San Francisco Bay Area
Victims of the State

27 Cases

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Alameda County, CA
John Stoppelli

(Federal Case)  John Stoppelli was convicted of drug trafficking in an Oakland federal court.  Internal Revenue Agent W. Harold “Bucky” Greene determined that Stoppelli's fingerprint was on a package of heroin seized in an Oakland raid in which four men were arrested.  Greene found fourteen matching ridge characteristics.  The four men said he was not involved and, on the day of the raid, Stoppelli had registered with his probation officer in New York, 3,000 miles away.  An FBI lab later determined the print did not match Stoppelli.  Stoppelli then sought a new trial, but his request was denied, because the FBI analysis was not “new” evidence, just a reevaluation of  “old” evidence.  U.S. President Truman commuted Stoppelli's sentence after he had served 2 years.  (Justice: Denied)  [1/07]

Alameda County, CA
Huey P. Newton
Oct 28, 1967

“Before any evidence was heard, many Americans believed that Huey P. Newton, co-founder and ‘minister of defense’ of the Black Panther Party, had murdered a police officer in cold blood.  Others were equally certain that the charge was a trumped-up attempt to crush the militant Black Panther Party.”
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Alameda County, CA
Aaron Owens
May 1972

Aaron Lee Owens was convicted of the murders of Marie Collins and Stanley Bryant.  He was eventually exonerated with the help of the prosecutor from his first trial, John Taylor.  Taylor realized that the key eyewitness had misidentified Owens when Owens' co-defendant, Glenn Bailey, admitted eight years after Owens' conviction that he and another man had committed the murders.  Owens was freed in March 1981.  (Murder: An Analysis of its Forms)

Alameda County, CA
Bradley Page
Nov 4, 1984 (Oakland)

Bradley Page was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Bibi Lee, a UC Berkeley student.  During a 16-hour interrogation that was partially recorded, Page gave a vague, confused, and speculative confession to the crime, a confession that did not fit the known crime facts.  No evidence or other testimony corroborated his involvement in the crime.  Police ignored eyewitness evidence pointing to another suspect.  In 1994, CBS News identified Michael Ihde as Lee's murderer.  Ihde's appearance was consistent with the reported eyewitness evidence and his DNA and pattern of killing linked him to other local area murders.  Ihde was in prison in Washington State for two similar murders where he bragged that he killed three San Francisco Area women, one of whom was non-white (Lee was Asian American).  Having convicted Page after two jury trials, prosecutors declined to charge Ihde with Lee's murder.  Page got out of prison in 1994.  [9/05]

Alameda County, CA
Kum Yet Cheung
Feb 1, 1995 (Emeryville)

Kum Yet Cheung was convicted of attempted murder in the shooting of two men outside a Denny's restaurant.  The conviction was based on (1) eyewitness error, (2) the failure of counsel to get a taped confession of another man translated from Cantonese or introduced as evidence, (3) the withholding of exculpatory medical records from the defense, and (4) a DA allowing a witness to lie on the stand.  Cheung also suffered from his own lack of command of the English language.  After Cheung's conviction was twice vacated, prosecutors negotiated a disposition in which Cheung pleaded guilty to obstructing justice in return for time served.  Cheung accepted the disposition because he had initially lied to investigators to protect a friend.  Cheung served 7 years of a 29-year sentence.  (SF Mag) (Cheung v. Maddock)  [6/05]

Contra Costa County, CA
Albert Johnson
1991-92 (San Pablo)

Albert Johnson was convicted of two rapes.  DNA tests exonerated him of one rape, but the DA insisted he was guilty of the other rape in which the biological evidence was destroyed.  Johnson was victimized by eyewitness error, police lying about Johnson's background to influence eyewitness testimony, and ineffective assistance of counsel.  Johnson served 11 years of 39-year sentence.  (IP)  [6/05]

San Francisco County, CA
Berdue & Wildred
Feb 19, 1851

Thomas Berdue and Joseph Wildred were convicted of robbery.  The victim, Charles Jansen, was the proprietor of a wholesale dry goods establishment on Montgomery Street.  Jansen was struck on the head with a bar of iron and robbed by two men of several thousand dollars in coin and gold dust.  Police recognized from Jansen's description that one of the robbers was James Stuart, the leader of a feared band of escaped Australian convicts.  Stuart was also wanted for the murder of a sheriff in Yuba County.
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San Francisco County, CA
Dr. Eugene West
Sept 9, 1893

Dr. Eugene West was convicted of the murder of Addie Gilmour.  Five days prior to her death, she had written to her sister stating that she was in trouble and about to submit to an operation to be performed by West.  Reputable physicians later spoke of West in the most disparaging terms.  According to statements by Gilmour's parents, West admitted to them he had performed an operation on their daughter on Sept. 4, 1893 and that she died on Sept. 9.  He stated that he gave her body to medical students.  Gilmour had no known family or friends in San Francisco at the time of her death for him to give her body to.  Body parts identified as Gilmour were found floating in San Francisco Bay days after her death.  On retrial, West testified he cared for Gilmour following malpractice by Dr. W. A. Harvey and that Gilmour died the following day.  West did not specify that Harvey performed the operation Gilmour needed.  Harvey testified in rebuttal that there was not one word of truth in West's statement.  The retrial jury acquitted West.  (CCCA)  [1/10]

San Francisco County, CA
Billings & Mooney
July 22, 1916

Warren K. Billings and Thomas J. Mooney, both radical labor leaders, were convicted of setting off a suitcase bomb at a Preparedness Day Parade that killed 10 people and wounded 40 others.  The two were convicted because of police perjury, concealment of exonerating evidence, and prosecutorial misconduct.  Governor Culbert Olson pardoned both men in 1939.  [3/06]

San Francisco County, CA
Iva Toguri
Oct 1944

(Federal Case tried in San Francisco)  Iva Toguri was charged with being the legendary “Tokyo Rose” and convicted of treason.  During World War II, American servicemen in the Pacific invented the myth of a Japanese radio broadcaster they dubbed “Tokyo Rose,” who called on them to lay down their arms.  The name “Tokyo Rose” was never broadcast on Radio Tokyo.  Toguri was a native-born Japanese-American who visited Japan to see relatives in 1941.  She was stranded there when war broke out between Japan and the United States in Dec. 1941.  Toguri ended up being one of about 20 female English language broadcasters on Radio Tokyo.

Toguri as well as other native English-speaking broadcasters were able to subvert intended Japanese propaganda into harmless rhetoric.  Broadcasters were able to slip double-entendres, innuendos, and sarcastic references into their broadcasts, as Japanese censors did not understand American idiom.  Toguri actually helped the Allied war effort by giving advance warnings of air raids under the guise of threatening Allied forces.  She also helped by reporting on Tokyo weather conditions.

The U.S. military imprisoned Toguri without charges after the end of World War II.  When Toguri was permitted to return to the U.S. in 1948, she did so.  Upon arrival she was arrested and charged with eight counts of treason.  Her prosecution was the most expensive prosecution directed toward a single person in U.S. history to that date.  At trial most reporters thought she would be acquitted.  The jury deadlocked on the charges, but the judge refused to declare a mistrial.  After 80 hours of deliberation, the jury convicted her on a vague count of speaking about a loss of ships in Oct. 1944.  Toguri was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment and was released in 1956.  In 1976, the Chicago Tribune had its Tokyo correspondent track down the witnesses responsible for that count.  Both witnesses admitted perjuring themselves under pressure from federal prosecutors.  In Jan. 1977, U.S. President Ford pardoned Toguri.  In 1993 a book about the case was published entitled The Hunt for ‘Tokyo Rose.’  Toguri died at age 90 in 2006.  (Justice: Denied)  [2/07]

San Francisco County, CA
Franklin Hamlin
Jan 28, 1953

Franklin Hamlin was convicted of robbing a San Francisco jewelry store.  Hamlin was identified as the robber by the store owner and by two other witnesses.  Later a man named Harry Kistler admitted committing the robbery and satisfied police that he was telling the truth.  The store owner wondered how he could have mistaken Hamlin for Kister.  Hamlin was awarded $5,000 by the state legislature for 10 months of wrongful imprisonment.  (The Innocents) (News Article)  [7/05]

San Francisco County, CA
Robert Lee Kidd
Dec 13, 1954

Robert Lee Kidd was convicted in 1960 of the 1954 murder of Albert Clarke, 71, an antique shop owner.  The murder occurred in Clarke's shop at 171 Valencia St. in San Francisco.  The prosecution alleged Kidd killed the victim with the victim's own sword.  Kidd's defense was prevented from informing the jury that the coroner determined that the victim could not have been killed with this sword.  Subsequent investigation showed that police had photographic evidence in their files indicating the victim was beaten to death with a revolver.  No evidence connected this revolver to Kidd.  In addition the jury was falsely led to believe that a three-page document produced by a police witness was Kidd's rap sheet, implying Kidd had a long series of prior arrests.

Kidd was sentenced to death.  At retrial in 1962, Kidd was acquitted because presented evidence showed that Clarke was alive several hours after the time Kidd allegedly murdered him.  This evidence had been withheld by the prosecutor at Kidd's first trial.  (People v. Kidd) (MOJ)  [7/09]

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]

San Francisco County, CA
Chol Soo Lee
June 3, 1973 (Chinatown)

“In 1974, Chol Soo Lee was convicted of the first degree murder of Yip Yee Tak with the use of a firearm and was sentenced to life in prison.  The case was tried in Sacramento after a change of venue from San Francisco.  Prosecutors relied on two eyewitnesses who saw the murder, which took place on a Chinatown street corner in San Francisco on June 3, 1973, and on the testimony of a third witness who saw someone fleeing the scene just after the shooting.  After suggestive procedures were used by police and prosecutors, including hypnotizing one witness, all three witnesses identified Lee in a police line-up.  Based on this eyewitness testimony, Lee was convicted.”

“In 1977, writer K.W. Lee wrote a series of articles that cast doubt on the validity of Lee’s conviction.  The articles garnered significant media coverage of the case and generated a community movement in support of Chol Soo Lee.”

“In October 1977, Lee was charged in San Joaquin County Superior Court with the first degree murder of fellow prisoner, Morrison Needham, which occurred during a prison brawl.  The 1974 murder conviction was alleged as a special circumstance making Lee eligible for the death penalty.  He was convicted and sentenced to death.  Lee maintained that he committed the prison killing in self-defense.”

“In 1978, the Sacramento Superior Court agreed to review the 1974 murder conviction.  At this hearing, lawyers for Lee revealed that an additional witness, Steven Morris, had come forward the day after the shooting and told police that he had seen the murder and that Lee was not the assailant.  The court ruled that this crucial evidence had been withheld from the defense, and overturned Lee’s conviction.  In 1980, the Court of Appeals of California for the 3rd Appellate District affirmed the lower court’s decision.”

“In 1982, Lee was retried for the murder of Tak and was acquitted.  In 1983, the Court of Appeals for the 3rd Appellate District reversed Lee’s conviction and death sentence for the prison murder, citing false testimony of a prison informant and improper jury instructions that were given during the penalty phase of the trial.  Two months later, San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Peter Seires ordered Lee released.  Prosecutors then moved to retry Lee on the prison killing charge.  Chol Soo Lee, who had served nearly ten years in prison, agreed to plea to a significantly lesser charge that gave him credit for the time served and he was freed from prison.” – DP Focus (80)

San Francisco County, CA
Goff & Tennison
Aug 19, 1989

Antoine Goff and John Tennison were convicted of the shotgun murder of Roderick Shannon that occurred during a gang war.  Two young girls named Goff, 20, and Tennison, 17, as the killers.  The girls' stories contradicted each other, the physical evidence, and other people who had seen the crime, but that did not deter investigators Napoleon Hendrix and future police chief Earl Sanders.  When one of the girls recanted, saying she did not witness any murder, Hendrix and Sanders pressured her to go back to her original version of events, the girl later said in a sworn statement.

When another witness came forward to say that Goff and Tennison had not been at the crime scene and named the real killer, the cops did not turn over her name or information to the defense.  When the real killer, Lovinsky Ricard, volunteered in a taped confession to other police officers after the trial that he was the shooter, police still did not turn the tape over to the defense for another several months.  By then, it was too late.  (Legally, defendants have only a fixed amount of time after conviction to introduce new evidence.)  In 2003, a DA conceded innocence.  Both defendants served 14 years of 25 years to life sentences.  (SF Chronicle)  [7/05]

San Francisco County, CA
Ludrate Burton
Apr 21, 1994

Ludrate Burton was convicted of murdering 13-year-old Alexius McNeal, the daughter of his second cousin.  Burton had discovered her dead body, and because of his criminal history, he was a suspect from the start.  However, fingerprints lifted from the scene did not link him to the murder.  Burton had a liver ailment, weighed 120 lbs., and had difficulty getting up a flight of stairs.  The prosecution theorized that he struggled with the 5'9", 186 lbs. Alexius before murdering her.

While in prison, Burton had a known prison snitch, Obie Jacobs, assigned as his cellmate.  Jacobs had testified at other murder trials.  Burton complained to his lawyer, but his request for a different cellmate was denied.  Two months later, the cellmate was meeting with the police and telling them that Burton confessed to him using police supplied information.  Jacobs told them that Burton confessed that he killed McNeal between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m., but the coroner had placed her time of her death between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.  [10/05]

San Mateo County, CA
George Franklin
Sept 22, 1969

“In January 1989, Eileen Franklin-Lipsker was playing with her young daughter, Jessica, and as the child turned toward her, a memory of another girl in just such a pose sprang into Franklin-Lipsker's mind. The memory was of her childhood best friend, eight-year-old Susan Nason, being raped and killed by Franklin-Lipsker's father nearly 20 years earlier.”
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Santa Clara County, CA
David Lamson
May 30, 1933 (Palo Alto)

David A. Lamson, an advertising manager for Stanford University Press, was convicted of murdering his wife, Allene.  Lamson's wife died in the bathroom of the couple's house after either being struck or falling and hitting some object.  The Lamsons lived at 622 Salvatierra Street in Palo Alto.  The case received much press attention.  At Lamson's trial the defense was unprepared to rebut an alleged “love triangle” motive for the killing.  After being convicted, Lamson was sentenced to death.  Lamson won a retrial in 1934, but that trial led to a hung jury.  A third trial was aborted due to jury list irregularities.  Lamson's fourth trial also led to a hung jury.  The prosecution then decided to drop the case against Lamson and he was released.  Lamson wrote a book about his case entitled We Who Are About To Die.  (Stanford Mag) (MOJ)  [7/07]

Santa Clara County, CA
P. F. Lazor
Jan 1983 (Los Gatos)

P. F. Lazor shot a man named John Allred who broke down his door and was swinging a meat cleaver at him.  Allred also wielded a handgun which turned out to be a BB-gun, but looked like the real thing.  After Allred stopped, though was still standing, Lazor called police and got the man medical attention, but he died several hours later.  Because of police suppression of evidence and manufacturing of new evidence, Lazor was convicted of murder.  (Copy of Old Website) (New Website)  [11/05]

Santa Clara County, CA
Glen Nickerson, Jr.
Sept 15, 1984

Glen “Buddy” Nickerson Jr. was convicted of murdering two San Jose drug dealers, John Evans and Mickie King, and the attempted murder of another person during an armed robbery.  One witness originally told police the murder suspect weighed between 190 and 200 lbs, but Nickerson weighed 425 lbs.  Several years later, witness Brian Tripp, who became a deputy sheriff in Colusa County, realized he identified the wrong man.  In light of his law enforcement experience, he remembered how investigators subtly cajoled him into picking out a suspect they had in mind rather than the person he saw.  “I remember questions such as, ‘Couldn't he have been larger?’ or ‘Are you sure he wasn't a heavier-set man?’ and I think I began to doubt myself.”

One of the true killers was identified through DNA of blood left at scene and another who was serving a life without parole sentence came forward.  They both testified that Nickerson had nothing to do with the killings.  Nickerson was freed after serving 19 years of a life without parole sentence.  (SF Chronicle)  [9/05]

Santa Clara County, CA
Rick Walker
Jan 10, 1991

Quedellis Ricardo “Rick” Walker was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Lisa Hopewell.  DNA found on cigarette butt at the scene of the crime was linked to another suspect, who eventually pleaded guilty to the murder.  A co-defendant who falsely implicated Walker later wrote him a letter of apology.  Walker was awarded $421,000 ($100/day) for 12 years of wrongful imprisonment.  In 2007, Walker was awarded an additional $2.75 million from Santa Clara County.  (SF Chronicle)  [6/05]

Santa Clara County, CA
Daniel Aleman
Apr 12, 1994 (San Jose)

“Daniel Aleman was convicted of carjacking after a judge promised to review evidence of the crime that surfaced during a closed-door juvenile hearing and then said the evidence didn’t help Aleman’s case. The 6th District Court of Appeal reversed the conviction after discovering the judge could not have reviewed the hearing transcript because it did not exist.”
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Santa Clara County, CA
Auguste & Hendricks
Nov 2, 1997

Damon Auguste and Kamani Hendricks were convicted of raping and sodomizing a 15-year-old girl identified only as Monique.  Evidence indicated the two had had sex with her, but the defendants said it was consensual and she told them she was 17.  Auguste was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Hendricks, who had prior convictions for domestic abuse and discharging a firearm, was sentenced to 37 years.

A subsequent defense investigation revealed that Monique had lied to the jury about her experience with alcohol, about the impact the assault had on her social life, about having to take off two months from work after the assault, and about her workplace making special accommodations because of the psychological impact of the assault.  The investigation located three witnesses who said Monique admitted to them she falsified the sexual assault charges. One of them, Stephen Smith, testified Monique fabricated the charges because she had stayed out past her curfew and had previously been kicked out of her parents' house for getting into trouble.

On appeal in 2004, a judge overturned the defendants' convictions finding that Deputy DA Benjamin Field had improperly withheld exculpatory evidence when he failed to turn over his DNA notes. The judge noted that Field had overstated other evidence, referring to the girl's underwear as “blood-soaked” when blood was not even visible. Most importantly, the judge concluded that Monique had repeatedly lied to the jury – and that these lies offered strong reason to doubt her accusation of Auguste and Hendricks.  Charges against the two were dropped in exchange for plea agreements to having sex with a minor.  (Mercury News) (Denver BJ) (Prosecutor Misconduct)  [9/08]

Santa Clara County, CA
Michael Hutchinson
Oct 25, 1998 (Milpitas)

Michael Hutchinson was convicted of the robbery of a Milpitas 7-Eleven store.  After the robbery, the clerk who was on duty told the store manager that his friend had robbed the store.  With a local police officer, the store manager reviewed a video/audio surveillance tape of the robbery.  The manager expressed surprise that the robber appeared to be Michael Hutchinson.  The officer agreed that the robber appeared to be Hutchinson.  Both had known Hutchinson since childhood.  The robber wore a stocking mask, so it is not clear what basis the two men used to recognize him.  The clerk identified Hutchinson in a photo lineup and at trial.  At trial, the manager and the officer identified Hutchinson from the surveillance tape, although the officer expressed uncertainty.  Hutchinson was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Hutchinson's appeals attorney thought the robber on the surveillance tape was too small to be Hutchinson.  In 2001, he sought funds from an appeals court to scientifically analyze the tape but was denied.  However, the San Jose Mercury News had the tape analyzed and the analyst concluded that the actual robber is several inches shorter than Hutchinson.  A frame photo of the robber leaving the store with a height overlay added to the door shows that the robber could not be more than 5'8" tall.  Hutchinson is 6' tall.

In 2006, a federal court overturned Hutchinson's conviction.  The prosecution planned to retry him using his apparently hostile ex-wife as a identification witness.  Rather than face retrial, in 2007 Hutchinson  pleaded to a time-served deal.  (Tainted Trials (with robber photo)) (Mercury News)  [1/08]

Santa Clara County, CA
Roy Lopez Garcia
Nov 19, 1998 (Morgan Hill)

Roy Lopez Garcia was convicted of the murder of mental health therapist Deborah Gregg.  Garcia had feuded with Gregg after he bought 250 acres of land adjoining her property and began to bulldoze the land.  The two were involved in civil disputes over their shared property boundary.  Gregg was found with two shotgun blasts to her head near the line separating their properties on Armsby Lane in Morgan Hill.  But there was a shortage of physical evidence pointing to Garcia, who has maintained his innocence. The guns in his home did not match the weapon used in the killing. There was no eyewitness, fingerprints, or DNA match.

Garcia was convicted after a prison informant, Timothy Flores Villalba, came forward and claimed he heard Garcia implicate himself in the crime. Villalba was serving a sentence for first-degree murder and defense attorneys argued he came forward after he was notified he could be eligible for parole as soon as 2003 if he improved his conduct.

Less than a year later, Villalba again came forward and stated that another inmate, Glen “Buddy” Nickerson, had confessed his involvement in the shooting murders for which he was convicted, just as the case against Nickerson was unraveling.  At a 2002 hearing, Villalba testified that Nickerson told him long ago that he instigated the shootout as revenge.  But U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel found Villalba's testimony “entirely without credibility,” and overturned Nickerson's conviction.

Garcia's conviction was overturned in 2005 because the trial judge had permitted the jury to visit the crime scene without Garcia or his attorney being present.  At retrial Garcia was acquitted of Gregg's murder even though the prosecution again called Villalba as a witness.  (Tainted Trials)  (Mercury News)  [2/09]

Santa Clara County, CA
Darcius Butler
2001 (San Jose)

“Just one month out of prison, Darcius Butler was arrested and then convicted on robbery charges, although the evidence was thin.  Two years later, an appellate panel overturned the conviction because the prosecution twice indicated that Butler was on parole – despite a judge’s order not to do so.”
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Santa Clara County, CA
Jeffrey Rodriguez
Dec 10, 2001

“Jeffrey Rodriguez was wrongly convicted in 2002 of a December 2001 robbery of a San Jose auto parts employee based on the victim's identification of Rodriguez, and a crime lab technician's testimony that a stain on Rodriguez's pants was from oil.  He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.  California's Sixth District Court of Appeal vacated the conviction and ordered a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel.  After Rodriguez's first trial resulted in a hung jury that voted 11-1 to acquit, he ran out of money and his lawyer didn't call any witnesses at his retrial.  Those witnesses included an expert who had determined Rodriguez was a victim of mistaken identity, and alibi witnesses.”

“After Rodriguez's conviction, his trial lawyer was suspended from practicing law on September 16, 2004 by the California Bar Association for reasons unrelated to Rodriguez's case. In April 2006 an arrest warrant for the lawyer, Paul Raj Gideon, was issued by Santa Clara County, after Gideon failed to appear for his trial on charges of practicing law without a license and drug possession. On January 5, 2008 the California Supreme Court disbarred Paul Raj Gideon from practicing law in California. The victim of the robbery and sole eyewitness signed a statement claiming the police and prosecutors pressured him to fit his narrative of the crime to fit the evidence, and an independent lab discovered that the stain on Rodriguez's pants was not oil. With no evidence Rodriguez was the robber, the charges against Rodriguez were dismissed by the San Jose District Attorney's Office on February 5, 2007, and Rodriguez was released after more than five years of wrongful imprisonment. ... In August 2009 Santa Clara County agreed to pay Rodriguez $1 million to settle his federal civil rights lawsuit against Santa Clara County.” – FJDB