Category Archives: Reported Case

Report of an exoneration

Matthew Livers and Nicholas Sampson

Shortly after the 2006 shotgun slayings of Wayne and Sharmon Stock in their rural Cass County farmhouse, investigating officers zeroed in on Matthew Livers and his cousin Nicholas Sampson as prime suspects.

Livers, nephew of the murder victims, was 28 years old at the time of the murder and had no criminal record or exposure to the criminal justice system. Livers had been a special education student, and his IQ test score of 63 placed “his intellectual functioning below 99 percent of the population at large,” according to the suit.

Separated from his family and without a lawyer present, Livers was interrogated for 11 hours by investigators from the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and Nebraska State Patrol. Livers repeatedly denied any involvement in the crime. But after several hours of increasingly harsh and threatening questioning and being told his refusal to confess would result in the death penalty, Livers believed telling the officers what they wanted to hear would allow him to go home, and he finally implicated himself and Sampson in the murders. The following day, he recanted the confession.

Initially, no evidence linked either Livers or Sampson to the murders. Several weeks into the investigation, lawsuit Defendant David Kofoed, then head of the Douglas County (Neb.) Sheriff’s Crime Scene Investigation Unit claimed to have found victim Wayne Stock’s blood in a car, linked to Livers and Sampson, that investigators theorized was used in the murders.

At the murder scene, investigators found a marijuana pipe, a ring with an inscription and a flashlight that did not belong to the Stocks and likely had been left behind by the killers. After Livers’ confession, a Douglas County forensic investigator, who is not a defendant in the suit, was able to trace the ring to a Wisconsin man, who had left the ring in the glovebox of his truck. His truck had been stolen by Wisconsin residents Gregory Fester and Jessica Reid, who were in a Wisconsin jail in connection with that theft. They later confessed to killing the Stocks, and their confessions were supported by DNA evidence on the ring and pipe and by blood found on their clothing.

Officers in Nebraska attempted to cover their tracks by fabricating additional evidence against Livers and Sampson. They attempted to coerce and manipulate Reid, Fester and at least one other witness into implicating Livers and Sampson as co-conspirators in the murders. They continued to claim that the blood evidence supposedly found by Kofoed supported their case against Livers and Sampson.fter more than seven months in jail, the Cass County Attorney dismissed the charge and gave Livers his freedom. Dismissal of the case followed a State expert’s finding that psychological coercion was used to obtain the false confession and that Livers was especially vulnerable to heavy-handed tactics.

After the charges were dismissed against Livers and Sampson, David Kofoed was charged with evidence tampering in connection with the bogus finding of blood in the suspect vehicle. Kofoed was convicted and sentenced to prison. He was released after serving 18 months. Kofoed’s conviction was been affirmed by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Livers  settled his civil suit against the Nebraska State Patrol investigators and Cass County, Nebraska, Sheriff’s Deputies for coercing him to confess falsely to the brutal murder of his aunt and uncle and fabricating evidence to make the false charges stick.  Under the settlement, Livers received a total of $1.65 million as compensation for his seven months of pretrial incarceration while the false charges were pending.

Source: www.law.northwestern.edu/legalclinic/macarthur/projects/wrongful/livers.html

Sam Sheppard

Samuel Holmes “Sam” Sheppard (December 29, 1923 – April 6, 1970) was an American osteopathic physician and, toward the end of his life, a professional wrestler. He was convicted of the brutal murder of his pregnant wife, Marilyn Reese Sheppard on July 4, 1954, at their Bay Village, Ohio, home. He spent almost a decade in prison, mostly at the Ohio Penitentiary, before a retrial was ordered, where he was acquitted in 1966.

On June 6, 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court, by an 8-to-1 vote, struck down the murder conviction. The decision noted, among other factors, that a “carnival atmosphere” had permeated the trial, and that the trial judge Edward J. Blythin, was clearly biased against Sheppard because Judge Blythin had refused to sequester the jury, did not order the jury to ignore and disregard media reports of the case, and when speaking to newspaper columnist Dorothy Kilgallen shortly before the trial started said, “Well, he’s guilty as hell. There’s no question about it.”

Source: wikipedia

There is new evidence published October 30, 2015, showing the murder was committed by Edward Wayne Edwards :

This is the last page of a letter Edward Edwards sent to Dr. Sam Sheppard’s father Richard, July 13th 1954, just after he had killed pregnant Marilyn Sheppard in her bed while she slept, and set-up her husband Dr. Sam Sheppard. I didn’t know it existed until last week. Just like in the 2009 Christopher Coleman case in Illinois, Edwards left a clue on the P.S. at the end of the letter as to who the real killer was. He left the number 4 in mirror image as a clue to 4 Ds to his name, and 2 Es.

Discussion

Alton Dandridge – Exoneration report

Beniah Alton Dandridge was released on October 1st, 2015 after Equal Justice Initiative presented evidence showing that he was innocent of the murder for which he spent 20 years in prison.

On May 5, 1995, Beniah Dandridge was charged with capital murder in the killing of Riley Manning Sr. in Montgomery, Alabama, based exclusively on the Alabama Bureau of Investigation’s assertion that bloody fingerprints found at the crime scene matched Mr. Dandridge. No other physical evidence connected Mr. Dandridge to the crime.

At trial, prosecutors relied on the ABI examiner’s testimony that the fingerprints definitely matched Mr. Dandridge. The only other evidence presented was the testimony of a jailhouse informant who, in exchange for a reduced sentence in a pending case, said Mr. Dandridge told him he was involved in the crime.

Mr. Dandridge testified that he had nothing to do with the murder and presented evidence, corroborated by other witnesses, that he was elsewhere at the time of the crime. The jury convicted him of the lesser offense of intentional murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

In state postconviction proceedings, David Suddeth, who was also charged with killing Mr. Manning and pleaded guilty to capital murder to avoid the death penalty, provided a sworn statement that Mr. Dandridge was not present when Mr. Manning was killed. The jailhouse informant also said in a sworn affidavit that he testified falsely against Mr. Dandridge to obtain a reduced sentence.

The trial judge nonetheless denied relief, and state and federal courts affirmed that decision on appeal, relying on the fingerprint match to reject Mr. Dandridge’s innocence claim. Despite the evidence that he had been wrongly convicted, and his impeccable conduct in prison, the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Mr. Dandridge parole twice.

EJI took on Mr. Dandridge’s case and filed a new challenge to his conviction in November 2014. In those proceedings, EJI presented evidence from independent forensic experts who testified that their examination of the fingerprint evidence conclusively excluded Mr. Dandridge.

The ABI’s examiner had used unreliable procedures to compare the fingerprints and had ignored obvious differences that clearly showed the prints did not belong to Mr. Dandridge. Excluding Mr. Dandridge, the experts found that the fingerprints instead matched the victim’s son, eliminating the State’s most significant evidence against Mr. Dandridge.

From http://www.eji.org/node/1156 – see full story there.

Montez Spradley – Exonerated

Montez Spradley was wrongly convicted of the 2004 murder of a 58-year old white woman in Birmingham.

He spent nine years behind bars — including three-and-a-half years on Alabama’s death row.

The prosecution relied on tainted and inconsistent testimony of his disgruntled ex-girlfriend as well as a jailhouse snitch, who both claimed he had confessed to them.

The ex-girlfriend wanted to back out, and was paid $10,000 for her testimony.

Neither the police nor the prosecutors ever disclosed the payments to the defense.  Judge Bahakel, before sentencing Montez to death, had signed off on a payment herself. Yet she never told Montez’s trial lawyers about it, and her order authorizing the payment never made it into the court file.

Read more here

Discussion

PA Innocence Project Helps Lewis Fogle, Freed 34 Years After His Conviction Due to DNA Exclusion

Fogle’s wife has always stood by him, the couple married just before his conviction. “He’s my husband and I love him,” said a tearful Deb Fogle, “It’s been a long, long process.”

News Report August 13, 2015

Dare to Think

Lewis Fogle was yet another victim of incentivized testimony.  Fogle, a Pennsylvania man, was imprisoned 34 years ago for the rape and murder of a teenage girl mostly based upon the testimony of jailhouse snitches.  A judge this week vacated the conviction for the 1976 rape and murder of Deanna Long.  Prosecutors have not decided whether or not they will retry Fogle.  The Pennsylvania Innocence Project pressed police to dig out physical evidence that could be retested for DNA.  The Indiana County prosecutor’s office agreed to retest the items.

The DNA test excluded Fogle, who was serving life in prison, as the source of sperm found on the victim.  Prosecutors subsequently agreed to overturning Fogle’s conviction.  Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty said his investigators are now combing through the remaining evidence to see if they have a strong enough case to retry Fogle.  Dougherty said that he believes Fogle…

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Mark Weiner – Exonerated

A Virginia judge on Tuesday vacated the conviction of a Montgomery County native who has long maintained he was innocent of abducting a woman in Charlottesville and taking her to an abandoned home in 2012.

Mark Weiner, 54, walked away from jail a free man after the Albemarle County prosecutor took the unusual step of siding with the defense in calling for the 2013 verdict to be thrown out. Weiner was serving an eight-year sentence.

..

Benjamin said an analysis of cellular data showed that during the course of the alleged abduction, Steiniger’s cellphone was pinging off a cell tower near her mother’s home and never accessed one that was close to the abandoned home.

Read full report here, Washington Post, Jul 14, 2015

or Slate.com report

“Some prosecutors would call that sort of thing exculpatory information that must legally be turned over to the defense. Lunsford thanked the officer for stopping by and said she would no longer be needing his testimony after all. (This officer would later call the defense attorney and tell him what had transpired.) The second law enforcement officer offered up the same conclusion. He didn’t get to testify, either.”

or Discussion here.

Garreth Stephens and Jared Sowders – Exoneration Report

In March 2013 two young men Garreth Stephens & Jared Sowders were arrested in Clark Co. Indiana and charged with the murder of Steven Baldwin, based solely on hearsay from the original suspect in the case who was a known drug dealer.

They spent almost 6 months behind bars before being released on bail.

There was no physical evidence or evidence of any kind that placed either boy at the crime scene.

Both Garreth and Jared had strong alibis.

Garreth was 19 years old, a student at Indiana State, a private pilot who was in the ISU aviation program completing his federal aviation requirements to be a commercial pilot. Jared was 18 years old, had just graduated high school, was sworn into the Army and was getting ready to leave for boot camp.

On November 14, 2014, a jury found Jared  and Garreth not guilty.

Defense attorneys Bart Betteau and Perry McCall called the exoneration a vindication.

Bart Bettau stated: “Not only did we prove that there wasn’t enough evidence out there to convict them. I think Perry and I together proved they were absolutely innocent.”

Facebook Page  | Discussion | News Report

Byron Halsey settles for $12.5m

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty against Halsey, who maintained his innocence through the one-month 1988 trial, but a holdout on the jury spared his life.

Halsey was exonerated after a 2006 DNA test showed he was not the killer. The charges against him were dropped a year later.

When State Police ran the DNA results against its database, it matched a convicted rapist, Clifton Hall, a neighbor of Halsey who prosecutors had used as a trial witness.

In February 2013, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought on Halsey’s behalf against the city of Plainfield and two police officers, ruling there was no proof the officers committed misconduct. In April 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit reversed the dismissal and sent the case back for trial, saying: “Except when an innocent defendant is executed, we hardly can conceive of a worse miscarriage of justice.”

In July 2015, the lawsuit was settled for $12.5 million.

News report here | Exoneration Report 

Louis DiNicola – Exoneration Report

Louis DiNicola was convicted of arson and murder after a fire on August 30, 1979 in which an adult and two children died.

On May 23, 1994, after a 2-week retrial, a jury acquitted DiNicola of all charges.

In 1998, DiNicola settled a federal civil rights lawsuit with the city of Erie.

According to this 1998 filing serial killer Edward Wayne Edwards testified against DiNicola at the retrial:

“(d) that false testimony from Defendant Edwards was used against Plaintiff in an effort to convict him in his second criminal trial”.

It seems probable that Edwards was the true perpetrator of the crime. Edwards made a coded confession in a “poem”:

“One night two kids got killed in a fire. I struck the match so the death toll is higher.”

The poem was sent in March 1981, signed “The Ghost Killer” in connection with the Atlanta Child Killings, which Wayne Williams was blamed for.

( “It’s Me”, page 178, 179 and 185  ).

See Report at National Registry of Exonerations for full details about the case.

Quentin Carter Exonerated

It’s common for authorities to be reluctant to re-investigate after a wrongful conviction. I have attempted to persuade Texas police to investigate a cold case with an obvious suspect ( the prosecution star witness ) with no success ( https://geebee2.wordpress.com/brenda-kay-epperson/ ).

Wrongful Convictions Blog

Quentin Carter, 40, maintained his innocence throughout nearly 17 years in prison following his conviction of the 1991 rape of a 10-year old child. He was likely denied parole numerous times because he would not express remorse for a crime he didn’t commit.

Carter was 16 when convicted. He was released in 2008 but was registered as a sex offender with all the restrictions this designation carries.

Kent County (MI) Prosecutor William Forsyth was instrumental in vacating Carter’s wrongful conviction, which occurred by order of a judge last Thursday.

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South African Constitutional Court Orders Immediate Release of Wrongfully Imprisoned Man

The word of a criminal with a motive to lie should not be trusted.

Wrongful Convictions Blog

With help from the Wits Justice Project, South African  Thembekile Molaudzi was released from prison last week after serving 11 years for the 2002 murder of Dingaan Makuna, a Mothutlung policeman. The only evidence implicating Molaudzi was the confession of another man also accused of the crime. After a long battle, the Constitutional Court overturned Molaudzi’s conviction, issuing him a Warrant of Liberation that called for his immediate release.

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Alfred Dwayne Brown

Alfred Dwayne Brown, whose conviction and death sentence in a case involving the fatal shooting of a Houston police officer was thrown out, will not be retried, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said Monday.

The Court of Criminal Appeals last year threw out Brown’s 2005 conviction and death sentence after ruling that his defense team was not given evidence that could have supported his alibi at trial. The evidence was a copy of a telephone record, found last year by an investigator who was part of the case.

DA drops charges against Alfred Brown

EJI exoneration report

No physical evidence tied Mr. Brown to the crime. Mr. Brown’s girlfriend was aggressively interrogated and threatened with perjury by the grand jury foreman, who was a police officer, and she was jailed for seven weeks until she changed her testimony to implicate Mr. Brown. She has since recanted that testimony.

Mr. Brown’s attorneys have uncovered compelling evidence that the murder was committed by another man with a history of robbery and connections to the co-defendants in the crime. They filed a motion in 2008 to test the alternate suspect’s DNA, but no test has been carried out.

Discussion

Supreme Court Justice’s perfect capital-punishment case – exonerated

A little over two decades ago, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was dismissive of then-Justice Harry Blackmun’s concerns about the death penalty. In fact, Scalia had a case study in mind that demonstrated exactly why the system of capital punishment has value.
As regular readers may recall, Scalia specifically pointed to a convicted killer named Henry Lee McCollum as an obvious example of a man who deserved to be put to death. “For example, the case of an 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat,” Scalia wrote in a 1994 ruling. “How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!”
For Scalia, McCollum was the perfect example – a murderer whose actions were so heinous that his crimes stood as a testament to the merit of capital punishment itself.
Yesterday, McCollum was pardoned. Scalia’s perfect example of a man who deserved to be killed by the state was innocent.

Michael Kenneth McAlister

Michael Kenneth McAlister was convicted in 1986 despite the only trial evidence linking him to the attack being the victim’s eyewitness testimony.

The exoneration came five days before a hearing that could have led to McAlister’s indefinite confinement as a violent sex offender under the state’s civil commitment law. Authorities, including the former Richmond police detective who investigated McAlister and former and current city prosecutors, say the real perpetrator was a serial rapist who three decades ago bore a striking resemblance to McAlister.

“My staff and I have carefully and thoroughly reviewed the documentation in this case and concluded that a pardon is appropriate in light of the overwhelming evidence, including a recent confession by another individual, pointing to Mr McAlister’s actual innocence of the crime for which he was convicted,” McAuliffe said in a written statement.

Source: Guardian Report

David Wayne Spence

Nevertheless, a problem remains. Mr. Spence was almost certainly innocent.

This is not a hypothesis conveniently floated by death-penalty opponents. Those who believe that David Spence did not commit the crime for which he died include the lieutenant, now retired, who supervised the police investigation of the murders; the detective who actually conducted the investigation, and a conservative Texas businessman who, almost against his will, looked into the case and became convinced that Mr. Spence was being railroaded.

The retired lieutenant, Marvin Horton, said in sworn testimony: ”I do not think David Spence committed this crime.”

In an interview Wednesday, Ramon Salinas, the homicide detective who investigated the murders, said: ”My opinion is that David Spence was innocent. Nothing from the investigation ever led us to any evidence that he was involved.”

The businessman, Brian Pardo, was asked for help by Mr. Spence last fall. ”The probability of him being innocent seemed very small in my mind at that time,” Mr. Pardo said. ”He was on death row. It just seemed to me that most people there are guilty, and they all say they are innocent.”

Mr. Pardo agreed to underwrite an investigation that would last only until some evidence turned up showing that Mr. Spence was guilty. No evidence ever did.

”It was all entirely to the contrary,” Mr. Pardo said. ”There is no chance that he committed those murders.”

The murders were horrifyingly violent and bloody. There was a great deal of contact between the victims and the killers. But there was no physical evidence connecting the crime to Mr. Spence or his co-defendants, both of whom are incarcerated for life.

Strands of hair, including pubic hairs, that most likely came from the killers were found on the victims. But an F.B.I. analysis determined that none of the hairs came from Mr. Spence or his co-defendants.

The case against Mr. Spence was pursued not by homicide detectives but by a narcotics cop named Truman Simons who left the Police Department under unusual circumstances, went to work for the county sheriff and in that capacity conducted an obsessive, unprofessional and widely criticized campaign to nail Mr. Spence. (There will be more about this in future columns.)

Mr. Simons cobbled his case together from the fabricated and often preposterous testimony of inmates who were granted all manner of favors in return. Court papers showed that some were even given the opportunity to have sex with wives or girlfriends in the district attorney’s office.

From http://www.nytimes.com/1997/07/25/opinion/the-wrong-man.html

Wikipedia : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1982_Lake_Waco_murders

Texas Moratorium Network Report

October 2015 Summary Texas Monthly via Wrongful Conviction Blog : ( “Bite Mark Analysis” )

The third case is even more troubling because it involved an execution. The defendant’s name was David Spence, and he was, oddly enough, Juanita White’s son. (For more on this labyrinthian case read “The Murders at the Lake.”) Spence was convicted in two trials, in 1984 and 1985, of the murders of three Waco teens and given the death penalty. The only physical evidence against him: bite marks on the bodies of two of the victims. The expert who testified: Homer Campbell. Spence, Campbell said, was “the only individual” to a “reasonable medical and dental certainty” who could have bitten the women. According to jurors, Campbell’s words were powerful. “We had life-size pictures of the marks and a cast of [Spence’s] teeth brought into the jury room,” remembered one juror afterward. “The testimony—‘everyone’s bite mark is different, like a fingerprint’—was very convincing.”

Spence’s appellate lawyers tried to attack Campbell’s methods with other forensic odontologists. One, Thomas Krauss, a former president of the American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO), said Campbell’s methodology was “well outside the mainstream.” Krauss helped the lawyers set up a blind panel of five odontologists to analyze the autopsy photos and vet Campbell’s work by comparing the marks with dental molds from Spence and four other subjects. The results were astonishing. Though the five experts identified several patterns that were possibly bite marks, they couldn’t say much more. One of them said the photos were too poor in quality to compare to the molds. A second wrote that the marks were “more likely than not made by insects or artifacts.” A third thought that some of the marks were probably bite marks, but he couldn’t match any of the molds to them. Two of the experts did indeed match one of the marks to one of the molds, but it was not Spence’s. It belonged to a housewife from Phillipsburg, Kansas. Unfortunately for Spence, the study wasn’t completed until after the deadline for Spence’s writ. He was eventually executed, despite numerous questions about his guilt—the biggest coming from the fact that the only physical evidence against him came from Campbell.

Bill Wilson

This case is included to show just how ridiculous wrongful convictions can be.

Wilson was convicted of murdering his wife after she left and some old bones were found in a cave in 1912.

Luckily his wife turned up alive and well after he was convicted.

In 1932, Yale’s Borchard included Bill Wilson’s story in his book “Convicting the Innocent,” an examination of 65 wrongful convictions in America.

Report

Michael Hanline – case dismissed

A California man who was freed after serving 34 years of a life sentence for murder had the charges formally dismissed Wednesday.

Michael Hanline, 69, was the longest-serving wrongfully incarcerated inmate in California history, according to the California Innocence Project, whose lawyers worked for 15 years to free him and persuaded prosecutors to re-examine the evidence.

Testing showed DNA found at the crime scene did not come from Hanline or his alleged accomplice. In addition, prosecutors withheld evidence that should have been disclosed to Hanline’s legal team during the trial.

Report

Jessica Silva

“I JUST grabbed the knife…

“Just to kind of scare him. I wasn’t thinking I was going to use it.”

It is a day Jessica Silva tries desperately to forget.

But three years on she said it still feels like yesterday and she knows that only by talking about it will she finally be free.

“He really made me believe that he was coming to kill me.”

In an interview with 60 Minutes, the 27-year-old opened up about the day she stabbed to death her estranged partner James Polkinghorne, 28, in the street outside her family’s Marrickville home in Sydney’s inner west.

Ms Silva admits her character was broken by years of domestic abuse and she carries guilt and remorse for the way the events of Mother’s Day 2012 unfolded.

Report

Note:

A jury found her not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter and a judge sentenced her to time already served.

Now her lawyer says she shouldn’t have been charged with anything and that he will seek a full acquittal in the Court of Criminal Appeal.

This is categorised as “exonerated”, even though technically there is no full acquittal yet.