Victims of the State

 Suffolk County, MA

Bobby Joe Leaster

Sept 27, 1970

Bobby Joe Leaster served 15 1/2 years of imprisonment for murdering variety store owner, Levi Whiteside, during the course of a robbery. The victim's wife and a store customer identified Leaster as the perpetrator. Ballistics evidence and new witnesses later cleared him. Leaster was awarded a $1 million annuity by the legislature in 1992.  (CIPM)  [11/05]

Miles H. Ledbetter - See Evans & Ledbetter

San Francisco County, CA

Chol Soo Lee

June 3, 1973 (Chinatown)

In 1974, Chol Soo Lee was convicted of the first degree murder of Yip Yee Tak with the use of a firearm and was sentenced to life in prison. The case was tried in Sacramento after a change of venue from San Francisco. Prosecutors relied on two eyewitnesses who saw the murder, which took place on a Chinatown street corner in San Francisco on June 3, 1973, and on the testimony of a third witness who saw someone fleeing the scene just after the shooting. After suggestive procedures were used by police and prosecutors, including hypnotizing one witness, all three witnesses identified Lee in a police line-up. Based on this eyewitness testimony, Lee was convicted.

In 1977, writer K.W. Lee wrote a series of articles that cast doubt on the validity of Lee’s conviction. The articles garnered significant media coverage of the case and generated a community movement in support of Chol Soo Lee.

In October 1977, Lee was charged in San Joaquin County Superior Court with the first degree murder of fellow prisoner, Morrison Needham, which occurred during a prison brawl. The 1974 murder conviction was alleged as a special circumstance making Lee eligible for the death penalty. He was convicted and sentenced to death. Lee maintained that he committed the prison killing in self-defense.

In 1978, the Sacramento Superior Court agreed to review the 1974 murder conviction. At this hearing, lawyers for Lee revealed that an additional witness, Steven Morris, had come forward the day after the shooting and told police that he had seen the murder and that Lee was not the assailant. The court ruled that this crucial evidence had been withheld from the defense, and overturned Lee’s conviction. In 1980, the Court of Appeals of California for the 3rd Appellate District affirmed the lower court’s decision.

In 1982, Lee was retried for the murder of Tak and was acquitted. In 1983, the Court of Appeals for the 3rd Appellate District reversed Lee’s conviction and death sentence for the prison murder, citing false testimony of a prison informant and improper jury instructions that were given during the penalty phase of the trial. Two months later, San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Peter Seires ordered Lee released. Prosecutors then moved to retry Lee on the prison killing charge. Chol Soo Lee, who had served nearly ten years in prison, agreed to plea to a significantly lesser charge that gave him credit for the time served and he was freed from prison. – Quoted from DP Focus (80)

Monroe County, PA

Han Tak Lee

July 29, 1989 (Stroud Twp)

Han Tak Lee was convicted of murder for allegedly setting a cabin fire that led to his daughter's death. Investigators schooled in old and now discredited fire investigation beliefs ruled the fire an arson. Beginning in the 1980s, some investigators began setting experimental fires and observing the results. The results of these experiments overturned old beliefs and made fire investigation a science. Modern science-based arson investigators say that the cabin fire that led to the death of Lee's daughter was an accidental fire.  (USA Today) (Arson Investigation)  [3/07]

Polk County, GA 

Hugh C. Lee

Sept 15, 1923

(Federal Case)  Hugh C. Lee was convicted of robbing a post office in Priors, Georgia of 165 blank money orders. His conviction was due to identifying witnesses. Another man, Will Barrett, later gave a detailed confession to the crime. Following Barrett's conviction, U.S. President Coolidge pardoned Lee in 1925.  (CTI)  [10/08]

 Gulf County, FL

Lee & Pitts

Aug 1, 1963 (Port St. Joe)

Wilbert Lee and Freddie Pitts, both blacks, were convicted of the robbery and murders of two white gas station attendants. While no physical evidence linked them to the deaths, the prosecution used their own confessions, which were beaten out of them, and they also used the testimony of an alleged eyewitness. The defendants also suffered from having incompetent defense counsel.

A few weeks after they were sentenced to death, a white man, Curtis “Boo” Adams Jr., was arrested for killing a Fort Lauderdale gas station attendant during a robbery. Adams subsequently confessed to the murders for which Lee and Pitts were convicted. When he learned of this confession, the local sheriff, Byrd Parker, wanted nothing to do with it, saying, “I already got two niggers waiting for the chair in Raiford for those murders.” A polygraph examiner who had heard Adams confess took the matter to the press, and soon a new trial was ordered, at which Lee and Pitts were again convicted.

Some time after the second conviction, the alleged eyewitness recanted her testimony and the state attorney general admitted that the state had unlawfully suppressed evidence. The defendants were released in 1975 when they received a full pardon from Governor Askew, who stated he was “sufficiently convinced that they were innocent.” The ordeal of Lee and Pitts is detailed in the book Invitation to a Lynching by Gene Miller. In 1998, the Florida Legislature awarded the defendants $500,000 each in compensation.  (FLCC) (Time)  [7/05]

New York County, NY

Lemus & Hidalgo

Nov 23, 1990

David Lemus and Olmado Hidalgo were convicted of the murder of Marcus Peterson and the attempted murder of Jeffrey Craig. Both victims were nightclub bouncers who were shot at the Palladium on East 14th St. Prior to the shootings, the bouncers had an argument with their assailants. During the argument, another man acted as a mediator between the two parties. At trial, three witnesses identified Lemus and Hidalgo as the shooters. The witnesses also identified Jose Figueroa as the mediator.

In Dec. 1992, Bernardo Rodriguez, a police informant and member of a Bronx gang named C&C, told police detectives that he had seen the Palladium shooting and that it was carried out by C&C members. He reported that the gunmen were Joseph Pillot and Thomas Morales. Two years later, Pillot told authorities in two separate interviews that he and Morales were responsible for the crime. He said that they had shot the bouncers after being denied access to the club. (Pillot claimed that his gun jammed but that Morales's did not.) In 1996, Pillot again testified to his involvement at a court hearing.

In 2000, during a federal investigation of C&C, Richard Feliciano, a former gang member, told the authorities that he was the mediator in the Palladium dispute and that Lemus and Hidalgo did not shoot the bouncers. He named Morales as the shooter. Several other witnesses backed up Feliciano's testimony, although some were gang members who may have had an incentive to turn on their own in the hopes of gaining leniency. Two of the witnesses were deemed to be more credible. In 2004, defense lawyers obtained prison records that showed that Figueroa, the mediator identified by trial witnesses, was in jail on the night of the shootings. In 2005, Hidalgo's and Lemus's convictions were overturned. Hidalgo was deported to the Dominican Republic. Prosecutors opted to retry Lemus, for in a taped conversation, he had confessed to a woman that he committed the crime. Lemus said that he exaggerated to impress the woman. In 2007, Lemus was acquitted at retrial.  (NY Times) (NY Times #2)  [10/07]

 Washington, DC

Jay Lentz

Apr 23, 1996

(Federal Case)  Thirty-one-year-old Doris Faye Lentz disappeared on Apri1 23, 1996 after telling a friend she was driving from her Arlington, VA home to pick up her 4-year-old daughter, Julia, at her ex-husband's home in Fort Washington, MD. Her ex-husband, Jay E. Lentz was a naval intelligence officer. Doris was once an aide to Senator James Sasser of Tennessee. Doris's blood spattered automobile was found a week after her disappearance in southeast Washington, DC. Federal prosecutors suspected Jay murdered her. They did not have sufficient evidence to bring murder charges against him as there was no body, no weapon, no eyewitnesses, and no crime scene.
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Pierce County, WA 

Chief Leschi

Oct 31, 1855

Leschi, chief of the Nisqually Indian tribe, was convicted of murdering U.S. Army Colonel Abraham Benton Moses during an 1855-56 Indian war in a skirmish that occurred at Connell's Prairie, 6 miles west of Buckley.  His first trial ended in a hung jury because of the judge's instruction that killing of combatants during wartime did not constitute murder. His second trial contained no such instruction and he was convicted and sentenced to death. The territorial Supreme Court refused to consider new evidence by the U.S. Army that Leschi was miles away at the time of the skirmish. The Army refused to carry out the sentence of death, maintaining that he was a prisoner of war. The territorial legislature therefore passed a law authorizing Leschi's execution at the hands of civilian authorities and Leschi was hanged on Feb 19, 1858. A Historical Court of Inquiry appointed by the Washington legislature exonerated Leschi in 2004.  (Justice: Denied)  [9/05]

C. Elizabeth Lester - See Shephard & Lester

 Cook County, IL

George Lettrich, Jr.

Dec 17, 1948 (McCook)

George Lettrich, Jr. was sentenced to death in 1950 for the murder of a 10-year-old girl. He signed two confessions after 60 hours of questioning by Lyons, McCook, and Chicago police. Letterich said one officer threatened that “he would knock my head through the wall and go on the other side and make mincemeat out of it.” Letterich's confession did not agree with many of the known facts of the case. In addition, another man confessed to the crime, a confession that authorities ignored and suppressed at Letterich's trial. Letterich's conviction was overturned in 1952, and prosecutors dropped charges in 1953.  (CWC)  [1/06]

 Pinellas County, FL

George Lewis

May 23, 1984 (Gulfport)

George Allen Lewis was convicted of the rape and murder of a 36-year-old neighbor, Karen Gregory. Gregory lived at the corner of 27 Ave. and Upton St. in Gulfport, FL. Around 1 a.m. on May 23, 1984, more than a dozen of Gregory's neighbors heard a loud piercing scream. Most paid little attention, but on the morning of the 24th, Gregory was found raped and brutally murdered. When interviewed later, Lewis said that upon hearing the scream he walked towards Gregory's house to investigate, but turned around after he failed to see anything suspicious. Lewis was a firefighter and a neighborhood crime watch volunteer. He had a crime watch sign in his yard. Lewis had a sterling reputation and was friends with the case investigator, Detective Larry Tosi.
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Jermel Lewis - See Lex Street Innocents

Summit County, OH

Nate Lewis

Oct 12, 1996

Christina Heaslet Beard accused a fellow University of Akron student, Nathaniel “Nate” Lewis, of raping her in her dorm room. Several weeks prior to Lewis's trial, someone anonymously mailed Lewis photocopied excerpts of Heaslet's diary. The excerpts were highly exculpatory of Lewis. They included, “I think I pounced on Nate because he was the last straw... I'm sick of men taking advantage of me... and I'm sick of myself for giving in to them. I'm not a nympho like all those guys think. I'm just not strong enough to say no to them. I'm tired of being a whore. This is where it ends.”

After Heaslet was ordered to produce the diary, the trial judge reviewed it. The diary also indicated a financial motive for the rape accusation: “Speaking of money, I'm suing Nate. I'm desperate for money! My consience (sic) wouldn't allow me to do that before, but I'm going to do whatever I have to to get out of debt.” The judge excluded the most relevant parts of the diary from being introduced at trial. He ruled that they were barred under Ohio's rape shield law. Faced with a conflict between, “he said the sex was consensual,” and “she said it was rape,” the jury convicted Lewis.

On appeal, the federal Sixth Circuit Court overturned Lewis's conviction in 2002, ruling that the trial judge improperly interfered with Lewis's right to confront his accuser. The prosecution then dropped charges. In 2004, a judge granted Lewis a declaration of innocence. The judge cited several factors: (1) Beard invited Lewis to her dorm room. (2) She drank alcohol in Lewis's presence. (3) She called her roommate to ensure she and Lewis would be alone. (4) She took a birth control pill in front of Lewis. The judge also wrote, “... Heaslet had several sex partners and occasionally had intercourse on first dates, which casts doubt on her previous assertions of only engaging in meaningful relationships.” In 2005, Lewis was awarded $662,000, although $250,000 of it was fees for his lawyers.  (Akron Beacon Journal) (Justice: Denied)  [9/07]

Delaware County, PA

Ronald Lewis

Mar 2, 1998 (Chester)

Ronald Winston Lewis was convicted of murdering his 5-month old son, Shirron Lewis, by shaking him. Shirron had been born premature and required a breathing monitor and as many as 10 medications to survive. Lewis and Shirron's mother, Jackie Allen, had already lost another child, Darius Lewis, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome when he was nine days old. Darius was born with a heart defect. Shirron reportedly had seizures after he was born and Allen wondered if the hospital released him too soon. Lewis is the father of at least nine children.
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Philadelphia County, PA

Lex Street Innocents

Dec 28, 2000

On Dec. 28, 2000, four men clad in black ski masks entered a row house at 816 N. Lex St. and forced its ten inhabitants to lay face down on the floor of the home. The men then released a spray of gunfire that killed seven, ages 15 to 54, and injured three. The killings, the deadliest mass murder in Philadelphia history, became known as the Lex Street Massacre. Police arrested Jermel Lewis, 25, Hezekiah Thomas, 25, Sacon Youk, 22, and Quiante Perrin, 21, in connection to the killings. Following his arrest Lewis confessed to the crime due to “a combination of misinformation [and] coercion.” Lewis may also have been on drugs that day, making him more vulnerable.

Yvette Long, a surviving victim, initially told police she could not identify any of the assailants. However, after sessions with a psychiatrist, she testified that she recovered her memory of the night and named Youk and Perrin as shooters and identified Thomas by a nickname. Another man, Shihean Black, repeatedly confessed to the crime, but police dismissed his confessions. Originally police believed that the murders were committed as part of a dispute over drug territory. However, Black's story was that a drug dealer who lived at the house had ruined the clutch on Black's car, and that the murders were committed in retaliation. Another individual corroborated Black's story, and charges were dropped against the four men after they spent 18 months in prison. The four men later sued the city and won a $1.9 million settlement for wrongful incarceration. Another four men, including Black, later pleaded guilty to the homicides. A book was written about the case entitled The Lex Street Massacre by Antonne M. Jones. [7/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Billy Leyden

Mar 2001 (East Boston)

Billy Leyden was convicted of the decapitation murder of his brother, Jackie Leyden. Billy went to Jackie's apartment on March 12, 2001, but his brother was not around. A week later, on March 19, he went again, smelled a horrid stench, and found Jackie's decapitated body under a bed. The body had been decomposing for at least a week. Police fixated on alleged inconsistencies in Billy's story and on fights Billy had with his brother. They also found a piece of “fatty tissue” with Jackie's DNA in Billy's car trunk. The DNA could be explained as Jackie often rode in Billy's car, sometimes putting bags and dirty laundry in the trunk. Billy was exonerated three years later, after a serial killer, Eugene McCollom, confessed to the murder and led police to a skull that was found in a park near Ft. Lauderdale, FL. DNA tests confirmed the skull was Jackie's. McCollum had known Jackie from Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but his motive for killing him is unclear.  (Sun-Sentinel)  [4/08]

Kings County, NY

Camilo Leyra

Jan 10, 1950

Camilo Leyra was convicted of murdering his father, 75, and mother, 80, with a hammer in the couple's Brooklyn apartment. Leyra and sentenced to death. Following the murders, Leyra was interrogated for several days without much sleep, during which time he suffered from a painful sinus. Police brought him a doctor allegedly to treat his sinus, but the doctor was a psychiatrist with considerable knowledge of hypnosis. By skillful and suggestive questioning, threats and promises, the psychiatrist obtained a confession. An appeals court found that the confession was coerced and overturned the conviction. Since little outside evidence implicated him in the murders, Leyra was released in 1956.  (NY Times) (Appeals) (Post-Gazette)  [1/07]