Victims of the State

E. Baton Rouge Parish, LA 

Gene Bibbins

June 25, 1986

Gene Bibbins was convicted of raping 13-year-old Kenya Canty. The victim initially described her assailant as wearing jeans and having long curly hair. Bibbins was arrested less than an hour after the attack. He was wearing gray shorts and had short, cropped hair. The victim was assaulted in her apartment and the assailant took her radio when he left. Bibbins was in possession of the radio, and said he found it as he exited his apartment building. He lived in a different building than the victim but it was in the same apartment complex. DNA tests exonerated Bibbins in 2003. In 2006, Bibbins became the first person in Louisiana to be awarded state compensation for wrongful imprisonment. He was awarded $150,000. However, as of this writing, there is no money in the compensation fund to pay him.  (IP) (Justice: Denied) (Bibbins v. City)  [10/05]

Merced County, CA

Jerry Bigelow

Oct 9, 1980

Jerry D. Bigelow and fellow inmate Michael Ramadanovic had escaped from a Canadian jail and were hitchhiking their way south through California. In Sacramento, a driver, John Cherry, picked them up and ended up dead. Both Bigelow and Ramadanovic were arrested. In exchange for immunity from the death penalty, Ramadanovic agreed to testify that Bigelow had shot the victim. Bigelow also confessed to the crime after he was told he would receive a lesser sentence in return for his confession. He did not. At trial, Bigelow acted as his own attorney and was convicted and sentenced to death. He was only 20 years old and had no more than a ninth grade education. In 1983 his conviction was overturned for inadequate representation of counsel.

At his 1988 retrial, Bigelow's defense argued that Ramadanovic had committed the murder while Bigelow was intoxicated and sleeping in the back seat of the car. The defense presented witnesses who testified that Ramadanovic had boasted about the killing and took sole responsibility. Evidence was also presented that Bigelow had, in the past, confessed to crimes that he had not committed. The jury returned a verdict of “not guilty.” The judge, however, declared a mistrial because of some irregularities in the verdict forms. On appeal, an appeals court ordered the trial court to accept the jury's verdict and Bigelow was released.  (CWC) (TWM) (ISI)  [3/07]

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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San Francisco County, CA

Billings & Mooney

July 22, 1916

Warren K. Billings and Thomas J. Mooney, both radical labor leaders, were convicted of setting off a suitcase bomb at a Preparedness Day Parade that killed 10 people and wounded 40 others. The two were convicted because of police perjury, concealment of exonerating evidence, and prosecutorial misconduct. Governor Culbert Olson pardoned both men in 1939.  [3/06]

Sitka County, AK

Richard Bingham

May 4, 1996

In 1996, Richard Bingham made a videotaped confession to the rape and murder of 17-year-old Jessica Baggen. He was acquitted at his 1997 trial because jurors saw on tape that he kept missing all the cues the interrogators fed him as they steered him to the correct details. DNA testing excluded Bingham as the source of the semen found in the victim. The foreign hair found on the victim's body was not Bingham's nor was the fingerprint found on a cigarette pack at the crime scene. Bingham was also unable to describe the unusual properties of the physical scene where the body was found nor the unusual way in which the victim had been silenced.  [3/06]

Collin County, TX

Michael Blair

Sept 5, 1993 (Plano)

Michael Blair was sentenced to death in 1994 for the molestation and murder of 7-year-old Ashley Estell. Ashley was abducted from a playground in Plano's Carpenter Park while her parents, nearby, watched her brother play in a soccer tournament. No witnesses had seen Blair and Ashley together even though Blair reportedly looked like an unpleasant troll and would have stood out in the crowded upper-middle-class park. According to a forensic physician, Ashley was killed several hours after her abduction and her body was kept at room temperature until nightfall when it was dumped. Blair drove a hatchback and lived with two roommates, so it seemed unlikely he could have stored a body for several hours.

Blair's conviction was based on hair evidence. Blair was a previously convicted sex offender, and the assumption that he murdered Ashley inspired legislation called “Ashley's Laws,” which require sex offenders to register with local law enforcement when they are released from prison and which require public notification when offenders move into a community. In 2006, Collin County reopened the case, assigning it to its cold case squad. Investigation identified another man, identified as Suspect 4, who could have committed the crime. Suspect 4 died in the late 1990s. After DNA tests of the hair evidence showed that it belonged to neither Blair nor the victim, his conviction was overturned in 2008. The County is expected to drop charges against Blair.  (News Stories) (FJDB)  [9/08]

New York County, NY

Bryan Blake

Aug 2, 1985

“Bryan Blake was convicted of second-degree murder in New York County on December 5, 1985. The conviction was reversed on July 14, 1988, on the grounds that both defendant’s videotaped statement, containing improper remarks by the prosecutor, and photographs of the victim’s body, which were shown to the jury during trial, were unduly prejudicial. Blake had been sentenced to twenty-five years to life in prison. The jury which heard the case on retrial acquitted him after ninety minutes of deliberation. ‘It wasn’t even close,’ said one juror. Said another: ‘We felt they had no case ... [W]e were surprised it got to the grand jury. It’s incredible what can happen to people, to be dragged into court with such a little bit of evidence.’ Blake had served over three years on the wrongful conviction.” – Inevitable Error  (People v. Blake)

Kings County, NY

Jeffrey Blake

June 18, 1990

Jeffrey Blake was convicted of murdering Everton Denny and Kenneth Felix. The victims were killed by dozens of bullets fired from an automatic weapon into their car in East New York. Blake was convicted on the testimony of a single eyewitness, Dana Garner, whose testimony prosecutors later admitted was false. Blake's lawyer believes prosecutors should have taken a harder look at their witness's credibility since he also claimed to have witnessed another double shooting that occurred two weeks after the Denny-Felix shooting. Garner cannot be prosecuted for perjury as the 5-year statute of limitations for the crime has expired. Blake was freed in 1998.  (NY Times)  [10/05]

Ascension Parish, LA 

Robert Blanton

Feb 21, 1972

Robert H. Blanton III was convicted of the murder of Eugene S. Stevens and sentenced to life imprisonment. Stevens' ex-wife, Glenda Hodgeson Stevens, had custody of his son and both she and her mother, Mavis Hodgeson, had been denying him his court ordered visitation rights. Glenda and Mavis were ordered to show cause on Mar. 1, 1972 why they should not be held in contempt for violating Stevens' rights. Mavis, then, hired three men to “soften up” Stevens and these men shot him to death on Feb. 21, 1972. Blanton was allegedly one of these men.

At trial various witnesses testified to Blanton's involvement in the killing. Another man was said to have shot Stevens, but Blanton allegedly fired a shot at the victim and missed. Blanton's defense called several witnesses who testified he was in Alabama at the time of the killing. His defense also tried to undermine the credibility of the state’s witnesses by attempting to show that they were offered plea deals which were generous enough to motivate them to testify falsely. However, under cross-examination, the witnesses testified they had no deals or gave misleading information about them.

On appeal in 1980, a federal court reversed Blanton's conviction because “Blanton was deprived of due process when the state failed to fully disclose all of the agreements and understandings it had with key government witnesses and failed to correct testimony which it knew or should have known was false.” The court stated that the trial jury would have given more credence to the testimony of Blanton's alibi witnesses had it known of these agreements. Following the reversal, the prosecution dropped charges against Blanton.  (1975 Appeal) (1980 Appeal)  [12/10]

Pima County, AZ

Mitchell Blazak

Dec 15, 1973 (Tucson)

Mitchell Blazak was convicted of the 1973 murders of a bartender and a customer at the Brown Fox Tavern in Tucson. The conviction was based largely on the testimony of Kenneth Pease, a small time con man who was arrested for a number of felonies in New Mexico and Arizona. Pease testified after being granted immunity. In 1991, a federal court termed Pease's testimony “a mass of contradictions.” The court also ruled that the trial judge had failed to ensure that Blazak was competent to stand trial. Rather than pursue a new trial, the prosecutor offered a no contest plea in 1994, which allowed Blazak to be released the same year. There was some evidence that a deputy sheriff named Michael Tucker planted hair evidence in the case.  (DPIC) (77) (82) (92) (93)  [9/07]

Baltimore County, MD 

Kirk Bloodsworth

July 25, 1984

Kirk Bloodsworth was convicted of the rape and murder of Dawn Hamilton, a 9-year-old girl. He was sentenced to death. In 1986 the Maryland Court of Appeals overturned Bloodsworth's conviction because prosecutors Robert Lazzaro and Ann Brobst withheld evidence pertaining to another possible suspect. Bloodsworth was reconvicted in 1987, but in 1993 he was exonerated by DNA tests and released from prison. In 1994 he received a full pardon. Bloodsworth was the first death-row inmate to be freed through the use of DNA tests. In 2003 a match was found to the real killer. Bloodsworth knew the real killer, having spent years living in the same prison cellblock with him. Bloodsworth's case is featured in a 2004 book entitled Bloodsworth by Tim Junkin.  (IP) (CWC) (CBJ)  [12/05]