Police Officer Murder Cases

39 Regular Cases
2 Related Cases

Pulaski County, AR

James Dean Walker

Apr 16, 1963

James Dean Walker was convicted of murdering Police Officer Jerrell Vaughn of North Little Rock. Walker and a companion, Russell Kumpe, were at a Little Rock nightclub with two women, one of whom was Linda Ford. Following an altercation at the club in which another patron was shot, Kumpe, Walker, and Ford left in Kumpe's Oldsmobile. Kumpe drove, while Walker sat in the passenger seat, with Ford sitting in the center. Police Officer Gene Barentine pursued and stopped the car and parked his vehicle behind it. Officer Vaughan arrived on the scene almost immediately thereafter, as did two cabdrivers.
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Alameda County, CA

Huey P. Newton

Oct 28, 1967

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

Daniel Kamacho

Mar 11, 1946

Daniel Kamacho was convicted of the murder of Deputy Sheriff Fred T. Guiol. Guiol attended a movie with a friend, Miss Pearl Rattenbury, and drove her to her home at 1117 Elden Ave. Before Rattenbury could step out of the car, a young man armed with a gun wrenched open the car door and demanded the occupants hand over their money. When Guiol reached for his gun, the man shot Guiol dead and ran off.
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Los Angeles County, CA

Chance & Powell

Dec 12, 1973

Clarence Chance and Benny Powell were convicted the murder of David Andrews, an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer at a South Central Los Angeles gas station. The murder occurred in the gas station men's room reportedly during a robbery of the station. A four-year investigation by Centurion Ministries, supported by the district attorney's office, showed that the LAPD had coerced trial witnesses to lie against the two men. The judge who freed Chance and Powell apologized to them. Both defendants each served 17 1/2 years of life without parole sentences. Since their release, each man has been awarded $3.5 million.  (CM)

Siskiyou County, CA

Coke & John Brite

Aug 30, 1936 (Horse Creek)

Coke and John Brite, brothers, were convicted of the murders of deputy sheriffs Martin Lange and Joseph Clarke, as well as the murder of Captain Fred Seaborn, a U.S. Navy officer. The Brites, who were gold prospectors, returned to a cabin on their rented land, where their parents stayed, and then headed out again. At nightfall they set up camp on the land of a neighbor, B. F. Decker, and went to bed. Two intruders then entered their camp, another neighbor, Charley Baker, and his friend, Fred Seaborn. At trial, Baker alleged they were looking for a strayed horse that Baker owned. It was later learned that Baker had been using the cabin on the Brites' property for rent-free storage and had motive to drive the Brites from their land. Baker and Seaborn picked a fight with the Brites, which proved to be a mistake as the Brites made quick work of them. Baker then went to a judge and talked him into issuing warrants charging the Brites with assault.
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Siskiyou County, CA

Patrick Croy

July 17, 1978 (Yreka)

Patrick Eugene “Hooty” Croy was sentenced to death for the murder of Bo Hittson, a Yreka police officer. A weekend of partying led to an ill-fated shoot-out between police and a group of Native Americans, including Croy. Croy was convicted of attempted robbery, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, assault, and the murder of the police officer.

In 1985, the California Supreme Court overturned most of Croy's convictions. The Court found that the trial judge had read the wrong instructions to the jury, allowing the jury to convict Croy of robbery even if he did not intend to steal. Because the murder conviction was based on the theory that Croy had intentionally committed a robbery that had caused the officer's death, the murder conviction was reversed.

At retrial in 1990, Croy's defense presented evidence that Croy acted in self-defense during the shoot-out, including evidence that Croy himself was shot twice during the altercation, expert testimony regarding the antagonistic relationship between law enforcement and local Native Americans at the time of the crime, and that Officer Hittson had a blood alcohol level of .07 at his time of death. Croy was acquitted of all charges for which he was tried, based on self-defense. The trial court entered a finding that, if the conspiracy and assault charges had been included in the retrial, Croy would have been acquitted of them as well. Croy was resentenced on these charges and was released on parole.

In 1997, Croy violated parole and was given an indeterminate life sentence. In 2005, Croy's original conspiracy and assault convictions were also overturned. The state decided not to appeal and Croy was freed in Mar. 2005. He had served 19 years in prison, 7 of them on death row.  (85) (Info)  [6/08]

Broward County, FL 

Tafero & Jacobs

Feb 20, 1976

Along with Sonia “Sunny” Jacobs and Walter Rhodes, Jesse Joseph Tafero was convicted of murdering Florida highway patrolman Phillip Black and visiting Canadian constable Donald Irwin at an I-95 rest stop. The conviction was based largely on the testimony of Rhodes, who named Tafero as the shooter. The state withheld from the defense results of a polygraph that indicated Rhodes had failed. The state also withheld gunpowder test results that indicated Rhodes was the only person to have fired a gun.

Rhodes recanted his testimony on three occasions in 1977, 1979, and 1982, stating that he, not Tafero, shot the policemen. A statement from a prison guard corroborating Rhodes' recantations was suppressed and found years later. Rhodes has since reverted to his original testimony. The trial judge, “Maximum Dan” Futch, had been a highway patrolman three years before the trial and wore his police hat to work. He kept a miniature replica of an electric chair on his desk. He did not allow Tafero to call witnesses, nor would not allow him hearings on this decision. Two eyewitnesses, testifying for the state, said that while the shots were being fired, one officer was holding Tafero over the hood of the car. Tafero was executed in the electric chair on May 4, 1990. Officials interrupted the execution three times because flames and smoke shot out of his head.

Like Tafero, Jacobs was sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1981. In Jacobs' 1992 appeal, the new evidence was presented which resulted in the reversal of her conviction. Had the evidence been found before Tafero's execution, it is highly probable that his conviction would have been likewise overturned. Jacobs later accepted a plea bargain in which she did not have to admit guilt and was released. She affirms her innocence. A 1996 ABC TV movie was made about the case entitled In the Blink of an Eye.  (CWC) (NY Times)  [6/05]

 Broward County, FL

Brown & King

Nov 13, 1990

Timothy Brown, a mentally retarded man, gave a garbled confession to the murder of Broward Sheriff's Deputy Patrick Behan for which he was convicted. In 2001, the Miami Herald questioned the conviction in a series of investigative articles. In 2003, a judge threw out Brown's confession and Brown was released on low bail. It seems unlikely that he will be retried.

Brown's co-defendant, Keith King, also gave a confession after being coerced, threatened, and punched by detectives. King served a reduced sentence on a plea bargain to manslaughter and was free at the time of Brown's release.  (Miami Herald) (AP News)  [9/05]

 Duval County, FL

Leo Jones

May 23, 1981

Leo Jones, a black man, was convicted of the sniper killing of white police officer Thomas Szafranski, 28, and sentenced to death. The main witness against Jones later recanted. Two key officers in the case had left the Jacksonville Police Department under a cloud, and allegations that one of them beat Jones before he supposedly confessed had gained credence.

A retired police officer, Cleveland Smith, came forward and said Officer Lynwood Mundy had bragged that he beat Jones after his arrest. Smith, who described Mundy as an “enforcer,” testified that he once watched Mundy get a confession from a suspect by squeezing the suspect's genitals in a vise grip. He said Mundy unabashedly described beating Jones. Smith waited until his 1997 retirement to come forward because he wanted to secure his pension.

More than a dozen people had implicated another man as the killer, saying they either saw him carrying a rifle as he ran from the crime scene or heard him brag he had shot the officer. Even Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw, who formerly headed a division of the state attorney's office, wrote that Jones's case had become “a horse of a different color.” Newly discovered evidence, Shaw wrote, “casts serious doubt on Jones's guilt.” Shaw and one other judge voted to grant Jones a new trial. But a five-judge majority ruled against Jones. Jones was executed one week later in the electric chair on March 24, 1998.  (Chicago Tribune)  [11/05]

 Leon County, FL

Quincy Five

Sept 18, 1970 (Tallahassee)

After Khomas Revels, an off-duty deputy sheriff, was murdered during a robbery of Luke's Grocery store, Tallahassee police charged five black men from Quincy, Florida with the crime. One of these men, David Keaton, was an 18-year-old star football player with plans to enter the ministry. Although he had an alibi, Keaton was held in custody for more than a week. During that time he maintained he had been threatened, lied to, and beaten until he confessed. He believed that despite his confession, no jury would convict him when they heard his alibi. He was wrong. At trial his coerced confession was buttressed by the false testimony of five eyewitnesses. Keaton was convicted and sentenced to death. In his confession Keaton implicated Johnnie Frederick, who was “clean as a whistle,” in the belief that a judge and jury would see that his confession was false. Frederick was convicted as well and sentenced to life in prison.

David Charles Smith and two other Quincy defendants still awaited trial. In the meantime, a witness arose, Benjamin Franklin Pye, who knew the actual men who committed the crime. The men were from Jacksonville, not Quincy, though Pye knew only their street names. But he knew the motel where they had stayed, the dates, and the rental car they drove. He was with them when they cased Luke's to rob it later. Pye gave this information to his attorney, who in turn relayed it to Smith's attorney, Will Varn. Varn was a former U.S. attorney, and he was able to get funds from the judge to hire an investigator who came up with names to fit Pye's story. The names also fit the crime scene fingerprints that had not matched any of the Quincy Five. The three Jacksonville men were tried and convicted.

Despite the new evidence, the state continued to insist the Quincy Five were guilty as well. When Smith came to trial, five white eyewitnesses swore he was guilty. But Varn had the conflicting fingerprints and convictions, Pye's testimony, and a good alibi for Smith. An all-white jury acquitted him. The Florida Supreme Court took note and ordered new trials for Keaton and Frederick. The prosecution soon dropped charges against Keaton and Frederick, as well as against the remaining two Quincy defendants. Keaton and Frederick were released in 1973. In 1974 Tallahassee writer Jeffrey Lickson published a 142-page book about the case entitled David Charles: The Story of the Quincy Five.  (SP Times) (TWM) (FLCC) (SPT1) (SPT2) (OSB) (Papers)  [3/07]

Chatham County, GA

Troy Davis

Aug 19, 1989 (Savannah)

Troy Anthony Davis, a black man, was sentenced to death for the shooting murder of Mark Allen MacPhail, a white police officer. At the time MacPhail, 27, was working off-duty as a security guard for a Greyhound bus station. A homeless man, Larry Young, was being harassed by an assailant for the can of beer that Young held in a paper sack. A crowd of bystanders, some of whom spilled out a pool hall, followed the fight as it progressed up Oglethorpe Ave. toward the bus station. The assailant then pulled a pistol out of his pants and used it beat Young on the head. Fearing for his life Young yelled for someone to call the police, and Officer MacPhail responded. He was shot twice and died.

At trial Young identified Davis as the man who both assaulted him and murdered MacPhail. Young has since recanted. “After I was assaulted that night … some police officers grabbed me and threw me down on the hood of the police car and handcuffed me. They treated me like a criminal; like I was the one who killed the officer … They made it clear that we weren't leaving until I told them what they wanted to hear. They suggested answers and I would give them what they wanted. They put typed papers in my face and told me to sign them. I did sign them without reading them.”

There was no physical evidence against Davis and the murder weapon has never been found. The case against him depended entirely on the testimony of nine prosecution witnesses. Since the trial seven of the nine witnesses, including Young, have recanted their testimony. Many of the witnesses cited police pressure as the reason for their false trial testimony.

Davis said he was one of the bystanders who came out of the pool hall and watched the assailant torment Young. He stated he left after the assailant threatened to shoot Young and he never looked back. He also stated he did not have a gun and that the assailant was one of the remaining prosecution witnesses, Sylvester Coles. Coles was known as a neighborhood bully. Davis's appeals lawyers could not locate the other remaining witness. Davis was executed by lethal injection on September 21, 2011.  (www.troyanthonydavis.org)  [7/07]

Greene County, GA 

Robert Wallace

May 16, 1979

Robert Wallace was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Thomas Rowry, a Union Point police officer. Wallace, who was drunk, had been in a scuffle over a gun with a different officer when the gun went off, killing the officer he was accused of murdering. The prosecution argued that Wallace intentionally shot the victim officer. Upon retrial in 1987, a jury acquitted Wallace.  (PC)  [7/05]

 Cook County, IL

Haymarket Eight

May 4, 1886

Eight men were convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the death of police officer Mathias J. Degan. On May 1, 1886 there were general strikes throughout the United States in support of an 8-hour workday. On May 3 there was a rally of striking workers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company plant in Chicago. This rally ended with police firing on the workers. Two workers died although some newspaper accounts reported six fatalities.
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 Cook County, IL

Majczek & Marcinkiewicz

Dec 9, 1932

Joseph Majczek and Theodore Marcinkiewicz were convicted in 1933 of murdering Chicago police officer William D. Lundy. Lundy was killed in a delicatessen-speakeasy at 4312 S. Ashland Ave. during an apparent holdup. The main witness against the two was the owner of the speakeasy. Police had threatened to prosecute her for violating prohibition laws if she did not implicate the two men.

The case came to the attention of a Chicago Times reporter in 1944 after Majczek's mother placed a classified ad offering a $5,000 reward for information on Lundy's killers. The Times did a front-page human-interest story on how the mother scrubbed floors on her hands and knees six nights a week for over a decade to raise the money.

A Times researcher got a statement from Joseph Majczek that said his trial judge met privately with him and promised him a new trial. Normally the researcher would dismiss as preposterous a claim that a judge would host a private conversation with a convicted cop-killer, but the story reporter wondered aloud to him why Majczek was not sent to the electric chair, the usual sentence for a cop-killer. Further research produced a compelling case for innocence. The judge had not carried through on his promise because prosecutors had threatened him that granting new trials would end his career in politics.

The Times crusaded for Majczek's exoneration and he was pardoned in 1945. Marcinkiewicz was seemingly forgotten, but in 1950, he was legally exonerated through a state habeas corpus proceeding. The legislature later awarded $24,000 to Majczek and $35,000 to Marcinkiewicz. The case is the subject of a 1948 movie, Call Northside 777 starring Jimmy Stewart.  (Not Guilty) (CWC)  [12/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Ella Mae Ellison

Nov 30, 1973

Ella Mae Ellison was convicted of murder and armed robbery in 1974. The crime involved the robbery of Suffolk Jewelers, a pawnshop on Washington St. in Roxbury. During the robbery, Detective John Schroeder, an off-duty police officer, entered the store and attempted to thwart the robbers. He was shot and killed. The 1997 Boston Police Headquarters is on “One Schroeder Plaza,” named in honor of Schroeder and his brother Walter, also an officer, who was killed responding to a bank alarm in 1970. In 1976, two key witnesses recanted their testimony against Ellison and claimed she was innocent. In 1978, an appeals court vacated her convictions because the prosecutor withheld evidence that could have exonerated her. Ellison was released in 1978.  (CIPM)  [4/08]

Hennepin County, MN 

Leonard Hankins

Dec 16, 1932 (Minneapolis)

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

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

Jefferson Davis County, MS 

Cory Maye

Dec 26, 2001 (Prentiss)

Cory Maye, a black man, was sentenced to death for the murder of a white police officer. One night while the 21-year-old Maye was drifting off to sleep in front of a television, a violent pounding on his front door awakened him. It sounded as though someone was trying to break it down. He retrieved his handgun and went to the bedroom where his 14-month-old daughter was sleeping and got down on the floor next to the bed. He hoped the noises would go away, but they shifted around to the back of the house, where after a loud crash, Maye's rear door was violently flung open, nearly separating it from its hinges. After someone kicked open the bedroom door, Maye fired three shots. The next thing Maye heard is someone scream, “Police! Police! You just shot an officer!” Maye then dropped his gun and surrendered.  The shot officer, Ron Jones, was wearing a bulletproof vest, but one of Maye's bullets hit him just below the vest and proved fatal. Jones was the son of the town's police chief.

Maye was severely beaten after his arrest. Police denied this charge, but a press photo shows him with a swollen black eye. Maye's family was prohibited from seeing him for more than a week – long enough for his bruises to heal. Police had raided Maye's duplex because a reputed drug dealer – a person Maye had never met – lived in an adjoining half of the duplex. A confidential informant said there were large stashes of marijuana in both halves of the duplex. Only the remains of a smoked joint were found in Maye's duplex. Maye had no criminal record and police did not know his name prior to the drug raid. Maye's conviction has provoked outrage not only by liberals concerned about racially charged Southern Justice, but also by conservative supporters of the right to bear arms. Maye's death sentence was overturned in Sept. 2006.  (Reason)  [4/07]

Wilkinson County, MS 

Leon Chambers

June 14, 1969 (Woodville)

Leon Chambers was convicted of the murder of Sonny Liberty, a police officer. Two Woodville police officers, James Forman and Aaron “Sonny” Liberty, tried to arrest a local youth named C. C. Jackson at Hayes' Café, a bar and pool hall on First West St. However, a crowd of 50 to 60 people gathered who frustrated their arrest attempt. Forman radioed for backup and Liberty removed his riot gun, a 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun, from his patrol car.
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St. Louis City, MO 

Louis DeMore

Apr 29, 1934

Louis DeMore joked to police on the street that he fit the description of a wanted killer and he was arrested. In May 1934, DeMore confessed and pleaded guilty to the murder of Patrolman Albert Siko to escape the death sentence that police threatened him with if he went to trial. Gov. Park pardoned DeMore in Oct. 1934 after police caught another man, George Couch, who was found with Siko's revolver and confessed to being the real killer.  (The Innocents)  [10/05]

Hudson County, NJ 

James Landano

Aug 13, 1976

Vincent James Landano was convicted of the murder of Police Officer John Snow. On Aug. 13, 1976, two gunmen robbed the Hi-Way Check Cashing Service in Kearny. One went inside, while the other waited in a getaway car. As the robbery was in progress, John Snow, a Newark police officer, arrived in his patrol car with an attaché case containing $46,000 to be delivered to the business. Before Snow could get out of his car, the outside gunman walked up to the patrol car and shot Snow at point-blank range. The gunman then took the attaché case and got into his car, while the the other gunman left the check-cashing service with a cash drawer containing about $6,000. This gunman put the drawer on the roof of the car and jumped into the back seat. The car sped away leaving $6,000 fluttering in the air behind it.

A man arrested for the crime, Allen Rollo, admitted being the inside gunman, and identified Landano as his partner, the one who shot Snow. Centurion Ministries discovered a hidden police report in which the only eyewitness to the murder identified another man as the shooter. When the case was retried, the jury deliberated for less than an hour and acquitted Landano in 1989. Jurors later celebrated with him at a victory party.  (NY Times) (CM)  [4/08]

Union County, NJ 

George Merritt

July 16, 1967 (Plainfield)

In the midst of a five-day race riot, a white Plainfield patrolman, John V. Gleason, Jr., 39, shot and wounded a black youth who allegedly had attacked him with a hammer. He was surrounded by an angry mob of blacks and was beaten, stomped, and shot to death with his own service revolver. Of 12 defendants put on trial, two were convicted including George Merritt. The case against Merritt rested solely on the testimony of one witness, Donald Frazier. Frazier testified that Merritt assaulted Gleason with a meat cleaver, but the wounds on Gleason were not indicative that such a weapon was used on him, nor was this weapon found. Merritt's conviction was reversed in 1972 and 1976, but he was reconvicted after each reversal. Following Merritt's third conviction, a pretrial police interview with Frazier surfaced that was completely at odds with his trial testimony. The prosecutor had withheld this document from Merritt's defense. Because of this document, Merritt's conviction was again reversed in 1980, but this time charges against him were dropped.  (NY Times) (72) (80) (MOJ)  [7/09]

Bernalillo County, NM 

Van Bering Robinson

Sept 10, 1980

Van Bering Robinson was convicted of murdering Albuquerque Police Officer Phil Chacon. Chacon was gunned down on his motorcycle at Wyoming Blvd. and Central Ave. while pursuing a vehicle driven by a man who had just robbed a Kinney's shoe store. Robinson was exonerated in 1983 after it was found that three Albuquerque police officers falsified information to frame him for the murder. Robinson was awarded $75,000 in 1985.  (Appeals)  [9/05]

New York County, NY 

Harry Cashin

Feb 19, 1931

Harry F. Cashin was convicted of the murder of Detective Christopher W. Scheuing during the holdup of a speakeasy at 49 Lexington Avenue. Cashin was sentenced to death. His conviction was due to the testimony of Gladys Clayton, a woman of shady character. The prosecution concealed from the defense a witness who said Cashin was not “the right man.” On appeal, Cashin's conviction was reversed. The charges were dropped in 1933 when Clayton admitted that Cashin had nothing to do with the murder.  (ISI) (News Articles) (Archives)  [4/08]

New York County, NY 

Isidore Zimmerman

Apr 10, 1937

Isidore Zimmerman was sentenced to death for the shooting murder of a police detective, Michael Foley, during an armed robbery of the Boulevard Restaurant at 144 Second Ave. A gang of six, dubbed the “East Side Boys” by the press, had robbed the restaurant. Zimmerman was not present at the robbery, but was convicted for allegedly supplying the gun used in the murder. He was cleared in 1962 after it was revealed that a government witness perjured himself when he testified that Zimmerman provided the gun. Zimmerman was awarded $1 million for 24 years of wrongful imprisonment.

Clinton County, OH 

Clarence McKinney

Feb 14, 1922 (Wilmington)

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

Allen Thrower

Aug 28, 1972 (Columbus)

Allen Thrower was convicted of the shotgun murder of Columbus Police Officer Joseph Edwards. In 1978 the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Columbus Division of Police determined that Detective Tom Jones Sr. had acted egregiously during the investigation of Thrower. Thrower was released from prison in 1979.  [12/06]

Seminole County, OK 

Paul Goodwin

July 4, 1936

Paul Goodwin was convicted of the murder of Officer Christopher C. Whitson of the Seminole Police Department. Another man, Horace Lindsay, gave a statement in which he confessed to shooting Whitson. Lindsay also led police to the location where he had hidden Whitson's gun. Some time later Lindsay gave a second statement in which he implicated Goodwin as the shooter, but he refused to testify against Goodwin at his trial. At Goodwin's trial, Lindsay's second statement was read into evidence before the jury by the Chief of Police of Seminole County. Goodwin was permitted no opportunity to cross-examine Lindsay, nor was he permitted to introduce Lindsay's earlier statement which contradicted the presented statement. Although paroled in 1961, Goodwin was reincarcerated in 1962 on a parole violation. In 1969 Goodwin was released from prison after the 10th Circuit Federal Court ruled that he was denied due process.  (Appeals) (Seminole PD) (ISI)  [10/09]

Philadelphia County, PA

Bilger & Sheeler

Nov 23, 1936

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

Michael Linder

June 29, 1979

Michael Linder was sentenced to death for murdering Willie Peeples, a highway patrol officer. Linder contended he acted in self-defense because the officer had groundlessly fired six shots at him. At trial the prosecution presented expert witnesses who testified that the officer never fired his gun. At a retrial the defense secured previously undisclosed ballistics evidence from the state crime lab and was able to prove that the officer had fired his gun and that the prosecution's witnesses had distorted other evidence to make it appear that Linder had been the aggressor. Linder was acquitted at his retrial and released in 1981.  (NY Times)  [7/05]

Dillon County, SC 

Warren Douglas Manning

Oct 29, 1988

Warren Douglas Manning was convicted of pistol whipping and shooting to death George T. Radford, a state highway trooper. Manning was sentenced to death. The trooper was shot at close range with his own revolver. The defense argued that although the trooper arrested Manning for driving with a suspended license, Manning escaped when the officer stopped another car. The defense also claimed that if Manning had shot the officer, he would have been covered in blood. Witnesses who saw Manning minutes after the shooting noticed no blood on him. A retrial resulted in a hung jury, but Manning was reconvicted at a third trial. This reconviction was overturned and a fourth trial resulted in a mistrial. At Manning's fifth trial, his new lawyer told the jury, “The law requires the state prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Without that, the law says you cannot find him guilty.” The fifth trial jury acquitted Manning of all charges.  [9/05]

Shannon County, SD 

Leonard Peltier

June 26, 1975 (Oglala)

(Federal Case)  In Feb. 1973, 200 American Indian Movement (AIM) activists launched a 72-day occupation of Wounded Knee, SD (Site of an 1890 American Indian massacre) to protest living conditions at the Pine Ridge reservation. During the next three years, the FBI carried out intensive local surveillance, as well as the repeated arrests, harassment, and bad-faith legal proceedings against AIM leaders and supporters. In 1975, two FBI agents entered the reservation and with tensions being high managed to provoke a firefight between themselves and local Indians. Both FBI agents as well as Indians were killed. To avenge the death of the two agents, the government issued arrest warrants against four men, including Leonard Peltier. It dropped charges against one and tried two, but during the trial a key prosecution witness admitted that he had been threatened by the FBI and as a result had changed his testimony upon the agents' instructions, so as to support the government's position. The two defendants were acquitted.

Peltier was in Canada and to get him extradited the government submitted an affidavit from a mentally unstable woman who claimed to have been Peltier's girlfriend, and to have been present during the shootout, and to have witnessed the murders. In fact, she did not know Peltier, nor was she present at the time of the shooting. She later confessed she had given the false statement after being pressured and terrorized by FBI agents. At Peltier's trial, the government withheld thousands of documents. It presented coerced witnesses; though none placed Peltier at the murder scene before the murders occurred or claimed Peltier shot the two agents. Peltier was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences.

Peltier's case is detailed in In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, a 1983 bestseller, and in Incident at Oglala, a documentary produced by Robert Redford.  (www.leonardpeltier.net) (AJ) (Famous Trials)  [6/05]

Shelby County, TN 

Phillip Workman

Aug 5, 1981 (Memphis)

Phillip Workman robbed a Wendy's restaurant with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. On leaving, police officers gave chase and Workman tripped on a curb. He yelled, “I give up!” and tried to pull his gun from his pants to give to officers. As he tried to surrender his weapon, he was hit on the head with a flashlight. At that moment his pistol went off, aimed straight up at the sky. Suddenly he was surrounded by gunfire, and he tried to run again, but tripped and his gun went off, firing another shot into the air. Workman escaped the immediate melee, but a civilian found him hiding under a truck. He was covered with blood from his head wound, and had a shotgun wound to his buttocks.

At the scene of the shootout, a police officer, Lt. Ronald Oliver, lay dying from a bullet that passed completely through his body. Oliver would soon be dead. Workman was convicted of Oliver's murder and sentenced to death. In 1990, exculpatory ballistic evidence was discovered that showed that Oliver was not shot by a bullet from Workman's gun. Instead, Oliver must have been killed by “friendly fire.” An eyewitness at trial, Harold Davis, recanted testimony that he had seen the shooting. The police report on the crime scene never noted Davis's presence and five other people near the scene do not remember seeing Davis.

A civilian eyewitness, Steve Craig, who never testified at trial, said he saw Officer Parker fire a shotgun at Workman. Craig also stated that police told him, “There was no need to talk about this ... unless it was with someone from the department.” In the trial transcript, Officers Stoddard and Parker repeatedly testified that only two people fired guns, Workman and Oliver. Ballistics and Craig's statements imply Officers Stoddard and Parker committed perjury. The new evidence caused Workman's scheduled execution date to be postponed several times. Workman was executed by lethal injection on May 9, 2007.  (Justice: Denied)  [1/07]

Cameron County, TX 

Leonel Torres Herrera

Sept 29, 1981

Leonel Torres Herrera was sentenced to death for murdering two police officers, David Rucker and Enrique Carrisalez. The murders occurred at separate locations along a highway between Brownsville and Los Fresnos. Enrique Hernandez, Carrisalez's patrol car partner, identified Herrera. Hernandez also said Herrera was only person in the car that they stopped. Carrisalez, who did not die until 9 days after he was shot, identified Herrera from a single photo. A license plate check showed that the stopped car belonged to Herrera's live in girlfriend.

In 1984, after Herrera's brother Raul was murdered, Raul's attorney came forward and signed an affidavit stating that Raul told him he had killed Rucker and Carrisalez. A former cellmate of Raul also came forward and signed a similar affidavit. Raul's son, Raul Jr., who was nine at the time of the killings, signed a third affidavit. It averred that he had witnessed the killings. Jose Ybarra, Jr., a schoolmate of the Herrera brothers, signed a fourth affidavit. Ybarra alleged that Raul Sr. told him in 1983 that he had shot the two police officers. Herrera alleged that law enforcement officials were aware of Ybarra's statement and had withheld it in violation of Brady v. Maryland. Armed with these affidavits, Herrera petitioned for a new trial, but was denied relief in state courts. One court did dismiss Herrera's Brady claim due to lack of evidence. Herrera's appeal eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was argued in Oct. 1992.

In Jan. 1993, the Supreme Court ruled that Herrera's actual innocence was not a bar to his execution. He had to show that there were procedural errors in his trial in order to gain relief. Justice Rehnquist wrote that the “presumption of innocence disappears” once a defendant has been convicted in a fair trial. Dissenting Justice Blackmun wrote: “The execution of a person who can show that he is innocent comes perilously close to simple murder.” Herrera was executed four months after the ruling on May 12, 1993.  (Herrera v. Collins)  [1/07]

Dallas County, TX 

Randall Dale Adams

Nov 28, 1976

Randall Dale Adams was sentenced to death for the murder of police officer Robert Wood. Evidence in the case pointed to David Ray Harris. However, Harris was for some reason an unsatisfactory suspect to police. Police may not have wished to charge him because he was 16-years-old and under Texas law could not be sentenced to death. At Adams' trial, Harris named Adams as the shooter, and Harris was soon back on the streets. A prosecution psychologist, Dr. James Grigson, told Adam's jury that Adams would remain an ongoing menace if kept alive. Grigson was known as Dr. Death, after having testified in more than 100 trials that resulted in death sentences.

In 1985, a young filmmaker, Errol Morris, came to Dallas to work on a documentary about Grigson. When he met Adams, Morris thought he was an unlikely killer and decided to take a closer look. Morris soon discovered that Harris had been compiling a criminal record of some magnitude. Morris discovered other problems with several witnesses who testified at Adams' trial. Because of such evidence, Adams was granted a hearing for a retrial. At the hearing in 1989, David Harris admitted that he was the killer. An appeals court overturned Adams' conviction, holding that prosecutor Douglas D. Mulder withheld a statement a witness gave to the police that cast doubt on her credibility and allowed her to give perjured testimony. Further, the court found that after Adams' attorney discovered the statement late in Adams' trial, Mulder falsely told the court that he did not know the witness's whereabouts. Adams' conviction was overturned and the prosecution dropped charges. His case is profiled in the documentary The Thin Blue Line.  (CWC)  [1/06]

Harris County, TX 

Ricardo Aldape Guerra

July 13, 1982

Ricardo Aldape Guerra, a Mexican national, was sentenced to death for the murder of James D. Harris, a Houston police officer. Harris was killed during a routine traffic stop. The gun that killed Harris was found on Roberto Carrasco some hours later, after Carrasco was killed in a shootout with police. Guerra, a 20-year-old acquaintance of Carrasco, was riding in the car with Carrasco when Harris was killed. Police theorized that Guerra shot Harris and later traded guns with Carrasco. Guerra's fingerprints were not found on the gun, but five eyewitnesses identified him as the shooter.

Beginning in 1994, evidence emerged that police and prosecutors had systematically intimidated and manipulated the eyewitnesses into identifying Guerra as Harris's killer. During a federal appeal, these witnesses testified that they had perjured themselves because they feared police and prosecutors. Guerra's conviction was overturned in Nov. 1994. The state delayed justice by appealing the ruling, but ultimately released Guerra in Apr. 1997, as they had no intimidated witnesses with which to retry him. Upon release, Guerra returned to Mexico where he was the subject of a book, a feature film and at least one popular song and music video.  (NCR)  [2/07]

Petersburg, VA 

Silas Rogers

July 18, 1943

Silas Rogers was sentenced to death for the shooting murder of Robert B. Hatchell, a police officer. Two police officers chased a stolen car through Petersburg, VA and forced it into a ditch. The driver escaped on foot and was pursued by one officer, R. B. Hatchell. The other officer stayed behind to guard the car's two passengers. The passengers were two AWOL soldiers. A half-hour later, two shots rang out and Officer Hatchell was found dead.

Police then combed the area and picked up a black hitchhiker named Silas Rogers. They got Rogers to confess that he had stolen the car in Raliegh, NC and had shot the cop. A judge would not allow Rogers' confession to be used at trial because there was clear evidence that it was obtained through third degree methods. However, at trial the soldiers identified Hatchell as the man who picked them up in the stolen car. Rogers was convicted.

The NAACP reviewed the case and thought the evidence was weak. They found a witness who corroborated Rogers' story that he arrived in Petersburg by train. As a result Rogers' death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Then a fellow convict told Rogers of Argosy magazine's “Court of Last Resort,” an investigative agency that worked to free wrongfully convicted inmates. Rogers wrote to Argosy and got them to work on his case. Jack Kirkpatrick, an editorial writer for the Richmond News-Leader also began an investigation. Working with Argosy, Kirkpatrick assembled a mass of evidence and affidavits to show the two soldiers had perjured themselves at Rogers' trial.

The soldiers testified that they shared cigarettes with Rogers in the stolen car. However, Kirkpatrick proved that Rogers never smoked. He also proved that Rogers could not have driven the stolen car, as he had never learned to drive. The only remaining piece of evidence against Rogers was testimony that his coat was found in the stolen car. When an Argosy investigator found and questioned the witness who gave that testimony, the witness quickly changed his story and acknowledged that Rogers' coat was brown while the coat found in the stolen car was blue. Virginia Governor Battle pardoned Rogers on Dec. 23, 1952.  (Argosy) (Time)  [7/07]

Milwaukee County, WI 

Laurie Bembenek

May 28, 1981

Lawrencia Bembenek, also known as Bambi, was convicted of murdering Christine Schultz, her husband's ex-wife. Bambi's husband Fred Schultz was a police officer as was his ex-wife. Bambi had become a police officer and was stunned by the amount of graft going on in the department: officers selling pornography from their cars, accepting oral sex from hookers, frequenting drug hangouts, and harassing minorities.
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Dixon & Sangster

Sept 18, 1996

“Randall Dixon and Mark Sangster were wrongly convicted on July 9, 1998 of murdering a policeman during the robbery of a a Western Union branch in Spanish Town, Jamaica of $18 million in September 1996. Their convictions were based on their identification in a line-up by two policemen who witnessed the robbery. Sangster was sentenced to life for non-capital murder, and Dixon was sentenced to death by hanging for capital murder. After their convictions the men learned that the prosecution had failed to disclose to them that they did not appear on the film of the robbers recorded by a security camera in the Western Union branch. Eyewitnesses saw four robbers, and neither man was among the four robbers captured by the security camera. The men appealed their convictions to the Privy Council in London, which is the highest court of appeal for Jamaica, and on October 7, 2002, their convictions were set aside and their sentences were quashed. On October 8, 2003, Jamaica's Court of Appeal ordered judgments of acquittal for both men and they were released after seven years of wrongful imprisonment. In 2005 the men sued the government of Jamaica for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, breach of their constitutional rights and for exemplary and aggravated damages. In October 2007 Mark Sangster was awarded $13,450,500, and Randal Dixon was awarded $13,192,500. [$71 Jamaican = $1 U.S. in 2007]” – FJDB  (Jamaica Observer)


William Habron

Aug 1, 1876

William Habron was convicted of the murder of Constable Cock, a local lawman. Habron was a patron of the Royal Oak, a pub near Manchester that was on the constable's beat. Habron was frequently getting into fights with other patrons, which Cock had to break up. After one fight Cock threatened to arrest Habron the next time he got into a fight. Habron replied, “It'll be a sorry day for you, the day you arrest me.” The next time Cock passed the pub and heard sounds of a fight, he entered without waiting to be called and saw Habron and another patron in the midst of a fight. Cock arrested Habron. However, Habron had actually been on his best behavior. The other patron had interpreted Habron's behavior as a sign of weakness and, inspired by liquor, decided that it was a good time to pick a fight.
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Related Case: Murder of a Judge Acting as a Custody Officer

Mercer County, WV 

Payne Boyd

May 30, 1918 (Modoc)

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

Berrien County, MI 

Maurice Carter

Dec 20, 1973

Maurice Carter was convicted of the attempted murder of Thomas Schadler, an off-duty Benton Harbor police officer. Schadler was shopping with his wife at the Harbor Wig and Record Shop on East Main Street in Benton Harbor when a man suddenly and without provocation pulled a .22-caliber pistol and shot him six times. There were twelve eyewitnesses to the crime.
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