Category Archives: Articles

Mark Carver

Mark Carver is serving a life sentence without parole after his 2011 conviction for strangling Irina Yarmolenko. Her body was found near her car in Mount Holly, on the banks of the Catawba River. Carver and his cousin were fishing downstream at the time.

Chris Mumma, executive director of North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, is seeking a new trial, arguing that Carver received an inadequate defense and that key pieces of evidence used to convict him would not stand up to updated testing and new information uncovered in the case. In particular, Mumma claims that far more conclusive testing and reporting of DNA will undermine the prosecution’s contention that Carver’s genetic material was found on Yarmolenko’s car.

She also says Carver’s statements to police indicating that he knew the victim’s height can be challenged by interrogation video – never seen by a jury – that shows he was coached into giving the description by a detective.

In 2016, the Charlotte Observer published “Death by the River,” a six-part series raising questions about Carver’s guilt.

Source: Defense in disputed murder case wants Gaston DA punished for withholding evidence June 14, 2017

Discussion | Proposal Post

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.

Sylvester Davis

Sylvester Davis Jr., was convicted of killing his girlfriend Yamisha Thomas of Columbus.

Davis, 32, was sentenced as a habitual offender to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in the death of Thomas.

Court testimony shows that Davis had been with Thomas on April 23, 2011, the day before she was reported missing. Davis first told Thomas’ mother that he too had been looking for the 30-year-old woman, but he later changed his story.

During an investigation, police recovered Thomas’ abandoned 2006 Chevy Avalanche in Columbus and later noted that Davis had a mark on his face as though he had been in a struggle.

A break in the search for Thomas came when Alabama Bureau of Investigation agents were questioning jail inmate Jerry Wayne Foster, who worked for Davis at a detail shop in Phenix City. Foster told authorities that Davis picked him up on the evening of April 23, went to the Summerplace Drive rental home where the couple once stayed and drove her red Avalanche to a hospital in Columbus.

Davis took Foster to Thomas’ body and sought help to conceal it but he refused. As he walked away, Foster spotted what appeared to be a body wrapped in a sheet. It had feet exposed with toenails painted.

Foster returned to Tuskegee, Ala., where he was to face unrelated felony charges on outstanding warrants. While in the Macon County Jail, he told the ABI agents about a body in Phenix City and said he could lead them to the remains. Thomas’ body was found in a shallow grave on May 23, 2011, in a wooded lot off Third Street South in Phenix City. Her body was beneath a mattress lying on the ground.

Source: News report

Discussion | Proposal Post

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

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.”

Source: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/125/358/722/free-daniel-gwynn-an-innocent-man-on-death-row/

Discussion | Proposal Post

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.

 

 

Jason Sadowski Update

This is a more detailed account of the featured case of Jason David Sadowski, who faces a retrial starting on March 6, 2017.

Update1: A dedicated wordpress site with case information was created on Feb 3, 2017:
https://freecoachjason.wordpress.com/

Update2: Jason was found not guilty on all counts on March 17, 2017.

Two drug addicts, Angel Paris and Becky Bressette, accused Jason of assaulting and torturing them after they admitted stealing money from him, early in the early morning hours of July 2, 2013.

The appeal ruling reversing the 2014 conviction put it this way: “According to the victims, Sadowski essentially turned into a violent, abusive, sword-wielding captor the moment they confessed to taking a relatively minimal amount of money”.

Jason denies the allegations, the defense case (according to the winning appeal brief) is that “the women lied to the police to insulate themselves from arrest for the larceny. He testified the two women fought between themselves in a dispute over returning the stolen money to him, that he never forced them into the basement or bound them to the poles, that he did not physically assault or choke either woman, and did not solicit Ms. Paris to kill Ms. Bressette”.

Angel and Becky told conflicting stories that were contradicted by medical evidence, and there was no evidence to disprove Jason’s version of events other than Angel and Becky’s testimony. Other witnesses who were present corroborated Jason’s version.

Specifically, there are the following apparent lies and contradictions in their stories:

(1) Money stolen from Jason’s wallet.
At trial, Angel testified that she took four dollars, giving two to Becky. However, the first responding police officer testified that Angel informed him that she had stolen three dollars and Becky had taken ten dollars. Becky, on the other hand, testified that Angel took a couple of dollars while Becky grabbed a handful of change.

(2) After the theft.
Angel testified she asked to use the bathroom, confessed to Jason and gave him two dollars back. But Becky testified that only Jason went to the bathroom, and that when he returned he accused them of taking money.

(3) The curtains.
Becky testified that after being hit, she grabbed onto the curtains and pulled them off, but police pictures purported to show those curtains still intact and installed on the window.

(4) The vagina search.
Becky also testified that Jason made her lie on the bed and forced Angel to insert her hand inside of Becky’s vagina at least twice to check if money was hidden there. Angel, however, testified that while Jason wanted them to check each other’s vaginas, they refused.

(5) Duct-taping to poles.
Both victims testified that it was a joint effort of defendants in duct taping them to poles in the basement. But Charles Cope was repeatedly asked if Jason ever touched, hit or threatened Angel or Becky, and responded that did not happen. Then at sentencing he said “Downstairs … that’s all I know, he never touched ’em downstairs. I never seen him hurt ’em.” [ Note that Cope did not testify, so the jury never heard any of this ]

(6) They were taped to the poles for a long time.
Sarah Pietro, Jason’s ex-wife, testified that she was at the gym on the morning in question, the two victims were fine, there was no yelling or screaming, and they did not seem agitated.

(7) Both women were choked.
In Angel’s medical records there is no indication she complained of having been strangled. Dr. Vanderschaff found no physical signs of strangulation, including no neck swelling, hand marks on her neck, or signs of petechiae (broken blood vessels) in her eyes or on her face.

(8) Becky claimed that Jason burned her on the face with a lit cigarette.
Angel testified : while she heard Becky say that he had burned her with a cigarette, she did not see that happen. Dr. Vanderschaff saw no indication of a cigarette burn.

Angel admitted at trial that she had numerous problems in the past with opiate addictions.  On one occasion, Angel assaulted three people then fled in a stolen vehicle. When police arrested her, she lied and said she had been the one that was assaulted and that the stolen vehicle was a misunderstanding. She then plead guilty and was convicted and had to write an apology letter. The judge is not allowing testimony from three witnesses who could testify to this earlier incident in the retrial.

Another witness was with Angel when she asked to be tied up with duct tape before and then asked to raped. Another circumstance is that Becky died of a drug overdose in September 2013, while with Angel, prior to trial.

Sarah Pietro, Jason’s ex-wife and good friend worked as an EMT Paramedic , 9/11 responder, a volunteer until her ambulance rolled over in 2003 and left her a paraplegic. Sarah has hired a lawyer with savings she had, but the money has run out and the attorney she hired is now working pro bono. The court has paid for one expert but won’t pay for anything else, including DNA testing that could conclusively prove Jason to be innocent.

Sarah is doing everything she can to help Jason have a fair retrial on March 6 and has created a support website and a Facebook Page “Free Coach”.

Update: Cope was offered time-served if he would testify against Jason, he refused, was convicted and sentenced to  to 25 to 40 years.

 

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Book Review: “Forensic Science Reform – Protecting the Innocent”

Wrongful Convictions Blog

bower-book

For the last 8 1/2 years, I have been working to ‘help’ overcome the devastating effects that incorrect, bogus, and non-scientific forensics has had on our justice system in producing wrongful convictions.  And I’ve also been writing about it on this blog since its inception.

C.M. (Mike) Bowers has teamed up with Wendy Koen to produce a definitive work addressing many of these issues. Mike is forensic dentist who has been at the forefront of debunking the junk science of bite mark analysis. Wendy Koen is a former attorney with the California Innocence Project. Mike also maintains the website CSIDDS dedicated to promoting truth, reason, logic, and actual science in the discipline of forensics.

The data below from the National Registry of Exonerations shows that false or misleading forensic evidence is a contributing factor in 24% of all the wrongful convictions logged by the registry to date.

nat-reg-exon

This book provides…

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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):

Proposal Post

David Temple’s Alibi

dec282016
David was released from custody on December 28, 2016

The case against David Temple, recently released on bond, appears to be extremely weak, based on not much more than police alleging the scene was staged, and  he had motive and opportunity. At the trial in 2008, according to this report  :

 

DeGuerin’s key witnesses were brothers who lived directly behind Temple’s house.

“I heard a loud boom,” said one of the brothers. “Boom,” said the other.

The Roberts brothers were young boys when they told the police they heard what sounded like a gunshot.

They had started watching the movie “Dr. Doolittle” a little after 4 p.m., and nine years later, they remembered the exact point in the film when they heard that sound.

Using that point as a time reference, the defense figured they heard the boom around 4:30 p.m. And that is a critical time because David and his son, Evan, were seen on that store security video at 4:32 p.m.

“When they heard the gunshot, David Temple was six miles away,” DeGuerin told Schlesinger.

==

But there have been some new developments. One is that in the recent concurrence written by Judge Kevin Patrick Yeary ( source ) which found ineffective assistance of counsel, we find:

On the night of Belinda’s murder, Kenneth [David’s father] had given written statement to the sheriff’s investigators. Asked about the time that Belinda had dropped by his residence to pick up the homemade soup for the ailing ET on her way home, Kenneth maintained that he had gotten home from work at 3:30 pm, “and Belinda arrived about fifteen minutes later at approximately 3:45 PM.” She “visited with us for a few minutes” and then, “I guess it was around 3:55 PM. at the time she left.”

Testimony at trial indicated that the drive from Kenneth’s residence to Applicant and Belinda’s house takes about fifteen minutes. Thus, according to Kenneth’s original estimate, Belinda could not have arrived home much earlier than 4:10 pm. This would have left only a very narrow window of time—ten minutes or so—during which applicant could have forced or coaxed Belinda into the walk-in closet, killed her, potentially changed his clothes, staged a burglary, hustled ET into his truck, and still arrived at the supermarket by 4:32 pm.

..

When Kenneth testified before the grand jury in April of 1999, he gave the same time estimates: Belinda arrived at his house “at 3:45,” and they visited “for a few minutes standing there in the garage.”

“She probably was at my house from 3:45 to 3:55. I think she left about five minutes till 4:00.” He confirmed that the drive from his house to Applicant and Belinda’s home was “[a]bout 15 minutes.”

..

Inexplicably, Kenneth remembered the time-line differently at trial. He claimed once again that he got home at 3:30 pm. Defense counsel asked him to give his first estimate or if you looked at a clock, when did Belinda get there?” Kenneth told jury, “3:32, or close to that. ” A short while later, defense counsel asked, “And then did she leave Kenneth answered, “In minutes. 3: 45 at least.”

==

It seems that the defense have also discovered cell phone evidence, confirming this timeline to be correct:

“If she’s [Belinda Temple] in that parking lot between 3:20 and 3:30 and her cellphone records say she’s there at 3:30 too, then it’s virtually impossible for David Temple to have committed this crime,” Defense attorney Casie Gotro said. “So not only is this evidence beneficial to the defense, but it completely undermines the state’s entire theory of prosecution.”

Source: David Temple’s attorneys claim mountain of evidence will prove his innocence, July 2015

==

Also interesting is this additional evidence that the murder happened around 4:30 p.m in a 2013 blog by By ADA Alan Curry  :

4:25 p.m. The Parkers’ dog was barking and running up and down along the fence line. The Temples’ dog was not barking.
4:30 p.m. Nothing unusual at the Temple home; the Temples’ dog was not barking. A four-door, light-colored sedan with two young men drove quickly out of the neighborhood.

[ Note: Shaka the family dog was locked in the garage, so wouldn’t necessarily be aware of any events, see here. ]

==

Finally, the confusion about when Belinda got home is very evident in Curry’s blog, as it has an impossible timeline:

3:32 p.m. Belinda calls David Temple at their house to say that she is on her way home. After leaving school, Belinda went to her in-laws’ home to pick up some soup, and she left their residence at about 3:45 p.m.

3:45 p.m. Belinda gets home

==

The drive from the in-laws to home is about 15 minutes, and certainly cannot be completed in ZERO time!!

 

 

 

 

 

John Grisham on the State of Criminal Justice

“There are thousands of innocent people in prison serving long sentences for crimes committed by others; that their convictions could have been avoided and the real perpetrators brought to justice; that many segments of our criminal justice system are broken and must be fixed; that untold millions of dollars could be saved by criminal justice reforms, not to mention the avoidance of human suffering; that mass incarceration is not working at any level; that the death penalty is unfairly used; that the use and possession of most drugs should be decriminalized, not legalized; and that most prisons for women should be closed.”

Full article at https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/01/02/john-grisham-on-the-state-of-criminal-justice.

Michael Skakel Update

On October 31, 1975, the body of Martha Moxley, a 15-year-old girl, was found on her family property in the Belle Haven section of Greenwich, Connecticut. Her blue jeans and underpants were pulled down, she had been struck several times in the head with a Toney Penna golf club—so ferociously that the club had shattered into multiple pieces—and then stabbed in the neck with the broken shaft. The club’s handle and part of the shaft were not found.

Martha was last seen alive around 9:30 p.m. the previous day. Based on stomach contents, experts estimated that the time of death was between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.  Barking dogs, Martha’s curfew, and Dorthy Moxley’s testimony that she heard Martha cry out around 10:00 all suggested the murder occurred around 10 p.m (see note 1 below ).

Three witnesses—John Skakel, Jim Terrien, and Rush Skakel Jr. maintained from the first time they were questioned that they had left with Michael to go to  Terriens’ house at 9:30, when Martha was still alive, and had returned at 11:20 ( see note 5 for more about the alibi ).

Thus 15-year-old Michael Skakel was never considered to be a suspect at the time, as he had an alibi confirmed by multiple witnesses. Instead suspicion mostly fell on his older brother Tom, and tutor Kenneth  Littleton, who had moved in to the Skakel house on the day of the murder, however no charges were brought.

Michael Skakel’s father, Rushton Walter Skakel (1923–2003) was the brother of  Ethel Skakel Kennedy, the widow of Senator Robert F. Kennedy (assassinated June 5, 1968), and due to the Kennedy connection the case was heavily publicised, leading to considerable speculation. In 1993, a fictional story closely resembling the Moxley case was published, and in 1998 a book by Mark Fuhrman accused Michael Skakel of the murder. In  June 1998, a one-man grand jury was convened to review the evidence of the case, and after an 18-month investigation, Michael was charged with murder. On  June 7, 2002 after a one-month trial, Michael was found guilty. He was sentenced to 20 years to life.

The conviction rested mainly on an alleged confession made to students at Élan School ( see note 2 below ) where Michael was sent at age seventeen after a drunk driving accident.  The school  practiced a controversial behavior-modification program that relies on peer confrontation. For two years Michael was continually spat upon, slapped, and deprived of sleep. He was serially beaten with hoses and by students wearing boxing gloves, forced to wear a dunce cap and a toilet seat around his neck, and subjected to a long inventory of other tortures. Various students claimed that Michael confessed during this mis-treatment, however these claims were not credible. Unfortunately, owner  Joseph Ricci, who stated as much, died shortly before trial and was unable to testify. See this January 2003 article in The Atlantic ( http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/01/a-miscarriage-of-justice/304759/ ) by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for the details.

In 2003, Gitano “Tony” Bryant, a former classmate of Michael and a cousin of the basketball star Kobe Bryant, came forward with information that he and the two teenagers had been in the exclusive Belle Haven section of Greenwich on Oct. 30, 1975, the night of the murder. Bryant said that he had left early but that the other two stayed behind and told him they wanted to attack a girl “cave-man style.”

Prosecutors said Bryant’s story was not credible, and a judge agreed, however in fact his account is well corroborated by entries in Martha Moxley’s journal. For details see here and notes 3 & 4 below.

Finally in 2013 the conviction was overturned, and Michael was released on bail, however in December 2016 the State Supreme court voted 4-3 to re-instate the conviction.

The majority opinion is available here, it explains :

“Despite their efforts in the years after the murder, including extensive investigations into whether Thomas Skakel or Littleton was involved, the police were unable to connect anyone to the murder and did not make any arrests.”

and makes it clear that any statements made by Michael while at the Elan school cannot possibly be taken as reliable: “he was paddled, assaulted in a boxing ring, and forced to wear a sign that had written on it something to the effect of ‘‘please confront me on the murder of my friend, Martha Moxley . . . .’’

and “These witnesses also stated that the petitioner denied involvement in the victim’s murder, and, when the abuse continued, he parried their accusations by stating that he either did not know or could not recall what happened”.

According to a news report, the Supreme court’s minority opinion was that the lower court was “absolutely correct” in finding that by failing to pursue a third-party liability defense aimed at Thomas Skakel, and the trial attorney did not act as the competent counsel guaranteed by the sixth amendment.

See this Facebook Page ( created 31 December 2016 ) for updates.

Notes

Note 1: Later that night Dorthy went upstairs to paint the trim around some windows. While doing so, she heard a commotion down in the yard, on the side of the house where Martha was killed. “You know, I was aware of voices outside the house that night, and I’m sure that’s when it happened. There were several voices. That is cause for wonder.” from https://www.greenwichsentinel.com/2015/10/30/the-moxley-case-turns-40-with-no-end-in-sight/

Note 2: Wikipedia has details about Élan School for example ” ‘humiliation’ was stated clearly as a therapeutic tool”

and

“In March 2016, Maine State Police announced they had opened a cold case investigation into the death of former Elan resident Phil Williams, who died Dec. 27th, 1982 after participating in Elan’s brutal “ring” where students were forced to fight each other as a means of behavior modification”.

Note 3: See the ruling overturning the conviction (via NyTimes ) for more information. For example from pages 29-30:

The court heard evidence from Margerie Walker Haur, now of Ridgeway, Connecticut, who, as a fifteen year old teenager grew up on Mayo Avenue in Belle Haven, where she had been a close friend of the victim. She testified that she knew Bryant in 1975, and that he and her brother, Neil, had been classmates at the Brunswick School. She indicated that Mills had relayed Bryant’s story to Neil, who, in turn, repeated it to her. She indicated that her brother was frightened by the story and thought they should tell someone about it. Accordingly, she indicated, she related Bryant’s story to Garr in person and to Attorney Sherman by phone before the trial in 2002. Her impression was that neither Garr nor Attorney Sherman seemed interested in the account. In addition to speaking with Garr and Attorney Sherman, she wrote to Dorothy Moxley, the victim’s mother, on May 24, 2002, in which she recounted Bryant’s tale. While Garr denied meeting Walker, and Attorney Sherman stated he had no recollection of such a conversation, the court credits her testimony as accurate and true.

Note 4: News report July 30, 2014 on unidentified hairs:

In April, Seeger requested a court order protecting two unidentified pieces of hair found on sheets used to wrap Moxley’s body, according to court documents. The cataloguing of key hair evidence had been “inconsistent and discombobulated” over the years, Seeger argued, suffering from redundant labeling and weak record-keeping.

The hairs, Seeger said, possess characteristics that match the description of Adolf Hasbrouk and Burton Tinsley, two men named in out-of-court comments by Skakel’s former schoolmate, Gitano “Tony” Bryant, as the true killers of Moxley. Bryant’s claims have been previously dismissed by prosecutors and the courts.

“These hairs are connected to two individuals that have been spoken about by another witness,” said Seeger. “They have African-American and Asian characteristics, and these are hairs that will be instrumental in our third-party culpability motion to the trial.”
The state could not confirm Wednesday whether the evidence remained in its possession.

Note 5: The key habeas alibi witness, Dennis Ossorio. From Page 49 – 54 of https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/809322/skakel.pdf

2. Failure to Adequately Present the Alibi

The petitioner claims that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel on the basis of his assertion that Attorney Sherman failed, adequately, to present his alibi defense.

Specifically, the petitioner claims that Attorney Sherman failed to investigate and then to present the testimony of Dennis Ossorio, an independent witness who would have testified that the petitioner was at the Terrien home, a location approximately twenty minutes distant from the murder site during the time period in which the victim was most likely murdered.
..
At the habeas trial, Dennis Ossorio, now seventy-two years old, testified that in 1975, he, as a psychologist, was operating a program for women. He indicated that he then had a personal connection to Dowdle and that he had been at the Terrien home in the evening hours of October 30, 1975, visiting with Dowdle and her daughter. He testified that, while there, he had visited with the Skakel brothers, including the petitioner, and Terrien, while they were watching the Monty Python show on television. He indicated that he was in and out of the room where the others were watching Monty Python while Dowdle was putting her daughter to bed. Finally, he indicated that he left the Terrien residence at about midnight and was not sure whether the Skakels had left before him. Thus, Ossorio’s testimony supported the petitioner’s claim that during the likely time of the murder, he was away from Belle Haven, as he indicated.

To the court, Ossorio was a disinterested and credible witness with a clear recollection of seeing the petitioner at the Terrien home on the evening in question. He testified credibly that not only was he present in the home with Dowdle and that he saw the petitioner there, but that he lived in the area throughout the time of the trial and would have readily been available to testify if asked. He indicated that while he was aware of the general parameters of the state’s claim against the petitioner, he did not pay close attention to the trial and he did not come forward because he was unaware of the significance of the particular information he possessed.

He indicated that he had not been contacted by Attorney Sherman or by the state in conjunction with the investigation or trial. To the court, Ossorio was a powerful witness in support of the petitioner’s alibi claim.

A Case for Justice Reform in 2017

Wrongful Convictions Blog

The year 2016 will go down as a good one for Freddie Peacock. But because it was so long in coming, it surely must be bittersweet. His story illustrates the slow pace and enormous hurdles in correcting criminal justice miscarriages post-conviction. It also calls on our individual and national conscience to make 2017 the year responsible citizens send the message loud and clear to all public and criminal justice professionals that this nation must replace the mantra of “tough on crime” with “smart on crime.” In the Peacock case we learn many lessons about wrongful conviction rarely delivered so clearly by a federal judge.

In August 2016 U.S. District Judge Michael Telesca awarded Freddie Peacock nearly $6.2 million long after Peacock’s conviction of and imprisonment for a 1976 Rochester (NY) rape he didn’t commit. Peacock had sued the city of Rochester and Rochester police. Judge Telesca’s decisions in May (

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Michael Lambrix’s 2014 appeal

In 2014 Michael Lambrix‘s attorney filed application for leave to file second or successive habeas corpus petition based upon newly discovered evidence establishing innocence. It is an extraordinary document, revealing that:

(1) Michael was told that if he insisted on testifying, which he wished to do, he would be forced to represent himself. Thus he was forced to choose between his right to counsel, and his right to testify. When Michael did testify in 2006, the State was unable to impeach his account of what happened.

(2) The jury had preconceived opinions of Michael’s guilt, and counsel failed to strike jurors who showed bias and prejudice, after being intimidated by the judge.

(3) The defense were not allowed to impeach the State’s main witness Frances Smith, who also lied on the stand by denying that she had been given immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony ( which in any case was inconsistent with the autopsy evidence ).

(4) The State used scare tactics to persuade Deborah Hanzel to give false testimony to corroborate Smith’s testimony.  At a post-conviction hearing, Hanzel testified that her testimony was false, and explained how she had been coerced by lead investigator “Bob” Daniels, who told her that Lambrix would harm her children if she failed to testify.

(5) At a post-conviction hearing, Smith admitted she had a sexual relationship with lead investigator Daniels, who coached her how to testify.

(6) The defense were not allowed to elicit testimony that Clarence Moore  was a career criminal, and had a criminal history that included assaulting women while intoxicated.

In spite of the manifest unfairness of his trial,  Michael’s application for leave to file a successive habeas petition was denied, and he remains on Florida death row, facing imminent execution.

The appeal is available here : http://www.southerninjustice.net/11th-circuit-appeal.html.

A Facebook Page has recently been created to help publicise this obvious injustice.

Rate of false convictions

A 2013 study of false convictions says that Justice Scalia’s estimate was “silly”, conservatively, 4.1% of people sent to death row are innocent,  and the majority of innocent but convicted capital defendants are neither executed nor exonerated.

The report concludes:

“We use survival analysis to model this effect, and estimate that if all death-sentenced defendants remained under sentence of death indefinitely, at least 4.1% would be exonerated. We conclude that this is a conservative estimate of the proportion of false conviction among death sentences in the United States.”

“We do know that the rate of error among death sentences is far greater than Justice Scalia’s reassuring 0.027% (6). That much is apparent directly from the number of death row exonerations that have already occurred. Our research adds the disturbing news that most innocent defendants who have been sentenced to death have not been exonerated, and many—including the great majority of those who have been resentenced to life in prison—probably never will be.”

“This is only part of a disturbing picture. Fewer than half of all defendants who are convicted of capital murder are ever sentenced to death in the first place (e.g., 49.1% in Missouri as in ref. 24, 29% in Philadelphia as in ref. 25, and 31% in New Jersey as in ref. 26). Sentencing juries, like other participants in the process, worry about the execution of innocent defendants. Interviews with jurors who participated in capital sentencing proceedings indicate that lingering doubts about the defendant’s guilt is the strongest available predictor of a sentence of life imprisonment rather than death (27). It follows that the rate of innocence must be higher for convicted capital defendants who are not sentenced to death than for those who are. The net result is that the great majority of innocent defendants who are convicted of capital murder in the United States are neither executed nor exonerated. They are sentenced, or resentenced to prison for life, and then forgotten.”

Read the Study in full here : Rate of false conviction of criminal defendants who are sentenced to death – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

 

 

A science-based blast at Prosecutors’ belief in alchemy, voodoo and bitemarks

FORENSICS and LAW in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends

The Current Issue

Oxford University Press’  Journal of Law and the Biosciences just published an amicus curiae (i.e. friend of the court) anti-bitemark treatise which empirically debunks the recent PCAST deniers such as the National DA Association, the IAI, a ‘congress’ of crime labs, the US Department of Justice and the FBI.

The treatise does a complete look into skin-pattern-matching origins, early case law of its acceptance, judicial scientific mis-conceptions about validity, self-serving assumptions, dozens of exonerations, and ruinous failures in proficiency testing. The parallels to alchemy and voodoo are striking. Recent research into the impossibility of bitemarkers possessing ‘medical certainty’ in court gets special attention.

NOTE: the use of ’empirical’ should be considered facts, peer-reviewed studies, failed reliability testing and data underscoring the false beliefs advertised by the bitemark dentists belonging to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Read about the ‘Bullshit Factor about Bitemarks.’

Here…

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