Category Archives: Self-Defense

Michael Cope

On July 22nd, 1993, William Hamilton died after a struggle with Michael Cope. Hamilton owned a jewelery shop, had money, and was a mentor in an after school program. But also, he was molesting boys including Michael. Hamilton would give boys marijuana or cocaine. Hamilton would also have Michael and others hide jewelry, claim he was robbed, get insurance money, and then the boys would take him the jewelry back and he would sell it.

Michael had become addicted to drugs, and went to the jewelry shop to see if he could get some. When he went to leave, Hamilton jumped on his back and tried to choke him. Michael saw a knife, grabbed it and stabbed Hamilton. While they were struggling, they fell onto glass case and both got cut. A piece of glass went into a main artery eventually causing Hamilton’s death, from blood loss, after Hamilton chased Michael out of the door.

Michael had a court appointed lawyer that did not defend him. Michael told him every single detail of that day and the time leading up to that day and his lawyer withheld that information. He told Michael to plead guilty and take a deal. He was only 20. He was young and scared and thought his lawyer knew what to do. Michael was sentenced to 20 years to life.

Michael is now aged 44 and has served 24 years in prison for a defending himself from a pedophile. A petition calling for his release has more than a thousand signatures.

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Joel Atkin

On April 25, 2009, Joel Atkin was calling 911 to ask for help when he shot and killed Jayson Sack, who had aggressively approached him. Jayson was drunk, with a blood alcohol content of .14 and hydrocodone at recreational levels.

According to Joel, Jayson had a knife, but the jury did not hear that fact, after his attorney suggested that testifying to that might not help his case.

The 911 tape recording was twenty-five to forty seconds shorter than the actual call. This gap, according to Joel, omitted his claim that Jayson Sack was carrying a knife.

Joel’s lawyer failed to present medical evidence showing the injuries he sustained in the scuffle with Jayson, which showed that he suffered a nasal septum fracture and a possible petechial brain hemorrhage, from suffocation. This would have confirmed testimony from his witnesses that Jayson placed him in a headlock.

Thus in spite of acting in self-defense, Joel was convicted of third degree murder, aggravated assault, and recklessly endangering another person.

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Amber Hilberling

high-rise-deathAmber Hilberling admitted to pushing her husband, an Air Force veteran, out of their 17th-floor apartment in Tulsa during an argument in June 2011.

But she claimed in court she did not intend to kill him, and blamed his fatal fall on “dangerously unsafe” window glass that was too weak to stop his plunge.

Amber, who was seven months pregnant when her husband died, cited self-defense and even rejected a plea deal that would have given her only five years behind bars.

But a jury convicted her of second-degree murder in 2013, after only three hours of deliberation. A judge sentenced her to 25 years in prison.

Amber still stuck by her self-defense claim, repeating it in a televised prison interview with Dr. Phil.

“There was an altercation in which I defended myself,” she told Dr. Phil, adding that her husband flew into a rage after she called him a coward.

She also claimed in the interview that her husband abused her through their 11-month marriage, and she always kept quiet about it.

“I was really good at lying,” Hilberling said.

“That was our relationship: Josh getting in trouble over and over again and me saying, ‘Oh, no, it’s not his fault. That’s my fault. I did that.’

In October 2016, Amber committed suicide in her prison cell.

Sources:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/okla-woman-convicted-killing-husband-found-dead-cell-article-1.2844093

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/true-crime/wp/2016/10/25/woman-who-pushed-husband-to-his-death-from-a-25th-floor-window-found-dead-in-prison-cell/

Discussion

Dylan Yang

Dylan Yang was a 15 year old Wausau High School student when he and some friends got into an argument on Facebook. Sometime after this argument, a vehicle drove up to the front of Dylan’s home, driven by a 19 year old girl. Dylan and two of his friends were standing on the front porch of their home and one of the boys in the car, a 13 year old named Isiah Powell, shot at them with a BB gun, which was later recovered at the scene. In addition to the driver and Powell, there were six other people in the car. Some of the occupants of the car were carrying knives.

When the occupants of the car began fighting with one of Dylan’s friends, Dylan ran into the house and got a kitchen knife. When he returned to see where his friends were, he saw his friend wrestling with the shooter, 13 year old Isiah Powell, on the pavement. Dylan then stabbed Powell twice in the back with the kitchen knife, Powell released Dylan’s friend, and all three boys ran into the house. The driver of the car drove Powell to the local hospital where he would later die of his wounds.

Dylan turned himself into authorities after the incident and was interrogated without an adult or attorney present.

At trial, the defense argued Yang stabbed Powell to protect his own life and the life of his friend because he believed Powell’s gun was real. The prosecution argued Yang stabbed Powell because he felt he was disrespecting him.

In March 2016, Dylan was convicted of first degree reckless homicide.

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Michael Lambrix

Case summary

Michael Lambrix was indicted on 2 counts of first degree murder on March 29, 1983 on Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant outside his home. Clarence Moore was a 35-year-old career criminal, and a known associate of South Florida drug smugglers, while Bryant was a 19-year-old local waitress who had just met Moore. Clarence Moore had also a record of violence towards women.

Michael always maintained his complete innocence in the murder of Aleisha Bryant, and that he was compelled to act in in voluntary self-defense when he killed Clarence Moore, attempting to stop the violent assault of Clarence Moore upon Aleisha Bryant. His case is circumstancial.

At his first trial, the Glades County jury ended with the declaration of a mistrial on December 17, 1983, when the jury failed to reach a verdict after deliberating for 11 hours. The retrial jury found Michael guilty on both counts of indictment on February 24, 1984.

from http://www.save-innocents.com/save-michael-lambrix.html

Briefly

Michael says he heard a woman, Aleisha Bryant, screaming, went to her aid, fought with and killed her attacker Clarence Moore, but she was already dead or dying.

The clincher is that the State depended entirely on one key witness Frances Smith who was given immunity from prosecution AND lied to the jury about this.

The prosecution theory is not at all credible.

Also another witness deposed in 1998 said, contrary to her trial testimony, that Lambrix never stated that he killed two people and that she testified otherwise because police made her fearful of Lambrix.

The jury that convicted Lambrix never knew that the pretrial investigation had uncovered facts about Moore that indicated that he was a 35 years old criminal with a history of violent assaults against women, while intoxicated.

In addition, fingernail scrapings of Bryant that could have confirmed Moore or Lambrix as her assailant disappeared before there was any analysis.

Mike’s story

From http://murderpedia.org/male.L/l/lambrix-michael-ray.htm

Imagine being convicted and condemned to death for the alleged crime of premeditated murder that simply never happened- a crime deliberately fabricated by an over zealous, politically ambitious State Prosecutor concerned more with manipulating a rural community’s emotions into a vindictive passion to gain political popularity than objectively pursuing justice.  Even then, when the first jury could not agree on any verdict, a subsequent retrial was held in the same small community, and to ensure a conviction would be rendered at any cost, the State substituted the original local judge with a judge from another county known for his exteme bias against capital murder defendants.

No, this isn’t the outline of an imaginative Hollywood plot.  It is the basis of the case against Cary Michael Lambrix in the state of Florida.  This case begins in February 1983.  At the time Mike Lambrix was 22 years old, living with a 31 year old woman by the name of Frances.  They shared a rented mobile home located on a large ranch in rural Glades County, Florida.  On the night of Saturday February 5, 1983, both Mike and Frances decided to go into the nearby town of LaBelle to have a few drinks at the Town Tavern.  Shortly after arriving, a man introducing himself as ‘Chip’ joined Mike and Frances. Had Mike and Frances known that ‘Chip’ was a 35 year old ex-convict and known drug smuggler with a criminal history of physically assaulting women, undoubtedly they would have avoided him.

As the three conversed, a young local waitress by the name of Aleisha Bryant joined Chip as his date and the four decided to go to another lounge that featured dancing.  For the rest of the evening and into the early morning hours the four continued drinking and dancing until ‘Squeaky’s Lounge’ closed. Chip had previously made plans to return to Miami and Aleisha had to work the early shift at LaBelle’s Whites Restaurant, and so it was agreed the four would return to Mike and Frances’s trailer to pass the few hours until Aleisha had to be at work and Chip would drop her off on his way out of town.

Once back at the trailer, Frances began to cook a late dinner of spaghetti while Mike, Chip and Aleisha congregated in the adjacent living room.  Frances later insisted all three were laughing, teasing and playing around.  The stereo was turned up loud, so she couldn’t hear what was being said.  As Frances continued cooking, Mike and Chip decided to go out to his car to retrieve some music tapes for the stereo as Aleisha stayed inside with Frances.  It was now early Sunday morning, Feb 6th.  There were no lights and so Frances insisted she could neither see or hear anything outside.

Once outside, their judgement obviously impaired by a night of heavy drinking, Mike and Chip concocted a plan to play a practical joke on Frances and Aleisha by going around the trailer and scratching at the kitchen window in an attempt to spook them.  But, neither Frances or Aleisha heard the persistent scratching.  Now determined to succeed, Mike and Chip came up with an alternative plan.  Chip would hide at the nearby cattle feed trough while Mike went back inside and got the two women to come out and as they approached the trough, Chip would jump out. Once back inside, only Aleisha would venture out as Frances stayed inside to finish cooking. Almost an hour passed during which Frances claimed she neither saw or heard anything outside. Then Mike suddenly came back inside, ‘covered’ with blood saying only ‘they’re dead’. Frances said she repeatedly asked Mike what happened, but he wouldn’t talk about it. Mike went into the bathroom and washed up and changed clothes, then he and Frances briefly discussed what to do, as Frances knew Mike had an arrest warrant outstanding from when he walked away from a state ‘Halfway House’, where Mike was serving a sentence for a ‘bounced’ check charge. It was mutually decided that they could not call the Sheriff’s Department as they would take Mike into custody.  So, they decided to superficially conceal the two bodies, then abandon Chip’s car far away and leave the area for good.

Several days later Frances was herself arrested on unrelated charges and gave numerous statements denying knowing Mike or her recent whereabouts.  The police had no reason to suspect Mike of any “murder” and Frances made a point of not telling them anything about Chip or Aleisha.  Then days later Frances bonded out of jail and with the assistance of her family, retained a private lawyer and after receiving legal advice, she went into the State Attorney’s office in Tampa, Florida and told them that Mike had “forced” her to help conceal the two bodies and that she could show them where.  When asked if she knew why Mike had allegedly killed Chip and Aleisha, she insisted repeatedly that she did not see or hear anything that transpired outside, and all she knew was that Mike and Chip went outside only to have Mike return alone 20 minutes later asking her and Aleisha to go outside.  But, she stayed in while Aleisha went out with Mike and almost an hour later Mike came back alone, “covered” with blood and in apparent shock said only that “they’re dead”, then washed up and changed clothes and then “forced” her to assist in superficially concealing the two bodies at the back of a large pasture behind the trailer.

Based upon the information Frances provided, the local Sheriff’s department and State Attorney’s office recovered the bodies and issued an arrest warrant charging Mike with murder. Without knowing what might have actually happened outside between Mike, Chip and Aleisha, the local State Attorney (Randall McGruther) came up with a theory that Mike had deliberately ‘lured’ this local couple to the remote trailer with the pre-meditated intention of robbing and killing each, even though there was virtually NO evidence to support this fabricated theory. In fact, when the bodies were recovered, both had jewelry, money and other personal effects on them. Neither was ‘robbed’ of anything and Mike was never charged with robbery.

The fact that no evidence existed to support the theory of robbery is an important point.  In Florida, as in many other states, if a person is killed during the commission of a robbery, then the perpetrator is charged with ‘Felony” murder and the State does not have to prove that the perpetrator actually intended to kill anyone.  Rather, the State need only prove that a robbery occurred and the person charged committed the robbery and because of or during that robbery a person died- even if by a heart attack- and it’s Capital Murder.  But, since there was virtually no actual evidence that any robbery ever occurred, the state was prohibited from actually charging Mike with robbery and was obligated to prove the higher standard of actual premeditated intent to kill Chip and Aleisha.

By the time Mike was arrested several weeks later, the State Attorney’s office had manipulated the local newspaper into working up the small community passions with this fabricated theory of cold blooded robbery and murder by an alleged “escaped convict”, not bothering to point out Mike was not in prison, rather, he simply walked away from a State Halfway house.  But it wasn’t about truth….it was about gaining public support for a politically ambitious prosecutor.

Mike adamently refused to talk to the police or media, but Mike’s version of what happened that night never changed, with Frances insisting that she neither saw or heard anything outside.  Mike could provide an account of what had happened that resulted in their deaths.

As Mike stated, after he and Chip unsuccesssfully tried to playfully spook Frances and Aleisha by scratching at the trailer window,  Mike went back inside to ask Frances and Aleisha out while Chip concealed himself at a nearby cattle trough.  But, only Aleisha came out and Frances stayed inside to finish cooking as Mike and Aleisha walked around the back of the trailer  towards the feed trough.  Chip suddenly jumped out at her, successfully scaring Aleisha- which both Mike and Chip thought was very funny.  But, Aleisha became very angry at both the stupidity of this intoxicated joke and the subsequent laughing at her expense and immediately began verbally assaulting Chip with a barrage of profanity, and the two began arguing amongst themselves. Mike, still assuming these two had an actual relationship, decided to let them work it out between them and slowly made his way back to the trailer, playing with his dog along the way.

It took a good ten minutes or better for Mike to make his way around the trailer perimeter fence and as he approached the trailer, Mike heard a quick scream coming from the pasture area where he left Chip and Aleisha.  Unsure of this strange sound, Mike waited a moment and heard another more pronounced scream, clearly someone in trouble.  Immediately Mike began back around the trailer towards the pasture.  The property bordered the 200 square mile “Fishery Creek Wildlife Management Area” and a swampy “Bee Branch Creek”, so snakes, wild animals and even an occasional alligator ventured into the pasture adjacent to the trailer.  As Mike passed a car he had been working on earlier that day, he spontaneously grabbed the rod-type jack handle as protection.

As Mike went into the pasture area, he quickly discovered that Chip ane Aleisha were not at the feed trough where he had left them.  It was early morning and no light so Mike was unable to see beyond a few feet.  Mike’s dog sensed the presence of something further back in the pasture and Mike cautiously began in that direction.  As Mike approached the near pasture fence about 800 to 1000 feet behind the trailer, he began hearing a faint pounding sound and suddenly walked upon Chip straddling over Aleisha pinning her motionless on the ground beneath him as he continued physically assaulting her.

Without stopping, Mike ordered Chip to let Aleisha go, but Chip refused and Mike forcibly pushed Chip off Aleisha, even though Chip was substantially larger than Mike.  As Chip fell to the ground on the far side of Aleisha, he immediately sprung up at Mike who spontaneously swung the solid metal rod, hitting Chip in the head numerous times before realizing Chip was down.  Then Mike dropped the jack handle and attempted to help Aleisha.  She remained motionless, her clothes disarrayed.  Mike assumed she was unconscious, picked her up and began going back to the trailer before having to lay her down.

Still assuming she was unconscious from the assault inflicted by Chip, Mike attempted to mouth to mouth revive her to no avail.  Realizing that she was dead, Mike returned to where he left Chip to check on him, but the blows had crushed his skull and he was obviously beyond help.  Now in a state of surreal shock, Mike returned to the trailer and told Frances “they’re dead”.  After he washed up and changed clothes, Mike and Frances mutually decided to superficially conceal the bodies and then abandon Chip’s car away from the area.

The State attorney was not provided Mike’s versions of events as a criminal defendant simply does not talk to the prosecuting attorney, nor did Mike provide the police with any statement, as by law any statement could be used against you.  Towards the end of 1983, the State attempted to have Mike plea guilty to a lesser charge, but Mike insisted on his innocence to any act of murder and a trial date was scheduled to begin December 2, 1983.

On the first day of the scheduled trial, for reasons that to this date are still not clear, Mike was brought into the Judge’s chambers, and, on record effectively ordered by the trial Judge that he would NOT be allowed to testify at the trial.  Mike’s appointed Public Defender felt that the State’s wholly circumstantial case was so weak that the State could not prove any case beyond a reasonable doubt and so they approached the Judge and advised the Judge that they (Kentry Enguaison and Robert Jacobs) did not want Mike to testify and asked the Judge to instruct Mike that he could not testify.  Judge Adams did as they requested, even though there is a clearly established legal right to testify on your own behalf.

As the trial progressed, Mike’s Public Defender methodically broke down the State’s fabricated theory of premeditated murder through cross examination of the State’s own witnesses.  The State claimed that Mike “lured” this couple back to his trailer to kill them, the motive being robbery, yet in truth Mike had no way of knowing that he would have by chance met them, and there clearly was no robbery.  The State’s key witness, Mike’s ex-girlfriend Frances, testified that Mike went out first with Chip and then came back alone “looking normal” and took Aleisha out. Frances admitted she saw or heard nothing and the last time she saw them, they were “laughing, teasing and playing around” with each other with no indication of animosity between any of them.

More importantly, Frances was absolutely certain that Mike did NOT have any blood on him when he came back in a alone to get Aleisha to come out, but the State’s own Medical Examiner concluded that substantial amounts of blood on Mike upon returning AFTER Aleisha went outside could only have come from Chip as Aleisha did not experience any physical trauma that would have caused significant bleeding.  Thus, Chip HAD to have been alive outside when Aleisha went out, how could Mike have killed both at the same time, especially when both Chip and Aleisha were larger than Mike?

More importantly, the State’s own Medical Examiner concluded that all the blows administered upon Chip were inflicted in a continuous swinging motion to the front temporal area of his head and there were no defensive wounds.  The position of the wounds and absence of defensive wounds strongly implies that Chip had to be the aggressor, and entirely supports Mike’s claim of self defense.

As for Aleisha Bryant, the Medical Examiner concluded death as “probable strangulation”, even though the physical signs of trauma normally associated with strangulation were not found, such as haemorraging in the neck area and fracture of the larynx.  But, more importantly, it was established that to inflict death by strangulation, substantial pressure had to be continuously applied for 3 to 5 minutes to render the victim unconscious.  A 19 year old 185 pound woman simply is not going to passively stand by and be strangled to death without fighting for her life. For this reason it is a standard procedure to collect “fingernail scrapings” from such a victim and fingernail scrapings were undoubtedly collected in this case.  But when Frances insisted that Mike had no bruises or scratches consistent with what Aleisha would have inflicted upon her assailant, and that Chip DID have such scratches, these fingernail scrapings conveniently disappeared from the State’s evidence room.

No defense beyond establishing reasonable doubt was presented and without Mike being able to personally testify, his version of what actually transpired outside resulting in Chip’s and Aleisha’s death NEVER came out.  The jury deliberated 11 continuous hours without being able to agree upon any verdict when the trial judge declared it a ‘Hung jury’ and dismissed that jury, ordering a retrial.

The failure to convict Mike of the allegedly brutal murder became the feature story of the local newspaper.  The retrial was ordered for February 1984 which was an election year and convicting Mike became a political priority.  Knowing that its case was weak, the State again attempted to convince Mike to plea guilty to a reduced charge and lenient sentence, but Mike refused.  Then just before the retrial began, the original Judge was removed and an extremely pro-prosecution Judge was brought in.  Judge Stanley was previously a career prosecutor and known for his policy of always sentencing convicted murderers to death, even when a jury recommended life that particular year.

Judge Stanley’s extreme bias quickly manifested itself at the retrial.  Motion to move the trial out of Glades County because of the saturation of prejudicial pretrial media coverage was denied. As Judge Stanley presided over impaneling a jury, attempts to strike biased jurors were circumvented and the jury that tried the case included 4 jurists related to members of the small local sheriff’s department, including the stepfather of a local deputy (Ralph Alan Green)who was actually under an FBI investigation at the time for allegedly attempting to physically beat a confession out of Mike at the County Jail a month earlier, requiring Mike to be hospitalized.

Judge Stanley then prohibited Mike’s Public Defender from questioning Frances, the State’s key witness on the numerous conflicting stories she gave to the police that directly contradicted her trial testimony, and refused to allow evidence of alcohol intoxication in, as such evidence could preclude capital murder by legally negating actual premeditation.  Again Mike was not allowed to testify and no defense whatsoever was allowed.  NOT surprisingly, it took the jury less than 2 hours to convict Mike of two counts of premeditated capital murder, and one juror was later heard to complain that the only reason it took that long was because they couldn’t get the coffee pot to work right away.

On March 22, 1984, Mike was sentenced to death and sent to Florida’s death row.  The Judge then appointed   a local ex-prosecutor to represent Mike on appeal, and ex former Chief Justice Alan Sundberg later testified on Mike’s behalf: this pretense of an appeal was unquestionably the most incompetent appeal he had ever seen in a capital case.  Having succeeded in preventing Mike from proving his actual innocence of murder at trial, the politically motivated Judge subsequently obstructed Mike’s ability to prove his innocence on appeal, knowing that Mike’s claim and evidence of self defense was not fully presented on appeal, it would be procedurally barred from review forever.

The State’s Case

From http://caselaw.findlaw.com/fl-supreme-court/1521988.html#sthash.DXCwECS2.dpuf )

On the evening of February 5, 1983, Lambrix and Frances Smith, his roommate, went to a tavern where they met Clarence Moore, a/k/a Lawrence Lamberson, and Aleisha Bryant. Late that evening, they all ventured to Lambrix’ trailer to eat spaghetti. Shortly after their arrival, Lambrix and Moore went outside. Lambrix returned about twenty minutes later and requested Bryant to go outside with him. About forty-five minutes later Lambrix returned alone. Smith testified that Lambrix was carrying a tire tool and had blood on his person and clothing. Lambrix told Smith that he killed both Bryant and Moore. He mentioned that he choked and stomped on Bryant and hit Moore over the head. Smith and Lambrix proceeded to eat spaghetti, wash up and bury the two bodies behind the trailer. After burying the bodies, Lambrix and Smith went back to the trailer to wash up. They then took Moore’s Cadillac and disposed of the tire tool and Lambrix’ bloody shirt in a nearby stream.

On Wednesday, February 8, 1983, Smith was arrested on an unrelated charge. Smith stayed in jail until Friday. On the following Monday, Smith contacted law enforcement officers and advised them of the burial.

A police investigation led to the discovery of the two buried bodies as well as the recovery of the tire iron and bloody shirt. A medical examiner testified that Moore died from multiple crushing blows to the head and Bryant died from manual strangulation. Additional evidence exists to support a finding that Lambrix committed the two murders in question.

Appeals

During successive postconviction proceedings, Hanzel was deposed in 1998 and stated that Lambrix never admitted that he killed anyone, which contradicted her trial testimony. During an evidentiary hearing, Hanzel again testified that Lambrix never stated that he killed two people and that she testified otherwise because police made her fearful of Lambrix.

Analysis

The State’s case seems highly improbable, and relies entirely on the testimony of Smith to the effect that Lambrix killed and “choked and stomped on Bryant”.

Smith, as an accomplice after-the-fact had considerable motive to agree with suggestions put to her. Moverover, the judge prevented the defense from presenting to the jury prior inconsistent statements by Smith.

The State alleges robbery as the motive, but how could Bryant die from strangulation and Moore from being struck with a tire-iron in that case? Whereas there seems no reason other than the possibly coerced testimony of Smith to think that Lambrix’ account is untrue. And why would Lambrix confess that he “choked and stomped on Bryant”? This alleged confession is not credible, given the circumstances.

Given that Hanzel was coerced by the police to give false testimony, it seems highly improbable that the State’s case is true.

Recent Appeal

From http://www.save-innocents.com/press-release-legal-appeal-filed-for-lambrix.html

As the case of Michael Lambrix’s clemency review is in process, his non-clemency layer has just filed a 101 pages application  to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit asking for permission to file a new federal petition for relief.

Background

Michael Lambrix was indicted on 2 counts of first degree murder on March 29, 1983 on Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant outside his home. Clarence Moore was a 35-year-old career criminal, and a known associate of South Florida drug smugglers, while Bryant was a 19-year-old local waitress who had just met Moore. Clarence Moore had also a record of violence towards women.
He has always maintained his complete innocence in the murder of Aleisha Bryant, and that he was compelled to act in in self-defense when he killed Clarence Moore, attempting to stop the violent assault of Clarence Moore upon Aleisha Bryant.

At his first trial, the Glades County jury ended with the declaration of a mistrial on December 17, 1983, when the jury failed to reach a verdict after deliberating for 11 hours.
Lambrix then refused to plead guilty to lesser charges. The retrial jury found M. Lambrix on both counts of indictment  and sentenced him to death on February 24, 1984.

Lambrix grew up serving as a Catholic altar boy, participated in Boy Scouts, joined the ROTC program in high school and enlisted as a volunteer in the US Army at age 18. He has no prior criminal record of violence.

Key points of the new appeal filed in the Eleventh Circuit include:

1)     Circumstancial case

The State of Florida has conceded that the whole case is circumstancial i.e. no eyewitnesses to the crimes, no physical, nor forensic evidence identifying M. Lambrix as the murderer, and no confession by M. Lambrix.

2)     Issues of credibility of key witnesses

Witness 1:  Frances S
The alleged premeditated murders of Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant rested entirely upon the statement  and credibility of one key state witness Frances S. As the State clearly acknowledged in state court proceedings: “Clearly that State’s case was built on Frances S.

The entire case, premeditation and everything is proven in her testimony. And there has never been any question about that”.

When pressed by the State to provide a motive for the killings of Bryant and Moore, Frances S. stated that she had witnessed Lambrix searching the pockets of the victims for valuables, and that she saw Lambrix remove a gold necklace from Moore’s neck.

However, upon recovery of the two bodies, the medical examiner found both cash and jewelry in the personal effects of Moore and Bryant. This finding impeached Frances S’s account of Lambrix removing valuables from the victims.

She also admitted of a sexual relationship with the state attorney investigator on the case.

Witness 2:  Deborah H
Deborah H provided a statement that Lambrix told her that he killed Moore and Bryant in order to gain possession of Moore’s vehicle. During post conviction proceedings , Deborah H recanted this information and claimed she had been coerced into testifying falsely at trial in order to bolster France S’s testimony. In 1998, she provided under oath that Lambrix never told her that  he had killed anyone.

3)     Newly discovered evidence the jury at trial never saw

. Intentionally concealed FDLE crime lab reports
. Previously undisclosed hairs found on the alleged murder weapon, according to a state lab report did not match either the victims’ or Lambrix
.The jury that convicted Lambrix never knew that the pretrial investigation had uncovered facts about Moore that indicated that he was a 35 years old criminal with a history of violent assaults against women, while intoxicated.

In addition, fingernail scrapings of Bryant that could have confirmed Moore or Lambrix as her assailant disappeared before there was any analysis.

4)     Implausible State theory

The appeal states: “The State theory of the crime is implausible. Lambrix would have had to physically overpower and kill both Moore and Bryant simultaneously in completely different ways. At the time of arrest, Lambrix weighed about 140 pounds, Moore weighed 195 pounds, and Bryant 185 pounds.” However, the key witness Frances S. was certain that Lambrix did not exhibit “any scratches or bruises” (p90)

5)     Prejudiced judge

The same trial court judge that had presided over Lambrix’s second capital trial was found to have substantial and constitutionally prejudicial bias against capital defendants. Thus it became public knowledge, based on depositions and evidentiary process before the state court that judge S. had provided under oath statements that he always carried a sawed-off machine gun while on the bench and that he believed that he should have been allowed to “shoot [the] capital defendants between the eyes” rather than having to sentence them to death.

Michael Radelet says: Over the years I have met probably 300 death row inmates in prisons in a dozen states. I sincerely believe that Lambrix’s case is unique — there were errors and mistakes made at several points along the way, and his life today has a tremendous amount of value to others. (…) The purpose of a Clemency Board Is to intervene in cases precisely like this. (Clemency letter)

Litigation Director CCRC-South William M.Hennis III says:
This is the extraordinary case in which a prima facie case of actual innocence has been established. Pursuant to the intent of Congress, Lambrix  is entitled to a grant of leave to pursue a second or successive habeas corpus petition in the district court.

Relevant excerpts of the law quoted:
Davis v. State:
Even though the circumstancial evidence is sufficient to support a probability of guilt it is not thereby adequate to support a conviction if it is likewise consistent with a reasonable hypothesis of innocence”
Heiney v. State
As Florida law has long held “where the only proof of premeditation is cIrcumstancial, no matter how strongly the evidence may suggest guilt, a conviction cannot be sustained unless the evidence is inconsistent with any reasonable of innocence.

Finally

Smith lied about getting immunity from prosecution. From page 73 of this appeal

SmithLied

Featured case #125Discussion | Proposal Post | Petition

In To Live And Die on Death Row Michael Lambrix tells his own story ( 309 pages, PDF ).

Blog | Website

News

His plea for life at Florida’s highest court Herald-Tribune / Saturday, January 30, 2016

Article by Adam Tebrugge, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Florida, February 11, 2016

Pro Se petition to SCOTUS August 2016

Facebook Page – created 23 December, 2016

Article on 2014 appeal – 24 December, 2016

 

Cyntoia Brown

Cyntoia Brown was convicted of murder for shooting and killing Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old man. She was aged 16 at the time, and had a physically and sexually abusive boyfriend named “Cut-throat”, who brandished guns at her and forced her into prostitution. She stated that she had been repeatedly raped, was on drugs, and afraid that she would be shot when she shot Allen.

Proposal Post

Petition closed with 25,734 supporters

Preston Grant Hawkins

On September 19, 1995, Preston Grant Hawkins, aged 17, was confronted by two armed men in a hotel laundry room after an earlier trivial dispute. He panicked and shot both of them, one of them was killed.

He fled from the scene instead of calling the police, and was later arrested, charged and convicted of first degree murder.

The prosecution claimed he had intent to murder the men before the confrontation, when in truth it was an ugly armed confrontation initiated by the two other men. Perhaps Preston should not have opened fire, but he was afraid they would shoot him first. This was certainly not first degree murder.

Preston’s girlfriend was also charged, and was persuaded to testify against him to support the prosecution’s theory of what occurred.

The full story is set out very clearly on the website Preston Grant Hawkins ” Truth and Justice”.

Discussion | Proposal Post

Cherelle Baldwin

Cherelle Baldwin was charged with the murder of her abusive ex-boyfriend.

Cherelle Baldwin, like many domestic abuse victims, loved her ex-boyfriend. Jeffrey Brown wasn’t all bad. He could be charming, loving and apologetic, despite a criminal record of selling guns, robbery and resisting arrest by his early 20s. They had a baby, a boy, before he moved in with another woman.

But it wasn’t over, at least for Brown. He used access to his son to repeatedly threaten Baldwin, taking her phone, credit cards and money. He beat her up in her home, causing Baldwin, who is eight inches shorter than Brown, to call the cops twice. After his last conviction in early May 2013 for breach of the peace, a reduced charge, Baldwin wanted to help him get anger management counseling. But the most she could do was get a court order barring more threats, harassment or assaults against her while he was visiting their son.

That order meant little, according to court records and Baldwin’s attorney. Days later, Brown abruptly showed up at Baldwin’s home as she was getting ready for work and took their 19-month-old from her, only returning him after she chased after Brown by driving on the wrong side of the road. Then his stalking increased.

That day, May 16, or two days before Brown died in a fight with Baldwin, he texted her 36 times. At first, he profusely apologized, but then he wanted her to give him money and to have sex. She tried to ignore him and replied that it was time to move on. The next day, he began texting again at 7:30am, and did not stop until after midnight when Brown texted that he was following her car. “I’m behind u lol [laugh out loud],” he wrote. On June 18, he started again at 6:36am, accusing her of lying. After 12 texts, she wrote, “Leave me alone!!!!” He replied, “N u will see how crazy shit will get today.”

When the police, firefighters and ambulances arrived two hours later, they found Brown crushed between Baldwin’s car and a cement wall at the end of the driveway. His hand clenched a two-inch-wide leather belt she told police he had used to whip her before she fled to the car. Below his body was her purse with her phone and credit cards. Baldwin was barefoot and in her night shirt on the ground beside the car, dazed and crying for her baby. She had a badly broken leg. The baby was in the house. Photos taken at a hospital afterward by her mother showed marks around her neck and streaks of raw skin across her back.

In February 2015, after a six-week trial, a jury voted 11-1 not to convict her. The state will retry the case.

News report June 11, 2013 “This is clearly a case of self-defense,” said Baldwin’s lawyer, Sam Kretzmer. “My client’s life was threatened.”

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Report at Rawstory.com March 10, 2015

Woman Accused Of Murdering Her Abusive Ex Goes Free After Almost 3 Years Behind Bars March 31, 2015

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.

Harold Fish

This case is notable due to a retroactive change in the law regarding the burden of proof in self defense cases in Arizona.

On May 11, 2004, 57-year-old Harold Fish, a retired high school teacher, was completing a solo hike in a remote area of the Coconino National Forest near Strawberry, Arizona, when he saw 43-year-old Grant Kuenzli lying on the ground near a car. Fish waved at Kuenzli, whom he did not know, and two unleashed dogs came charging at him.

Fish yelled at Kuenzli to corral the dogs and, when nothing happened, he pulled a 10-millimeter semi-automatic pistol from his backpack and fired a warning shot into the ground. The dogs scattered, but then, according to Fish, Kuenzli himself charged at Fish, threatening to kill him.

Fish fired three shots and killed Kuenzli, a former firefighter who was living out of his car in the forest. Fish covered Kuenzli’s body with a tarp and walked to a highway where he flagged down a motorist who summoned emergency personnel.

Entry at National Registry of Exonerations | News Article on change in law.

Stacey Hyde

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Closed Group

Retrial Wednesday April 15, 2015.

Report on retrial May 21, 2015.

Exonerated May 21, 2015 – BBC Breaking News

Report in Wells Journal

Justice for Women, who campaigned on behalf of Miss Hyde have slammed the prosecutor Christopher Quinlan QC for “aggressively pursuing” the prosecution in the face of what they described as: “overwhelming evidence that undermined his case for murder. In particular, at the appeal the adolescent psychiatrist instructed by the Crown was unable to support the prosecution and instead gave evidence for the defence.”

Quinlan vigorously opposed applications for bail following the successful appeal, and Miss Hyde remained in custody for a further six months awaiting trial.

A spokesman for Justice for Women said that despite evidence in support of self defence, Miss Hyde was willing to plead guilty to manslaughter. These detailed representations were rejected although the DPP refused to provide reasons for her decision.

Speaking after the verdict, Miss Hyde said: “I would like to say thank you to Justice for Women, my legal team, friends and family for believing in me and giving me hope and strength to never give up. I will be forever grateful and blessed to have been given my life back.”

Report in Guardian 21 May 2015

Outside the court, Hyde said on Thursday: “I would like to say thank you to Justice for Women, my legal team, friends and family for believing in me and giving me hope and strength to never give up. I will be for ever grateful and blessed to have been given my life back.”

Francis, 33, also from Wells, had a history of violence towards women. It was acknowledged by the prosecution that there had been 27 separate incidents of domestic violence between him and his girlfriend, Holly Banwell, and that he had also been violent towards his previous girlfriend.

Report in Guardian 11 June 2015 “There are many more who need their cases re-examined’

Letter from defense team published in Guardian 16 June 2015

Jodi Arias

Jodi Arias defended herself from repeated attacks by her abusive ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander after she dropped his camera.

The prosecution attempted to prove premeditated murder with a ridiculous circumstantial case based around Jodi using three gas cans (false), and changing her hair color on her trip to visit Travis (also false), among other rubbish cited as evidence of premeditated murder.

In addition the State changed it’s theory over the order of the injuries, in a blatant attempt to pit the testimony of the medical examiner against Jodi’s truthful testimony of what occurred. This culminated in a ridiculous claim that his own autopsy report had a “typographical error”.

The physical evidence shows Alexander was shot first, then he stands at the sink, indicating he did not anticipate further attack, consistent with Jodi’s testimony that she shot him by accident.

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Death penalty retrial commenced  29 September, 2014.
Jury hung in sentencing retrial 5 March, 2015.
Sentenced to natural life, April 13, 2015.

John Ramos

Featured Case #22

John was attacked on the doorstep of his family home in Jacksonville, Florida, with his children and wife inside, by a drug addict. His wife came outside with a gun, thinking he might be killed. The gun was not fired, but after a struggle for the gun, John got hold of it and struck a blow, causing the addict to run off. John was protecting himself and his family. He had no criminal record, and was a good family man.

He was arrested and charged with aggravated battery. After declining a three year plea bargain, he was found guilty by a jury on October 10th, 2013, and was given the statutory 10 year minimum sentence on 2nd December 2013.

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