Category Archives: Pennsylvania

John Brookins

On December 20th 1990, John Brookins visited his friend Sheila Ginsberg’s house, to help her clean before the arrival of her son from out of town. Around 5 PM, John left to give his friend a ride to work. When he returned, he found Sheila’s daughter, Sharon, standing over her with a pair of scissors, stomping them into her chest, screaming that she had to die. Sharon fled the scene shortly after John’s arrival. John, a black man standing over a dead white woman, panicked and left the scene.

Months later, John was arrested for the murder of Ms. Ginsberg. The case was permeated by police misconduct, an ineffective display of counsel, and a clear absence of morality. Based on witness testimony from Sharon Ginsberg (a prostitute who had consistently harassed her mother for money to fuel her meth & crack cocaine addiction) and suspected planted DNA evidence, John was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. He has been in prison for 28 years for a murder he did not commit.

The students of Georgetown University under the direction of Marc Howard and Marty Tankleff have created a documentary to bring awareness to Johns case:

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John Kunco

In 1991, John Kunco was convicted of raping and beating a 55-year-old woman the previous December.

The victim claimed that her assailant’s voice sounded like the voice of a former maintenance worker in her apartment building named “John.” But she also said she had only spoken to Kunco once, never saw her attacker, and only identified Kunco based on his voice, and even then, not based on Kunco’s voice itself, but on a detective’s imitation of Kunco’s lisp.

The state’s case depended on the testimony of two bite-mark analysts. The police collected more than 40 other samples of forensic materials, including blood, hair and clothing fibers. None of it implicated Kunco. The bite-mark testimony was the only physical evidence linking him to the crime.

In 2009, DNA excluded Kunco as the source of biological material found on a lamp cord used to strangle the victim. His appeal was denied. In 2016, after two bite-mark skeptics within the ABFO submitted affidavits that were critical of the bite-mark testimony, the State’s experts submitted their own affidavits retracting their testimony and analysis. In May 2018, Kunco’s attorneys announced that they believe new DNA tests have exonerated their client.

Source: “Yet another bite-mark conviction is unraveling” Washington Post, May 21, 2018

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Update May 23, 2018 : New trial awarded



Corey Walker

Corey Walker and Lorenzo Johnson were convicted for the December 1995 murder of Tarajay Williams.

On August 5, 2013, Johnson’s new attorney, Michael Wiseman filed a third PCRA petition for a new trial, this time presenting “a case of actual innocence.” The filing contains new sworn affidavits from a police detective, from people who had knowledge of the murder and the real killer(s), evidence that Johnson was “not in Harrisburg the night Williams was killed” but rather New York, and “newly discovered information” discrediting witnesses’ testimonies.

In fact, there were no witnesses to the murder. In addition, Carla Brown, the main prosecution witness, was a confirmed drug addict who had motive to testify in order to secure favorable treatment from the police and had initially provided to police multiple versions of the events. It was discovered that police “worked on” her for months until she gave them the version of events that were propounded at trial. Carla Brown now admits that she lied at trial. Other witnesses admit they were coerced into lying or staying silent, threatened by detectives with being falsely charged with crimes or promised leniency. For example, witness Brian Ramsey stated in a post-conviction affidavit that he falsely testified to seeing Johnson outside the bar that night, and that he only saw Walker in the crowd: “I actually never saw Mr. Johnson.” New evidence points to the actual perpetrators, as those who were previously held as witnesses are in fact now suspects.


In July 2017, Johnson was freed after a plea deal was agreed.

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Ralph Trent Stokes

On March 11, 1982, two men robbed Smokin’ Joe’s Korner, in Philadelphia.  Armed with guns, and wearing masks, the men entered the restaurant before it opened, herded the employees into the walk-in refrigerator and threatened to kill them if they failed to cooperate.

One of the men shot and killed two of the employees Mary Louise Figueroa and Eugene Jefferson.  Two other employees were threatened but not shot. However, when a United States Postal Service employee happened onto the scene, he was killed by a shot in the head.

Both Ralph Trent Stokes, age 19, who had worked at the restaurant, and Donald Jackson were arrested and charged with the murders. Threatened with the death penalty, Jackson testified that Ralph was the shooter, in exchange for a guilty plea to second-degree murder and a life sentence. Ralph was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death.

One witness, Donald Blackson, testified that he had not signed a statement incriminating Ralph, and contrary to the statement he did not remember talking to Ralph on the day of the murders.

Prosecutor Roger King failed to disclose exculpatory results of laboratory testing on items seized from Ralph’s home. King then made argument to the jury, and presented other evidence, which was completely rebutted by the undisclosed lab reports. King lied to defense counsel, the court and the jury.

More information is available at

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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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Kevin Brian Dowling

Kevin Brian Dowling was convicted of robbing and later murdering Jennifer Myers. According to a Federal appeal filed in 2015 :


This case presents a textbook example of how a tunnel-visioned police investigation coupled with overzealous and unscrupulous prosecutors can result in the conviction of an innocent person.

On August 5, 1996, Jennifer Myers was robbed at gunpoint in her frame gallery, where she was the sole proprietress. She thought she knew her attacker and initially did not want the police to be contacted. A disgruntled business partner was implicated, apparently on the theory that the robbery was staged as an intimidation tactic.

On November 29, 1996, with no tangible results in their investigation, the police visited Ms. Myers for a follow-up interview. When pressed, she told police that two weeks earlier she thought she observed someone who looked like the attacker working at a convenience store. She explained then that her failure to timely notify the police was due to her lack certainty that he was the perpetrator. The police investigated and when they observed a car of comparable make to the one ostensibly observed near the gallery, they promptly arrested the car’s owner,  Petitioner, Kevin Brian Dowling.

Mr. Dowling was a  married father of three children, with no criminal record, and a lengthy career in operations management.

When Myers was later found murdered, suspicion turned almost exclusively to Petitioner, with the authorities ignoring other likely suspects including: an admitted robber with an identical modus operandi to the perpetrator and who was then on the loose; the victim’s husband who “discovered” the body, and suspiciously, in the immediate aftermath of the murder, dispossessed himself of a weapon of the same caliber as the murder weapon (which the Commonwealth’s expert could not exclude as the weapon used to kill Myers); and the disgruntled former business partner. Because there was little evidence implicating Petitioner in the murder (for which Petitioner was tried separately and sentenced to death) the prosecution sought to bolster the robbery case through coaching of witnesses, renewed reliance on hypnotically refreshed identifications, and a blatant attempt to pollute the jury pool through biased and frequent press appearances (as the trial court found).

In addition, prosecutors contemptuously ignored court rulings and admonitions in order to ensure that the jury heard prejudicial and inadmissible evidence. Against this onslaught, the Commonwealth provided Petitioner with a host of Strickland-deficient lawyers, who collectively did virtually nothing Strickland requires, resulting in no defense being presented at trial and the waiver of virtually all of Petitioner’s claims of error, including ineffectiveness of trial counsel.

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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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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.”


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Clayton Mibroda

On January 11,2012 after just four days the jury in Westmoreland County PA, found Clayton guilty of 3rd degree murder in the death of his 20 day old daughter, Natalee.

There was no evidence to convict Clayton. No one at any time had ever witnessed or suspected him of harming either of his children. He and Natalee’s mother had two children together. There were co workers, neighbors, friends and family members willing to testify on Clayton’s behalf as per his relationship with his children and his interaction with them.

The location of the crime scene was the residence in which Clayton, the mother of his children and both children resided, Bolivar, PA. It was a small community in western PA.

Natalee was born on December 7, 2011, six weeks premature and positive for opiates at birth. She was released to her parents at two days of age and no further tests were done. It is our opinion she was experiencing withdrawl symptoms. By mother’s admission she was experiencing post partum depression, she was diagonosed with depression on Dec. 23rd and had a follow up appointment the afternoon of Dec. 27, 2011 at 1pm.

On the morning of Dec. 27,2011 while Clayton was ill and sleeping mother called the doctor’s office and asked for an emergency appointment; at this time she stated { my meds are not working, I need to see the doctor right away}. She was told to come in asap. The location of the clinic where she was seen was three minutes from their home, 0.4 mile. While at the doctors she was adviced to call the mental health crisis hotline, records indicate she did that. At 11:52 am Claytons mother received an emotional phone call. Ms L asked her if she would take both children before she hurt them. When asked if she had hurt them she replied; “not that bad”. Arrangements were made for Clayton’s mother to take both children but before that ever took place she received the phone call from Clayton telling her they were at Indiana Regional Medical Center and that Natalee had died.

If you would like to become better aquainted with Clayton’s story and the events following his arrest and conviction you may visit his website which is under construction. We expect it to be up and running the end of Feb. 2016.

Currently Clayton’s case is being reviewed by the Medill Justice program out of Northwestern University and the PA Innocence Project. Attorney Kate Judson has reveiwed some of the medical documents in Natalee’s case and made the referral to the PA Innocence Project.

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Charles Goldblum

Charles Goldblum was convicted of the Feb. 9, 1976 murder of George Wilhelm, a 42-year-old former armored truck driver, who was stabbed 23 times.

Wilhelm lived long enough to make a so-called dying declaration to the police officer who found him. “Clarence — Clarence Miller did this to me.”

Clarence Miller was questioned, and accused Charles Goldblum of killing Wilhelm.

Goldblum has steadfastly maintained that, although present at the crime scene, he was only a shocked witness to the killing.

Many people originally involved with the case now say that Goldblum is innocent, including both the assistant district attorney who prosecuted him and the judge who sentenced him.

Source : Article in Pittsburg Post-Gazette, February 7, 2016

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Louis DiNicola – Exoneration Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Ferrante

A respected University of Pittsburgh researcher has been found guilty of first-degree murder by handing his wife a drink to boost her fertility – after lacing it with cyanide.

Prosecutors said Ferrante concocted the plan to kill his wife after she pressured him to have a second child and because he may have feared she was having an affair or planned to divorce him.


His lawyers made the case that she might not have been poisoned at all, citing three defense experts who said that couldn’t be conclusively proved.

‘At a minimum we established very clear reasonable doubt,’ defense attorney William Difenderfer said, referring primarily to testimony from celebrity pathologist Dr Cyril Wecht, who said he couldn’t determine how Klein died because he thought a test that showed cyanide in her blood was unreliable.

Source : Daily Mail, 8 November 2014

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8 February 2015

Defense attorney Chris Eyster wrote in an appeal filed yesterday that prosecutors presented ‘not one shred of evidence’ that Ferrante administered poison to his wife.

‘A conviction based on conjecture cannot stand,’ he said.

Mr Eyster also argued that prosecutors failed to show that Klein, 41, had lethal amounts of cyanide in her blood, citing disagreement among expert witnesses as to whether she died of the poison or a sudden heart dysrhythmia.


Timothy McEnany

Timothy McEnany was wrongfully accused and convicted of a crime in 1993, in Hummelstown, PA (USA).

The police ignored the obvious suspects, never even questioning them, and allowing them to “clean up” the crime scene, despite witnesses describing someone who easily fit the description of the victim’s grandson, fleeing from the scene.

Instead, they targeted and fabricated a sloppy case around an innocent chimney-sweep, based on evidence that would have been dismissed from any legitimate court procedings outside of Pennsylvania… a commonwealth, in which the State Police run the show, with no system of checks and balances.

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Lorenzo Johnson

Lorenzo Johnson served 16 and a half years of a life-without-parole sentence, from 1995 to 2012, when the Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled there was legally insufficient evidence for his conviction. He remained free for 4 months, after which the US Supreme Court unanimously reinstated the conviction and ordered Lorenzo back to prison to resume the sentence. With the help of Michael Wiseman, Esq., The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, The Campaign to Free Lorenzo Johnson, and others, he is continuing to fight for his freedom

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News 11 July 2017 : ‘I had to end their pain:’ Lorenzo Johnson says he took plea deal for his family

Jimmy Dennis

Calling the conviction a “grave miscarriage of justice,” the judge noted that the prosecution, whose case was based “on scant evidence at best” covered up evidence pointing to Dennis’ innocence, including evidence undermining the reliability of the police investigation, and statements pointing the finger at three other men in the murder.

“Dennis’ conviction was based solely on shaky eyewitness identifications from three witnesses, the testimony of another man who said he saw Dennis with a gun the night of the murder, and a description of clothing seized from the house of Dennis’ father that the police subsequently lost before police photographed or catalogued it,” the judge said.

Further, the court wrote that the Commonwealth “ignored Dennis’ own explanation for where he was at the time of the murder. … It allowed a witness who saw Dennis on that bus to give incorrect testimony about what time that interaction occurred. Police never recovered a weapon, never found the car that witnesses described, and never found the two accomplices,” she added.

In addition, the defense counsel was ineffective, having failed to interview a single eyewitness–including a girl who was with the victim at the time and said she knew the killers and their nicknames, or a witness whose felony assault charges against his girlfriend suddenly were dropped after he implicated Dennis.

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May 6, 2015 ( Via the website )
Good news! The full Third Circuit court vacated (voided) the February 9, 2015, decision. They have granted Jimmy a rehearing:

Dec 24, 2016

“James Dennis entered a no-contest plea, not a guilty plea, because he maintains the same position that he has maintained for 25 years: that he is innocent of this crime,” one of his lawyers, Karl Schwartz, told the judge. “He and his family have made this incredibly difficult decision based on his and their strong desire to have him home and free, [in] lieu of potentially years of continuing litigation.”