Victims of the State


Ralph Ploner

Convicted 1984

Ralph Ploner, a wealthy oil company owner, was convicted of forcible oral sodomy. During a civil suit in 1986 when the victim tried to recover money from him, testimony emerged which exonerated Ploner. The nurse at the hospital where the victim went testified that the victim told her that her attacker was her doctor boyfriend. Ploner paid nothing to her. He was released from prison after serving two years, but as of 2001, his conviction has not been overturned.  (FJDB)  [10/05]

Henry County, IL 

Tabitha Pollock

Oct 10, 1995 (Kewanee)

Tabitha Pollock was convicted of murder and sentenced to 36 years imprisonment. Pollock's live-in boyfriend killed her 3-year-old daughter, Jami Sue, and prosecution contended that Pollock “should have known” he posed a danger to her child. Pollock's conviction was upheld on appeal even though the trial judge had acknowledged that Pollock “did not commit the act of killing, nor did she intend to kill the child, nor was she present in the room when her boyfriend killed the child.”

Even though the deadline for filing a further appeal had passed, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed in 2001 to hear the case and in Oct. 2002, unanimously reversed Pollock's conviction, holding that a defendant cannot be convicted on an accountability theory based on what he or she “should have known.” The court barred a retrial, by a vote of four to two, and Pollock was released in Dec. 2002.  (CWC)  [7/05]

Bronx County, NY

Diomedes Polonia

May 16, 1997

Diomedes Polonia was convicted of attempted murder for allegedly shooting Thomas Hosford three times in the course of a robbery. The victim said Freddy Polonia was his shooter. Pedro “Freddy” Polonia is Diomedes brother and bears a strong resemblance to him. When police visited Diomedes' apartment they believed they had found “Freddy.” While in the hospital, the victim was shown fresh mug shots of Diomedes, whom he identified as “Freddy.” Later, the victim further identified the wrong brother at a precinct station house line-up.

The actual Freddy signed a handwritten confession to the crime, but then reportedly fled to Puerto Rico. He was later located in Massachusetts where he had been arrested for drug dealing and was making regular court appearances there. A team of assistant DAs got in a car and drove up to Massachusetts, but Freddy invoked his right to counsel and silence. Then, within days, Freddy fled again, reportedly on a plane out of Boston. Diomedes' conviction was eventually overturned and he was released in Jan. 2003, but only after his Legal Aid attorneys logged 1300 hours on the case, and Diomedes spent over 5 and a half years in prison.  (  [1/07]

Broward County, FL 

Pompano Boys

May 13, 1933

Isiah (Izell) Chambers, Charlie Davis, Jack Williamson, and Walter Woodward were all convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The victim, Robert Darsey (Darcy), an elderly white man, was robbed and murdered in Pompano. The defendants' convictions were based on a false confession extracted from one of them after five days of interrogation. All four were cleared in 1942.  (Chambers et al. v. Florida)  [7/05]

Moore County, NC 

Samuel Poole

May 19, 1973 (Robbins)

Samuel A. Poole was convicted of breaking into and entering the home of Tennie A. Maness with intent to commit rape. Poole was given a mandatory death sentence. The victim lived alone in a four room brick house on Rt. 1 in Robbins, NC. Key evidence against Poole was that a button found in the victim's home seemed to match a button missing from a shirt that was found in Poole's home. In addition, Poole owned the type of gun the victim claimed she saw, and he was in the general vicinity on the day of the incident. These three items of evidence made up the entirety of the state's case.  On appeal in 1974, the NC Supreme Court ruled that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction and acquitted Poole of all charges.  (State v. Poole)  [7/05]

 Dallas County, TX

David Shawn Pope

July 25, 1985 (Garland)

David Shawn Pope was convicted of breaking into an apartment and raping its inhabitant. The victim failed to identify Pope in a photo lineup, but identified him over a month later in a live lineup. The prosecution argued that a knife found in Pope's car was similar to one stolen from the victim's apartment. Messages left on the victim's answering machine after the crime were also said to match Pope's voiceprint. DNA tests exonerated Pope in 2001 and implicated a convicted rapist that was in another Texas prison.  (IP)  [10/05]

Clifton Alton Poret - See Labat & Poret

 Cook County, IL

Anthony Porter

Aug 15, 1982

Anthony Porter was convicted of murdering Jerry Hilliard, 18, and Marilyn Green, 19. The state's key witness, William Taylor, testified that he saw Porter, about five hundred feet away, fire his pistol in the dark of night. He also said that Porter, who is right-handed, used his left hand to fire five fatal shots. Journalism students investigated and re-enacted the crime but from Taylor's position they could not see the face of the shooter in broad daylight. Taylor later admitted his testimony was false and said police had pressured him to name Porter as the shooter. Another man, Alstory Simon, later admitted to the killings after his estranged wife told two students that she had been present at the shootings. She said she did not know Porter, but that he most certainly had nothing to do with the crime. Porter, whose IQ measured between 51 and 75, was released after spending 17 years on death row.  (CWC) (JP) (JD)  [6/05]

 Suffolk County, MA

Anthony Powell


Anthony Powell was convicted of raping a teenage girl. The assailant kidnapped her at knifepoint and after raping her, demanded that she show up the following night at a Chez Vous skating rink with $100. Powell happened to be at the skating rink the next night and was identified by the girl as her assailant. DNA tests exonerated Powell in 2004.  (IP)  [10/05]

Benny Powell - See Chance & Powell

Hoyt Powell - See Marietta Seven

 Denver County, CO

Willard Powell

Mar 28, 1908

(Federal Case tried in Council Bluffs, IA)  Willard Powell was convicted of participating in a massive swindling scheme that had operated in 14 cities and had taken in millions of dollars. The organizers of this scheme ran a “Millionaires' Club” for the purpose of operating fake horse races, wrestling matches, foot races, and boxing matches. They then had a “steerer,” to induce a “mike,” to join with the club's secretary in betting against the club, the “mike” believing that the race or match was to be “thrown” in his favor. After the stakes were put up, with the club's secretary as stakeholder, the event was instead thrown to the club and the “mike” got a dose of his own medicine. The scheme was cleverly worked out, inducing persons to surrender their money, yet leaving them in such a compromising position that they were not anxious to report the affair to the authorities.

Powell was indicted because of testimony that he knew and associated with some of those clearly involved in the scheme. However, there was no evidence that he conspired with anyone. He and his attorney expected a directed verdict of acquittal. However, at the last minute in the Mar. 1910 trial, a “mike” was recalled as a witness and identified Powell as a participant in the group who fleeced him in a fake horse race near Denver, CO. This “mike” could not fix the date when he was fleeced, beyond saying it was between March 20 and April 10, 1908. The only other witness who had testified about this swindle had already been dismissed and had left town.

The date was important, because Powell had alibis in different locations during this time period and did not have time to collect alibi evidence covering the entire period. Powell had two witnesses testify that they returned from Cuba with him around the first of April. Another witness testified that he was in Denver when Powell arrived about the middle of April. However, the jury disregarded this evidence and convicted Powell.

Following Powell's conviction, his attorneys established that the horse race occurred on Mar. 28, 1908, and that Powell was clearly in Tampa, Florida on this date, having returned from Cuba two days before. U.S. President Taft granted Powell a full pardon in July 1910.  (CTI)  [11/07]

 Los Angeles County, CA

Geronimo Pratt

Dec 18, 1968

Elmer A. Pratt, aka Geronimo Pratt, was convicted in 1972 of murdering Caroline Olson, a white schoolteacher. At the time of his arrest, Pratt was the leader of the Los Angeles Black Panther Party and a target of the FBI, which had vowed to neutralize him. While viewing a lineup, the victim's husband, Kenneth Olson, had identified another man, Eugene Perkins, as his wife's killer. The police rectified this situation by conducting another lineup in which the husband identified Pratt. They then removed all information concerning the identification of Perkins from the police file. Several jury members said they would have voted “not guilty” if they had known about the identification of Pratt.

An investigation by Centurion Ministries found that the state's primary witness against Pratt was an informant for the FBI, the LAPD, and the L.A. District Attorney's office. Orange County Superior Court Judge Everett Dickey ruled that the informant had lied extensively about Pratt at his trial. FBI agent Wesley Swearingen reported, “My supervisor and several agents on the racial squad knew that Pratt was innocent because the FBI had wiretap logs proving that Pratt was in the San Francisco area several hours before the shooting of Caroline Olsen and that he was there the day after the murder.” Pratt was freed in June 1997. Pratt's case was written about in Last Man Standing: The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt.  (CM) (Black Panthers) (Murder: An Analysis of its Forms)

Douglas County, NE 

Juneal Pratt

Aug 1975 (Omaha)

Juneal Pratt was convicted of raping and robbing sisters Kathy and Gail Schiefen, age 19 and 17, at the Imperial 400 Motel on 22nd and Douglas in Omaha. The conviction was based on the sisters' identification of Pratt which appears to be completely unreliable. Recent DNA tests have excluded him as the perpetrator.  (Case Chronology) (AP News)  [9/05]

Los Angeles County, CA

James Preston

Oct 18, 1924

James W. Preston was convicted of robbing a Los Angeles widow and shooting her when she tried to escape. The victim, Mrs. Dick R. Parsons lived at 906 W. 50th St. The perpetrator had entered through a first floor window, and on the dust of the screen, fingerprints were found. Preston was arrested on a minor charge a few days after the crime. His fingerprints were compared with those found on the screen, but did not match. For some reason, however, the Los Angeles newspapers carried stories stating that Preston had been identified as Mrs. Parsons' assailant through the fingerprints. The source of this misinformation could not be determined.
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Macomb County, MI 

Lloyd Prevost

Dec 24, 1919

Lloyd Prevost was convicted murdering his wife's cousin and best friend, J. Stanley Brown. Brown was found dead in his car on Drefahl Road, 3 miles west of Mount Clemens. Brown had been shot four times. The coroner placed the time of death at about 11 p.m. The prosecution alleged that Prevost had left his hotel room with Brown at 10:30 p.m. on the night of the murder and had returned alone at 2 a.m. after the murder. The case had the direct assistance of state Attorney General Alexander Groesbeck, who later became Governor. The Michigan Department of Public Safety reinvestigated the case in the fall of 1930.

In its report the DPS indicated the following: (1) For weeks prior to the trial, prosecution witnesses were thoroughly drilled in midnight sessions by the Attorney General. The Prosecuting Attorney told the DPS that he “did not believe Prevost was guilty of the crime,” and that the conviction was obtained largely through the overawing influence of the Attorney General with the jury. (2) The testimony of a taxi driver who said he saw Prevost with Brown after 10:30 p.m. was perjured. (3) The testimony of the ballistics expert was mistaken, for the revolver presented at trial could not have been the murder weapon. (4) The killer's footprints in the snow were made by rubbers, not by army shoes as alleged by the prosecution. Prevost admitted wearing army shoes on the night of the murder. However, his feet were too small to have made the footprints had he been wearing rubbers. (5) The testimony of the hotel proprietress that Brown had returned to the hotel at 2 a.m. was perjured.

One might also surmise that the testimony of the ballistics expert was knowingly perjured for he claimed to have determined that when last fired the alleged murder weapon was fired four times. In addition to the DPS report, convincing information seems to have been presented to the authorities indicating rather pointedly who the true perpetrators were. In view of all the facts and circumstances, it was concluded that Prevost was innocent. Governor Fred W. Green pardoned Prevost in Dec. 1930.  (CTI)  [11/07]

Pima County, AZ

Lemuel Prion

Oct 23, 1992

Lemuel Prion was convicted in 1999 of the murder of Diana Vicari. He was sentenced to death. Prion's conviction was based largely on the testimony of Troy Olson, who identified Prion as the man who was with Vicari on the night of her murder. However, when police first showed Olson photographs of Prion, Olson could not identify Prion. In 2002, the Arizona Supreme Court overturned Prion's conviction because trial court abused its discretion in not allowing the defense to submit evidence that a third party, John Mazure, was the actual killer. Mazure, who was also a suspect in the murder, was known to have a violent temper, saw Vicari the night of her disappearance, concealed information from the police when they questioned him, and “appeared at work the next morning after Vicari's disappearance so disheveled and disoriented that he was fired.” All charges against Prion were dismissed in 2003.  (DRE)  [3/06]

Montgomery County, PA

Ernest Priovolos

Oct 23, 1986

Ernest H. Priovolos was convicted in 1990 of the 1986 murder of his former neighbor and girlfriend, Cheryl Succa. Succa, 21, was found dead with a broken neck under a stone bridge in the 2400 block of Washington Lane in Huntingdon Valley. Police originally classified her death as an accident. They said that in the dark she probably stumbled down the bank of the creek. She may not have seen the large rocks and she hit her head. However, after a career prison informant named John Hall came forward, police ruled her death a homicide. Hall is known to have provided testimony in an extraordinary number of cases. In 1994-95 alone he snitched out defendants in 5 murder cases.

Hall shared a prison cell with Priovolos in Bucks County Prison who was there on a drug related charge. Hall testified that Priovolos bragged to him in the fall of 1988 that he knocked Succa over the bridge with a karate chop and took her purse after becoming angry that she would not have sex with him. Edward Bauman, another inmate and a reported follower of Hall, corroborated Hall's testimony. At trial, a prosecution witness caused a mistrial by testifying that Priovolos had sexually assaulted her in 1985. No charges were ever filed for the alleged assault. At his second trial, Priovolos was convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to 12 to 27 years of imprisonment. The prosecution had sought the death penalty. (Archives) (See also Walter Ogrod (Phila 1988), Michael Dirago (Bucks 1985)) [6/08]

Washington County, PA

Tiffany Pritchett

Dec 14, 1993 (Donora)

Tiffany Pritchett was convicted of murdering Troy Groomes, 25. In March 1995, Dameon Isbell was caught trying to rob a Donora Uni-Mart with the gun that killed Groomes. Once arrested, Isbell told state troopers he had witnessed Pritchett kill Groomes and then stole the gun from where she had stashed it. He said Pritchett, who had no criminal record, sought revenge because Groomes had raped her. Pritchett denied the rape allegation and told police she watched Isbell execute Groomes in a dispute over drugs. After Isbell passed a polygraph test, his statement was used to charge Pritchett with murder.

Pritchett's attorney, Francis Sichko, allowed his client to be polygraphed while he was at a Pitt/Temple football game. After the test, state troopers interrogated Pritchett. They claimed the test proved her guilt. “They started banging on the desk and hollering, trying to scare me and things like that, a lot of intimidation,” said Pritchett. Troopers claimed Pritchett confessed, although they did not take notes or ask her to sign a confession. Pritchett denied the confession, but was convicted.

In 1998, Pritchett submitted an affidavit from an inmate stating that Isbell had bragged that he had gotten away with killing Groomes. In 2006, when a judge was considering Pritchett's application for a new trial, the prosecutor offered her a deal: If she dropped the appeal and pleaded guilty to a felony murder count, she would be released. Pritchett declined the offer. She won a new trial. Rather than remain incarcerated through prosecution appeals of the new trial order, which could take years, Pritchett accepted a time-served plea deal in which she did not have to admit guilt.  (Post-Gazette)  [12/06]

Eric Proctor - See Boots & Proctor

 Quebec, Canada

Benoit Proulx

Oct 25, 1982 (Ste. Foy)

Benoit Proulx was convicted in 1991 of murdering his ex-girlfriend, 19-year-old France Alain. Alain, a University of Laval student, was shot in the hip near the CHRC radio station in Sainte-Foy. She died a short time later. Proulx was a reporter at the station and had been working the night of the murder. In 1986 the case file was closed as the coroner was unable to establish any contact between Proulx and Alain on the night of the murder.

Subsequently, Proulx launched a defamation suit against a radio station and a retired police investigator for comments they made concerning his guilt. In 1991, in the midst of this suit, the suit defendants advised the prosecution of a potential new witness. The witness claimed that after seeing Proulx's photo in the newspaper, he recognized Proulx's eyes as being the eyes of a bearded man he saw near the crime scene on the night of the murder. The witness could not at first formally identify Proulx. Nevertheless he identified Proulx at trial and Proulx was convicted. In 1992, the Quebec Court of Appeal quashed the conviction due to serious trial irregularities. It also noted that the presented evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. The court entered a verdict of acquittal.

Following his acquittal, Proulx sued the Attorney General of Quebec for malicious prosecution and won a judgment of $1.15 million. However, the judgment was reversed on appeal. Proulx was awarded $1.6 million for his wrongful imprisonment.  (IB) (Proulx v. Quebec)  [4/08]

Heywood Pugh - See Fowler & Pugh

Marion County, MS 

Will Purvis

June 22, 1893

Will Purvis was convicted of the murder of Will Buckley. Buckley was a member of the Whitecaps, a tight-knit organization similar to the Ku Klux Klan. Its members swore in blood never to reveal its secrets. In early 1892, the Whitecaps had unmercifully flogged a black servant of Buckley. Buckley had known nothing of the Whitecaps' intentions and was absent. Enraged at this uncalled-for violence and the secrecy with which it was carried out, Buckley decided to submit the whole affair and to expose the secrets of the Whitecaps to the next meeting of the Grand Jury. At the Grand Jury meeting, Buckley's evidence was presented, and indictments were brought against the three Whitecaps who were known to be most brutal in the attack.
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Jefferson County, AL

Wesley Quick

Oct 25, 1995

Wesley Quick was convicted of murdering teenagers John Hughes and Nathan King, who were gunned down at Turkey Creek. His first trial ended in a mistrial because of juror misconduct. At his second trial, defense counsel tried to impeach the state's witness with prior inconsistent statements using his notes from the first trial, but the judge would not allow it, nor would he provide counsel with a copy of the transcript from the previous trial. Quick was convicted and sentenced to death, but the conviction was overturned because an appeals court ruled that given Quick's indigent status, the judge should have provided him with a free copy of the transcripts from the first trial. During Quick's third trial, Quick testified that he did not commit the murders but said he was at the scene and saw the state's star witness kill the teenagers. The third trial jury acquitted Quick in 2003.  (DRE) (DPIC)  [3/06]

 Leon County, FL

Quincy Five

Sept 18, 1970 (Tallahassee)

After Khomas Revels, an off-duty deputy sheriff, was murdered during a robbery of Luke's Grocery store, Tallahassee police charged five black men from Quincy, Florida with the crime. One of these men, David Keaton, was an 18-year-old star football player with plans to enter the ministry. Although he had an alibi, Keaton was held in custody for more than a week. During that time he maintained he had been threatened, lied to, and beaten until he confessed. He believed that despite his confession, no jury would convict him when they heard his alibi. He was wrong. At trial his coerced confession was buttressed by the false testimony of five eyewitnesses. Keaton was convicted and sentenced to death. In his confession Keaton implicated Johnnie Frederick, who was “clean as a whistle,” in the belief that a judge and jury would see that his confession was false. Frederick was convicted as well and sentenced to life in prison.

David Charles Smith and two other Quincy defendants still awaited trial. In the meantime, a witness arose, Benjamin Franklin Pye, who knew the actual men who committed the crime. The men were from Jacksonville, not Quincy, though Pye knew only their street names. But he knew the motel where they had stayed, the dates, and the rental car they drove. He was with them when they cased Luke's to rob it later. Pye gave this information to his attorney, who in turn relayed it to Smith's attorney, Will Varn. Varn was a former U.S. attorney, and he was able to get funds from the judge to hire an investigator who came up with names to fit Pye's story. The names also fit the crime scene fingerprints that had not matched any of the Quincy Five. The three Jacksonville men were tried and convicted.

Despite the new evidence, the state continued to insist the Quincy Five were guilty as well. When Smith came to trial, five white eyewitnesses swore he was guilty. But Varn had the conflicting fingerprints and convictions, Pye's testimony, and a good alibi for Smith. An all-white jury acquitted him. The Florida Supreme Court took note and ordered new trials for Keaton and Frederick. The prosecution soon dropped charges against Keaton and Frederick, as well as against the remaining two Quincy defendants. Keaton and Frederick were released in 1973. In 1974 Tallahassee writer Jeffrey Lickson published a 142-page book about the case entitled David Charles: The Story of the Quincy Five.  (SP Times) (TWM) (FLCC) (SPT1) (SPT2) (OSB) (Papers)  [3/07]

Sacramento County, CA

David Quindt

Oct 6, 1998

David Quindt was convicted of a fatal shooting that occurred during an attempted theft of marijuana in a home invasion. His co-defendant, Anthony Salcedo, was also charged, but had not been convicted due to a mistrial. Quindt's verdict was set aside after a tipster revealed the identities of the true killers. They were later convicted. Quindt served 2 years of a life without parole sentence. Quindt's case was written about in The Prosecutors by Gary Delsohn (2003)  [6/05]