Victims of the State

Ray & Peggy Buckey - See McMartin Preschool

Maricopa County, AZ

Buddhist Temple Innocents

Aug 10, 1991

During interrogations that lasted up to twenty-one hours, Maricopa County Sheriffs in Phoenix coerced confessions from Leo Bruce, Mark Nunez, and Dante Parker to the mass murder of nine persons at a Buddhist temple. Ballistics tests later revealed the identity of the true perpetrators. These perpetrators were found with loot from the temple and they confessed to the crime.  [9/05]

 Cook County, IL

Ronnie Bullock

Mar 18, 1983

Ronnie Bullock was convicted of raping a nine-year-old girl. Bullock was identified by the victim and lived in the area where the rape occurred. DNA tests exonerated him in 1994.  (IP) (CWC) (CBJ)  [9/06]

Orleans Parish, LA 

James Bunch

June 19, 1981

James Bunch was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for one count of murder. Bunch asserts he acted in self-defense.  (IIPPI)

Michael Bunch - See Berryman & Bunch

Stark County, OH

Dale Bundy

Nov 23, 1956

Harry Dale Bundy was convicted of murdering Reynold P. Amodio during a holdup of the County Line Market north of Uniontown. Amodio was the store manager. A clerk, Paul E. Cain, was also killed.  In Feb. 1957, a few months after the crime, Bundy's friend and former co-worker, Russell T. McCoy, visited him when he was working the night shift at a Zanesville plant. McCoy asked Bundy for a loan and told him he had just murdered the people he lived with. Bundy did not believe McCoy's story and told him to go home. McCoy, age 22, then threatened Bundy, age 39, with a gun and told him not to repeat what he heard.
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Marion County, IN 

Harold D. Buntin

Aug 4, 1984 (Indianapolis)

Harold D. Buntin was convicted of raping and robbing a 22-year-old clerk at an Indianapolis cleaners. The victim had previously identified another man as her rapist, but she identified Buntin at trial. Tests showed he had the same blood type as the rapist. The rape occurred when Buntin was 15, and during trial, when Buntin was 17, he fled the state. He began serving his sentence in 1994 after he was arrested on an unrelated charge in Florida. Due to DNA tests, a judge exonerated Buntin in April 2005, but he was not released until April 2007 because a bailiff or clerk failed to properly enter and distribute the judge's order clearing Buntin. The error was only found after Buntin and his relatives pressed his attorney to file a “lazy judge” complaint because of the delay in the ruling.  (AP News) (In re Hawkins)  [6/07]

 Harris County, TX

Calvin Burdine

Apr 18, 1983

Calvin Burdine was convicted of murdering his gay lover, W.T. “Dub” Wise, at the trailer home the two shared in Houston. Burdine allegedly was angry because Wise had asked him to prostitute himself to earn more money. The federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Burdine's conviction because his lawyer, Joe Frank Cannon, was asleep during his trial. The Court ruled that “sleeping counsel is equivalent to no counsel at all,” a violation of Burdine's Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Cannon slept as many as 10 times, for as long as 10 minutes, during Burdine's six-day trial. Burdine was released in 2001 and his case came to a legal end in 2002 when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Texas' appeal of the Fifth Circuit's ruling.  [10/05]

St. Tammany Parish, LA 

Gerald Burge

Oct 17, 1980

Gerald Burge was convicted of the murder of Douglas Frierson. Frierson had been shot to death and his body was found abandoned beneath a bridge at 4:13 a.m. on Oct. 17, 1980. It appeared that he had been killed only an hour or so beforehand.  Frierson's mother, Jean Frierson, initially told Detective Gary Hale of the Sheriff's office that at midnight on the night of the murder, Douglas came to her home in Picayune, Mississippi, where she served him a meal of pancakes. She told Hale that after he had finished eating, Douglas was picked up at her house by someone in a car, but that she saw neither the vehicle nor the person or persons who came to pick up her son. Two early suspects in the murder were Burge and another man, Joe Pearson. Detective Hale's supervisor, Lt. E. L. Hermann, Jr., questioned Burge about the murder, and then gave Hale a tape recording of the questioning. Pearson's girlfriend, Jo Ella Prestwood, initially told Hale that Pearson was with her on the night of the murder. However, about six months later she told him that Pearson admitted to her that he had murdered Douglas Frierson.

After Burge and Pearson were arrested for the murder, Pearson agreed to testify against Burge in exchange for a reduced charge of being an accessory after the fact. At Burge's 1986 trial, Pearson testified that he witnessed Burge fatally shoot Frierson. Frierson's mother, Jean Frierson, testified that she saw her son leave with Gerald Burge on the night of the murder. Since Burge's defense was not given any information to impeach Pearson's testimony or that of the victim's mother, Burge was convicted.

Immediately after Burge's conviction when Lt. Hermann and Hale were leaving the courthouse, Hermann asked Hale why Burge's defense did not have a copy of the tape that he had given Hale after he, Hermann, had questioned Burge. Hale subsequently showed Hermann certain documents relating to the murder investigation that Hale had stored in the trunk of his car, including certain original documents that Hermann believed should have been delivered to the District Attorney's Office. When Hermann asked Hale why the documents were in his car, Hale reportedly replied, “If I would have turned this in, it would have caused us to lose – it could have caused us to lose the case.”

In 1990, after evidence of Jean Frierson's original statement came to light, Burge was granted a retrial on the grounds that Jean Frierson's initial statement was exculpatory evidence that should have been produced for the defense under Brady v. Maryland. When Burge was tried a second time for Douglas Frierson's murder in 1992, he was acquitted of all charges.  (Burge v. Parish 2003) (Burge v. Parish 1999) (IPNO)  [7/10]

Franklin County, OH

Mark Burke

Nov 23, 1989

Mark E. Burke was sentenced to death merely for standing by and watching his cousin, James Tanner, knife 72-year-old William McBride. According to the coroner, the victim did not die of the stabbing but died of a heart attack.  (Columbus Dispatch)  [12/05]

 Broward County, FL

Robert Burkell

Nov 22, 2003 (Tamarac)

Robert Burkell was convicted of the murder of 81-year-old Charles Bertheas. Bertheas, a French national, rented a room inside Burkell's home at 9107 NW 72 Court, in Tamarac, FL. Burkell told investigators he discovered Bertheas lying on the floor inside his room and called 911. Tamarac Fire Rescue responded to the scene and determined Bertheas was dead. Bertheas had been bludgeoned with repeated blows to the head, but no weapon was ever identified or found. His death was ruled a homicide due to blunt trauma. Bertheas was found on a Sunday afternoon. It was determined that he died approximately 18 hours before, placing his murder on the previous night. Bertheas was last seen around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday evening.
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 England (London CC)

Roy Burnett


Roy Burnett was convicted of raping a 20-year-old student nurse. The alleged victim said Burnett had followed her home from a bus, dragged her into the woods and threatened her with a knife before raping her. Burnett was jailed for life and his applications for parole were consistently denied because he refused to admit guilt. In 1998 the same woman made another rape complaint, but gave inconsistent accounts of being attacked by two men in a car. The complaint damaged the woman's credibility and caused police to re-examine her previous complaint against Burnett.

A re-examination of evidence against Burnett revealed many inconsistencies in the woman's accounts. Scratch marks on her body, shown in photographs taken of her at the time, were, according to fresh expert testimony, “typical of self-inflicted injury.” A judge later added that the absence of other injuries, which would have been expected if she had been attacked in the way she claimed, was “surprising to the point of incredulity.” The woman's current boyfriend, with whom she has just had a child, described her as “attention seeking.” Burnett was released from jail after being cleared by the Court of Appeal. Scotland Yard is considering whether to file perjury charges against the woman.  (Innocent)  [9/08]

Richmond, VA

Victor Burnette

Aug 3, 1979

Victor Anthony Burnette was convicted of a 1979 rape after the victim identified Burnette as her assailant, and a pubic hair found at the scene was reportedly consistent with Burnette's hair. The 19-year-old victim reported that she had seen her assailant outside her apartment on the night following the rape. Burnette lived near the victim. The victim did not report the rape until three days after it purportedly occurred. Burnette was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the crime. He served 8 years and was placed on probation from 1987 to 1993. Although Burnette was told that the evidence from the case was destroyed in 1987, a semen sample that came from the perpetrator was preserved by state forensic serologist Mary Jane Burton, who had a habit of retaining samples of blood, semen, and saliva evidence. DNA tests on the sample in 2006 showed that Burnette was not the perpetrator of the rape. In 2009, Virginia Governor Kaine pardoned Burnette.  (Times-Dispatch) (Washington Times)  [5/09]

Glen Sebastian Burns - See Rafay & Burns

Albert Ronnie Burrell - See Graham & Burrell

Iroquois County, IL 

Burrows & Frye

Nov 6, 1988

Along with Gayle Potter, Joseph Burrows and Ralph Frye were accused of the armed robbery and murder of 88-year-old William Dulan. After Potter implicated Burrows and Frye, Frye who had a 76 IQ, confessed to the crime. Burrows was convicted and sentenced to death while prosecution witnesses Potter and Frye were sentenced to 23 and 30 years. Frye later recanted his testimony. Potter later confessed that she alone had committed the crime. She explained that she had told the truth to the lead prosecutor before trial, but he had threatened her and ordered her to stick with her story. In addition, new evidence emerged confirming Burrows's alibi. In 1994, Burrows and Frye were cleared of all charges.  (PC) (CWC1) (CWC2)  [8/05]

 Cook County, IL

Lavelle Burt

Sept 19, 1985

Lavelle Burt, 19, confessed to the shooting murder of two-year-old Charles Gregory after a prolonged interrogation by Chicago police. Police discovered gunpowder residue on the hands of the victim's mother. The mother, who initially denied knowing anything about the shooting, claimed Burt shot at two girls, missed them, and hit her son. Both girls initially denied the story, but one of them finally said the mother's story was true. The girls' brother had been slightly wounded earlier in the day in a suspected gang related shooting. Police theorized that Burt had been involved in that shooting and had shot at the girls to discourage them from linking him to that crime. Burt confessed to that theory of the crime. After Burt was convicted and was awaiting sentencing, the victim's grandmother contacted the judge who tried Burt's case. She said she found a pistol in her daughter's possession that she suspected had caused her grandson's death. The daughter acknowledged her son's death had been accidental and the judge vacated Burt's conviction.  (CWC)  [12/05]

Queens County, NY

Lazzaro Burt

Aug 20, 1992

Lazzaro Burt was convicted of the murder of Wilfredo Cesacro. A man on a street corner groped Cesacro's girlfriend, Lissette Saillant in East Elmhurst. The groper then shot Cesacro to death in the ensuing confrontation. Saillant identified Burt as the shooter. Saillant later said police had pressured her into making an identification she knew to be wrong. In 2001, evidence surfaced that another man, Jarrett Smith, was Cesacro's killer. Burt was released in 2002 and Smith was convicted of the murder.

About a year after Burt's release, Ronald Laws, a man who was shot in the leg, claimed that Burt had shot him. Laws was the only witness to the alleged crime, there was no bullet casing or blood found where Laws said the shooting occurred, and it took Laws three months to identify Burt. Burt spent 10 months in prison on assault charges. Prior to Laws's claim, Burt had filed a $30 million suit against the state for the decade he spent wrongfully imprisoned. At trial, Burt's defense argued that Laws had shot himself in the leg either accidentally or intentionally, and that the claim against Burt was an attempt to hustle him out of money. A jury acquitted Burt.  (P&K)  [1/07]

San Francisco County, CA

Ludrate Burton

Apr 21, 1994

Ludrate Burton was convicted of murdering 13-year-old Alexius McNeal, the daughter of his second cousin. Burton had discovered her dead body, and because of his criminal history, he was a suspect from the start. However, fingerprints lifted from the scene did not link him to the murder. Burton had a liver ailment, weighed 120 lbs., and had difficulty getting up a flight of stairs. The prosecution theorized that he struggled with the 5'9", 186 lbs. Alexius before murdering her.

While in prison, Burton had a known prison snitch, Obie Jacobs, assigned as his cellmate. Jacobs had testified at other murder trials. Burton complained to his lawyer, but his request for a different cellmate was denied. Two months later, the cellmate was meeting with the police and telling them that Burton confessed to him using police supplied information. Jacobs told them that Burton confessed that he killed McNeal between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m., but the coroner had placed her time of her death between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.  [10/05]

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)

Accomac County, VA 

Burton & Conquest

Aug 10, 1907 (Onancock)

Samuel L. Burton and Sylvanus Conquest were twice convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the death of John Topping. Prior to the crime a man named John M. Fosque secured a financial judgment against Conquest which was levied against Conquest's horse then in the possession of Burton. There reportedly was offensive behavior on the part of Burton and Conquest towards a constable who was sent to collect the debt. Burton subsequently paid the debt and Conquest was fined $50 for resisting the constable. This evidence was used to assert that Burton and Conquest had a grievance against Fosque.

On the night of Aug. 10, 1907, a horse drawn carriage owned by Fosque was carrying passengers from an Onancock hotel to the train station. About 30 feet after it passed a store owned by Burton, a man on the street reportedly stood up from a crouched position and yelled “blaze away,” after which 20 to 25 bullets were fired at the carriage. No one in the carriage was killed, but an outsider, John Topping, received a gunshot wound in the shoulder from which he died 12 days later.

Although Fosque, a white man, sometimes drove the carriage, on the night in question it was driven by a colored man, who was unlikely to be mistaken for Fosque. At trial the prosecution alleged that Burton and Conquest, along with confederates, lied in wait for Fosque and opened fire on the carriage because of the grievance they had against him. It was alleged that Topping was the lookout man for the shooters, the man who yelled “blaze away.”

Two trial juries acquitted Burton and Conquest of murder, but convicted them of manslaughter on the grounds that they encouraged or aided the shooting. The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals later vacated the convictions after finding that there was insufficient evidence that to two engaged in the shooting. The Court also noted that apart from committing the shooting themselves, there was not a scintilla of evidence presented that Burton or Conquest encouraged or aided the shooting.  (B&C v. Com.)  [2/10]  (Note: Accomac County was renamed Accomack County in 1940.)

 Smith County, TX

A. B. Butler, Jr.

May 20, 1983

A. B. Butler Jr. was sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping and rape. The victim, a young white female, was kidnapped at knifepoint from a motel parking lot in Tyler, TX. Her assailant, a black male forced her to drive to a field in a rural area where he raped her. The victim later made a tentative identification of Butler as her assailant while reviewing police mug shots. At trial several witnesses vouched for Butler's whereabouts on the night of the alleged rape. Years after his conviction, Butler pleaded for DNA tests to be done, but to no avail. Finally, in 1999, these test were done and they excluded Butler as the rapist. He was freed in Jan. 2000 and issued a full pardon in May 2000 by Gov. George W. Bush, who said the pardon was “based on innocence.”  (Justice: Denied) (CM) (IP) (CWC)  [5/05]

Santa Clara County, CA

Darcius Butler

2001 (San Jose)

“Just one month out of prison, Darcius Butler was arrested and then convicted on robbery charges, although the evidence was thin. Two years later, an appellate panel overturned the conviction because the prosecution twice indicated that Butler was on parole – despite a judge’s order not to do so.”
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Elihu Butler - See Worcester & Butler

Lowndes County, AL

Butler & Yelder

Apr 1928

Louise Butler and her paramour, George Yelder, were convicted of murdering Louise's 14-year-old niece, Topsy Warren. Topsy's sister and two of her cousins testified that Louise struck Topsy with an ax, with which George dismembered the corpse. The remains allegedly were put into a sack and then thrown into the Alabama River. Louise had confessed to the murder initially, but the confession was suppressed at trial. Both defendants were sentenced to life in prison.

Less than a week after sentencing, Topsy was discovered alive and well, and residing less than twenty miles away. In June 1928, George and Louise were formally exonerated and released. The children then admitted that they had fabricated the story at the behest of a man who had a grievance against George. It was never explained why they also had implicated Louise, or why she had confessed.  (CWC) (CTI)  [7/05]

Lowndes County, MS 

Sabrina Butler

Apr 12, 1989

Sabrina Butler was sentenced to death for the murder of her nine-month-old son, Walter Dean Butler. At her trial, the prosecution sought to prove that Butler's account of the events leading to her son's death was false, and that she had inflicted the fatal wounds intentionally. On appeal, the court remanded the case for a new trial based on a number of flaws in the trial proceedings. By the time of the retrial in 1995, one of Butler's neighbors had come forward with evidence that corroborated her account: that the injuries to her son occurred during the course of an unsuccessful attempt to administer CPR. The retrial jury acquitted Butler of all charges. It is now believed that her son may have died either cystic kidney disease or from SIDS.  (PC)  [7/05]

 Australia (QLD)

Frank Alan Button

Feb 17, 1999

Frank Alan Button was convicted of raping a retarded 13-year-old girl. The victim said she had been assaulted during a party at her mother's home in Cherbourg. She identified Button, but her testimony was confused and contradictory. Button's nephew, Lester Malone, claimed Button had confessed to the rape while they were in a park shortly after Button had been charged with the crime. However, Button went straight to jail after being charged and the confession in the park couldn't have occurred. Malone later withdrew his statement and claimed the investigating detective had intimidated him and put words in his mouth. Following Button's conviction, DNA tests were done which showed the assailant to be a prisoner who was doing time for another rape. Button became the first Australian convict to be exonerated of a crime due to DNA evidence. He was released after serving 10 months of his 6 year sentence.  (JTC) (Police Reform)  [11/10]

 Australia (WA)

John Button

Feb 10, 1963

John Button was convicted of manslaughter in 1963 for allegedly driving his car into his girlfriend, Rosemary Anderson, as she walked by the side of the road. Button was exonerated in 2003 after new evidence indicated serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke was Anderson's likely killer.  (IPWA) (01) (02)

 Harris County, TX

Kevin James Byrd

Jan 14, 1985

Kevin James Byrd, a black man, served 12 years in prison after a rape victim identified him as her assailant. The victim originally claimed her rapist was a white male. DNA tests exonerated Byrd in 1997, but Governor George W. Bush refused to pardon him. After the story got the attention of the national press, Bush reversed himself and signed Byrd's pardon.  (IP) (CWC)  [5/05]