New or Updated Case Summaries

3rd Quarter 2008 Cases





Date of Alleged Crime


England Roy Burnett 1985

Roy Burnett was convicted of raping a 20-year-old student nurse.  The alleged victim said Burnett had followed her home from a bus, dragged her into the woods and threatened her with a knife before raping her.  Burnett was jailed for life and his applications for parole were consistently denied because he refused to admit guilt.  In 1998 the same woman made another rape complaint, but gave inconsistent accounts of being attacked by two men in a car.  The complaint damaged the woman's credibility and caused police to re-examine her previous complaint against Burnett.

A re-examination of evidence against Burnett revealed many inconsistencies in the woman's accounts. Scratch marks on her body, shown in photographs taken of her at the time, were, according to fresh expert testimony, "typical of self-inflicted injury."  A judge later added that the absence of other injuries, which would have been expected if she had been attacked in the way she claimed, was "surprising to the point of incredulity."  The woman's current boyfriend, with whom she has just had a child, described her as "attention seeking."  Burnett was released from jail after being cleared by the Court of Appeal.  Scotland Yard is considering whether to file perjury charges against the woman.  (Innocent)  [9/08]


Wales Eddie Browning June 18, 1988

Edward Owen Browning was convicted of the murder of Marie Wilks, a 22-year-old who was seven months pregnant.  Wilks' car had broken down on the eastbound M50 carriageway near Bushley, Hereford and Worcester.  She had used an emergency phone on the side of the road to summon help, but was abducted and stabbed shortly thereafter.  The phone was left dangling from its cord and blood was found nearby.  Two days later her body was found three miles away down an embankment on the eastbound carriageway.  Her throat had been cut.  She also had a broken jaw from being hit or kicked on the left side of her head.

Browning was identified as the perpetrator by witnesses after a composite sketch was made.  In 1994, Browning was released from jail after an appeals court found that his conviction was unsafe.  Judges ruled that the jurors might have changed their mind if they had known of police evidence about the murderer's car that was not disclosed at the trial.

Peter Clarke, an off-duty West Mercia officer, was filmed four days before Browning's arrest. He described the murderer's car as a silver-grey nonmetallic non-hatchback Renault car, with chrome bumpers and the registration number C856 HFK.  Browning's car was a hatchback Renault, with plastic bumpers, and the registration number C754 VAD.  Police had also failed to disclose two earlier statements from Clarke as well as one by another witness.  These statements described what the witnesses saw on the M50.  Browning was later awarded an undisclosed sum, believed to be in excess of £600,000.  (BBC) (Timeline)  [9/08]


Noxubee County, MS Levon Brooks Sept 15, 1990 (Brooksville)

Levon Brooks was convicted of the rape and murder of his ex-girlfriend's daughter, three-year-old Courtney Smith.  Courtney was abducted at night from her Brooksville home and her body was found in a nearby pond two days later.  Brooks' conviction was based on the the forensic testimony of the medical examiner, Dr. Steven Hayne, and forensic bite-mark testimony given by Dr. Michael West.  West testified that Brooks' two top teeth matched alleged bite marks on Courtney's wrist.  Forensic evidence indicated the alleged marks were made post-mortem, as they were not accompanied by internal bleeding.  Since Courtney's cause of death was drowning, it was unlikely the marks were human bite marks, as the perpetrator would have had to bite Courtney after she drowned.  Dr. Hayne, however, disputed that the marks were post-mortem.

In 2008, Justin Albert Johnson, a local man who was an initial suspect in the murder, confessed to the crime after DNA tests implicated him in the murder of another three-year-old girl.  Another man from the same town named Kennedy Brewer had been convicted of that murder using almost identical testimony that alleged bite marks on the victim matched Brewer's two top teeth.  In his confession, Johnson adamantly denied that he bit either girl.  Along with Brewer, Brooks was subsequently exonerated.  (MIP) (IP)  [9/08]


Noxubee County, MS Kennedy Brewer May 3, 1992 (Brooksville)

Kennedy Brewer was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of three-year-old Christine Jackson, the daughter of his live-in girlfriend.  Christine had been taken from her home in the early morning hours and found dumped in a creek.  An intruder could have entered the home through a broken window.  Brewer was the boyfriend of Gloria Jackson, the victim's mother.  Christine had been sleeping on a makeshift pallet of sofa cushions at the foot of the couple's bed.  In the morning, the couple discovered that Christine was gone.  Two other children were present in the home.

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Kootenai County, ID Donald Paradis June 21, 1980 (Post Falls)

Donald Manuel Paradis was sentenced to death for the murder of 19-year-old Kimberly Anne Palmer.  Paradis was a leader of the Gypsy Jokers motorcycle gang.  Prior to the murder he allowed a number of people to use his home in Spokane, WA.  On June 21, 1980, Palmer was strangled to death in his home and her boyfriend, Scott Currier, was beaten to death.  Paradis was not home at the time of the crime.  The victims' killers have since been established, and both the killers and other witnesses made it clear that Paradis had nothing to do with the killings.

When Paradis came home and found the bodies, he feared he would be accused of the murders.  So he and two other men wrapped the bodies in sleeping bags and put them in a car.  He then drove the bodies across the state line and dumped them in Post Falls, Idaho.

Paradis was tried in Washington for the murder of Currier, but was acquitted.  William Brady, the pathologist who performed an autopsy on Palmer, fostered the impression that Palmer had been killed in Idaho.  Brady's improbable theory became the basis for Idaho authorities to prosecute Paradis for the murder of Palmer.  Brady was later fired from his job as a medical examiner in nearby Oregon. An investigation showed that he had used state facilities to perform private autopsies, had sold human tissue for profit, and had saved human blood collected during autopsies for use in his garden.

At trial, Paradis's court-appointed lawyer was William Brown.  Brown had never studied criminal law, never tried a felony case, and never tried a case before a jury.  He was also working as a police officer in Coeur D'Alene at the same time he was representing Paradis at his Coeur D'Alene trial.  Some of the prosecution witnesses were Brown's fellow police officers.  Brown's defense of Paradis lasted three hours.

In 1996, Idaho Governor Batt commuted Paradis's death sentence to life without parole.  In April 2001, a federal judge vacated Paradis's conviction because prosecutors withheld potentially exculpatory evidence.  Prosecutors then dropped charges against Paradis after he pled guilty to moving a corpse.  He was sentenced to five years in prison and released for time served as he had already served 21 years.  (NY Times)  [9/08]


Greene County, AR Denver Mitchell Aug 18, 1990 (Paragould)

Denver Wayne Mitchell, Jr. was convicted of murder for fending off a sexual solicitation.  In Aug. 1990, while working in Amarillo, TX, Mitchell received a letter from his father asking him to come home to West Frankfort, IL.  On Aug. 17, Mitchell hitched a ride near Amarillo in a truck driven by a 74-year-old man named Willard.  The two made it to Paragould, AR where they stopped for the night.  Willard told Mitchell he could spend the night in the truck and that he, Willard, would take him to Highway 55 in the morning.  The two also stopped at a bar, drank alcohol, and purchased some beer to go.  Willard then drove the truck to an area where they could camp out.

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King County, WA Clark & Schmieder May 17, 1998 (Auburn)

Mark Clark and Jeff Schmieder were convicted of raping Regina Birindelli.  Birindelli originally claimed that three men had raped her, but prosecutors had to drop charges against the third man after he produced evidence that he was in jail at the time of the alleged rape.  At trial, Birindelli claimed the two handcuffed her and videotaped themselves raping her orally and anally at Clark's mobile home in Auburn.  Birindelli changed parts of her story three times while testifying.  The jurors were also told about the third man that Birindelli originally claimed had also assaulted her.  No handcuffs, videotape, or other physical evidence was ever found supporting her story.  Clark and Schmieder had alibis for their whereabouts at the time of the alleged crime. Clark even had proof that he was in traffic court in Auburn.

The two were convicted anyway, though they managed to raise enough doubt among four jurors that they prolonged jury deliberations to five days.  One of these doubting jurors who ultimately voted guilty said, "The one thing was that we couldn't for the life of us figure out [was] why she would get on the stand and crucify those two guys if it wasn't true."  That question is still a mystery although Birindelli's work as a police informant may have something to do with the answer.

Prior to sentencing, Clark's wife, Jill, investigated the case and found out from Birindelli's ex-boyfriend that Birindelli had been in the Auburn, WA jail at the time of the alleged rape.  Even though Clark and Schmeider were exonerated, King County deputy prosecutor Dave Ryan refused to acknowledge their innocence.  He said that perjury charges will not be filed against Birindelli because she might be telling the truth about being assaulted, and just confused about the date it occurred.  However events Birindelli recounted on the days before and after her "assault" were verified by other people, and both Clark and Schmieder have alibis for those days.  Both men spent all their money fighting the false charges and had their mobile homes repossessed.  (Justice: Denied)  [9/08]


Montgomery County, OH Aldridge & Wilcox Convicted 1985
Robert Aldridge and Jennifer Wilcox were convicted of child abuse.  After an investigation by Ohio Observer editor Martin Yant, it was discovered that exculpatory evidence was not turned over to the pair's defense attorneys at the time of their trial.  This included medical reports that none of the children allegedly molested showed any signs of sexual abuse.  In addition Yant obtained recantations by three of the six child witnesses who said they were coerced into giving false testimony against the two.  The witnesses, John, Jason, and Justin Chronopoulos, said they did not even know who Aldridge and Wilcox were until the two were pointed out to them in the courtroom.  Subsequent to the investigation, Aldridge's and Wilcox's convictions were vacated in 1996 after they served 11 years of imprisonment.  (Ohio Observer)  [9/08]


Montgomery County, MD Maouloud Baby Dec 13, 2003
Maouloud Baby was convicted of raping an 18-year-old Montgomery College student, identified as J. L.  The alleged victim had consented to intercourse with Baby, but told him that he needed to stop if she said so.  During intercourse, J. L. requested the intercourse stop because of the pain it was causing her.  However, she said he continued for "five or so seconds" more.  Baby, who was a 16-year-old high school student at the time of the incident, said he stopped immediately.  Baby was tried as an adult.  His first trial resulted in a hung jury, but he was convicted at a retrial in 2004.  At the end of Baby's retrial, the judge defined rape for the jury as "the unlawful intercourse with another by force, or threat of force, and without consent." He then had the jury decide whether Baby committed rape.  On appeal in 2006, the Maryland Court of Appeals overturned Baby's conviction on the basis that under Maryland law a man cannot be convicted of rape once a consensual sex act has commenced.  (Maryland v. Baby)  [9/08]


Otsega County, MI Tobias Five Dec 1986 (Gaylord)

Five men were convicted of charges related to the murder of 31-year-old oil field worker Jerry Tobias.  It was argued by some that Tobias overdosed on drugs, went to sleep in the bed of a pickup, and froze to death without waking up.  The truck where Tobias's body was found was parked by a butcher shop owned by Laurie Moore.

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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 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 the 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]


Scotland Asbury & McKie Jan 8, 1997 (Kilmarnock)

David Asbury was convicted of murdering 51-year-old Marion Ross and stealing a biscuit tin from her containing £1800.  The victim's ribs were crushed and she was stabbed in the eye with scissors. The scissors were left embedded in her throat.  There were no signs of forced entry, but police discovered that some builders, including Asbury, had had access to her home the previous year.  During a search of Asbury's apartment, Detective Shirley McKie found a biscuit tin in his bedroom containing £1800.  Asbury maintained the tin and the money were his.  However the Scottish Fingerprint Service, a division of the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO), found Ross's fingerprint on it.  Since the tin provided a possible motive of theft for the murder, police believed the tin had belonged to the victim.  At Asbury's trial for murder, expert witnesses from the SCRO testified that a fingerprint found on the tin was that of Ross.

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England Sirfraze Ahmed Apr 2004

Sirfraze Ahmed was convicted of robbery.  Three masked men stole more than £30,000 from Neil Bateman outside his home in Bodenham, England.  Bateman had organized a classic car show in Derbyshire that weekend.  In Feb. 2006 two brothers, Khalid and Mohammed Khan, pled guilty to the robbery.  The two denied being at the scene of the robbery, but admitted supplying items used in the robbery.  Although the brothers did not implicate Ahmed, he was also charged in the robbery.  Four of his fingerprints were found on a black plastic bag left at the crime scene after it had been worn as a mask by one of the robbers.

At his Oct. 2006 trial, Ahmed testified he was almost 50 miles away in Birmingham.  Several witnesses corroborated Ahmed's alibi. He said he knew the Khan brothers, and had helped Khalid fix cars at the house the brothers shared.  Ahmed said that they would put plastic bags on the seat of a car to prevent oil stains, and that is how his fingerprints could have gotten on the bag found at the crime scene.  In June 2007 the Court of Appeals quashed his conviction on the basis there was insufficient evidence that he was involved in the robbery.  (Hereford Times) (Hereford Times #2)  [9/08]


Honolulu County, HI Tayshea Aiwohi July 17, 2001
Tayshea Aiwohi was convicted in 2004 of manslaughter in the death of her son, Treyson, who died two days after being born.  His cause of death was ruled to be methamphetamine poisoning.  Aiwohi was charged with manslaughter based on her methamphetamine use during pregnancy. She pleaded no contest on the condition she could appeal her conviction, and she was sentenced to 10 years probation. In 2005 the Hawaii Supreme Court overturned her conviction, ruling that she could not have committed manslaughter as it requires behavior against a person that is related to that person's death.  Since her alleged behavior occurred prior to her son's birth, and since a fetus is not legally a person, she could not be guilty of the crime.  (Hawaii v. Aiwohi) (Star Bulletin)  [9/08]


Los Angeles County, CA Willie Earl Green Aug 9, 1983
Willie Earl Green was convicted of fatally shooting 25-year-old Denise “Dee Dee” Walker in a South Los Angeles crack house.  The conviction was based on the testimony of a single eyewitness, Willie Finley.  After Centurion Ministries accepted Green's case, Finley admitted in 2004 that he was high on crack cocaine at the time of the murder and did not know who committed the crime, but he was pressured by police into identifying Green.  (FJDB) (LA Times)  [9/08]


Hamilton County, TN Jerry & Mike Brock 2001 - 2003

(Federal Case)  Brothers Jerry and Mike Brock were convicted of conspiring to extort money from the Sessions Court of Hamilton County, Tennessee.  The two had allegedly paid a deputy clerk, Simon Simcox, to remove the names of bail jumpers from the court computer system. The brothers purportedly did this so they would not have the money they put up for bail forfeited to the court.  Both brothers were sentenced to 21 months in prison.

On appeal, the federal Sixth Circuit Court vacated the brothers' convictions.  It ruled that the brothers could not be guilty of conspiring to extort money, since, at best, they were trying to keep their own money and a person cannot extort money from himself.  (FJDB) (Chattanoogan) [9/08]


Collin County, TX Michael Blair Sept 5, 1993 (Plano)

Michael Blair was sentenced to death in 1994 for the molestation and murder of 7-year-old Ashley Estell.  Ashley was abducted from a playground in Plano's Carpenter Park while her parents, nearby, watched her brother play in a soccer tournament.  No witnesses had seen Blair and Ashley together even though Blair reportedly looked like an unpleasant troll and would have stood out in the crowded upper-middle-class park.  According to a forensic physician, Ashley was killed several hours after her abduction and her body was kept at room temperature until nightfall when it was dumped.  Blair drove a hatchback and lived with two roommates, so it seemed unlikely he could have stored a body for several hours.

Blair's conviction was based on hair evidence.  Blair was a previously convicted sex offender, and the assumption that he murdered Ashley inspired legislation called “Ashley's Laws,” which require sex offenders to register with local law enforcement when they are released from prison and which require public notification when offenders move into a community.  In 2006, Collin County reopened the case, assigning it to its cold case squad.  Investigation identified another man, identified as Suspect 4, who could have committed the crime.  Suspect 4 died in the late 1990's.  After DNA tests of the hair evidence showed that it belonged to neither Blair nor the victim, his conviction was overturned in 2008.  The County is expected to drop charges against Blair.  (DMN) (FJDB)  [9/08]


Hinds County, MS Roland Anderson May 26, 1992

Roland Anderson was convicted of burglary in the attempted kidnapping and shooting of Dorothy Brister.  Brister was a bail bondsman and a confidential informant for the Jackson Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency.  The day before she was to testify against a suspected drug dealer, an individual posing as a police officer arrived at her home.  The imposter informed her he was taking her into protective custody.  Although Brister was suspicious, the imposter eventually coerced her into her rental car outside; when Brister attempted to flee, the imposter shot her once in the neck. Brister's live-in boyfriend witnessed the attack and attempted, unsuccessfully, to apprehend the assailant. Brister remains partially paralyzed in her left hand as a result of the attack.

Although police showed Brister several photographs, she was unable to identify her attacker. Three years later while posting a bond, Brister overheard the voices of three men and suspected that one was the perpetrator. When she looked up, she recognized Anderson as her assailant. Brister and her daughter, Fredrika, identified Anderson in a photo line-up prior to trial; investigators did not ask her boyfriend to identify Anderson.  Anderson's first trial resulted in a hung jury, but on retrial he was convicted of aggravated assault, impersonating a police officer, and burglary with intent to kidnap.  The first two convictions were dismissed post-trial because they were barred by the statute of limitations.

While serving his 15 year sentence, Anderson met Brister's boyfriend, Arthur Gray, in prison.  Gray saw the shooter and told Anderson it was not him.  He later signed an affidavit reiterating his observation.  In 2001, a federal court overturned Anderson's conviction.  He was released on bond in 2004 and charges against him were dropped in 2007.  (Anderson v. Johnson) (FJDB)  [9/08]


Allegheny County, PA Jerry Pacek Nov 16, 1958 (Brackenridge)

Jerry Pacek was convicted of the murder of 53-year-old Lillian Stevick.  Pacek, then age 13, found her body in the back yard of 929 Sixth Ave. in Brackenridge during the early morning hours of Nov. 17, 1958.  She had been raped and assaulted with 19 blows to the head.  She died the following day.  The day after Brackenridge's death, police questioned Pacek for 17 hours during which Pacek gave several confessions to the murder, saying he used a different weapon each time.  Following his trial, Pacek served 10 years of a 10 to 20 year sentence.

In 1990, Jim Fisher, a former FBI agent, became interested in the case.  He called Pacek up one night and said, "You don't know me, but I think I can prove you didn't kill Mrs. Stevick and I'd like to try and get you a pardon."  There was substantial evidence that Pacek could not have committed the crime, including three alibi witnesses.  The case was reopened by Allegheny County.

In 1958, up to 1,500 people lined Morgan Street to gawk at Pacek as police forced him to re-enact the murder in a humiliating public spectacle.  District Attorney Colville said in a 1991 Inside Edition TV report, "If I tried that in today's court, I'd be thrown out the front door."  In 1991, Governor Casey pardoned Pacek.  In 2004, Pacek died of cancer at age 59.  (Fisher Website)  [9/08]


Ada County, ID Donna Thorngren Jan 12, 2003 (Meridian)

Donna Kay Thorngren was convicted of the murder of her 42-year-old husband, Curtis Thorngren. Curt was found shot to death in a bathroom in their home. Two months before the murder, Curt's life insurance, payable to Donna, had been increased to a payout of $320,000. The change was effective as of Jan 1, 2003, 11 days before Curt's murder. However, at Hewlett-Packard, Curt's place of employment, all employees were given the opportunity to increase their policies with new benefits effective the same date.

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Bradford County, FL Bennie Demps Sept 6, 1976

Bennie Eddie Demps was sentenced to death for the murder of Alfred Sturgis inside Florida State Prison.  At trial, inmate Larry Hathaway testified that he reported seeing James Jackson stab Sturgis with a shank, while Demps held down Sturgis and Harry Mungin acted as lookout.  Demps, Sturgis, and Hathaway were all convicted murderers.  Two prison guards, A.V. Rhoden and Hershel Wilson testified that Sturgis named Demps as one of his three assailants.  Demps had previously been sentenced to death for a double homicide, but his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1972 when the U.S. Supreme Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional because it was carried out in an arbitrary manner.  Demps claimed prison officials framed him for the Sturgis killing because he had escaped his earlier death sentence.

Before trial, Hathaway told an attorney for a prisoners rights group that he did not witness the Sturgis murder. After the trial, three inmates came forward to say that Hathaway was nowhere near the scene of the stabbing.  In 1994, Hathaway told a defense investigator that he had lied at trial.  Seven months after the Sturgis killing, inmate Leroy Colbroth was murdered.  Several inmates swore in depositions that Colbroth was killed because he had stabbed Sturgis. Other inmates later said that they saw Colbroth kill Sturgis or that he admitted killing him.  This information was withheld from Demps' lawyers.  Some of these inmates were willing to help Demps, but did not, stating in sworn affidavits that prison officials either threatened them with retribution if they testified or offered incentives, such as transfers or shorter sentences, for refusing.

Gerald Kogan, the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, later stated that he had "grave doubts about Kemps," even though he did not vote to give Demps a new trial.  Demps was executed by lethal injection on June 7, 2000.  (Chicago Tribune) (JD12)  [8/08]


Dallas County, TX Billy Conn Gardner May 16, 1983

Billy Conn Gardner was sentenced to death for the murder of Thelma Row, 64, a cafeteria supervisor at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas.  Row was shot during a robbery of the school's cafeteria and died 11 days later of her injuries.  Prior to the robbery, Row's co-worker, Paula Sanders, told her husband, Melvin, that several thousand dollars in daily cafeteria receipts were processed in a back room at the school.  After prosecutors threatened to bring charges against Melvin, Melvin claimed that he invited Gardner to participate in the robbery.  According to Melvin, Gardner was the robber while he, Melvin, was the getaway driver.  In exchange for his testimony Melvin received complete immunity from prosecution for the murder and probation for pending forgery and firearms charges. The state also agreed not to prosecute Paula Sanders.

The assailant had worn a stocking mask.  Paula, who was in the cafeteria at the time of the robbery said that she could not provide a description of the assailant, because her back was turned.  However, before Row died, she described the assailant as having a "bony face ... and a two-inch goatee."  Paula had known Gardner.  The state was unable to produce a single witness who recalled ever seeing Gardner with a goatee.  Two other witnesses to the shooting, Carolyn Sims and Lester Matthews, the school custodian, stated the assailant had reddish-blond hair.  However, Gardner had black hair.  Matthews nevertheless positively identified Gardner as the shooter even though he said he had only seen the shooter for three or four seconds, and did not actually identify him until his third police interview, three months after the crime.

Paula testified that she was unaware of the robbery plans, but failed to mention that she received several phone calls only minutes before the robbery, and that according to Sims, she appeared "nervous and upset" after taking these calls.  Gardner's lawyer never interviewed Paula and only met with his client once, for fifteen minutes, prior to jury selection.  Sims was never deposed until years after the trial.  Gardner was executed by lethal injection Feb. 16, 1995.  (Atlantic) (NY Times)  [8/08]


Hale County, TX David Stoker Nov 9, 1986 (Hale Center)

David Wayne Stoker was sentenced to death for the murder of David Mannrique (Manrique), a clerk at an Allsup's convenience store in Hale Center, Texas.  Mannrique was shot three times and robbed of $96.81.  No physical evidence placed Stoker at the store or established that he owned the gun that killed the victim. Five months after the crime, Carey Todd told police that Stoker had confessed to him and had given him the murder weapon, which Todd then gave them.  At trial, Todd denied under oath that the prosecution gave him any incentives to testify against Stoker.  However, Todd had felony drug and weapons charges against him dropped later that same day.  He possibly faced being charged with Mannrique's murder had he not been willing to finger someone else.  Ronnie and Debbie Thompson also testified that Stoker had confessed the murder to them.

Ronnie Thompson later recanted his testimony. Thompson said he had signed the statement written by his wife, Debbie Thompson, without reading it because she claimed Stoker had raped her, a claim he later found to be false. He claimed prosecutors threatened to try him for perjury if his trial testimony differed from his affidavit.  During Stoker's trial, his wife left him to move in with Todd.  Both she and Todd then each received half of a $1000 Crime Stoppers reward for naming Stoker. Police Chief Richard Cordell had testified there was no local Crime Stoppers, but later admitted he was one of the group's founders.

Prosecutors claimed that a shell casing found in Stoker's car linked him to the murder weapon.  However, Stoker did not own the car until months after the murder.  A federal appellate judge concluded that Todd was just as likely the murderer.  It would appear, however, that Todd is more likely the murderer, as the only reliable evidence in the case is that Todd possessed the murder weapon and knew that it was used in the murder.  Stoker was executed on June 16, 1997.  (CPIT) (Atlantic)  [8/08]


Cook County, IL Stanley Howard May 20, 1984 (South Side)

Stanley Howard was sentenced to death for the murder of Oliver Ridgell.  Ridgell was shot and killed as he and Tecora Mullen sat in Ridgell's car. The car was parked in front of an apartment building at 1343 W. 92nd St., around the corner from Mullen's home.  Ridgell and Mullen both were married, but they had been having an affair for some time.  Mullen told police she would be able to identify the killer, but after she looked at police books with photographs of suspects she was unable to say any of them resembled Ridgell's killer. She was also unable to help a police sketch artist draw a composite of the perpetrator.

Six months later, Howard, who had no known acquaintance with either Ridgell or Mullen, confessed to the murder after he said it was beaten out of him by Chicago Area Two detectives.  Howard had been taken to hospitals before and after his confession.  Medical records showed that he had new injuries including bruises on his left leg that matched his description of police mistreatment.  Nevertheless the judge refused to bar his confession at trial.

According to Howard's confession, he fired three shots at Ridgell.  Most tenants in the apartment buildings near the scene of the murder were still asleep when it occurred.  Those that heard anything, heard only one shot.  One tenant heard a man say,  "I told you, I would get you."  Another heard a woman say, "Don't hurt him. Just take me home."  The tenants' statements were withheld at trial.  In a lineup, Mullen tentatively identified Howard, saying he "looked like" Ridgell's killer.  However, at trial Mullen was positive Howard was the killer.  She also said that her lineup identification had been positive.  In a later interview, when asked about her identification, Mullen said she was in an alcoholic haze in the years before and after the murder.  "I drank a fifth of liquor every day for 10 years. I couldn't hardly remember anything."

In 1991, the Illinois Supreme Court found that a trial error had occurred, but ruled it harmless because "the evidence of the defendant's guilt was overwhelming."  In 2003, Gov. Ryan disagreed and granted Howard a pardon based on innocence.  (CWC) (Chicago Tribune) [8/08]


Bossier Parish, LA Alvin Moore July 9, 1980 (Bossier City)

Alvin R. Moore Jr. was sentenced to death for the murder of JoAnn Wilson, 23, the wife of a former co-worker.  Wilson called police and said, "Somebody stabbed me."  After police officer Bill Fields arrived on the scene, he asked her who stabbed her and she reportedly told him, "Elvin did it."  Fields later thought the victim meant "Alvin."  Moore, who is black, was having an affair with Wilson, who was white.  Moore was arrested with a drop of blood on his pants.  Tests showed the blood was Type O, the same as Wilson's, but shared by about 45% of the population.  Moore had a different blood type.  A stereo and a plastic jug containing pennies from Wilson's home were found in Moore's car.

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Sebastian County, AR Wilburn Henderson Nov 26, 1980 (Ft. Smith)

Wilburn L. Henderson was sentenced to death for the murder of Willa Dean O'Neal.  The murder occurred during an alleged robbery of $41 at a Ft. Smith furniture store that the victim owned with her husband.  In the store police found a yellow piece of paper containing two phone numbers that had been given to Henderson by a real estate agent.  Henderson conceded that the paper was his and that he must have dropped when he was in the store days before the murder.  Under police interrogation Henderson had given a statement that he had just happened to have been in the store when another man committed the crime.  He later recanted the statement saying he only made it because he feared police would harm him.  According to the prosecution, Henderson had obtained a gun from a pawnshop and then pawned it back just after the murder.  However, ballistics tests on the gun were inconclusive that it was the murder weapon.

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Montgomery County, PA Gerald Wentzel Dec 6, 1946 (Pottstown)

Gerald C. Wentzel was convicted in 1947 of the strangulation murder of Mrs. Miriam Green, a 29-year-old divorcee. Green was last seen entering her apartment at 358 Chestnut St. in Pottstown on the early evening of Friday, Dec. 6, 1946.  Green's mother said her daughter had planned to visit her that Friday, but she did not visit, nor did she call to say why.  Green did not report for work Saturday morning, nor did she call in sick.  The thermostat for her apartment building was located in her apartment.  She had diligently taken care of resetting the thermostat after the furnace went off, but had not that weekend.  Because of the cold, neighbors had knocked on her door several times during the weekend, but had gotten no response.  Finally, on Monday afternoon, Dec. 9, neighbors entered her apartment and found her dead.

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Elkhart County, IN Parish & Cooper Oct 29, 1996 (Elkhart)

Christopher Parish and Keith Cooper were charged with robbery and attempted murder.  Two intruders allegedly shot and robbed Michael Kershner in apartment F on the third floor of an apartment building located at 729 Monroe Street in Elkhart.  At the time of the shooting five other people were reportedly in the apartment with Kershner.  However, despite testimony that Kershner bled profusely in the car which took him to the hospital, investigating officers found no evidence the apartment was the scene of a crime.  Cooper, identified as the alleged shooter, was acquitted of the attempted murder, but convicted of the robbery and sentenced to 40 years in prison.  Parish was convicted of both charges and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

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Pinellas County, FL George Lewis May 23, 1984 (Gulfport)

George Allen Lewis was convicted of the rape and murder of a 36-year-old neighbor, Karen Gregory.  Gregory lived at the corner of 27 Ave. and Upton St. in Gulfport, FL.  Around 1 a.m. on May 23, 1984, more than a dozen of Gregory's neighbors heard a loud piercing scream.  Most paid little attention, but on the morning of the 24th Gregory was found raped and brutally murdered.  When interviewed later, Lewis said that upon hearing the scream he walked towards Gregory's house to investigate, but turned around after he failed to see anything suspicious.  Lewis was a firefighter and a neighborhood crime watch volunteer.  He had a crime watch sign in his yard.  Lewis had a sterling reputation and was friends with the case investigator, Detective Larry Tosi.

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Cayuga County, NY Thomas & Gene July 24, 1976 (Auburn)
Sammy Thomas and his brother Willie Gene, both blacks, were convicted of murder of George Sedor.  Sedor was shot six times in his car in the parking lot of the Sunset Restaurant on N. Division St. in Auburn.  He was a co-owner of the restaurant.  A key prosecution witness, Steven Wejko, testified he supplied the brothers with weapons and that they admitted killing Sedor.  Wejko got a plea deal for his testimony.  Sedor's brother had told police that the killers were white.  However, police and prosecutors conspired to keep this information from coming out in the original trial. The truth only came out at Gene's retrial in May 1980. Gene was acquitted, and charges were then dropped against his brother. The prosecutor in the case, Peter Corning, was never punished for his conduct in the trial.  He later became a judge.  (RW) (Google)  [7/08]


Cook County, IL Daniel Taylor Nov 16, 1992 (Chicago)

Daniel Taylor was convicted of the murders of Jeffrey Lassiter and Sharon Haugabook.  The victims were residents of a second-floor apartment at 910 W. Agatite Ave.  Under police interrogation, the then 17-year-old Taylor confessed to the crime.  According to the confession, Taylor and three fellow gang members entered the victims' apartment to rob them while four additional gang members waited outside as lookouts.

Just before Taylor was to be formally charged with the murders, he protested that he could not have committed the crimes because he had been in police custody when they occurred.  When police checked their records, they found that Taylor was arrested at 6:45 p.m. on the night of the murders.  The murders occurred at 8:43 p.m.  A copy of Taylor's bond slip showed he was not released from the Town Hall District lockup until 10 p.m.

Nevertheless, police still charged Taylor with the murders.  To corroborate his confession, they found a witness, Adrian Grimes, a drug dealer and a rival gang member, who, at trial, testified that he saw Taylor at 7:30 p.m. in Clarendon Park.  Two police officers, Michael Berti and Sean Glinski, also testified that they saw Taylor at 9:30 p.m. when they emerged from an apartment half a block from the murder scene.  The jury chose to believe Taylor's confession over police records.  Taylor was sentenced to life in prison.

Following Taylor's conviction, Grimes said he lied at the request of detectives and to receive leniency on a narcotics charge.  The officers who said they saw Taylor at 9:30 p.m. testified they dropped him off at a DCFS shelter at 10 p.m.  However DCFS records show that he did not arrive there until 3 a.m.  In addition, four months before the officers' report, a judge had ordered Officer Berti off the witness stand in an unrelated case and stated, "I don't believe a thing he says. He goes down in my book as a liar."

Besides Taylor, seven of his fellow gang members were charged with the murders.  No physical evidence connected any of them to the crime.  While in police custody all seven confessed to the crime and each said Taylor was with them.  Four of them were convicted of the crime, one was acquitted, and charges against the other two were dropped after their confessions were thrown out.  (Chicago Tribune)  [7/08]


Davidson County, TN Frank Ewing June 24, 1918

Frank Ewing, a black man, was convicted of raping a 25-year-old white woman after being brought to the victim and identified by her.  The victim, A. F., was raped at her home on Stokes Lane, west of Hillsboro Pike, a few miles south of Nashville.  A police officer testified that Ewing confessed to the crime.  However, Ewing had a strong alibi that he was working 25 miles away at the time of the crime.  The alibi was supported by multiple witnesses, none of whom had known Ewing long or had a plausible reason to lie.  The alibi was also supported by written records.

At trial, however, Ewing's white employer, J. M. Summers, was his only alibi witness, and on the day of his testimony he had misplaced records of Ewing's employment.  The rape had occurred on a Monday.  Without his records, Summers mistakenly remembered that Ewing had left his employment after the rape at the end of the week.  Ewing had actually left Summers employment on Wednesday.  The prosecutor was able to bring out that Ewing had been working elsewhere at the end of the week and that consequently Summers' statement was wrong.  On appeal, further alibi evidence was submitted including the written records, but appeals courts declined to reverse Ewing's conviction.  Ewing was executed in the electric chair on May 31, 1919.  (Wrongly Convicted: Perspectives on Failed Justice)  [7/08]


Ontario, Canada Steven Truscott June 9, 1959

Steven Murray Truscott was sentenced to death for the murder of his 12-year-old schoolmate, Lynn Harper.  Harper disappeared near RCAF Clinton, an air force station, a few miles south of Clinton, Ontario.  Truscott and Harper were 7th grade classmates at the same school.  On the early evening of June 9, 1959, Truscott, then 14, gave Harper a ride on the crossbar of his bicycle from the vicinity of the school and the two traveled north along Country Road.  Truscott maintained that he dropped her off unharmed at the intersection of Country Road and Highway 8.  He said she told him she had squabbled with her parents and planned to hitch a ride somewhere.  He said that after dropping her off he looked back and saw that a vehicle had stopped and that Harper was in the process of entering it.  Harper's father reported her missing at 11:20 that evening.

Two days later Harper was found in a wooded lot off of Country Road.  She had been raped and murdered.  Within hours Truscott was arrested and charged with Harper's murder.  At trial, all evidence against him was circumstantial and centered on placing Harper's death within a narrow time frame which implicated him.  A pathologist testified that Harper died between 7:00 and 7:45 p.m. – an extremely precise determination even by today's forensic standards.  Years later, the pathologist would amend his testimony and place Harper's death within a 12-hour time frame.  Truscott was convicted and sentenced to hang, but four months later his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.  In 1966, Isabel LeBourdais rekindled interest in the case by publishing The Trial of Steven Truscott in which she argued that Truscott had been convicted of a crime he did not commit.  In 1969, Truscott was released on parole and in 1974 the National Parole Board released him from the terms and conditions of his parole.

In 2000 interest in the case was again revived after a documentary on Truscott appeared on CBC's The Fifth Estate.  Subsequently, journalist Julian Scher published a book on him entitled Until You Are Dead.  Both of these sources suggested that significant evidence in favour of Truscott had been ignored at his trial.  In 2001, lawyers filed an appeal to have the case reopened.  In 2007, the Ontario Court of Appeal acquitted Truscott, and in 2008, Truscott was awarded $6.5 million for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment.  (CBC)  [7/08]



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