New or Updated Case Summaries

1st Quarter 2008 Cases





Date of Alleged Crime


Salt Lake County, UT Henry Miller Dec 8, 2000 (Salt Lake City)

Henry Miller was convicted of stealing a woman's purse at knifepoint in a Salt Lake City convenience store parking lot.  The purse had $50 in it.  Miller then allegedly tried to steal the woman's car, but unable to put the car in reverse, got out and fled.  At the time, however, Miller lived 1400 miles away in Louisiana.  He had a stroke on Nov. 25, 2000, 14 days before the robbery and took off work for three weeks while he recovered.  Hospital and employment records confirmed the stroke and his return to work in Louisiana.

Miller had lived in Salt Lake City from 1989 to 1999.  He was again in Utah in Feb. 2003, when police stopped him a block away from a restaurant robbery.  He was charged in the restaurant robbery and in the 2000 parking lot robbery.  However, police dropped charges on the restaurant robbery due to insufficient evidence.  The parking lot victim testified she was 100 percent sure that Miller was the thief who snatched her purse.  But Miller, then 47, was in his mid-forties at the time of the crime and the victim had told police the robber was between 18 to 21 years old.

After gathering new evidence, including testimony by a home health care nurse that Miller was in Louisiana the day before the robbery, Miller's conviction was overturned.  Prosecutors dropped charges a week before a scheduled retrial in July 2007.  Miller had served more than 4 years in prison for the alleged theft of $50.  (Salt Lake Tribune)  [3/08]


Bucks County, PA Michael Dirago Apr 16, 1985

Michael Dirago was convicted in 1991 of the 1985 murder of his 23-year-old girlfriend, Yvonne Davi.  Davi's body had been found near the Delaware River.  The conviction was secured by John Hall, a career prison informant and star witness who unexpectedly came forward just a few days before Dirago's then scheduled trial in Bucks County, PA.  Hall said Dirago told him about the crime when they were both in the Bucks County Jail.

Hall's testimony placed the murder on the New Jersey side of the bridge on which, he claimed, the victim had been killed.  Dirago was actually convicted in Burlington County, NJ, but only Hall's testimony places the murder there.  Hall gave a riveting account of the murder on the bridge, and of the victim gurgling as she died.  C. Theodore Fritsch, then the chief deputy DA of Bucks County, wrote that Hall's “unsolicited cooperation,” had changed the case from one with a “rather slim” chance of conviction to a “strong one from the prosecution standpoint.”  Howard Barman, then deputy attorney general of New Jersey wrote that Hall was “a remarkable person” who, but for an alcohol problem, “would probably be a significant member of society.”  (Google) (City Paper)  [3/08]


Vigo County, IN David Scott Apr 18, 1984 (W Terre Haute)

David L. Scott was convicted of murdering 89-year-old Loretta Keith.  Keith had been bludgeoned to death in her bed with a hydraulic jack.  Scott was convicted largely because of a covertly taped statement in which he said he participated in the crime.  Scott's sister said the taping was a setup and that Scott was tricked into making the statement.  Scott was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Four months after Scott's trial, another man, Thomas Abram, came forward and implicated Kevin Mark Weeks as the murderer of Keith.  Abram's detailed story made no mention of Scott.  Based on the evidence, Scott was granted a hearing for a new trial, but a new trial was denied.  In Jan. 2008, after Scott served more than 23 years of imprisonment, he was exonerated of the crime and released.  DNA test results showed that Weeks was the person who killed Keith.  (AP News) (Tribune-Star)  [03/08]


Sabine Parish, LA Rickey Johnson July 12, 1982

Rickey Johnson was convicted of raping a woman on July 12, 1982 at an apartment complex in Many, LA.  He was convicted solely on the victim's identification.  She was unable to describe any distinguishing marks that Johnson had, including his gold front tooth, despite her testimony of looking at her assailant's face during the entire four hours he was in her bedroom.

In 2001, a close friend and fellow inmate, Calvin Willis, told Johnson to contact the Innocence Project to help exonerate him of his wrongful conviction.  Johnson watched Willis walk out of prison after being exonerated by DNA evidence in 2003.  In Jan. 2008, Johnson was also exonerated after DNA tests showed that another man, John Carnell McNeal, had committed the rape.  McNeal had been convicted in 1984 of raping another woman on April 30, 1983 at the same apartment complex.  (Shreveport Times)  [3/08]


Polk County, IA David Flores Apr 8, 1996 (Des Moines)

David Flores was convicted of murdering 42-year-old Phyllis Davis, a bank executive.  He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.  During a rolling gun battle between two motor vehicles, an errant bullet killed Davis.  Davis died within seconds as her car rolled into the intersection of University Ave. and Ninth St.  It was not entirely clear that Flores was in one of the battling motor vehicles, and if he was, that he fired the bullet that killed Davis.  However, the erratic behavior of Flores' girlfriend and her refusal to answer some questions during the trial led to Flores' conviction.  Child welfare advocates had threatened to take away the girlfriend's child, which they eventually did.

On the day of Flores' sentencing, the jury foreman, Samuel McCrorey, who helped convict Flores, went public with his belief that Flores was actually innocent.  McCrorey said he had doubts Flores was even at the scene.  The judge harshly chastised McCrorey for going public with his regrets.  The judge's criticism faulted McCrorey for presumably embarrassing other jurors, who had agreed not to talk publicly about their deliberations.

In 2003, evidence surfaced that a gang member told the FBI and the Los Angeles police prior to Flores' trial that another man, Raphael Robinson, shot Davis.  The FBI interview had been in the custody of the Polk County Attorney for some time.  A June 2008 court hearing is scheduled to consider the new evidence.  (Des Moines Register)  [3/08]


Dauphin County, PA Samuel Randolph Sept 19, 2001 (Harrisburg)

Samuel Randolph IV was sentenced to death for a barroom shooting that killed Anthony Burton, 18, and Thomas Easter, 21.  The shooting occurred in Harrisburg at Todd and Pat's Hotel in the 1900 block of North Sixth Street.  It also left 5 others wounded.  Investigators initially had a difficult time finding a suspect because all the witnesses stated that the perpetrator wore a mask.  However, an individual who was facing unrelated criminal charges eventually came forward who was willing to identify Randolph as the perpetrator in exchange for a generous plea deal for himself.  This witness said he was able to identify Randolph because the perpetrator's mask had briefly slipped.  Despite his checkered past, Randolph insists he did not commit the crime.  On June 28, 2006, Pennsylvania Governor Rendell signed a death warrant for Randolph's execution.  (Patriot-News)  [3/08]


El Paso County, TX Tony Ford Dec 19, 1991 (El Paso)

Tony Ford was convicted of shooting four members of the Murillo family, killing one of them.  The shootings occurred during the course of a robbery.  The victims identified Ford at trial, but much evidence indicates their identification is mistaken.  Ford was scheduled for execution in Dec. 2005.  Eight days before his execution, a judge issued a stay so that DNA tests can be performed.  It is expected that these tests will find that the victims' blood is on the clothes of the person believed to be the real shooter.  (JD30 p4) (ODR)  [3/08]


Newaygo County, MI Larry Souter Aug 25, 1979

Larry Pat Souter was convicted in 1992 of the 1979 murder of 19-year-old Kristy Ringler.  One evening, Souter had met Ringler at a bar and became friendly with her.  When the bar closed at 2:20 a.m., the two left with several others to continue the party at the home of Anna Mae Carpenter, which is located off of M37 (State Route 37).  While everyone else was inside, Souter and Ringler went out into the front yard of the house and became amorous.  At some point Ringler decided to go home, walking northbound along M37.  Souter followed her for 20 to 25 feet, trying to persuade her to come back and get a ride, but he soon abandoned his efforts and returned to the party.

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Berkshire County, MA Michael O'Laughlin Nov 17, 2000 (Lee)

Michael M. O'Laughlin was convicted of the assault and attempted murder of Annmarie Kotowski, a woman who lived in his apartment building.  The victim was severely beaten to the extent that, except for her jaw, all the bones in her face were broken.  In addition one of her ears was almost completely severed.  At trial the state presented “evidence of motive, means, opportunity, and consciousness of guilt” on the part of O'Laughlin.  However, such evidence only indicated that O'Laughlin could have committed the crime.  It contained no necessary inferences that he did commit the crime.

The victim had lived with her husband, David Kotowski, for 26 years, but had separated from him just 2 months before the assault to pursue a relationship with another man, James Finn.  She had mentioned divorce to her husband just one week before the assault.  She had amnesia resulting from the assault and could not identify her assailant.  The brutality of the assault suggested the assailant knew her enough to harbor rage towards her.  O'Laughlin's alleged motive of robbery did not require such brutality and did not make much sense as nothing was stolen from the victim's apartment.

The trial judge refused to allow into evidence a note found in the victim's apartment.  The note called its recipient “a whore,” used four-letter words to describe her having oral and regular sex with “him,” and contained the words, “threat to kill him,” suggesting murderous rage.  The victim's relationships highly suggest that her husband had written the note to her and that the “him” mentioned in the note was her boyfriend, James Finn.  Police had not used comparisons of handwriting to prove who wrote the note, and one reason citied for its inadmissibility was that allowing it into evidence “would have required the jury to speculate as to its meaning and genesis.”

The victim's husband was known to have blisters on his hands when questioned after the assault.  He had two towels reeking of bleach in the trunk of his car.  These suggested that he engaged in a cleanup.  He also had no alibi for the hours surrounding the 2 a.m. assault, claiming to be home asleep at the time.

On appeal, the Massachusetts Appellate Court ruled in 2005 that the state's evidence was insufficient to establish guilt.  It then vacated O'Laughlin's conviction and entered a verdict of acquittal.  The prosecution appealed the decision to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which in 2006 reversed the appellate court's decision that the state's evidence was insufficient.  The Court did indicate the decision was a close one, but it reinstated O'Laughlin's conviction.  In 2009, the First Circuit Federal Court reversed the decision of the MSJC, after finding the evidence insufficient to convict.  In 2010, O'Laughlin was freed from prison after the U.S. Supreme Court denied the prosecution's appeal.  (  [3/08]


Dane County, WI Ralph Armstrong June 24, 1980 (Madison)
Ralph Armstrong was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of UW-Madison student Charise Kamps.  The crime occurred in Kamps' apartment at 134 W. Gorham Street in downtown Madison.  In 2001, DNA tests excluded Armstrong as the source of the hair and semen evidence presented at trial.  The tests also excluded Kamps' boyfriend as the source of the evidence.  It should be noted that the hair and semen evidence was not critical and that other evidence of guilt was presented.  However, by itself the other evidence would appear too weak to sustain a conviction.  In addition, the presence of an unknown semen donor suggests an alternative assailant.  In 2005, an appeals court overturned Armstrong's conviction.  It seems likely that the state will attempt to retry Armstrong.  (WSJ) (IDP)  [3/08]


Clinton County, OH Vincent Doan Aug 29, 1996 (Blanchester)

Vincent Doan was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of his girlfriend, Clarissa Culberson, also known as Carrie.  He was sentenced to 888 years in prison.  Culberson, then 22, mysteriously disappeared one night and is presumed dead.  Neither her body nor her car have ever been found.  The case against Doan was based on speculation, guesswork, and hearsay, with no hard evidence.

In 2004, police received a tip that Culberson's body was buried on the property of Jarrod Messer.  Cadaver detecting dogs were brought in and hit on a scent.  Seven items were found buried under the concrete floor of Messer's barn.  They included a piece of duct tape, a sock, and a shirt.  Culberson's mother identified the shirt as her daughter's.  Police said the concrete was poured just days after Culberson's disappearance.

Culberson knew Messer and even introduced him to her mother.  Messer associated with Michael Fogt, who was later convicted of the 1998 murder of his wife.  The father of Fogt's wife believes his daughter was killed because she knew too much.  Fogt also shot Messer in the back in 1998, but Messer refused to press charges.  In addition to the murder of his wife, Fogt was also convicted of a 1994 rape and the 2003 murder of a Hillsboro woman.  Culberson knew Fogt because he lived next door to her best friend's parents.  (Justice for Vincent) (Justice for Vince & Tracey)  [3/08]


Philadelphia County, PA Walter Ogrod July 12, 1988

Walter Ogrod was sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of four-year-old Barbara Jean Horn.  The murder occurred near her house at 7245 Rutland Street, close to Cottman Avenue.  Four witnesses had seen a man carrying a TV box in which Horn's body was found.  One of the witnesses, David Schectman, told police he'd interacted with the box carrying man for 11 minutes on St. Vincent St.

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Kane County, IL Lavelle Davis Dec 18, 1993 (Elgin)

Lavelle L. Davis was convicted of murdering Patrick "Pall Mall" Ferguson.  Ferguson was killed outside an Elgin apartment complex with a single shotgun blast at close range.  Davis's first trial ended in a mistrial after a key eyewitness said she was backing off testimony she gave at the earlier trial of a co-defendant. At Davis's second trial, the woman said she was finally coming forward with the truth--that she saw him shoot Ferguson.  Even Prosecutor Alice Tracy called the woman "an admitted liar" during the second trial.  A crime lab examiner, Stephen McKasson, testified that Davis's lips matched lip prints left on duct tape found near the scene of the slaying.  The prosecution theorized that Davis left his lip prints on the sticky side of the tape while demonstrating to others what he was going to do if Ferguson started to scream.

For some jurors in Davis's trial, including Doris Gonzalez, the lip print evidence was convincing--much more than the witnesses called by both sides who she said "were not very truthful people."  However, following conviction, other forensic experts of weighed in.  Andre Moenssens, the author of a book on forensics said the use of lip print evidence amounted to "pure speculation and unadulterated conjecture.”  Ronald Singer, the president of the AAFS, the nations chief forensic society said, "At this stage of the game, you can put ear prints and lip prints and nose prints and elbow prints all in the same category--unverified and unvalidated.”  In Mar. 2006, Davis's conviction was overturned and he was granted a new trial.  Charges against Davis were dropped in 2009.  (Chicago Tribune) (Forensic-Evidence)  [3/08]


Washington County, OR Brandon Mayfield Mar 11, 2004

(Federal Case)  On March 11, 2004, a number of bombs were detonated on trains in Madrid, Spain, which killed 191 people and injured about 2000 others, including American citizens.  A bag containing detonation caps was found outside a train station through which all the bombed trains had left or had passed through.  On March 17, digital images of fingerprints found on the bag were transmitted to the FBI and run through their AFIS database of fingerprints.  When latent print #17 was run, the database produced 20 possible matches.  FBI Senior Print Examiner Terry Green then manually compared the potential matches and found a 100% match with the fourth ranked print on the AFIS list.  The FBI has long claimed that fingerprint identification is infallible. A top FBI fingerprint official had testified to a “zero error rate.”

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Los Angeles County, CA Patricia Wright Sept 1981

Patricia Gordy Wright was convicted in 1999 of the 1981 murder of her ex-husband, Willie Jerome Scott. Jerome was found stabbed to death in his motor home while it was parked in a bad area in downtown Los Angeles. Jerome's homosexual lifestyle led to the dissolution of the couple's marriage. It also led him to some unsavory partners and placed him in some dangerous situations. No physical or forensic evidence connects Wright to the crime.

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Larimer County, CO Tim Masters Feb 11, 1987 (Fort Collins)

Tim Masters was convicted in 1999 of the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick.  Hettrick's body had been found in a south Fort Collins field just hours after she was last seen leaving a nearby restaurant.  This location was 100 feet north of the mobile home of Tim Masters.  Masters' father told police that his 15-year-old son had walked through the field as he did every day to take a bus to school.

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Dallas County, TX Charles Chatman Convicted 1981
Charles Chatman was convicted in 1981 of aggravated sexual assault.  He was sentenced to 99 years in prison.  In Jan. 2008 DNA tests exonerated Chatman after he spent 27 years in prison.  Chatman became the 15th inmate exonerated by DNA tests in Dallas County since 2001.  Unlike many jurisdictions, the lab used by police and prosecutors in Dallas County retains biological evidence, allowing decades-old crimes to be solved.  DA Craig Watkins also attributed the large number of exonerations to a past culture of overly aggressive prosecutors seeking convictions at any cost.  (AP)  [2/08]


Clark County, WA Daniel L. Sanders June 1997

Daniel L. Sanders was convicted of child molestation. In late May and early June of 1997, Sanders stayed with his former girlfriend, Patti Kelley, to spend time with his 14-year-old son, Gabe. Kelley also lived with her three-year-old son, Tyler, who was not Sanders' child. After Kelley accused Sanders of molesting Tyler, Sanders said she was retaliating against him for threatening to call Child Protective Services after Tyler had gotten got into Kelley's stash of methamphetamine. Kelley had told police that Sanders had masturbated and ejaculated in Tyler's face. During a preliminary hearing, Tyler stated, “My mom told me to say these things about [Sanders],” and he would not, or could not, identify Sanders in the courtroom. The judge found Tyler incompetent to testify.

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Butte County, CA Lee Barnett July 6, 1986

Lee Max Barnett was sentenced to death for the torture and murder of Richard Eggett. Barnett blames prosecution witness Bill Cantwell and his biker associates for the murder. The prosecution did not provide much of a motive for the killing. Its witnesses were admitted lawbreakers who were subject to prosecution deals in exchange for their testimony. In what Barnett terms a “farce of a trial,” his attorney insisted on arguing diminished responsibility despite the fact that Barnett testified to his full innocence.

More than 5 years after the murder, Cantwell confessed to Kenneth Clumpus that he had killed Eggett. Clumpus later told Cantwell that he had taped the conversation. Cantwell replied that he was not prepared to go to prison for the murder and he soon committed suicide. As of this writing, Barnett has assembled a large amount of material in his defense, including sworn statements from several witnesses attesting to his innocence and Cantwell's guilt.  (TIJ) (JD02)  [2/08]


Grant County, WV Paul Ferrell Feb 17, 1988

Paul William Ferrell, a rookie sheriff's deputy, was convicted of the murder of Cathy Ford, a 19-year-old waitress from nearby Maryland. Her body has never been found and no one had ever seen her with Ferrell. Some time after Ford's disappearance, her boyfriend, Darvin Moon, discovered her badly burned truck 75 yards from Ford's trailer home. Some believed that the truck was burned elsewhere because there was no scorching on the vegetation surrounding the vehicle.

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Sullivan County, TN Jeffrey Dicks Feb 15, 1978 (Kingsport)

Jeffrey Stewart Dicks and another man, Donald Wayne Strouth, were convicted of the capital felony murder of James Keegan.  Keegan was killed during the robbery of a Kingsport clothing store.

At Strouth's trial, the state presented hearsay evidence that Strouth had committed the murder. Different people related that Strouth had said to them that he hit the victim in the head with a rock, that he had to hurt the victim, and that he had to slit his throat. The state vouchsafed this evidence as trustworthy as it was inculpatory of Strouth. However, at Dicks's trial the same evidence was deemed untrustworthy and prohibited, as it was exculpatory of Dicks. One would think the reverse situation might apply, as the evidence might be trustworthy enough to prove reasonable doubt, but not absolute guilt.  Other witnesses offering evidence of Dick's innocence were also prohibited from testifying. Dicks was prevented from presenting a full defense as allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Chambers v. Mississippi.

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Stark County, OH John Gillard Jan 1, 1985 (Canton)

John Grant Gillard was sentenced to death for shooting three people, killing two of them.  John's brother, William Gillard, attended a New Year's Eve party.  While there, Leroy Ensign beat William and forcibly ejected him from the party.  William returned later, after midnight, and fired a shot into the air.  Shortly thereafter, Ensign, Denise Maxwell, and Ron Postlethwaite were shot.  Ensign and Maxwell died.  Police put out an all points bulletin for a truck driven by William, the truck seen leaving the scene of the shootings.

Four hours after the shootings, the Ohio Highway Patrol caught William trying to flee the state.  He had high-velocity blood spatter on him that placed him within two feet of the victims at the moment they were shot.  Tests showed that blood spots found on him were consistent with all three victims.  Police did not issue an arrest warrant for his brother John until Jan 2.

Police later claimed they lost Postlethwaite's original statement as to the identity of the shooter.  At trial, Postlethwaite identified John as the shooter.  Postlethwaite also testified that he had at least eight beers and was sleeping in a poorly lit room at the time of the shootings.  During trial, the state emphatically maintained that Postlethwaite identified John immediately after the shootings.  However, the lead investigator has since admitted that the investigation had focused originally on William.

John's attorney, Louis Martinez, also represented William.  During John's trial Martinez challenged the evidence against William, even though doing so prejudiced John.  William testified at John's trial stating that he was not present at the shootings and he tried to explain away the physical evidence that implicated himself.  After entering into a plea agreement that allowed him to be immediately paroled, William testified at the trial of another man that he (William) was present when Ensign was shot, but fled prior to the other shootings.  (  [2/08]


Suffolk County, MA James Rodwell Dec 3, 1978 (Somerville)

James Rodwell was convicted in 1981 of the murder of Louis Rose, Jr., a drug dealer and the son of a Burlington police captain. No physical evidence linked Rodwell to the crime. The case against him relied on two witnesses: (1) Frankie Holmes, an immunized witness who drove the victim to the murder scene and drove away after the murder. (2) David Nagel, a prison informant, who had the opportunity to confer with Holmes prior to trial, when the two were incarcerated together. Both witnesses faced multiple life felony convictions on various charges.

At trial, Holmes' testimony conflicted with earlier statements he had given to investigators and the grand jury. Both witnesses' testimonies were riddled with discrepancies, inconsistencies, and errors. Nagel was a career informant. He had been charged with 37 armed robberies in the 1970s, a number which grew to 59 by the mid-1980s. He managed to sidestep lengthy sentences by aiding the police with tips and testimony. In prison, Rodwell had to endure taunts by other inmates, taunts that usually ended with the refrain, “Another one that Nagel got.”

The prosecution withheld a police report on a witness who stated another person committed the crime. The prosecutor and the state police told the witness, “If you remember what you saw, you will be charged as an accessory.” (Website)  [2/08]


Kodiak Island, AK Donald McDonald Mar 28, 1986

After 28-year-old Laura Henderson Ibach disappeared, her ex-husband, Jack Anton Ibach, was charged with her murder. It was alleged that Jack employed Donald “Mac” McDonald and James Kerwin to commit the actual murder. Laura was last seen with these men, and they were charged with her murder as well. Jack and Laura shared custody of their daughters, an arrangement Jack approved of. Laura was seeking full custody of the daughters, so she could take them to Oregon. Two of Laura's coworkers stated that she talked about picking up a “tape” on the day of her murder to use against her ex-husband in the custody dispute.

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Manitoba, Canada Cody Klyne Sept 4, 2006
Cody Klyne was convicted of dangerous driving and flight from police.  His conviction was based on the eyewitness testimony of two police officers who only momentarily saw the car's driver.  In Aug. 2007, the Manitoba Court of Appeal ruled that the officers' identification was too unreliable to support Klyne's conviction, and overturned the conviction.  (Winnipeg Free Press) (R. v. Klyne) [1/08]


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 clearly shows that the robber could not be more than 5'8" tall.  In his stocking mask, the robber may have looked like Hutchinson.  He may have sounded like Hutchinson and had similar mannerisms.  However, he could not be Hutchinson as 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]


Hartford County, CT Michael Cyr Feb 28, 2005 (Manchester)
While intoxicated, Michael Cyr had remotely started his car and sat in the driver's seat with the driver's side door open.  He was subsequently arrested for “driving while intoxicated,” although he never drove the car, nor did he put keys in the ignition.  After unsuccessfully trying to dismiss the charge, Cyr made a conditional no contest plea to the charge, which allowed him to challenge it later.  He was sentenced three years imprisonment with two of the years suspended, three years probation, and a $2000 fine.  In 2007, an appeals court reviewed the conviction.  It noted that the state had produced no evidence that Cyr had the car's ignition keys on him or that Cyr's car was capable of motion without the keys.  It then reversed the conviction, citing insufficient evidence that Cyr was operating a motor vehicle under the meaning of the Connecticut “driving while intoxicated” statute.  (Connecticut v. Cyr) [1/08]


San Diego County, CA David Genzler Apr 18, 1996 (Ocean Beach)

David Genzler was convicted of the murder of Dusty Harless, 25.  In college, Harless was an AAU National Wrestling Champion.  He worked as a wakeboard (surfboard) salesman, and was a world-class wakeboarder.  He was apparently very popular as hundreds showed up at his funeral.  After midnight one Saturday night, Harless walked with his girlfriend, Sky Flanders, to a nearby liquor store with the intention of hailing a cab.  Because it was raining, Flanders ran up ahead to get out of the rain.  Genzler was driving by and stopped his car to ask if she needed a ride or, according to some, made a lewd comment.  He was not aware that she was with Harless.  Harless went around to the driver's side of the car to talk to Genzler and an altercation ensued.  Harless ended up with a four-inch stab wound that cut his aorta, the massive artery that carries blood from the heart.  He soon bled to death.  Genzler drove off.

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Eau Claire County, WI Evan Zimmerman Feb 26, 2000

Evan Zimmerman, a former Augusta, WI police officer, was convicted of murdering his former girlfriend, Kathleen Thompson.  Thompson had had a violent fight with her husband just hours after their wedding.  Following the fight, both were taken to the Eau Claire County Jail.  Thompson was last seen walking away from the jail at 3 a.m. and later was found strangled on a Eau Claire street.  Her husband was never considered a suspect as he was in jail at the time of her murder.  Zimmerman's conviction was based on allegedly inconsistent statements he gave to Eau Claire police about his whereabouts around the time of the murder.  None of Zimmerman's interrogations were taped.

Zimmerman's son, Shannon, said the alleged inconsistencies were due to his father being in an alcoholic haze at the time of the crime and during subsequent police interviews. He said the case against his father consisted of "out-of-context statements, misleading statements and very, very shaky facts."  With the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, Zimmerman's conviction was overturned.  At retrial in April 2005, the prosecution's case did not proceed well, and in mid-trial the prosecutor asked the judge to throw out the case, saying he lacked the evidence to show “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Zimmerman had killed his former girlfriend.  The judge agreed and acquitted Zimmerman.  Zimmerman had served 3 1/2 years in prison for the crime.  (Wisconsin State Journal)  [1/08]


Macomb County, MI New Baltimore Three Oct 21, 2000 (New Baltimore)

Jonathan Kaled, 18, Matthew Daniels, 16, and Frank Kuecken, 19, were charged with murdering Justin Mello, and with armed robbery and with conspiracy to commit murder.  Mello was a teenager who was found shot dead in Mancino's Pizza and Grinders in New Baltimore, after a robbery.  Mello's murder shocked the New Baltimore community, which had not had a fatal shooting in 30 years.  Kaled and Kuecken initially confessed to the crimes, but later recanted, claiming that the police coerced them.  Other individuals claimed that the three suspects had been present at a party miles away from New Baltimore at the time of the crime.  In light of the suspects' confessions, police did not take these alibi witnesses seriously and threatened them with obstruction of justice charges if they persisted in providing alibis.

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Baltimore City, MD Walter Lomax Dec 2, 1967

Walter Lomax was convicted of the robbery and murder of the proprietor of the Giles Food Market.  The crime was one of many robberies that occurred that month.  In an effort to solve the crimes, the police resorted to en-masse lineups at the main police station, which they advertised in the newspaper.  Showing up to view the lineups were 75 witnesses to 58 crimes including the Giles Food Market murder.  Lomax heard that there was a warrant out for his arrest and went to the police station to find out why.  The warrant was actually issued for his brother, for non-payment of child support.  For reasons unknown, Lomax was placed in one of the numerous lineups.  Three witnesses identified him as the shooter at the Giles Food Market.

Prior to the crime, the shooter had engaged in extended interaction with two store clerks in the checkout line, and had carried away two bags of groceries before returning to rob the store.  Significantly, these two clerks, who had the best opportunity to view the shooter, could not identify Lomax.

Nine days before the crime, 20-year-old Lomax chaperoned his younger sisters to a dance and was attacked by 10 to 12 thugs who came to the dance to cause trouble.  During the attack he was stabbed in his right hand, punched, and kicked.  Due to injuries, Lomax wore a plaster cast from his palm and fingers to his elbow.  Also, during the following week, he could hardly move due to painful chest and rib injuries.  None of the witnesses to the shooting noticed any cast worn by the robber and they indicated that he fired his gun with his right hand.  A doctor who treated Lomax on the day of the shooting indicated that the padding and cast on his hand rendered it immobile.  Lomax's rib and chest injuries made it impossible for him to have carried two large grocery bags immediately prior to the shooting.

Lomax's trial attorney did not present Lomax's hand injury in a way the jury could grasp, and made no mention of his rib and chest injuries.  The judge wondered aloud at trial why Lomax's hand had been stabbed.  Not knowing the circumstances of the hand injury, the jury could have attributed it to criminal conduct on Lomax's part.

In a Dec. 2006 resentencing hearing, Lomax's attorneys were able to present the full facts and circumstances of Lomax's case.  The judge citing “evidence of actual innocence” as well as Lomax's spotless 39-year prison record, modified Lomax's sentence to time served.  With the prosecutor's agreement, Lomax walked out of the courtroom a free man.  (CM)  [1/08]


Jefferson Parish, LA Kevin Williams Oct 6, 1985 (Kenner)

Kevin Williams was convicted of the armed robbery of a 7-Eleven convenience store.  Two 18 to 20-year-old black males robbed the store of $15 at about 10:54 p.m.  One held a gun while the other took money from the cash register.  The cashier called police and her call was logged in at 10:56 p.m.  Two teenagers had seen the robbers flee in a brown car.  At 11:06 p.m., police stopped Williams and his friend Ernest Brown about 1 1/2 miles from the crime scene.  They were driving a brown car of similar description as that of the robbers.  The cashier identified the 28-year-old Williams as being the unarmed robber.  She cleared Brown of involvement.  Neither man had any money or gun on them, but police found two six-packs of Pepsi in the car.

Shortly before being stopped by the police, Williams spent the last of his money buying gas at a nearby Exxon station.  Unbeknownst to Williams, Brown had stolen the Pepsi from the gas station.  A cashier at the Exxon station had seen Brown take the Pepsi while Williams was paying for his gas.  She had called police shortly after the crime and estimated that the two men drove away at 10:45 p.m.

It took 9 to 11 minutes to drive from the Exxon station to the 7-Eleven (7 minutes if one caught all the traffic lights).  Thus, by the Exxon cashier's estimate, Williams had time to rob the 7-Eleven at 10:54 p.m.  Police, however, refused to refine the estimate by revealing the exact time the cashier reported the Pepsi theft.  They had no trouble noting the exact time when the 7-Eleven cashier reported that store's armed robbery.

According to the police, Williams dropped Brown off after 10:45 p.m., picked up an armed gunman, robbed the 7-Eleven, dropped off the gunman, picked up Brown, and remained within 1 1/2 miles of the crime scene when he was stopped by police at 11:06 p.m.  This theory is a complicated and unlikely 20-minute series of events.

According to Brown, the 7-Eleven cashier was uncertain about her identification of Williams, but she denied she was uncertain at trial.  The Exxon cashier was never called to testify.  Although Brown readily admitted the Pepsi theft, neither he nor Williams was charged with that crime.  Williams was sentenced to 50 years in prison for being an unarmed participant in a $15 robbery.

In Oct. 2006, the Louisiana Parole Board paroled Williams after he served 21 years in prison.  Although factual innocence is not grounds for parole, privately the Board members expressed their belief that Williams was innocent.  (CM)  [1/08]



4th Quarter 2007 Cases