New or Updated Case Summaries

4th Quarter 2007 Cases





Date of Alleged Crime


Orange County, CA William DePalma Nov 28, 1967 (Buena Park)

(Federal Case)  William DePalma was convicted of on charges of being the sole gunman who robbed the Mercury Savings and Loan in Buena Park, CA.  Following the crime, Sergeant James David Bakken, an Identification Officer for the Buena Park Police, identified a partial fingerprint purportedly lifted from the bank counter as the fingerprint of DePalma.  A local warrant was issued, but it was subsequently dismissed and the case was tried in U.S. District Court.

At trial, Sergeant Bakken testified as a government witness.  An FBI latent print examiner also testified, but only in regard to whether the lifted fingerprint matched DePalma's fingerprint.  He gave no testimony on the source of the found fingerprint.  DePalma was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Some time later, presumably years, Sergeant Bakken was indicted in a completely separate matter for perjury and for manufacturing evidence.  Since DePalma had been persistent in his claims of innocence, authorities re-examined the partial fingerprint in his case.  They concluded that the partial fingerprint was not lifted from a bank counter, but from a photocopy of DePalma's fingerprint.  DePalma's conviction was vacated in Feb. 1974.  DePalma later sued the City of Buena Vista and in Aug. 1975 accepted “a sizeable settlement.”  (Source)  [12/07]


Le Flore County, OK Vaught, Stiles, & Bates Aug 18, 1907

In the fall of 1907, a human skeleton was found in a wooded area, about 3/4 of a mile from the nearest road.  The nearest human habitation was the Bates sawmill, about four miles away, near the town of Heavener.  Not long before, in August, an employee of the mill named Bud Terry had mysteriously disappeared.  Terry was in his early twenties.  His aunt, Mrs. Knotts, with whom he lived, had heard nothing from him since his disappearance.  Knotts had raised Terry since he was orphaned, and it was Terry's custom to keep her informed whenever he left home for any length of time.  There was suspicion that W. L. Bates, the owner of the sawmill, and his employees knew more about the Terry's disappearance than they were willing to admit.

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New London County, CT Delphine Bertrand Dec 24, 1943 (Old Lyme)
Delphine Bertrand and three men visited James Streeto on the night of his murder. Bertrand and one of the men then went to have sex in another part of the house.  While they were gone, the two remaining men killed Streeto.  Bertrand pleaded guilty to manslaughter in April 1944 because she preferred being branded a killer than to having her sex life revealed during trial.  In 1946, after the two actual killers confessed, the indictment against Bertrand was dismissed.  (FJDB) (ISI) (DH)  [12/07]


Stanislaus County, CA George Souliotes Jan 15, 1997 (Modesto)

George Souliotes was convicted of arson and triple homicide stemming from a 3 a.m. fire at 1319 Ronald Ave. in Modesto that killed his tenant, Michelle Jones, 30, and her two children, Daniel Jr., 6, and Amanda, 3.  At the time of the fire, Souliotes was trying to evict the Jones family from the house. Investigators claimed that Souliotes set the fire to collect insurance money.  Investigators also claimed that medium petroleum distillates, a class of sometimes-flammable substances, were found on both Souliotes's shoes and a carpet in the home.  At trial many defenses witnesses testified that Souliotes had no financial motive to set the fire. The defense also presented its own arson expert who testified that the fire could have been an accident, possibly caused by a faulty stove. The trial ended in a hung jury.

At the second trial, in 1999, Souliotes was represented by the same trial attorney.  The prosecution presented the same witnesses, but this time the defense counsel presented no witnesses at all.  Souliotes was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.  Since his second trial, arson investigators have reanalyzed the evidence, and found that the medium petroleum distillate found on Souliotes's shoes is not the same substance that was found at the scene.  (IP Arson)  [12/07]


Chisago County, MN Thorvik & Hughes July 23, 1921
Louis Thorvik and George Hughes were convicted of robbing the Farmers State Bank in Almelund, MN.  The convictions were based on mistaken eyewitness identification and on blatant perjury committed by Deputy Sheriff H. L. Hammerstrom.  In 1925, James Laughlin, the getaway driver for the real robbers was tried and convicted of the robbery.  On the night of his sentencing he told authorities that Thorvik and Hughes had nothing to do with the robbery.  Laughlin gave a sworn statement, detailing the particulars of the crime and naming his four accomplices.  Laughlin's account was later fully corroborated and in 1931, both Thorvik and Hughes were pardoned.  (CTI)  [12/07]


Stanislaus County, CA Scott Peterson Dec 24, 2002 (Modesto)

Scott Peterson was sentenced to death for the murders of his 8-month pregnant wife, Laci, and his unborn son named Connor.  The prosecution argued that Scott killed Laci late on Dec. 23, 2002 or early on the morning of Dec. 24.  A neighbor saw Scott in the bed of his truck, which was backed in his driveway, around 9:30 a.m.  It was alleged that he was loading Laci's body into it.  Cell phone records establish that he left his Modesto residence at 523 Covena Ave. around 10:08 a.m. to go to a warehouse at 1027 N. Emerald Ave., where his boat was stored.  The warehouse is about 9 minutes away.

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Marion County, MS

Will Purvis

June 22, 1893

Will Purvis was convicted of the murder of Will Buckley.  Buckley was a member of the Whitecaps, a tight-knit organization similar to the Ku Klux Klan.  Its members swore in blood never to reveal its secrets.  In early 1892, the Whitecaps had unmercifully flogged a black servant of Buckley.  Buckley had known nothing of the Whitecaps' intentions and was absent.  Enraged at this uncalled-for violence and the secrecy with which it was carried out, Buckley decided to submit the whole affair and to expose the secrets of the Whitecaps to the next meeting of the Grand Jury.  At the Grand Jury meeting, Buckley's evidence was presented, and indictments were brought against the three Whitecaps who were known to be most brutal in the attack.

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Butler County, OH Lonzo Thornton Oct 6, 1926 (Middletown)

Lonzo Thornton was convicted of assaulting and robbing Louie Parkalab, a recent immigrant from central Europe.  Thornton had visited James Ivory, a suspect arrested for the robbery, to get back the overcoat he had lent Ivory.  Thornton was subsequently questioned by police and identified by Parkalab as the second person of the pair who had robbed him.  At trial Thornton had 5 alibi witnesses, although some of these witnesses had bad reputations, which did not help him.  He was sentenced to 10 to 25 years at the Columbus penitentiary.  This penitentiary would burn in 1930, killing 322 inmates trapped in their cells.  In Jan 1928, another man was arrested on other charges and confessed to being Ivory's accomplice in the Parkalab robbery.  The Ohio Governor pardoned Thornton in Feb 1928.  (CTI)  [11/07]


U.S. Federal Case (IN) Percy B. Sullivan 1896
Percy B. Sullivan was convicted of passing counterfeit money after being identified by eyewitnesses from Evansville, Vincennes, and Terre Haute, IN.  He was sentenced to four years of imprisonment.  Some time later, another man named Tyler was arrested who admitted passing counterfeit money in the same cities about the time charged against Sullivan.  When the identifying witnesses from these cities were shown Tyler's and Sullivan's pictures and asked to pick out the culprit, all promptly picked Tyler, even though Tyler bore little resemblance to Sullivan.  U.S. President McKinley pardoned Sullivan on May 12, 1898.  (CTI)  [11/07]


Navarro County, TX Shannon & Clements Mar 15, 1925 (Currie)

Earl Shannon and H. A. Clements were convicted of the robbery of a Currie grocery store.  Two armed men had robbed the store, which was owned by two partners, Phipps and English.  English had been present during the robbery, but Phipps had not.  English identified one of the masked and hatted robbers as Clements.  Clements ran a shop about two miles away with his partner Shannon.  English later identified the robbers' lookout man as Shannon after Phipps found circumstantial evidence that implicated Shannon.

Just before Shannon's trial, Phipps told Shannon's attorney that English could not identify any of the persons who robbed the store except Clements.  The trial judge would not permit Shannon's attorney to testify to Phipps's statement.  Shannon's conviction was later overturned for that reason.  He was never retried.

While in prison, Clements met another inmate, Blackie Davis, who confessed to the grocery store robbery and signed a deposition to that effect.  The Governor was unconvinced by Davis's admission, and refused to pardon Clements.  However, a sixty-day furlough was granted, to enable Clements to locate the accomplices implicated by Davis's confession.  On his furlough, Clements found one of the accomplices.  Backed by an application endorsed by the district judge, the prosecutor, and all the jurors, the Texas Governor pardoned Clements in May 1929.  (CTI)  [11/07]


Harris County, TX Robert Fratta Nov 9, 1994
Robert Alan Fratta was convicted in 1996 of arranging his wife's murder.  He was sentenced to death.  Fratta had been in divorce proceedings with his wife.  To gain custody of their children, his wife had made allegations of sexual perversion involving bathroom activities.  The murder trial prosecutor used these allegations in an attempt to prejudice the jury.  Fratta had no opportunity to confront the allegations, as he could not cross-examine the person who made them.  Even in regard to living witnesses, Fratta's trial judge openly denied Fratta's Sixth Amendment right to confront his accusers.  The judge permitted hearsay testimony from a police officer that an alleged co-conspirator had implicated himself and Fratta in the crime.  Another witness testified to incriminating statements made by the alleged co-conspirator and a second alleged co-conspirator.  Fratta's defense tried to call these alleged co-conspirators to refute the hearsay testimony, but the judge would not allow them to be called.  (CCADP) (ODR)  [11/07]


Bronx County, NY Bronx Five 1984
In 1984, five men were arrested and subsequently convicted for sexually abusing 20 toddlers at three New York City funded day care centers in the Bronx.  All the convictions were overturned on appeal.  Police investigations used techniques on children to produce false testimony and implanted memories.  One defendant, Alberto Ramos, was convicted in 1984 after police used torture to extract a confession.  He was cleared in 1992.  He later filed a lawsuit and was awarded $5 million in 2003.  In 1986, Rev. Nathaniel O'Grady was also convicted of child abuse.  At his trial, one of the child witnesses apparently had not been coached enough and he identified the judge as his abuser.  O'Grady's conviction was overturned on appeal in 1996.  Albert Algarin, Franklin Beauchamp, and Jesus Torres, were also convicted of child abuse in 1986.  Their convictions were overturned on appeal.  (Gauntlet) (Religious Tolerance) (FJDB)  [11/07]


Pulaski County, IN R & L Finnegan 2005

Roman and Lynnette Finnegan were charged with abusing and neglecting their child, Jessica Salyer, following her death at age 14.  Jessica was born with tricuspid atresia, a heart defect that causes the right ventricle to be underdeveloped. She had her first heart surgery at age 2, and was on medication to treat her heart condition and seizures for much of her life.  In 2005, Jessica died from sudden cardiac arrest caused by a prescription error.  Her dose of Coumadin was inexplicably increased to many times the safe limit while she was taken off her seizure medication altogether.  During her autopsy, Jessica suffered a skull fracture.  It was alleged that this fracture had existed prior to her death.  Authorities never explained why it began at the autopsy saw line, why there was no blood in the fracture, or why Jessica never complained of a head injury.

Lynnette was charged in April 2007 with neglecting a dependent resulting in serious injury, a Class B felony.  Both Lynnette and Roman were charged with neglecting a dependent, a Class D felony.  The Indiana Department of Child Services in Pulaski County removed Lynnette's other two daughters from her Francesville home when the investigation began in Nov. 2006. Her son, who was old enough to live on his own, moved out.  Roman Finnegan, who worked as a corrections officer for the Medaryville Facility, was suspended from work because he was charged with a felony.  Lynnette could not work because she suffers from epilepsy.  A bank eventually foreclosed on their home.  By Nov. 2007, the couple got their daughters back and charges against them have been dropped.  Roman even got his job back.  (TIJ)  [11/07]


Lake County, IL James Montgomery Nov 15, 1923 (Waukegan)
James Montgomery, a 26-year-old black man, was convicted in 1924 of raping Mamie Snow, a 62-year-old mentally deranged white woman.  The prosecutor, A. V. Smith, who was a member of the Klu Klux Klan, had Snow identify Montgomery at a police station.  At Montgomery's 20-minute trial, the prosecutor concealed the fact that Snow could not recognize Montgomery the day after she had identified him.  The prosecutor also suppressed a medical report that showed that Miss Snow was still a virgin.  In 1949, following an investigation, a writ of habeas corpus was filed.  A federal judge then declared that Montgomery's innocence was clear, as was the prosecutor's guilt in manipulating the woman into giving false testimony about a rape that never occurred.  (Not Guilty) (The Innocents) (TI) (NY Times)  [11/07]


Hennepin County, MN Leonard Hankins Dec 16, 1932 (Minneapolis)

Leonard Hankins was convicted in 1933 of participating in the murders of three people in the course of a bank robbery.  The robbery occurred at the Third Northwestern Bank in Minneapolis.  Two police officers, Ira L. Evans and Leo Gorski, were killed when they responded to the robbery.  A passerby was also killed.  Following the robbery, Hankins walked into a rooming house where one of the robbers had been seized.  Several witnesses said Hankins resembled the lookout man, although one witness denied Hankins was the lookout man.  Hankins claimed he was getting a haircut at the time of the robbery.  A barber corroborated that claim.

The FBI later captured one the bank robbers, Jess Doyle, who said Hankins had nothing to do with the robbery. Other members of the gang also said Hankins had nothing to do with the robbery.  In 1935, the FBI advised the Minneapolis police of Hankins' innocence, but the local authorities refused to release him because the FBI would not give them its file on Doyle.  Hankins spent another 15 years in prison before being pardoned in 1951.  In 1954, the state legislature awarded Hankins $300/month for life for his wrongful imprisonment.  [11/07]


Spain Valero & Sánchez Aug 21, 1910

On Aug. 21, 1910, in the small town of Osa de la Vega, in the province of Cuenca, José María Grimaldos, known as “El Cepa,” was seen for the last time.  He was on a road to the nearby village of Tresjuncos.  His family feared foul play and reported his disappearance to the Civil Guard (police).  During the investigation the family and others expressed their suspicions that two shepherds, Gregorio Valero and León Sánchez had killed him for his money.  This investigation was closed in Sept. 1911 without any indictments.

In 1913 a new judge by the name of Isasa arrived.  Influenced by the local boss and right-wing politician, the judge reopened the case. The two suspects were arrested by the Civil Guard and, under torture, they confessed they killed Grimaldos, cut his body up, and fed it to pigs.  The ''fiscal'' (DA) asked for the death penalty.  The case took its time in the court system, but on May 25, 1918 a popular jury convicted the defendants of murder.  They both were sentenced to 18 years in prison.  Both were released on account of a general pardon on Feb. 20, 1924 after serving eleven years of imprisonment.

Two years later, in early 1926, it was discovered that Grimaldos was alive after he applied for the necessary papers to marry.  He had been living in a nearby town.  With much legal difficulty, the case was reopened and, after much delay, Valero and Sanchez's convictions were overturned.

In 1979, a movie entitled El crimen de Cuenca (The Crime of Cuenca) was made based on the case.  The movie was initially banned in Spain because the torture scenes in it are depicted in great detail and crudity.  However, in 1981, the movie was allowed to be shown in Spain and became a box office success.  (FJDB)  [11/07]


Macomb County, MI Lloyd Prevost Dec 24, 1919

Lloyd Prevost was convicted murdering his wife's cousin and best friend, J. Stanley Brown.  Brown was found dead in his car on Drefahl Road, 3 miles west of Mount Clemens.  Brown had been shot four times.  The coroner placed the time of death at about 11 p.m.  The prosecution alleged that Prevost had left his hotel room with Brown at 10:30 p.m. on the night of the murder and had returned alone at 2 a.m. after the murder.  The case had the direct assistance of state Attorney General Alexander Groesbeck, who later became Governor.  The Michigan Department of Public Safety reinvestigated the case in the fall of 1930.

In its report the DPS indicated the following:  (1) For weeks prior to the trial, prosecution witnesses were thoroughly drilled in midnight sessions by the Attorney General.  The Prosecuting Attorney told the DPS that he "did not believe Prevost was guilty of the crime," and that the conviction was obtained largely through the overawing influence of the Attorney General with the jury.  (2) The testimony of a taxi driver who said he saw Prevost with Brown after 10:30 p.m. was perjured.  (3) The testimony of the ballistics expert was mistaken, for the revolver presented at trial could not have been the murder weapon.  (4) The killer's footprints in the snow were made by rubbers, not by army shoes as alleged by the prosecution.  Prevost admitted wearing army shoes on the night of the murder.  However, his feet were too small to have made the footprints had he been wearing rubbers.  (5) The testimony of the hotel proprietress that Brown had returned to the hotel at 2 a.m. was perjured.

One might also surmise that the testimony of the ballistics expert was knowingly perjured for he claimed to have determined that when last fired the alleged murder weapon was fired four times.  In addition to the DPS report, convincing information seems to have been presented to the authorities indicating rather pointedly who the true perpetrators were. In view of all the facts and circumstances, it was concluded that Prevost was innocent.  Governor Fred W. Green pardoned Prevost in Dec. 1930.  (CTI)  [11/07]


Los Angeles County, CA James Preston Oct 18, 1924

James W. Preston was convicted of robbing a Los Angeles widow and shooting her when she tried to escape.  The victim, Mrs. Dick R. Parsons lived at 906 W. 50th St.  The perpetrator had entered through a first floor window, and on the dust of the screen, fingerprints were found.  Preston was arrested on a minor charge a few days after the crime.  His fingerprints were compared with those found on the screen, but did not match.  For some reason, however, the Los Angeles newspapers carried stories stating that Preston had been identified as Mrs. Parsons' assailant through the fingerprints.  The source of this misinformation could not be determined.

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Denver County, CO Willard Powell Mar 28, 1908

(Federal Case tried in Council Bluffs, IA)  Willard Powell was convicted of participating in a massive swindling scheme that had operated in 14 cities and had taken in millions of dollars.  The organizers of this scheme ran a "Millionaires' Club" for the purpose of operating fake horse races, wrestling matches, foot races, and boxing matches. They then had a "steerer," to induce a "mike," to join with the club's secretary in betting against the club, the "mike" believing that the race or match was to be "thrown" in his favor.  After the stakes were put up, with the club's secretary as stakeholder, the event was instead thrown to the club and the "mike" got a dose of his own medicine.  The scheme was cleverly worked out, inducing persons to surrender their money, yet leaving them in such a compromising position that they were not anxious to report the affair to the authorities.

Powell was indicted because of testimony that he knew and associated with some of those clearly involved in the scheme.  However, there was no evidence that he conspired with anyone.  He and his attorney expected a directed verdict of acquittal.  However, at the last minute in the Mar. 1910 trial, a “mike” was recalled as a witness and identified Powell as a participant in the group who fleeced him in a fake horse race near Denver, CO.  This “mike” could not fix the date when he was fleeced, beyond saying it was between March 20 and April 10, 1908.  The only other witness who had testified about this swindle had already been dismissed and had left town.

The date was important, because Powell had alibis in different locations during this time period and did not have time to collect alibi evidence covering the entire period.  Powell had two witnesses testify that they returned from Cuba with him around the first of April.  Another witness testified that he was in Denver when Powell arrived about the middle of April.  However, the jury disregarded this evidence and convicted Powell.

Following Powell's conviction, his attorneys established that the horse race occurred on Mar. 28, 1908, and that Powell was clearly in Tampa, Florida on this date, having returned from Cuba two days before.  U.S. President Taft granted Powell a full pardon in July 1910.  (CTI)  [11/07]


New York County, NY Pezzulich & Sgelirrach Mar 22, 1919

Frank Pezzulich and Frank Sgelirrach were convicted of armed robbery charges.  On Mar. 22, 1919, seven pistol-wielding masked men robbed a rooming house at 36 Beach St. occupied by nine Croatians.  The victims were robbed of $1728, $85, $13, and $15.  One victim, Mike Zic, followed a group of robbers that went towards Varick St.  He caught one of the robbers, Frank Strolich, and held him for police.  Strolich denied his participation in the robbery and gave his address as 408 W. 24th St.  A detective went to the address, a rooming house, along with Frank Zic, the heaviest loser in the robbery.  There they met two Austrians, Frank Pezzulich and Frank Sgelirrach.  Zic identified both as robbers.  During the robbery two robbers' masks had allegedly slipped, allowing them to be identified.  Both Austrians admitted knowing Strolich, but denied being robbers.

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Winnebago County, IL Henry Olson Sept 6, 1927 (Rockford)

Henry Olson was convicted of the murder of gas station attendant Floyd Stotler.  The murder occurred during an attempted robbery of the Hart Oil Station at the corner of Broadway and Kishwaukee Streets in Rockford, Illinois.  Floyd's father, Orville, was the only eyewitness.  Despite the fact that the two perpetrators wore masks, Orville positively identified Olson as the bandit who shot his son.  This identification was the only evidence connecting Olson to the murder.

At trial, Olson presented twelve alibi witnesses.  While most of these were family members and not every witness claimed to have seen Olson at the exact time of the crime, still the alibi was quite credible.  Nevertheless, six of twelve jurors favored convicting Olson, resulting in a mistrial.  On retrial, with much the same evidence, Olson was convicted.

Despite the verdict, the judge, evidencing his doubt of Olson's guilt, allowed him to remain free on $10,000 bond, pending appeal.  Soon afterwards, Olson and his wife disappeared from the community.  They had driven to Chicago and telegraphed family members to come for their car.  A nationwide search for the pair proved unsuccessful.  According to many, Olson's flight was considered an admission of guilt, and there were rumors that Olson's wife was the second bandit in the gas station holdup.

Meanwhile, Olson's attorney continued his efforts to clear his client.  He got a lead from a physician, who reported that a family maidservant had stated that Olson was not guilty.  When police questioned her, she denied making the statement.  Later, after she was taken in for further questioning, she admitted making the statement and said her boyfriend, Maurice Mahan, had boasted to her that he and his chum, George Bliss, had held up the gas station, and that Bliss had done the shooting.  When Mahan and Bliss were picked up, they were questioned separately and each eventually confessed, giving identical details.  They both pleaded guilty to the crime.

Efforts were made to locate Olson and his wife through press and radio to give them the good news, with a message to return home.  After some weeks Olson, then in New Orleans, saw a notice in a newspaper.  After contacting his attorney to confirm the news was true, Olson and his wife returned to Rockford.  Olson faced a third trial, but was acquitted in Mar. 1928.  (CTI)  [11/07]


Clinton County, OH Clarence McKinney Feb 14, 1922 (Wilmington)

Late in the evening, Wilmington police officers Henry Adams and Emory McCreight were patrolling an alley skirting the post office on Main Street when they heard a racket at the back of the Murphy and Benham hardware store.  After approaching the area, the officers saw two shadowy figures against the building.  Unbeknownst to the officers, the two were cutting their way through the rear door of the hardware store.

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Los Angeles County, CA Evans & Ledbetter July 8, 1928

Police officers Walter E. Evans and Miles H. Ledbetter, both detectives, were convicted of extorting a $750 bribe from Harry McDonald, a person with a criminal record of felonies.  After being arrested in 1929 for receiving stolen property, McDonald surprised the District Attorney by confessing to conspiracy transactions involving over 50 LAPD officers.  Among those were officers Evans and Ledbetter.  McDonald claimed that the officers had in 1928 extorted a $750 bribe from him in exchange for suppressing evidence that McDonald had purchased stolen diamonds from a Jack Hawkins.

At trial, McDonald, his wife, and his maid all swore that Evans and Ledbetter had visited McDonald on a Saturday and Sunday in 1928 and that McDonald had paid the officers a bribe.  The officers countered that they had indeed visited McDonald on Saturday July 7 and Sunday July 8, 1928, but the visits were to investigate an unconnected robbery of two diamond rings.  In rebuttal, McDonald and his wife testified that the detectives could not have visited them on the specified dates as the McDonalds moved to a bungalow in Venice, CA on the Sunday before July 4, and that they were not in Los Angeles for the two weeks thereafter.  The jury chose to believe the McDonalds and convicted the two officers.  In 1930, following unsuccessful appeals, the two officers started serving their sentences in San Quentin.

Later evidence surfaced that McDonald signed a safety-deposit record of a Los Angeles bank on July 9, 1928, so he could not have been out of town that day as he and his wife swore.  Also evidence surfaced that their maid had not been in their employ until after August 8, so she could not have been present on July 7 or July 8.  Coupled with these disclosures, and other discovered facts, California Governor Young pardoned both officers in 1931.  Evans and Ledbetter later received $4533.36 and $3313.39 in compensation.  (CTI)  [11/07]


Mercer County, WV Payne Boyd May 30, 1918 (Modoc)

In 1918, a black coal miner named Cleveland Boyd was convicted on vagrancy complaints.  He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $25.  The judge who convicted him, Squire H. E. Cook, and a deputy sheriff, A. M. Godfrey, then prepared to take him to the jail at Matoaka.  Boyd, however, pleaded to stop at his home about 100 yards away where he could exchange his new shoes for older, more comfortable ones.  On stopping at his home, Boyd retrieved a revolver and shot the judge twice, mortally wounding him.  The deputy sheriff fled for his life.  Boyd fled into the hills and escaped capture.

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Franklin County, MO Jerry Parker Aug 10, 1989 (Gerald)

Jerry L. Parker was convicted of sexually molesting three girls, K.B., age 10, H.R., age 11, and B.C., age 13.  He was sentenced to 195 1/2 years of imprisonment.  The girls said they were kidnapped at gunpoint from a gazebo in Gerald City Park and forced to walk to a woman's rest room about a block away where they were molested.  The girls' story contains numerous implausible or impossible details.  A deputy indicated that he did not believe the story.  Police undertook no further action on the girls' report until two weeks later when Parker became a suspect.  At trial, on cross examination, the Gerald Police Chief conceded his office received over 50 leads and the names of three suspects regarding the alleged assault but Parker was the only person ever questioned about it.

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U.S. Federal Case (NY) Duarnis Perez Convicted 2000
Duarnis Perez became a U.S. citizen in 1988.  He was later convicted of a drug related offense and sentenced to prison.  On his release in 1994 he was deported to the Dominican Republic.  In 2000, he was arrested in the U.S. for illegally entering the country following his deportation.  He was convicted and served a three and a half year sentence.  On his release in 2004 the Immigration Service again attempted to deport him.  Perez contested the deportation and won.  A federal judge overturned his illegal entry conviction in 2006.  (FJDB)  [10/07]


Harris County, TX Ronald Taylor May 28, 1993
Ronald Gene Taylor was convicted of rape after being identified by the victim.  The victim's DNA tests were not available for Taylor's trial because the Houston PD Crime Lab had erroneously reported that the victim's bed sheets did not contain semen.  Taylor was exonerated of the crime in 2007 after DNA tests showed that the actual perpetrator was another Texas inmate, Roosevelt Carroll.  Reportedly Taylor and Carroll look remarkably similar.  Carroll cannot be prosecuted as the statute of limitations for the crime has expired.  (Chronicle)  [10/07]


DuPage County, IL Marcus Lyons Nov 30, 1987 (Woodridge)

Marcus Lyons, a black man, was convicted of raping a 29-year-old white woman.  The victim identified Lyons in a police lineup and from a photo array.  The victim requested to view the police lineup a second time, although police records do not indicate why.  A composite sketch of the assailant was shown to two other women who lived at the Maple Lake Apartments where the assault occurred.  They said it looked like one of their neighbors -- Marcus Lyons.  Lyons wasn't surprised.  He said, "I was the only black male in the apartment complex."

The victim's description of the assailant's clothes, which included a pair of brown polyester pants, matched clothing that Lyons owned.  Lyons says his brown polyester pants were a size 32 and could never have fit the actual perpetrator as the victim said her assailant weighed 200 pounds and had a "large belly and hips."

At trial the jury was swayed by Lyons' resemblance to the composite sketch and by the demeanor of the victim, who was "shaking like a leaf" on the stand and "really gave the appearance that she was scared of this guy," one juror said.  Lyons was sentenced to six years of imprisonment, of which he served three.  In 2007, DNA tests exonerated Lyons and his conviction was dismissed.  (Chicago Tribune)  [10/07]


Bronx County, NY Jose Garcia July 16, 1991

Jose Garcia was convicted of the murder of a friend named Cesar Vasquez.  Three gunmen shot Vasquez to death in a courtyard on Bailey Avenue.  Prosecutors at Garcia's 1993 trial claimed Vasquez and Garcia were linked to a drug gang battling for turf with rivals.  However, they failed to show proof of Garcia's alleged motive.  Their case rested on the testimony of one witness who claimed she saw the shooting.

Garcia was in the Dominican Republic at the time of the shooting and did not return to the U.S. until 17 days later.  At trial, Garcia's lawyer presented almost nothing of his alibi.  In Dec. 2006, after Garcia had served 15 years of imprisonment, a judge overturned his conviction.  The judge credited Garcia with a strong alibi, including documents that appeared to show that he was arrested in the Dominican Republic for traveling with false documents a day before the murder.  The judge ordered that Garcia be given a new trial or released within two months.  (NY Post)  [10/07]


New York County, NY Lemus & Hidalgo Nov 23, 1990

David Lemus and Olmado Hidalgo were convicted of the murder of Marcus Peterson and the attempted murder of Jeffrey Craig.  Both victims were nightclub bouncers who were shot at the Palladium on East 14th St.  Prior to the shootings, the bouncers had an argument with their assailants.  During the argument, another man acted as a mediator between the two parties.  At trial, three witnesses identified Lemus and Hidalgo as the shooters.  The witnesses also identified Jose Figueroa as the mediator.

In Dec. 1992, Bernardo Rodriguez, a police informant and member of a Bronx gang named C&C, told police detectives that he had seen the Palladium shooting and that it was carried out by C&C members.  He reported that the gunmen were Joseph Pillot and Thomas Morales.  Two years later, Pillot told authorities in two separate interviews that he and Morales were responsible for the crime.  He said that they had shot the bouncers after being denied access to the club. (Pillot claimed that his gun jammed but that Morales's did not.)  In 1996, Pillot again testified to his involvement at a court hearing.

In 2000, during a federal investigation of C&C, Richard Feliciano, a former gang member, told the authorities that he was the mediator in the Palladium dispute and that Lemus and Hidalgo did not shoot the bouncers.  He named Morales as the shooter.  Several other witnesses backed up Feliciano's testimony, although some were gang members who may have had an incentive to turn on their own in the hopes of gaining leniency.  Two of the witnesses were deemed to be more credible.  In 2004, defense lawyers obtained prison records that showed that Figueroa, the mediator identified by trial witnesses, was in jail on the night of the shootings.  In 2005, a judge overturned Hidalgo's conviction.  Lemus's conviction has not been overturned.  In a taped conversation, played at trial, Lemus had confessed to a woman that he committed the crime.  Lemus said that he exaggerated to impress the woman.  (NY Times) (NY Times #2)  [10/07]


Summit County, OH Michael Roper Apr 17, 2000

Michael Roper was convicted of the murder of Taleb “Tom” Husein.  Husein owned a Lakeshore Boulevard convenience store and was killed during an aborted robbery attempt.  Roper was identified as the murderer by Husein's girlfriend and by a doughnut deliveryman.  A jail inmate also testified that Roper confessed to the killing.

Roper first three trials ended in hung juries as jurors could not agree on a verdict.  He was convicted at his fourth trial.  Since Roper's conviction, evidence has surfaced identifying three alternative suspects, which prosecutors knew about prior to Roper's trial.  One of the suspects is said to closely resemble Roper.  A source told Akron police a week after Roper's arrest, that the alternative suspect is “off his script (insane) and has a heart of coal and killing would (be) easy for him, if someone doesn't end up killing him first.”

Prosecutors say the alternative suspect evidence was in a file they shared with Roper's defense attorneys, but the defense attorneys disagree.  Apparently prosecutors were playing “hide and seek” with the evidence.  According to defense attorney Jana DeLoach, “There's no question the jury would have found reasonable doubt as to Mr. Roper's guilt and they would have acquitted him had they been told about the other suspects.”  In 2005, a judge denied Roper's request for a fifth trial.  (Akron Beacon Journal)  [10/07]


Columbia County, FL John Merritt Mar 1, 1982 (Lake City)
John Edward Merritt was convicted of murdering Darrell Davis, a 48-year-old ambulance driver.  The conviction was based solely on the conflicting testimony of two convicted felons, Gregory Hopkins and Gerald Skinner, and to a lesser extent Hopkins' wife Belinda (who was Skinner's sister).  For their testimony both men received very generous sentence reductions for other crimes.  (JD36 p8) (Merritt v. State)  [10/07]


Bronx County, NY Richard Rosario June 19, 1996
Richard Rosario was convicted of the shooting murder of Jorge Collazo.  No physical evidence linked him to the crime, but two eyewitnesses identified him.  However, abundant alibi evidence indicates that Rosario was living 1070 miles away in Deltona, Florida at the time of the crime.  Rosario's trial lawyers failed to send an investigator to Florida to gather this evidence.  Despite a post-conviction gathering of evidence, appeals courts have failed to provide him relief.  Rosario is still imprisoned as of 2007.  (JD36 p3)  [10/07]


Allegheny County, PA Steven Slutzker Dec 28, 1975 (Wilkinsburg)

Steven Slutzker was convicted of the murder of twenty-nine-year-old John Mudd.  Slutzker was a suspect in the murder because he had had an affair with Mudd's wife, Arlene.  However, Slutzker had a clear alibi that put him miles away from the killing.  Slutzker was in McKeesport with alibi witnesses, his van there was covered with newly fallen snow, and there were no foot tracks near the van or near his home across the street from the murder scene.  At the time of the murder, the victim's son, John Mudd, Jr, was five years old.  In 1990, 15 years later, Mudd, Jr. claimed he had a flashback episode in which repressed memories of the murder flooded his mind.  In the flashback he identified Slutzker as the killer.  In 1992, a prosecutor used Mudd Jr.'s testimony and some questionable eyewitness testimony to convict Slutzker of the murder.

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Los Angeles County, CA Jesus Avila Aug 19, 1990 (Lynwood)

Jesus Avila was convicted of attempted murder in 1990 in the shooting of Demetrius Kidd.  The shooting occurred at a baby shower gathering in Ham Park.  Jesus's original lawyer, George Denny, became convinced that Jesus's brother, Ernesto, was the real shooter, after Ernesto apparently confessed to him.  But Denny never told anyone because he represented Ernesto in another matter and believed that he could not implicate him -- even if doing so might help clear Jesus.  While Denny wrestled with this dilemma, Ernesto and the Avila family gambled.  Rather than come forward and testify for his brother at the trial, Ernesto hoped that Jesus would win his freedom anyway.  "We thought Jesus would be acquitted and Ernesto would not have to go to jail either," said Christine Avila, their mother.

Denny withdrew from the case, citing an unspecified conflict of interest.  However, he never shared with Jesus's new lawyer information he had on why Ernesto was the real shooter.  When police arrived at the shooting, Ernesto had fled.  Witnesses there identified Jesus as the person who most looked like the shooter.  At trial, Jesus's new lawyer presented witnesses who placed Jesus on the opposite side of the park at the time of the shooting.  Some remember him hitting the ground when shots were fired.  However, the prosecution witnesses prevailed.

On appeal in 1992, a judge heard sworn testimony that Ernesto was the guilty party, both from Ernesto and several other witnesses.  However, the judge declined to order a new trial for Jesus, saying later that he did not find Ernesto's admissions credible.  Eventually, however, Jesus was able to appeal to the federal Ninth Circuit Court, which overturned his conviction in July 2002.  (LA Times)  [10/07]


Philadelphia County, PA Robert Wilkinson Oct 5, 1975

Robert Wilkinson, a mildly retarded man, was convicted in 1976 of the arson murders of five people.  At 3:25 a.m. on Oct 5, 1975 someone used a Molotov cocktail to firebomb the home of Radamas Santiago.  The Santiagos, who lived at 4419 North 4th Street, were then asleep in their home.  Radamas and one of his sons, Carlos, survived.  Radamas's wife, three of his children, and Luis Caracini, a guest in the house, perished in the fire.  At the time of the firebombing, 14-year-old Nelson Garcia, a friend of the Santiagos, was sleeping on their front porch.  His hair aflame, Garcia fled from the house, looking for a fire alarm. Garcia saw Robert Wilkinson in an automobile stopped near the Santiago home.  Because Wilkinson was the first person he saw, Garcia assumed that Wilkinson had thrown the firebomb.  He accused Wilkinson, who police then arrested.  Garcia later elaborated that he had seen Wilkinson throw a bottle with a burning cloth onto the Santiago porch.

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Allegheny County, PA John Dolenc July 8, 1975 (Mt. Lebanon)

John Dolenc was convicted of murdering his wife, Patricia.  The couple had separated for a week, but agreed to meet in Bridgeville on Saturday night, July 5.  Dolenc said Patricia did not show up.  The prosecution argued that she did show up, and Dolenc murdered her that night.  Dolenc spent that night barhopping in Bridgeville with his uncle.  He was able to prove that he had been at some bars, although police did not check them all.  Even if they did, the prosecution later argued that he would have had time to murder his wife between some of the visits.

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Allegheny County, PA Terrell Johnson July 21, 1994 (Pittsburgh)

Terrell Johnson was convicted of murdering Verna Robinson, a police informant.  Robinson was willing to implicate a member of the Hazelwood Mob in a drive-by shooting.  She was the first person ever placed in the Pittsburgh Police Witness Protection Program.  She later refused protection because she did not have money to pay the rent and utilities on the apartment police found for her.  She moved back to her mother's house in the heart of Hazelwood Mob territory, where she was killed.

Johnson's conviction was due to the testimony of Dolly McBryde, an alleged eyewitness to Robinson's murder.  McBryde was a crack cocaine addict and her criminal offenses included fraud, theft, prostituting her children, and using them to steal.  While under police protection she was caught shoplifting at a drug store and stealing furnishings from a safe-house hotel.

Initially, McBryde said she witnessed the murder by hiding in bushes in front of the house at which it occurred.  However, after she realized her view would have been obstructed from that spot, she changed her testimony and stated she witnessed the murder from a second location.  However, the property owner said McBryde could not have been at the second location, as the gate to it was locked, and the owner had lost the key to the gate 10 years prior to the murder.

McBryde testified she heard one shot, then another as much as two minutes later.  She said the victim did not fall to the ground until after the second shot.  Other witnesses said the shots were simultaneous and a forensic expert said either one of them would felled the victim immediately.  McBryde's name does not appear on any initial police reports about the murder.  McBryde came forward two and a half weeks afterwards, when she was caught shoplifting and arrested on several outstanding warrants, most of them theft-related.

Besides Johnson, two other men were charged with Robinson's murder.  Unlike Johnson, these other men could afford better lawyers who were successfully able to attack McBryde's eyewitness account.  Both men were acquitted after Johnson was found guilty.  (PPU)  [10/07]


Philadelphia County, PA Bilger & Sheeler Nov 23, 1936

Philadelphia patrolman James T. Morrow was murdered while tracking down a suspected robber who had been terrorizing the northeast section of the city.  Police, in efforts to solve the murder, arrested and extracted confessions from three different men over a several year period.  Two of the men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison before being exonerated.

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