Other Countries
Victims of the State

23 Cases


Rivera & Calderón

Jan 24, 2002 (Ensenada)

Francisco Rivera Agredano and his brother-in-law, Alfonso Calderón León were convicted of drug trafficking after 37 pounds of marijuana was found in the door of a Nissan Pathfinder SUV that Rivera was driving. Calderón was a passenger. The two were stopped at a checkpoint near Ensenada, which is more than 70 miles from the U.S. Border. Rivera, a Tijuana printer, had bought the car four months before for $2,600 at a U.S. government auction in San Ysidro, CA. It had previously been seized when 59 pounds of marijuana was found inside its gasoline tank.

Rivera had crossed the U.S.-Mexican border five times without incident after he bought the car. Under Mexican law the two men were presumed guilty. They were convicted after a Mexican judge rejected their claim that U.S. customs did not thoroughly search the car. The two were sentenced to five years in prison. The U.S., not only ignored their pleas for help, but fought to keep exonerating evidence from their attorneys. After a year in prison, the convictions of the two were vacated after Rivera's lawyer was able to convince a Mexicali appeals court that the moldy marijuana found inside the Pathfinder was too old to be of resale value.

Rivera was later awarded $551,000 in a suit against the U.S. government, and may get an additional sum for costs incurred by his U.S. lawyers. Calderón could not sue because because of a U.S. Supreme Court precedent barring lawsuits against the federal government for incidents arising outside the U.S. U.S. District Judge Emily Hewitt ruled that she did not know how customs missed the contraband, but she rejected the claim advanced by Rivera's lawyers that the Customs Service does not thoroughly search vehicles because doing so could cause damage them and decrease their resale value. In legal documents, U.S. attorneys said the government did nothing wrong and that the onus is on the buyers to make sure the cars are drug free. According to Teresa Trucchi, attorney for Rivera and Calderón, “I don't think 'as is' to the normal consumer means, 'If I buy it and it's stuffed full of drugs that I'm unaware of and I get arrested, that's my problem.'”  (SD Union-Tribune) (CBS)  [10/08]


Eric Volz

Nov 21, 2006

Eric Volz, an American citizen, was convicted of the rape and murder of his Nicaraguan ex-girlfriend, Doris Jiménez. Jiménez had been found tied and strangled in the clothing store she owned in San Juan del Sur. Evidence established that Jiménez had been murdered between 11:45 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2006.
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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)


Valero & Sánchez

Aug 21, 1910

On Aug. 21, 1910, in the small town of Osa de la Vega, in the province of Cuenca, José María Grimaldos, known as “Shorty,” was seen for the last time. He was on a road to the nearby village of Tresjuncos. His family feared foul play and reported his disappearance to the Civil Guard (police). During the investigation the family and others expressed their suspicions that two shepherds, Gregorio Valero and León Sánchez had killed him for his money. This investigation was closed in Sept. 1911 without any indictments.

In 1913 a new judge by the name of Isasa arrived. Influenced by the local boss and right-wing politician, the judge reopened the case. The two suspects were arrested by the Civil Guard and, under torture, they confessed they killed Grimaldos, cut his body up, and fed it to pigs. The “fiscal” (DA) asked for the death penalty. The case took its time in the court system, but on May 25, 1918 a popular jury convicted the defendants of murder. They both were sentenced to 18 years in prison. Both were released on account of a general pardon on Feb. 20, 1924 after serving eleven years of imprisonment.

Two years later, the priest of Tresjuncos received a letter from the pastor of Mira, a town about 100 miles distant, requesting the birth certificate of Grimaldos so that the same could marry. The priest had been one of the strongest supporters of the guilt of Valero and Sánchez and decided not to respond. Time passes and Grimaldos, impatient at the lack of a response, traveled to Tresjuncos and marched straight into the village. Grimaldos' presence in the village caused a sensation. Some thought they were seeing a ghost and the local judge had him arrested. However, it became apparent that Grimaldos was who he appeared to be.

With much legal difficulty, the case against Valero and Sanchez was reopened and, after much delay, their convictions were overturned. In 1979, a movie entitled El crimen de Cuenca (The Crime of Cuenca) was made based on the case. The movie was initially banned in Spain because the torture scenes in it are depicted in great detail and crudity. However, in 1981, the movie was allowed to be shown in Spain and became a box office success.  (ECDC) (PE) (EC) (Wiki) (PM)  [11/07]


Jean Calas

Oct 1761

“Jean Calas was wrongly convicted on March 9, 1762 of murdering his son [Marc-Antoine] by hanging him. 63-year-old Calas was executed later the same day he was convicted by being strangled and burned. Calas had been horrifically tortured in an effort to extract a confession, but he did not confess. Voltaire took up the cause of finding evidence to prove Calas was innocent. On June 4, 1764, France's Great Council annulled Calas' judgment of guilt. On March 9, 1765, Calas was acquitted after a retrial, and his son's death was officially ruled a suicide. After the decision was announced, Voltaire wrote, "This is an event that seems to allow one to hope for universal tolerance." At the time Voltaire was 71-years-old. After making an application to the King, Madame Calas was awarded 12,000 livres, his two daughters were each awarded 6,000 livres, 3,000 livres was awarded to each of his sons and the Calas’ housekeeper, and 6,000 livers was awarded to the family to cover legal expenses. One thousand livres was equal to 10.8 ounces of gold, so these were very significant sums in 1765 given the generally low standard of living in France.” – FJDB


Omar Raddad

June 23, 1991

Omar Raddad was convicted of the murder of Ghislaine Marchal. Marchal, 65, was a wealthy widow who lived alone in the affluent village of Mougins, near Cannes on the French Riviera. One morning when Marchal was relaxing by her pool, her neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Koster, called over the fence and invited her to lunch at 1 p.m. Marchal readily accepted. She later telephoned a friend at 11:48 a.m. At 1:30 p.m., when Marchal had not shown up at the Kosters for lunch, Mrs. Koster telephoned Marchal, but there was no answer.
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Cees Borsboom

June 2000 (Schiedam)

Cees Borsboom was convicted of raping and murdering Nienke Kleiss, a 10-year-old girl. He was also convicted of the attempted murder of Kleiss's 11-year-old male friend named Maikel. After being severely beaten, Maikel survived by pretending to be dead. Borsboom came across the victims and reported the crime to police on his cellphone. After being arrested for these crimes, Borsboom confessed his responsibility for them to police officers, to a prosecutor, and to the investigative judge. After a while, Borsboom withdrew his confession, claiming it was coerced by the police.

Borsboom's confession was given in vague terms, without providing specific information and without his defense lawyer being present. Peter R. de Vries, a Dutch TV journalist, thought the case was fishy and did some investigation. He found that Borsboom did not fit the description given by Maikel, nor did Maikel recognize Borsboom. De Vries also found that Borsboom did not have time to commit the crime, especially since there was a second witness on the scene right when he called 112 (the Dutch equivalent to 911).

In 2004, another man, Wik Haalmeijer, who got caught for two other child molestation crimes, confessed to the crimes for which Borsboom was convicted. Further investigation revealed that the DA and the National Forensic Institute had known all along that Borsboom did not commit the crime. They had performed DNA tests which excluded Borsboom as the perpetrator, but had withheld the test results from Borsboom' defense. This DNA evidence was matched to Haalmeijer following his confession. Borsboom was exonerated and released in 2005. He was also awarded $706,000 for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment.  (JD34) (VDG) (Utrecht Law Review)  [10/08]


Richard Simmons

June 1985 (Lübbecke)

“Richard Simmons was wrongly convicted as a British soldier stationed in Germany of the 1985 rape and murder of [Sabine Rosenbohm, an 18-year-old German.] After 8 years of imprisonment a German judge ordered his release when it was proven that his DNA didn't match that of the murderer/rapist. Simmons had been convicted because his blood, like half the men in Germany, was the same type as the murderer, and the case against him was otherwise circumstantial.” – FJDB


Franz Bratuscha

Apr 16, 1900 (Majsperk)

Franz Bratuscha was convicted of the murder of his 12-year-old daughter, Johanna. On April 16, 1900, she disappeared from her home in Majsperk, Slovenia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Bratuscha reported her disappearance to the police. About 9 weeks later he read in a newspaper that the body of a dead girl was found in Spielfeld, Austria, a town 26 miles to the north. Bratuscha went to Spielfeld and when police showed him the dead girl's clothes, he identified them as belonging to his daughter. He told police he had bought the fabric out of which the clothes were made and offered to bring the leftover portion of the fabric. Police were satisfied that the dead girl was his daughter and they gave him the clothes.
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Gawenda & Gallus

1882 (Radgoszcz)

Johann Gawenda was convicted of the murder of his 16-year-old stepdaughter, Katharina Sroka, also known as Katie. Katie's mother died in 1867, leaving her two-year-old daughter an estate consisting of three acres of fields and a cottage. Katie's father, Ignatz Sroka, managed the estate following the death of his wife. He subsequently married Marie Gallus. This marriage did not last long, as Ignatz was convicted of murder and died in prison in 1875. His widow Marie then married Johann Gawenda, who took over the administration of the estate for the still underage Katie and at the same time pledged to provide for her maintenance and upbringing. Gawenda neglected these obligations in a most unscrupulous manner, as he monopolized the land and treated its owner so badly that she had to work as a maid and also to depend on charity.
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Libyan HIV Six


“A Palestinian doctor and five Bulgarian nurses, who were doing aid work in Libya [were] accused of deliberately infecting 438 children with AIDS HIV-tainted blood at the El-Fatih Children's Hospital in Benghazi, Libya's second city. They were arrested in February 1999, and protested their innocence. Thirteen other Bulgarian medical workers arrested at the same time were eventually released. The six co-defendants confessed to infecting the children, but they all retracted [their confessions], claiming they had been physically tortured into making them. They were charged with murder with a lethal substance among other lesser charges. Their trial began on February 7, 2000 in the People's Court, and two years later, in February 2002, the court declared it did not have jurisdiction to try them on the murder charge, and their case was transferred to the criminal court system. Their second trial began on July 8, 2003. They were convicted of the murder charges and on May 6, 2004 were sentenced to death by firing squad.”

“In the face of widespread international condemnation of the fairness of the trial, in December 2005 their appeal was successful and a retrial was ordered. Their third trial began in May 2006. The six co-defendants were again convicted of the same charges in December 2006, and again sentenced to death. Their convictions and sentences were upheld by Libya's Supreme Court on July 11, 2007. Six days later Libya's High Judicial Council commuted the sentences to life in prison, reportedly after European Union countries agreed to compensate Libya approximately $1 million for each of the 438 children. Libya agreed to transfer the six to Bulgaria to serve their sentences, including the Palestinian doctor who was granted Bulgarian citizenship a month earlier on June 19, 2007. After arriving in the capital of Sophia on July 24, 2007, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov granted the six full pardons on the basis of their innocence of the crimes. Six weeks later, on August 10, 2007, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libya's leader Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, admitted that the confessions by the six were extracted through torture with electric shocks and threats against the safety of their families.” – FJDB


Nigerian Robbery Trio

Sept 12, 1981

“Danladi Abdullahi, Sumaila Sokoto and Umoru Usufu were wrongly convicted in 1981 of conspiring to rob, and robbing with an offensive weapon, a woman of N200.00 on September 12, 1981. The three men were sentenced to 21 years imprisonment for the conspiracy and to death by hanging for the robbery. After they had completed the prison sentences, the three were awaiting the death sentence when on April 23, 2003, a Lagos lawyer, Mr. Sylvia Ogwemoh brought an appeal on behalf of Usufu to the Court of Appeal challenging the verdict on six grounds of appeal together with three issues for determination. The Ct of Appeals ruled that contradictions in the victim's extra-judicial statement to the police and her oral evidence at the defendant's trial had rendered her oral evidence unreliable. The Court also ruled as a matter of law (based on Nigerian precedents) that the five witness statements that the prosecution had concealed from the defense were exculpatory. In conclusion, in December 2006 the Court quashed Usuf's conviction and sentence and ordered that a judgment of acquittal be entered. Since his two co-defendants were convicted on the same evidence, the same order was entered for them.” – FJDB


Edmary & Masembe


Mpagi Edward Edmary and his cousin Fred Masembe were sentenced to death for the alleged 1981 murder of George William Wandyaka, a neighbor in Masaka, Uganda. Mpagi thought he saw Wandyaka standing at the back of the court during his trial. A few years later, further sightings were made of Wandyaka in Jinja, Uganda. Masembe died in 1985. In 1989, authorities in Masaka confirmed that Wandyaka was alive, and informed the attorney general, though Mpagi remained on death row for a further 11 years. It transpired that Wandyaka's parents had a grudge against Mpagi's parents, and had staged the murder to hurt them. A doctor had received a bribe to testify that he had carried out a post-mortem on the alleged victim's body. Mpagi was pardoned in 2000. Wandyaka died of natural causes in 2002 before Mpagi had the chance to meet him.  (Guardian) (AI) (Video)  [9/09]


John Demjanjuk

1942 - 1943

“John Demjanjuk was wrongly convicted in 1988 of being Ivan the Terrible, a sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp during WWII. Demjanjuk's conviction was based on the testimony of multiple Treblinka survivors. He was sentenced to death. While Demjanjuk was appealing, his lawyers were provided evidence in Soviet archives that he was never at Treblinka, and that Ivan the Terrible was a man named Ivan Marchenko, older and darker-haired than Demjanjuk, and scarred on one cheek. Based on the new evidence that Demjanjuk was wrongly identified, in 1993 the Israeli Supreme Court reversed Demjanjuk's conviction, vacated his death sentence, and ordered his release. Demjanjuk had been extradited from the U.S. in 1986 and was released after being wrongly imprisoned for 7 years.” – FJDB


Arnoldo Lazarovsky


“Arnoldo Lazarovsky was wrongly convicted of molesting an 11-year-old boy while he worked at a swimming pool. The boy made the complaint 7 years later, when he was 18. Lazarovsky completed his four-year sentence in 2001, but the Israeli Supreme Court vacated his conviction in December 2005 and ordered a new trial, on the basis that the boy's testimony was untrustworthy because it was probable the boy lied in a ploy to avoid serving in a combat military unit.” – FJDB


Gregory Bashirov

2002 (Rishon LeZion)

“Gregory Bashirov was wrongly convicted in October 2003 of [the 2002 murder of Igor Dvozhinov, 25, in Rishon LeZion,] Israel. Three witnesses who knew Bashirov gave conflicting statements to police that they saw him stab the man, but they also said they saw another man, Fuad Mordov commit the murder. After Bashirov was arrested, Mordov left Israel. Bashirov was prosecuted without Mordov ever being questioned. With Bashirov the only available suspect, he was prosecuted, convicted of the murder, and sentenced to life in prison. He appealed, and in a decision announced June 3, 2006, Israel's Supreme Court overturned Bashirov's conviction, citing their was reasonable doubt of his guilt. The Court stated that the physical evidence pointed to Mordov, and that the witnesses identification of Bashirov was unreliable – ‘A lot of pressure was exerted on the witnesses ... pressure on this type of testimony was liable to have led to an undesireable result, even to the point of incriminating someone who did no wrong.’ Bashirov was released after three years of wrongful imprisonment.” – FJDB


Malik Taj Mohammad


Malik Taj Mohammad was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Malkani Bibi. Prosecutors claimed that he killed her over an acrimonious property dispute. Mohammad claimed that he could not have murdered Bibi, as she was still alive. However, he did not present any proof and the trial court relied on testimony of Bibi's relatives who said they had buried Bibi. In 2006, Mohammad's supporters discovered that Bibi was alive and imprisoned in the eastern Pakistan city of Gujarat. She had been imprisoned there on a theft conviction in 2004.

Mohammed petitioned Pakistan's Supreme Court for a new trial based on the new evidence. The Court then summoned Bibi to appear before it. Satisfied that Mohammed had been wrongly convicted, the Court ordered his immediate release. It also ordered a lower court to investigate how Mohammed had been prosecuted and convicted of a crime that never happened.  (JD)  [2/07]


Raj Brothers


Sathis Raj, or his identical twin brother, Sabarish Raj, age 27, parked his car outside a house in suburban Kuala Lumpur and was arrested. Police found bags of drugs in the trunk of the car and also in the house. The bags contained 166 kilos of cannabis and 1.7 kilos of raw opium. His twin arrived later at the scene and was also arrested. Since the second twin, unlike the first, did not have house keys on him, he could not be charged with possession of the drugs. Drug trafficking in Malaysia carries an automatic death sentence. Police however lost track of which twin they had arrested first. Each twin maintained he was arrested after the other.

According to High Court judge Zaharah Ibrahim, “This is a very unique case as they are identical twins. Even the DNA evidence could not prove anything as the DNA could be either Sathis' or Sabarish's. I can't be calling the wrong twin to enter his defence. I can't be sending the wrong person to the gallows.” The judge acquitted the pair citing reasonable doubt as to which twin had been arrested first.  (AFP)  [9/11]


Teng Xingshan

Apr 1987

Teng Xingshan was convicted of the murder of Shi Xiaorong. A chopped up body identified as Shi's was found in Mayang County, Hunan Province in April 1987. Police settled on Teng as the guilty party because he was a butcher and the dismemberment was “very professionally” done. Teng soon confessed to the murder, allegedly after police beat it out of him. However, he protested his innocence all the way to the execution ground. Authorities alleged that Teng had sex with Shi and killed her because he suspected she stole his money. Teng was executed by gunshot in Jan. 1989.

Teng's family had heard reports that Shi was alive in neighboring Guizhou province as early as 1993, but it took years to verify the reports and Teng's family lacked the funds and the courage to sue the government. The case first received publicity in May 2005, when the family formally filed a lawsuit with the Hunan Higher People's Court. News reports of another Chinese murder victim turning up alive in March 2005 may have prompted the decision. Shi denied ever meeting Teng and said she had been sold into marriage to a man in eastern Shandong Province a month before the chopped up body was found. Shi returned to her hometown in Guizhou Province in 1993. Teng was posthumously exonerated in Jan. 2006.  (UPI)  [4/08]


She Xianglin

Convicted 1994

After having an argument with him, She Xianglin's wife, Zhang Zaiyu, went missing. Several weeks later police found the body of an unidentified woman in a local pond. Police interrogated Xianglin for 10 days, during which he was also tortured. Xianglin confessed to murdering his wife and was sentenced to death. His sentence was later reduced to 15 years imprisonment, after a higher court in the province (Hubei) overturned the verdict due to lack of evidence. Several of Xianglin's family members were also jailed for advocating his innocence or claiming that they saw Zhang alive after the authorities alleged she was dead. In March 2005, Zhang turned up alive and had merely run away from her marriage. She had remarried in a remote village in eastern Shandong province, unaware of the fate of her former husband. Xianglin was released. One of the officers who allegedly took part in Xianglin's torture hanged himself when authorities began an investigation into the incident. Xianglin and several family members were awarded 450,000 Yuan ($55,500) for wrongs committed against them.  (FJDB)  [12/06]


Zhao Zuohai

June 1997

Zhao Zuohai was convicted of murdering his neighbor Zhao Zhenshang. In June 1997, the two Zhaos, both about 45, had a hatchet fight in their hometown of Zhaolou village in Zhecheng County, Shangqiu City Prefecture, Henan Province, China. Four months later Zhenshang's nephew reported to police that his uncle was missing. In May 1999, after a headless body was found in a village well, Zuohai was arrested for the murder of Zhenshang and detained without trial for three years.
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Tatsuhiro & Keiko

July 22, 1995 (Osaka)

Shimada Tatsuhiro and his common law wife, Aoki Keiko, were both sentenced to life imprisonment for the arson murder of Keiko's daughter. On the day of the alleged crime, Tatsuhiro filled the gas tank of his van before returning to his home in the Higashi-Sumiyoshi ward of Osaka. Ten minutes later he smelled smoke and noticed a small fire in the garage under his van. Tatsuhiro searched for a fire extinguisher, but the fire quickly grew and spread. Keiko's daughter died in the fire after being overcome by smoke in a first floor bathroom. Keiko had 15 million yen life insurance policies on both her children. Life insurance on children was not uncommon, but 5 million yen and 10 million yen policies were more typical. The couple had no financial difficulties at the time of the blaze.
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Govinda Mainali

Mar 9, 1997

Govinda Mainali, a Nepalese migrant worker, was convicted of the rape and murder of a Tokyo woman. The victim, though a prostitute by night, was a respected economist for the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Although Mainali initially denied knowing the victim, he later admitted to investigators that he twice paid her to have sex with him. Mainali said he had not seen the victim for days prior to her murder. There were no witnesses to dispute his statement. A condom found at the scene of the crime contained Mainali's semen. After reviewing an expert's analysis of the semen, the trial judge ruled that the semen found was too old to have been produced on the day of the murder. The judge then stated there was no evidence of Mainali's guilt and acquitted him.

Following Mainali's acquittal, he was held in detention for over eight months while prosecutors sought a court more receptive to their case. In Dec. 2000, the Tokyo High Court reversed Mainali's acquittal and sentenced him to life in prison. The presiding judge, Toshio Takaki, was the same judge who had granted the prosecution's request to keep Mainali imprisoned pending appeal. After a few brief hearings that introduced no new evidence, he wrote that the record from the Mainali's first trial left no doubt of his guilt.  (Japan Times) (Legal Affairs)  [8/09]