Category Archives: Louisiana

Vincent Simmons

On May 22, 1977, Karen and Sharon Sanders, 14-year-old twins, reported that they were raped two weeks prior. In statements to police, the twins claimed that they, along with their cousin Keith Laborde encountered a black man at the 7-11 filling station. They gave the man a ride and then claim that the same man produced a knife and ordered everyone into the trunk of the car. He then allegedly raped the twins one at a time and repeatedly before setting them free. The twins claimed that their attacker threatened to have his buddies come after them if they breathed a word.

In their statements, the twins were unable to identify their attacker because “all blacks looks alike.” With this information, Avoyelles Parish police picked up Vincent Simmons and placed him under arrest. Simmons was placed in a line-up in which he was the only one handcuffed. The Sanders twins and Laborde then identified Simmons as their attacker.

From 1977 until 1993 Simmons filed repeated motions to view the evidence file pertaining to his case, including police reports, arrest reports, victims’ statements, trial transcripts, the medical examiner’s report and other documents. After 16 years, his request was finally granted. Facts that came to light included the medical examination of the twins, which showed that Sharon Sanders’ hymen remained intact three weeks after the date of the alleged rapes and that she remained a virgin. This medical examiner’s report was never turned over to the defense for discovery during the trial.

There was no physical evidence presented in the Simmons case that the rapes actually occurred. Simmons’ defense also presented several eyewitnesses who claimed that Simmons was at a local bar with them the night of the alleged rapes.

Simmons was given a 100-year sentence, two counts of attempted aggravated rape.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_Simmons

Website : http://www.freevincent.com/

Documentary (1999):

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Rodricus Crawford

Rodricus Crawford was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death.

On February 16, 2012, something truly terrible happened that could only be described as any parent’s worst nightmare. Rodricus Crawford, a young father in Caddo Parish, Louisiana woke up and noticed that his son, Roderius, who had just turned one a week earlier, was lifeless.

Rodricus, who was sleeping on the pullout couch, immediately yelled out for help. An uncle called 911. Various family members took turns performing CPR and it seemed like nothing they were doing was making one bit of difference.

When the EMTs showed up, they refused to allow Rodricus to get in the ambulance with the baby and were slow to leave. It had already taken far too long for them to get there. They were so disrespectful to the family that it caused a stir there in the community. Within minutes, police arrived. Thinking they might take Rodricus to the hospital, they instead arrested him and took him to the jail. His only son had died and instead of comforting him as the grieving father that he was, he was interrogated and harassed.

Not a single soul in his family believed Rodricus Crawford killed his son. When police called in the boy’s mother, who lived a few doors down, for questioning, she didn’t believe it either. Rodricus loved the boy with his whole heart — everybody in the community knew that. No motive existed.

Over the next year, what unfolded in Louisiana, under the leadership of its then-Acting District Attorney Dale Cox, was like a bad movie. With no motive and no witnesses, Rodricus Crawford was charged and convicted of murdering his son. Black jurors were routinely struck from the jury pool. Even though an expert testified that the young boy likely died of complications to undiagnosed sepsis and pneumonia, which the family thought was just a small cold, Cox was convinced, in part due to a pathologist’s report, that Rodricus had deliberately smothered him to death.

A cut on the boy’s lip, which multiple family members testified was caused by a recent fall in the bathroom, was used as the justification of the smothering claim. Anybody who has ever had children knows far too well how often kids fall and hurt themselves, but it was completely ignored.

Crawford’s first appeal was denied by the Supreme Court of Louisiana on November 14, 2014. In November 2016, the Louisiana Supreme Court overturned the conviction. Four medical experts submitted reports indicating that his son had died of pneumonia. The baby’s blood had tested positive for sepsis, which can be fatal for young children. One judge wrote: “No rational trier of fact could have concluded that the State presented sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had the specific intent to kill his one-year-old son,”

Sources: New York Daily News, November 18, 2016The New Yorker, November 23, 2016

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April 19, 2017 : charged dropped.

 

Jerome Morgan

Jerome Morgan was convicted of a 1993 murder, and was granted a new trial in 2014, due to two witnesses being pressured into identifying him as the killer. The director of the Innocence Project New Orleans, which represents Morgan,  says “there is no evidence against him and only evidence that he is innocent.”

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In a ruling that could severely hamstring Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office in its bid to retry a 23-year-old murder case, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled Friday that the trial testimony of two key witnesses who have since recanted their identifications of the alleged killer can’t be used at his new trial.

Jerome Morgan, 40, is slated to stand trial again June 13, two decades after a jury convicted him of murder in the 1993 slaying of 16-year-old Clarence Landry during a birthday party at a Gentilly motel ballroom.

Criminal District Court Judge Darryl Derbigny overturned Morgan’s conviction and life sentence and granted him a new trial in early 2014. Derbigny said he believed the claims of the two witnesses, Hakim Shabazz and Kevin Johnson, that New Orleans Police Department detectives pressured them to identify Morgan as Landry’s killer.

Since then, Cannizzaro’s office has charged Shabazz and Johnson with perjury for their conflicting statements, rendering them silent as a new trial for Morgan approaches.

Both men, fearing additional charges, are invoking their Fifth Amendment right and refusing to take the witness stand, in what Morgan’s attorneys argue was a calculated move by prosecutors to keep them from testifying.

In lieu of their testimony, Judge Franz Zibilich, who will preside over the new trial, ruled that the jury could read transcripts of both their original testimony, identifying Morgan, and their recantations in 2013.

Assistant District Attorney Donna Andrieu has acknowledged that how the jury views those conflicting accounts stands at the heart of the case against Morgan. In court, Andrieu has claimed that Innocence Project New Orleans attorneys coerced false recantations from the two men.

The state’s high court ruled Friday that Zibilich was correct in barring from the trial the men’s initial identifications of Morgan to police butmistaken in allowing their 1996 trial testimony to be read at the new trial.
The ruling came on a 4-2 vote, with Justices Marcus Clark and Scott Crichton dissenting and Chief Justice Bernette Johnson not voting.

The Supreme Court vacated Zibilich’s ruling, though it said the judge could revisit the admissibility of their statements — both to police and to the jury that convicted Morgan — “if these witnesses testify at the retrial.”

Emily Maw, director of the Innocence Project New Orleans, which represents Morgan, hailed the ruling Saturday, saying she hoped it would prod Cannizzaro “to finally dismiss the charges against Jerome Morgan, because there is no evidence against him and only evidence that he is innocent.”

She said Morgan “has been fighting to clear his name since the moment he was arrested by police. He has never wavered from that fight, and it has been a long, hard ordeal for Jerome Morgan, and a long ordeal for the Landry family. It’s time to end it.”

Morgan was 16 when he was arrested and charged with the killing.

A spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office did not immediately comment on the high court’s ruling. The office has a policy against discussing open cases.

Shabazz and Johnson had been with Landry at a May 22, 1993, birthday party in the ballroom at the Howard Johnson motel on Old Gentilly Road. A fight broke out between two groups, and someone pulled a gun and opened fire. Landry was hit in the neck and shoulder, Shabazz in the side and another youth in the thigh.

When police arrived at the party, Morgan was there. Prosecutors alleged at his initial trial that he had managed to run away, hop a fence, stash the gun and return before police arrived.

The jury in the 1994 trial never heard evidence that police reached the scene just six minutes after the shooting started and locked down the ballroom. Instead, the jury heard that it took more than a half-hour for police to arrive. Morgan’s attorneys with the Innocence Project argued that prosecutors withheld the evidence of a quick arrival.

Johnson had testified that he chased the shooter out the door and down an alley. In 2013, he took the stand again, saying Landry had been his best friend and that he was pressured by police to identify Morgan as the shooter.

He first dismissed Morgan’s picture from a photo lineup and did so again seven months later, but he said a detective then pushed the picture back into the mix.

“Are you sure it’s not this guy right here?” the detective asked him, according to an affidavit Johnson signed.

He said the detective told him the photo was of Morgan. Johnson said he figured everybody else must be right, so he fingered Morgan as the killer.

Shabazz spent 10 days in the hospital recovering from his wounds, then got a call from a detective who asked him if he knew who had shot him. Shabazz said he didn’t. According to Shabazz, the detective then said, “Jerome shot you,” and asked Shabazz to come to the station to give a statement.

There, the detective pressured him to point out Morgan and made him feel he would be doing a public service if he did so, Shabazz said in 2013. “It’s almost like they painted this picture for me, that it was him,” he said on the witness stand, adding that he’d been wracked with guilt for years. “What I did, it just wasn’t right.”

Derbigny ruled that the “evidence presented before this court is wrought with deception, manipulation and coercion” by the NOPD.

Soon afterward, prosecutors filed perjury charges against Shabazz and Johnson. The law doesn’t require Cannizzaro’s office to prove on which occasion — in 1994 or in their recantations two decades later — the two men lied on the witness stand.

Cannizzaro’s office, meanwhile, has accused Maw, IPNO attorney Kristin Wenstrom and an investigator of coercing the recantations from Shabazz and Johnson, though no charges have been filed against the lawyers.

In postponing a May 2 trial date to let the higher courts rule, Zibilich pledged to stick to the June 13 trial date.

From Louisiana Supreme Court deals blow to prosecutors with key ruling on upcoming retrial for 1993 teen killing May 14, 2016

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Case dismissed May 31, 2016

Manuel Ortiz

Sister Helen Prejean writes:

Manuel Ortiz has been on death row at Angola, Louisiana’s State Penitentiary, for 22 years. Manuel, originally from El Salvador, was convicted in 1994 of hiring someone to kill his wife, Tracie Williams, and of the murder of Tracie’s friend, Cheryl Mallory.

Manuel’s legal team believes he is innocent of these crimes. I am certain he is.

What makes me so sure? The case against him was riddled with inconsistencies, plagued by prosecutorial double dealing and built upon the testimony of one man, an FBI informant, who later confessed to the crime.

I have been visiting Manuel for a decade and a half and have grown to know him well. Rose Vines, who works with me at the Ministry Against the Death Penalty, has also been visiting Manuel for over a decade. Recently, Rose did an interview for Death: The Podcast, where she talked at length about visiting Manuel. Her account is simply told and both moving and profound. I encourage you to listen so you may learn something about this man who is such an important part of our work and our lives.

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McKinley Phipps

 

Huffpost Crime reports that in 2000, Phipps was a 22-year-old rising star from New Orleans, signed to Master P’s No Limit Records, when he was arrested for shooting and killing Barron Victor Jr., 19, at a concert at Club Mercedes in Slidell, Louisiana. Phipps, also known by his stage name, Mac the Camouflage Assassin, was charged with first-degree murder, although there was no forensic evidence to support the charge. He was eventually convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

From day one, the case against Phipps has been riddled with controversy. Along with no forensic evidence, prosecutors failed to perform ballistics on what could have possibly been the real murder weapon. Instead, they focused on gathering up witnesses, many of which later said they were bullied into providing false testimony.

The star witness, Yulon James, who was at the club the night of the shooting, testified that she saw Phipps pull the trigger, something she later recanted. She admitted that the only reason she lied was because the parish district attorney’s office, headed by DA Walter Reed, continuously bullied and threatened her.

Read more here

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Corey Williams

Why did Corey Williams end up imprisoned for a crime he almost certainly did not commit while Nathan and Moore remain free? All evidence pointed to the other three men as the perpetrators—yet Williams confessed to the murder, and the other men’s detailed testimonies corroborated his confession. Why would Williams confess to a murder he didn’t perpetrate? And if his confession was false, how could the other men’s testimony so accurately corroborate it?

The solution to this puzzle is both simple and outrageous—so outrageous that the state concealed it for more than 15 years. That’s how long prosecutors refused to release transcripts of interrogations conducted the night of the murder. It’s easy to see why they stalled. These transcripts, finally obtained by Williams’ defense this year, explain the central mystery of the case. Williams didn’t commit the crime; his testimony was coerced. The other men didn’t corroborate his confession; they refuted it. But when detectives presented them with Williams’ false confession, they quickly molded their story to fit with it. The prosecutor who sent Williams to death row—then fought to keep him there despite his intellectual disability—was aware of all this. He didn’t report it or inform the defense. Instead, he kept the transcripts hidden.

Source

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Jimmie Duncan

Jimmie Duncan was convicted for the 1993 murder of Haley Oliveaux of West Monroe, Louisiana based primarily on the testimony of Hayne and Michael West, a bite mark examiner and at the time coroner of Forrest County, Mississippi. Duncan had admitted to leaving Oliveaux in a bathtub unattended, and was initially charged with negligent homicide. Hayne examined Oliveaux and claimed to have found bite marks on her face that had not been seen by any of the other medical professionals who had previously examined her body, such as EMTs and hospital personnel. After this, a mold was taken of Duncan’s teeth for use in bite mark analysis by Michael West. In performing this analysis, West repeatedly pressed the mold into the cheek of Oliveaux’ corpse, creating bite marks which had not previously existed. This was recorded on videotape which surfaced in 2008. Michael Bowers, deputy medical examiner for Ventura County, California commented with regard to the bite marks that “Dr. West created them. It was intentional. He’s creating artificial abrasions in that video, and he’s tampering with the evidence. It’s criminal, regardless of what excuse he may come up with about his methods.”

Source : Wikipedia

The other major piece of evidence against Duncan was testimony from a jailhouse informant who claimed that Duncan confessed to his crime while behind bars. Michael Cruse testified that he shared a jail cell with Duncan for one day in late December 1993. (Cruse also claimed another inmate in the same cell confessed a felony to him, according to the letter he wrote to prosecutors.) Duncan’s current attorneys have since obtained an affidavit from Michael Lucas, another inmate in the cell that day, who says that not only did Duncan not confess, he repeatedly asserted his innocence, despite Cruse’s constant attempts to elicit a confession.

Since then, two other inmates have reported being asked by Ouachita Parish law enforcement officials to lie about hearing Duncan confess. One of them, Charles Parker, who had worked as an informant for the FBI, wrote a letter of complaint to the district attorney’s office about the incident. In a later interview with Duncan’s post-conviction attorneys, he described how an investigator named Jay Via approached him and fed him information about Duncan’s case. “He gave me details of the crime, saying that the child was less than two years [old] and that she had been anally raped,” Parker said “He told me that when I came forward I was to say that Jimmie had confessed to biting the child while he was raping her.”

Source

When I first wrote about Duncan’s case, I thought Steven Hayne and Michael West were the most disturbing aspects of his conviction. And to be sure, between them the two have tainted thousands of cases and sent who knows how many innocent people to prison. But you could say the same thing about Jay Via. Duncan’s case is merely where the two intersect.

Jimmie Duncan is still on death row in Louisiana.

The prosecutor in Duncan’s case was never disciplined for failing to turn over the exculpatory evidence in that case, either.

Source

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Robert Jones

Man ‘wrongly’ jailed for decades for killing UK tourist

28 October 2015

A man has been in prison in the US for 23 years for shooting dead a British tourist even though the judge in his trial and police detectives believe he is innocent of the crime.

Robert Jones was accused of being behind a crime spree of rape, robbery and then the murder of holidaymaker Julie Stott in New Orleans in 1992.

Despite another man being convicted for the murder and being overwhelmingly linked to all the other crimes, Mr Jones was never released.

In June, the Louisiana Supreme Court acknowledged that Mr Jones did not get a fair trial and ruled that his case should be reopened. But he remains behind bars

See BBC video report for details ( it’s a must view! ): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-34655025

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November 19, 2015 Bail Granted | Story

January 26, 2017 Charges Dropped

 

 

John Kinsel

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals appeared sympathetic to Kinsel but said in an opinion released Tuesday that it could do nothing.

“It is beyond regrettable that a possibly innocent man will not receive a new trial in the face of the preposterously unreliable testimony of the victim and sole eyewitness to the crime for which he was convicted,” Judge Jacques Wiener wrote for the panel comprising himself and Judges Priscilla Owen and Jerry Smith.

“But, our hands are tied by the (Anti-Terrorism Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996), preventing our review of Kinsel’s attack on his Louisiana postconviction proceedings, so we dutifully dismiss his claim,” Wiener wrote.

From http://www.nola.com/…/07/federal_appeals_court_calls_te.html

Additional discussion ( re AEDPA, Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 )

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