Victims of the State

 Dade County, FL

Luis Carlos Arango

Mar 28, 1980

Luis Carlos Arango was sentenced to death for the murder of Jario Posada. When police arrived at the murder scene in Arango's apartment, Arango told them that three armed men had robbed them and shot Posada. He said two of the bandits had fled out the kitchen door while the third had jumped off the bedroom balcony. Other than Arango, there were no eyewitnesses. Two guns were found in the apartment, one of which was used to shoot Posada. Neither of them had Arango's fingerprints on them. At trial, Arango took the stand and told his story, but the prosecutor argued to the jury that while his story created the possibility of a doubt, it did not create reasonable doubt, as it was totally uncorroborated by any physical evidence.

However, there was corroborating physical evidence, but it was withheld from the defense. When police conducted a search the day after the murder, they found a cocked pistol and shell casings under the bedroom balcony. The pistol had been purchased two days earlier and was not registered to Arango. Because of this withheld evidence the Florida Supreme Court vacated his conviction and Arango was released in 1986.  (Brief) (82) (5/83) (9/83) (84) (85) (86)  [7/07]

 Los Angeles County, CA

Arcadia Innocents

Apr 5, 1922

On April 5, 1922, three men robbed the First National Bank of Arcadia of $2,800 in cash plus $5,420 in bonds and travelers' checks. The men exited the bank and piled into a car driven by a fourth man, their getaway driver. Police soon located the robbers' car. It had been stolen and the robbers had abandoned it to get into another car.

Within 45 minutes of the robbery, police stopped a car occupied by Broulio Galindo, Jose Hernandez, Salvador Mendival, and Faustino Rivera. Although police found no loot in the car, they did find five guns and two canvas sacks. The bank employees had stated that the robbers spoke perfect English, but none of the men in the car could speak English. The men, all Mexicans, would tell police that they were orange pickers and that the guns were for rabbit shooting.

The bank employees who witnessed the robbery identified Galindo, Hernandez, and Rivera as the robbers. Mendival was thought to be the getaway driver, and was partially identified by a telephone company employee who was working near the bank at the time of the robbery. Police found that Galindo and Hernandez had been previously convicted of felonies. Rivera died in jail prior to trial. At trial the defendants had to testify through an interpreter. The prosecution could not explain how they spoke perfect English during the robbery, nor did it attempt to explain what happened to the loot. Galindo, Hernandez, and Mendival were convicted of robbing the bank. However, they were all pardoned in 1924 after the actual perpetrators were discovered.  (CTI)  [6/08]

Dane County, WI 

Ralph Armstrong

June 24, 1980 (Madison)

Ralph Armstrong was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of UW-Madison student Charise Kamps. The crime occurred in Kamps' apartment at 134 W. Gorham Street in downtown Madison. In 2001, DNA tests excluded Armstrong as the source of the hair and semen evidence presented at trial. The tests also excluded Kamps' boyfriend as the source of the evidence. It should be noted that the hair and semen evidence was not critical and that other evidence of guilt was presented. However, by itself the other evidence would appear too weak to sustain a conviction. In addition, the presence of an unknown semen donor suggests an alternative assailant. In 2005, an appeals court overturned Armstrong's conviction. It seems likely that the state will attempt to retry Armstrong.  (WSJ) (IDP)  [3/08]

 Pueblo County, CO

Joe Arridy

Aug 15, 1936 (Pueblo)

On Aug. 15, 1936, Dorothy Drain, 15, and her sister Barbara, 12, were hit in the head with the blunt edge of a hatchet in their Pueblo home at 1536 Stone Ave. Their parents, Riley and Peggy Drain, returned after a night out to find Dorothy dying and Barbara in a coma. Dorothy had also been raped. The hatchet was found in the home of Frank Aguilar and he was arrested on Aug 20. Riley Drain had fired Aguilar from his job at a WPA project. Pueblo Police Chief J. Arthur Grady believed all evidence clearly revealed Aguilar was the murderer.
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Rogelio Arroyo - See Milwaukee Ave. Innocents

Colbert County, AL

Thomas Arthur

Feb 1, 1981 (Muscle Shoals)

Thomas Douglas Arthur was sentenced to death for the murder of Troy Wicker, Jr., the husband of his girlfriend, Judy Wicker. Judy and her sister, Theresa Rowland, were found at the scene of the crime. Judy said a black man raped her and then fatally shot her husband. Both sisters had blood on their clothes, but neither was tested to see if they fired the gun that killed the victim. The gun used in the murder was never found.

Judy was charged with the murder because she had $90,000 of life insurance on her husband. She testified at Arthur's first and second trials that he had nothing to do with the murder. However, after she served 10 years of imprisonment, she changed her testimony at Arthur's third trial in exchange for being released from prison. She said she was assisted in the crime by Arthur, Rowland, and Rowland's boyfriend, Thereon McKinney. She named Arthur as the person who pulled the trigger. Neither Rowland nor McKinney was ever charged in the murder. Rowland had previously hired the victim to burn down her trailer, so that she could collect insurance on it. When Rowland failed to pay the victim his promised fee, he had threatened to have her arrested for arson. Rowland also had her own key to the Wicker residence, where the murder occurred. The prosecutor at Arthur's third trial had served as Wicker's defense attorney during her previously unsuccessful parole hearing.

No physical evidence connects Arthur to the scene of the crime. He never had an investigator to check out basics regarding his alibi, like phone records and receipts. Initially, two eyewitnesses signed affidavits placing Arthur in Decatur, AL, 75 miles away, at the time of the crime. However, after being visited by the state of Alabama, these witnesses changed their testimony. Later, one witness changed back to his original testimony, while the other witness has made statements that he is frightened of losing his business and “other” things.

Alabama will not allow Arthur to perform DNA testing on the semen evidence collected from Judy or on the blood and hair evidence found at the crime scene. Arthur was scheduled to be executed on July 31, 2008, but on July 30 the execution was stayed after another man, Bobby Ray Gilbert, confessed to the crime.  (The Atlantic)  [8/07]


Asbury & McKie

Jan 8, 1997 (Kilmarnock)

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

Herman Atkins

Apr 8, 1986 (Lake Elsinore)

Herman Atkins was convicted of the robbery and rape of a clerk in Lake Elsinore shoe store. The assailant had taken $130 in cash from the store, two rings from the victim, and had forced her to perform oral sex. The victim saw Atkins face on a wanted poster for another crime, just before she identified him in a lineup. At trial, Atkins claimed he had never been to or heard of the city of Lake Elsinore until he was charged. His wife also testified, swearing that he had been in Los Angeles at the time of the crime and did not have access to a car. A sheriff's deputy, Danny Miller, submitted a statement attributed to a man named Eric Ingram, saying that he knew Atkins to be a gang member and had seen Atkins in Lake Elsinore at the time of the crime. Years later, an investigator tracked down Ingram who signed a sworn statement saying he did not know Atkins and had not told Miller that he had seen Atkins in the vicinity of the crime scene.

A crime lab analyst, James Hall, testified that a stain of saliva and semen found on the victim's sweater contained genetic markers shared by only 4.4 percent of the population. Since Atkins and the victim both fell into that group, Hall acknowledged the victim alone could have accounted for the markers. However, the lead prosecutor, Richard Bentley, misleadingly told the jury, “So, the evidence can't be used to say this is exactly him, but it excludes a large percentage of the people, and does not exclude him, and that's corroboration.”

Atkins served 12 years of a 45-year sentence before DNA tests exonerated him of the crime in 2000. In 2007, a jury awarded Atkins $2 million. It also filled out a special verdict form stating that Miller had fabricated and suppressed evidence. Since Miller currently works for the FBI, the National Innocence Network has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate him.  (IP) (L.A. Times) (CWC)  [10/07]

Los Angeles County, CA

Timothy Atkins

Jan 1, 1985 (Venice)

Timothy Atkins was convicted of murdering Vincente Gonzalez. His neighbor, Denise Powell, testified that Atkins confessed to the murder. She has since recanted her testimony and in 2007 Atkins' conviction was overturned. Jan Stiglitz, a co-director of the California Innocence Project, which helped Atkins, said, “The case was thin to begin with. We think without Powell, the DA has no realistic chance to get a conviction.”  (KNBC TV)  [4/07]

Wyoming County, NY

Attica Massacre Victims

Sept 13, 1971

Prompted by horrendous conditions, the 1281 inmates at the New York state prison in Attica took over the prison on Sept. 9, 1971 and took the guards there hostage. One guard died died during the takeover due to his own attempt to be heroic. The hostages were treated well and were guarded by the inmate leadership from potential assault from lone inmates. The guard hostages were dressed in ordinary inmate clothing so that potential outside snipers would not be able to tell whom they were shooting at. The uprising began as an unfocused riot, but grew into a focused and reasonable demand for better prison conditions.
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Santa Clara County, CA

Auguste & Hendricks

Nov 2, 1997

Damon Auguste and Kamani Hendricks were convicted of raping and sodomizing a 15-year-old girl identified only as Monique. Evidence indicated the two had had sex with her, but the defendants said it was consensual and she told them she was 17. Auguste was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Hendricks, who had prior convictions for domestic abuse and discharging a firearm, was sentenced to 37 years.

A subsequent defense investigation revealed that Monique had lied to the jury about her experience with alcohol, about the impact the assault had on her social life, about having to take off two months from work after the assault, and about her workplace making special accommodations because of the psychological impact of the assault. The investigation located three witnesses who said Monique admitted to them she falsified the sexual assault charges. One of them, Stephen Smith, testified Monique fabricated the charges because she had stayed out past her curfew and had previously been kicked out of her parents' house for getting into trouble.

On appeal in 2004, a judge overturned the defendants' convictions finding that Deputy DA Benjamin Field had improperly withheld exculpatory evidence when he failed to turn over his DNA notes. The judge noted that Field had overstated other evidence, referring to the girl's underwear as “blood-soaked” when blood was not even visible. Most importantly, the judge concluded that Monique had repeatedly lied to the jury – and that these lies offered strong reason to doubt her accusation of Auguste and Hendricks. Charges against the two were dropped in exchange for plea agreements to having sex with a minor.  (Mercury News) (Denver BJ) (Prosecutor Misconduct)  [9/08]

Baltimore City, MD 

Michael Austin

Apr 29, 1974

Michael Austin was convicted of shooting to death Roy Kellam, a security guard, at a Crown Food Market. A store clerk, Jackie Robinson, who identified Austin at trial, had changed his initial description of the shooter after police charged him in another case. Robinson's family later said Jackie was not a civic-minded college student as prosecutors told jurors, but a drug dealer. Following Robinson's death by heroin overdose in 1997, his brother came forward and said that Jackie had confessed to him that he sent an innocent man to prison. Another eyewitness, the store's assistant manager, was not called at trial, but had given a physical description that did not fit Austin. Austin also clocked out of his factory job at 4:53 p.m., 27 minutes before the murder, and given the distance from his job to the store, could not have committed the murder.

In July 2001, after spending 27 years in prison, Austin's lawyer presented overwhelming evidence of his innocence, police misconduct, and ineffective counsel by his original defense lawyer. A key piece of evidence was the eyewitness testimony of Erik Komitzski, the assistant store manager. Komitzski, who is 5 feet 9 inches tall, said he knew, absolutely, that the shooter was not taller than himself because he stood eyeball to eyeball with him. Austin is 6 feet 5 inches tall. Austin was freed in Dec. 2001, pardoned in 2003, and was awarded $1.4 million in 2004 for his 27 years of wrongful imprisonment.  (AP News) (CM)  [9/06]

Manitowoc County, WI 

Steven Avery

July 29, 1985

Steven Avery was convicted of brutally attacking and sexually assaulting Penny Beerntsen. Avery was convicted largely because of the victim's identification even though he had 16 alibi witnesses. DNA tests exonerated him in 2003. In 2005, while locked in a $36 million lawsuit with county officials, Avery was arrested on suspicion of murdering 25-year-old Teresa Halbach. It is not clear if any serious evidence exists against Avery, but faced with a $500,000 bail and a desire to retain private defense counsel, Avery accepted the county's sub-lowball offer of $400,000 to settle the suit.  (WIP) (JD)  [9/06]

 Los Angeles County, CA

Edward Avila

Dec 22, 1956

Edward Echarria Avila was convicted of charges relating to the robbery and shooting of used car dealer Sam Bravero at his car lot in East Los Angeles. Two eyewitnesses to the crime had been shown 30 mug shots of possible assailants but failed to identify anyone. A detective then showed them a single photo of Avila that he had with him in relation to another case. The witnesses both identified Avila. However, after viewing Avila in a lineup, only one of these witnesses was still sure Avila was the assailant. When detectives questioned Avila, they doubted his guilt because of the way he answered their questions. Nevertheless, Avila was convicted due to the witness identification.

Two months later, the detectives thought another man, Delbert Wilson, might be responsible for the crime. Wilson had been arrested several days before Avila. After detectives matched a fingerprint found in Bravero's car to a print of Wilson's thumb, Wilson confessed to the crime. Wilson also told police that he had coincidentally been held in the same jail cell as Avila and knew that Avila was being charged with a crime he himself had committed. Wilson said he remained quiet as he had enough troubles of his own. In Sept. 1957 Avila was granted an unconditional pardon.  (The Innocents)  [7/09]

 Los Angeles County, CA

Jesus Avila

Aug 19, 1990 (Lynwood)

Jesus Avila was convicted of attempted murder in 1990 in the shooting of Demetrius Kidd. The shooting occurred at a baby shower gathering in Ham Park. Jesus's original lawyer, George Denny, became convinced that Jesus's brother, Ernesto, was the real shooter, after Ernesto apparently confessed to him. But Denny never told anyone because he represented Ernesto in another matter and believed that he could not implicate him – even if doing so might help clear Jesus. While Denny wrestled with this dilemma, Ernesto and the Avila family gambled. Rather than come forward and testify for his brother at the trial, Ernesto hoped that Jesus would win his freedom anyway. “We thought Jesus would be acquitted and Ernesto would not have to go to jail either,” said Christine Avila, their mother.

Denny withdrew from the case, citing an unspecified conflict of interest. However, he never shared with Jesus's new lawyer information he had on why Ernesto was the real shooter. When police arrived at the shooting, Ernesto had fled. Witnesses there identified Jesus as the person who most looked like the shooter. At trial, Jesus's new lawyer presented witnesses who placed Jesus on the opposite side of the park at the time of the shooting. Some remember him hitting the ground when shots were fired. However, the prosecution witnesses prevailed.

On appeal in 1992, a judge heard sworn testimony that Ernesto was the guilty party, both from Ernesto and several other witnesses. However, the judge declined to order a new trial for Jesus, saying later that he did not find Ernesto's admissions credible. Eventually, however, Jesus was able to appeal to the federal Ninth Circuit Court, which overturned his conviction in July 2002.  (L.A. Times)  [10/07]

Pontotoc County, OK

William Awbrey

Aug 4, 1931

(Federal Case)  On Aug. 4, 1931, the postmaster of Franks, OK, was beaten and robbed by two men of $28.72 in postal receipts. The postmaster said he recognized William Awbrey as one of the assailants. Both Awbrey and another man, Emmett Poe, were found guilty of the crime and sentenced to three years at the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, KS. In Aug 1932, Awbey filed an application for a pardon supported by an affidavit from Poe acknowledging his own guilt but identifying his accomplice as Lawrence Springfellow. Springfellow was indicted for the crime the following month. In Nov. 1932, Awbrey was released from prison after U.S. President Herbert Hoover granted him an unconditional pardon.  (CWC)  [4/09]