After 15 years, Ex-lawyer Branded as Child Molester Wins a Reversal

December 06, 2017

By Aimee Green

agreen@oregonian.com

The Oregonian/OregonLive
 

The Oregon Court of Appeals on Wednesday reversed the conviction of a former lawyer who was found guilty in 2002 of sexually touching a 10-year-old girl in the kitchen of a McMinnville home, in a case riddled with questionable evidence.
 

Although Bradley Christopher Holbrook has already served a 6 ¼-year prison sentence, the reversal means he will no longer be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and carry that stigma. It also means that he won’t be a convicted felon anymore and could reinstate his law license.
 

That’s if the state of Oregon decides against appealing Wednesday's ruling to the Oregon Supreme Court. And if the Yamhill County District Attorney’s Office -- which originally prosecuted him -- doesn’t decide to pursue a conviction again in a new trial.
 

Holbrook said he is elated by the Appeals Court’s decision.

“I’m just trying to grasp it all, process it all,” said Holbrook, 50. “It’s been a long battle. … I wish this on no one. It destroys every aspect of a person’s life.”
 

Holbrook has been appealing his first-degree sexual abuse conviction for 15 years.
 

In 1999, Holbrook was 32 when police arrested him after the 10-year-old girl told her mom and later child-abuse investigators that Holbrook had brushed up against her vaginal area and buttocks while she was clothed. There were no witnesses -- and it was the girl's account versus his.

A Dubious Arrest, a Compromised Prosecutor, a Tainted Plea:  How One Murder Case Exposes a Broken System

December 04, 2017

One innocent man’s odyssey through the justice system shows the cascading, and enduring, effects of a bad conviction.

ProPublica Illinois
by Megan Rose

The case of Demetrius Smith reads like a preposterous legal thriller: dubious arrests, two lying prostitutes, prosecutorial fouls and a judge who backpedaled out of a deal.
 

It also delivers a primer on why defendants often agree to virtually inescapable plea deals for crimes they didn’t commit.

ProPublica has spent the past year exploring wrongful convictions and the tools prosecutors use to avoid admitting mistakes, including an arcane deal known as an Alford plea that allows defendants to maintain their innocence while still pleading guilty. Earlier this year, we examined a dozen such cases in Baltimore.
 

Smith’s troubling ordeal, Alford plea included, is a road map of nearly every way the justice system breaks down — and how easily a cascade of bad outcomes can be triggered by one small miscarriage of justice. For Smith, a young black man in Baltimore, it started with a questionable collar. Nine years later he’s still struggling to clear his name.

 

The Arrest
 

Smith’s saga began in the summer of 2008 in the low-income, high-crime neighborhood in southwest Baltimore where he lived. A man named Robert Long had been shot twice in the head execution-style that March. Long was a cooperating witness in a police investigation, and the killing had all the makings of a hit.
 

A man and a female prostitute both claimed to have seen the murder and fingered Smith. At the time, Smith was 25 and had a record of minor drug and assault offenses. When he was arrested about three months after the murder, Smith was adamant that he had nothing to do with it.

Man in Jail for 50 Years to Walk Free After Rape Case Tossed

November 14, 2017

New York Post
By Associated Press 
 

BATON ROUGE, La. — A Louisiana man who has spent nearly 50 years in prison is expected to be released Wednesday, about two weeks after a judge overturned his conviction in the kidnapping and rape of a nurse.
 

Wilbert Jones didn’t show any visible reaction when state District Judge Richard Anderson set his bail Tuesday at a mere $2,000. The judge previously said the case against Jones was “weak, at best” and that authorities withheld evidence that could have exonerated Jones decades ago.
 

Jones’ family members embraced one another and fought back tears outside the courtroom. Jones’ niece Wajeedah Jones said she already knew what her uncle’s first request would be.

What Does an Innocent Man Have to Do to Go Free? Plead Guilty.

September 07, 2017

A case in Baltimore — in which two men were convicted of the same murder and cleared by DNA 20 years later — shows how far prosecutors will go to preserve a conviction.

This story was co-published with The Atlantic.
 

On Oct. 15, 2008, James Owens shuffled, head high despite his shackles, into a Baltimore courtroom, eager for his new trial to begin. Two decades into a life sentence, he would finally have his chance to prove what he’d been saying all along: The state had the wrong man.

Owens had been convicted of murdering a 24-year-old college student, who was found raped and stabbed in her home. Then he’d been shunted off to state prison until DNA testing — the scientific marvel that he’d watched for years free other men — finally caught up with his case in 2006. The semen that had been found inside the victim wasn’t his. A Maryland court tossed his conviction and granted Owens a rare do-over trial.

State prosecutors balked, insisting they still had enough evidence to keep Owens locked away and vowed to retry him. But they had also offered him an unusual deal. He could guarantee his immediate release from prison with no retrial and no danger of a new conviction — if he’d agree to plead guilty. The deal, known as an Alford plea, came with what seemed like an additional carrot: Despite pleading guilty, the Alford plea would allow Owens to say on the record that he was innocent. The Alford plea was an enticing chance for Owens, by then 43, to move on as a free man. But he’d give up a chance at exoneration. To the world, and legally, he’d still be a killer.

Owens refused the deal. He told his lawyer he wanted to clear his name, and he was willing to take his chances in court and wait in prison however long it took for a new trial to begin. It was a startling choice for an incarcerated defendant — even those with persuasive stories of innocence typically don’t trust the system enough to roll the dice again with 12 jurors or an appellate court. Most defendants, lawyers say, instinctively and rationally, grab any deal they can to win their freedom back.
 

The decision cost Owens 16 more months behind bars. Then, on that fall day in 2008, when the trial was set to begin, the prosecutor stood and, without a glance at Owens, told the judge, “The state declines to prosecute.”

In a legal gamble in which the prosecution typically holds the winning cards, Owens had called the state’s bluff. He walked out that day exonerated — and with the right to sue the state for the 21 years he spent wrongly imprisoned.

A History of US Citizens Wrongfully Convicted by The Judicial System

September 06, 2017

Juris Office
Blog

 

The number of US citizens that have been convicted of crimes they didn’t commit is staggering.

There are currently 2,086 exonerated convictions, totaling over 18,060 lost years and an unknowable number of innocent people ripped apart from loved ones. Lives have been destroyed and in some cases people have died behind bars, all the while knowing that they are innocent.

We take a look at a number of exonerated cases, the length of sentence given and the length of time served. In some cases, innocent people served longer than they were sentenced. A number of these cases spent years on death row, never truly knowing when they would die. These were innocent people let down by the judicial system built to protect them.

We explore a number of these incredible stories beneath our infographic in more detail.
Follow Read Story HERE link to see statistics presented in this story.

Why Do Prosecutors Go After Innocent People?

August 24, 2017

The Washington Post
By John Pfaff
Original Publication Date 1/21/16

John Pfaff is a professor of law at the Fordham University School of Law in New York City. His research focuses on explaining the causes of mass incarceration, especially the central role prosecutors have played in the process.  

When people think about how our criminal justice system tries to avoid convicting innocent people, they probably think of the second half-hour of a “Law & Order” episode: defense attorneys making motions to thwart the prosecutor, jurors furrowing their brows as they wonder whether the state really has met the high standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

But that’s not reality. In real life, once a prosecutor decides to file felony charges against a defendant, that defendant will almost certainly be convicted — and local prosecutors have a strong incentive to file, likely thanks in no small part to electoral pressures.

study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics looking at urban defendants in state courts found that in 2009, 66 percent of those charged with felonies were convicted, while only one percent were acquitted. The vast majority of those convicted plead guilty instead of going to trial. This means that the last real chance to avoid a wrongful conviction actually occurs at the screening stage, when the prosecutor decides whether to file charges in the first place. And screening is an important part of the process. That same BJS report found that over a third of all cases were dismissed, diverted, or deferred, with almost all of those being dismissed.
 

We’d like to think that the high conviction rate reflects really good screening, that prosecutors file charges only against those they know are guilty. But nearly 160 death row inmates have been exonerated since the 1970s, and the National Registry of Exonerations — which surely captures only a small fraction of wrongful convictions — runs to more than 1,600 at this point. A study in 1997 (sadly, the most recent of its kind) found that more than 65,000 inmates in state prisons that year had taken “Alford pleas,” which involve pleading guilty while maintaining innocence on the grounds that it is simply too risky to go to trial. Of course, not every Alford defendant is innocent — but then, not every innocent defendant takes an Alford plea.

Clearly, prosecutors do file charges against innocent defendants. The instances that receive media attention tend to be intentionally wrongful, those where the evidence of innocence is overwhelming but prosecutors storm ahead anyway, out of malice or blind ambition

Judge awards $2M to Wrongfully Convicted Men under New Law

August 16, 2017

Michigan News

By Emily Lawler
 

DETROIT, MI - Two men who served years in prison only to be later found innocent will receive the first-ever compensation for their experiences under a new Michigan law, a Court of Claims judge ruled Wednesday.  

Gov. Rick Snyder signed the law, which makes wrongfully imprisoned people eligible for compensation of $50,000 per year, in December of last year.  

The first cases under the new law came before the Court of Appeals on Wednesday. Judge Michael Talbot awarded close to $2 million in the first two people to successfully seek compensation under the new law, and dismissed a third case he ruled did not meet the statutory requirements.  

Edward George Carter won a settlement of $1.76 million after spending 35 years in prison for the robbery and sexual assault of a pregnant woman at Wayne State University in 1974.  

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, new evidence uncovered by an attorney at the University of Michigan Clinical Law program found that his original attorney had not requested an analysis of fingerprints at the scene, pointed out the semen collected was of a different blood type than Carter's or noted a record indicating Carter was actually in police custody at the time of the crime.  

Amanda Knox on Life After Wrongful Conviction

August 10, 2017

Rolling Stone

By Danielle Bacher

August 10, 2017

Amanda Knox's bright blue eyes widen in confusion. She takes a deep breath and drops her palms to her long, lemon-hued skirt. The 30-year-old glances about the conference room at the W Hollywood hotel, as cameras flash all about her. Moments like this take her back inside the packed courtroom, nearly overcoming her with anxiety. She gently squeezes the hand of her boyfriend, writer Christopher Robinson, whom she met in the summer of 2015 after her final acquittal in Italy's highest court. The two live together in Seattle and enjoy traveling to Europe, although Knox understandably hasn't returned to Italy. 
 

Attorneys stream into the building for Knox's seminar organized by the Westside Bar Association. The lights dim. A brief segment of last year's highly publicized Netflix documentary Amanda Knox plays for the audience. "I think people love monsters," she says in the clip. "And so when they get the chance, they want to see them." Looking away from the screen, Knox closes her eyes to block the tears.
 

In March 2015, Knox was exonerated of the 2007 murder of her housemate Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. When she was arrested, at just 20 years old, she had never been so far away from home. She was studying Italian, reading poetry, picking fruit in the garden and sunbathing on the terrace in the fall. However, on November 1st, 2007, someone broke into the apartment that Knox shared with three other students, and raped and murdered Kercher. Acquaintance Rudy Guede was convicted of the crime and is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence, yet the Italian government and international media went at her with all the vitriol they could muster.

Knox was astonished that the prosecutors, investigators, newspapers and the public were focusing on her and Raffaele Sollecito, her then-boyfriend of five days, as suspects for the crime. In 2009, they were both convicted of sexual assault and murder. She was sentenced to 26 years in prison – and he to 25 – but both convictions were overturned in 2011. The prosecution appealed, and in 2013 they were retried for the same murder and found guilty again. The verdict overturned after another appeal, and the two were eventually acquitted in 2015. "I was the lucky one, because what happened to Meredith could have easily happened to me," she says.

High school bonds forged again, after years lost to wrongful conviction: Jeffrey Deskovic

July 23, 2017

lohud
Part of the USA Today Network

Recently the Peekskill High School Class of 1992 held a 25th reunion celebration. Misgivings and anticipation filled me. Should I go? I didn’t graduate with my class. Before the conclusion of my sophomore year, I had been falsely convicted of the rape and murder of our classmate. My public vilification was facilitated by the fact that at just 16, in fear of my life while also trusting the lies of the police that I was not going to be arrested, I falsely confessed. 


After 16 years of wrongful imprisonment, which included seven lost appeals and being turned down for parole, I was exonerated by DNA testing that identified the actual perpetrator.

Since then, my nonprofit has freed six people; my advocacy has contributed to changes in the law to require videotaping of interrogations and better identification procedures; and along with other advocates I am trying to get a bill passed that would create a Commission on Prosecutor Conduct. I obtained a master's degree, and I recently completed my first year of law school at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.

Military appeals court drops sexual misconduct conviction of former Air Force drill sergeant

July 21, 2017

The Washington Times

By Rowan Scarborough 

 

A military appeals court has thrown out the conviction of a former Air Force drill sergeant in a case his supporters claimed illustrated the Pentagon’s zeal in prosecuting troops accused of sexual misconduct.

The ruling marks a defeat for the Air Force and its high-profile campaign to punish instructors in a sexual abuse scandal at basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio.

In the case of former Master Sgt. Michael SilvaAir Force investigations located two ex-wives and a recruit from over 20 years ago, but no accusers from the recent scandal.

The United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday reversed three rape convictions of Airman Silvaat a 2015 trial. He is now eligible for release from Fort Leavenworth where he is serving a 20-year prison sentence. He was reduced in rank to airman and given a dishonorable discharge.

He is one of the high-profile cases featured by a nonprofit group, the Save Our Heroes Project. Staffed by military veterans, the group argues that the military has wrongly convicted a number of troops in a Pentagon-directed campaign during the Obama administration to wipe out sexual misconduct.

In the Airman Silva case, the appeals court expressed doubt about two accusers whose testimony convicted him.

Frank Sterling's Tough Life After Wrongful Conviction

July 02, 2017

Democrat and Chronicle
Gary Craig

Those who knew Frank Sterling well believed him incapable of committing the horrific beating and murder of a Hilton woman — a crime that sent Sterling to prison for nearly two decades.

Those people were right.

In 2010, more than 18 years after Sterling was convicted of the murder of Viola Manville, he was exonerated and released from prison.

In late June, Sterling died in Seneca, South Carolina — a community in the mountains of the western part of the state where Sterling was living with a fiancée. He died of a heart attack; he was 53.

Sterling, whom I first met when I interviewed him in prison in 1996 about his 1992 conviction, was a gentle soul, an individual who did not allow his wrongful conviction to embitter him after his release. But the emotional wear and tear of his years behind bars were evident; he'd developed narcolepsy and had tremors in his hands that he often couldn't control.

Sterling's good friend, Jeffrey Deskovic, saw the physical changes in Sterling, the manifestation of the exhausting fight of trying to prove one's innocence while surviving in a maximum-security prison.

"There's moments of doubt that waver and morale ebbs and flows," Deskovic said of efforts to reverse a conviction. "It's up and it's down. The crash back down to earth can be fast and hard when you lose an appeal."

Deskovic knows firsthand: "I lost seven (appeals) of mine," he said.

New laws reduce wrongful convictions and address state compensation

June 27, 2017

Tallahassee Democrat

By: Annie Cheng

Eyewitness misidentification put innocent Florida man Wilton Dedge in prison for 22 years. It is the cause of wrongful conviction for nearly half of his fellow state exonerees. Starting Oct. 1, two new criminal justice reform laws will go into effect.

One of them, the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act, seeks to prevent conviction and imprisonment of innocent individuals. Nearly 40 percent of exonerated individuals in Florida were wrongfully convicted due to false eyewitness identification, according to the Innocence Project

Signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on June 14, the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act mandates those who administer photo lineups quiz eyewitnesses without knowledge of suspect identity.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, and Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stewart, seeks to ensure that those who conduct lineups are neutrality and prevent physical or verbal cues from tipping off victims. The Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission also will be required to provide educational materials for each lineup administrator. 
 
Under the new law, eyewitnesses also are to be informed that the suspect may not be in the lineup and that they aren’t required to identify anyone at all.

A year ago he was pressured to plead guilty to murder. This week he was acquitted of a murder charge

June 27, 2017

Pioneer Press
By SARAH HORNER 

A St. Paul man had tears in his eyes Monday when he learned that a jury had found him not guilty of murder in the fatal shooting of a 25-year-old man outside a St. Paul bar in the fall of 2015, his attorney said.

A Ramsey County District Court jury announced its verdict to acquit Nyemah Rodney-Kigee Kiyee, 29, around 10:30 a.m. Monday morning following a roughly nine-day trial, according to his attorney, public defender Connie Sue Iverson.

Kiyee was charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Ahmed Ismail outside Arnellia’s bar in November of 2015. Kiyee had been in jail ever since.

“He was tearful, relieved, thankful,” Iverson said of her client’s reaction to the verdict. “This was obviously a very hard thing for him. … He finally got to go home.”

Ismail was shot in the face after he noticed a fight in front of the University Avenue bar, walked up, and asked what was going on. The man who shot him then fled, according to the criminal complaint.

RAPE 'LIAR' Woman ‘made up sex attack claims against 15 men and sent innocent man to jail for 7 years’

June 13, 2017

The Sun

By Chris Pollard

Jemma Beale, 25, at Southwark crown court charged with four counts of perjury and four counts of perverting the course of justice.

LYING Jemma Beale, 25, made false rape and sex assault claims against 15 different men — and sent an innocent man to jail for seven years, a court was told. Beale made allegations over three years but they were “grotesque inventions”, jurors heard.

She claimed she was attacked at a pub and outside her home, and gang raped in the street.

Beale said she was raped by nine men and sexually assaulted by six. All but one were strangers.

Beale’s first allegation was against Mahad Cassim, who had given her a lift home after a night out. He was charged with rape and jailed for seven years.

But prosecutor John Price QC said: “That was a wrongful conviction. Mahad Cassim was innocent.

The Man Who Spent 35 Years in Prison Without a Trial

June 12, 2017

The Marshall Project
By: Andrew Cohen

 

The Jerry Hartfield case is an extraordinary tale of justice delayed and denied.

 

When Jerry Hartfield walked out of the Hutchins State Jail in Dallas on Monday into the sunlight and the arms of his family, he became one of the most unlikely prisoners ever to be freed early in Texas. He wasn’t exonerated or released on parole. He wasn’t pardoned by the governor. No one else has confessed to the murder for which he was convicted in 1977. No DNA cleared him. No witness recanted. No celebrities pleaded his cause.

Hartfield was freed from prison because Texas finally gave up trying to find a valid reason to keep him there. He had waited 35 years between trials without a conviction, a prisoner simply forgotten for decades in the state’s massive justice system.

He was supposed to get a new trial in 1980 after an appeals court reversed his conviction and death sentence because of a flaw during jury selection. Instead, after a series of misunderstandings and miscommunications by lawyers, judges, and jailers — who all thought Hartfield was someone else’s problem — he never got that second day in court.

 

If it were not for a fellow prisoner and the public defenders who eventually discovered the mistake, the 61-year-old intellectually disabled man likely would have died alone in his cell, his story as lost as he was.

$100,000 To Snitch? Perks For Jailhouse Informants Come Under Scrutiny

June 10, 2017

Oregon Public Broadcasting
By: PARKER YESKO

Nobody likes a snitch. But if you're in jail, informing on fellow inmates can pay.

Legislators in at least four states are now trying to make sure that rewarding jailhouse informants — with cash, perks or deals for freedom — isn't leading to wrongful convictions.

Bruce Lisker knows how convictions can go wrong. He was only 17 when he discovered his mother murdered in her suburban Los Angeles home.

"I lost my mom and nothing would ever be the same. And I had no idea how not the same it would ever be," Lisker says.

It took investigators less than an hour to zero in on him as a suspect. It took 26 years for a court to determine that they were mistaken.

A key piece of evidence used to convict Lisker was testimony from a savvy jailhouse informant, whom he met after being moved out of juvenile detention.

"Somebody put it in for me to be transferred to LA County Jail and suddenly I was," Lisker says. "Under 18, I was placed in what later came to be known as the snitch tank."

Kansas City Man Freed After 17 Years in Prison When His Doppelganger Is Found

June 11, 2017

BREITBART

By: Warner Todd Huston

A Kansas City man was released after serving 17 years in jail for a robbery he didn’t commit when a man, who looked so much like him they could be twins, was finally discovered and brought to the court’s attention.

Richard Anthony Jones was convicted of a Roeland Park robbery committed in 1999, but since the first day he was arrested, Jones claimed he was innocent of the crime. While serving time in prison, he began hearing from other prisoners that he bore a striking resemblance to another known criminal.

After years of pleading his case, Jones, who was convicted solely on eyewitness testimony, finally received help from the Innocence Project who believed him enough to begin looking into the claim of a doppelganger who may have been the real culprit, the Kansas City Starreported.

Jones’s lawyers investigated the prisoner’s story and believed they found the man everyone said looked so much like their client that they could pass as the same person.

“We were floored by how much they looked alike,” said Jones’s attorney Alice Craig of seeing the other man who some believe committed the crime instead of Jones.

The legal team then contacted the victim from the robbery to look at photos of the two men side-by-side. Photos of the two men show each with braided hair and a pencil-thin goatee. The two look so similar that they could easily be mistaken as two photos of the same man.

Innocent Prisoners: Decades of Life Lost

June 10, 2017

Huffington Post
Lorenzo Johnson, Contributor

Society views the role of a prosecutor as being a seeker of truth, not a gate-keeper of false convictions. Statistics from the volcano of recent exonerations show that the average exoneree spends between 13½ and 15 years in prison before finally being released.

Most of the time, our cries are not taken seriously or even heard until a crooked cop or prosecutor comes under fire. Society is not privy to our struggles until they’re all over and we are freed. In each of the past three years, record-breaking numbers of exonerations have taken place. The scary thing is that, in a third of these exonerations, prosecutorial misconduct was behind the exonerees’ wrongful convictions.

Why do we spend multiple decades in prison while innocent? Our innocence claims are met with extreme resistance by our prosecutors, even when our claims have merit. And let’s not leave out the withholding of evidence of our innocence by our prosecutors. That’s right, they knew we were innocent, but they have continue to fight to maintain our convictions. These actions are a disgrace to honorable prosecutors who come to work every day to seek justice.

Missouri parole board played word games during hearings with inmates

June 08, 2017

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

By Jesse Bogan

ST. LOUIS • The Missouri Board of Probation and Parole allegedly toyed with prisoners during hearings by trying to get them to say a chosen word or song title of the day, such as “platypus” and “Hound Dog.”

Don Ruzicka, a member of the seven-member board, along with an unnamed government employee were accused of keeping score during the hearings, according to a Department of Corrections inspector general report completed on Nov. 1, 2016.

Each time one of them used a predetermined keyword while interviewing an offender they earned a point. Two points were granted if the offender repeated the word. Occasionally, the duo spiced the game up by wearing matching clothing, like the time they dressed in black shirts, ties, pants and shoes.

The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at St. Louis recently obtained the state report and released it Thursday after a news conference, asserting that public servants “played games with people’s lives and liberty.”

Murder Case Dropped for Man after 25 Years in Prison

June 01, 2017

Desmond Ricks heaved an audible sigh moments after Wayne County prosecutors agreed Thursday to drop murder charges against him.

“Well, that part’s over,” said Ricks, who spent 25 years in prison for a 1992 murder he didn’t commit.

Ricks and his attorneys from the Michigan Innocence Clinic say Detroit police intentionally switched bullets at his trial in an effort to convict him.

A Detroit Police internal affairs investigation into how officers handled the case is under way, Chief James Craig said Thursday.

Meanwhile, Ricks insists he isn’t bitter. “I’ve got no time to be bitter at anybody,” he said after Thursday’s hearing in Wayne Circuit Court. “There’s no excuse for what they did, but I have to move on. I just didn’t want to die in prison. Now, I’m just trying to get some semblance of my life back. I just want to pay my taxes and be a good citizen.”

Multimillion-dollar settlement with Ohio brings closure for pair wrongfully convicted in 1988 slaying

May 31, 2017

Cleveland.Com

BY ERIC HEISIG, CLEVELAND.COM

MANTUA TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Twenty-seven years ago, Robert Gondor and Randy Resh stood in the driveway of Gondor's father's house, both awaiting trial for the murder and attempted rape of a woman in 1988.

Both knew they were innocent, but they were offered plea deals that would result in shorter prison stints than the ones they risked if they went to trial. Taking stock of their situation, they shook hands and agreed to fight the charges.

In November 2016, after 16 1/2 years in prison, two criminal trials and a just-finished, decade-long battle to prove their innocence, they shook hands again. They knew their struggle was over.

Disgraced ex-detective Louis Scarcella accused of forcing Sundhe Moses to cop to 1995 murder maintains he did nothing wrong

May 26, 2017

New York Daily News
By: Christina Carrega 

Former detective Louis Scarcella’s memory may be selective when it comes to the dozens of cases he's worked on in his lengthy career — but he definitely recalls convictions that were later overturned.

“The DA’s office decided to use her (Teresa Gomez) as a witness,” said Scarcella as he was probed by defense attorney Ron Kuby on Friday.

Scarcella testified in an ongoing evidentiary hearing in front of Justice Dineen Riviezzo for Sundhe Moses, who says he was forced to confess to the 1995 murder of 4-year-old Shamone Johnson. Gomez was a drug-addicted prostitute Scarcella utilized to land five murder convictions.

Prosecutors with the Conviction Review Unit denounced Gomez’s testimony, characterized it as problematic, and later exonerated Robert Hill, Darryl Austin and Alvenia Jeanette in May 2014.

Scarcella believed Gomez was a credible witness when she gave “good information” on two homicides — after she was busted with a john in a house on Park Pl. and Bedford Ave. in the early 1980s.

“There was an ADA (prosecutor) named Jon Besunder. I brought many cases to him and he’d determine if a witness should be polygraphed and she (Gomez) was polygraphed," said Scarcella regarding Hill's 1987 shooting.

Wrongfully Convicted Man Freed After 24 Years

May 26, 2017

The Philadelphia Tribune
John N. Mitchell Tribune Staff Reporter

As Shaurn Thomas tried to speak into the phone over raised voices in a cramped car making its way back to Philadelphia on Tuesday night, Thomas kept repeating the same thing, over and over again.

“I’m a free man, a free man,” Thomas, 43, said. “I get to spend my time with my family I love most. I’m not living in a cell anymore wondering if I’d ever get out. Now I’m coming home to the family I love.”

For the last 24 years, Thomas’ home had been a cramped cell in the Schuykill County correctional facility, where he was serving life without the possibility of parole.

But this past Tuesday Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Rosemarie DeFino-Nastasi vacated Thomas’ conviction and sentence in the Nov. 13, 1990 murder of Domingo Martinez after the District Attorney’s office said the evidence against him no longer supported his conviction.

Issue of innocence: Is Tennessee man wrongly imprisoned for murder?

May 22, 2017

USA TODAY

Adam Braseel is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder in the death of Malcolm Burrows. His family insists a Grundy County, Tenn., jury convicted him wrongfully.He’s 34 now. He’ll be 76 if he lives long enough to appear at his first parole hearing.

The case has divided this small southeast Tennessee community on the Cumberland Plateau and raised questions about the accuracy of eyewitness testimony and what issues qualify as fair game under Tennessee’s appeals process.

“I never thought it would happen to me,” Braseel said in a phone call from prison. “I try to stay positive, but I’m realistic. I know I could be an innocent man in prison the rest of my life.”
 

A clean-cut case

No other suspect was ever charged in the case. Not a single piece of physical evidence linked Braseel to the crime scene — no fingerprints, no DNA, no blood, hair or clothing fibers.
 

Prosecutors say they didn’t need it.

“Two eyewitnesses clearly identified him,” said prosecutor Steve Strain. “He was tried like anybody else. He was represented by two established, very experienced attorneys, and the jury found him guilty.” More here

Ray Spencer Didn't Molest His Kids

May 22, 2017

Esquire
BY MAURICE CHAMMAH
 

On Christmas Eve in 2004, Katie Spencer Tetz, a twenty-five-year-old job recruiter living in Sacramento, California, was sitting on the floor near her Christmas tree, wrapping gifts, when the phone rang. It was her mother, DeAnne, with news: After 19 years, Katie's father, Ray, was going to be released from prison. The last time Katie saw Ray she was six years old.
 

She hung up, grabbed her keys, and lunged for the door with no destination in mind, just a primal urge to move. Her husband, Mike, ran over to hold her as she sobbed by the door, in the grip of fear and grief she rarely let herself feel.
 

Katie barely knew her father, but his life was the central mystery of her own. He was the reason she could never make sense of her earliest childhood memories, and why she wasn't sure she wanted to.

Man Reunited With Mother After Being Wrongly Convicted For 32 Years

May 12, 2017

Rachel Menitoff, KSDK
FLORISSANT, MO.

After 32 years of separation, a Florissant mother is reunited with her son, just in time for Mother’s Day.
 

Andrew Wilson was released from a Los Angeles jail in March. LA County prosecutors rules that his original trial on charges of robbery and murder, was not a fair one. Now, he says his mom has waited long enough. And that he’s here in St. Louis to stay.
 

“Oh you can only imagine,” said Margie Davis, Wilson’s mother, when asked how it feels to be reunited with her son.

Mother and son sat arm in arm after 3 long decades apart.

William Barnhouse Becomes 350th Person Exonerated Through DNA Evidence

May 10, 2017

BY INNOCENCE STAFF
Indianapolis, IN
 

A judge today granted a motion by the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office to dismiss the 1992 rape charges against William Barnhouse based on new DNA evidence proving Barnhouse’s innocence of the crime. With Delaware County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Arnold’s consent, the Innocence Project and the Wrongful Conviction Clinic at Indiana University McKinney persuaded a Delaware County court to reverse Barnhouse’s conviction on March 8, 2017 based on this new evidence.

 

Further proceedings in the case were scheduled for May.  Arnold’s decision to dismiss the indictment against Barnhouse, who has dealt his entire life with serious mental health conditions, ends his 25 year struggle for justice.

Wrongfully Convicted and Imprisoned, Jimmie Gardner is Seeking More Justice

May 09, 2017

The Washington Post

By Courtland Milloy
May 9, 2017

As an inmate in West Virginia’s prison system, Jimmie C. Gardner had to fight to keep from being killed by other inmates, and at the same time work to prove his innocence. He succeeded, but only after spending 26 years of a 110-year sentence locked up before being released last year. Now he’s fighting another tough battle — trying to win compensation for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
 

You’d think that he’d be mad as hell.
 

I recently met Gardner, 51, at his lawyers’ office in Washington, curious about news reports that he was actually grateful that the judicial system had worked. “It’s unfortunate that it took so long, but it worked,” said Gardner, who lives in Woodbridge, Va.
 

How do people spend decades behind bars for crimes they did not commit and come out smiling, as if they’d been to Disney World?
 

What happened to Gardner was particularly egregious. The injustice did not occur as a result of some mistaken identity or even incompetence, as is sometimes the case. Rather, it was the result of false testimony by a state police forensic scientist, who was also found to have manipulated evidence to exclude a more likely culprit.

Millions for New York Man Wrongly Convicted of Murder

May 09, 2017

The award of $4.5 million by New York state is just part of a claim by a man who spent more than two decades in prison based on a dishonest prosecution.

by Joaquin Sapien
ProPublica,
May 9, 2017, 3:34 p.m.

 

Ruddy Quezada, a 54-year-old man wrongfully convicted of a deadly drive-by shooting in 1993, has won a $4.5 million settlement from New York state, according to court papers.
 

Quezada spent 24 years in prison for murder before winning his freedom in 2015 when, after decades of failed appeals, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office conceded that prosecutors involved in his case had withheld critical evidence during his trial.
 

At issue was the testimony of the case’s single eyewitness, a man named Sixto Salcedo. Salcedo recanted his testimony after defense lawyers tracked him down in the Dominican Republic in 2001. In a sworn affidavit, Salcedo said he had been coerced into testifying falsely against Quezada when a New York Police Department detective threatened him with jail time if he didn’t.
 

ProPublica reported on Quezada’s then pending appeal in 2013 as part of a larger examination of prosecutorial misconduct in New York City.

Wrongfully Convicted Child’s Murder Confession Tests Compensation Law

May 11, 2017

13 Year Olds False Murder Confession Led To A Life Sentence 

SPECIAL REPORT

MAY 11 2017, 9:18 AM ET

by JON SCHUPPE

COLUMBUS, Mississippi ─ He obsessed over the police interrogation for years, tormenting himself with questions he could not answer.

“How could you be so stupid?” Tyler Edmonds asked himself. “Why would you do that?”

Edmonds was 13 when he told detectives he helped his half-sister shoot her husband in his sleep ─ a story he says she concocted to skirt blame. He spent four years behind bars before his murder conviction was overturned and a second jury acquitted him. He went to therapy, and studied why children admit to crimes they didn’t commit. He began to understand what he’d done.

“I think the answer is that you’re young and you don’t know any better,” Edmonds, now 27, said.
 

He has rebuilt his life in many ways. But he is still paying for that confession. After Mississippi passed a law allowing exonerees to seek compensation, Edmonds sought a payout that he hoped would help his mother, who went deep into debt to pay for his defense. The state refused to give it to him. A judge sided with the state.

Edmonds and his lawyers took the case to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which is due to rule by summer.

Edmonds stands to reap about $150,000 if he wins, but it’s not just money at stake. His case also explores the limits of efforts to bring justice to the wrongfully convicted.

Who’s to blame?

As the number of exonerations has accelerated since the early 1990s, more states have passed laws offering reparations to people imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. Thirty-two states, along with Washington D.C. and the federal government, have such statutes on the books.

Six states refuse to compensate applicants who “contributed to their own conviction,” “fabricated evidence” or “committed perjury” — all of which can be used against someone who falsely confessed, according to the Innocence Project. Another three states bar payouts to those who pleaded guilty. Eleven states don’t let prisoners who have pleaded guilty or confessed to seek DNA testing that could exonerate them.

Disgraced Cop Blames Ex-DA for Wrongful Convictions

May 08, 2017

By Gina Daidone and Emily Saul
May 8, 2017 | 9:40pm |Updated

Scandal-scarred NYPD Det. Louis Scarcella blamed his tarnished legacy on former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes Monday as the embattled retired cop was grilled for his role in putting a Brooklyn man behind bars for 18 years.

“Mr. Hynes was completely wrong,” Scarcella whined under questioning by defense attorney Ron Kuby during a hearing in the wrongful conviction case of Sundhe Moses.

Kuby had been grilling Scarcella over public allegations Hynes and others had made stating Scarcella was responsible for witness tampering and mishandling of evidence in another wrongful conviction case.

“[Hynes] was throwing me under the bus, he lied,” the fallen ex-cop said, responding to questions about his role in the conviction of David Ranta — who spent 23 years behind bars in the killing a rabbi before his conviction was tossed in 2013.

“There was no wrongdoing on my part in any of the cases,” the former detective asserted.

Moses, who was paroled in 2013, claims Scarcella choked him, blew cigar smoke in his face, forced him to strip naked and threw a chair at him to elicit his confession in the 1995 murder of a 4-year-old Brooklyn girl.

Hynes publicly blasted Scarcella in a 2013 in a 2013 note he wrote to the New York Times, pleading for their endorsement as he was seeking reelection.

“During the course of the [David] Ranta investigation, [we] uncovered some questionable conduct by former NYPD Detective Scarcella,” Hynes wrote in an unsuccessful attempt to win their endorsement.

“In announcing our decision to release Mr. Ranta, we made it clear that the decision was made in part because of the conduct of Det. Scarcella,” Hynes wrote in an email, released by the city Department of Investigation in 2014.

Hynes later opened investigations into all of the detective’s homicide cases.

Roughly 70 of Scarcella’s homicide cases are under investigation by the DA’s conviction-review unit. He continues to defend his work.

FORMER TEXAS PROSECUTOR PROBABLY SENT INNOCENT MAN TO HIS DEATH. NOW HE’S ON TRIAL FOR MISCONDUCT.

May 02, 2017

The Intercept

By: Jordan Smith

THE COURTHOUSE IN Corsicana, Texas, roughly 60 miles southeast of Dallas, has been meticulously restored to its original 1905 glory, a time when the county was awash in oil money. Its main courtroom has soaring, two-story pink walls and gold-flecked architectural details that frame the judge’s bench, witness stand, and jury box. For more than three decades, John Jackson worked this room (though during those years it was a far more utilitarian space), first as a prosecutor with the Navarro County district attorney’s office and later as an elected judge, until his retirement in 2012.

Last week he returned, this time as a defendant, facing charges brought by the State Bar of Texas, whose lawyers argue that Jackson violated basic legal ethics in connection with his conduct in prosecuting the county’s most notorious case, the death penalty trial of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted and ultimately executed for what the state insists was the December 1991 arson-murder of his three young children in the home they shared just over a mile away.

Specifically, the state’s lawyers contend that Jackson made a deal with a jailhouse snitch who agreed to testify against Willingham and then hid that deal from Willingham’s defense attorneys — a clear violation of both law and ethics. They say that Jackson took extraordinary measures over the next two decades to conceal his deceitful actions.

Man Wrongfully Convicted in 1957 Cold Case Murder Declared Innocent

April 12, 2017

By Ann O’Neill CNN
TM & © 2017 Cable News Network, Inc.,
All rights reserved.

(CNN) — Jack McCullough is innocent of the 1957 kidnapping and murder of a little girl and never should have been convicted, a judge ruled Wednesday.By granting the 77-year-old military veteran a certificate of innocence,

 Judge William Brady cleared McCullough’s name for good. The decision also returned the killing of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, Illinois — the coldest murder case ever tried — to the unsolved case files.

”I’m innocent and I didn’t want there to be any doubt,” McCullough said, explaining why he asked the court to declare him innocent. “What was done to me was criminal. They knew I was innocent and they put me in prison anyway.

”His status as a former police officer convicted of killing a child made him a target behind bars, he said. “When you put a policeman who is a convicted child killer in prison, you don’t have a life. Your life is in danger every second that you’re in prison. I’m lucky to have survived prison.”

When McCullough was found guilty in 2012, spectators who filled the courtroom raised a boisterous cheer. But just a year ago, Brady overturned the conviction and freed McCullough after new evidence surfaced supporting his alibi.

At the time, Brady left the door open for a new prosecutor to refile the charges. Wednesday’s ruling firmly shuts that door — and makes it easier for McCullough to seek compensation for his false conviction and five years behind bars.

“There is no way to take what happened to Jack McCullough and square it with any legitimate investigation,” said McCullough’s civil rights lawyer, Russell Ainsworth.“He was innocent. Everybody knew he was innocent and yet they pursued the investigation.”

Ainsworth has handled several cases for The Exoneration Project, a clinic at the University of Chicago’s law school. He described Illinois as “an epicenter for wrongful convictions” and called for reform, including stronger police oversight.

“It has to stop,” he said. “We want, through Jack McCullough’s struggle, for other people to learn that this can happen in our society. This is not part of bygone years and what happened in the ’70s and ’80. This is happening today. This is happening to people who are honest, law-abiding citizens.”

Wrongful-convictions database moves to UC Irvine

April 09, 2017

By Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil
Contributor to Times Community News
Copyright © 2017, Daily Pilot


In 2011, after Francisco Carrillo Jr. had spent 20 years in prison for a fatal drive-by shooting in Los Angeles County that he didn’t commit, his conviction was overturned.

News reports pointed in large part to the reliability of the witnesses — all of whom eventually recanted their identification of Carrillo, who was 16 at the time of the killing and had consistently maintained his innocence, or were deemed to have been unable to properly see the shooter.

Carrillo’s experience is one of 2,000 such cases in the National Registry of Exonerations, an online database of wrongful convictions that have been overturned dating to 1989.

The registry is now being housed at UC Irvine, where it will become a resource for faculty and students studying the criminal justice system. UCI was selected because of its concentration of faculty in the area of wrongful convictions.

“This university can really provide muscle to what is a still-developing group of cases,” said Maurice Possley, senior researcher for the registry, which was created in 2012 as a joint project between the University of Michigan Law School and Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions.

“I tend to think this database can be one of the most influential factors for reform and change in the criminal justice system in many years.”

Are 88,000 Inmates in US Jails Innocent?

Greg Milam 
US Correspondent

I have reported on two monumental miscarriages of justice in the last fortnight.

One man, who a judge said should never have been convicted of murder, served 32 years. The other was declared factually innocent of attempted murder after serving 20 years.

Andrew Wilson and Marco Contreras were both remarkably sanguine about what had happened to them, preferring to focus more on the future than the past.

But, as they put shattered lives back together, their stories leave a huge nagging question – how many more are there?

The National Registry of Exonerations lists every known case since 1989 in which someone was wrongly convicted and later cleared of all charges. The current total is 2,006.

The registry’s editor, Samuel R. Gross, was part of a study in 2014 which found that 4% of those sentenced to death in the US turned out to be innocent – that’s one in every 25.

Death sentences do, as he points out, get much greater attention but let’s just assume this percentage of wrongful conviction applies across the board.

There are 2.2 million people in prison in the US – and 4% of this is 88,000.

But who listens to those in prison who claim to be innocent?

Chris Tapp To Be Released From Prison

March 20, 2017

KIFI/KIDK/KXPI
By Staff Writer

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK/KXPI) – Monday in a press release on its Facebook page the Idaho Innocence Project says Chris Tapp will be freed from prison this Wednesday after more than 20 years behind bars.

Tapp’s public defender John Thomas has also confirmed this information to KIFI and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.

Below is the full press release posted to the Idaho Innocence Projects Facebook Page.

Idaho Innocence Project Client Chris Tapp will be freed on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 after more than 20 years in prison. Tapp was convicted in the rape and murder of 18-year-old Angie Dodge on June 13, 1996.

The Idaho Innocence Project has worked on Tapp’s case for more than 10 years, and over those years secured DNA testing of evidence in the crime, including a pubic hair recovered from the victim’s body, stains on her clothing, and foreign DNA from her fingers. All of it pointed to only one person–the mysterious man who left semen on her body.

 

New DNA results performed this month affirmed that Tapp is excluded from ALL the DNA evidence.

Where Were the Prosecutors?

March 18, 2017

Huffington Post
THE BLOG  
By Bennett L. Gershman
Professor of Law, Pace

Exonerations of wrongfully convicted persons continue to climb. A record number of false convictions were recorded in 2015 – 149 innocent people who spent much of their lives in prison were released, bringing the total number of exonerations since 1989 to 1,753. (New York has the second highest number of exonerations, topped only by Texas).

 

It used to be conventional wisdom that no innocent person ever got convicted. Now, it’s so common that the media gives the event a momentary headline, and then moves on. There is no post-mortem on how these human tragedies happened. The big questions are never asked, so never answered. How did it happen? Who is to blame? What can be done to prevent its recurrence?

 

The person who spent over 25 years – 8,000 days – in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, the children who didn’t see their father for most of their lives, the parents who died while their child was in prison, surely deserve to know not merely that the system of criminal justice crashed, but how, why, and who is to blame?

Last week, another false conviction in New York City was reported, and not surprisingly, in a case from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. Andre Hatchett is the 19th person freed by D.A. Kenneth Thompson since Thompson took office in 2014. Hatchett spent 25 Years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit. In reviewing Mr. Hatchett’s case, and hundreds of other false convictions, there is a common theme that runs through virtually all of the cases, and produces the calamity.

 

For good or ill, the prosecutor is the official who alone determines whether justice will be done, whether a defendant who may be innocent will be brought to trial, and whether the proceeding will be a fair one. In states with capital punishment the prosecutor alone decides whether a defendant will live or die. More than anyone else, the prosecutor is responsible either for bringing about the conviction of an innocent man, or for failing to prevent it.

Ray Spencer: How one man went from wrongful prosecution to exoneration and on his way to total vindication.