Category Archives: Georgia

Justin Ross Harris

Justin Ross Harris was convicted of murder, after forgetting to drop his son at daycare.

Prosecutors argued that Harris, who was exchanging sexual text messages with women the day Cooper died, intended to kill his son because he wanted to be free of his family responsibilities, however there was no objective evidence to establish that this was true.

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Sonny Bharadia

In 2001, a woman walked in on a man who was in the process of burglarizing her Savannah, Georgia home. The man sexually assaulted the woman at knifepoint, then fled with some of her belongings. Before the woman was assaulted, she noticed that the man was wearing blue and white gloves.

Sandeep “Sonny” Bharadia was in Stone Mountain 255 miles away from Savannah working on a friend’s car on the day the victim was attacked.  A witness supports his alibi.  Days after the assault, Sonny called the police to report that Sterling Flint, an acquaintance of Sonny’s, had stolen Sonny’s car. When the police investigated Flint for stealing the car, they found the sexual assault victim’s stolen items along with a pair of blue and white gloves in a bag in Flint’s girlfriend’s house. When the sexual assault victim was shown a photo lineup, she identified Sterling Flint as her attacker.

Now implicated in a sexual assault, Sterling Flint claimed that the stolen items found in his possession actually belonged to Sonny Bharadia.  So police then gave the victim a second photo lineup and, this time, she identified Sonny Bharadia as her attacker.

Photos
Sonny on the left, Flint on the right.

Flint pled guilty to theft by receiving stolen property and, in exchange for not being prosecuted for a sex crime, Flint testified against Sonny Bharadia.  Flint’s testimony, along with the victim’s revised eyewitness identification, formed the backbone of the prosecution’s case against Sonny. In 2003, with no physical evidence to tie him to the crime, Sonny Bharadia was convicted of aggravated sodomy, burglary, and aggravated sexual battery. He was sentenced to life without parole plus 40 years.

Ever since he learned he was a suspect, Sonny Bharadia has broadcast his innocence.  GIP listened.  In 2012, DNA testing initiated by the Georgia Innocence Project revealed that the attacker’s blue and white gloves had been worn by Sterling Flint, not Sonny Bharadia.  Despite proof of his innocence, Georgia courts denied Sonny’s request for a new trial, ruling that because the blue and white glove could have been tested for DNA before Sonny’s first trial, it is not new evidence and therefore Sonny is not entitled to relief.

Source: Georgia Innocence Project

See also News article. May 2015

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Devonia Inman

Devonia Inman was convicted of shooting Taco Bell manager Donna Brown in a late night robbery. Inman was convicted based on witness testimony, including his girlfriend’s sister, a jailhouse snitch, and a Taco Bell employee, all of whom later said they lied.

At Inman’s trial in 2001, the judge rejected three defense witnesses who would have pointed to an alternate suspect, Taco Bell employee Hercules Brown, who was not related to the victim but was known for violence.

Inman’s fate now rests on a ski mask cut from an old pair of sweatpants. The mask appears in the original crime scene photos of the victim’s car, but GBI records indicate it was left sitting in the vehicle for days after the murder. It was not processed as evidence until the victim’s family found it, once the car had been returned. At the time of the murder, it was not customary for the GBI to screen evidence for the presence of saliva.

In 2011, the Georgia Innocence Project convinced a judge to order the GBI to test the inside of the mask for DNA.

The results matched Hercules Brown, according to the GBI’s test.

The evidence corroborated the three original defense witnesses who would have implicated Brown, if the judge had let them testify.

Full story here

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Scott Davis

A federal judge could soon order a new trial for convicted murderer, Scott Davis, 50, who alleges widespread police and prosecutorial misconduct in his 2006 trial.

“I was outraged. This is a kangaroo court,” said Davis’ father, Dr. Dave Davis, referring to his son’s trial before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Tom Campbell.

“I couldn’t believe that Judge Campbell, that he’d let them put this evidence up there, evidence that we had never seen, that we had never been able to examine or use in our defense,” said the elder Davis.

Davis was initially arrested in 1996 and charged with murdering his estranged wife’s boyfriend David Coffin and setting his home in Buckhead on fire. Police dropped the charges for lack of evidence but rearrested Davis nine years later after the cold case was reexamined.

“We found a tremendous amount of problems with the case,” said Marcia Shein, a criminal defense attorney who took over Davis’ case after his conviction in 2006.

Shein showed investigative reporter Jeff Chirico a board she created listing what she called the “7 deadly sins” of police who investigated Coffin’s murder.

According to Shein and a petition she filed in federal court, police violated more than 300 standard operating procedures in handling evidence and inexplicably lost or destroyed 72 pieces of evidence before the trial, including the purported murder weapon and fingerprints. Shein also alleged the tape with Davis’ police interview in 1996 had been stopped at least twice during recording, which should make it inadmissible in court.

Shein also showed Chirico photos which apparently depict the Atlanta Police Department evidence room in disarray at the time of Davis’ trial.

“This is a trash pile of evidence with no labels and no information as to whose case it belongs to,” said Shein. “I don’t know how many cases have suffered because of that.”

Shein said she’s particularly concerned about the fingerprints that disappeared before trial. Police found the prints on Coffin’s stolen Porsche which had been burned and found not far from his home. Police admitted the prints weren’t Davis’ but never entered them into the national fingerprint database called AFIS (Automatic Fingerprint Identification System). An Atlanta police officer testified he lost the fingerprint card after taking it home, a violation of department procedures. Shein contended police may have been able to find Coffin’s “real” murderer had they entered the prints in AFIS.

Shein contends police misconduct in the handling of the gun allegedly used to kill Coffin. Former GBI examiner Bernadette Davy, who tested the weapon and testified to her findings in court, was later found to have falsified reports and resigned. Davis’ attorneys haven’t been able to retest the gun because it too went missing.

“How does the state get to allow that testimony without defense being able to see the firearm or have their experts evaluate it? Is that a fair trial? That’s the question that’s always bothered me,” said Shein.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard insisted Davis’ constitutional rights weren’t violated and any evidence that was lost wasn’t done so in bad faith or intentionally.

However, Shein argued in the federal court petition that much of the misconduct was in bad faith. Specifically, Shein pointed to a fire department clerk’s admission under oath that she lied on an affidavit about receiving the missing murder weapon and that her superior instructed her to do so.

When Chirico asked Howard whether that’s bad faith, Howard responded, “I almost have to laugh when I hear that. The courts have already dealt with that issue.”

Shein contended the previous court rulings did not fully consider the misconduct and she’s hopeful U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg will closely consider the request for a new trial.

“It makes the constitution meaningless if you let these types of situations continue,” said Shein.

While Davis’ parents are hopeful the judge will rule in their son’s favor, they’re also offering a $600,000 reward for information that could vindicate their son before much more time passes.

“We may never see him again free before we die,” reflected Joan Davis.

Judge Campbell did not return a call for comment.

It’s unclear when Totenberg may rule on the petition.

Source : News report June/September 2015

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Grady Attaway

Grady Attaway was wrongly convicted for a series of robberies in November 1999 on the basis of mistaken eye-witness identifications. There was no forensic evidence to corroborate the  conviction. Grady was involved in a car theft with Moises Martinez, but had no involvement in any robbery.

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Appeal Decided Feb 24, 2003

Article dated Friday, November 10, 2000

A jury convicted two young Augusta men Thursday of a slew of charges filed in connection with a home invasion, and one was also convicted of a separate robbery.

At the conclusion of a four-day trial in Richmond County Superior Court, 20-year-old Grady L. Attaway and 19-year-old Moises A. Martinez were convicted of armed robbery, kidnapping, hijacking a motor vehicle, terroristic threats, thefts, burglary, financial transaction card frauds and weapons violations.

At the minimum, Mr. Attaway and Mr. Martinez face 10 years in prison without possible parole. They could see as much as a lifetime behind bars when sentenced, at a hearing that has not been set.

Both have been held in jail without bond since their arrests last November.

“You don’t judge this case on the evidence you don’t have. You judge it on the evidence you do have,” Assistant District Attorney Jason Troiano argued to the jury in closing Wednesday afternoon, countering arguments by defense attorneys Ronald Garnett and Leon Larke that evidence fell too short for conviction.

What the jury had was “rock solid” identifications by the victims, Mr. Troiano said.

Mr. Attaway and Mr. Martinez were convicted of crimes in connection with a Nov. 11, 1999, home invasion. Armed with a handgun and shotgun, the pair forced their way into Debra and Brandie Coney’s home, threatening to kill the mother and daughter, binding their hands and barricading them in a bathroom.

Mr. Martinez was also convicted of the Nov. 18, 1999, armed holdup of Ernest Cartwright, who was robbed by two men after making a pizza delivery. Mr. Cartwright testified he was positive the man aiming a handgun equipped with a laser sight was Mr. Martinez, although he couldn’t identify the second man.

Wayne Williams

From news article, April 30, 2015

Williams’ attorney Lynn Whatley confirmed he received a letter from the DOJ about a subsequent Office of Inspector General Report that identified 13 examiners whose work may have failed to meet professional standards.

The letter said “The work of one or more of the 13 criticized examiners is believed to have been involved in the criminal prosecution of Wayne Bertram Williams.”

“So they weren’t authorized to tell the jury some of the things that they were saying to convince them that this was the case or that this evidence matched,” Whatley said.

Williams released this statement to 11 Alive News:

“I am thankful, after so long, the truth has finally come forth about the injustice suffered by me, my family and the families of the victims. I hope these revelations can free other innocent persons robbed of their lives by these criminal actions committed by those entrusted to secure justice. This should be a wakeup call, especially in light of the recent murders of African Americans, at the hands of the same types of corrupt law enforcement persons who have been responsible for what we experienced decades ago. I sincerely hope that these correct actions by (J)ustice (D)epartment officials, to come forth with the truth, can finally bring closure and right this terrible wrong.”

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Atlanta Child Murders: Wayne Williams hopes for appeal April 30, 2015

Guy Heinze Jnr

Featured Case #48

Guy Heinze Jnr was wrongly convicted of murdering his own family after he discovered them murdered. He had no criminal record or record of violence and was a model employee.

The police failed to collect and perform DNA exams on evidence at the scene, and then suggested the lack of other DNA indicated Guy as the killer. A forensic expert said that the murder was committed by approximately five people.

One of the victims was still alive when Guy raised the alarm, which is inconsistent with him being the killer.

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