Category Archives: Crime-Committed-By-Other(s)

Belynda Goff

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

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

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

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

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

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

More at Huffington Post

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Christopher Charles Forbit

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

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

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

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

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

Source

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Marvin Cotton

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

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

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

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

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Sylvester Davis

Sylvester Davis Jr., was convicted of killing his girlfriend Yamisha Thomas of Columbus.

Davis, 32, was sentenced as a habitual offender to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in the death of Thomas.

Court testimony shows that Davis had been with Thomas on April 23, 2011, the day before she was reported missing. Davis first told Thomas’ mother that he too had been looking for the 30-year-old woman, but he later changed his story.

During an investigation, police recovered Thomas’ abandoned 2006 Chevy Avalanche in Columbus and later noted that Davis had a mark on his face as though he had been in a struggle.

A break in the search for Thomas came when Alabama Bureau of Investigation agents were questioning jail inmate Jerry Wayne Foster, who worked for Davis at a detail shop in Phenix City. Foster told authorities that Davis picked him up on the evening of April 23, went to the Summerplace Drive rental home where the couple once stayed and drove her red Avalanche to a hospital in Columbus.

Davis took Foster to Thomas’ body and sought help to conceal it but he refused. As he walked away, Foster spotted what appeared to be a body wrapped in a sheet. It had feet exposed with toenails painted.

Foster returned to Tuskegee, Ala., where he was to face unrelated felony charges on outstanding warrants. While in the Macon County Jail, he told the ABI agents about a body in Phenix City and said he could lead them to the remains. Thomas’ body was found in a shallow grave on May 23, 2011, in a wooded lot off Third Street South in Phenix City. Her body was beneath a mattress lying on the ground.

Source: News report

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Nicholas Newbold

Nicholas Newbold was wrongfully convicted of crimes committed by his ex-fiancé. She abused their two month old little girl, resulting in her death. Under California’s aiding and abetting law, Nubi was basically found guilty by association. He’s serving 30 years in prison and she is walking free! His only crime was choosing a cold hearted, selfish woman to fall in love with.

Source: http://www.freenubi.com/

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Marcel Johnson

Marcel Johnson was convicted in June 2015 of stabbing to death a pregnant woman and her 4-year-old daughter on November 25, 2013, and sentenced to death.

Behind bars, he allegedly confessed to a fellow inmate, George Lewis. The defense argued in closing that Lewis was a motivated witness with a long rap sheet and plenty of reasons to lie to help his own case, and told the jury that Johnson’s DNA was not found in evidence from the scene.

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Elwood Jones

Elwood Jones was sentenced to death after being convicted for the 1994 murder of Rhoda Nathan, a guest at the hotel where he worked as a custodian. He has always maintained his innocence and absolutely denied involvement in Ms. Nathan’s death.

Ms. Nathan was found unconscious on the floor of the hotel suite she occupied at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Blue Ash, Ohio, on September 3, 1994. She had been badly beaten and two of her teeth had been knocked out. Blood was found in several places in the room. Ms. Nathan was also without a necklace that family and friends said she wore constantly. No one witnessed the attack.

Elwood Jones had been working in the hotel on that day, and he voluntarily submitted to police questioning. Several other employees reported seeing Elwood working that day and remembered him being clean and acting normally. A cut on Elwood’s hand that he received while taking out trash on the morning of Ms. Nathan’s death later became infected, and he sought treatment and workers compensation for his injury. After police learned about Elwood’s cut, they focused on him as a suspect. Police searched Elwood’s car, and his and a friend’s residences, and questioned him at the station. But none of the blood, fingerprint, or trace evidence collected from the scene of the crime, nor from Elwood’s car, clothing, or other possessions, matched him with the crime scene or the victim. To this day, zero forensic evidence ties Elwood to Ms. Nathan’s homicide.

Source : December 2013 memorandum in opposition to the State’s motion to set execution date.

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Daniel Gwynn

Daniel Gwynn was convicted of first degree murder, arson and aggravated assault in 1995. The primary evidence against him was an incriminating police-written statement that he signed. In this statement Mr. Gwynn is supposed to have started the fire at that killed Marcia Smith, one of the six homeless residents there, who refused to jump out of a third floor residence. The other five residents survived. Two of the residents testified that on the day before the fire they had an altercation with someone known as ‘Rick’ who fought with them for seventy minutes before being forced to flee the residence and threatened revenge. The five homeless residents told police that they believed ‘Rick” had to have started the fire – even though they did not see who started the fire.

According to false confession expert Dr. Richard Leo, “There is no objective record of what occurred and therefore no way of ruling out that Mr. Gwynn was not educated about those facts that he got correct, a phenomenon known as ‘contamination’ that is not uncommon in police interrogations, especially those leading to false confessions.”

Source: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/125/358/722/free-daniel-gwynn-an-innocent-man-on-death-row/

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Don Roberts and Glynn Simmons

On December 30, 1974, two men held-up the Edmond Liquor Store and and in the process shot clerk, Carolyn Sue Rogers, who was killed, and a customer, Belinda Brown, who was wounded but survived.

Don Roberts and Glynn Simmons were subsequently convicted of the murder. There was no physical evidence to link them to the crime, only a questionable eyewitness identification by Belinda, and a juvenile who identified Don in a lineup.

Don and Glynn were strangers the day of the murder, they had only met once at a party, weeks after the murder. Police say their alibis didn’t check out.

Police reports indicate detectives recovered at least one usable finger print, and a bullet, but police said in court there were no fingerprints lifted from the scene of the murder.

Carolyn’s sister, Janice Smith, later wrote a letter to Glynn, and became convinced of his innocence.

Source : http://kfor.com/2014/05/15/prosecutor-family-believe-convicted-murder-could-be-innocent/

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Emerson Stevens

Emerson Stevens was convicted after two 1986 trials of abducting a mother of two from her home on August 22, 1985, while her children were asleep in the house. Five days later, her body was found in shallow water near Belle Isle Marsh, off the Rappahannock River. Stevens was sentenced to 164 years and a day in prison.

In December 2016 the Innocence Project of the University of Virginia School of Law filed an amendment asked for the conviction to be vacated.

According to the amendment, withheld evidence was found including an FBI report identifying a number of additional viable suspects; several witness statements in interviews that conflict with their court testimony; disclosure of witnesses whose statements could have impeached the testimony of prosecution witnesses; and, evidence of coercion of witnesses by the state’s chief investigator. “Mr. Stevens was convicted of a crime he did not commit…The Commonwealth’s failure to disclose the exculpatory evidence on which those false testimony claims are based violates its obligations in Brady versus Maryland”.

Source: http://rrecord.com/innocence-project-casts-doubt-on-stevens-1986-murder-conviction/

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Kenneth Lee Hopkins

In January 2017, Kenneth Lee Hopkins, 27, was found guilty by a jury in the murder of 19-year-old Marshay Wesson and her unborn son. Wesson was found shot multiple times in her car while waiting on Hopkins near East 28th Street North and North Wheeling Ave in June 2012. She was eight-and-a-half months pregnant.

Prosecutors closed with arguments that Wesson was calling Hopkins right up until the moments before she was shot multiple times.

Hopkins’ attorneys said their client didn’t kill anyone and said the murder weapon was found in another man’s car.

Discussion

Billie Jerome Allen

On March 17, 1997, security guard Richard Heflin was killed during an armed robbery of the Lindell Bank & Trust in St. Louis (Forest Park), Missouri, by two men.

William Green who was a customer at the bank dialled 911 and followed the  getaway van to Forest Park, where it burst into flames ( prior to the robbery the van had been soaked in gasoline ). One of the men, Norris G. Holder, caught fire, and was arrested at the scene by police. The other ran into a wooded area, and was spotted soon after he left the van on the opposite side of the wooded area by city forestry employee Bobby Harris. After making up a story about why the hair on his head was burned, the man convinced Harris and another forestry employee to give him a ride to the nearest Metrolink station.

Billie Jerome Allen was arrested at his girlfriend’s apartment at about 2:00a.m. the next day.  Around 3:00 a.m. Billie was placed in an interrogation room, handcuffed to the table, advised again of his Miranda rights, and allegedly treated for his burns and injuries. Subsequently, Billie was identified by Harris in a lineup and at trial.

It seems like an open and shut case, but allegedly, there is no documentation of Billie being treated for burns and injuries, and the photo lineup shows no bandage or sign he was treated:

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Source: http://www.freebillieallen.com/single-post/2016/03/13/YOU-BE-THE-JUDGE

Both Billie and Holder were found guilty in separate trials, and sentenced to death.

Discussion

More images:

 

 

 

Danny Lee Thompson

Danny Lee Thompson was convicted together with Andy W. Snyder for the murder of Michael W. Beauchamp, a homeless drifter.

Beauchamp  was last seen with two men at the Viking Lounge. His body was found floating in the Flint River at a Genesee County parks fishing site off N. Irish Road in Richfield Township, in October 1996. Police said a pathologist said Beauchamp died from drowning, but was beaten before being tossed in the water.

DNA on discarded cigarette butts found at the murder scene linked  the pair to the homicide. Snyder, who was already in prison when charged, was sentenced to 25-50 years in prison. He claimed that if he did not help Thompson that day, he also would have been killed.

At the sentencing hearing, Danny denied any involvement in the Oct. 7, 1996 killing, “I never laid my hands on him”, he said .

Source: News Report February 25, 2008.

Evidence shows that the testimony of Vega, the bartender, who testified that Danny wanted to beat the victim, was false, the person she described was not Danny. Danny’s confession was coerced, and Snyder also confessed. One of the confessions must have been false.

Source: see proposal post.

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Cyril Smith

On August 23, 2006, Cyril Smith was charged in nine counts with narcotics trafficking and the drug-related contract murders of Sanford Malone, Jamal Kitt, and Terrence Celestine in the Bronx, New York.

The jury trial was from May 14, 2007 to May 30, 2007. Cyril was convicted on eight counts, and acquitted on count four, which was killing Kitt while engaged in drug trafficking, nevertheless he was convicted of killing Kitt through the use of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.

The State’s case (  from Governments-response-to-appeal-2011  ) is that Cyril murdered Jamal Kitt and Terrence Celestine three weeks apart in July 1998, using the same nine-millimeter semi-automatic pistol, at the behest of Bronx drug dealer Edgardo Colon, who wanted Kitt and Celestine dead because they were interfering with Colon’s drug business. Colon solicited Cyril to commit the murders by promising to give Cyril drugs to sell on his own. Cyril committed both crimes with his close associate Rafael Ramos, who testified about the murders and the conflicts giving rise to them under his cooperation agreement.

An issue is that Ramos’s account of the murder of Kitt on July 5, 1998,  was contradicted by Keisha Lespierre, Kitt’s girlfriend at the time of his death, who testified that the person who shot Kitt was a light-skinned Spanish man, and not the Spanish man’s black companion.

The murder of Celestine was on July 30, 1998. A ballistics expert testified that the 9mm shell casings were fired from the same gun as those recovered from the scene of the Kitt murder.  According to Charisma Adderley, Cyril admitted to her that he shot Celestine a few days later.

Sanford Malone, who was shot to death on February 14, 2000, was the leader of a large-scale retail drug organization. Two other people were seriously injured. The State alleges that Cyril killed Malone on behalf of Edwin Avilez who was the leader of a competing retail drug organization; and Charisma Adderley assisted Cyril in carrying out the murder, which was solicited and procured by Avilez and Ramos.

According to supporters, police questioned Adderley three times about the murders and she said she knew nothing, only after police told her they would take her kids and lock her up did she say what they wanted her to say, and  Charisma recently apologized to Cyril’s mother at a parade in New York.

Further, according to a review of the transcript by “AC4L”, the three principle witnesses Ramos, Adderley and Avilez were all coerced and/or impeached.

[ Post under development]

Documents

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John Pecoraro

John Pecoraro was convicted of murdering Jimmy Ray Christian on December 6, 1982, and sentenced to death ( in 2011 Illinois abolished the death penalty, and sentences were commuted to life imprisonment ).

John was convicted on the basis of an unsigned confession, which he denies he made, and witnesses who may have had an incentive to lie.

According to a review in The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (see below), the State did not disclose information about a third person who allegedly confessed to the killing, and failed to   disclose a promise of leniency it made to a witness, in exchange for cooperation.

Discussion

* The review ( source ) titled “When exculpatory evidence never makes it to defendant”

Reading the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision in People v. John Pecoraro, No.78457 (Feb.6), one gets the distinct impression that the defendant got more vengeance than justice in his litigation.

In Pecoraro, the high court found that the state’s failure to disclose information about a third person who allegedly confessed to the killing – a killing for which the defendant received the death penalty – did not constitute a violation of Brady v.Maryland, 373 U.S. 83,10 L.Ed.2d 215, 83 S.Ct.1194 (1963), and its progeny. The court also found that the state’s failure to disclose a promise of leniency it made to a witness, in exchange for cooperation, did not impair the defense – since the defense had discovered different helpful information on its own. The Supreme Court reasoned that because the defendant did not allege or prove that the witness had testified falsely at trial, no harm had been done.

To justify its ruling regarding the harmlessness of the failure to disclose the statement by the third party, who had admitted to committing the crime, the court discussed the admissibility of that third party’s statement under established rules of evidence. In doing so, the high court reviewed the several predicates for the admissibility of a hearsay statement by a third party who admits to committing a crime, as set forth in Chambers v.Mississippi, 410 U.S.284,35 L.Ed.2d297,93 S.Ct.1038 (1973), and the court determined that the statement would have been inadmissible hearsay – thus not causing harmful error.

In regard to the state’s failure to disclose its promise of leniency to the cooperating witness, the court reasoned that no harm had been done since that information would have been of little help to the defense in light of all the other impeachment evidence the defense had acquired on its own. The court thus found that the state’s failure to disclose the additional impeachment material was harmless to the defendant’s case.

With all due respect for our Supreme Court, it appears this ruling either shows a callous indifference to procedural due process and the right to counsel or lack of common sense. Surely our state’s highest court knows that a defense attorney’s efforts are not limited to the four corners of the discovery information received from the state.

If the state discloses the name of a witness who claims to have committed the crime for which one’s client stands accused, a competent defense attorney would usually hire an investigator and try to obtain admissible evidence showing that the declarant – not the accused – committed the crime in question. Furthermore, an effective defense team might be able to convince the declarant to testify – in which case there would be no hearsay problem. But if the state is allowed to hide exculpatory information from the defense, investigation opportunities can be destroyed before they can ever begin. In essence, the state would be able to deny an accused the assistance of counsel by simply hiding exculpatory material.

Note that in U.S. v. Bagley, 473 U.S.667 (1985), the U.S. Supreme Court held that, regardless of whether information is requested by the accused, favourable evidence is material, and constitutional error results from its suppression by the government if suppression adversely affects an outcome.

With regard to the state’s failure to disclose the deal it had with one of its witnesses, and the Pecoraro court’s finding that the lack of disclosure was harmless in light of other impeachment information, how would the court have ruled had a defendant asked that the state not be allowed to introduce cumulative evidence?

For instance, if this defendant had been willing to stipulate to the cause of death in his murder case, would the court have barred the state from offering gory autopsy photos? Probably not.

The Supreme Court frequently has ruled that a party trying to prove a point has the right to present all of its evidence – including gory autopsy photos. People v. LeMay, 35Ill.2d 208, 220 N.E.2d 194 (1966). In the instant case, the defendant was trying to prove that a key witness for the state was not credible. The defense should have been allowed to present all of the evidence it had on the credibility issue – including any deals the witness had with the state.

 

 

 

Nathaniel Allen

Nathanial Allen was convicted of ordering the 2003 murder of Donald Wilder, Jr. he was jointly tried with two others who the evidence shows committed the murder. At least one witness against him lied, an appeal ruling denying one of his appeals stated:

“The Petitioner asserts that Atkins was present at a time Brassfield testified the Petitioner discussed the murder, and Atkins would testify that the Petitioner did not discuss a murder. Atkins would also testify that Brassfield had reason to testify against the Petitioner. Although Atkins’s testimony would have been relevant to impeach Brassfield’s trial testimony, the proof at the hearing showed another defense witness, Bronson Hollifield, contradicted Brassfield’s testimony that a similar conversation occurred at another location. Additionally, at least one other witness testified to Brassfield’s reputation for lying, and Brassfield was impeached with his prior convictions and his motives to testify against the Petitioner. Finally, the record shows trial counsel did much to discredit Brassfield’s testimony.”

Other witnesses were very dubious, and another witness who should have testified to a crucial meeting that allegedly implicated Nathaniel did not testify at all.

The State’s case

Nathanial did not take part in the killing, but he requested the murder be committed, provided drugs to assist in the killing, and provided money and drugs in exchange for the killing. George Arthur Lee Smith was the shooter and Shannon Lee Jarnigan assisted.

Witnesses

Connie D. Lawson, George Smith’s sister, testified that she talked with George Smith while they were at her house and that he was crying “really hard.” He told her that he had shot the victim in the back of the head. Jarnigan, who was also in the room, said, “We killed him execution style.”. Lawson testified that she refused to speak with the Defendants’ lawyers in preparation for this case because she had been threatened and did not know who to trust. Lawson conceded that the State’s attorney told her not to speak with the Defendants’ attorneys. Lawson agreed that she had previously been convicted in 1999 of misdemeanor forgery and in 2002 of criminal impersonation. She said that she violated her probation for criminal impersonation and had to serve three months in jail. Lawson said that she did not call the police after her brother and Defendant Jarnigan confessed because she did not believe what he said. More at pages 12-13 of 2007 ruling.

Michael Lynn Brassfield, Nathaniel’s brother, testified he went to the Super 8 Motel in Morristown where he saw Nathaniel and George Smith, Richard Atkins, and a girl named “Sissy.” While in the motel room, Defendant Allen mentioned two “Mexicans [who] had twenty-five thousand dollars on [the victim’s] head.” Brassfield recalled another incident around the same period of time when he was at a Days Inn in White Pine with Defendants Allen and Smith, West, and “Sissy.” While there, Nathaniel asked Brassfield and Defendant Smith to go to the bathroom with them, and he mentioned again about the two Mexicans who offered money in exchange for killing the victim. Nathaniel said that, if someone killed the victim, he would ensure they were paid. Nathaniel said that he wanted the victim killed because the victim “had indictments on him.” Brassfield agreed to kill the victim but could not get him “off the hill” ( meaning out of his house ). More at page 13 of 2007 ruling.

Phyllis West said that, on Tuesday, June 24, 2003, she and Epps went to the Days Inn Motel, and Epps paid for their room. The following day, she and Epps got a room at the Hillcrest Inn in White Pine. Later, Epps picked up Defendants Smith and Jarnigan, who rented a separate room at the same motel. Defendant Allen and a man named Darrell came to the room later with a black pistol. More at page 9 of 2007 ruling.

Danielle Lynne Epps testified that the State charged her in this case with first degree murder, alleging that she aided and abetted the Defendants in committing the victim’s murder. She testified she had reached a plea agreement with the State whereby she would plead guilty to attempt to facilitate first degree murder and testify truthfully at the Defendants’ trial in exchange for the State’s recommendation of an eight-year probationary sentence. Epps described Defendant Allen as her friend, and said Defendant Allen introduced her to Defendant Smith at the College Square Apartments in Morristown. He told her at the time of the introduction that Defendant Smith “was the one that was going to take [the victim] out.” Epps recalled another time when she heard West and Defendant Smith discuss that Defendant Smith would kill the victim. Epps said that, on June 24, 2003, she stayed at the Super 8 Motel with Defendant Smith and West. Defendant Allen made the statement that whoever “got” the victim first would get paid, but he did not disclose the amount. More at page 10 of 2007 ruling.

Stephanie Schaeffer (defense witness) testified that she knew Phyllis West well, as the two had been incarcerated together for about ten months. Schaeffer said that West discussed with her frequently the victim’s murder but never mentioned Defendant Allen’s name.

Bronson Hollifield (defense witness) testified that he has known Defendant Allen for approximately six or seven years, and, previously, he worked for the Defendant’s concrete business. Hollifield said he was present at the market when Defendant Allen saw Rucker, and Defendant Allen did not solicit anyone to kill the victim.

Timeline

February, March 2001 Victim employed as an informant, victim and Nathanial contacted each other multiple times. The victim and the victim’s wife were paid confidential informants.

Febuary 2001 Michael Brassfield’s girlfriend murdered “She was beaten n had horrible burns no her face n body n around her neck was a rope n her eyes were gouged almost out .” per discussion here  ).

June 24, 2003 Epps stayed at Super 8 Motel with West and Smith.

June 26, 2003 Some time after midnight, George Smith checked into Super 8 Motel located on East Andrew Johnson Highway.
June 26, 2003 Calls between the George Smith’s cell phone (# 423-312-3439) and the victim’s residence before 7:00 a.m., around the time that the victim became missing.
June 26, 2003 6:48 a.m. 3 minute call from victims phone to 423-312-3439.
June 26, 2003 6:52 a.m 1 minute call to victims phone from 423-312-3439.

July 2003 Detective Chad Smith asked by DA’s office  to investigate the victim’s disappearance because the victim was an important witness in multiple pending drug cases.

August 20, 2003 Detective Chad Smith interviewed George Smith, Smith admits shooting the victim and gives a detailed account of events.

August 27, 2003 Sheriff’s Department told Agent Smith about skeletal remains found on River Road.

August 2003 Chad Mullins, a sergeant with the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department, testified that he received a message in August 2003 from Brassfield. Brassfield told Sergeant Mullins that, if the sergeant kept Brassfield’s family safe, he would take the sergeant to the victim’s body. A few days later, Brassfield took him to the body. Sergeant Mullins agreed that Brassfield told him that “another man” helped Brassfield move the body, and Brassfield did not mention Defendant Smith.

December 17, 2003 Police find .380 high point semi-automatic pistol with a laser sight and a clip or magazine in the area described by Jarnigan.

March 15, 2004 Victims wife dies.

January 2006, bond reduction request denied ( News report ).

March 2006 Nathanial, Smith and Jarnigan convicted after a single trial.

August 2011, Jarnigan’s State level appeal denied.

August 2015, Jarnigan’s federal habeas appeal is denied.

Notes

From the 2012 ruling, page 2:

Phyllis Allen, the mother of the Petitioner and Brassfield, testified that she was not called as a witness at the Petitioner’s trial and did not know why. Had she been called, she would have testified that Brassfield came to her house one day seeking money. He told her that he had committed some robberies and needed the money to flee. Brassfield threatened her, and attempted to run her over with a truck. When Brassfield was unsuccessful in getting any money from her and the rest of the family, he “said that he was going to get revenge against my son, Thomas Allen, and myself and my – daughter, Nikki Allen – Janan Allen and the whole family.”

The Petitioner asserts that Atkins was present at a time Brassfield testified the Petitioner discussed the murder, and Atkins would testify that the Petitioner did not discuss a murder. Atkins would also testify that Brassfield had reason to testify against the Petitioner. Although Atkins’s testimony would have been relevant to impeach Brassfield’s trial testimony, the proof at the hearing showed another defense witness, Bronson Hollifield, contradicted Brassfield’s testimony that a similar conversation occurred at another location. Additionally, at least one other witness testified to Brassfield’s reputation for lying, and Brassfield was impeached with his prior convictions and his motives to testify against the Petitioner. Finally, the record shows trial counsel did much to discredit Brassfield’s testimony.

Documents 2007 ruling | 2012 ruling

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John N. Prante

John N. Prante was sentenced in 1983 to 75 years in prison for the June 20, 1978 murder of Karla L. Brown, in the city of Wood River, Illinois. Prante is held in the Pinckneyville Correctional Center and listed as eligible for parole in 2019, and for release in 2022.

There were no witnesses to Brown’s death, the only physical evidence against Prant was disputed bite-mark testimony, a dentist testified that less than 1 percent of people have teeth that could have left the mark.

Two prints on a coffee carafe that authorities said the killer clearly had touched did not match Prante.

An attempt to get a judge to order a DNA test for blood on a couch cushion in Brown’s basement was rejected in 1993 as coming too late in the appeals process. Illinois later passed a law to accommodate post-conviction forensic testing.

In January 2017, in response to news that attorneys from the Exoneration Project and the Innocence Project were filing for DNA tests to be conducted, and for the unidentified prints to be checked against a National database, Don W. Weber, the former prosecutor, called efforts on Prante’s behalf “intellectual malpractice”, writing “I already convinced 12 people beyond a reasonable doubt and feel no obligation to respond to a bunch of misguided liberal do-gooders who think every investigation is like a TV reality show”.

Source: Bite mark on Metro East woman slain in 1978 pointed to her killer. Or did it? St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 3, 2017

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Charles Johnson and Larod Styles

In July 2016, Cook County Judge Domenica A. Stephenson vacated the murder convictions of Charles Johnson, 39, and Larod Styles, 36, who, as teenagers, received life sentences in the December 1995 deaths of Yousef Ali and Khalid Ibrahim. Both men were fatally shot during a robbery at Elegant Auto Sales at 75th and Western.

After eight years of legal wrangling, which included an appellate court decision in their favor, attorneys representing the men said the day would not be possible if Illinois weren’t the only state in the nation to allow post-conviction fingerprint testing for defendants.

Matching fingerprints were found on a car at the used car lot and on the adhesive side of a price sticker that was torn off of one of two cars that was stolen from the lot, said defense attorney Steven Drizin, of Northwestern University’s Center On Wrongful Convictions.

The same prints were also found on the stolen cars themselves — which were abandoned about five miles from the crime scene. And the kicker, defense attorneys claim, is the fact that the fingerprints, when run through a law enforcement data base that was not available to detectives at the time of the original investigation, returned a match: a man with a lengthy criminal record who lives a short walk from where the stolen cars were found. According to a source, the man has since been interviewed by investigators.

“We are here today because we were able to use that database to not only exclude our clients . . . but to match those fingerprints to one person in particular who has nothing to do with our clients,” said Drizin, who discounted confessions the men gave to police.

In September 2016, Charles Johnson was freed on $50,000 bond, Styles was unable to post bond. Cook County prosecutors said they will retry both Johnson and Styles.

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February 15, 2017 Charges Dropped

Timothy Burchard

On October 5, 1997, the body of a woman was found in the burned remnants of her home in the Town of Veteran, Chemung County, her husband was out of town.

In late 1999, Timothy Burchard called 911, to report that Eric Weiskopff had shot a man in the head. Weiskopff then accused Timothy of the 1997 murder, but DNA tests showed that Weiskopff had raped the victim, and excluded Timothy. Weiskopff claimed that Timothy had obtained the key days earlier from the victims car, parked outside her home, however the evidence shows this to be a lie – see the Retrial Affidavit points 8 to 17.

Weiskopff when questioned told police that Jeremy Onsager was the getaway driver. Onsager was given complete immunity from prosecution for testifying that Timothy took part in the crime. When initially questioned, Onsager did not mention Timothy, only implicating him much later after detectives brought up his name.

There was no reliable evidence linking Timothy to the crime, or even placing him with Weiskopff or Onsager who was the driver, or even any truthful account of how he met up with Weiskopff or Onsager prior to the crime.

Instead, Weiskopff and Onsager told conflicting stories which are clearly untrue.

Jailhouse informants also told stories that were clearly fabricated, as they incorporated the untrue claim that Timothy had the key days earlier.

The prosecution, over sustained objections, repeatedly brought up that Weiskopff failed polygraph tests, apparently in an attempt to convince the jury that his final version of events was the truth. However Weiskopff’s final version of events was false and incredible.

The only credible witness, Timothy’s ex-girlfriend, who had no detailed knowledge of the murder, and who previously had no suspicion that Timothy committed the murder, was apparently “turned” by detectives lying to her, and testified against Timothy. The defense were denied information about how she was turned against Timothy, and a wire-tapped conversation she had with him was withheld. See this Memo.

In summary : there is a complete absence of credible evidence showing that Timothy committed the murder, and those with knowledge told conflicting untrue stories about his involvement, and could give no account of how they met with him – inexplicable if he was really there.

The only rational conclusion is that Timothy played no part in the murder and is innocent.

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