Category Archives: Articles

Casmer Volk – case update

According to the appeal ruling overturning Casmer Volk’s conviction, on April 28, 2011, Thomas and Sarah Hart left their four-year-old son Larry (names changed) in the care of their friend and daycare provider Diedre Cleary, while they vacationed in Oregon. Diedre lived with her boyfriend, now husband, Casmer Volk.

On April 30, Diedre took Larry to hospital, where a physician prescribed an antibiotic for a recurring ear infection. Larry soon suffered diarrhea, a common side-effect from the antibiotic.  On May 1, Casmer Volk, by himself, cared for Larry for two hours.

Larry’s parents returned later on May 1, and Diedre and Casmer returned Larry to his home. The next morning, May 2, Larry complained of soreness, and according to his mother when questioned stated “Cas hurt me” and Casmer “put his pee-pee in my bum”.

However when examined at hospital, there was no sign of rectal bleeding. Moreover, when questioned the child equivocated on whether he was telling the truth or not. On hearing the equivocation, his mother indicated that Larry had been offered a reward for repeating the accusation, and repeated the offer of a reward.

Larry’s underwear was submitted for forensic testing ( even though it is unknown if it was the underwear he was wearing on the date of the alleged rape ). It tested positive for p30, a presumptive test for sperm, however no sperm was found.

Note that a presumptive test is a test that does not prove the substance tested for exists in the sample, it merely indicates that the substance MAY exist. A confirmatory test is needed to confirm the result.

The prosecution argued that only Casmer could be responsible for the p30 result, as he had not fathered any children, so (the prosecution speculated) his sperm count might be low.  In fact the p30 could come from other sources, and according to forensic expert Greg Hampikian it is unlikely it came from semen.

At the first trial, there was a hung jury. At a second trial, Casmer was convicted and sentenced to 28 years to life. However, the defense failed to submit scientific evidence that Casmer has normal levels of sperm, and also failed to explain to the jury that the detected p30 may not have come from sperm.

Thus Casmer was convicted even though the prosecution’s forensic case was entirely false, and even contradicted by the hospital examination, which detected no rectal bleeding or trauma.

In February 2018, the conviction was overturned, on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, and according to the Facebook support page “Casmer Volk is Innocent” at a hearing on November 12, attended by 12 supporters, a retrial date was set for December 4, 2018.

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Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey – case update

A further 10 episodes of “Making a Murderer” on the cases of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey have been streamed on netflix.

They detail Kathleen Zellner’s re-investigation of the case, and the agonising twists and turns in Brendan Dassey’s efforts to have his confession thrown out as coerced.

Specifically, we learn that:

(1) The State’s theory of how the blood-spatter on the rear cargo door of Teresa Halbach’s car was deposited is not tenable. Also, the blood near the ignition key would not have been left by Avery turning the ignition, instead it was planted there.

(2) The hood-latch DNA could not have been touch-DNA, and the swab wasn’t from the hood-latch. Instead the sample swab was relabeled with a swab taken from Avery.

(3) Halbach’s body could not have been incinerated with a couple of tyres. Also, there is no stain. Expert Dr John DeHann is positive the burn pit is not the primary burn site.  (About 35 minutes in to Ep. 3). No photos of discovery of the bones, remains, not done, no documentation. This implies the remains were recovered elsewhere and not at the site where Steven Avery had a bonfire.

(4) Remains were allegedly discovered in burn barrel #2 many days after it had been previously been searched. Again, this implies the remains were in fact recovered elsewhere.

(5) There was a Brady violation ( withheld evidence ) concerning evidence that Halbach’s vehicle left the Avery property.

(6) The blood planted in Halbach’s car came from blood Avery deposited in his bathroom sink ( there was evidence of a break-in, he reported someone cleaned up the blood on Nov 3, on Friday morning the blood in his sink was gone ).

(7) Flakes of Avery’s blood recovered from the carpet of Halbach’s car must have been planted, not deposited there from his bleeding finger.

(8) The .22 bullet fragment recovered from Avery’s garage should have had bone fragments – it didn’t, meaning it could NOT have passed through Halbach’s head. Instead it had wood fragments. Zellner recreated how the .22 bullet fragment occurred. The DNA evidence ( Halbach’s DNA on the fragment ) was forged.

(9) Bryan should have been called as a witness to impeach Bobby, in fact Bobby saw Teresa leave and told Bryan, but Bryan was not called as a witness. We can infer that prosecutors scared Bobby enough with what he saw happened to Brendan, and material on Bobby’s computer would have given them plenty of leverage. ( Also, that was another Brady violation, the computer contents at the very least are impeachment information favorable to the defense ).

Discussion here

 

 

Antonio Williams, Kendrick Gillum, and Demarco T. Wilson

On February 1, 1997, Charles Newsome was shot in the back and arm while driving in West Memphis, Arkansas, and bled to death. Antonio Williams, Kendrick Gillum, and Demarco T. Wilson (WGW) were subsequently convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

The key witness was Frederick Ellis, who was a passenger in the car. In his first statement to police, he could not give the names of the shooters, but then a few hours later he identified Williams and Gillum, then five days later he identified Wilson and another person, who it transpired was in Kentucky at the time. Ellis testified that he had known WGW “pretty much” his entire life.

However Ellis and another witness Kevin Johnson, the only witnesses who identified WGW as the shooters, gave statements which were contradictory and also conflicted with other trial testimony – a defense witness testified the shooters were in another car and not on foot, whereas the State’s witnesses testified the shooters were on foot. In addition, Johnson did not did not give his statement until nine days after the shooting, when he could have talked to Ellis. Ellis and Johnson were both convicted felons, this was the  third Capital Murder trial where Ellis testified that year and after his testimony implicating WGW, the West Memphis Police Department dropped seven charges against him.

In summary the evidence suggests Ellis lied about who shot the victim, and named people in order to curry favour with the police, and perhaps to absolve himself from wrongdoing.

Discussion| Proposal Post

 

 

 

 

 

Who Killed Laci Peterson?

Many people have been re-examining the case of Scott Peterson and coming to the conclusion that he did not murder his wife Laci Peterson in December 2002.

This blog post addresses the question : “If Scott did not murder Laci, who did?”.

There is no way to be certain, but nevertheless, there are reasons to suspect the involvement of serial killer Edward Wayne Edwards. The main evidence in support of this theory are anonymous messages, and evidence which suggests Edwards was the Zodiac Killer.

The first anonymous message, shown below, was sent to the Modesto Bee on May 4, 2003. ( Note that the bodies of Conner and Laci were discovered on April 13 and 14, Scott was arrested on April 18, Easter Day was Sunday 20 April ).EdwardsLetterAMessageFromGod

This appears to be a confession that the writer framed Scott Peterson.

Then, from March 22, 2005 through August 6, 2006, a poster using the handle “I Killed Laci Peterson” (IKLP) posted 544 messages on the Fratpack forum. See here for a dump of these messages.

Some of the IKLP messages allude to the Zodiac Killer.

66. Wed Oct 05, 2005 3:30 am You are jealous this I see. As was with my cousin Zodiac. You will never capture me. Fore it is I who does not lack.

384. Thu May 18, 2006 2:05 pm Post Fore if thou breaks the code with FreeBird inside. Thee will tell thou where all others now hide. Thou is not very close. Not by photo of a boat. If thou asks why. Turn eyes to the sky. If thou is so slow. Thou will never know. Thou makes fun of thee if it will. Not laughs will stop thees amazing thrills. Zodiac had four but there were many more. Contact made from within the front door. Thous belief of her walk. Is basic stupid talk. Thou never leaves from within. No one witnesses thees sin. When of a state of no attention. It is how thee starts the detention. Travel in plain light. Right in thous sight. Thou never thinks twice. Thee appears so nice. If thou only knew. How much thee laughs at you. The most obvious of all alludes. Passes by right in front of you. Thou has so many wrong guesses. Thee listens learns and progresses. Thou who count not look for thee. Is why thou makes it easy to be free. A last note to thou stuck on a boat. Thee stands on another deck and simply gloats. FreeBird

386. Thu May 18, 2006 7:47 pm Fore Zodiac and thee are not one in the same. Thou watch what they say about Z and his fame. If thou believe Z has not always been free. Then thou is so wrong in what it believe. More than thou will ever know is Z count. Smarts without thou knowing is what Z is about. FreeBird

The next message refers to a “code” that was “told” more than 30 years ago:

387. Mon May 29, 2006 2:01 pm Fore the code is old. Over 30 years it was once told. Should thou be as bright as sun light. Should not take thou long to get it right. FreeBird.

The code referred to could be the 408 symbol Zodiac code, sent to newspapers on August 1, 1969 ( see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac_Killer#Timeline ).

There is a considerable amount of evidence that suggests that Edwards was the Zodiac killer. Please see, for example, https://ededwardsserialkiller.wordpress.com/zodiac-killer/

The Zodiac killer left a short “signature” which apparently decodes to “I’m Edward E”.

IKLP also sent this message:

Mon Oct 10, 2005 2:19 pm Fore here is a clue for who remain on my list. 28527 – 8240 – 791 – 94 – 7 tho is smart who deciphers this.

If the zero and alternate digits are dropped ( analogous to the decoding of the Zodiac short signature ), the result is 8 2 8 4 9 9 7. Using the mnemonic substitution

9 – E ( “e” is similar to mirror image of “9” )
8 – D ( “8” can be made with two D’s – see Zodiac code )
7 – W ( W can be made from two 7s )
4 – A ( “A” when tilted to the right becomes “4” )
2 – R ( “R” is slightly similar to “2” )

this translates to D R D A E E W an anagram of “EDWARD E”.

Finally, if you take the symbols “GOD ( I )” from the “Message from God”, apparently a clue to the identity of the writer, and stack them over one another, the result is a circle with a cross, similar to the symbol used by the Zodiac Killer to sign his correspondence:

330px-zodiac_killer_symbol-svg

Besides these mysterious messages, linking the Scott Peterson case to the Zodiac Killer, and thence to Edward Wayne Edwards, circumstances suggest the involvement of a devious, manipulative, psychopath serial killer:

(1) Planting the bodies, in such a way as to frame Scott Peterson for the murder would involve risk.

(2) Laci Peterson’s head and parts of each arm and leg were missing, and all her internal organs were missing, suggesting they were removed and Conner was then removed from Laci’s corpse.

(3) Conner was found above the high tide line, and had twine looped around his body, tied in a bow. The body was in relatively good condition, suggesting it may have been kept in a bag, separate from the body of Laci.

(4) A calculation to estimate when Conner died, when done correctly ( see the Habeas petition, available here ) suggests that Conner lived into January.

Possibly Laci was abducted after observing the burglary of the Medina house in progress to prevent her calling police, or possibly her abduction was planned in advance and intended to divert the attention of the police from solving the burglary. Edwards had a record of safe burglary, and could have been the mastermind behind it.

Discussion here

Fourth annual review

Since the third annual review in May 2017, 2 cases have been featured bring the total to 163, and 43 cases have adopted being the total to 133, and the overall total to 296.

There were 13 exonerations (or similar), bringing the total to 50, please see the Featured and Adopted Case List for details.

There were two executions : Robert Pruett, on 12 October, 2017 and Michael Lambrix, on 5 October, 2017.

A new Facebook group Wrongful Conviction Discussion has been quite busy. Please remember that this new group does allow people to take either side of a case in a respectful and sensitive way, whereas the main group only allows that during the voting period on a proposal.

Thanks again to everyone who has voted on proposals, or contributed to the discussion.

Darlie Routier Key Points

Two of Darlie Routier‘s three sons were stabbed to death on June 6, 1996, around 2:30am at night. Darlie stated an intruder attacked her and the boys, but she was accused of staging the attack, convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Here are some key points about the case:

  • Darlie was very nearly killed by a knife slash to her throat, which came within 2mm of cutting her carotid artery. If it had been pierced, she would have bled to death within a few minutes.
  • As well as a slashed throat, Darlie had a stab wound to her arm and very extensive bruising.
  • A bloody fingerprint that didn’t belong to any of the family members was found on a glass table that was in the Routier home at the time of the stabbings.
  • A bloody sock was discovered 75 yards from the house. The sock had blood of both her boys on it, powerful evidence of an intruder. The boys were still alive when first responders arrived. The severity of their injuries means that Darlie did not realistically have time to perform many “staging” actions alleged by the prosecution.
  • Routier’s clothes from that night were placed in the same evidence bag as her sons’, which could have led to cross contamination.
  • Prosecution witness Tom Bevel testified the mixture of blood from Darlie and the boys in millimeter sized drops of blood on Darlie’s nightshirt was due to cast off first from the boys and then later drops of Darlie’s blood landing in exactly the same places.
  • In at least three other cases, Bevel’s testimony has led to wrongful convictions.
  • In a 2008 ruling granting a defense motion for new DNA tests, an appeal judge stated: “The theory underlying the prosecution’s case against the petitioner is as convoluted and counter-intuitive as that of any death penalty case to come before this Court.”
  • In the same ruling, the judge rejected the State’s argument that evidence of another male inside the house would merely suggest Darlie had an accomplice.
  • Greg Davis, prosecutor, stated soon after the trial that if Darlie was innocent that showed what a good lawyer he is. Although stating in public that he is 100% sure that Darlie is guilty, according to his brother, in private he has stated she may be innocent.
  • The jury played the “Silly String” video nine times. At least one juror has changed his opinion that she is guilty, and regrets his decision. The jurors admitted that they never looked at the photos showing how extensive Darlie’s injuries were.
  • At trial, the prosecution argued that the screen was cut by a bread knife from the kitchen, on the basis of microscopic glass rods. It is now known that these were likely due to contamination from finger print brushes.
  • The state of Texas offered Routier life without parole in exchange for her admitting guilt, but she refused the offer.
  • In June 2018, Vanessa Potkin, an Innocence Project attorney stated : “Darlie’s conviction rests entirely on faulty blood spatter analysis and character assassination”.
  • Two of Darlie’s pro bono attorneys launched a new website in June 2018 with details abut the case to coincide with a four-part ABC documentary about the case. The Legal Documents page has a link to the Habeas Corpus appeal which describes the case in detail.
  • As of June 2018, a petition calling for the case to be re-opened has attracted nearly 5,000 signature, and the Facebook Page “Free Darlie Routier” had more than 3,000 “Likes”.

 

 

 

PART I: 16 Years of Lost Time, The Jeffrey Descovic Story

happyvalleycitizen

I spent nearly two hours on the phone with Jeff, yet it felt like no time went by.

I was on the edge of my seat.

With his thick, throaty New York accent, he is a naturally flowing conversationalist and born storyteller who is warm, engaging, feisty and funny. His intelligence seethes out through his words, quite easily. He told me over Facebook messenger, before we spoke in person, that he would be “easy to talk to.”

Such was certainly the case.

As a boy, Jeffrey Mark Deskovic could swim the length of a pool underwater without coming up for air. On sultry days at the Elmira Correctional Facility, where he spent most of his 16 years behind bars for a rape and murder he did not commit, Mr. Deskovic would close his eyes under a row of outdoor showers and imagine himself swimming. For months after his release in September…

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Charles Ajoloko Awaits Post-Conviction Relief &Waits & Waits…..

An update on Charles Ajokolo.

justiceformyson2

On May 25, 2017, a Motion for Post-Conviction was filed by an attorney who did the Motion pro se..Image result for slow justice is not justice

We are still awaiting the judges response to the Motion.

We know that the wheels of justice turns slowly. We just do not want the wheels to come to a complete halt.

The following are two of the arguments in the Post Conviction Relief Motion. There’s more.

Trial Counsel Failed to Impeach Jen***, (the victim) Through Cross—Examination of Deputy Ma ***’s 911 Call Into Evidence.

Mr. Ajoloko’ s primary defense at trial was that he was not the individual who robbed Jen***. Despite that fact, trial counsel failed to use evidence which reflected Ms . Jen***’s inability to identify the perpetrator. Failure to impeach a victim about her ability to identify the defendant as the perpetrator may constitute ineffective assistance of counsel. See e.g. Rutledge v. State, 786 So.2d 1199…

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Man found not guilty at retrial of setting ’95 Naperville fire that killed mother-in-law

Wrongful Convictions Blog

A former Naperville resident who spent two decades imprisoned for arson and murder in the death of his mother-in-law was acquitted of those crimes Wednesday by a DuPage County judge who called the case “fatally compromised.”

As Judge Liam Brennan was finishing reading his ruling in the retrial of William Amor, the defendant — aware he was about to be found not guilty — let his head drop and took off his glasses a moment later to wipe away tears. Lauren Kaeseberg, one Amor’s attorneys from the Illinois Innocence Project, who was seated next to Amor, quietly placed her hand on his back.

“I’ve always been hopeful. I’ve always thought essentially that the system would do the right thing,” Amor, 62, said afterward. “It’s unfortunate it took 22 years.”

Amor thanked Brennan, who vacated Amor’s 1997 murder conviction last year in the wake of advances in fire science that undercut…

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Daubert’s Failure

Forensics Forum

A wonderful new piece forthcoming in Case Western Reserve Law Review, from Paul Giannelli.  Here is a link and the abstract is below:

In 2015, a federal judge noted that “[m]any defendants have been convicted and spent countless years in prison based on evidence by arson experts who were later shown to be little better than witch doctors.” In the same year, a White House science advisor observed: “Suggesting that bite marks [should] still be a seriously used technology is not based on science, on measurement, on something that has standards, but more of a gut-level reaction.” According to another judge “[a]s matters currently stand, a certainty statement regarding toolmark pattern matching has the same probative value as the vision of a psychic.” A recent New York Times editorial echoed these sentiments: “And the courts have only made the problem worse by purporting to be scientifically literate, and allowing in…

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Looking at wrongful convictions and the politics of US incarceration

FORENSICS and LAW in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends

A time line on the growing trends for future increase of innocents being convicted. Police forensics clearly has a hand in this.  Racial targeting is another. 

Although Gross says there’s no way to know an exact number, “at least tens of thousands of people who are in prison are likely to be innocent,” he said. If just 1 percent of the prison population were exonerated that would be upward of 20,000 people. For context, a study published in 2014 made “a conservative estimate” that 4.1 percent of those sentenced to death are innocent.

Salon

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Wrongly Convicted Group – Third Annual Review

Since the second annual review, 20 cases have been featured, bringing the featured total to 161 cases, and 39 cases have been adopted, bringing the adopted total to 90, and the overall total to 251. One featured case was removed from the list.

Sadly Billy Wayne Cope died on February 9, before he could be exonerated.

Jimmy Dennis and Rodricus Crawford were exonerated from death row. Michael Amick and Jason Sadowski were exonerated after retrials. Other exonerations (or time-served plea deals) during the year were Lorinda Swain, Jerome Morgan, Davontae Sanford, Ingmar Guandique, Darryl Howard, Robert Jones, Charles Johnson, Larod Styles, Michael Peterson and Chris Tapp.

In addition, Courtney Bisbee, David Mark Temple, Lamarr Monson, John Horton, Rodney Stanberry, Patrick Pursley and Emerson Stevens were released either on bail, parole or time-served.

See the Featured and Adopted case list for full details.

There is now a spreadsheet with contact and birthday information for each featured or adopted case, to help letters and cards to be sent on holidays or birthdays, many thanks to Kaylene for organising this.

Thank you again to everyone for proposing and voting on featured cases, let’s hope that at least some of the many wrongly convicted people we support are freed in the coming year.

George

 

 

 

 

 

Tactics for the Trenches

Prosecutorial Misconduct and Negligence : Tactics for the Trenches is a presentation given by Don Rehkopf on April 21, 2017 to give defense lawyers the law and the tools to increase the odds of prevailing against Prosecutorial Error.

It covers four areas:

1. A linguistic suggestion that is perhaps less psychologically antagonistic than the phrase “prosecutorial misconduct;”

2. A synopsis of the various sources of discovery that must be asserted pretrial in an effort to prevent, but if not, preserve, these discreet issues;

3. A discussion of how to determine just what constitutes prosecutorial error; and

4. Suggestions on how to properly preserve issues of prosecutorial misconduct or error, pretrial and during trial.

“Prosecutors are far less likely to try and take advantage of a defense attorney who is ready to pounce on misconduct by objections and calls for sanctions.”

Full Presentation Here.

Reducing Risks: An Executive’s Guide to Effective Juvenile Interview and Interrogation

This publication is an outgrowth of the training course, “Introduction to Juvenile Interview and Interrogation Techniques,” which IACP developed in 2006 in partnership with OJJDP. The training curriculum was created by a unique group of specialists in law enforcement, juvenile public defense, adult learning techniques, and curriculum development. Since 2006, the training course has been delivered 25 times around the United States. Approximately 1,267 law enforcement officers representing 593 agencies from 37 states have completed the course.

Available here

Prosecutor Reform

“The Chronic Failure to Discipline Prosecutors for Misconduct: Proposals for Reform,” is a paper written by Thomas P. Sullivan and Maurice Possley, published by Northwestern Law’s Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. http://bit.ly/2k00Onu Sullivan is a former U.S. Attorney; Possley, a former journalist now with the National Registry of Exonerations.

Five suggested reforms:

(1) substituting for the Brady rule a verifiable open-file pretrial discovery requirement on prosecutors;

(2) instead of invoking harmless error, requiring reversal of convictions if serious prosecutorial misconduct is proven;

(3) identifying errant prosecutors by name in trial and appellate opinions;

(4) providing prosecutors with qualified instead of complete immunity from civil damages for misconduct; and

(5) authorizing the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General to handle investigations of alleged misconduct by federal prosecutors.

See http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/jclc/vol105/iss4/5/ for the full abstract and article.

 

Forensic Science Reform

In September 2016, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology released a report calling for forensic science reform, however Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Justice Department would not be adopting the recommendations, and the National District Attorney’s association’s suggested that existing safeguards were adequate.  Adam B. Shniderman of Texas Christian University discusses the issue here.