Over the next few years, six young black men and one black girl would be arrested for crimes associated with Hardy’s murder. Four were charged. Two were tried — one was acquitted;  Johnson was convicted and sentenced to die.

Law enforcement officials threatened witnesses with incarceration and the loss of custody of their children if they didn’t tell authorities the story they wanted to hear.

Yolanda Chambers, age 15,  was threatened with arrest if she did not implicate anyone, and was responsible for Johnson’s arrest. At one point, prosecutors themselves conceded that since William Hardy’s murder, Chambers had told more than 300 lies about who was involved and what she knew. Chambers was never a credible witness, she told many different stories and at various points admitted she knew nothing.

At trial, the principle prosecution witness was Violet Ellison who claimed to have heard a phone confession from an inmate who identified himself over the telephone as Toforest ( who she did not know ). This alleged confession allegedly occurred the day after a $10,000 reward was announced by the governor. In 2003, Johnson’s appellate attorneys learned that the state of Alabama paid Ellison $5,000 in 2001 for her assistance to the prosecution. DA David Barber wrote that Ellison came forward “pursuant to the public offer of a reward.” even though the jury was told she came forward solely because of “her conscience” and so that she “can sleep at night.”

At Johnson’s first trial, the jury hung. After a second trial he was convicted and sentenced to death.

Full Article here : https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/09/05/an-alabama-man-has-been-death-row-years-he-is-almost-certainly-innocent/

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Michael Astorga

In the early hours of March 22, 2006 Deputy James McGrane was murdered during a traffic stop in the East Mountain area of Bernalillo County.

The license plate number given to the dispatch operator by Deputy McGrane was registered to a Dodge truck owned by Michael Astorga.

However a witness described the truck at the scene as white, non-diesel, and battered with a lot of wear and tear, whereas the Dodge truck owned by Astorga was gold, diesel and in almost excellent condition. Moreover, although the deputy was shot 6 to 9 inches from the truck, and apparently run over, no forensic trace on Astorga’s truck ( blood, DNA ) was found.

In addition, when Astorga’s truck was discovered, the plate had been removed, and was in the driver’s cab, suggesting that an unknown criminal may have used the plate while carrying out some crime, so that if the vehicle was seen Astorga would be blamed. ( Note: in New Mexico vehicles only have a single rear plate ).

David Garcia testified that he was with Astorga the day of the shooting. He told the jury they went to Astorga’s East Mountain trailer late in the afternoon, then returned to Albuquerque before 10 p.m. that night in Astorga’s purple Jeep, and he was dropped off at his mother’s house.

Astorga was driving the purple Jeep as he made a living buying and selling vehicles from auction. Astorga was in Albuquerque all day driving around in the purple Jeep because he was going to sell it to his wife’s co-workers at the time.

Danielle Lyon said Astorga worked for her brother-in-law in the past. She told the jury that on the night McGrane was killed, she and her husband went to tattoo artist Martin Saiz’s house so her husband could get a tattoo. She told the jury that Astorga arrived about 10 p.m. with food and stayed through most of the night.

Her husband and Martin Saiz confirmed Astorga’s whereabouts at the time of the crime also.

Nevertheless, after considerable adverse pre-trial publicity ( a defense request for a change of venue was denied), Astorga was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

There was a separate penalty-phase trial, at which the State sought the death penalty. At this trial, the jury stated that not all jurors agreed on Astorga’s guilt.

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Joey Watkins

On January  11, 2000, around 7:20pm, Isaac Dawkins ( age 21 ) was shot in the head while driving on the Freeway near Rome, Floyd County, Georgia.

Joey Watkins was a suspect, as he and Isaac had both previously dated a girl named Brianne, however after an investigation he was cleared by City police.

However, many months later Joey and his friend Mark Free were charged with the crime. Joey was convicted, but Mark was acquitted.

The case is supported by the Georgia Innocence Project, and was the subject of the second season of the Undisclosed podcast.

More here: https://www.georgiainnocenceproject.org/active-cases-2/joey-watkins/

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Jens Söring

In March 1985, Derek and Nancy Haysom  were murdered in their home in Bedford County, Virginia.

Jens Söring ( age 18, the son of a German diplomat ) was studying at the University of Virginia, and was in a romantic relationship with Elizabeth Haysom, the victim’s daughter.

Six months later Jens and Elizabeth fled to Europe, and subsequently Jens confessed to the crime, claiming at trial it was a false confession to protect Elizabeth.

However relatively recent DNA tests show that two unknown men left blood at the scene, and lead to the conclusion that Jens was not present.

A full-length documentary film about the case, Killing for Love , was released in October 2016, and in June 2019, the case was covered in podcasts by Amanda Knox.

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Kenneth Nixon

Kenneth Nixon was 19 when police say his girlfriend had an affair with his childhood friend, giving him a motive to toss a Molotov cocktail into a Detroit house, killing two children.

However, according to withheld evidence, the State’s key witness ( whose story changed significantly multiple times ) was “obviously coached by family members”.

The case was re-investigated by six undergraduate and graduate students at Northwestern University, with the support of the Medill Justice Project.

For a full description of the case see https://eu.freep.com/story/news/2018/10/27/kenneth-nixon-life-sentence/1739835002/

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Kim Hoover-Moore

In 2002 – five days before Christmas , Columbus police arrested baby-sitter Kim Hoover-Moore for the shaken baby death of 9-month-old Samaisha Benson a month earlier.

She maintained her innocence, but was convicted or murder and other charges.

At trial, in the original autopsy, the coroner determined that the child had no previous brain injuries.

However, when asked by Assistant State Public Defender Joanna Sanchez to re-examine the evidence recently, the same coroner found an old brain injury that the child had suffered – probably about a month before she died – and evidence that the injury re-bled about 4-5 days before she died causing the fatal injuries.

Source: https://www.10tv.com/article/babysitter-convicted-9-month-olds-death-hopeful-new-trial-newfound-evidence

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James Evans

Nekemar Pearson allegedly went missing on June 25, 1995. James Evans was subsequently convicted of his murder on that date, on the basis of confessions he purportedly made to jailhouse informants, who claimed that Evans confessed that he beat Pearson so severely that he broke his hand in the process. However a medical examination established that in fact his hand had not been broken after a documented fracture in 1993. The trial testimony of the state’s witnesses changed from their grand jury testimony.

State witnesses Tommie Rounds, Demond Spruill, and Larry Greer testified that Evans had confessed. Spruill was a serial informant according to an appeal ruling. Greer was a drug addict and admitted liar, who police officials paid cash for his false testimony, and threatened him with arrest if he didn’t cooperate.

Further, in 2001 a state appellate defender discovered highly exculpatory Brady evidence  : a police officer observed Pearson and another youth walking down the street on July 3,  1995 (ten days after Pearson allegedly went missing). The officer was certain that it was Pearson, because he was a liaison officer at the Alton high school  where Pearson attended, and the officer had several encounters with him.

Source

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Alfred Trenkler

On October 28, 1991, a bomb exploded at the Roslindale home of Thomas L. Shay (“Shay Sr.”), killing one Boston police officer and severely injuring another.

The prosecution case was that Alfred Trenkler had built the bomb at the behest Shay Sr.’s son (“Shay Jr.”), who wanted to kill his father in order to cash in on an insurance policy.

In fact, it seems far more likely the bomb was related to Shay Sr.’s legal disputes, Shay Sr.  claimed his previous landlords were making threats on his life.

The case against Shay Jr. (who was convicted in a separate trial) and Trenkler was circumstantial. The government introduced a sales receipt for a toggle switch purchased in October 1991 at a Radio Shack store, however the jury never knew that the switch recovered at the scene was not a Radio Shack switch.

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Antonio Williams, Kendrick Gillum, and Demarco T. Wilson

On February 1, 1997, Charles Newsome was shot in the back and arm while driving in West Memphis, Arkansas, and bled to death. Antonio Williams, Kendrick Gillum, and Demarco T. Wilson (WGW) were subsequently convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

The key witness was Frederick Ellis, who was a passenger in the car. In his first statement to police, he could not give the names of the shooters, but then a few hours later he identified Williams and Gillum, then five days later he identified Wilson and another person, who it transpired was in Kentucky at the time. Ellis testified that he had known WGW “pretty much” his entire life.

However Ellis and another witness Kevin Johnson, the only witnesses who identified WGW as the shooters, gave statements which were contradictory and also conflicted with other trial testimony – a defense witness testified the shooters were in another car and not on foot, whereas the State’s witnesses testified the shooters were on foot. In addition, Johnson did not did not give his statement until nine days after the shooting, when he could have talked to Ellis. Ellis and Johnson were both convicted felons, this was the  third Capital Murder trial where Ellis testified that year and after his testimony implicating WGW, the West Memphis Police Department dropped seven charges against him.

In summary the evidence suggests Ellis lied about who shot the victim, and named people in order to curry favour with the police, and perhaps to absolve himself from wrongdoing.

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Robert Pape and Cristin Smith

Robert Pape and Cristin Smith were sentenced to life without parole in the 2006 triple murders of Jon Hayward, his girlfriend, Vicki Friedli, and her 18-year-old daughter, Rebecca “Becky” Friedli, in Pinyon Pines, California.

The victims were found murdered at their Alpine Drive home just north of Highway 74. Hayward and Vicki Friedli died of gunshots to the abdomen and head, respectively. Their bodies were discovered inside their burning home. Becky Friedli’s charred body lay outside in a wheelbarrow and her cause of death was never determined.

Robert was told certain aspects of the crime scene by Javier Garcia, such as the wheelbarrow and the bodies being too burned to identify. Javier testified that he did not know this information until a few days after the murders.

Post-trial discovery has revealed a tape of a Denny’s employee stating that Javier called her the next morning,  stating the facts about the wheelbarrow and the burned bodies.

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Jeremy Bamber

Jeremy Bamber was convicted of the murder of his adoptive parents, his sister Sheila Caffell, and Sheila’s two children on 7 August 1985. After initially being sentenced to 25 years, the sentence was later increased to a whole-life order.

Initially, police believed it was a case of murder-suicide by his sister who had a history of severe mental illness, but on 29 September 1986 he was arrested and charged with murder.

The critical evidence that convinced the jury of Jeremy’s guilt was a flake of blood found on a silencer found in a cupboard. At trial, the jury was told that the discovery of an enzyme from the blood was clear evidence that the blood found on the silencer came from Sheila. However the jury never knew that this blood could have been from animals. The rifle and the silencers were used to shoot game and could have been carried alongside rabbits when returning from a shoot. Had the jury known that two types of animal blood were found on the outer surface of another silencer, they would have known that the blood was more likely animal blood than Sheila’s blood.

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Troy Legette

Troy Legette was convicted in 1998 of armed bank robbery.

The prosecution case was entirely speculative/circumstantial. There was no physical evidence to place him at the scene, forensic evidence were tested and didn’t link him to the crime. Also, inconsistent statements documented in police reports from eyewitnesses showed variations from trial testimony.

In addition, the prosecutor told the trial jury that Troy was a non-shedder and this was why DNA found on evidence used in crime didn’t match. The prosecutor made other claims that were either false or unsupported by evidence.

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Molly Corbett and Thomas Martens

Molly Corbett, 34, and Thomas Martens, 68, were convicted Aug. 9, 2017, of second-degree murder of Irish businessman Jason Corbett, in August 2015.

Molly Corbett, who was Jason’s second wife, and Martens, a former FBI agent, maintained throughout the trial that they had killed Corbett in self-defense. Martens testified that he hit Jason Corbett multiple times in the head with a baseball bat after he found him choking his daughter.

Prosecutors cited Molly Corbett’s desire to adopt Jason’s children from his first marriage and a $600,000 life-insurance policy as possible motives for the killing.

In September 2018, the defense filed their appellate briefs, contending juror misconduct and that evidence favorable to the defense was improperly excluded. They also criticized the testimony of a blood spatter expert.

The appeal argues that statements by Jason Corbett’s children should have been heard by the jury based on a hearsay exception involving medical diagnoses. The children’s statements include descriptions of instances of Jason Corbett’s “irrational anger” toward Molly Corbett and themselves.

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James Davis

James Davis was found guilty of murder for the shooting death of Blake Harper in 2006. The shooting took place at a crowded party at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple. There was no physical or forensic evidence connecting Davis to the shooting, and the case against him was based solely on a disputed eyewitness testimony.

At his first trial, jurors voted 11-to-1 to acquit Davis, but his then-girlfriend failed to testify at his retrial and he was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 18-years-to-life in prison.

After a re-investigation, other witnesses have been found who support Davis’ version of events, and prosecution witnesses have retracted or changed their testimony.

More details here

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Michael Shingatok

Michael Shingatok was found guilty of sexual assault, assault and uttering threats in June 2018. An unnamed woman testified that  he was abusive throughout their four-year relationship between 2012 and 2016.

According to a news report, the woman said she reported the crimes because she wanted to get away from Shingatok and get a restraining order. But the defense noted that she stayed in contact with Shingatok despite several moves when she could have left him behind. Moreover, shortly before the woman went to police, she had heard Shingatok was cheating on her. The woman agreed she was angry about that.

Shingatok denied the allegations which were uncorroborated. The woman had a serious issue with alcohol, resulting in a serious house fire and a fall down steps.

In social media discussion, it was alleged that the woman had a record of making false accusations against two other ex-boyfriends.

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Omar Benguit

Korean English language student Jong-Ok Shin was stabbed to death in the early hours of July 12, 2002 in Bournemouth, UK.

Omar Benguit was arrested 6 weeks later, after being named by a  heroin addict Beverley Brown. He was eventually convicted after three trials, but a co-defendant was acquitted at the second trial after Brown’s account was contradicted by a speed camera and CCTV evidence.

Although many other drug addict witnesses eventually partially corroborated Brown’s story ( which changed substantially ), none of these witnesses seem credible, and several have retracted, explaining they were pressured by police.

There is a plausible alternate suspect, serial killer Danilo Restivo, who lived just two streets away from the victim.

In a six-part BBC documentary, a journalist and retired detective found that the conviction was unsafe.

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Xavier Walker

In July 2018, after serving nearly nearly two decades in prison for a 2000 murder, Xavier Walker won a new trial.

Walker had several alibi witnesses ready to testify that he was at home when Mark Madjak was gunned down in West Garfield Park. Walker, then only 19, also had a witness whom he’d told police had beaten him before he confessed, as well as photographs showing his injuries.

But none of that evidence was brought out by his lawyer at the time, and Walker received a 35-year prison sentence for murder. State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office agreed to vacate his conviction and 35-year sentence, though Walker remained at the Cook County Jail on a no-bond order from Judge Alfredo Maldonado.

Assistant Public Defender Harold Winston said that he did not know whether prosecutors intend to take the case to trial again, but he said that he’s confident the evidence will show Walker is not guilty.

For details see https://chicago.suntimes.com/?post_type=cst_article&p=1236571

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Rodney Franck

In April 2015, Rodney Franck intervened to stop a brutal assault on 54-year-old Christopher Brewster, who was left in a coma and died in June 2015. Subsequently, the perpetrator of the assault, Spencer Pell, bragged about the attack to more than 10 individuals before giving a voluntary confession to police.

Despite overwhelming evidence that Pell was the assailant, Franck was subsequently charged with murder. His trial is set for August 2018.

For more details see http://www.usobserver.com/prosecutor-disregards-confession-of-killer/

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