Insufficient Evidence

40 Cases

Geneva County, AL

William Jordan

Convicted 1934

William Jordan was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment. He ran over a person he knew in his car at night. There had been a fire in the woods nearby and Jordan said he could not see well enough to tell whether a person’s body was lying in the road. He spent the night at the deceased's home apparently unaware of his death. When Jordan found out the next day about the death of the deceased, he telephoned the deceased's employer and went with him to the scene. He was wholly cooperative with the sheriff and told him about running over what he thought was a pole or chunk in the road.

Jordan's relations with the deceased were friendly and intimate. There was no motive given for any hostile act towards the deceased. There was no evidence of strong drink affecting any of the participants in that night’s occurrence. The deceased had left footprints in the burned woods and no other footprints were found. He had been shot and it could not be determined whether he was dead before or after Jordan ran over his body. After Jordan's conviction another person confessed to the crime. The state supreme court vacated Jordan's conviction for insufficient evidence; charges against him were subsequently dropped.  (Jordan v. State) (MOJ)  [12/10]

Yuma County, AZ

Jimmy Lee Mathers

June 8, 1987 (Yuma)

Jimmy Lee Mathers associated with Teddy Washington and Fred Robinson. The three lived in Banning, a small town in Southern California. Robinson was in a volatile relationship with his common-law wife, Susan Hill. With Robinson's permission, Hill went to visit her father and stepmother, Ralph and Sterleen Hill. The couple lived in Yuma, Arizona. Susan then refused to return, and got a protection order to prevent Robinson from visiting her there. She then left without telling Robinson and visited her grandmother in California. Ralph and Sterleen then were shot during a home invasion. Sterleen died.

The invasion appeared to be a robbery as the intruders stated they were narcotics agents and said, “We want the dope and money.” The house was also ransacked. There was some circumstantial evidence linking Robinson and Washington to the crime. However, there was little evidence linking Mathers. Nevertheless, the three were arrested and tried together. At trial, Mathers' attorney moved for a judgment of acquittal on the grounds of insufficient evidence. The motion was denied. All three defendants were convicted and sentenced to death.

In 1990, the Arizona Supreme Court reviewed Mathers' case, and “viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution” found a “complete absence of probative facts.” It noted that the evidence presented at trial had “nothing to do with Mathers.” The court vacated Mathers' conviction and entered a judgment of acquittal.  (TWM)  [3/07]

Faulkner County, AR

Marvin Earl Goodsell


“Marvin Earl Goodsell was wrongly convicted of four counts of sexually assaulting two girls [his stepdaughters, ages 14 and 17]. Goodsell supposedly confessed, but at his trial he denied committing the crimes and the girls denied anything inappropriate occurred between them and Goodsell. Arkansas' law requires independent corroboration that a crime occurred apart from an out of court ‘confession.’ The judge refused to direct a verdict of acquittal after the state rested its case. On December 17, 2008 the Arkansas Court of Appeals unanimously vacated Goodsell's convictions and ordered his release on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence that a crime had occurred.” – FJDB  (Goodsell v. State) (Log Cabin Democrat)

Los Angeles County, CA

Sleepy Lagoon 22

Aug 2, 1942

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

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

 Los Angeles County, CA

Melvin Mikes

Mar 10, 1980 (Long Beach)

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

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

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

Sutter County, CA

Robert Dana

Apr 19, 1976

Robert Dana was convicted of murdering his friend Herschel “Gene” Koller and his friend's girlfriend, Elaine Matte. There was no confession, no blood evidence, no witnesses, inconclusive ballistics, and inconclusive gun shot residue testing. The case is one of insufficient evidence.  (JD)  [9/05]

 Broward County, FL

Herman Lindsey

Apr 19, 1994

Herman Lindsey was convicted in 2006 of the 1994 murder of Joanne Mazollo. Mazollo was shot to death during a robbery of the Big Dollar pawnshop in which she worked. The evidence against Lindsey consisted of testimony which merely raised suspicions about him.

The strongest piece of evidence was the testimony of Mark Simms, who reportedly had a jailhouse conversation with Lindsey about a month after the crime, long before Lindsey was charged in the Mazollo murder. Simms told Lindsey he had been involved in a robbery in which someone was shot but not killed. Lindsey then told Simms that he should have killed the person he shot because this person had seen his face. Lindsey also told Simms that he had to do that once. Simms said he had no idea at the time what robbery or murder Lindsey might have been talking about. Lindsey was sentenced to death.

In July 2009 the Florida Supreme Court overturned Lindsey's conviction after finding that the evidence used against him was insufficient to convict. The Court also ordered Lindsey's acquittal.  (Lindsey v. State) (Miami Herald)  [8/09]

 Broward County, FL

Robert Burkell

Nov 22, 2003 (Tamarac)

Robert Burkell was convicted of the murder of 81-year-old Charles Bertheas. Bertheas, a French national, rented a room inside Burkell's home at 9107 NW 72 Court, in Tamarac, FL. Burkell told investigators he discovered Bertheas lying on the floor inside his room and called 911. Tamarac Fire Rescue responded to the scene and determined Bertheas was dead. Bertheas had been bludgeoned with repeated blows to the head, but no weapon was ever identified or found. His death was ruled a homicide due to blunt trauma. Bertheas was found on a Sunday afternoon. It was determined that he died approximately 18 hours before, placing his murder on the previous night. Bertheas was last seen around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday evening.
Read More by Clicking Here

Charlotte County, FL 

Bradley Scott

Oct 12, 1978

Ten years after the crime, Bradley P. Scott was convicted of the murder of Linda Pikuritz, 12, and sentenced to death. In the immediate aftermath of the murder, the police ruled out Scott as a suspect because he had a sound alibi. He was with his girlfriend shopping at the Sarasota Mall some 50 miles away at the time. Seven years later, a new sheriff reopened the investigation and found some witnesses to testify that they saw Scott in the area of the convenience store from which the victim had been abducted. Some of these witnesses knew Scott but had never before claimed to have seen him there that day.

Scott's girlfriend at the time of the murder was now his ex-wife and she testified that she had no memory of whether Scott was with her that day. Evidence police developed to confirm Scott's alibi was now mysteriously missing from their files. The prosecution argued that a dove shell found in Scott's car was similar to a shell on the victim's necklace and that a hair found in his car was compatible to the victim's hair. Because of such evidence, Scott was convicted in 1988.

On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court overturned his conviction for insufficient evidence and ordered his acquittal. It ruled, “Suspicions cannot be the basis for a criminal conviction.” Scott was released in 1991.  (PC) (CWC) (FLCC)  [7/05]

 Collier County, FL

John Ballard

Mar 7, 1999

John Ballard was convicted of murdering Jennifer Jones and Willie Patin in their apartment, an apartment in which Ballard was a frequent guest. Ballard was convicted due to fingerprint evidence found in the apartment and the fact that hairs found in the victims' hands were consistent with his hair. In 2006, Ballard was released after the Florida Supreme Court vacated his sentence due to insufficient evidence.  (FLCC) (JD)  [12/06]

Dade County, FL 

Anibal Jaramillo

Nov 30, 1980

Anibal Jaramillo was convicted of the murders of Gilberto Reyes and Candelaria Marin. He was sentenced to death. The prosecution's case was built on the fact that Jaramillo's fingerprints were found on a knife casing, a table, and grocery bag in the victims' home. At trial, Jaramillo explained that he had been in the victims' home earlier that day and had helped the victims' nephew cut open some boxes, but the jury convicted him nonetheless. The victims' nephew was unavailable to corroborate or contradict Jaramillo's testimony, as he could not be located. On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the prosecution evidence was completely inadequate to support a conviction, and ordered Jaramillo's acquittal in 1982. Subsequent to his release, Jaramillo was deported to Columbia and was murdered there.  (FLCC)

 Escambia County, FL

E. J. Fudge

June 27, 1916

E. J. Fudge was convicted of the murder of his two daughters Ethel and Tennie, ages 7 and 10 years. Evidence indicated the girls' deaths were suicides as Tennie left behind three notes in her handwriting giving reasons for her and her sister's suicides. At trial the state introduced a possible motive for Fudge to kill his daughters and argued that he forced Tennie to write the notes. However, the state's theory of the crime was unsupported and appeared to only be a remote possibility. In Mar. 1918, the state supreme court overturned Fudge's conviction for insufficient evidence. Charges against him were subsequently dropped.  (Fudge v. State) (MOJ)  [12/10]

 Hillsborough County, FL

John Jackson

Dec 19, 1983 (Plant City)

John William Jackson was convicted of the murder of Marie Porter. At about 4:30 a.m. an assailant raped and stabbed Porter in her house trailer on Drawdy Road in Plant City, FL. The victim went to a neighbor for help and told him that “an orange picker, Michigan tag” had done it. She died shortly thereafter. An autopsy revealed a bruise on her right wrist which was determined to be a bite mark.
Read More by Clicking Here

 Orange County, FL

Robert Cox

Dec 30, 1978

Robert Craig Cox was convicted and sentenced to death in 1988 for the 1978 murder of Sharon Zellers, 19. Cox and his parents were from California and had been vacationing in Orlando. Zellers was an employee of Walt Disney World. The evidence against Cox was entirely circumstantial and included the fact that Cox was staying at a motel close to where the victim's body was found, that he had cut his tongue that night, and that blood samples found near the victim matched his blood type of O+ (a type shared by 45% of the population). The prosecution also presented testimony that a boot print found at the crime scene was consistent with a military type boot, which Cox could have been wearing, given job as an Army Ranger. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Florida unanimously reversed Cox's conviction, holding that the evidence could not possibly prove Cox's guilt. The Court ordered that Cox be released immediately.  (PC) (FLCC)  [7/05]

 Polk County, FL

Rodney Horstman

May 19, 1985 (Lakeland)

“Rodney Horstman was wrongly convicted of second-degree murder in [a] May 1985 rape and murder in Florida based on an FBI crime lab technician's testimony that there was [an] ‘almost non-existent’ probability that a pubic hair found on the victim did not originate from Horstman. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison. In 1988 the Florida Court of Appeal overturned his conviction based on insufficiency of the evidence, because a conviction cannot be based on expert hair analysis testimony, since ‘it is not 100% reliable.’” – FJDB  (Horstman v. State)

 Polk County, FL

Andrew Golden

Sept 13, 1989

Andrew Golden was convicted and sentenced to death for the drowning murder of his wife, Ardelle. Golden's rented car was found submerged in Lake Hartridge at the end of a boat ramp. The body of his wife was found floating in the lake. Although the medical examiner had concluded that there was no evidence of foul play, the prosecution argued that Golden was in debt and stood to collect on a life insurance policy if his wife were to die. There was no eyewitness testimony, no confession, and no other evidence tending to show that Golden's wife had been murdered by anyone. Golden's lawyer did little to prepare for trial, having assumed that the case would be thrown out before trial. He did not argue that Ardelle may have committed suicide, having been depressed over the recent death of her father. He did not tell the jury about the four death notices of her father that Ardelle had with her in the car. On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the conviction, holding that there was simply no evidence on which to base the conviction. Golden was exonerated of all charges and released in 1994.  (FLCC) (DPIC) (Golden v. State)  [12/06]

 Cook County, IL

Earnest Wallace

June 17, 1916

Earnest Wallace was sentenced to death for the shooting murders of two men that occurred during the robbery of a saloon on the southwest corner of 27th and Federal Streets in Chicago. The victims were the proprietor, William Levin, and a customer, William Monroe. Wallace was convicted of the murders due to the eyewitness testimony of John Porter, Henry Flynn, and Martha Clark.

Porter was the only identifying witness who testified he was in the saloon at the time of the shooting. He first identified Wallace on the street while he [Porter] was in the custody of the police. Although the other saloon patrons lived in the neighborhood, Porter did not and claimed he was a first time visitor. The other patrons said the assailant was masked, but Porter testified the assailant was unmasked. At trial Porter was unable to recognize any of the other patrons as being present in the saloon at the time of the shooting. Porter also could not give an intelligible account of his actions or whereabouts after leaving the saloon.

The other two identifying witnesses gave testimony that was unlikely, and even if true, only identified Wallace as being in or near the saloon around the time of the shooting. Wallace testified that he was playing craps at a pool room on State Street at the time of the shooting and he had three other players corroborate his account of how he spent the evening of the shootings. Two years after Wallace's conviction, the Illinois Supreme Court vacated it on the grounds that the evidence against him was insufficient to convict.  (Appeal)  [12/08]

 Cook County, IL

Steven Smith

June 30, 1985

Steven Smith was sentenced to death for the murder of Virdeen Willis Jr., who was shot outside a tavern. Willis was an assistant warden at the Pontiac Correctional Center where Smith had once been incarcerated. Smith was convicted due to the testimony of Debrah Caraway, which was dubious for several reasons. First, Caraway had been smoking crack cocaine. Second, she claimed Willis was alone when the killer stepped out of shadows and fired the fatal shot, but two other witnesses said they were standing beside Willis when he was murdered. Third, Caraway's boyfriend, Pervis (Pepper) Bell, was an alternative suspect in the murder. Finally, Caraway, according to her account, was across the street when the crime occurred and, while she positively identified Smith, the two persons who were standing beside Willis were within only two or three feet of the killer and could not identify Smith.

In 1999, the Illinois Supreme Court threw out the conviction due to insufficient evidence and it barred a retrial. It ruled that Caraway's testimony was less reliable than the contradictory testimony of the other witnesses. Leonard Cavise, a DePaul University law professor, said he believes the state's evidence in the case was so weak that the prosecution should not have even brought charges against Smith, much less pursued the death penalty.  (CWC)  [1/06]

 Cook County, IL

David Dowaliby

Sept 10, 1988 (Midlothian)

David Dowaliby was convicted of murdering his 7-year-old stepdaughter, Jaclyn. Police initially assumed that the window, through which an intruder had allegedly entered to abduct Jaclyn, had been broken from the inside of their home. There was more broken glass on the outside than on the inside but forensic analysis established that it had been broken from the outside. During the investigation, Dowaliby and his wife, Cynthia, had followed police advice not to talk to the press, but such refusal had made them appear guilty.

At trial, for which both Dowaliby and his wife were charged with first-degree murder, the prosecution presented a witness, with a history of mental illness, who stated that he saw someone with a nose structure resembling Dowaliby on the night the victim had disappeared and near where her body was found five days later. This witness, Everett Mann, made this identification from an unlighted parking lot 75 yards away on a moonless night. The prosecution also presented 17 gruesome autopsy photos that are disallowed in many jurisdictions because they serve to prejudice a jury. The trial judge gave Dowaliby's wife a directed verdict of acquittal, but the jury convicted Dowaliby.

Afterwards, in an interview, the jury forewoman said that fist marks on the door of a bedroom were critical to the jury's decision to convict Dowaliby. These marks appeared in one of the evidence photos, but were never mentioned by either side. The jury concluded from these marks that Dowaliby had a terrible temper. In fact, they had no bearing on the case, as they had been present years earlier, before the Dowalibys had moved into their home. The jury forewoman also said, that if given the chance, the jury would have convicted Dowalibly's wife as well.

An appeals court reversed Dowaliby's conviction in 1991, on the grounds of insufficient evidence. The case came to a legal end in 1992 when the Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by the prosecution. The case is the subject of a book, Gone in the Night: The Dowaliby Family's Encounter With Murder and the Law by Protess and Warden (1993).  (CWC) (American Justice)  [12/06]

McLean County, IL 

Alan Beaman

Aug 25, 1993 (Normal)

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

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

Baltimore County, MD 

Kevin Wiggins

Sept 15, 1988

Kevin Wiggins was convicted of the murder of Florence G. Lacs, 77, who was last seen on Sept. 15, 1988 and found drowned in her bathtub on Sept 17. On the night of Sept 15, and on the following day, Wiggins and his girlfriend allegedly used Lacs's credit cards and car, and on Sept. 17, they pawned a ring she owned. Lacs's apartment was ransacked, but Wiggins's fingerprints were not found in the apartment, and unidentified fingerprints were found. Wiggins was sentenced to death. In 2001, a federal judge overturned the conviction, ruling that “no rational finder of fact could have found Wiggins guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt.” In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated Wiggins murder conviction, but not his death sentence.  (Baltimore Sun)  [12/05]

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.
Read More by Clicking Here

Saratoga County, NY 

Daniel P. Boutin

Nov 26, 1985

“Daniel P. Boutin was convicted of two counts of criminally negligent homicide in Saratoga County on February 5, 1987. While driving his truck on the Adirondack Northway in Saratoga County, Boutin collided with a police car that had stopped in the right hand roadway behind a disabled tractor trailer. The police car’s lights were flashing, but visibility was low due to fog and rain. Both the state trooper and the driver of the disabled truck, who were seated inside the police vehicle, were killed. The Appellate Division affirmed the conviction, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the evidence does not show that defendant was engaged in any criminally culpable risk-creating conduct.... Rather, it establishes only that defendant inexplicably failed to see the vehicle until he was so close that he could not prevent the collision.... [T]hat unexplained failure, without more, does not constitute criminally negligent homicide.” – Inevitable Error  (Appeals)

Nassau County, NY 

Daivery Taylor

Convicted 2005

Daivery Taylor, a personal injury attorney, was indicted on charges that he used “steerers” to sign up accident victims and that he coached clients to fabricate injuries. Following a two-week non-jury trial in 2005, Judge Jeffrey S. Brown convicted Taylor and his Freeport, NY based firm, Silverman & Taylor, of these charges. Taylor was subsequently disbarred due to these convictions. The case became a symbol of the efforts of the anti-insurance fraud campaign launched by NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Following Taylor's conviction, his lawyers argued to an appeals court, “It is remarkable that for all of the years-long investigation ... and the thousands of taped conversations, the prosecution had no solid evidence – not a single patient, not a single medical record, not a single document – that demonstrated Mr. Taylor's complicity in an alleged fraud.” In 2008, the NY Appellate Division, 2nd Department agreed that Taylor's convictions were based on insufficient evidence. It not only threw out the convictions, but also dismissed the 32-count indictment against him.  (NY Law Journal)  [1/09]

New York County, NY 

José Carrasquillo

Mar 29, 1983

“José Carrasquillo was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in New York County on December 17, 1986. [The victim, Dominick Barberi, was assaulted outside the La Fontaine Boutique on Sixth Avenue near 21st Street.] The prosecution charged that Carrasquillo had inflicted a fatal blow upon the victim, who was apparently shoplifting from the boutique where the defendant worked. The victim died two days after the attack. The Appellate Division reversed the conviction on April 21, 1988, and ordered the indictment dismissed. The court held that the evidence was insufficient to establish that Carrasquillo, rather than his accomplice, had struck the fatal blow.” – Inevitable Error  (Appeal)

Westchester County, NY 

Luis Marin

Dec 4, 1980

“Luis Marin was convicted in Westchester County of twenty-six counts of murder arising from a [fire at a Stouffer’s Inn in Harrison, NY.] Marin successfully moved the trial court for a post-verdict order dismissing the indictments based on insufficiency of the trial evidence. The prosecution appealed. The Appellate Division and Court of Appeals upheld the trial court order of dismissal. It was held that having an empty gasoline container and siphon in his car were insufficient facts to support the inference that Marin had set the fire. In sum, the evidence presented at trial was simply insufficient to sustain the charges. ‘[T]he loss of life at the Stouffer’s Inn fire was a tragedy of staggering proportion ... However, the tragedy would be compounded by the conviction and imprisonment of a person whose criminal responsibility for that tragedy has not been proven.’” – Inevitable Error  (Appeals)

Lee County, NC 

Donald Edward Sweat

Feb 23, 2007 (Sanford)

Donald Edward Sweat was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. He was sentenced to 93 to 121 months of imprisonment. Sweat's alleged victim, John Hunter, was assaulted between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. near his mailbox at the intersection of Cletus Hall and Buchanan Farm Roads in Sanford, NC. The assailant struck John several times in the face, breaking a cheekbone and his jawbone. John's brother, Joe Hunter, had driven John to the mailbox and told the assailant to stop, but the assailant threatened to kill him if he did not get back in his car. The assailant then threatened to kill John and slashed his arm with a knife, cutting the sleeve of his coat and requiring him to get nine stitches on his arm. The assailant left the scene and the Hunters drove 1 1/2 miles to John's house where they called the police at 9:08 p.m.

Sweat lived with his aunt, Vonnie Hall, across a five acre lot from John Hunter's mailbox. Between 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Hall pulled into her driveway behind a car driven by Sweat's friend in which Sweat was a passenger. She reprimanded Sweat and his friend because out on the road they had been driving closely behind her with their bright lights on. According to Hall, Sweat “started acting crazy” and argued with his friend about having his high beams on. Sweat went outside and Hall watched him walk down the road in a direction away from the intersection with the mailboxes. Sweat came back to the house and said, “I can't satisfy nobody. I hurt everybody I see.” He began giving his things to his aunt such as a watch and jewelry he was wearing and items in his pockets, including his wallet and a fold-up razor blade. Hall stated he used the blade to cut dogs' ears. Sweat went outside and began yelling, then asked his friend to take him to jail. The two men left. Magistrate Randy Carter testified that Sweat came to his office and stated that he “wanted to turn himself in, that he had hurt somebody, and he needed to be locked up.” Carter called the Sheriff's office and police soon charged Sweat with assaulting John Hunter.

At trial, neither John Hunter nor Joe Hunter could not identify Sweat as the assailant they saw. The only description they had given of the assailant was that he was a man or a boy. Sweat's defense asked for a directed verdict of acquittal due to insufficient evidence, but it was refused. On appeal in April 2009, the North Carolina Court of Appeals agreed with Sweat that the evidence was insufficient and reversed his conviction.  (State v. Sweat)  [7/09]

Moore County, NC 

Samuel Poole

May 19, 1973 (Robbins)

Samuel A. Poole was convicted of breaking into and entering the home of Tennie A. Maness with intent to commit rape. Poole was given a mandatory death sentence. The victim lived alone in a four room brick house on Rt. 1 in Robbins, NC. Key evidence against Poole was that a button found in the victim's home seemed to match a button missing from a shirt that was found in Poole's home. In addition, Poole owned the type of gun the victim claimed she saw, and he was in the general vicinity on the day of the incident. These three items of evidence made up the entirety of the state's case.  On appeal in 1974, the NC Supreme Court ruled that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction and acquitted Poole of all charges.  (State v. Poole)  [7/05]

Jasper County, SC 

Roger Bostick

Mar 7, 1999 (Pineland)

Roger Bostick was convicted in 2001 of murdering his neighbor, 69-year-old Sarah Polite. Polite served as the treasurer and secretary of her church. Typically, she would bring home a briefcase containing money from the church on Sunday for deposit at the bank on Monday. On a Sunday afternoon she had been struck in the head with a blunt force object and her house was set on fire. She died from smoke inhalation.

Two days after the murder, car keys and other items belonging to Polite were found on a burn pile at a nearby property belonging to Bostick's mother. Specks of blood were found on Bostick's jeans which according to his attorney were “microscopic, not visible to the naked eyes except under very close inspection.” DNA analysis was performed on a sample of this blood. Analyst Nancy Skraba testified that while ninety-nine percent of the population could be excluded as contributing to the sample, she was unable to determine whether the blood sample actually came from Polite. Evidence of gasoline was found on Bostick's shoes which was also used to start the fire in Polite's house.

Defense witnesses presented testimony which cast suspicion on Polite's son, Rudy. According to one witness, Polite was upset that Rudy fixed everyone's car except hers, threw her keys at him, and then went inside her house. The witness saw Rudy drive off in a truck a few moments later. Rudy stated he left to go to an auto parts store to buy a part for his mother's car. When he returned about an hour later, the house was engulfed in flames. Another witness testified that after Polite's body was brought out and placed on the ground, Rudy started to smoke a cigarete and “didn't express any emotion or feeling.”

At trial Bostick requested a directed verdict of aquittal due to insufficient evidence, but it was denied. In 2011, the state supreme court ruled that trial court erred when it denied this request. It found that the state's evidence had only raised a suspicion of guilt. The ruling acquitted Bostick and he was subsequently released from prison.  (State v. Bostick) (Justice: Denied)  [12/11]

Dallas County, TX 

Entre Nax Karage

Sept 22, 1994

Entre Nax Karage was convicted of murdering his 14-year-old Cambodian girlfriend, Nary Na. Na was last seen at the Minyard's grocery store at Garland and Peavy roads, seven hours before her fully clothed body was found in a ravine behind the Casa Linda Shopping Center. DNA test results at the time of the trial did not match Karage, but this was consistent with the prosecutor's theory that Karage had found his girlfriend with another man and killed her in a jealous rage. A review of trial transcripts and witness statements reveals that Karage's conviction rested solely on this speculated motive. There was no other evidence. In 2004, DNA test results were run through a federal database and were found to match Keith Jordan, a man convicted of a similar crime. Gov. Rick Perry pardoned Karage in 2005.  (IP)

Ector County, TX 

John Skelton

Apr 24, 1982

John Clifford Skelton was sentenced to death for the murder of a 46-year-old former employee, Joe Lee Neal. Neal's truck was rigged with dynamite and exploded near the intersection of of Grandview Avenue and Brentwood Drive in Odessa, TX. The explosion, triggered by Neal putting the truck into reverse, propelled Neal's body out of the truck, ripped off his left wrist and hand as well as both legs. Medical testimony indicated that Neal bled to death. The prosecution argued that Skelton had a motive to kill Neal, had made various threats against him, and had access to explosive materials. However, Skelton had a strong alibi. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction after finding “no evidence which connects [Skelton] with the actual setting of the bomb, nor is there any evidence showing that he solicited, encouraged, directed, aided, or attempted to aid another to place the bomb.” Skelton was released in 1990.  (PC)  [7/05]

Accomac County, VA 

Burton & Conquest

Aug 10, 1907 (Onancock)

Samuel L. Burton and Sylvanus Conquest were twice convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the death of John Topping. Prior to the crime a man named John M. Fosque secured a financial judgment against Conquest which was levied against Conquest's horse then in the possession of Burton. There reportedly was offensive behavior on the part of Burton and Conquest towards a constable who was sent to collect the debt. Burton subsequently paid the debt and Conquest was fined $50 for resisting the constable. This evidence was used to assert that Burton and Conquest had a grievance against Fosque.

On the night of Aug. 10, 1907, a horse drawn carriage owned by Fosque was carrying passengers from an Onancock hotel to the train station. About 30 feet after it passed a store owned by Burton, a man on the street reportedly stood up from a crouched position and yelled “blaze away,” after which 20 to 25 bullets were fired at the carriage. No one in the carriage was killed, but an outsider, John Topping, received a gunshot wound in the shoulder from which he died 12 days later.

Although Fosque, a white man, sometimes drove the carriage, on the night in question it was driven by a colored man, who was unlikely to be mistaken for Fosque. At trial the prosecution alleged that Burton and Conquest, along with confederates, lied in wait for Fosque and opened fire on the carriage because of the grievance they had against him. It was alleged that Topping was the lookout man for the shooters, the man who yelled “blaze away.”

Two trial juries acquitted Burton and Conquest of murder, but convicted them of manslaughter on the grounds that they encouraged or aided the shooting. The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals later vacated the convictions after finding that there was insufficient evidence that the two engaged in the shooting. The Court also noted that apart from committing the shooting themselves, there was not a scintilla of evidence presented that Burton or Conquest encouraged or aided the shooting.  (B&C v. Com.)  [2/10]  (Note: Accomac County was renamed Accomack County in 1940.)

Norfolk, VA 

Kenneth Holland, Jr.

June 17, 1948

Kenneth Raymond Holland, Jr., a former police officer, was convicted of the murder of Charles Everett Utt. Utt was found three miles from his residence bludgeoned with a hatchet in the back seat of his automobile. Police determined that Utt was killed in a lane in the rear of his residence. Holland had been going out with Utt's wife. The relationship was known by her husband and had continued for years. Blood was found on clothes owned by Holland, but none of the blood was found to be of Utt's blood type. Holland maintained the blood came from a fight with a third party. A witness placed Holland at a beer tavern more than a mile from the the scene of the murder on the night of its occurrence. No other evidence of any significance was presented. On appeal in 1949, an appeals court overturned Holland's conviction after finding the evidence against him was insufficient to support it. In 1950 Holland was acquitted at retrial.  (Holland v. Com.) (MOJ)  [1/11]

Brown County, WI 

Mike Piaskowski

Nov 21, 1992

Mike Piaskowski was convicted in 1995 of participating with five other men in the 1992 beating murder of Tom Monfils. Monfils disappeared on the job at a Green Bay paper mill. His mangled body was found the next day at the bottom of a two-story vat of wood pulp with a fifty pound weight tied to his neck. A District Court Judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support Piaskowski's conviction, and on July 10, 2001, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision saying, “The record is devoid of any direct evidence that Piaskowski participated in the beating of Monfils, and the available circumstantial evidence at most casts suspicion on him. This is a far cry from guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” A 2009 book was written about the case entitled The Monfils Conspiracy. This book alleges that the other five defendants in the case were also wrongly convicted.  (Piaskowski v. Bett)  [10/05]

Wood County, WI 

Edward Kanieski

June 29, 1952

Edward Frank Kanieski was convicted of murdering tavern owner Clara Bates. Bates, 76, was found strangled and bludgeoned to death in her living quarters at her bar in Wisconsin Rapids. Kanieski, then 33, was one of two men who found Bates two days after she was last seen alive. Kanieski had been been an irregular customer at her bar. He had once told Bates a false story about being an aviator. When Bates expressed interest in going to Iowa some months in the future, Kanieski had offered to fly her there. Later he had a fall outside a funeral home, for which his head was bandaged. Using the bandage as evidence, he told Bates he had a plane accident and could no longer take her. Kanieski initially lied about being at Bates's bar the night of her murder. While Kanieski was there, she left other patrons to speak with him for about 15 minutes. Kanieski left before closing. Bates subsequently closed her bar early for some unspecified reason, possibly because she planned to meet with her murderer. Exiting patrons reportedly saw Kanieski's car by the side of the road and he admitted he was parked by the side of the road.
Read More by Clicking Here

 British Columbia, Canada

Corey Robinson

July 24, 1992 (Richmond)

Corey Lawrence Robinson was twice convicted of the murder of his neighbour and close friend, Lori Aiston. He was sentenced both times to a term of 10 years. Aiston was repeatedly stabbed, kicked, and beaten in her apartment on Colonial Drive in Richmond, then dragged and left to bleed to death on her two-year-old daughter's bed. Her daughter was in the apartment with her the whole time, unable to do anything but watch. The general details of the case give little reason to suspect Robinson's involvement in the murder. The only evidence ever found linking Robinson to the scene of the crime was a microscopic amount of his DNA detected under Aiston's fingernails. DNA found on a bloody paper towel found at the scene did not belong to either Aiston or Robinson. It was only after a “so-called” confession made following heavy interrogation by Sgt. Don Adam, in December 1994, that the police were able to lay a charge. In 2003, the British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed Robinson's conviction on the grounds there was never any evidence to arrest him in the first place.  (Now) (R. v. Robinson)  [4/09]

 Quebec, Canada

Benoit Proulx

Oct 25, 1982 (Ste. Foy)

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

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

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

 England (Worcester CC)

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) (HT #2)  [9/08]

 Australia (VIC)

Christopher Szitovszky

July 1, 2004

Christopher Leslie Szitovszky was convicted of the murder of his 58-year-old father, Peter Szitovszky. The victim was nearly decapitated with an ax outside his home between 3 and 4 a.m. in the Melbourne suburb of Wheelers Hill. An appeals court acquitted Christopher of the murder in 2009 on the grounds that the evidence against him was insufficient to convict him.  (NetK)

 Australia (WA)

Rory Christie

Nov 15, 2001

Rory Christie was convicted of the murder of his wife, Susan Christie. He was charged nearly a year after her disappearance. On retrial he was judicially acquitted because the evidence was insufficient to convict him.  (IPWA) (Christie v. The Queen) (Regina v. Christie)