Victims of the State

 Suffolk County, MA

Christopher Harding

Aug 18, 1989

Christopher Harding was convicted of two counts of assault with intent to murder for shooting and wounding Deron Jones and firing on pursuing police officers. Harding was released after serving 7 years imprisonment, but a federal grand jury investigation cast doubt on the conviction. In Dec. 1997, a judge granted Harding's motion for a new trial citing “serious questions about the veracity” of police testimony at Harding's trial. In Jan 1998, prosecutors declined to retry Harding. Harding sued the police for causing his wrongful conviction by perjured testimony and in Jan. 2000, the city settled the suit for $480,000. A month later, the police department fired Officer Terrence O'Neil for “for lying under oath and other breaches of department rules during the [Harding] case.”  (CIPM)  [11/05]

St. Clair County, IL 

Valentine Harpstrite

Sept 9, 1928

Valentine Harpstrite (misspelled in official records as Harpstreith) was convicted of the murder of Justus Nungesser, 65. Nungesser was shot to death in a cornfield on his farm near the town of Muscoutah. Harpstrite was implicated in the crime several weeks later, based on alleged confessions by two co-defendants, Raymond Rensing and Elmer Lindner. Before their joint trial in April 1929, Rensing and Lindner recanted, claiming their confessions had been beaten out of them. The confessions were admitted against them, but not against Harpstrite. To convict him, Assistant State's Attorney Curt C. Lindauer relied on statements from two jailhouse informants, Charles Pillow and George Shelton.

Several years later, Pillow and Shelton recanted, saying Lindauer and Sheriff Charles Aherns had promised to arrange for their release from jail in return for their testimony implicating Harpstrite. After the trial, the court record of the case disappeared, and there was no appeal. Harpstrite was paroled in 1949, and pardoned by Governor Samuel H. Shapiro in 1968.  (CWC)

Pottawattamie County, IA 

Harrington & McGhee

July 21, 1977

Terry J. Harrington and Curtis W. McGhee Jr. were convicted of murdering John Schweer, a retired police captain working as a night security guard at the McIntyre Oldsmobile dealership in Council Bluffs. Harrington's conviction was later overturned and he was released in 2003. In overturning the conviction, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that several police reports pointing to another suspect were not turned over to the defense; the court also noted that a witness testified at a post-conviction hearing that he lied at Harrington's trial because police and prosecutors pressured him. McGhee, who was convicted on the same evidence, accepted a time-served sentence and was released.  (Harrington v. State) (McGhee v. County)  [12/10]

Tuscarawas County, OH

Anthony Harris

June 27, 1998

Anthony Harris, who was 12 at the time, was coerced into confessing to killing 5-year-old Devan Duniver. The two were neighbors in a New Philadelphia apartment complex. Harris was convicted by a Juvenile Court judge despite there being no physical evidence linking him to the crime. His case was featured on the TV show 20/20. 20/20 has discovered that in the last two years before the show aired, nearly a dozen kids under the age of 17 confessed to murder, only to be later proven innocent.  (Akron Beacon Journal)  [6/05]

Pierce County, WA

Benjamin Harris

June 14, 1984 (Tacoma)

Benjamin Harris was sentenced to death for the murder of auto mechanic Jimmie Lee Turner. The prosecution alleged that Harris paid another man, Gregory Lee Bonds, to help kill Turner, and that each of them shot him. Bonds, however, was acquitted. Harris's defense attorney acted as a second prosecutor in that he (1) elicited an uncorroborated confession when Harris was delusional, (2) failed to interview exculpatory witnesses, and (3) referred to his client in court as a womanizer, alcoholic, thief, and “liar 85% of the time.” There was no physical evidence linking either Harris or Bonds to the crime. An appeals court ruled Harris had been denied effective assistance of counsel. The prosecution decided not to retry Harris but tried to have him confined as insane, even though they had previously argued that he was competent to stand trial. A jury decided that Harris should not be detained at a state hospital. Harris was released in 1997.  (CWC)  [9/05]

Los Angeles County, CA

Charles Harris

Convicted 1998

Charles Harris was convicted of possessing and selling cocaine after being framed by LAPD officers. He was later exonerated due to an investigation related to corruption in the LAPD Ramparts Unit. Harris's conviction was overturned in 2000.  [7/05]

Philadelphia County, PA

Frank Harris

Mar 4, 1926 (Center City)

Frank Harris was convicted of murdering a companion, Wilbert McQueen, during a 1926 gunfight with two Philadelphia police officers. The gunfight occurred on 10th Street north of Lombard Street. Harris was exonerated and released in 1947 after it was revealed that McQueen was killed by a bullet fired from a police revolver.  (News Article) (Harris v. Burke)  [5/08]

Aiken County, SC

L. D. Harris

Apr 28, 1946

L. D. Harris was convicted of murdering Edward L. Bennett and his wife. The victims were killed at the country store and filling station they owned near the city of Aiken. Bennett's last words were “A big negro shot me and robbed me.” Harris, a slightly built Negro, came under suspicion some months after the murders following reports that he had a pistol and left for Nashville, TN shortly after the murders. Following his arrest Harris was placed in a small cubicle during stifling heat, and police officers working in relays questioned him continuously for more than 48 hours. One officer reportedly struck Harris with force, although the officer claimed he merely laid a hand on Harris's shoulder. Eventually officers threatened to arrest Harris's mother for having stolen property. Harris then took up the officers' offer and confessed in order to prevent his mother's arrest.

During the whole interrogation, Harris, an illiterate, was not told of his right to request a lawyer, his right to request a preliminary hearing, or his right to remain silent. He was not warned that what he said might be used against him and was denied the benefit of consultation with friends and family. He also had no contact with disinterested third parties. At trial the judge instructed the jury that there was no evidence against Harris that would support a conviction if they found that his confession was not voluntary.

In 1949 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Harris's conviction, ruling that the circumstances of his interrogation made his confession involuntary. In 1957 a man originally suspected of the Bennett murders was arrested for similar murders. He confessed to the Bennett murders and convinced authorities that his confession was genuine.  (Harris v. South Carolina) (ISI)  [7/09]

Hays County, TX 

Thomas Harris

Aug 1996

Thomas Harris was accused and convicted of molesting his youngest daughter. His wife acknowledged to two witnesses that the accusation was not true. The alleged victim also acknowledged that accusation was not true and said Susan Miller (the divorce attorney of Harris's wife) and Trine Rodriquez told her to lie. Harris has a long but interesting story including details such as his wife poisoning his food.  (Justice: Denied)  [6/05]

Kanawha County, WV

William Harris

Dec 16, 1984

William O'Dell Harris was convicted of rape. At trial, the victim identified Harris as her assailant even though earlier she was unable to identify him from a photo lineup. Police lab technician Fred Zain testified that genetic markers left in the recovered semen matched only Harris and 5.9% of the population. A detective who testified at trial was later convicted of perjury. DNA tests exonerated Harris in 1995.  (IP) (CBJ)  [10/05]

DeKalb County, GA 

Clarence Harrison

Oct 25, 1986 (Decatur)

Clarence Harrison was convicted of the kidnapping, robbery, and rape of a 25-year-old woman in Decatur. The conviction was based on the victim's identification. DNA tests exonerated Harrison in 2004.  (IP)  [7/05]

Summit County, OH

Brett Hartmann

Sept 9, 1997 (Akron)

Brett Hartmann was sentenced to death for the murder of Winda Snipes. Snipes was brutally beaten, strangled, and stabbed over 135 times. Her throat was cut and her hands were cut off. The cord with which she was strangled was taken from a clock that stopped at 4:38. This evidence suggests she was murdered at 4:38 a.m. or 4:38 p.m.
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Tarrant County, TX 

John Michael Harvey


John Michael Harvey was convicted of molesting the 3-year-old daughter of his live-in girlfriend. The victim, identified as S. R. and now 17, denied that Harvey was her molester and only named him under pressure from the prosecutor, Lisa Mullen. In a sworn statement the victim said, “I am also very angry with the prosecutor. I feel that she took advantage of me because she wanted to win her case.”  [10/05]

Middlesex County, NJ 

Nathaniel Harvey

June 16, 1985 (Plainsboro)

Nathaniel Harvey was convicted of murdering Irene Schnaps, 37, and was sentenced to death. Harvey suffered from a flawed investigation, contaminated evidence, false testimony, and attorney error. An alternate suspect, who knew the victim and had been romantically rejected by her, had decisively failed a polygraph. The brutality of murder suggests the perpetrator, unlike Harvey, knew the victim. In addition, Harvey was a burglar and would not likely have left valuables behind at the murder scene. In 2007 New Jersey abolished the death penalty and Harvey's death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment without parole.  (NY Times)  [7/05]

Robeson County, NC

Eddie Hatcher

May 31, 1999 (Maxton)

In 1988, Eddie Hatcher and a fellow American Indian took over The Robesonian newspaper offices in Lumberton and held 20 staff members hostage. The pair demanded that the state governor commit to an independent investigation of allegations of crooked county government, unsolved murders and rampant drug trafficking in the area. The pair released the hostages after then Gov. Jim Martin agreed. A state task force later determined their allegations to be unfounded. However, years later, a federal investigation had by 2006 led to the arrests of six sheriff deputies and two Lumberton police officers, with more arrests likely. Deputies were living far beyond their means with profits from the drug trade flowing up Interstate 95.

Hatcher faced federal charges on the newspaper takeover, but by representing himself at trial convinced a jury to acquit him. The state then filed charges on which he was convicted. One condition of his parole was that he not enter Robeson County. In 1998, following parole completion, Hatcher ignored the advice of friends and foes and returned to Robeson County.  He was a folk hero to some and became very active in local politics. He even expressed possible intentions of running for a seat in the state legislature.

In 1999, Hatcher's friend, Brian McMillan was shot to death in Maxton. Bullets from three different guns were found at the scene, implying more than one person committed the shooting. Hatcher was arrested alone after the shooting and none of the recovered bullets were fired from his gun. No one else was ever charged in the shooting. McMillan's mother has even stated that she knows Hatcher did not kill her son. At trial in 2000, the DA presented four criminals and an illiterate 20-year-old as witnesses. The witnesses convinced a jury to convict Hatcher of McMillan's murder. Hatcher received a life without parole sentence. He died in prison at age 51 in 2009.  (Screwed Central)  [2/07]

Macomb County, MI 

Nathaniel Hatchett

Nov 11, 1996

Nathaniel Hatchett was sentenced to 25 to 40 years in prison for kidnapping and raping a 23-year-old Sterling Heights woman. After accosting the victim in the parking lot of a Super Kmart at 14 Mile and Van Dyke, a gunman forced her into her car, drove away, and raped her. Hatchett was arrested three days later in the woman's 1990 Dodge Spirit. He admitted stealing the car and the victim identified him as her assailant. Following a seven-hour interrogation in which investigators promised Hatchett a deal, he confessed to the crime. DNA tests, however, showed that the sperm left in the victim did not match him. At Hatchett's bench trial, Judge George Steeh convicted him after ruling that the lack of a DNA match could “hardly be found to represent a reasonable doubt considering all of the evidence in the case.”

Years later, after Prosecutor Eric Smith reinvestigated the case, apparently at the request of the Innocence Project, he dismissed charges against Hatchett. Hatchett walked free in April 2008.  (Detroit Free Press)  [5/08]

Bill Hathaway - See Berry Innocents

 Broward County, FL

Robert Hayes

Feb 20, 1990

Robert Earl Hayes, a black man, was convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and the strangulation of Pamela Albertson, a 32-year-old white woman. Hayes and the victim both worked at the Pompano Harness Track. The prosecution presented testimony placing Hayes with the woman, whom Hayes knew, at the time of the murder. It also introduced DNA evidence that supposedly linked him to the crime. On appeal, a retrial was ordered because of faulty DNA analysis. New DNA testing exonerated Hayes, but the prosecution refused to drop charges. At the 1997 retrial, evidence emerged that the victim was found clutching hairs of a white man in her hands. Evidence also emerged linking another man to the murder – a man who had since been convicted of another rape. The retrial jury acquitted Hayes of all charges.  (PC) (CWC) (FLCC)  [7/05]

Travis Hayes - See Matthews & Hayes

 Cook County, IL

Haymarket Eight

May 4, 1886

Eight men were convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the death of police officer Mathias J. Degan. On May 1, 1886 there were general strikes throughout the United States in support of an 8-hour workday. On May 3 there was a rally of striking workers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company plant in Chicago. This rally ended with police firing on the workers. Two workers died although some newspaper accounts reported six fatalities.
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