2nd Quarter 2008 Cases

Dane County, WI 

John Johnson

Sept 6, 1911 (Madison)

John A. Johnson was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of seven-year-old Annie Lemberger. Annie had been presumably kidnapped from her home at 2 South Francis St. in Madison. Her body was found three days later in Lake Manona with a head wound. Since an autopsy found no water in her lungs, it was assumed she died from the wound prior to being thrown into the lake.
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Marshall County, WV

Frank & Norma Howell

Sept 5, 1929

Frank and Norma Howell were charged with the armed robbery of $67 from Jack Cotts's Esso gas station, located on Waynesburg Pike, about three miles east of Moundsville. The robbers were a tall slim man and a short stout woman, a description that fit the Howells. Despite presenting alibi evidence, Frank was convicted due to the eyewitness testimony of Jack Cotts. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Norma was acquitted at a separate trial, although the evidence against her appeared stronger than that against Frank. On leaving the courthouse following her acquittal, Norma was arrested for a robbery in Cadiz, Ohio, but was subsequently acquitted of that charge.

In 1931 Irene Crawford Schroeder and Walter Glenn Dague, two convicts awaiting execution in Pennsylvania, confessed to the robbery of Cotts's Esso station as well as the Cadiz, Ohio robbery. Frank Howell's prosecution attorney, his defense attorney, Jack Cotts, and others went to Pennsylvania to hear the confessions, which were recorded in a detailed affidavit. After the visit, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that Schroeder and Dague were guilty and that the Howells were innocent. Officials recommended the pardon of Frank Howell and WV Governor Conley granted it shortly thereafter.  (CTI)  [6/08]

Adams County, IL 

Everett Howell

Aug 20, 1928

Everett Howell was convicted of the robbery of the Exchange State Bank in Golden, IL. He was identified and convicted based on the testimony of eyewitnesses to the crime despite having numerous alibi witnesses who placed him seventy miles away at the time of the robbery. Within a year the real perpetrators were caught and convicted. In Jan. 1930 Howell's conviction was overturned and the state dropped charges against him.  (CTI)  [6/08]

Jefferson County, MO 

Hess & Craig

Jan 7, 1929

Walter Hess and Alvin Craig were convicted of the murder of Virgil Romine, an attendant at a restaurant associated with the Artesian Park filling station near St. Louis. After being shot and prior to his death, Romine mistakenly claimed that his assailants were the same fellows who put slugs in a restaurant slot machine some weeks before. Upon being visited by the police, Hess and Craig readily admitted they were the ones who had slugged the restaurant's slot machine. However, they denied any knowledge of the murder. Attempts at trial to ban hearsay testimony regarding what Romine said about his assailants were denied on the grounds that Romine gave a dying declaration. A year after the defendants' convictions the real perpetrators were identified and convicted. Missouri Governor Caulfield then pardoned Hess and Craig on the grounds that they were innocent.  (CTI)  [6/08]

 England

William Habron

Aug 1, 1876

William Habron was convicted of the murder of Constable Cock, a local lawman. Habron was a patron of the Royal Oak, a pub near Manchester that was on the constable's beat. Habron was frequently getting into fights with other patrons, which Cock had to break up. After one fight Cock threatened to arrest Habron the next time he got into a fight. Habron replied, “It'll be a sorry day for you, the day you arrest me.” The next time Cock passed the pub and heard sounds of a fight, he entered without waiting to be called and saw Habron and another patron in the midst of a fight. Cock arrested Habron. However, Habron had actually been on his best behavior. The other patron had interpreted Habron's behavior as a sign of weakness and, inspired by liquor, decided that it was a good time to pick a fight.
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Erie County, NY

Irving Greenwald

1924

(Federal Case)  Irving Greenwald was convicted of stealing blank money orders from a postal substation in a Buffalo, NY drugstore and then cashing them for various amounts at businesses in New York City. The perpetrator reportedly had blond hair and blue eyes as did Greenwald. At trial multiple witnesses identified Greenwald as the perpetrator. Following his conviction and imprisonment, money orders stolen from the same drugstore continued to be passed under similar circumstances, and the perpetrator, Richard Barry, was eventually caught. Aside from having blond hair and blue eyes, there was no material resemblance between Barry and Greenwald. Following Barry's conviction, U.S. President Coolidge pardoned Greenwald.  (CTI)  [6/08]

 Los Angeles County, CA

Arcadia Innocents

Apr 5, 1922

On April 5, 1922, three men robbed the First National Bank of Arcadia of $2,800 in cash plus $5,420 in bonds and travelers' checks. The men exited the bank and piled into a car driven by a fourth man, their getaway driver. Police soon located the robbers' car. It had been stolen and the robbers had abandoned it to get into another car.

Within 45 minutes of the robbery, police stopped a car occupied by Broulio Galindo, Jose Hernandez, Salvador Mendival, and Faustino Rivera. Although police found no loot in the car, they did find five guns and two canvas sacks. The bank employees had stated that the robbers spoke perfect English, but none of the men in the car could speak English. The men, all Mexicans, would tell police that they were orange pickers and that the guns were for rabbit shooting.

The bank employees who witnessed the robbery identified Galindo, Hernandez, and Rivera as the robbers. Mendival was thought to be the getaway driver, and was partially identified by a telephone company employee who was working near the bank at the time of the robbery. Police found that Galindo and Hernandez had been previously convicted of felonies. Rivera died in jail prior to trial. At trial the defendants had to testify through an interpreter. The prosecution could not explain how they spoke perfect English during the robbery, nor did it attempt to explain what happened to the loot. Galindo, Hernandez, and Mendival were convicted of robbing the bank. However, they were all pardoned in 1924 after the actual perpetrators were discovered.  (CTI)  [6/08]

 England

Adolph Beck

1895

Adolph Beck was convicted in 1896 of individually defrauding ten women out their jewelry, mostly rings, using the same confidence scheme. The swindler had posed as the Earl of Wilton and claimed to have a home in St. John's Wood. Beck was identified by all ten women. In addition he was identified as John Smith, a man who had been convicted of perpetrating a identical confidence scheme in 1877. At trial Beck's defence wanted to cross-examine the crown's handwriting expert to established that documents submitted into evidence as having been in Beck's handwriting were actually in the same hand as those attributed to Smith in 1877. In addition it wanted to present testimony that Beck had been in South America in 1877 and for several years thereafter. However, the judge prohibited this defence. Legal rules prohibited the crown from mentioning a prior conviction, so the judge apparently felt the defence should be prohibited as well.

Evidence later surfaced that Smith had been examined by a prison doctor in 1879, who stated in his report that Smith had undergone circumcision. Beck was examined and found to be uncircumcised. The only effect of this new evidence was that Beck, who had been assigned Smith's old prison number, was given a new prison number. Beck was released from prison in 1901.

In 1904, Beck was again arrested for defrauding women using the same confidence scheme. He was again convicted, but his sentencing was deferred until further investigation could be made. During this period, while stories of defrauded women were in the newspapers, a pawnshop owner called police about a man pawning rings in his shop. The man said his name was William Thomas and that he was innocent of any wrongdoing. However, he was identified by several swindled women who also identified rings in his possession as their property. Following Thomas's conviction, he admitted that he was John Smith and that he was responsible for the frauds for which Beck had twice been convicted. Beck was soon pardoned and Parliament awarded him £5,000 for his wrongful imprisonment.  (CTI)  [6/08]

Baltimore County, MD 

Edward Chalk

May 12, 1936

One evening two women spotted two men loitering near a darkened home in their neighborhood. When the women questioned the loiterers, the men gave evasive answers and drove away. After being notified, the police stopped the loiterers' car. However, the men drew their guns and took the officers' revolvers. Police later found the loiterers' abandoned car near the home of Edward Chalk. Chalk was identified as one of the men by the officers and by the two women who reported the men to the police. While Chalk was in jail awaiting trial, Joseph C. Martin confessed to being one of the loiterers who held up the officers and stated that Chalk had not been his companion. Nevertheless, Chalk was brought to trial and convicted. The judge, however, suspending sentence pending Chalk's motion for a new trial. In the meantime, police found Martin's accomplice and Chalk was released.  (Not Guilty)  [6/08]

Reynolds County, MO 

Joseph Huett

Aug 1935

Joseph Huett, a lawyer, was charged with the shooting murder of Raoul Hunter, a sawmill worker. Along with Huett, Huett's wife and Lee Bowles, a justice of the peace, had been present during the killing. At trial Bowles testified that Huett killed Hunter without provocation because of a long-standing political feud. The jury convicted Huett of manslaughter and he was sentenced to five years of imprisonment. Seven months later Bowles admitted he perjured himself because Hunter had been his friend and “I hated Huett.” Hunter had actually been gunning for Huett who shot him in self-defense. Shortly after Bowles' admission, Huett was released from prison.  (Not Guilty) (News Article)  [6/08]

Montgomery County, PA

Ernest Priovolos

Oct 23, 1986

Ernest H. Priovolos was convicted in 1990 of the 1986 murder of his former neighbor and girlfriend, Cheryl Succa. Succa, 21, was found dead with a broken neck under a stone bridge in the 2400 block of Washington Lane in Huntingdon Valley. Police originally classified her death as an accident. They said that in the dark she probably stumbled down the bank of the creek. She may not have seen the large rocks and she hit her head. However, after a career prison informant named John Hall came forward, police ruled her death a homicide. Hall is known to have provided testimony in an extraordinary number of cases. In 1994-95 alone he snitched out defendants in 5 murder cases.

Hall shared a prison cell with Priovolos in Bucks County Prison who was there on a drug related charge. Hall testified that Priovolos bragged to him in the fall of 1988 that he knocked Succa over the bridge with a karate chop and took her purse after becoming angry that she would not have sex with him. Edward Bauman, another inmate and a reported follower of Hall, corroborated Hall's testimony. At trial, a prosecution witness caused a mistrial by testifying that Priovolos had sexually assaulted her in 1985. No charges were ever filed for the alleged assault. At his second trial, Priovolos was convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to 12 to 27 years of imprisonment. The prosecution had sought the death penalty. (Archives) (See also Walter Ogrod (Phila 1988), Michael Dirago (Bucks 1985)) [6/08]

McLean County, IL 

David Hendricks

Nov 5, 1983 (Bloomington)

David Hendricks was convicted of murdering his wife, Susan, 30, and their three children, Becky, 9, Grace, 7, and Benjy, 5. The murders occurred at 313 Carl Drive in Bloomington. While traveling in Wisconsin, Hendricks called police to check on his family. No one had answered the phone all weekend and he was worried. When police and neighbors searched his home the next day, they found that Hendricks' entire family had been hacked to death with an ax and butcher knife. When Hendricks returned later that day, police questioned him and checked his clothes and car for bloodstains. But the search was inconclusive, and Hendricks' alibi of having left for Wisconsin around 11:30 p.m. on November 4, appeared solid.

While his wife was at a baby shower, Hendricks said he taken his children out for a pizza at about 7:30 p.m. on November 4. According to him, they then played in an amusement area and returned home at 9:30 p.m. He said his wife returned at 10:45 p.m. and he left for his business trip shortly thereafter. But after studying the children's bodies, medical examiners discovered an apparent hole in Hendricks' story. Ordinarily, food leaves the stomach and moves into the small intestine within two hours. However, in all three children, vegetarian pizza toppings were still in their stomachs, which led investigators to estimate their time of death sometime around 9:30 p.m., while Hendricks was still at home. Hendricks' defense attorney hammered away at the only physical evidence against him, pointing out that physical activity or trauma can affect the rate of digestion. However, Hendricks was convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Hendricks' conviction was later overturned because an appeals court found the prosecution's argument of an alleged motive irrelevant and prejudicial. The prosecution introduced evidence that Hendricks was a member of a conservative religious group which shunned divorce and that he made passes at female models he had hired for advertising purposes. At Hendricks' 1991 retrial the prosecution presented the testimony of Danny Wayne Stark, a jailhouse informant, who said that Hendricks confessed to the slayings. However, the defense presented three inmates who testified that Stark was known as a liar. The retrial jury acquitted Hendricks. Jurors said the prosecution had not proven its case. A book was written about the case entitled Reasonable Doubt by Steve Vogel.  (Archives)  [6/08]

York County, PA

Kevin Brian Dowling

Oct 20, 1997

Kevin Brian Dowling was charged with of the robbery of 43-year-old Jennifer Lynn Myers. Fourteen months after the robbery, when Dowling was out on bail, Myers was murdered. Dowling was convicted of both crimes and sentenced to death for the murder.
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Juniata County, PA

Emerson McCauley

June 26, 1977

Emerson McCauley was convicted in 1989 of the 1977 murder of 21-year-old Devera Frink. Frink had left her waitressing job at the Nittany Mall at 10 p.m. on June 25, 1977. She was then seen hitchhiking, a few miles away, in State College at 11 p.m. She was last seen alive about 15 minutes later in Boalsburg, a short distance from her apartment. Some time later, at 1:30 a.m., a motorist found her body more than 50 miles away under the twin-span bridges of U.S. Route 322 at the Thompsontown exit. She had been beaten, raped, and choked, but had been alive when she was thrown off one the bridges. The bridge she was thrown off was 44 feet above where her body was found.
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Catawba County, NC 

Glen Chapman

Aug 1992 (Hickory)

Glen (aka Glenn) Edward Chapman was sentenced to death for the murders of Betty Jean Ramseur, 31, and Tenene Yvette Conley, 28. The bodies of both victims were found in abandoned houses within two blocks of each other in southeast Hickory. DNA tests showed that Conley, a prostitute, had had sex with Chapman within days of her death. A report by a forensic scientist later showed that Conley likely died of a drug overdose, rather than by foul play. Three witnesses told jurors Chapman confessed to killing or talked about killing Ramseur. But two of those witnesses have since recanted, saying they lied because they were afraid of police and prosecutors. The third witness said she believes Chapman was joking when he told her he had killed Ramseur. “If anyone asked me at trial, I would have testified that police pressured me into testifying and that I did not believe Edward killed anyone.”

In Nov. 2007, a judge overturned Chapman's convictions. The judge found that: (1) The lead investigator, Detective Dennis Rhoney, withheld information that a key witness in the Ramseur murder identified someone other than Chapman. (2) Rhoney did not reveal that a jail inmate was overheard admitting that he killed Ramseur. (3) Detectives never reported that witnesses said Conley was seen alive with someone who had a history of violence against her in the days after prosecutors said she died. (4) Rhoney lied during his trial testimony against Chapman. (5) Chapman was inadequately defended by his court-appointed attorneys. Chapman's appeals attorneys had argued that his trial attorneys, Thomas Portwood and Robert Adams, failed to interview several critical witnesses and were “excessive users of alcohol.”

Chapman's trial also featured juror misconduct. According to affidavits signed by two jurors, the jury discussed whether Chapman killed a 13-year-old Shelby girl whose body was found the same summer as Ramseur's and Conley's. Chapman was never charged in the girl's slaying, nor was that slaying discussed in the trial. Also, one juror, Irene Freeman, slept through essential testimony until the judge ordered her to wake up. In April 2008 the state dropped charges against Chapman and he was released.  (DW) (News & Observer) (Archives)  [6/08]

Siskiyou County, CA

Coke & John Brite

Aug 30, 1936 (Horse Creek)

Coke and John Brite, brothers, were convicted of the murders of deputy sheriffs Martin Lange and Joseph Clarke, as well as the murder of Captain Fred Seaborn, a U.S. Navy officer. The Brites, who were gold prospectors, returned to a cabin on their rented land, where their parents stayed, and then headed out again. At nightfall they set up camp on the land of a neighbor, B. F. Decker, and went to bed. Two intruders then entered their camp, another neighbor, Charley Baker, and his friend, Fred Seaborn. At trial, Baker alleged they were looking for a strayed horse that Baker owned. It was later learned that Baker had been using the cabin on the Brites' property for rent-free storage and had motive to drive the Brites from their land. Baker and Seaborn picked a fight with the Brites, which proved to be a mistake as the Brites made quick work of them. Baker then went to a judge and talked him into issuing warrants charging the Brites with assault.
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 New Brunswick, Canada

Erin Walsh

Aug 12, 1975 (St. John)

Erin Walsh was convicted of the second degree murder of Melvin Eugene “Chi Chi” Peters, an African Canadian. The crown alleged that Walsh's motive in the killing was racial animosity. They did not consider that he grew up in a housing project surrounded by African Canadians. Walsh claimed that Donald McMillan, David Walton, and Peters twice attempted to rob him of his money and drugs. He testified that after their first attempt, he managed to escape, and ran to some nearby CNR workers, begging them to call the police, which they did. When he then tried to make his way to his car to escape, the would-be robbers found him again. This time they forced him into the front, middle seat of his car at gunpoint. Walsh struggled for possession of the gun, but ultimately it ended up in the hands of McMillan, where it discharged and killed Peters. There was no evidence to corroborate Walsh's testimony. The crown had McMillan and Walton testify to a different story. Following Walsh's conviction, he spent the next twenty years in prison.

In 2003, Walsh wrote to the New Brunswick Provincial Archives and received the complete crown file of his case. In it were reports that were completely exculpatory of him and which supported his version of events: (1) Less than an hour after the fatal shooting, a St. John police officer heard one of the robbers, Walton, ask the other robber, McMillan, why he shot Peters. (2) A local store owner stated that the shells used in the gun were purchased one day before McMillan said they were purchased, when Walsh was a thousand miles away from St. John. (3) Seven witnesses signed statements attesting that Walsh ran away from McMillan, Walton, and Peters after they had attempted to rob him at gunpoint just prior to forcing him into the car. These witnesses supported Walsh's claim that he asked people to call the police just 10 minutes before Peters was shot. In Mar. 2008, after a Federal Justice and the NB Attorney General agreed that a miscarriage of justice had occurred, the Court of Appeals quashed Walsh's conviction.  (CBC) (Walsh v. NB)  [6/08]

Buchanan County, VA 

Roger Coleman

Mar 10, 1981 (Grundy)

Roger Coleman was convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of his sister-in-law, Wanda McCoy. He was sentenced to death and executed on May 20, 1992. Before this crime, Coleman was accused of attempted rape in April 1977. He was convicted because the victim identified him as the perpetrator despite his having a solid alibi provided by his high school principal. In Jan. 1981, Coleman was suspected of masturbating in front of two librarians at the public library, but maintained his innocence. Charges against him were initially brought in connection with his later murder charge, but apparently were only brought to prejudice the public since they were later dropped.
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Union County, NJ 

David Shephard

Dec 24, 1983

David Shephard was convicted of rape and robbery in 1984. The victim was abducted by two men from a shopping mall and later raped. One of the assailants called the other “Dave.” The assailants subsequently parked the victim's car near a building at Newark Airport in which Shephard worked. The victim identified Shephard as one of her assailants. DNA tests exonerated him in 1994.  (IP) (ABA) (CBJ)  [6/08]

Siskiyou County, CA

Patrick Croy

July 17, 1978 (Yreka)

Patrick Eugene “Hooty” Croy was sentenced to death for the murder of Bo Hittson, a Yreka police officer. A weekend of partying led to an ill-fated shoot-out between police and a group of Native Americans, including Croy. Croy was convicted of attempted robbery, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, assault, and the murder of the police officer.

In 1985, the California Supreme Court overturned most of Croy's convictions. The Court found that the trial judge had read the wrong instructions to the jury, allowing the jury to convict Croy of robbery even if he did not intend to steal. Because the murder conviction was based on the theory that Croy had intentionally committed a robbery that had caused the officer's death, the murder conviction was reversed.

At retrial in 1990, Croy's defense presented evidence that Croy acted in self-defense during the shoot-out, including evidence that Croy himself was shot twice during the altercation, expert testimony regarding the antagonistic relationship between law enforcement and local Native Americans at the time of the crime, and that Officer Hittson had a blood alcohol level of .07 at his time of death. Croy was acquitted of all charges for which he was tried, based on self-defense. The trial court entered a finding that, if the conspiracy and assault charges had been included in the retrial, Croy would have been acquitted of them as well. Croy was resentenced on these charges and was released on parole.

In 1997, Croy violated parole and was given an indeterminate life sentence. In 2005, Croy's original conspiracy and assault convictions were also overturned. The state decided not to appeal and Croy was freed in Mar. 2005. He had served 19 years in prison, 7 of them on death row.  (85) (Info)  [6/08]

McLean County, IL 

Alan Beaman

Aug 25, 1993 (Normal)

Alan Beaman was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lockmiller, an ISU student. On Aug. 28, 1993, Lockmiller was found in her Normal apartment strangled by a clock radio cord and stabbed in the chest with a pair of scissors. The state established sexual jealousy as a possible motive for Beaman committing the murder, but given the number of Lockmiller's boyfriends, the motive appeared hardly unique to him. Beyond this possible motive, the state's evidence was essentially non-existent. Even if the evidence, by itself, were sufficient to convict, Beaman's alibi raises some measure of doubt, as does the evidence against an alternative suspect.

An appellate court affirmed Beaman's conviction with one justice dissenting. The dissenting justice found the evidence insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In May 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned Beaman's conviction, ruling that he should have been allowed to introduce evidence of another viable suspect. The state had withheld much of this evidence prior to trial. This suspect, identified as John Doe, was a steroid using, physically abusive boyfriend of Lockmiller to whom she owed money. The suspect had agreed to take a polygraph test but then failed to take it because he would not follow the instructions of the polygraphist. The Court also agreed that Beaman's lawyers never properly investigated and presented evidence about his alibi.  (Appeal) (CWC)  [6/08]

 Suffolk County, MA

Guy Randolph

Dec 1990

Guy Randolph was convicted of sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl. The girl did not initially recognize Randolph as her assailant. However, a few minutes later, after talking to her aunt, she accused Randolph. During a grand jury investigation, the girl described her assailant in ways that did not match Randolph, including his clothing and height. There was also no physical evidence connecting Randolph to the assault.

At his lawyer's request, Randolph entered a Alford plea in which he did not have to admit guilt in exchange for a time served sentence of 4 months plus 10 years of probation. Randolph later failed to show up for an alcohol counseling session, a condition of his probation. A judge then incarcerated him for the remainder of the 10 years. Following Randolph's release, he had to register as a sex offender. In 2008, after prosecutors said the case against Randolph was so weak it should not have been pursued, a judge exonerated Randolph of all charges and declared him innocent.  (Boston Globe)  [6/08]

 Cook County, IL

Dean Cage

Nov 14, 1994

Dean Cage was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. The assault occurred on Nov. 14, 1994, in an alley in the rear basement stairwell of a building in the 7000 block of South Wabash Avenue. The victim gave a description of her assailant from which a computer-generated composite sketch was made. After the sketch was publicized, police received an anonymous tip that a man who worked at a certain meat packing plant resembled the sketch. Cage worked at the plant, but had no criminal record and did not closely resemble the sketch. In 2004 Cage filed a handwritten petition of habeas corpus in federal court. He asserted he was innocent because the girl had contracted venereal diseases from her assailant, and tests showed Cage did not have any venereal diseases. Cage's petition was rejected. Nevertheless he was arrested and identified by the victim in a live lineup. In 2008 DNA tests exonerated Cage of the crime.  (CWC) (FJDB)  [6/08]

May 2008

 Cook County, IL

Alton Logan

Jan 11, 1982

Alton Logan was convicted of murdering Lloyd Wickliffe, a security guard, during the robbery of a McDonald's restaurant at 11421 S. Halsted St. in Chicago. Another security guard, Alvin Thompson, was wounded. The gunmen got no money, but stole the guards' handguns. Police arrested Logan after a tip and got three eyewitnesses to identify him. Logan, his mother, and brother all would later testify that he was at home asleep when the murder occurred. While investigating another man, Andrew Wilson, for the unrelated murders of two policeman, police found the shotgun used in the McDonald's robbery. Police never charged Wilson in the McDonald's robbery as there were only two perpetrators in the robbery and they had already built a case against Logan and a codefendant, Edgar Hope.

Hope later told Wilson's attorneys, Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz, that Logan had nothing to do with the McDonald's shooting and that Wilson was the shooter. When the attorneys asked their client if he was responsible for the McDonald's shooting, Wilson said, “Yep, that was me.” Wilson's attorneys thought about speaking up to prevent Logan's conviction, but attorney-client confidentiality prohibited them. Instead they signed an affidavit regarding Wilson's confession and sealed it. Kunz said they prepared the document “so that if we were ever able to speak up, no one could say we were just making this up now.” They later obtained Wilson's permission to reveal his confession following his death.

After Wilson died in Nov. 2007, the attorneys came forward with Wilson's confession to the crime. In April 2008, Logan's conviction was vacated and charges against him were later dropped. Logan has served 26 years in prison.  (Chicago Tribune) (CWC)  [5/08]

Duplin County, NC 

Jones & Lamb

1987

Levon “Bo” Jones and Larry Lamb were convicted of the murder of Leamon Grady. Jones was sentenced to death while Lamb was sentenced to life imprisonment. A federal judge overturned Jones's conviction in 2006, declaring that the defense provided by Jones's initial defense attorneys was so poor that they missed critical evidence pointing to his innocence. The sole witness accusing Jones of the murder, Lovely Lorden, later admitted in an affidavit that she “was certain that Bo did not have anything to do with Mr. Grady's murder” and that she did not know what happened the night Grady was murdered. Jones's first trial lawyer never bothered to gather the many conflicting statements of Lorden, let alone do the kind of investigation necessary in a first degree murder case. It is possible Lorden would have admitted the truth earlier had the case been investigated and had she been adequately cross-examined. In May 2008, the prosecution dropped charges against Jones, just days before his scheduled retrial. Jones was released the next day.

Jones's codefendant, Larry Lamb, was also convicted due to the testimony of Lorden. Lamb has always maintained his innocence and had turned down a plea offer of a six-year sentence. Lamb plans to ask the newly formed North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission to review his case.  (ACLU)  [5/08]

 Dallas County, TX

Thomas McGowan

May 7, 1985 (Richardson)

Thomas Clifford McGowan Jr. was convicted of rape. The 19-year-old victim picked his photo from a group of seven, some in color, others black-and-white photocopies. When she tentatively picked McGowan's picture, she said Detective Mike Corley, now the assistant chief, told her, “I had to make a positive ID. I had to say yes or no.” McGowan was given two life sentences, one for rape, and the other for burglary of the woman's apartment. In April 2008, after serving 23 years of imprisonment, DNA tests exonerated McGowan and implicated another man, Kenneth Woodson. Woodson, who admitted to the crime, could not be charged because the five-year statute of limitations for the crime had expired.  (IP) (FJDB)  [5/08]

Macomb County, MI 

Nathaniel Hatchett

Nov 11, 1996

Nathaniel Hatchett was sentenced to 25 to 40 years in prison for kidnapping and raping a 23-year-old Sterling Heights woman. After accosting the victim in the parking lot of a Super Kmart at 14 Mile and Van Dyke, a gunman forced her into her car, drove away, and raped her. Hatchett was arrested three days later in the woman's 1990 Dodge Spirit. He admitted stealing the car and the victim identified him as her assailant. Following a seven-hour interrogation in which investigators promised Hatchett a deal, he confessed to the crime. DNA tests, however, showed that the sperm left in the victim did not match him. At Hatchett's bench trial, Judge George Steeh convicted him after ruling that the lack of a DNA match could “hardly be found to represent a reasonable doubt considering all of the evidence in the case.”

Years later, after Prosecutor Eric Smith reinvestigated the case, apparently at the request of the Innocence Project, he dismissed charges against Hatchett. Hatchett walked free in April 2008.  (Detroit Free Press)  [5/08]

Los Angeles County, CA

Charles F. Persico

May 29, 1980

Charles F. Persico was charged with the murder of Ann Pontrelli Smith, 41. Smith was shot to death at the beauty shop that she owned in Highland Park. LAPD detectives Neil Westbrook and Richard Crowe zeroed in on Persico after receiving an anonymous tip that he lived in the area and resembled a composite drawing of the murder suspect. Two women who had been in the beauty shop – Smith's mother and a customer – identified him as the gunman. Rather than face trial for murder, Persico pled guilty to manslaughter. Persico served four years in prison and was paroled in 1984. A year after his got out of prison, Persico was ushered into a meeting at the district attorney's office, secretly exonerated and released from parole. Persico did not know how or why he was exonerated. LAPD Officer William E. Leasure was later charged with conspiring with the victim's husband, Arthur Gayle Smith, to murder her. In 1992, Persico was awarded $4.8 million dollars in a lawsuit against detectives Westbrook and Crowe.  (Archives)  [5/08]

Los Angeles County, CA

Titus Brown

Aug 17, 1984

Titus Lee Brown, Jr. was convicted of the stabbing murder of Israel Guzman Rangel. The murder occurred in a South-Central Los Angeles parking lot. The chief prosecution witness was Ricardo Pimental Baldavinos. Pimental testified that he saw Guzman being attacked by two men. Pimental drew his unloaded gun and approached the assailants in an attempt to scare them away. Presented with a series of photo lineups a few days later, he identified Brown as the killer. However, Pimental's identification was weak: The incident occurred at night; Pimental had never seen the assailant before; he only saw the assailant briefly, though his estimates of time varied from “a couple of seconds” to “five minutes”; he had been drinking earlier in the evening; he could not recall whether the assailant had facial hair; when first contacted by the police, Pimental denied any knowledge of the incident; and Pimental failed to identify Brown's photo when presented in a photo lineup at trial.
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Orange County, TX 

Clarence Von Williams

Apr 30, 1979

Clarence Von Williams was convicted of raping at gunpoint a Bridge City woman and her teenage daughter. The assailant wore a ski mask, blindfolded his victims, and assaulted them in a dark room. Nevertheless the victims claimed to have caught a glimpse of their assailant from underneath their blindfolds. Following the assault, the adult victim's boyfriend convinced her that assailant must be someone she knew because he took great steps to avoid being seen by her. The victim called her friend Lois, who mentioned that Von Williams, her boyfriend, had been out drinking till the wee hours of the morning. The victim had met Von Williams just once, two weeks before, at a two-hour dinner party. The victim then convinced herself that Von Williams was her assailant. At trial, both the victim and her children identified Von Williams as the assailant.

Two months after Von Williams' conviction, another man, Jon Barry Simonis, known as the “Ski-Mask Rapist,” confessed to 77 crimes in 7 states, including the rapes for which Von Williams was convicted. Simonis knew details about the rapes that no one outside the prosecutor's office knew. When shown a videotape of Simonis's confession, the adult victim repeated, “no, no, no, no, no, no,” refusing to admit that someone other than Von Williams had committed the assaults. However, it seemed clear from the shocked expressions of her teenage children that they recognized Simonis. After prosecutors saw the videotape, they joined the defense in a Dec. 1981 motion to vacate Von Williams' conviction and dismiss all charges.  (Witness for the Defense) (Archives)  [5/08]

 Dallas County, TX

James Lee Woodard

Dec 29, 1980

James Lee Woodard was convicted of the murder of Beverly Ann Jones, 21, a woman he had dated for 7 months. Jones's stepfather said Woodard had come to their home in the early morning of the day of her disappearance. Neighbors said they had heard the couple fighting. Several days before Woodard's trial, authorities learned of three other witnesses had seen Jones shortly before she died. The witnesses, Ed Mosley, Theodore Blaylock and Eddie Woodard, told investigators she had gotten into a car with several men at a 7-Eleven. Mosley and Blaylock couldn't identify the men or their car. It was the last time Jones was seen alive. This information was withheld from Woodard's defense. Jones's body was found in the Trinity River bottoms in south Dallas. She had been sexually assaulted.

In Dec. 2007, DNA test results cleared Woodard. Jones's stepfather was re-interviewed and recanted his trial testimony that Woodard had come to his house. Woodard was set free in Apr. 2008, after serving 27 years in prison. Woodard is the longest serving inmate in the United States to be released as a result of DNA testing.  (Archives)  [5/08]

 Dallas County, TX

Michael Anthony Woten

Apr 16, 1982 (Dallas)

Michael Anthony Woten was convicted of the armed robbery of a Safeway supermarket at Northwest Highway near Plano Road. The store was robbed of $5200. Woten was sentenced to 55 years in prison. Five witnesses testified that he was one of two men who had robbed that store and another grocery. Woten, however, insisted he was hitchhiking from Dallas to St. Louis at the time of the robbery. He said he had got a ride with a trucker he could identify only as Don and as Kangaroo, the trucker's nickname on citizens' band radio. An inmate Woten later met by chance, Russell Everett Chamberlain, gave a statement that he committed the robbery with another man. The Dallas Times Herald then launched a search for Kangaroo, and found him. He turned out to be Don Fainter of Claycomo, MO. Fainter told authorities that he did indeed give Woten a ride on the day of the robbery. Gov. Clements pardoned Woten in Feb. 1990. Woten died eight months later after his pickup truck went out of control and overturned on a highway embankment.  (NY Times) (Archives)  [5/08]

 Dallas County, TX

Stephen Russell

Sept 20, 1979 (Garland)

Stephen Lynn Russell was convicted in 1980 of robbing a Long John Silvers restaurant at 1425 Northwest Highway in Garland. Two women who rode in the getaway car told prosecutors that another man, Robert Earl Wilkie, was the robber. Wilkie later confessed in a court hearing. Wilkie could not be charged with the crime as the five year statute of limitations had since expired. Gov. Clements pardoned Russell in April 1990.  (Archives)  [5/08]

 Dallas County, TX

Martin Kimsey

May 28, 1985 (Garland)

Martin Kimsey was convicted of the stun gun robbery of a Wells Fargo security guard in front of a Garland Safeway store. Gov. Clements pardoned Kimsey in May 1990 after a federal prisoner, James Clayton Garrett, confessed to the crime.  (Archives)  [5/08]

Sutter County, CA

William Marvin Lindley

Aug 18, 1943 (Yuba City)

William Marvin Lindley was sentenced to death for the murder of Jackie Marie Hamilton, a 13-year-old girl. On the day of the crime, the victim had been swimming in the Yuba River with other girls around her own age. Lindley, a redhead, operated a boathouse on the banks of the river. After finishing her swimming, the victim went to her house, changed her clothes, spoke to her father, and went out again. She was found 20 minutes to a half-hour later in a dying condition. She was able to sob out to her father that her assailant was “that old red-headed liar in the boathouse, the old-red-headed liar.” She later died without clarifying her statement.
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McLennan County, TX 

Johnson & Young

Feb 11, 1922

L. C. “Cooper” Johnson and Bennie Young were convicted of the murders of W. H. Barker, his wife, Loula Barker, and a boy named Homer Turk, aged about 13. The murders occurred at the Barker home on Corsicana Rd., seven miles southeast of Waco. Turk had gone over to the Barkers to play dominoes. Dominoes were found on the table drawn and separated into hands, as though the parties had been engaged in playing the game. The body of Mr. Barker was found in the back yard near a woodpile, shot through the head. The body of Mrs. Barker was found in the house, and her head was cut to pieces by blows from an axe; Turk was also killed by blows inflicted with an axe.

Johnson and Young, who were described as “boys,” were arrested for these murders and confessed to them while in police custody. In Mar. 1923, another man, Roy Mitchell, was convicted of murdering five people in five different proceedings, all in the same month. In a sixth proceeding, Mitchell was convicted of murdering Loula Barker. The convictions were due, at least in part, to coerced confessions. The authorities expressed pride that they helped prevent a lynching.

Johnson died in prison a few days before Mitchell's hanging. In 1934 the Texas governor pardoned Young after being informed by the trial judge and the prosecuting attorney that they did not believe Young was guilty.  (ISI) (FWH)  [5/08]

 Harris County, TX

Anthony Robinson

Jan 1986

Anthony Robinson, a black man, was convicted of raping a white University of Houston student. He was picked up because the victim said her assailant was a black man wearing a plaid shirt. The victim, who was white, also said her assailant had a mustache, smelled of cigarette smoke, had no money, and that he apologized to her, saying he had just gotten out of prison and had not had sex in a long time. Robinson had no mustache, did not smoke, had $169 on him, and had never been to prison. The victim identified Robinson as her assailant when he was brought to her and at trial. Robinson's fingerprints did not match those taken from the crime scene.

Robinson was paroled after serving 10 years of his 27-year sentence. He then worked to pay for his own DNA testing and hired a lawyer who had him officially exonerated. Because he was a well thought of college graduate who served two years in the Army, a state senator employed Robinson as the “poster child” for a proposed Texas law to increase the compensation for the wrongly convicted to $25,000 per year of incarceration. The law passed and Robinson was awarded $250,000 under it.  (IP) (Frontline)  [5/08]

Greene County, MO 

Armand Villasana

Sept 16, 1998 (Springfield)

Armand Villasana was convicted of the kidnapping and rape of Judith Ann Lummis. Lummis, who was white, had described her assailant as a Hispanic in his early 20s. She identified Villasana from a photo lineup that contained five white men and himself, the only Hispanic. However, Villasana was 45 years old. Following conviction, DNA tests produced the profile of an unknown male, results which exonerated Villasana in 2000.

In 2005, the unknown DNA profile was matched to a prisoner in the Ozark Correctional Center. When interviewed the prisoner said that he was having an affair with Lummis at the time of her alleged rape, and had sex with her the very night she reported the rape. According to the prisoner, after Lummis's husband questioned why she was late getting home, she made-up her kidnapping and rape story on the spur of the moment so her husband wouldn't find out she was cheating on him.

Investigators were initially unsuccessful at locating Lummis to confirm the story as she was on probation and had skipped reporting. However, a background check revealed that Lummis had made a nearly identical kidnapping report in Aurora, Missouri against another man that was proven to be false prior to his trial. After Lummis was arrested for violating her probation, she confirmed in 2007 that her accusation against Villasana was a hoax. Lummis cannot be prosecuted for perjury as the statute of limitations for it had run out.  (JD) (IP)  [5/08]

 Dallas County, TX

Joyce Ann Brown

May 6, 1980

Joyce Ann Brown was sentenced to life in prison for the robbery and murder of Rubin Danziger, a Dallas fur-store owner. The crime occurred in Danziger's store, Fine Furs By Rubin, in Preston Center on Northwest Highway. After the getaway car used by the two female robbers was discovered, police found a car rental agreement in it signed by a Joyce Ann Brown. However, the car had been rented to a different Joyce Ann Brown. Police and prosecutors discovered the error before trial, but proceeded with the prosecution anyway. The victim's wife, Ala, had identified Rene Michelle Taylor, as the robber who shot her husband, and Brown as her accomplice. Taylor later revealed that another woman, Lorraine Germany, was her accomplice. Germany reportedly has a startling resemblance to Brown. Investigation also showed that a jailhouse witness, Martha Jean Bruce, had lied to convict Brown. Brown was featured on a 60 Minutes episode and was freed in Nov. 1989.  (CM) (CWC) (Archives)  [5/08]

Sumner County, TN

Marshall & Spurlock

Feb 20, 1989

Ronnie Marshall and Robert Spurlock were convicted of the murder of Lonnie Malone. Malone's body was found on Feb. 21, 1989 in a concrete culvert on Bug Hollow Road. He had died of multiple stab wounds. The state's theory was that Marshall and Malone sold drugs for Spurlock. When Malone failed to pay for the drugs that Spurlock furnished him, Spurlock decided to kill him. According to the state, Marshall aided and abetted Spurlock in killing Malone. Marshall supposedly found Malone, delivered him to Spurlock, and was present when Spurlock killed Malone. In 1996, Marshall's and Spurlock's convictions were vacated after the real killer confessed.  (State v. Marshall)  [5/08]

San Francisco County, CA

John Henry Fry

Aug 3, 1958

John Henry Fry was accused of murdering his common law wife, Elvira Hay, 47. Hay was found strangled to death in a hotel room bathtub at 493 Fourth Street in San Francisco. The prosecution developed a strong circumstantial case against him. Although Fry maintained his innocence, he pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter for which he received a 1 to 10 year prison sentence. Fry feared receiving a harsher sentence if he were convicted of murder. Gov. Edmund Brown pardoned Fry in June 1959 after a hotel cook named Richard Cooper confessed to the crime. The state legislature awarded Fry $3,000 for 7 months of wrongful imprisonment.  (People v. Cooper) (The Innocents)  [5/08]

Philadelphia County, PA

Frank Harris

Mar 4, 1926 (Center City)

Frank Harris was convicted of murdering a companion, Wilbert McQueen, during a 1926 gunfight with two Philadelphia police officers. The gunfight occurred on 10th Street north of Lombard Street. Harris was exonerated and released in 1947 after it was revealed that McQueen was killed by a bullet fired from a police revolver.  (News Article) (Harris v. Burke)  [5/08]

Clackamas County, OR

Santiago Ventura Morales

July 13, 1986

Santiago Ventura Morales was convicted of murdering Ramiro Lopez Fidel, a fellow farm worker. Fidel had been stabbed twice in the chest and left to die in a strawberry field near Sandy. The conviction was due to the prosecution's use of fabricated evidence, including the use of a fake murder weapon. Only one witness, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, testified that Morales was the killer. The witness, Epifanio Bautista Lopez, initially testified that he saw nothing, but changed his testimony after he was taken into the district attorney's office during a recess. Under cross-examination, Lopez said that he was afraid of what might happen to him if he did not testify the way the prosecutor wanted him to testify.

Several days after the trial, four jurors, Patricia Lee, Glorya Oppitz, David Ralls, and Sherien Jaeger, told the defense co-counsel, Lane Borg, that they had changed their minds about their jury votes and asked if they could do anything about it. They were told that a verdict cannot be thrown out simply because jurors change their minds. Three of these jurors formed a support group for Morales. They visited him in jail, sent him money, and wrote letters to the parole board asking for his release.

Morales's defense was hampered because Morales, a Mexican immigrant, did not speak English or Spanish, but spoke Mixtec, an indigenous language. The judge assigned him a Spanish interpreter. The interpreter tried to tell the judge that he could not communicate with Morales, but the judge refused to accept the idea that a Mexican defendant could not speak Spanish. Portland Oregonian newspaper columnist Phil Stanford wrote many columns outlining Morales's innocence. The Oregon Attorney General opposed Morales's petition for relief on the grounds that his innocence was not a legal basis to overturn his conviction and release him. Four years after Morales's conviction, his lawyer established that another farm worker, Herminio Luna Hernandez, was the actual killer and Morales was released.  (NY Times)  [5/08]

Tulsa County, OK

James Bauhaus

Oct 17, 1972 (Tulsa)

James Scott Bauhaus was convicting of the murder of Jefferson Dee Hunt. According to the state, the victim and his wife returned home and found Bauhaus in the process of burglarizing their home. Bauhaus then shot and killed the victim. The victim's wife positively identified Bauhaus. In addition, a bystander outside the home identified Bauhaus as the individual running away from the direction of the victim's home shortly after the crime.

Bauhaus alleges that the testimony of the two eyewitnesses was procured by police misconduct, and that blood and fingerprint evidence retrieved from the crime scene could reveal the real killer if it was analyzed by modern forensic technology. The state has refused to test this evidence and the courts have refused to order such testing. A police sketch of the perpetrator does not match Bauhaus.  (www.jamesbauhaus.org)  [5/08]

Beaver County, UT 

Bruce Dallas Goodman

Nov 1984

Bruce Dallas Goodman was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Sherry Ann Fales Williams. Williams, 21, was found sodomized, beaten to death and bound near an I-15 exit north of Beaver. At his trial in 1984, two separate witnesses testified for Goodman, saying he was with them in California the night the murder happened. DNA tests later exonerated Goodman of the crime. Goodman was released in Nov. 2004 after he served 19 years of imprisonment.  (IP)  [5/08]

Powhatan County, VA

Beverly Monroe

Mar 4, 1992

Beverly Anne Monroe was convicted of the murder of Roger Zygmunt Comte de la Burdé, her wealthy lover. De la Burdé, 60, died at Windsor on his 220-acre estate. His body was found on a couch in his library with a bullet in his head from his own revolver. Monroe had been his companion for 12 years. In 2002, a federal judge overturned Monroe's conviction due to the withholding of exculpatory evidence by the prosecution. The judge also ruled that “The physical evidence necessary to show whether [de la Burdé's] death was a murder or a suicide was . . . either tainted or lost.” Monroe was subsequently released from prison.  (TruthInJustice)  [5/08]

Providence County, RI 

Beaver Tempest

Feb 19, 1982 (Woonsocket)

Raymond D. “Beaver” Tempest, Jr. was convicted of the murder of Doreen Picard. The murder occurred at 409 Providence Street in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Picard was a third floor resident of this address and her brutally murdered body was found in the basement. A first floor resident, Susan Laferte, was also found in the basement. She had also been severely beaten, but had survived. Evidence seemed to indicate that Laferte was the intended target of the attack which was interrupted by Picard. Both victims had been beaten by a 28-inch length of galvanized pipe.

Laferte's three year-old daughter, Nichole, had apparently witnessed the assaults. At various times when Nichole was at social gatherings that included a man named Donald Dagesse, Nichole made statements to the effect that Dagesse was the man who “boomed” her “mama” or asked him if he was that bad man who “boomed mama.” Dagesse also made incriminating statements to different people. Dagesse had an alibi, but there were eight different inconsistencies with it. When asked in the hospital to identify her assailant, Laferte repeatedly was able to write down the letters D, A, and a Y or a G.  A detective then recited several first names, but Laferte did not respond to any of them. A nurse asked her if the assailant was Donald Dagesse and Laferte nodded her head yes. She was asked two more times by the detective if the name was Donald Dagesse and she nodded yes each time. Laferte later had no memory of the assault or of being asked her assailant's name.

Despite the evidence against Dagesse, the investigation went nowhere from late 1983 to 1987. Beaver Tempest's brother, Gordon Tempest, was a Woonsocket police officer and in 1987 he arrested Stanley Irza, the brother-in-law of Captain Rodney Remblad, the chief of detectives. From Irza's arrest on, Remblad apparently had it in for Beaver. Remblad would also use the case as a stepping stone for his promotion to Woonsocket Chief of Police. In the years that followed, the frame-up of Beaver Tempest proceeded, with a complex tale of police convincing witnesses to lie, police manipulation of the press, and police convincing more witnesses to lie when the lies of previous witnesses were exposed. By 1992, Beaver Tempest was arrested, tried, and convicted of the crime. He was sentenced to 85 years in prison. His brother Gordon was convicted of perjury for disagreeing at Beaver's trial with “facts” presented by false witnesses.  (caught.net) (1/95) (7/95)  [5/08]

Clallam County, WA 

John Carothers

Sept 3, 1971

John V. Carothers was convicted of murdering Ronald and Wanda Buck. The victims were killed during a robbery in their home west of Sequim. Joseph Lalak, a friend of Carothers, was caught with a pistol stolen from the victims and with the murder weapon. Lalak implicated Carothers as the shooter and made a deal to testify against him. Following Carothers' arrest, police retrieved a sawed off shotgun and a rifle from his barn, weapons that Lalak admitted owning. The prosecution claimed these weapons were stolen from a gun shop by Carothers and Lalak. The prosecution never attempted to prove this claim. The weapons sat before Carothers' trial jury with no objections from defense attorneys.

Carothers had nearly a dozen alibi witnesses testify that he was 125 miles away when the Bucks were murdered. The judge informed the jury that the burden of proof of the alibi was with Carothers even though that instruction had been ruled unconstitutional in 1955. The judge also instructed the jury that they could find him guilty of aiding and abetting and of being an accomplice. However, Carothers was the only person indicted for the murders, so it is not clear who Carothers could be aiding and abetting or what he could be an accomplice to. The jury was even informed that Carothers did not need to be at the scene of the murders to be found guilty. Carothers has affidavits from several jurors indicating that the trial judge's illegal instructions are what cinched their agreement to find Carothers guilty.  (Justice: Denied)  [5/08]

Kanawha County, WV

James Richardson

May 18, 1988 (Cross Lanes)

While standing outside his father's house on Big Tyler Road in Cross Lanes, WV, James E. Richardson, Jr. saw another house on fire. He entered the burning house and carried 3-year-old Lindsay Gilfilen to safety. Inside the house, police found the charred body of Lindsay's mother, Kelli. She had been bound, raped, and beaten to death. Richardson was arrested for the crime almost immediately. At trial, Fred Zain, an analyst at the West Virginia State Police crime laboratory, told the jury that Richardson's semen had been found on the victim. Richardson was convicted. DNA tests later proved Zain wrong and Richardson's conviction was vacated. The state did not retry Richardson and formally dismissed all charges against him in 1999.  (News Article) (48 Hours) (IP)  [5/08]

 Ontario, Canada

Dimitre Dimitrov

Feb 21, 1996 (Vanier)

Dimitre Dimitrov was convicted in 1999 of murdering his friend and landlord, Hristo Veltchev, 37. Veltchev's body was found in a public parking lot, stuffed in the trunk of his car. Evidence indicated that he had been bludgeoned to death in the garage of his house. Dimitrov's conviction was based on expert testimony that his feet matched impressions found inside a pair of bloody boots at the victim's house. The boots were found in a front hall closet in the house. The closet was used by all the boarders of the house including Dimitrov. Apart from the expert's testimony, there was no evidence Dimitrov owned or had worn the boots. A retrial was ordered in 2003 after a court ruled that the impression evidence was inadmissible to establish positive identification unless it was accompanied by corroborating evidence. At retrial in 2004, DNA test results were presented, which showed that the blood on the boots belonged neither to the victim, nor to Dimitrov, nor to anyone else known to have entered the house. Dimitrov was acquitted. He had spent 4 1/2 years imprisoned.  (JD)  [5/08]

Cuyahoga County, OH

Anthony Michael Green

May 29, 1988

Anthony Michael Green was convicted of raping a terminally ill nurse who was receiving treatments for liver cancer. The crime occurred at the Cleveland Clinic Center Hotel. The perpetrator had told the victim his name was Tony. Green had worked at the hotel for a short time, but was fired in March 1988 for getting into a fight with another employee. Green's clinic ID badge was among a group of badges shown the victim. The victim identified him at trial. The trial also featured faulty and falsified forensics. DNA tests exonerated Green in 2001.

Following Green's release, the Plain Dealer newspaper wrote an article series about Green's ordeal. The real perpetrator, Rodney Rhines, who had become a Christian and was living at the City Mission, happened to read the series. He had not known that anyone had been convicted for his crime. After reading the series, Rhines, feeling remorse, confessed to mission personnel that he had done the crime and wanted to turn himself in. The Rev. Brent Reynolds told him, “You won't be coming back out once you walk into that police station.” “Yes, I know,” said Rhines. Rhines had once worked for the Cleveland Clinic in the hotel kitchen. Even though the victim identified Green, Green does not resemble Rhines. Rhines's skin and eyes are darker and his face wider. Green was awarded $2.6 million in 2004 for 13 years of wrongful imprisonment.  (Plain Dealer) (IP)  [5/08]

Wilkes County, NC 

Charles Munsey

May 1993

Charles Munsey was convicted of the murder of Shirley Weaver. Weaver, 66, was killed during a robbery in her boyfriend's trailer near Wilkesboro. She had been bludgeoned with a frying pan and a shotgun. Munsey was convicted because of the testimony of Timothy Bryan Hall, a jailhouse informant. Prior to trial, Munsey and his attorneys had seen Hall's name on a witness list, but had no idea who he was. When Hall took the stand to testify, Munsey turned to his counsel and said, “I've never seen the man before.” Hall testified that he talked to Munsey in late 1993 in the yard at Central Prison. According to Hall, Munsey was wearing an orange jumpsuit and sitting on a picnic table. Munsey told him he surprised Weaver in the house. She slapped him and he crushed her skull with a rifle butt.

Hall said he had no ulterior motive to testify against Munsey. “I found God a few years ago, or a few months ago – and I – it's just the right thing to do. No matter, no matter what happens to me, I still feel like in my heart I've done the right thing.” Munsey's lawyers poked some holes in Hall's testimony; Central Prison had no orange jumpsuits or picnic tables. However, they failed to win over the jury.

In 1997, Munsey's ex-brother-in-law, Oid Michael Hawkins, confessed to the murder. He also said he had taken a pistol from Weaver's home and placed it in Munsey's home. In 1998, a judge ordered Munsey's prosecutor, Randy Lyon, to turn over files he concealed from Munsey. Six days later, after church services, Lyon went home and hanged himself. His files showed that Hall had never been in Central Prison. Despite the exonerating evidence, the new prosecutor, Tom Horner, fought to keep Munsey imprisoned. Munsey won a new trial but died in prison before it could take place.  (News & Observer)  [5/08]

Robeson County, NC 

Henry Lee Hunt

Sept 8, 1984

Henry Lee Hunt was convicted of the murders of Jackie Ray Ransom and Larry Jones. Ransom had married Dorothy Locklear while she was still married to Rogers Locklear. Dorothy and Rogers then hired A. R. Barnes to kill Ransom so Dorothy could collect on a $25,000 life insurance policy. The policy paid a double indemnity for accidental death including homicide. Barnes recruited his brother, Elwell Barnes to help in the murder. Someone shot Ransom to death on Sept. 8, 1984 in the woods near a bar. A week later, on Sept. 14, someone shot and killed a man named Larry Jones, apparently because Jones was telling police what he knew about the Ransom murder. Jones was implicating Rogers Locklear in the murder, but made no mention of Hunt. Jones was buried in a shallow grave.

A. R. Barnes confessed to the crimes. Subsequently, he recanted and blamed Hunt, who had a criminal record and was in prison for a drug offense. Other witnesses also pointed to Hunt, although their initial statements conflicted with each other. According to two reconstruction experts, witness Jerome Ratley's account of Jones's murder could not have happened the way that Ratley told the jury at Hunt's trial. Prosecutors introduced a shovel into evidence that they said Hunt used to bury Jones, but they did not tell the jury that the soil on the shovel did not match the soil in which Jones had been buried.

Hunt consistently maintained his innocence and passed two lie detector tests regarding the murders. While such tests do not prove Hunt's innocence, they raise doubt about his guilt. Elwell Barnes signed an 1989 affidavit in which he wrote that Hunt “has been convicted for a crime that A. R. Barnes, Jerome Ratley, Roger Locklear and myself committed.” The prosecution withheld evidence and then “lost” field notes and other files that would have undermined the state's case. In 2003, the state was refusing to allow lawyers to see the evidence that remained. Hunt was executed by lethal injection on Sept. 13, 2003.  (Charlotte Observer) (Greensboro News & Record)  [5/08]

Buncombe County, NC 

Gus Colin Langley

Sept 27, 1932 (Asheville)

Gus Colin Langley was convicted of murdering Lonnie G. Russell during an Asheville gas station holdup. Witnesses reported that the day before the murder they had seen a car with a New Jersey license plate at the gas station. Five days later police located a car with a New Jersey plate in Wilmington, NC, 320 miles away. It was driven by Langley, who, although a native of Wilmington, had worked as a house painter in Jersey City, NJ. Police could not locate any other car with a New Jersey plate in the whole of North Carolina on the day of the murder.

Aside from his license plate, there was no physical evidence against Langley. The prosecution's case relied on informant testimony. Langley had alibi witnesses who could verify that his car could not have been in Asheville the day before the murder, and other witnesses who could verify that he was far from Asheville on the day of the murder. Langley wrote letters to these witnesses, but the letters went unanswered. Later investigation revealed that the witnesses never received his letters. It seems doubtful that his jailers ever mailed them. Langley's execution was stopped 25 minutes before its scheduled time because of a technicality in the judge's order. Langley was cleared in 1936 after it was proven that he was hundreds of miles away from the location of the murder on the day it occurred.  (The Innocents) (ISI)  [5/08]

April 2008

Queens County, NY

Angelo Martinez

Apr 10, 1985

Angelo Martinez was convicted of the murder of Rudolph Marasco, 70. Marasco was killed while leaving an Ozone Park bingo hall. Charles Rivera, a hit man, confessed to the crime in 1989 when he entered the federal witness protection plan. Rivera said he killed Marasco because the Richmond Hill man would not move from a building that its owner wanted to sell. The information about Rivera was turned over to Martinez's attorney, Jenny Maiola, in 1991 but she never filed an appeal. Maiola was disbarred in 1995 after being indicted for stealing $300,000 from client escrow accounts. Martinez was eventually exonerated in 2002.  (Archives)  [4/08]

Allegheny County, PA

Paul Ford, Jr.

Feb 1994 (West Mifflin)

Paul Ford, Jr. was convicted of murdering Maurice Price. Price, 25, was shot to death outside a Monview Heights tenement in West Mifflin. The 410 lb. Price had gone there with $250 to buy a quarter ounce of cocaine. Price could not find his regular dealer so he asked people milling around if anyone else could make the sale.

Initial descriptions of the assailant do not match Ford and the only evidence against him is testimony from three admitted liars. Seven people, including two jail guards, say that Joey Jones told them that he was the killer. Two others gave descriptions of the killer that match Jones. However, on the witness stand Jones fingered Ford. Nikela Carrington, a crack addict, told police she watched Ford rob and kill Price. When asked where she was at the time of the shooting, Carrington wavered, but eventually settled on saying she was in her apartment. However, from her apartment a neighboring building would have blocked her view. Nicole Bennett, a friend of Carrington's and a fellow drug user, denied seeing the shooting for six days, then told police she saw Ford pull the trigger. She later admitted conspiring with Carrington to extort money from Ford by threatening to say that he did it.

Ford, a street-level drug dealer, admitted being at the scene of the killing with some associates but denied involvement in it. He believes he was targeted because eight years previously his father had shot the lead investigator, Detective Gary Tallent. Ford's attorney, Robert Garshak, did not call a number of relevant witnesses at trial because he said the prosecution's case was so weak that he did not need them.  (JD) (Innocence Institute)  [4/08]

Kings County, NY

Angel DeAngelo

July 1, 1999

(Federal Case)  Angel M. DeAngelo was convicted on federal charges of murdering Thomas Palazzotto. Palazzotto was shot and killed on the corner of Columbia and Kane Streets in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. Prosecutors argued DeAngelo committed the murder to gain entrance into a racketeering enterprise. The conviction was later vacated because a judge said he feared an innocent man had been convicted on “patently incredible testimony.” The judge said that prosecutors had relied on “blatant, critical perjury by all of the key witnesses.” Charges against DeAngelo were dropped and he was released in 2004.  (NY Times)  [4/08]

Bronx County, NY

Milton Lantigua

June 27, 1990

Milton Lantigua was convicted of the murder of Felix Ayala. Ayala was shot to death in front of 1520 Sheridan Avenue shortly after 1:00 a.m. on the morning of June 27, 1990. An earlier trial, conducted in 1991, ended in a mistrial when the jurors were unable to agree on a verdict. A witness, Frances Nunez Rosario, identified Lantigua as the shooter after claiming she had been alone looking out her apartment window. Later she recanted saying she had been preoccupied with a man in her apartment. The prosecutor refused to charge Rosario with perjury, calling her false testimony an “honest mistake.” Lantigua was released in 1996 and awarded $1.3 million in 2004-05 for 6 years of wrongful imprisonment.  (NY Times) (Justice: Denied)  [4/08]

St. Clair County, IL 

Floyd Flood

Aug 23, 1924 (Freeburg)

Floyd Flood was convicted of robbing the First National Bank in Freeburg, IL. Two female bank employees identified him as one of the six men who robbed the bank. Along with Flood, two of the actual robbers were convicted. Following their conviction, the two confessed their part in the robbery, but stated that Flood was not involved and that they did not even know him. Two more of the actual robbers were then caught. They confessed and named the remaining two men involved, neither of whom were Flood. The bank employees who identified Flood admitted they could be mistaken, and a pardon application was made for him. However, the Bankers Association opposed the pardon until every one of the six robbers were caught and convicted. Eventually this demand was met. Illinois Governor Small pardoned Flood in Jan. 1926.  (CTI)  [4/08]

Fulton County, GA 

William Broughton

Feb 22, 1900

(Federal Case)  After receiving a letter he considered obscene, the City Solicitor of Atlanta, Nash R. Broyles, turned it over to Federal Authorities. The letter reflected pointedly on Broyles' moral character. It was signed Grant Jackson, so a man named Grant Jackson was arrested as well as William Broughton who was considered by authorities to be a close friend of Jackson and of necessity involved in whatever mischief Jackson might be involved. Broyles had sent both Jackson and Broughton to jail at various times for a variety of misdemeanors. Both Jackson and Broughton denied writing the letter or having any knowledge of it.
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Churchill County, NV 

Harold Guyette

Mar 12, 1966

Harold Chester Guyette was convicted of one count of murder after allegedly committing a double homicide. On Mar. 12, 1966, Savin' Sam's, a mom-and-pop truck stop between the towns of Fernley and Lovelock, was robbed. The operators, Dean Briggs and his mother, Eva Briggs, were both fatally shot. After being arrested for an outstanding traffic citation in his home state of Indiana, Guyette, 20, was questioned about the double homicide in Nevada. He admitted being in the area with his 17-year-old wife on a drive back from California. His wife's stepfather had called Nevada authorities and told them the two had been in the area. However, neither had been to the location of the murders.

On the basis of these statements, Guyette and his wife, Mary Lou, were extradited to Nevada. The authorities made Mary Lou write letters to her husband, telling him to confess so she could get out of jail. Guyette was denied legal counsel. Eventually, Guyette did confess so Mary Lou could find witnesses and help. Mary Lou did find witnesses and help, but Guyette was convicted of murdering Dean Briggs. Witnesses placed Guyette and his wife 197 miles away at the time of the murders. Guyette was released in 1972, officially on the technicality of being denied legal counsel. As of 2008, Guyette is still fighting for official exoneration.  (Archives) (Appeals)  [4/08]

Lawrence County, MO 

Johnny Lee Wilson

Apr 13, 1986 (Aurora)

Johnny Lee Wilson was convicted of the murder of 79-year-old Pauline Martz. Martz had been beaten up, tied, and then burned after her home was set on fire. Wilson, a mentally retarded man, had confessed to the crime after a police interrogation. In 1988, another man, Chris Brownfield, gave a confession to the crime which provided details that corroborated his involvement. Wilson was pardoned and released in 1995.  (U.S. News)  [4/08]

Hudson County, NJ 

James Landano

Aug 13, 1976

Vincent James Landano was convicted of the murder of Police Officer John Snow. On Aug. 13, 1976, two gunmen robbed the Hi-Way Check Cashing Service in Kearny. One went inside, while the other waited in a getaway car. As the robbery was in progress, John Snow, a Newark police officer, arrived in his patrol car with an attaché case containing $46,000 to be delivered to the business. Before Snow could get out of his car, the outside gunman walked up to the patrol car and shot Snow at point-blank range. The gunman then took the attaché case and got into his car, while the the other gunman left the check-cashing service with a cash drawer containing about $6,000. This gunman put the drawer on the roof of the car and jumped into the back seat. The car sped away leaving $6,000 fluttering in the air behind it.

A man arrested for the crime, Allen Rollo, admitted being the inside gunman, and identified Landano as his partner, the one who shot Snow. Centurion Ministries discovered a hidden police report in which the only eyewitness to the murder identified another man as the shooter. When the case was retried, the jury deliberated for less than an hour and acquitted Landano in 1989. Jurors later celebrated with him at a victory party.  (NY Times) (CM)  [4/08]

Greene County, MO 

Eric Clemmons

Aug 7, 1985

Eric Darnell Clemmons was convicted of the murder of Henry Johnson, a fellow prisoner at the Missouri State Penitentiary. Clemmons had been cellmates with Johnson, but was moved to a different cell on July 1, 1985 after he accused Johnson of making sexual advances towards him. There was no reported trouble between the two following the move. This move occurred more than a month prior to Johnson's murder. Prison guard Thomas Steigerwald testified that as he was walking towards a group of inmates, he saw an inmate strike Johnson. Johnson then ran past Steigerwald, at which point, Steigerwald realized that Johnson had been stabbed. Steigerwald then pursued the inmate who struck Johnson. This inmate turned out to be Clemmons.

According to Clemmons, Steigerwald did not witness the stabbing, but had merely seen Johnson running into him after he had been stabbed by inmate Fred Bagby. Several other inmates testified that Bagby had stabbed Johnson. Following Johnson's stabbing, Bagby himself was stabbed three months later and died prior to trial. The State argued that the testimony of Clemmons' witnesses should be discounted because it was easy for them to try to help Clemmons by blaming someone who could not defend himself. Handling his own appeal, Clemmons discovered an internal DOC memorandum that had been withheld from his defense in violation of Brady v. Maryland. The memo related that minutes after Johnson's stabbing, an inmate named Dwight Clark had told a guard captain that two men had performed the stabbing. Clark thought one inmate was Fred Bagby, but the other inmate he only knew by sight. On retrial in 2000, Clemmons was acquitted.  (Archives)  [4/08]

 Suffolk County, MA

Billy Leyden

Mar 2001 (East Boston)

Billy Leyden was convicted of the decapitation murder of his brother, Jackie Leyden. Billy went to Jackie's apartment on March 12, 2001, but his brother was not around. A week later, on March 19, he went again, smelled a horrid stench, and found Jackie's decapitated body under a bed. The body had been decomposing for at least a week. Police fixated on alleged inconsistencies in Billy's story and on fights Billy had with his brother. They also found a piece of “fatty tissue” with Jackie's DNA in Billy's car trunk. The DNA could be explained as Jackie often rode in Billy's car, sometimes putting bags and dirty laundry in the trunk. Billy was exonerated three years later, after a serial killer, Eugene McCollom, confessed to the murder and led police to a skull that was found in a park near Ft. Lauderdale, FL. DNA tests confirmed the skull was Jackie's. McCollum had known Jackie from Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but his motive for killing him is unclear.  (Sun-Sentinel)  [4/08]

 Suffolk County, MA

Shawn Drumgold

Aug 19, 1988

Shawn Drumgold was convicted of the shooting murder of 12-year-old Darlene Tiffany Moore. Moore was caught in the crossfire of gang violence at the intersection of Humboldt Avenue and Homestead Street in Roxbury. Drumgold was freed in 2003 after several prosecution witnesses told The Boston Globe newspaper they'd been bullied by police into providing false testimony. The prosecutor, David E. Meier, said the state would not apologize to Drumgold for his 14 years of wrongful imprisonment.  (TruthInJustice)  [4/08]

 Suffolk County, MA

Louis Santos

Sept 28, 1983 (Dorchester)

Louis Santos was convicted of the armed robbery and felony murder of 32-year-old Colleen Maxwell. Maxwell, a social worker, had been escorting Charles Bartick, a retarded man with Down's syndrome, from a group home to the Ashmont MBTA station. Near the Ashmont station, three men robbed Maxwell of her purse. Maxwell then pursued the purse snatchers, but one of them shot her a few blocks away. Santos was convicted because of Bartick's extra-judicial identification of him as one of the purse snatchers. His conviction was overturned in 1988 because of this identification and because the trial judge refused to order a competency evaluation of Bartick. On retrial, Santos was acquitted.  (CIPM) (Archives)  [4/08]

 Suffolk County, MA

Christian Amado

Feb 4, 1980

Christian Amado was convicted of the shooting murder of 28-year-old George Sneed. The conviction was due to testimony that an eyewitness, Frederick Johnson, had selected a photo of Amado, had identified the assailant as “Bugsy,” and had associated the name “Bugsy” with Amado. When called to testify, Johnson readily answered a series of question on the sequence of events leading up to the murder. However, his testimony became evasive and confusing when asked about his previous identification of Amado. The prosecutor had to repeatedly refresh Johnson's “recollection of events,” by showing him what purported to be a transcript of statements he had given to police. Johnson appeared to deny identifying Amado and claimed that he had selected Amado's picture because it “looked familiar.” The prosecutor never asked Johnson if Amado was the killer. On cross-examination by defense counsel, Johnson denied that Amado was the killer or was present at the scene of the killing. Three detectives were called as witnesses and testified to Johnson's previous identification of Amado.

According to Amado's attorney, “The eyewitness in the case identified a photo that looked like Amado, but when he came into court and saw my client he said he knew Amado wasn't the killer.” In 1982, an appeals court ruled that the trial court erred in presenting contrary testimony to prove identification. It reversed Amado's conviction and directed a verdict of acquittal.  (CIPM) (Com v. Amado)  [4/08]

 Suffolk County, MA

Ella Mae Ellison

Nov 30, 1973

Ella Mae Ellison was convicted of murder and armed robbery in 1974. The crime involved the robbery of Suffolk Jewelers, a pawnshop on Washington St. in Roxbury. During the robbery, Detective John Schroeder, an off-duty police officer, entered the store and attempted to thwart the robbers. He was shot and killed. The 1997 Boston Police Headquarters is on “One Schroeder Plaza,” named in honor of Schroeder and his brother Walter, also an officer, who was killed responding to a bank alarm in 1970. In 1976, two key witnesses recanted their testimony against Ellison and claimed she was innocent. In 1978, an appeals court vacated her convictions because the prosecutor withheld evidence that could have exonerated her. Ellison was released in 1978.  (CIPM)  [4/08]

Will County, IL 

Kevin Fox

June 6, 2004 (Wilmington)

Kevin Fox was charged with the murder of his 3-year-old daughter, Riley. Fox had confessed to the crime after a grueling interrogation that lasted more than 14 hours. Riley had fallen asleep on the living room couch, but was missing from her house the next morning. The front door was open. She may have opened it herself and gone outside. There were no signs of forced entry. Riley was found later that day, drowned in a creek four miles from her home. She had been sexually assaulted. Her arms and mouth were bound with duct tape. Fox was released after spending 8 months in jail. DNA tests failed to link him to the crime. Fox and his wife were awarded $15.5 million from Will County in Dec. 2007. The County plans to appeal the award.  (Chicago Tribune)  [4/08]

 Pasco County, FL

Jason Derrick

June 25, 1987 (Moon Lake)

Samuel Jason Derrick was sentenced to death for the murder of Rama Sharma. Sharma, 55, owned the Moon Lake General Store and was found dead behind the store. Following the murder, police received a tip that a car was seen driving suspiciously around the crime scene vicinity in the early morning hours of June 25, 1987, prior to the finding of the victim's body. The description of the car, including a partial license plate number, seemed to match that of a car driven by David Lowry. Lowry deflected the investigation away from himself by implicating Derrick, who was then his friend. At trial, five Pasco County detectives swore under oath that Derrick confessed to the crime. There was no written, audio, or video record of this “confession” or any interrogation notes written by any of the five detectives. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office had a reputation for corruption. Just two years earlier, St. Petersburg Times reporter Lucy Morgan won a Pulitzer Prize for her series of articles documenting this corruption.
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 Los Angeles County, CA

Juan Venegas

Dec 25, 1971 (Long Beach)

Juan Francisco Venegas was convicted in of the Christmas morning hammer slaying of 64-year-old William Staga. The murder occurred in Staga's apartment at 1208 Daisy Ave. in Long Beach. Venegas was arrested without probable case, and subsequently police prepared a crime report falsely implicating him in the murder. Venegas's conviction was overturned in Sept. 1974 and charges were never refiled. Venegas was later awarded $1 million because his imprisonment was due in part to false testimony caused by police misconduct.  (ISI) (Archives)  [4/08]

 Orange County, CA

Jose Soto Martinez

Oct 27, 1993

Following police interrogation, Jose Soto Martinez (aka Jaime Saille Higuera) confessed to starting a fire that destroyed at least 365 homes and businesses in Laguna Beach and caused an estimated $528 million in damages. Less than a week later, prosecutors dismissed arson charges against Martinez after they found out that he had been in El Cereso de Mazatlan prison in Mexico at the time the fire was set.  (Archives)  [4/08]

 Orange County, CA

Thomas Merrill

Mar 14, 1989

Thomas Read Merrill was convicted of a double homicide committed during a robbery of the Newport Coin Exchange. During the robbery, the owner, William D. King, 39, was shot four times, but survived, while his wife, Renee Ratoon King, 38, and a close friend, Clyde Oates, 45, were killed. In exchange for a plea deal, Eric Jon Wick testified that Merrill participated with him in the robbery and was the actual shooter. The coin shop owner said he was robbed by two men, one white and one black. Wick was white and Merrill was black. They were both Marines and former bunkmates at the same Marine facility. Prosecutors failed to inform Merrill that the coin shop owner had emphatically excluded Merrill as the black robber. Merrill was acquitted at his third trial. He served 5 years of a life without parole sentence.  (Archives)  [4/08]

Lee County, NC 

Steve Snipes

Feb 13, 1998

Steve E. Snipes was convicted of the armed robbery of Thomas Superette, a convenience store near Sanford. After the robbery, two of the store clerks identified the robber as Steve Snipes, a neighborhood man and regular customer of the store. The robber wore a ski mask, and the clerks were not even sure of his race. They said the robber sounded like Snipes would have sounded if he had tried to change his voice. They also said the robber's clothing looked like clothes Snipes sometimes wore.

Police arrested Snipes shortly afterwards. They did not recover the stolen bank bag, money, weapon, or a jacket like the one the robber was wearing 15 minutes earlier. Snipes also had an alibi. However the clerks' testimony was sufficient to convict. Snipes' trial attorney, Andre Barrett, was subsequently disbarred after allegations of misappropriating $800,000 in client funds. The trial prosecutor, Bill Huggins, was accused of trying to get his girlfriend to kill his wife. A plea bargain sent him to prison for obstruction of justice and embezzlement.

Since Snipes' imprisonment, a witness had come forward who testified that another man, Terrance Wyatt, was the robber. Wyatt was caught committing an identical robbery while Snipes was in prison. In 2007, after Snipes served over 5 years of imprisonment, NC Governor Easley pardoned him.  (News & Observer) (AP)  [4/08]

Los Angeles County, CA

Sleepy Lagoon 22

Aug 2, 1942

On Aug. 2, 1942, a teenager named Jose Diaz was found murdered near the Sleepy Lagoon reservoir in southeast Los Angeles. The reservoir was frequented by Chicanos (Mexican Americans) who were excluded from public pools. As a result of apparent prejudice and press hysteria, police arrested 600 Latinos in connection with the murders. Twenty-two Latinos (mostly Chicanos) were indicted for the murders and tried before an all white jury. The defendants were not allowed to sit near or speak with their attorneys during trial.

Three of the defendants were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison; nine were convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to five years-to-life, five were convicted of assault and released for time served, and five were acquitted. In Oct. 1944, the Court of Appeal of the State of California unanimously reversed the convictions, finding that there was no evidence linking the defendants with the crime.  (Wiki) (Archives)  [4/08]

 Los Angeles County, CA

David Valdez, Jr. & Sr.

Dec 2, 1993

Tito David Valdez, Jr. and his father, Tito David Valdez, Sr., were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation to commit murder. Valdez Jr. produced a Norwalk cable TV show called Hollywood Haze featuring a freewheeling mixture of music videos and interviews with partying teen-agers and rap musicians. Most footage focused on teen-age girls dancing at underground parties and nightclubs.

Valdez had hired a 13-year-old Pico Rivera girl who said she was 16. She said Valdez had brought her to his Downey home and raped her in his room while his father and brother watched television downstairs. After the girl brought rape charges against Valdez, he and his father allegedly conspired to kill her. They allegedly solicited someone to murder her. Evidence has surfaced that the wiretapped tape conversation played to the jury was an edited, altered version. Secondly, the jury was never told that the star witness for the prosecution, was a paid FBI informant and had a prior criminal record.  (Valdez's Story) (Archives)  [4/08]

Los Angeles County, CA

Adam Riojas, Jr.

Dec 8, 1989

Adam Riojas, Jr. was convicted of murdering Jose Rodarte in a drug related incident. Rodarte was shot twice and his body dumped from a van on a street. Riojas said he had loaned the van to two friends of his father, who had come by his Oceanside apartment. His girlfriend testified he spent the entire day of the murder with her in North County. Riojas had no criminal history except for an arrest for vandalism in a high school prank of toilet-papering a home. Riojas' father, Adam Sr., told numerous people shortly before his death that he was the killer, not his son. Adam Sr. had been involved in drugs and immigrant smuggling. Adam Jr. was released on the second unanimous recommendation of his parole board. (Gov. Davis vetoed the first recommendation; but Gov. Schwarzenegger did not oppose the second). Riojas served 13 years of 15 years to life sentence.  (Archives)  [4/08]

 Los Angeles County, CA

Melvin Mikes

Mar 10, 1980 (Long Beach)

Melvin Mikes was convicted of beating to death 76-year-old Harold Hansen. Hansen was found dead on March 10, 1980 in the basement of his Long Beach fix-it shop. The pockets of his clothing had been turned inside out. The shop, which was located on the main floor of the building, had been burglarized.

Near Hansen's body, investigators found three chrome posts – a three-foot post, a six-foot post, and a “turnstile” post – all of which constituted portions of a disassembled turnstile unit. Hansen had purchased the turnstile at a hardware store's going out-of-business sale, approximately four months prior to his death. The investigators determined that the assailant used the three-foot post to murder Hansen.

The government's case against Mikes rested exclusively upon the fact that his fingerprints were among those found on the posts that lay adjacent to the victim's body. Mikes's counsel failed to present alibi witnesses. Mikes' conviction was vacated due to insufficient evidence. His release was delayed four months waiting for the DA's unsuccessful appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Mikes served 7 years of a 25 years to life sentence.  (Archives)  [4/08]

Dauphin County, PA

Steven Crawford

Sept 12, 1970

Steven Crawford was convicted in 1974 of murdering his neighbor and best friend, John Eddie Mitchell. Crawford was 14 and Mitchell was 13 at the time of the crime. Mitchell left home to turn in money he collected from his paper route. He was later bludgeoned to death. His body was found the next day under a car in a detached garage belonging to Crawford's parents. Crawford's family lived on the 2300 block of North Fifth Street in Harrisburg.

Crawford's handprints were found on the blood splashed car in the garage, but state police chemist Janice Roadcap gave false testimony implying that Crawford had the victim's blood on his hands when he left the prints. The handprints were the only physical evidence linking him to the murder. The trial judge called it the “linchpin” of the case. In Oct. 2001, a defense investigator found a photocopy of Roadcap's original notes, which exonerated Crawford. Crawford was granted a new trial based on the notes, but the Commonwealth declined to retry him. Crawford was released after serving 28 years of imprisonment. Roadcap was a chemist for the state police from 1967 until her retirement in 1991, handling cases in 18 counties from the State Police crime lab in Harrisburg.  (Archives) (AIDWYC)  [4/08]

Henry County, GA 

Jerry Banks

Nov 7, 1974

Jerry Banks, a black man, was sentenced to death for the murders of Marvin W. King and Melanie Ann Hartsfield, both whites. King was a local band director and Hartsfield was a 19-year-old ex-pupil of his. While rabbit shooting in a wooded area, near Stockbridge, GA, Banks came upon their two dead bodies. He then hurried to a nearby road, flagged down a motorist, and told the motorist to call the police.

Police withheld witness statements from people who happened to be near the scene of the murders when they occurred. At least one of these statements was from a law enforcement officer. All witnesses reported they heard several gunshots fired in rapid succession. Banks's gun – a broken, single-action shotgun – could not have fired those shots. Police also withheld the name of the motorist who backed up Banks's claim of finding the bodies. In addition, they withheld the name of another suspect who happened to be a law enforcement officer.

Police confiscated Banks' shotgun for test firings. Two shells found at the crime scene did not match shells from Banks' gun. About a month later a third shell was found at the crime scene that did match a shell from Banks' gun. Banks was subsequently convicted.

It was later determined that the lead investigator in the case, Phillip S. Howard, had a history of falsifying evidence. He had even “tampered with and manipulated evidence involving [shotgun] shells” in another case. Howard said he found the third shell the day before he took Banks' gun for test firings. However, credible evidence indicated that the shell was found after the test firings. It was believed that the third shell came from the test firings. At the time of this finding, Banks was facing a third trial. The DA decided to drop charges. Banks was released in 1980.  (TWM)  [4/08]

 Washington, DC

Jay Lentz

Apr 23, 1996

(Federal Case)  Thirty-one-year-old Doris Faye Lentz disappeared on Apri1 23, 1996 after telling a friend she was driving from her Arlington, VA home to pick up her 4-year-old daughter, Julia, at her ex-husband's home in Fort Washington, MD. Her ex-husband, Jay E. Lentz was a naval intelligence officer. Doris was once an aide to Senator James Sasser of Tennessee. Doris's blood spattered automobile was found a week after her disappearance in southeast Washington, DC. Federal prosecutors suspected Jay murdered her. They did not have sufficient evidence to bring murder charges against him as there was no body, no weapon, no eyewitnesses, and no crime scene.
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 China

Teng Xingshan

Apr 1987

Teng Xingshan was convicted of the murder of Shi Xiaorong. A chopped up body identified as Shi's was found in Mayang County, Hunan Province in April 1987. Police settled on Teng as the guilty party because he was a butcher and the dismemberment was “very professionally” done. Teng soon confessed to the murder, allegedly after police beat it out of him. However, he protested his innocence all the way to the execution ground. Authorities alleged that Teng had sex with Shi and killed her because he suspected she stole his money. Teng was executed by gunshot in Jan. 1989.

Teng's family had heard reports that Shi was alive in neighboring Guizhou province as early as 1993, but it took years to verify the reports and Teng's family lacked the funds and the courage to sue the government. The case first received publicity in May 2005, when the family formally filed a lawsuit with the Hunan Higher People's Court. News reports of another Chinese murder victim turning up alive in March 2005 may have prompted the decision. Shi denied ever meeting Teng and said she had been sold into marriage to a man in eastern Shandong Province a month before the chopped up body was found. Shi returned to her hometown in Guizhou Province in 1993. Teng was posthumously exonerated in Jan. 2006.  (UPI)  [4/08]

 Quebec, Canada

Benoit Proulx

Oct 25, 1982 (Ste. Foy)

Benoit Proulx was convicted in 1991 of murdering his ex-girlfriend, 19-year-old France Alain. Alain, a University of Laval student, was shot in the hip near the CHRC radio station in Sainte-Foy. She died a short time later. Proulx was a reporter at the station and had been working the night of the murder. In 1986 the case file was closed as the coroner was unable to establish any contact between Proulx and Alain on the night of the murder.

Subsequently, Proulx launched a defamation suit against a radio station and a retired police investigator for comments they made concerning his guilt. In 1991, in the midst of this suit, the suit defendants advised the prosecution of a potential new witness. The witness claimed that after seeing Proulx's photo in the newspaper, he recognized Proulx's eyes as being the eyes of a bearded man he saw near the crime scene on the night of the murder. The witness could not at first formally identify Proulx. Nevertheless he identified Proulx at trial and Proulx was convicted. In 1992, the Quebec Court of Appeal quashed the conviction due to serious trial irregularities. It also noted that the presented evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. The court entered a verdict of acquittal.

Following his acquittal, Proulx sued the Attorney General of Quebec for malicious prosecution and won a judgment of $1.15 million. However, the judgment was reversed on appeal. Proulx was awarded $1.6 million for his wrongful imprisonment.  (IB) (Proulx v. Quebec)  [4/08]

 Ontario, Canada

Robert Baltovich

June 19, 1990 (Toronto)

Robert Baltovich was convicted in 1992 of murdering his 22-year-old girlfriend, Elizabeth Bain, even though her body was never found. Bain was last seen Tuesday June 19, 1990 on the University of Toronto's Scarborough Campus. Her car was found the following Friday, parked at an auto body shop near campus. Blood was pooled on the floor in the back, suggesting she was murdered.

No physical evidence connects Baltovich to the alleged murder. According to the crown, Baltovich killed Bain by 7 p.m. on the day of her disappearance. However, Baltovich was seen waiting to meet her outside a 9 p.m. class that she took. The crown also argued that Baltovich drove Bain's car after 1 a.m. Friday morning to Lake Scugog, an hour's drive north of Toronto. He then allegedly buried her body in the mud of the lake before returning to Toronto by 6 a.m. However, Baltovich reportedly could not drive Bain's car because it had a manual transmission.

Since Baltovich's conviction, his lawyers have argued that serial killer Paul Bernardo is a stronger suspect than Baltovich in Bain's murder. At the time of Bain's disappearance, Bernardo was known as the Scarborough rapist. An award winning book called No Claim to Mercy by Derek Finkle was written about Baltovich's case in 1998. Following a hearing in September 2004, the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered a new trial, citing an unfair and unbalanced charge to jury during the first trial. At retrial in 2008, the crown presented no evidence and urged the jury to acquit Baltovich, which the jury promptly did.

The crown's sudden decision not to retry Baltovich was apparently prompted by one of its witnesses. Four days before the retrial, the victim's father, Rick Bain, told the crown that his daughter told him of an imminent rendezvous with Baltovich on the day of her murder. Since the witness had never mentioned this conversation before, he presumably was planning to perjure himself in an effort to convict Baltovich. Disclosure rules forced the crown had to inform the defence of the conversation. Even if the witness stuck to his previous testimony, the defence could use his reported conversation to undermine his credibility.  (IB) (Wiki)  [4/08]

 Harris County, TX

Pedro Torres

Apr 17, 1983

Pedro Torres was arrested for drinking beer in a Dallas convenience store. A computer check showed that he was wanted for the murder of a Houston man. He then was tried for that murder and convicted, reportedly because of eyewitness testimony. However, Torres's arrest warrant was actually issued for a different Pedro Torres. Torres's work records and and the other Pedro Torres's roommate helped to overturn his conviction. Torres was released in 1986 after 8 months of imprisonment.  [4/08]

 Ontario, Canada

Cumberland Four

Jan 16, 1990 (Cumberland)

Robert Stewart, Richard Mallory, Richard Trudel, and James Sauvé were convicted of the murders of 24-year-old Michel Giroux and his 27-year-old pregnant common-law wife, Manon Bourdeau. The victims were shot to death at their home on Queen Street in the Ottawa suburb of Cumberland. Stewart and Trudel were distribution-level drug dealers while Mallory and Sauvé were their enforcers. Giroux was a retail-level drug dealer. According to the Crown, Giroux owed money to Stewart and Stewart ordered his killing as an example to other drug dealers who owed him money.
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Wilson County, NC

Keith Brown

Apr 22, 1991 (Wilson)

Keith Brown was convicted of sexually assaulting a 32-year-old woman and her 9-year-old daughter. Brown, who is mentally retarded, confessed to the crime under the pressure of police interrogation. He was released in 1997 after DNA tests exonerated him and implicated a Florida inmate. NC Governor Hunt pardoned Brown in 1999.  (IP)  [4/08]

Bexar County, TX 

Anastacio Vargas

Aug 21, 1925

Anastacio Vargas was convicted of murdering Louisa Garcia. Both Louisa and her husband, Gabrial Garcia, were beaten by a pair of robbers on Aug 21, 1925. Louisa died from her injuries ten days later. Gabrial identified Vargas as one of the assailants and testified that Louisa also identified Vargas prior to her death. Vargas had been an employee of the Garcias for some time prior to their assaults. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. An appeals court subsequently overturned Vargas's conviction. On retrial, Vargas was again convicted, but this time he was sentenced to death.

A few hours before Vargas's scheduled execution, a look-alike to Vargas confessed to the crime. Vargas was pardoned and released in 1929. Thirty-five years later, Vargas was awarded $20,000 by the state.  (RCN)  [4/08]

Iredell County, NC 

William Mason Wellman

1941

William Mason Wellman, a black man, was convicted of the rape of Cora Sowers, a 67-year-old white woman. Wellman was sentenced to death. After he was strapped into the electric chair, N.C. Governor Broughton halted his execution, as word came that another man confessed to the crime. It was later established that Wellman was at work in Virginia, 350 miles away, at the time of the crime and had signed a payroll receipt on the day of the murder. He was granted a full pardon and released.  (Archives)  [4/08]

New Hanover County, NC 

Junius Wilson

1925 (Castle Hayne)

After being imprisoned for an alleged attempted rape in 1925, 17-year-old Junius Wilson was declared insane and sent to Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro, a state mental facility. The attempted rape charge was then dropped. In 1932, Wilson was castrated in accordance with state law for “mental defectives and feebleminded inmates” accused of sex crimes. He remained in state custody for 67 years. In 1991, he was found not to be mentally ill, just deaf. In 1992, he was officially freed and within two years he was given a three-bedroom cottage to live in on the grounds of Cherry Hospital. Wilson died in 2001. A 2007 book was published about Wilson entitled Unspeakable: The Story of Junius Wilson.  (Archives)  [4/08]

 Onslow County, NC

Doves & Williams

Aug 5, 1922

Frank Dove, Fred Dove, George Williams, and Willie Hardison were sentenced to death for the murder of Cyrus Jones. Jones was shot on a highway about a mile and a half from the town of Swansboro where he lived. The convictions of the first three were based solely on the testimony of Hardison. On the morning of his execution in 1923, Hardison admitted he had perjured himself to implicate the other three under the coercive threats of police. In 1928, the three men each received an unconditional pardon from the N.C. governor.  (News Article) (Mugshots) (MOJ) (ISI)  [4/08]

New York County, NY 

Harry Cashin

Feb 19, 1931

Harry F. Cashin was convicted of the murder of Detective Christopher W. Scheuing during the holdup of a speakeasy at 49 Lexington Avenue. Cashin was sentenced to death. His conviction was due to the testimony of Gladys Clayton, a woman of shady character. The prosecution concealed from the defense a witness who said Cashin was not “the right man.” On appeal, Cashin's conviction was reversed. The charges were dropped in 1933 when Clayton admitted that Cashin had nothing to do with the murder.  (ISI) (News Articles) (Archives)  [4/08]

Clark County, NV 

Emma Jo Johnson

May 23, 1951 (Las Vegas)

Emma Jo Johnson was convicted of the murder of her 72-year-old landlady, Jane Jones. Jones died in early June 1951 after apparently falling ill following a May 23 fracas with Johnson over mail. Johnson was released in Jan. 1954 after mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner (creator of Perry Mason) determined that Jones was not murdered as the result of an asserted assault by Johnson, but instead died from a brain tumor.  (Archives)  [4/08]

Lancaster County, NE 

Darrel Parker

Dec 14, 1955 (Lincoln)

Darrel F. Parker was convicted of the strangulation murder of his 22-year-old wife, Nancy Parker. The murder occurred at the Parkers' home in Lincoln's Antelope Park. Parker, then 24, confessed to the crime under alleged coercion. In the confession Parker said he strangled his wife after she refused to have sex following breakfast. Parker's defense argued that the murder had to have been committed by a sexual psychopath, while psychiatrists testified that Parker was not a psychopath. Years later Parker's conviction was overturned because a court found his confession was coerced. He was released in 1972. In 1988, Wesley Peery, an early suspect in the crime, died. His lawyer subsequently released his confession to the crime.  (Presumed Guilty) (Archives) (Appeals)  [4/08]

Christian County, MO 

George Revelle

Sept 28, 1994

George S. Revelle, the CFO of Ozark Bank, was convicted of murdering his wife, Lisa, at their home in Fremont Hills. Revelle told authorities that intruders broke into their home and shot his wife in a bungled extortion attempt. He was convicted because he had a $500,000 life insurance policy on his wife and an old letter in which she criticizes him for being materialistic.

Five months into the investigation, the apparent murderers sent a confession letter to police. They said they were fugitives living outside the U.S. They stated George's stepbrother had originally approached them about kidnapping George and forcing him to go to his bank so they could rob it. The letter writers revealed the location of a pond where the murder weapon was found. The prosecutor never investigated any of this evidence, except to test the stamp on the letter envelope for Revelle's DNA.

Revelle's conviction was overturned in Nov. 1997 because an appeal's court found that his wife's note should not have been allowed as trial evidence. On retrial in Dec. 1998, Revelle was acquitted.  (Beyond the Yellow Ribbon) (Archives)  [4/08]

Stephens County, OK 

Lefty Fowler

Jan 23, 1948 (Duncan)

E. L. “Lefty” Fowler was convicted of the murder of Helen Beavers. Fowler was a Duncan policeman and had been with her a short time before she was killed. Following Beaver's murder, Fowler quit his job, failed to pick up his last check, and engaged in conversation indicating that he was considering suicide. He also began an excessive round of drinking.

Less than two months after Beavers' murder, Fowler was arrested in Waurika and imprisoned for drunkenness in the Jefferson County Jail. Three Crime Bureau Agents then fraudulently conspired to transport Fowler to Stephens County for interrogation. They freed Fowler (by paying his fine) on condition he drive a supposedly drunk cellmate, who was actually an agent, to Stephens County. Once in Stephens County, Fowler was arrested on bogus charges that were never filed. He was then denied access to a magistrate and a lawyer, and interrogated under coercive conditions for 12 days.

Fowler eventually confessed to the murder of Beavers, but the County Attorney thought the confession was inconsistent with the facts. Beavers was then required to give another confession, which was signed at 5 a.m., apparently after an all night grilling. Even this confession was not regarded as sufficient and Beavers had to give two more before authorities were satisfied.

In 1960, Fowler was granted habeas corpus relief due to his coerced and illegal interrogation. He presumably was released.  (Argosy)  [4/08]