Timeline Discrepancies

24 Cases

Monroe County, AL

Walter McMillian

Nov 1, 1986

Walter McMillian, a black man, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Ronda Morrison, a white clerk at a dry cleaners store. The crime happened in Monroeville, which, renamed as Maycomb, was the setting for Harper Lee's novel To Kill A Mockingbird, a story about a falsely accused black man. The three witnesses who had testified against McMillian admitted that they had lied. In addition, it became clear that the prosecution had hidden exculpatory evidence, including the existence of a witness who had seen the victim alive after the time at which the prosecution contended her murder had occurred. The case was profiled on 60 Minutes on Nov. 22, 1992. Afterwards the State agreed to investigate its earlier handling of the case and then admitted that a grave mistake had been made. McMillian was freed on Mar. 3, 1993. A book was written about the case entitled Circumstantial Evidence by Pete Earley (1995).  (CWC)  [5/05]

 San Diego County, CA

Jane Dorotik

Feb 13, 2000 (Valley Center)

With little evidence, Jane Dorotik was convicted of murdering her husband Bob. Though physically incapable of lifting her husband, the prosecution contended she carried her husband's body long distances and lifted it into and out of a large pickup truck.

The prosecution withheld evidence from the defense that two eyewitnesses had seen Bob twelve hours after he was allegedly murdered. These witnesses placed him near or with two Hispanic looking men at a location that was close to where his body was found.  (Justice: Denied)  [9/06]

San Francisco County, CA

Robert Lee Kidd

Dec 13, 1954

Robert Lee Kidd was convicted in 1960 of the 1954 murder of Albert Clarke, 71, an antique shop owner. The murder occurred in Clarke's shop at 171 Valencia St. in San Francisco. The prosecution alleged Kidd killed the victim with the victim's own sword. Kidd's defense was prevented from informing the jury that the coroner determined that the victim could not have been killed with this sword. Subsequent investigation showed that police had photographic evidence in their files indicating the victim was beaten to death with a revolver. No evidence connected this revolver to Kidd. In addition the jury was falsely led to believe that a three-page document produced by a police witness was Kidd's rap sheet, implying Kidd had a long series of prior arrests.

Kidd was sentenced to death. At retrial in 1962, Kidd was acquitted because presented evidence showed that Clarke was alive several hours after the time Kidd allegedly murdered him. This evidence had been withheld by the prosecutor at Kidd's first trial.  (People v. Kidd) (MOJ)  [7/09]

Sutter County, CA

William Marvin Lindley

Aug 18, 1943 (Yuba City)

William Marvin Lindley was sentenced to death for the murder of Jackie Marie Hamilton, a 13-year-old girl. On the day of the crime, the victim had been swimming in the Yuba River with other girls around her own age. Lindley, a redhead, operated a boathouse on the banks of the river. After finishing her swimming, the victim went to her house, changed her clothes, spoke to her father, and went out again. She was found 20 minutes to a half-hour later in a dying condition. She was able to sob out to her father that her assailant was “that old red-headed liar in the boathouse, the old-red-headed liar.” She later died without clarifying her statement.
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 Denver County, CO

Willard Powell

Mar 28, 1908

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

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

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

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

 Pasco County, FL

Jason Derrick

June 25, 1987 (Moon Lake)

Samuel Jason Derrick was sentenced to death for the murder of Rama Sharma. Sharma, 55, owned the Moon Lake General Store and was found dead behind the store. Following the murder, police received a tip that a car was seen driving suspiciously around the crime scene vicinity in the early morning hours of June 25, 1987, prior to the finding of the victim's body. The description of the car, including a partial license plate number, seemed to match that of a car driven by David Lowry. Lowry deflected the investigation away from himself by implicating Derrick, who was then his friend. At trial, five Pasco County detectives swore under oath that Derrick confessed to the crime. There was no written, audio, or video record of this “confession” or any interrogation notes written by any of the five detectives. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office had a reputation for corruption. Just two years earlier, St. Petersburg Times reporter Lucy Morgan won a Pulitzer Prize for her series of articles documenting this corruption.
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Cherokee County, GA

Roberto Rocha

July 2, 2002

Roberto Rocha was charged with the murder of Katie Hamlin. Rocha, who is mentally disabled, confessed to being present when Hamlin was killed on July 2. However, passports and witnesses showed that Rocha had been with his missionary father on a trip to Brazil between June 10 and July 10. Rocha was released and charges against him were dropped after 15 months in police custody.  (Atlanta JC) (Primetime)  [9/05]

Harris County, GA

Russell Burton

Arrested 1985

Russell R. Burton was convicted in a rural Georgia court of raping three teen-age girls and sodomizing two of them. In Jan. 2002, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the reversal of his conviction by a federal district court on the grounds of incompetent defense counsel and unfair prosecution. The girls originally described their assailant as having a deeply pockmarked face, stocky build, brown eyes, and brownish hair. Burton is 6 feet tall and slim, with blue eyes, blond hair, and clear skin. Near the time of the assault, he did have a severe case of poison ivy, which infected his face, and this fact may have led to a “pockmarked” description. The victims identified Burton in a photo lineup and said their attacker drove a white Toyota, a car that Burton owned.

Medical exams were not performed on two of the girls because they had taken showers immediately after returning home following the alleged assault. The third victim was examined and the medical report stated she showed “no evidence of recent sexual entry.” This report was suppressed at trial. One of the victims' high school teachers stated to a private investigator that the three victims were notorious liars. She refused to testify for fear of being socially ostracized.

A defense investigator re-enacted the crime and reported that it was impossible to drive the distance to the alleged rape scene in the time period during which the victims allege they were driven and also systematically raped and sodomized. Two days before the attack, Burton had eight genital warts surgically removed. The surgeon testified that after undergoing this procedure “sex would have been the last thing on his [Burton's] mind.” Burton's conviction was overturned in in May 2002. Rather than face retrial, he agreed in Dec. 2003 to a plea deal for which he received a time served sentence.  (Case Facts) (CM)

Houston County, GA 

Ellis Wayne Felker

Nov 24, 1981

Ellis Wayne Felker was convicted of the rape and murder of 19-year-old Evelyn Joy Ludlam. The conviction was obtained through hair analysis, which is notoriously unreliable, and by claimed similarities between the murder and another crime for which Felker was convicted years before. Felker was put under police surveillance within hours of Ludlam's disappearance on Nov. 24, 1981. Ludlam's body was found in Twiggs County fourteen days later floating in Scuffle Creek. An autopsy indicated that she had been strangled and put her death within the previous five days. However, when police realized this would have ruled Felker out as a suspect because he had been under surveillance, the findings of the autopsy were changed.

An unqualified lab technician conducted the autopsy. During appeals, Felker's lawyers showed notes and photos of Ludlam's body to pathologists who unanimously agreed that she could not have been dead for longer than three days. In spite of the medical opinion, appeal courts upheld Felker's conviction. Felker was executed on Nov. 15, 1996.

The state hid boxes of evidence from Felker's attorneys until just before his execution. Some held exonerating evidence, including another person's confession. Others held materials that could have been DNA tested.  (Felker v. State)

 Cook County, IL

Miguel Castillo

May 1988

Miguel Castillo was convicted of murdering Rene Chinea, a 50-year-old Cuban immigrant. Chinea's decomposing body was found in Castillo's apartment on May 18. Castillo had been in jail until May 11. Castillo was cleared in 2001 when a re-examination of medical evidence showed that Chinea died no later than May 9. Castillo was awarded $1.2 million from the City of Chicago and was eligible for $160,000 from the State of Illinois.  (CWC)  [7/05]

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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Jefferson Parish, LA 

Kevin Williams

Oct 6, 1985 (Kenner)

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

Dennis Dechaine

July 7, 1988 (Bowdoin)

Dennis Dechaine was convicted of the abduction, sexual torture, and murder of 12-year-old Sarah Cherry. The book Human Sacrifice by James P. Moore, a former ATF agent-in-charge for Maine and New Hampshire, contends that the evidence shows that Dechaine could not have committed the crime.

Dechaine's pickup truck was found parked 450 feet from Cherry's body. Rope from the truck apparently had been used to bind the girl. Dechaine's bandana had gagged her. In addition, two documents bearing Dechaine's name had been discovered in the driveway of the house where Cherry was babysitting before she was killed.

Dechaine has summarized his case as follows: “An unidentified man/men took four items from an unattended truck and used those items to kill Sarah Cherry and shift responsibility to the owner of the truck, Dennis Dechaine.”

At trial, the medical examiner, Ronald Roy, estimated that Cherry had died 30 to 36 hours before he examined the victim's body at 2 p.m. on July 8, 1988. The longest estimate, based on the presence of rigor mortis, would have put the time of death at 2 a.m., July 7. However, according to police evidence, Dechaine emerged from the woods before 8:45 p.m. on July 6, when a motorist stopped to pick him up, after which time he has a solid alibi.

Moore said, when he first began looking at the case in 1992, “I was going to prove that all the criticisms [of law enforcement] were unfounded. It just didn't work out that way.” Some have disputed the timing of Cherry's death, citing ambiguity in the medical examiner's testimony. However, according to Moore, “Every pathologist interviewed, and every forensic pathology textbook agrees that, in this situation and circumstances, rigor mortis would last a maximum of 36 hours.”

Evidence which could have identified Cherry's real killer was destroyed by the state. This evidence included a hair found on the victim's arm, a hair found on the rope binding victim's wrists, and mystery fingerprints on the door of the house from which Cherry was abducted. The state attempted to hide DNA test results of blood found under the victim's fingernails. These results showed the blood belonged to an unknown male. Further testing has ruled out male family members, police officers, or medical examiner office personnel who could have inadvertently contaminated the evidence. Dechaine is serving a life without parole sentence.  (Boston Globe) (Trial and Error)  [7/05]

Dutchess County, NY 

Dewey Bozella

June 14, 1977

Dewey Bozella was convicted in 1983 and again in 1990 of the murder of 92-year-old Emma Crapser. The victim interrupted a burglary after returning to her 15 N. Hamilton Street apartment in Poughkeepsie. She was beaten, bound with an electrical cord, and suffocated. At Bozella's trials, the prosecution relied almost entirely on the testimony of two career criminals, Wayne Moseley and Lamar Smith, both of whom repeatedly changed their stories and both of whom got favorable treatment in their own cases in exchange for their testimony.

According to the witnesses' testimony, the two left a park with Bozella about 8 p.m. and arrived outside Crapser's apartment when it was dark. Then according to Smith, both Mosley and Bozella were on the victim's front porch for five to ten minutes before they went inside. Not more than five minutes later, a car pulled up and the victim got out. Such testimony placed Crapser's arrival and death around 9 p.m. However, other evidence indicated with relative certainty that Crapser was dropped off and killed very close to 11 p.m.

There was no physical evidence linking Bozella to the crime. In 1983 the FBI found that a fingerprint lifted from the inside of Crapser's bathroom window matched a man named Donald Wise. Wise was convicted of murdering another elderly woman in the same neighborhood as Crapser. This murder occurred just months after that of Crapser and the victim's sister who was present at the crime said the assailant tried to stuff something down her throat. Crapser was suffocated with several pieces of cloth stuffed down her throat.

In 2007, the law firm of WilmerHale agreed to handle Bozella's case on a pro bono basis. Among the people the lawyers interviewed was Arthur Regula, a retired Poughkeepsie police lieutenant, who surprised them by pulling out Bozella's case file. Regula said it was the only case file he kept after retirement, figuring that the conviction was so problematic lawyers might want it someday. The file contained statements from Crapser's neighbors that contradicted the two key witnesses against Bozella. Using Freedom of Information Act filings, the lawyers obtained a tape recording of someone who implicated Wise in the murder. None of this evidence had been turned over to Bozella's trial attorneys. In 2009, a judge overturned Bozella's conviction, the prosecution dropped charges, and Bozella was released after 26 years of imprisonment.  (NY Daily News) (NY Times) (Appeals)  [4/10]

Bertie County, NC 

Alan Gell

Apr 1995 (Aulander)

James Alan Gell was convicted in 1998 of the robbery and murder of Allen Ray Jenkins, a 56-year-old retired truck driver. Gell was sentenced to death. The prosecution argued that the murder occurred around April 3 when other evidence indicated that it occurred closer to April 14, when Gell was out of state. Two girls, Crystal Morris, 15, and Shanna Hall, 16, were the state's only witnesses against Gell. The prosecution concealed witness statements of 17 people who saw the victim alive days after the only day Gell could have committed the murder. In addition, the prosecution withheld an audiotape of one of its witnesses, saying she had to “make up a story.” On retrial in 2004, a jury acquitted Gell of all charges.  (CNO) (RCNH) (RCNH #2)  [9/05]

Hamilton County, OH 

James Love

Dec 1988 - Mar 1989

In Feb. 1996, 18-year-old Sarah Jane Adams filed a police report, accusing James F. Love of orally raping her six, seven, eight years earlier. After being charged with five rapes, Love filed a notice of alibi, stating that he was out of the United States during a large portion of the time period mentioned in his indictment. His lawyers requested more specific dates and times of the alleged rapes, but the prosecutor repeatedly denied that any dates were available.

At Love's trial in June 1996, Adams testified that the first rape occurred “the week after Christmas 1988.” She testified next three rapes occurred “at least once a month each month after the first time.” Which would have been January, February, and March 1989. Regarding the fifth rape she testified, “I can't remember when the last time was.” Love told his attorneys he was in Mexico during the time period Adams said she was raped. He obtained his mother's telephone records, which showed his mother had received collect calls from Mexico in late 1988 and early 1989. The prosecutor argued that there was no proof the collect calls to Love's mother had been made by Love. The jury convicted Love on four of the five rape charges. Love was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences. Love will be eligible for parole in 2036 when he is 85-years-old.

Since Love's conviction, he has assembled abundant evidence proving that he was in Mexico, before, during, and after the period in which the alleged rapes occurred. In Nov. 2006, Love's conviction was overturned. Love has written numerous articles on wrongfully convicted persons. Many of those articles are posted on the Innocent Inmates of Ohio website.  (Justice: Denied)  [9/07]

Adams County, PA

Barry Laughman

Aug 13, 1987 (Oxford Twp)

Barry Laughman, who was 24 with an IQ of 70, confessed to the rape and murder of 85-year-old Edna Laughman, a distant relative. He was convicted largely on the testimony of State Trooper John J. Holtz who was later discredited for accepting money from a crime writer in another murder case, and Janice Roadcap, a state police chemist accused of doctoring records in a third murder case. Roadcap suggested that antibiotics Edna was taking at the time of her death changed the blood type of the semen evidence from Barry's type B, to type A.

The prosecution argued that Barry had killed Edna on the night of Aug. 12, but Elwood Bollinger and his girlfriend, Patricia Harrison, reported seeing Edna on the morning of the 13th, while on their way a medical appointment. Barry's attorney presented evidence that Harrison had an appointment on the 13th. The prosecution also presented evidence that an allegedly three-finger grip mark on Edna was made by Barry because Barry had an injured pinky finger. Barry served 16 years of a life sentence before DNA tests exonerated him.  (IP) (Patriot-News)  [9/05]

Allegheny County, PA

John Dolenc

July 8, 1975 (Mt. Lebanon)

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

William Pierce

Dec 1970

William “Junior” Pierce was convicted of raping and murdering Margaret “Peg” Cuttino, 13, the daughter of a state senator. Cuttino was reported missing on Dec. 18 and her body was found on Dec. 30. Pierce, who had an IQ that “barely broke 70” and who was a known serial confessor, confessed to this murder apparently after being tortured by Sheriff “Red” Carter. A document supports Pierce's contention that his confession was coerced by physical abuse consisting of burns, bruises, and cuts to his “privates.”

In order to convict Pierce the prosecution theorized that Cuttino was murdered on Dec. 18, but when her body was found, the sperm evidence was not much degraded and this evidence implied that she was not killed before Dec. 25. Public disagreement with the verdict arose starting with an uncalled witness who allegedly saw Cuttino on the afternoon of Dec. 19. The county coroner joined the opposition. Because of new evidence that arose following the conviction, it is highly likely that Pierce would be acquitted if he could get a retrial, but getting a retrial because of new evidence is very difficult under South Carolina law. New technology raised the possibility of DNA testing, but the authorities contend Hurricane Hugo destroyed the biological evidence in 1989.

Pierce is not a glamorous defendant, having been convicted, after confessing, of three murders in Georgia, perhaps because of techniques similar to those used by Sheriff Carter. Public opposition to the verdict seems surprising since an acquittal would do little to free Pierce, but physical evidence that Cuttino was killed much later than Dec. 18 seems compelling and such a finding would exonerate Pierce.  (CrimeLibrary)  [9/05]

Cameron County, TX 

Paul Colella

Sept 12, 1991

Paul Richard Colella was accused of murdering David Taylor and Michael Lavexphere. It was alleged that he murdered them because he wrongly believed they had raped his wife. At trial, the prosecution argued that deaths occurred at 2 a.m., because Colella was known to be 240 miles away at 6 a.m. However, death certificates that were not turned over at the time of trial, place the time of death for both men at 6 a.m. There were other case discrepancies. Colella was sentenced to death, but later escaped death row by agreeing to plead to two non-capital counts of murder and accept a 20-year sentence. Colella still maintains his innocence.  (Houston Chronicle)  [5/05]

Montgomery County, TX 

Larry Swearingen

Dec 1998 (Conroe)

Larry Swearingen sentenced to death for the strangulation murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter. Trotter disappeared on Dec. 8, 1998. Swearingen was one of the last known persons to see her alive. He was arrested three days later on outstanding traffic warrants and put in jail. An extensive search for Trotter was organized, but her body wasn’t discovered until Jan. 2, 1999. She was found in the Sam Houston National Forest by a couple of hunters – in an area that had been already searched three times. Swearingen was still in jail at this time.

Following the scheduling of Swearingen's first execution date for Jan 2007, he began getting medical science on his side. Unanimous medical opinion, based of various signs of body decay, is that Trotter could not have been murdered until some time after she disappeared and after Swearingen was put in jail. One pathologist puts the earliest possible date of Trotter's murder as Dec. 18, another puts it at Dec. 23. Dr. Glenn Larkin, a retired pathologist, said “No rational and intellectually honest person can look at the evidence and conclude Larry Swearingen is guilty of this horrible crime.”  (IIPPI) (Texas Monthly)

Tarrant County, TX 

Richard Jones

Feb 19, 1986 (Fort Worth)

Richard Wayne Jones was convicted of the abduction and murder of Tammy Livingston. Around 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 19, 1986 witnesses Ruthie Amato and her two daughters watched as Livingston was abducted from a Michael's store parking lot in Hurst, Texas. Between 9:20 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. the same night, a witness named Robert Speights heard screams coming from a field at 4600 Randol Mill Road in Fort Worth. At 11:20 p.m. a fire was reported in the field. When police responded they found Livingston's body. She had been stabbed 19 times.
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Pierce County, WA 

Timothy Thompson

Aug 6, 1974

Timothy Thompson was convicted of the murder of Jan Cygan.  The prosecution theory lacked coherence. Prosecution witnesses disagreed amongst themselves and the prosecution relied on impossible timeline. The prosecution maintained victim was beaten before death, but the victim's body showed no bruises.  (Justice: Denied)  [9/05]

 Australia (SA)

Frits Van Beelen

July 15, 1971

Frits Van Beelen was convicted of the murder of 15-year-old Deborah Leach. Leach was last seen near her home in Adelaide at 4 p.m. on July 15, 1971. She was crossing a paddock and heading towards the beach. The beach was covered with seagrass that was up to 2 meters (6-7 feet) high. Her partially clothed body was found at 4:20 a.m. the next morning in the seagrass. There were no signs of bruising to her body and a medical examiner ruled that she had been drowned.
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