In July 2018, after serving nearly nearly two decades in prison for a 2000 murder, Xavier Walker won a new trial.
Walker had several alibi witnesses ready to testify that he was at home when Mark Madjak was gunned down in West Garfield Park. Walker, then only 19, also had a witness whom he’d told police had beaten him before he confessed, as well as photographs showing his injuries.
But none of that evidence was brought out by his lawyer at the time, and Walker received a 35-year prison sentence for murder. State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office agreed to vacate his conviction and 35-year sentence, though Walker remained at the Cook County Jail on a no-bond order from Judge Alfredo Maldonado.
Assistant Public Defender Harold Winston said that he did not know whether prosecutors intend to take the case to trial again, but he said that he’s confident the evidence will show Walker is not guilty.
In April 2015, Rodney Franck intervened to stop a brutal assault on 54-year-old Christopher Brewster, who was left in a coma and died in June 2015. Subsequently, the perpetrator of the assault, Spencer Pell, bragged about the attack to more than 10 individuals before giving a voluntary confession to police.
Despite overwhelming evidence that Pell was the assailant, Franck was subsequently charged with murder. His trial is set for August 2018.
Jacob Silva was convicted of the murder of Renee Ramos, whose bruised and beaten body was found June 5, 2000, beneath a pile of insulation at the site of a Home Depot under construction in Manteca, San Joaquin County, California.
Jacob Silva and Renee Ramos were boyfriend and girlfriend. Both 18 years old and living pretty much on the streets, sleeping in cars, parks or friend’s homes.
A 14-year-old when questioned by police, said he witnessed the victim’s rape and murder, but subsequently admitted the story was entirely made up. The prosecution case was that this happened five days earlier. There was no evidence to substantiate boy’s original claim, and forensic examiner John Cooper testified that the victim had only been dead for 1 to 3 days, and it was actually closer to one day than three, contradicting the story.
According to prosecutors, there were as many as five people present at the alleged crime.
Nevertheless, despite the complete lack of evidence to support the prosecution case other than the boy’s original story, and the conflict with the time of death according to Cooper, Jacob Silva was convicted of murder, and another man Ty Lopes was convicted of rape and murder.
Justin Erskine was convicted of first degree murder after being an unwilling witness to murders committed by two other men.
On June 5th 2006, Justin was working for a man named David Hamilton in Dover, Delaware. David was the foreman of the landscaping company Justin was employed with and also a friend. On this day, the weather was bad and both Justin and David took the day off and decided to drive to Baltimore in the company truck. At the time, contained within the truck was a 12-gauge shotgun that David had borrowed from his friend, Matt.
Before leaving for their trip, they visited Matt at his property. Matt asked David if he could obtain some drugs for him, Percocet pills, and David agreed that he would attempt to secure a deal. Matt gave David some money and then both David and Justin left Matt’s home. As they were leaving, David saw two men who he knew could possibly obtain some Percocet pills, the men were Trevor Moncrief and Raymond Ward. Both Trevor and Raymond joined David and Justin in the vehicle and some calls were made by both men to see if the drugs could be obtained.
After a short while driving around, Justin was taken back to Matt’s house by David and Justin remained there until David returned. David explained that the deal he had pursued had been unsuccessful and told Justin and Matt that he thought he had secured a deal via Trevor and Raymond and asked Justin if he would ride with him to make the deal. David felt uncomfortable about going alone and so Justin agreed so as to show support to his friend. All four men, David, Justin, Trevor and Raymond drove to make the deal which turned out to be unsuccessful also.
Eventually, 3 Percocet pills were obtained and the men drove to a gas station. David, Trevor and Raymond went inside while Justin remained in the truck. Shortly after leaving the gas station, David received a call from a friend, Jesus Aviles. David asked the three passengers if they would mind riding with him to a friend’s house and they each agreed.
David vacated the truck alone to speak to Jesus and soon both men returned to the vehicle. David was in the driver’s seat, Jesus by the passenger door and Justin seated in the middle. Directly sat behind David in the back seat was Trevor Moncrief and behind Jesus sat Raymond Ward.
The shotgun was positioned next to David. Jesus asked David if he could see the gun and David obliged and passed over the gun. Justin remained in the middle seat, silent. Once the gun had been passed to Jesus, the men in the back seat knew something wasn’t right and began asking to be let out of the car. Jesus turned around in his seat and began yelling at both men, pointing the shotgun at them; he began shouting at them about money and the fact that they had tried to rob his friend. This continued for around 10-15 minutes. Jesus encouraged the men to plead and told them to pray.
Jesus Aviles then shot Raymond Ward point blank in the head and turned the gun on Trevor Moncrief shooting him in the side of the head. Justin, still sat in the middle, went into shock and couldn’t speak. Jesus began screaming and yelling to be let out of the truck, acting hysterically. David drove Jesus to his mothers, who lived close by.
Before exiting the vehicle, Jesus told both David and Justin,” I know where you live. I know where your family lives. Nobody better say anything about this”.
David immediately called his friend and sister’s boyfriend, Raymond ‘Joey’ Gleaser and told him ,’’I’ve got two I’ve got to get rid of’’ This struck Justin as odd, as though it was a normal practice.
David and Justin drove to David’s sister, Randi’s house and went inside to talk to both her and Joey. Justin was instructed to remain in the vehicle. Justin in complete shock at this point…each movement and conversation felt surreal. Soon, David returned to Justin and the vehicle and took him inside. At this point, David threatened everyone in the room saying ‘If anyone had a problem with what happened he had a loaded shotgun for them too’. As Joey and David held a private discussion, Justin and Randi talked. Randi expressed a deep concern to Justin that she believed the threat that David had made.
Many conversations were held of which Justin held no part over a period of two hours. Soon, David went outside, followed by Justin and Joey. As they stood outside, David heard noises coming from the truck and went to discover that the man who had been sat directly behind him in the vehicle, Trevor Moncrief, was still breathing although in a vegetative state. David issued the instructions that they were all leaving and Justin went to get in the truck with Joey while David returned to his truck where the victims remained. David then came to Joey’s truck to the passenger side, where Justin sat. David told Joey and Justin that Trevor Moncrief was still alive and asked Justin for the butterfly knife he usually carried with him in his bag. David took this knife and returned back to his truck to slit the throat of Trevor Moncrief.
Justin remained in the truck with Joey and didn’t see exactly what happened. Within minutes, David returned back to Justin and Joey and told them that the victim wouldn’t die. Justin responded ‘’Please just hurry up I want to get out of here’’.
Justin just 18 at the time, having witnessed two men brutally murdered just inches away from where he sat, and then receiving threats on his life from both Jesus and David, was desperately trying not to antagonise the situation or David any further.
Joey vacated the vehicle and reached into the bed of the truck into the toolbox he kept there to obtain something, Justin was unaware of what that was, then both Joey and David retuned to the truck with the victims and Justin observed both men reach inside. David told Joey and Justin that they needed to get rid of the bodies and so they drove to Goldsboro, Maryland to some property owned by Joey’s mother. After finding an appropriate location to bury the victims, David dug two holes.
David instructed Justin to help him carry one of the victims to a hole, Justin did this but then refused to help any further. The three men left the property early morning on June 6th, Joey returned home to burn any evidence and David took Justin back to his friend, Matt’s house where Matt gave Justin a ride home. David explained to Matt what had happened and returned his shotgun, telling him to clean the weapon. David returned the truck to the owner of the landscaping company, Bradford Yaeger.
David explained what had happened but said he acted in self- defence after Trevor and Raymond had tried to rob him. David did not mention Jesus Aviles’s involvement and said that Justin had nothing to do with it either.
This story was then repeated in the presence of a neighbour friend of Bradford Yaeger’s who consequently informed the police.
The police arrested David and he admitted to killing both men, he also showed the police where he buried the bodies. David made a statement that said Justin was in no way involved with the death of either man. The police took Justin in for questioning. Justin gave a statement but, like David had, failed to mention Jesus Aviles involvement for fear of his own life and that of his family.
Seven and a half month later, Justin felt compelled to talk to the police again and contacted them himself to go and give them a new statement that told of Jesus Avile’s role in the murders.
A couple of month after this, the police arrested Joey, Matt and Justin.
Justin was arrested and charged with First Degree Murder, Possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, Conspiracy 1st, Conspiracy 2nd and Tampering with physical evidence on March 21st 2007. Justin was held in custody for 18 months while the case went to trial on September 29th 2008.
The prosecution offered David a plea bargain and used the strategy that Justin had encouraged the murder by ‘giving’ David the butterfly knife that killed Trevor Moncrief, they also used a statement given to the police to say that Justin supported the murders when he had told David to ‘Hurry up because he wanted to get out of there’.
The prosecution used this comment as ‘Instruction to murder’. David took a plea bargain and was charged with Second Degree Murder and sentenced to 15 years.
Justin’s lawyers presented a duress defence. The judge in the trial gave the instruction to the jury of the exceptions for a duress defence, where it would fail, but did not give instructions to exceptions to which accomplice liability could be applied. The judge failed to give the jury a complete and accurate statement of the law under Section 11. Del.C 274 which requires a jury to independently assess the state of mind and culpability for any aggravating circumstances when making a determination as to guilt or innocence of the crime charged. A conviction of accomplice shouldn’t be passed as, the outcome-death of the victim- would have been the same.
The jury actually expressed frustration in its inability to assess Justin’s mental state and although passed a conviction, because of the’letter of the law’ wrote the judge a letter to ask for parole and leniency. The jury felt that a lengthy sentence would be pointless, unjust and inappropriate:
The expert witness that testified in Justin’s trial, Dr Mechanick assessed Justin and found that he acted under duress. The prosecutor commented that this witness was ‘bought and paid for’ amongst several other comments that should have been cited a prosecutorial misconduct. Although the judge commented that he had never heard a prosecutor pass a comment about a defence witness being ‘bought and paid for’ he asked only that the jury disregard the comment, making no other instruction for the other improper comments voiced by the prosecution. These comments should not be considered harmless. The doctor’s testimony was central to Justin’s case and his duress defence.
The only evidence used against Justin in this trial was the co-defendant testimony and police interviews. No physical evidence was present that indicated Justin had anything to do with the death of either victim. Both David and Jesus took plea bargains and received reduced sentences and lesser charges despite their involvement and actions being axiomatic in the murders of Trevor Moncrief and Raymond Ward.
Justin was convicted of First Degree Murder under accomplice liability and sentenced to Natural Life without the possibility of parole. He is currently incarcerated at James T Vaughn Correctional Center in Delaware.
Vernon Bateman was accused, with two others, of holding a woman at gunpoint in the early morning hours of January 23, 1998, and sexually assaulting her.
However (according to a petition) the Doctor who examined her could find no signs to confirm her story, and the rape kit was mysteriously lost.
The woman initially failed to attend court in September 1998, but after a continuance was granted, did eventually identify Vernon as one of her assailants.
Following the trial, the woman gave a taped statement, gave a sworn statement, and wrote a letter to the Lake County Prosecutor, in each of which she recanted her trial testimony and indicated that she could not positively identify Bateman as one of the men who raped her and that Corporal Mary Banks had coached her into selecting his picture from the photo array. However the woman re-affirmed her identification in 2008 at an evidentiary hearing, saying that she lied in her statement to Vernon’s PCR counsel.
Bobby Montague was wrongly convicted of a 1999 murder based on informant testimony and a false confession. Bobby, age 18, was with his girlfriend at the time of the crime.
According to an appeal ruling, the defense argued that “the trial court erroneously admitted his confession in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, refused to instruct the jury it could request read back of testimony, admitted anonymous handwritten rap lyrics and a photograph album found in appellant’s room. He also argues the prosecutor’s late disclosures of a witness’s background as a police informant violated appellant’s constitutional and statutory discovery rights”, however the appeal was denied.
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.
On May 11, 1995, Jermaine was accused of shooting and killing Ernesto Flores, a prominent member of the Mesa Locos gang. Jermaine consistently maintained that he did not shoot and kill Ernesto. Despite passing a polygraph examination prior to trial and despite the exceedingly unreliable eyewitnesses who claimed that they saw him shoot Flores, he was convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The trial judge gave him a sentence of 29 years-to-life.
Jermaine’s claims of innocence fell on deaf ears until an unlikely ally appeared. It all started in 2001 when an Oceanside Police Department homicide detective inadvertently stumbled upon evidence that Jermaine was, in fact, not the shooter in the Flores murder. At the time, the detective was working on an unrelated homicide. During the course of her investigation, she came into contact with several people who said that Jermaine was locked up for a crime he did not do. In 2005, she began looking further into Jermaine’s case. Her supervising Lieutenant told her to leave the matter alone and shot down her pleas to reinvestigate Jermaine’s case. Undeterred and convinced of Jermaine’s innocence, the detective went directly to the original prosecutor and investigating officers in the hopes that someone would do the right thing. Unfortunately, the original prosecutor and investigating officers were defensive and nothing ever came of these efforts.
Still undeterred and in an effort to set the record straight and do the right thing, the detective dedicated the next several years to uncovering the truth about the murder. She interviewed several witnesses who told her who the real shooter was. Further, the critical eyewitnesses against Jermaine admitted they lied at his trial. In 2008, the detective presented the case to the California Innocence Project, shortly before her retirement. Since that time, both she and the California Innocence Project have jointly investigated Jermaine’s case and uncovered further evidence of innocence. Jermaine will soon be presenting his case to the courts.
In 2011, seventeen-year-old, DeShon Thomas, was a full-time freshman at Tallahassee Community College seeking an Associate in Arts Degree in Paralegal Studies. DeShon also worked part-time at Taco Bell. He was also a former boyfriend of Laqecia Herring (possible father of her unborn baby).
In Tallahassee, Florida, on January 27, 2011, Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell opened up an investigation into the double homicide of 20-year-old, Laqecia Herring, and her brother, 17-year-old, Sterling Conner Jr. Both victims were found murdered in the living-room of the townhouse that they shared with their mother and other siblings—including Ms. Herring’s toddler daughter. Ms. Herring was pregnant at the time of her murder.#
On October 18, 2013, DeShon Thomas was convicted on Two Counts of 1st Degree Murder and Solicitation to Commit 1st Degree Murder.
There was no evidence connecting DeShon to the murders. The one witness testimony that the prosecutor needed was that of DeShon’s former co-worker/friend who had been manipulated by officials. Feeling defeated, on December 17, 2013, DeShon pled “No Contest” to Possession of a Firearm by a Juvenile Delinquent (a gun that had nothing to do with the murders, was obtained illegally, and was not in Deshon’s possession).
On April 26, 2017, DeShon (Pro Se) filed for Post-Conviction Relief. On May 1, 2017, a judge ordered the State Attorney’s Office to show cause why an evidentiary hearing should not be held—giving the State Attorney’s Office 60 days to respond. In June 2017, an evidentiary hearing was granted.
DeShon wrote to his mother asking her to find an attorney to argue his case. She in turn promised him that she would do her best. Today, DeShon’s mother is asking for any assistance in helping DeShon regain his freedom.
In July 2016, Cook County Judge Domenica A. Stephenson vacated the murder convictions of Charles Johnson, 39, and Larod Styles, 36, who, as teenagers, received life sentences in the December 1995 deaths of Yousef Ali and Khalid Ibrahim. Both men were fatally shot during a robbery at Elegant Auto Sales at 75th and Western.
After eight years of legal wrangling, which included an appellate court decision in their favor, attorneys representing the men said the day would not be possible if Illinois weren’t the only state in the nation to allow post-conviction fingerprint testing for defendants.
Matching fingerprints were found on a car at the used car lot and on the adhesive side of a price sticker that was torn off of one of two cars that was stolen from the lot, said defense attorney Steven Drizin, of Northwestern University’s Center On Wrongful Convictions.
The same prints were also found on the stolen cars themselves — which were abandoned about five miles from the crime scene. And the kicker, defense attorneys claim, is the fact that the fingerprints, when run through a law enforcement data base that was not available to detectives at the time of the original investigation, returned a match: a man with a lengthy criminal record who lives a short walk from where the stolen cars were found. According to a source, the man has since been interviewed by investigators.
“We are here today because we were able to use that database to not only exclude our clients . . . but to match those fingerprints to one person in particular who has nothing to do with our clients,” said Drizin, who discounted confessions the men gave to police.
In September 2016, Charles Johnson was freed on $50,000 bond, Styles was unable to post bond. Cook County prosecutors said they will retry both Johnson and Styles.
Anthony DiPippo and Andrew Krivak were arrested in July 1996 after DiPippo’s ex-girlfriend, Denise Rose, claimed she had been with them in a van and saw them rape and kill Josette Wright. She told police the men gagged Wright with her underwear and dropped her body off in the woods in Fields Lane in Patterson, which was where police had found her remains. DiPippo and Krivak were both found guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree rape in 1997. Krivak is serving a 25-to-life sentence in state prison and isn’t eligible for parole until 2021. DiPippo was acquitted by a jury after three trials in October 2016.
Krivak signed a lengthy statement in which he admitted raping Josette but not killing her and implicating DiPippo in the murder. Krivak did not testify at his own trial but has always insisted he fabricated the confession under pressure from the investigators.
In September 2016, Krivak filed to introduce the new evidence that led to DiPippo’s acquittal. “New evidence shows that Krivak is likely innocent of the crimes, that false evidence was used at his trial and that he deserves a new trial,” one of his lawyers, Adele Bernhard, wrote in court papers. Bernhard, a former Pace Law School professor, teaches at New York Law School, where she supervises the Post-Conviction Innocence Clinic.
Krivak’s filing relied on several of the details that got DiPippo his new trial — particularly that Putnam sheriff investigators coerced witnesses and that a Connecticut sex offender, Howard Gombert, is Josette’s killer and implicated himself in statements made to a fellow inmate in 2011. At DiPippo’s trial on in September 2016, Joseph Santoro testified as a defense witness how Gombert claimed to have sex with Josette at the time she disappeared and that he suggested he had gotten away with murder because two “suckers” were convicted.
On Tuesday December 20, 2016 Krivak’s motion was denied by State Supreme Court Justice Victor Alfieri, who said Krivak and DiPippo’s cases are different, and the new evidence isn’t likely to change the verdict because of Krivak’s “detailed, voluntary confession” to the police after his arrest in 1996.
Krivak’s attorney, Adele Bernhard, called the judge’s ruling “surprising” and “disappointing.”, and said that Krivak’s confession has “the hallmarks of a false confession.” The new evidence, his lawyers say, points to Howard Gombert, who is serving time in Connecticut for sexual assault, as the girl’s likely killer, not Krivak and DiPippo, who were convicted of the crime in separate trials in 1997.
“One of the things the police are supposed to do in trying to get them to confess is to get them to talk about evidence that isn’t already known,” Bernhard said. “So for example, if they can get the suspect to say the victim was wearing purple underwear and no one knows that except police. But everything in the alleged confession was already known from the crime scene.”
Bernhard said the defense team will file an appeal of the judge’s decision early in 2017.
“We’re going to ask the appellate division to review the judge’s decision, and I’m sure that they will,” she said. “We just want to give the jury an opportunity to consider all the evidence. The jury didn’t get to do that.”
The Putnam Sheriff’s Investigator, Daniel Stevens, that helped secure Krivak’s disputed confession through the use of a lie detector was the same detective that gave Jeffrey Deskovic the lie detector test that preceded his false coerced confession. Deskovic was exonerated by DNA evidence and the taped confession of the actual perpetrator.
Walif Smith was convicted in 1994 for a 1990 murder he did not commit. Walif was convicted solely on the testimony of one witness. The witness has given written affidavits and taken a polygraph saying that his original testimonies were false. Thus there is now no witness, no physical evidence, no DNA, no motive, in fact nothing tying him to the crime. Yet Walif is currently serving a 30-year to life sentence for a crime he had no part in.
Walif was aged just 14 at the time of the alleged murder. Walif was arrested three years later. Police stated that that the gun that was used in the murder was found in North Carolina. The gun was used in another murder in North Carolina by an older man who lived in the same neighborhood as Walif at the time of the murder.
Exculpatory evidence was not presented at Walif’s trial. There is new evidence in the case the main witness has recanted saying that he made false statements to get a reduced sentence.
Wrongfully Convicted Of Murder Although His Mother & Siblings Swear He Was At Home With Them Doing Time Of Shooting Incident That Took A Young Girls Life
My name is Trevin Gamble. I was wrongfully accused of being involved in a shooting back in 1993 that resulted in a young girl’s life being taken. The shooting was triggered by a gang rivalry between kids from my neighborhood and the neighborhood several blocks away.
I have always maintained my innocence. I had no involvement in the crime that took place that I have been convicted of, nor did I have any foreknowledge that the events were going to take place. I was home with my mother and siblings the night of this incident.
I was arrested with 3 older guys from my neighborhood and accused to have been with them when the shooting took place. Each of my co-defendants were older than I but I believe, because the state did not have a good case against my co-defendants, their plan all along was to use me against them. One of my co-defendant’s, Kevin Smith, was nearly 20 years old, had served several years in the penitentiary already, and since his release…had been implicated in a number of crimes including murder. Kevin was who they really wanted. The police had been wanting to send Kevin back to prison since his release.
There was no physical evidence connecting me to the shooting. The shooting incident happened at nearly midnight. I was at home with my mother and siblings, and no where near where the crime I am locked up for took place. My family members who were present that night all attested to the fact I had not been gone away from the house during the time the shooting allegedly occurred.
The primary evidence used to connect me to the crime was the testimony of a witness that knew me from the neighborhood. The incident occurred during the wee hours of the night. It was pitch dark and there was bad lighting. The shooters were allegedly shooting from the shadows of a dark vacant lot which sat approximately 50-60 ft from where the victim was struck. I am a very dark-skinned individual – there is no way someone could positively identify me from 50 fee away at midnight! There were approximately 20 people lingering around the street when the shots were fired and none of the witnesses positively identified me as the shooter but the one girl who misidentified me. Moreover, there were numerous individuals standing out with the victim when the shots were fired. People that knew me personally, yet none of them placed me on the crime scene.
I have served 22 years of a JLWOP sentence. Recently the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole has to allow juveniles sentenced to life parole eligibility after serving 25 years. Recently, the Governor signed this new legislation into law. As a result of this, I do have some hope of maybe regaining my freedom in the not too distant future.
Nevertheless, I am innocent!!! I was not involved in the crime I was accused and ultimately convicted of. I have exhausted my appeals, but not my resolve of proving my innocence. Currently, I do not have legal representation and my family no longer has funds to help me retain an lawyer. I am seeking “pro bono” assistance to challenge my case on the basis that I am innocent!
17 year old Lamonte McIntyre was wrongfully imprisoned for a 1994 double murder. Attorney Cheryl Pilate is fighting to exonerate Lamonte with the help of Centurion Ministries, a national innocence project that fights to free the wrongfully convicted.
At trial, there was no gun, no motive, no evidence that McIntyre knew the victims. No fingerprints from the shotgun shell casings left at the scene. No blood-spattered shoes, socks, pants or shirt. No physical evidence of any kind linking McIntyre to the crime.
There were two eyewitnesses to the murder. Ruby Mitchell told police she thought it was “Lamonte something” – who would come by to talk to her niece. This led the police to Lamonte Mcintyre, however he was not the person she was referring to. When Mitchell informed the prosecutor, he threatened to have her children taken away.
The other witness Niko Quinn has now signed an affidavit stating that McIntyre was not the killer.
Pilate, in her recently filed motion, maintains that lead detective Golubski manipulated facts and witnesses leading to the false identification of McIntyre. She maintains that throughout the investigation and trial, two chief players — the lead detective and an assistant Wyandotte County prosecutor — not only “failed to seek the truth” but also “consistently subverted and concealed the truth — manufacturing evidence and presenting testimony that they knew to be false.”
More than 15 affidavits — from criminals and their cronies to police — point to the detective, Roger Golubski, who retired as a captain in 2010 after 35 years on the force. Using terms like “crooked” and “dirty,” the sworn statements speak of a detective who preyed on black women, some of them prostitutes, using his access to illegal drugs and the power of his badge.
In 2002, Innocence Project client Joseph Buffey pleaded guilty to the rape and robbery of an elderly woman in Harrison County, West Virginia.
Six weeks prior to the final plea hearing, the state crime lab completed DNA testing that excluded Buffey as the perpetrator—but prosecutors never gave the report to either Buffey or his lawyer.
In 2012 when lawyers won the right to retest the DNA found inside the victim, the results produced a match, but it wasn’t Buffey’s. It belonged to a man named Adam Bowers who was 16 at the time of the attack and lived a few blocks from the victim.Bowers was found guilty in May of 2013 but, instead of releasing Buffey, prosecutors argued that Bowers and Buffey both committed the crime, despite the victims’s testimony that she was attacked by only one man.
Buffey was told he would likely receive a 15-year sentence, but if he didn’t confess he could get 300 years. When the sentence was handed down, it was a crushing blow: 70 to 110 years in a tiny prison cell.
Buffey confessed that he “broke into this old lady’s house” after nine hours of interrogations without food. Within minutes he took it back but it was too late. “You really want to know the truth?” the 19-year-old can be heard saying on tape. “I didn’t do it. I made up a story (because you were) breathing down my neck, telling me I did it.”
Starting on October 11th, 2016, a team of West Virginia and Innocence Project lawyers will be in court with Buffey, backed by science and the facts of the case, to fight for the verdict he deserves: not guilty.
Michael Politte was only fourteen years old when he was accused of murdering his mother, Rita Politte. Michael and a friend were asleep in his home on December 5, 1998, when the two boys woke up and discovered that smoke was filling the trailer. Michael and his friend ran out of the room and discovered his mother’s body on fire in the doorway to her bedroom. After the fire was extinguished, police arrived, and suspicion for the crime swiftly shifted to Michael. Interrogated just hours later, Michael never had a moment to grieve his mother, as he’s been fighting for his freedom ever since.
In 2002, Michael was falsely convicted of the crime largely based on unreliable fire-identification methods. At trial, the fire marshal testified, based on a visual examination, that the fire pattern and burn damage on and around the victim indicated that a liquid accelerant had been used. Additionally, an analyst testified that Michael’s shoes tested positive for gasoline, thereby tying the accelerant allegedly found on Michael’s shoes to the accelerant they believed had been used at the crime scene. Michael and his friends had previously been known to fill up their free-time in their small, rural town playing with homemade firecrackers, which the prosecution twisted to imply that Michael would have chosen fire as a means to kill his mother, despite any clear motive.
Michael is innocent. There is no physical evidence connecting him to the crime scene, and MIP has uncovered new evidence regarding the fire science used to convict him. This evidence not only supports Michael’s innocence, but further indicates that Rita’s killer is still free. Although several alternative suspects were at play during the initial investigation of the case, with much greater motive than the victim’s own 14-year old son, none were fully investigated by police. Michael’s release would be the first step to giving Michael, his sisters, and the rest of his family long-awaited closure.
Michael Politte is currently represented by MIP and the law firm of Langdon and Emison.
Dylan Yang was a 15 year old Wausau High School student when he and some friends got into an argument on Facebook. Sometime after this argument, a vehicle drove up to the front of Dylan’s home, driven by a 19 year old girl. Dylan and two of his friends were standing on the front porch of their home and one of the boys in the car, a 13 year old named Isiah Powell, shot at them with a BB gun, which was later recovered at the scene. In addition to the driver and Powell, there were six other people in the car. Some of the occupants of the car were carrying knives.
When the occupants of the car began fighting with one of Dylan’s friends, Dylan ran into the house and got a kitchen knife. When he returned to see where his friends were, he saw his friend wrestling with the shooter, 13 year old Isiah Powell, on the pavement. Dylan then stabbed Powell twice in the back with the kitchen knife, Powell released Dylan’s friend, and all three boys ran into the house. The driver of the car drove Powell to the local hospital where he would later die of his wounds.
Dylan turned himself into authorities after the incident and was interrogated without an adult or attorney present.
At trial, the defense argued Yang stabbed Powell to protect his own life and the life of his friend because he believed Powell’s gun was real. The prosecution argued Yang stabbed Powell because he felt he was disrespecting him.
In March 2016, Dylan was convicted of first degree reckless homicide.
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.”
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.