Recent Crime Cases

Crime Dates 2001 to 2008

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Year:   2001   2002   2003   2004   2005   2006   2007   2008




Date of Alleged Crime


U.S. Federal Case (FL) Nino Lyons Convicted 2001

Antonino Lyons, a Cocoa, Florida businessman, owned a chain of clothing stores.  He was convicted of drug trafficking, carjacking, and distributing counterfeit clothing.  The prosecution relied on the testimony of 26 felons convicted of federal drug law violations.  These witnesses testified that Lyons sold them more than $6 million of cocaine.  There was no independent evidence – no drugs, no non-felon witnesses, no wiretaps, no tape recordings – supporting the claims of the witnesses.  Lyons received letters from prisoners who said they were approached by the prosecution, but refused to perjure themselves in exchange for sentence reductions.

At trial, the prosecution withheld numerous exculpatory documents that were belatedly turned over on appeal.  The documents supported Lyons's contention that the prosecution's case against him was not just evidentially insufficient, but had the appearance of being contrived out of whole cloth.  In 2004, a judge vacated Lyons's convictions and dismissed all charges against him.  It is unknown why federal prosecutors targeted Lyons.  (JD33 p6) (U.S. v. Lyons)  [2/07]


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.”

“After police traced her license plate, the driver of the getaway car in a 2001 San Jose home-invasion robbery agreed to testify against the robbers. Vanessa Sousa identified three of the four. Of the fourth, she told police he ‘might have been the brother’ of the other African-American robber, Thomas Butler.  Police discovered that Darcius Butler had just been paroled for a drug-possession conviction. Darcius Butler insisted he was at a family gathering at the time of the robbery, and family members vouched for him.”

“Lisa Stuffel, a victim of the robbery, selected Darcius Butler from a photo lineup, saying he ‘looks like’ the stocky black man with braids who pointed a gun at her.  The other victims were unable to identify him in the lineup, and Sousa said she could not be sure.  But the prosecution proceeded.  By the time of the trial, Stuffel’s son and daughter also were saying Butler was one of the robbers.”

“Judge Alden Danner prohibited references to Darcius Butler’s parole status because it could bias the jury against him.  Danner’s order was violated twice.  Seeking to establish that Butler did not wear braids at the time of the robbery, Butler’s lawyer asked a police investigator what he knew about the timing of a recent haircut.  ‘I spoke with his parole agent,’ the investigator said. Prosecutor Charles Slone mentioned ‘Agent Houston’ again in his closing argument.  Danner told the jury each time to ignore the reference.  Butler was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison.”

“Two years later, a 6th District appellate panel declared that the mention of Butler’s parole status ‘irreparably damaged’ the trial.  So weak was the evidence against him that it was ‘reasonably probable’ he would have been found not guilty in a fair trial, the court said.”

“As prosecutors considered whether to retry Butler, their case grew weaker.  Two of the convicted robbers gave declarations saying that Butler was not part of their group.  Stuffel and one other witness told a defense investigator they were not certain of their identifications.  Butler passed a polygraph test.  The Mercury News confronted the district attorney’s office with the new evidence.”

“Prosecutors decided to offer Butler a deal: Plead guilty to false imprisonment, a lesser felony crime, and leave prison immediately. Butler accepted after his attorney advised him not to run the risk, however small, of a second conviction.  ‘I believe my client was innocent, and that makes it impossible to feel good about this outcome,’ attorney Patrick Kelly said.” – Mercury News  (People v. Butler)


U.S. Federal Case (GA) GFI Five 2001
David Cawthon and four codefendants sold financial instruments for Global Financial Investments (GFI).  Unknown to the defendants, GFI's financial soundness was backed by phony documents.  Virgil Womack, who turned out to be a major con man, ran the company.  After Womack split with much of the company's assets, the five were convicted of numerous financial crimes in federal court.  There is evidence that they acted to protect investors.  However at trial, the judge acted as a second prosecutor.  He refused to allow two key witnesses to testify, one because he was another judge.  He also barred defense arguments regarding the defendants' innocent state of mind.  (JD32 p10) (Fraud Digest) (ANG)  [12/06]


Hamilton County, TN Jerry & Mike Brock 2001 - 2003

(Federal Case)  Brothers Jerry and Mike Brock were convicted of conspiring to extort money from the Sessions Court of Hamilton County, Tennessee.  The two had allegedly paid a deputy clerk, Simon Simcox, to remove the names of bail jumpers from the court computer system. The brothers purportedly did this so they would not have the money they put up for bail forfeited to the court.  Both brothers were sentenced to 21 months in prison.

On appeal, the federal Sixth Circuit Court vacated the brothers' convictions.  It ruled that the brothers could not be guilty of conspiring to extort money, since, at best, they were trying to keep their own money and a person cannot extort money from himself.  (FJDB) (Chattanoogan) [9/08]


Rapides Parish, LA Amanda Hypes Jan 2001 (Tioga)
Amanda Hypes, aka Amanda Gutweiler, was indicted in April 2002 for the arson murder of her three children, Sadie Plum, 10, Luke Hayden, 6, and Jessica Gutweiler, 3.  A fire “expert,” John DeHaan, ruled that the Jan. 2001 fire that destroyed her home on Friar Tuck Road in Tioga was arson.  Prosecutors said they would demand the death penalty.  After being held in jail awaiting trial for more than four years, a judge dismissed the indictment and released Hypes.  He ruled that the original arson finding was based “merely on an old wives tale,” of discredited fire investigation techniques.  (Chicago Tribune)  [3/07]


Cass County, MO Jennifer Hall Jan 24, 2001
Jennifer Hall was convicted of arson after fire investigators failed to notice an obvious electrical short.  At sentencing her attorney pressured her to take responsibility for the fire, as the court would look more favorably on her.  Although Hall had never smoked, she related a story of starting the fire accidentally by dropping a cigarette.  Hall's second attorney hired an expert who found the obvious short.  A judge overturned Hall's conviction in 2004, a week after she was paroled.  Despite having served her time, the prosecutor retried her in 2005.  Hall's family felt this was done out of spite.  The retrial jury found her “not guilty.”  (JD28)  [2/07]


Fayette County, PA Crystal Weimer Jan 27, 2001 (Connellsville)

Crystal Dawn Weimer was convicted in 2006 of conspiring to murder Curtis Haith.  Haith, 21, was beaten and shot to death outside his Connellsville apartment following a late night party.  Hours before the murder, Weimer and about a dozen or so friends including Haith drank beer at her house in Uniontown.  At 11:30 p.m., one of the partiers drove Haith to Connellsville, 12 miles away.  Weimer tagged along but returned to Uniontown within an hour.  Haith partied at a Connellsville bar until 2:00 a.m., then invited some of the patrons to his nearby apartment. The last patrons left Haith's apartment about 4:30 a.m. Twenty minutes later, a neighbor called police reporting frantic screams from the area of Haith's apartment. Police found Haith beaten to death with a gunshot wound to the face in a lot next to his apartment.

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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]


Atlantic County, NJ Jim Andros Apr 1, 2001 (Pleasantville)
Jim Andros, an Atlantic City police officer, was charged with suffocating his wife.  Twenty months later charges were dropped after prosecutors concluded she died of a rare heart condition.  (NY Times)  [9/05]


Mobile County, AL Donnie Mays Apr 12, 2001 (Mobile)

Donnie Mays was convicted of the murder of his wife Kaye.  On the day of Kaye's death, Donnie, who worked for American General Auto Finance, received a phone call from corporate headquarters telling him that someone had forged his signature on expense reports.  Kaye subsequently admitted she had forged Donnie's signature.  Not knowing the severity of the wrongdoing or that Kaye had actually stolen money from his employer, Donnie suggested they call his boss, Jim Martin, whom both Donnie and Kaye were close to.  However, Kaye decided it would be best to wait until the following morning.

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Forrest County, MS Stephanie Stephens May 1, 2001 (Hattiesburg)

Stephanie Stephens was convicted of the murder of her 59-year-old husband, Dr. David Stephens.  David was chief of surgery at Hattiesburg's Forrest General Hospital.  David appeared to have died in his sleep, while Stephanie slept next to him.  However, two drugs were found in his system, Etomidate, an anesthetic, and Atricurium, a drug used to relax muscles during surgery for patients on life support. Without life support, Atricurium is lethal as it will paralyze a person's heart and lungs.

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Stark County, OH Christopher Bennett May 29, 2001

Christopher Bennett was charged with vehicular homicide after the van he was in crashed and killed a fellow occupant, Ronald Young, 42.  The crash occurred on Baywood Street in Paris Township.  Neither Bennett nor Young were wearing a seat belt before the crash.  Bennett pleaded guilty to the charge after a witness report and the state crash expert, Trooper Toby Wagner, indicated that he was the driver.  After Bennett's amnesia cleared in prison, he realized that he was the passenger.  Bennett requested that the blood from the van be tested and such tests appear to exonerate him.  The van had a driver's side airbag and Young's injuries were consistent with hitting the airbag.  Bennett's injuries were consistent with hitting the windshield.  Another witness has come forward who said Young was the driver.  Bennett's conviction was overturned in 2006, and he faces a possible retrial.  (Akron Beacon Journal)  [9/06]


Cuyahoga County, OH Eve Rudd June 10, 2001

Twenty-seven-year-old Eve Rudd was indicted by a grand jury for the arson murders of her 4-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son.  Authorities charged Rudd after finding pour patterns, which they said were evidence that she had doused clothing and papers in a second-floor bedroom with cooking oil and set the room ablaze.  But the pour patterns proved to be a faulty indicator of arson.

Kenneth Gibson, a fire investigator retained by defense lawyers, videotaped an experiment with cooking oil and found it was not an accelerant – the oil by itself was not flammable unless it was heated to 540 degrees.  Gerald Hurst, who also investigated the fire for the defense, said there were so many burn patterns, “you can't interpret them anymore.”  A jury acquitted Rudd after she spent nine months in jail.  [10/07]


Santa Rosa County, FL Lance Fierke June 25, 2001
Lance Fierke's cellmate at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution had raped him and had threatened to rape him again.  Fierke reported the incident and when he refused to go back to his cell for more, Officer Dean beat him.  (Report)  [9/05]


Honolulu County, HI Tayshea Aiwohi July 17, 2001
Tayshea Aiwohi was convicted in 2004 of manslaughter in the death of her son, Treyson, who died two days after being born.  His cause of death was ruled to be methamphetamine poisoning.  Aiwohi was charged with manslaughter based on her methamphetamine use during pregnancy. She pleaded no contest on the condition she could appeal her conviction, and she was sentenced to 10 years probation. In 2005 the Hawaii Supreme Court overturned her conviction, ruling that she could not have committed manslaughter as it requires behavior against a person that is related to that person's death.  Since her alleged behavior occurred prior to her son's birth, and since a fetus is not legally a person, she could not be guilty of the crime.  (Hawaii v. Aiwohi) (Star Bulletin)  [9/08]


Harris County, TX Carlos Coy Sept 1, 2001
Carlos Coy, a rapper whose stage name is South Park Mexican, was convicted of the sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl.  The girl had been invited over to Coy's house by his 6-year-old daughter.  She claimed Coy touched her inappropriately during a supposed sleepover while a Scooby Doo tape was playing on the VCR and Coy's daughter had fallen asleep next to her.  No physical evidence corroborated her accusation.  During initial questioning at trial, the girl said she wasn't sure what had happened and thought it could have been a dream.  She also said she did not remember the incident clearly.  Given the girl's youth, she was highly susceptible to persuasion by relatives who may have wanted to target Coy because of his money and fame.  Coy has at least six music albums with collective sales topping 1.5 million.  The trial judge sentenced Coy to 45 years in prison.  Three months after Coy's sentencing the girl's family filed a civil suit against him seeking unspecified damages.  (Chronicle) (SPM's Music Videos)  [10/09]


Allegheny County, PA Hosea Davis Sept 16, 2001 (East Liberty)
Hosea Davis was convicted of the murder of Tommy Paige.  Paige had died from a puncture wound, that Davis maintains he did not inflict.  The key prosecution witness testified that Davis stabbed Paige.  On cross-examination, Davis's lawyer got her to say, “I think that [Paige] was really, really asking for it that night.”  The lawyer then refused to call several witnesses willing to testify that Davis could not have stabbed Paige, and relied instead on a self-defense strategy.  The strategy failed, but since the conviction, the key witness has recanted.  (PPU)


Dauphin County, PA Samuel Randolph Sept 19, 2001 (Harrisburg)

Samuel Randolph IV was sentenced to death for a barroom shooting that killed Anthony Burton, 18, and Thomas Easter, 21.  The shooting occurred in Harrisburg at Todd and Pat's Hotel in the 1900 block of North Sixth Street.  It also left 5 others wounded.  Investigators initially had a difficult time finding a suspect because all the witnesses stated that the perpetrator wore a mask.  However, an individual who was facing unrelated criminal charges eventually came forward who was willing to identify Randolph as the perpetrator in exchange for a generous plea deal for himself.  This witness said he was able to identify Randolph because the perpetrator's mask had briefly slipped.  Despite his checkered past, Randolph insists he did not commit the crime.  On June 28, 2006, Pennsylvania Governor Rendell signed a death warrant for Randolph's execution.  (Patriot-News)  [3/08]


Boone County, MO Ferguson & Erickson Nov 1, 2001 (Columbia)

Ryan Ferguson and Chuck Erickson were convicted of the brutal murder of Columbia Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt.  A janitor, Jerry Trump, caught a glimpse of two young white men running away from Heitholt's car around the time of the murder.  The janitor said he could not provide a detailed description of them.  Two years after the crime, after reading anniversary newspaper coverage, Erickson began telling friends he dreamed he had killed Heitholt.

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Australia (WA) Rory Christie Nov 15, 2001
Rory Christie was convicted of the murder of his wife, Susan Christie.  He was charged nearly a year after her disappearance.  On retrial he was judicially acquitted because the evidence was insufficient to convict him.  (IPWA) (Christie v. The Queen) (Regina v. Christie)


St. Louis County, MO Sandra Kemper Nov 16, 2001 (Black Jack)
Sandra Kemper confessed to starting a house fire that killed her 15-year-old son after she was told that she failed a lie detector test.  The defense argued the confession was coerced.  The trial judge allowed evidence of the lie detector test into the trial.  The defense argued that it showed an 88 percent probability she was telling the truth.  The judge then declared a mistrial because he changed his mind about the admissibility of the test.  In 2006, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that Kemper cannot be retried, as a retrial would violate the law against double jeopardy.  [9/06]


York County, SC Billy Wayne Cope Nov 29, 2001 (Rock Hill)

Billy Wayne Cope, a white man, was charged with beating, sexually assaulting, and murdering his 12-year-old daughter Amanda.  Amanda died at her family's Rich Street home in Rock Hill.  Police suspected Cope, as there were no signs of forced entry to their home.  After four days of interrogation while suffering from the stress of finding his daughter dead, Cope confessed to the crime.  Later DNA tests of the semen found inside Amanda matched a black man, James Edward Sanders, who had a history of break-ins involving sexual assaults.  Sanders had moved into Cope's neighborhood a few weeks before.  Instead of dropping the charges against Cope, police, not wanting to waste a coerced confession, merely added a conspiracy charge, despite the fact that no connection was established between Cope and Sanders.

As trial neared in 2004, Judge John C. Hayes III refused to sever Cope's trial from that of Sanders and thereby prevented Cope's defense from presenting evidence of Sanders' other crimes.  Sanders, who was released from prison before Amanda was killed, was charged with several York County crimes, including break-ins and a sexual assault that occurred after Amanda died.  At the conclusion of the trial, both Cope and Sanders were convicted of the crime.

The television news magazine Dateline NBC later produced a two-hour report about the case which Prosecutor Kevin Brackett called, “...a blatant, slanted, one-sided, hit piece designed to make us look bad.”  Brackett has since created a website in which he attempts to defend the conviction.  (TruthInJustice) (The Herald)  [12/05]


U.S. Federal Case (NY) Martha Stewart Dec 2001
Martha Stewart, a well-known domestic diva, was investigated for insider trading because she sold her shares of ImClone stock the day before the company announced that its cancer drug, Erbitux, was not approved by the FDA.  The investigation revealed that Stewart did not engage in insider trading, but had sold them because her broker observed that the ImClone stock price was declining and that the company CEO was selling his shares.  To protect themselves from a vague and undefined insider trading laws, Stewart and her broker doctored their story.  Stewart was convicted of obstruction of justice for lying.  For this offense to have any meaning, there must be a crime that she lied about and obstructed.  The prosecutors presented no such crime.  Stewart served five months of jail time and five months of house arrest.  She suffered no apparent loss of reputation with the public.  (TruthInJustice)


Santa Clara County, CA Jeffrey Rodriguez Dec 10, 2001

“Jeffrey Rodriguez was wrongly convicted in 2002 of a December 2001 robbery of a San Jose auto parts employee based on the victim's identification of Rodriguez, and a crime lab technician's testimony that a stain on Rodriguez's pants was from oil.  He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.  California's Sixth District Court of Appeal vacated the conviction and ordered a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel.  After Rodriguez's first trial resulted in a hung jury that voted 11-1 to acquit, he ran out of money and his lawyer didn't call any witnesses at his retrial.  Those witnesses included an expert who had determined Rodriguez was a victim of mistaken identity, and alibi witnesses.”

“After Rodriguez's conviction, his trial lawyer was suspended from practicing law on September 16, 2004 by the California Bar Association for reasons unrelated to Rodriguez's case. In April 2006 an arrest warrant for the lawyer, Paul Raj Gideon, was issued by Santa Clara County, after Gideon failed to appear for his trial on charges of practicing law without a license and drug possession. On January 5, 2008 the California Supreme Court disbarred Paul Raj Gideon from practicing law in California. The victim of the robbery and sole eyewitness signed a statement claiming the police and prosecutors pressured him to fit his narrative of the crime to fit the evidence, and an independent lab discovered that the stain on Rodriguez's pants was not oil. With no evidence Rodriguez was the robber, the charges against Rodriguez were dismissed by the San Jose District Attorney's Office on February 5, 2007, and Rodriguez was released after more than five years of wrongful imprisonment. ... In August 2009 Santa Clara County agreed to pay Rodriguez $1 million to settle his federal civil rights lawsuit against Santa Clara County.” – FJDB


Jefferson Davis County, MS Cory Maye Dec 26, 2001 (Prentiss)

Cory Maye, a black man, was sentenced to death for the murder of a white police officer.  One night while the 21-year-old Maye was drifting off to sleep in front of a television, a violent pounding on his front door awakened him.  It sounded as though someone was trying to break it down.  He retrieved his handgun and went to the bedroom where his 14-month-old daughter was sleeping and got down on the floor next to the bed.  He hoped the noises would go away, but they shifted around to the back of the house, where after a loud crash, Maye's rear door was violently flung open, nearly separating it from its hinges.  After someone kicked open the bedroom door, Maye fired three shots.  The next thing Maye heard is someone scream, “Police!  Police!  You just shot an officer!”  Maye then dropped his gun and surrendered.  The shot officer, Ron Jones, was wearing a bulletproof vest, but one of Maye's bullets hit him just below the vest and proved fatal.  Jones was the son of the town's police chief.

Maye was severely beaten after his arrest.  Police denied this charge, but a press photo shows him with a swollen black eye.  Maye's family was prohibited from seeing him for more than a week – long enough for his bruises to heal.  Police had raided Maye's duplex because a reputed drug dealer – a person Maye had never met – lived in an adjoining half of the duplex.  A confidential informant said there were large stashes of marijuana in both halves of the duplex.  Only the remains of a smoked joint were found in Maye's duplex.  Maye had no criminal record and police did not know his name prior to the drug raid.  Maye's conviction has provoked outrage not only by liberals concerned about racially charged Southern Justice, but also by conservative supporters of the right to bear arms.  Maye's death sentence was overturned in Sept. 2006.  (Reason) (DOC)  [4/07]


Franklin County, OH Kevin Tolliver Dec 29, 2001

Kevin Alan Tolliver, a black man, was convicted of murdering Claire Schneider, his white live-in girlfriend.  According to Tolliver, Schneider killed herself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  Although she was clinically depressed and had not taken her Paxil medicine in 4 days, Schneider's shooting of herself in the mouth, happened so unexpectedly that it appeared to be an involuntary suicide.  She may not have been aware that the gun was loaded.  The shooting occurred shortly after midnight.

Tolliver was a severe dyslexic since childhood, and emotionally went to pieces following his girlfriend's death.  He screamed and cried.  Two neighbors in his building, hearing his screams called police, but police came and left without finding the source of the disturbance.  Police finally were summoned back by Tolliver's ex-wife, more than an hour after the shooting.  Police arrested Tolliver immediately and performed no investigation.  They did not test either Tolliver's or Schneider's hands for gunshot residue.

The coroner was prepared to rule that Schneider's death was self-inflicted, until the police gave their theory.  He still ruled that her death was undetermined. The prosecution argued murder and Tolliver was convicted because of ineffective defense and the perjured testimony of a jailhouse snitch.  Tolliver is serving 16 years to life imprisonment.  (Free KT)  [4/08]


New Haven County, CT William B. Coleman 2002 (Waterbury)
William B. Coleman was convicted of raping his wife.  His wife made the allegation after Coleman filed for sole custody of their children, and the wife had hired a divorce lawyer.  Coleman's lawyers argued that his wife made the rape allegation as a ploy to gain sole custody of their two children.  The conviction was based solely on wife's testimony.  Coleman was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, sentence to be suspended after he serves 8 years.  (TruthInJustice)  [7/05]


Pinellas County, FL Raymond Baugh Jan 13, 2002 (St. Petersburg)
Raymond Andrew Baugh was convicted in 2002 of the capital sexual battery of a 7-year-old girl, identified as C. P.  Baugh lived with Rachel, the girl's mother.  C. P. said he molested her behind a locked bedroom door.  She subsequently told investigators that Baugh had molested her 12 previous times. There was no physical evidence supporting the molestation. A month later, C. P. told her mother that she had lied.  She said she was mad at Baugh and wanted to get him in trouble, but not too much trouble.  She claimed she initially maintained her story about Baugh because she was afraid of what her mother might do if she found out that she, C. P., had lied.  At trial, C. P. testified there was never any molestation.  However, the prosecution presented the girl's previous statements that she had given.  Baugh was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.  The 2nd District Court of Appeal subsequently upheld Baugh's conviction, based on prosecution claims that the girl's original accusation was more believable than her recantation.  However, in 2007 the Florida Supreme Court quashed Baugh's conviction on the grounds that such claims were simply inadequate to support a conviction.  (SP Times) (03) (07) [10/08]


Mexico Rivera & Calderón Jan 24, 2002 (Ensenada)

Francisco Rivera Agredano and his brother-in-law, Alfonso Calderón León were convicted of drug trafficking after 37 pounds of marijuana was found in the door of a Nissan Pathfinder SUV that Rivera was driving.  Calderón was a passenger.  The two were stopped at a checkpoint near Ensenada, which is more than 70 miles from the U.S. Border.  Rivera, a Tijuana printer, had bought the car four months before for $2,600 at a U.S. government auction in San Ysidro, CA.  It had previously been seized when 59 pounds of marijuana was found inside its gasoline tank.

Rivera had crossed the U.S.-Mexican border five times without incident after he bought the car.  Under Mexican law the two men were presumed guilty.  They were convicted after a Mexican judge rejected their claim that U.S. customs did not thoroughly search the car.  The two were sentenced to five years in prison.  The U.S., not only ignored their pleas for help, but fought to keep exonerating evidence from their attorneys.  After a year in prison, the convictions of the two were vacated after Rivera's lawyer was able to convince a Mexicali appeals court that the moldy marijuana found inside the Pathfinder was too old to be of resale value.

Rivera was later awarded $551,000 in a suit against the U.S. government, and may get an additional sum for costs incurred by his U.S. lawyers.  Calderón could not sue because because of a U.S. Supreme Court precedent barring lawsuits against the federal government for incidents arising outside the U.S.  U.S. District Judge Emily Hewitt ruled that she did not know how customs missed the contraband, but she rejected the claim advanced by Rivera's lawyers that the Customs Service does not thoroughly search vehicles because doing so could cause damage them and decrease their resale value.  In legal documents, U.S. attorneys said the government did nothing wrong and that the onus is on the buyers to make sure the cars are drug free.  According to Teresa Trucchi, attorney for Rivera and Calderón, “I don't think 'as is' to the normal consumer means, 'If I buy it and it's stuffed full of drugs that I'm unaware of and I get arrested, that's my problem.'”  (SD Union-Tribune) (CBS)  [10/08]


Clark County, NV David Ruffa Feb 7, 2002 (Henderson)
David Ruffa was convicted of murdering his estranged wife, Shao Lei.  Pre-trial DNA tests exonerated him and implicated an unknown person.  Police and prosecutors refused to pursue this result and request DNA samples from other possible suspects.  Instead they prosecuted Ruffa on the theory that he may have accompanied or hired the hands-on killer.  Even without the DNA exoneration, the circumstantial case against Ruffa was weak and largely refuted by defense evidence.  However, Ruffa was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.  (TruthInJustice) (Defense Blog)  [3/07]


San Diego County, CA Cynthia Sommer Feb 18, 2002

Cynthia Sommer was convicted of murdering her husband, 23-year-old Todd Sommer.  She was alleged to have poisoned him with arsenic.  Todd was a U.S. Marine Corps sergeant and died in February 2002 after collapsing at the couple's apartment at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.  A pathologist first suggested that Todd's death was due to a heart attack.  Months later, an examination of Todd's organs found large amounts of arsenic in his liver and kidneys.  At trial in Jan. 2007 there was a lack of evidence that Cynthia bought any arsenic or poisoned Todd.  Since the science of arsenic poisoning was fuzzy, defense experts were prepared to argue that Todd died of the effects of the now-banned weight loss pill Ephedra, or a prescription drug taken for diarrhea, or a rare, undiagnosed condition.

Cynthia's mother testified that, in the days after Todd's death, Cynthia curled into a fetal position on her bed and wept.  Cynthia got a tattoo with her husband's name, birth date, date of death and the Latin words Semper Fidelis, or “always faithful,” the Marine Corps motto.

However, prosecution rebuttal witnesses testified that Cynthia used her husband's life insurance money to have her breasts enlarged, have sex with three Marines, hold raucous parties, and perform in a thong and wet T-shirt contest at a Tijuana bar, flashing her breasts.

In Dec. 2007, Cynthia's conviction was overturned due to ineffective assistance of counsel.  After the prosecution performed new tests on tissue samples taken from Todd's body, experts could find no evidence of arsenic.  Because of the new evidence, the prosecution dropped charges against Cynthia in April 2008 and she was released from prison.  She had been imprisoned for more than two years.  ( (LA Times)  [8/09]


Wayne County, MI Dominique Brim Apr 15, 2002 (Lincoln Park)

A security guard at the Sears store in Lincoln Park stopped a woman leaving the store on April 15, 2002 with $1,300 in unpaid merchandise.  In an attempt to get away, the woman severely bit the guard.  After being arrested, the woman was taken to a police station where she told police her address, her phone number, that she was 15-years-old, and that her name was Dominique Brim.  She was allowed to leave without being booked.

Two weeks later, 15-year-old Dominique Brim was charged with retail fraud and felony assault.  She claimed she had not been at the store on April 15 and that she had not been arrested.  In court, several Sears employees, including the security guard, identified her as the person who was apprehended and who bit the guard.  The judge did not believe Brim's mistaken identity defense and convicted her on both counts.

However, Brim's vehement claim that she was the wrong person did impress Sears officials enough to review their store videotape of the April 15 incident.  They discovered that Brim was not the person who was involved in the incident.  After the prosecutor and Brim's lawyer were contacted, the judge vacated her conviction before she was sentenced.  The woman on the tape was later identified as Chalaunda Latham.  She was not 15-years-old, she was 25.  Latham was able to pass herself off as Brim because she was a friend of Brim's sister.  Prosecutors decided not to charge Latham because the Sears employees had already given sworn testimony that Brim was responsible for the theft and security guard assault.  (JD29)  [3/07]


Charleston County, SC Keith Bradley May 2002
Keith Renard Bradley was convicted of murdering Miriam Leeks and sentenced to life in prison.  Leeks, a 37-year-old homeless woman, was found bludgeoned to death in a wooded area off of Willtown Road in Adams Run, SC.  Her body was wrapped in garbage bags and sheets.  Bradley's conviction was due to the testimony of two incentivized witnesses which contradicted testimony of the witness who reported the murder and who had no known incentive for coming forward.  All the other evidence in the case was exculpatory of Bradley.

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Erie County, PA Corinne Wilcott June 8, 2002  (Erie)

Corinne Wilcott was convicted of fetal homicide.  During a fight, Wilcott had twice kicked her husband's pregnant lover, Sheena Carson, in the belly.  Wilcott later said she did not believe Carson was pregnant.  Following the fight, doctors could not detect a fetal heartbeat.  The baby was stillborn four days later.  Although there was no bruising on Carson’s abdomen, Dr. Eric Vey, a pathologist, told Wilcott's jury that the fetus suffocated when the blunt force trauma of Wilcott’s kick separated the placenta from the uterine wall.

Dr. Miles Jones, the defense’s forensic expert, testified that such kicks would not constitute enough trauma to cause a placental abruption. He said the impact would have to be equivalent to a serious car accident.  He also suggested significant bacteria found on Carson’s placenta showed the child could have died as much as a month prior to the fight.  He added Carson had no pain, bleeding, or spiked heart rate normally associated with a placental abruption.  Wilcott was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Other evidence supports the defense view that Carson's baby was dead long before the fight.  Based on her prenatal examination, Carson should have been 18 to 19 weeks pregnant.  Vey, who did not view Carson's previous medical history, determined the fetal age to be 15.2 weeks, based on the size and development of the baby’s organs.  Dr. Mark Caine, a gynecologist, said his examination of autopsy photographs show no placental abruption occurred,.  He also concluded that the fetus was dead long before the fight.  (Justice p29)  [11/09]


Cuyahoga County, OH Jacobs Field Three June 11, 2002

Clinton Oliver, Donald Krieger and Andrew Mendez attended a Cleveland Indians baseball game at Jabobs Field in Cleveland.  They had upper level seats.  After the game began, Oliver and Krieger moved to box seats at ground level while Mendez stayed in the upper deck.  At the top of the ninth inning, an explosion occurred in the lower level seats, which injured four people.  Witnesses offered contradictory statements about the device that caused the explosion, but one described it as a “small soup can,” thrown from the upper level.  Stadium authorities arrested the three men because their tickets had adjoining upper level seat numbers above the explosion site.  Oliver and Krieger were held for four days before a security camera showed they were seated at ground level when the explosion occurred.

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Cherokee County, GA Roberto Rocha July 2, 2002
Roberto Rocha was charged with the murder of Katie Hamlin.  Rocha, who is mentally disabled, confessed to being present when Hamlin was killed on July 2.  However, passports and witnesses showed that Rocha had been with his missionary father on a trip to Brazil between June 10 and July 10.  Rocha was released and charges against him were dropped after 15 months in police custody.  (Atlanta JC) (Primetime)  [9/05]


Lawrence County, PA Justin Kirkwood Aug 14, 2002 (New Castle)

Justin Kirkwood was convicted of robbing a craft store in New Castle of $130.  Two clerks identified him as the robber despite discrepancies between Kirkwood and the initial descriptions the clerks gave of the robber.  At trial, Kirkwood had seven alibi witnesses, including one, Bill Fitts, the owner of the largest car dealership in New Castle.  Fitts said he called the Kirkwood household at 7 p.m., which was the time of the robbery.  He called to inform the Kirkwoods that he had arranged for them the use of a Lincoln Town Car for an upcoming wedding.  Fitts said Justin Kirkwood answered the phone when he called.  Fitts knew Justin, because he employed Justin's father.  He also knew it was 7 p.m. because as soon as he hung up, he watched the lottery picks on television.

On cross-examination, the prosecutor, DA Birgitta Tolvanen, displayed a copy of Fitts' phone records and brought out the fact that there was no listing of the phone call on them.  Fitts had no explanation for the apparent discrepancy.  The defense attorney complained that the records were not made available in pretrial discovery, but did not ask for a mistrial or otherwise object.  The DA did not introduce the records into evidence.  On closing, the DA referred to the records as undermining Fitts' credibility.  Thinking the alibi witnesses were probable liars, the jury convicted Kirkwood of armed robbery and he was sentenced to 3 1/2 to 7 years in jail.

Following the conviction, a copy of the phone records was obtained along with evidence that another suspect committed the crime.  Fitts' phone call to the Kirkwood residence was not listed, because it was a local call and no local calls were listed in the records as they were free.  During appeals, the DA admitted she tricked Fitts with the phone records and knew they did not contain local calls and that she had misled the jury.  Kirkwood's conviction was then overturned.  Charges against Kirkwood were dismissed in 2006.  (JD29 p7) (FJDB)  [2/07]


Chester County, PA Wade Evan Deemer Aug 24, 2002 (West Chester)
Wade Evan Deemer hanged himself in a West Chester police station after being arrested for a rape he did not commit.  He did not have his bipolar medication with him.  DNA testing conducted after his death excluded him as the rapist.  (FJDB)  [7/05]


Harris County, TX Ricardo Rachell Oct 20, 2002

Ricardo Rachell was convicted of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old boy.  The boy, lured by a bike-riding stranger promising him $10 for help cleaning up trash, was sexually assaulted in a vacant home south of downtown Houston.  The next day, the boy's mother saw Rachell riding a bike on Cullen Blvd.  She drove her son to the location and the boy subsequently identified Rachell as his assailant.  Testimony from the boy and one of his friends who saw the assailant served as the core of the case against Rachell.

During deliberations, jurors asked about the boys' testimony, sending written questions to the judge.  At least two wanted to know how the mother asked her son to identify his assailant and how the boy responded to her question.  The boy appeared to know Rachell not as a stranger, but from seeing him around his neighborhood as a man whose facial deformity, from of a shotgun blast years before, made him drool and appear “scary-looking.”  The two boys never mentioned that their assailant had an obvious facial deformity.

After Rachell was incarcerated, similar assaults occurred on at least three young boys lured by a man who promised them money in exchange for performing a task.  Rachell's defense attorneys said they were never told that biological evidence existed in the case, but were later made aware of it.  DNA tests of this evidence confirmed Rachell's innocence in 2008, leading to his release after more than 5 years of imprisonment.  Rachell became blind from glaucoma during his incarceration.  He was officially cleared in 2009.  (HC #1)  (HC #2)  [5/09]


Stanislaus County, CA Scott Peterson Dec 24, 2002 (Modesto)

Scott Peterson was sentenced to death for the murders of his pregnant wife, Laci, and his unborn son, Connor.  The prosecution argued that Scott killed Laci late on Dec. 23, 2002 or early on the morning of Dec. 24.  A neighbor saw Scott in the bed of his truck, which was backed in his driveway, around 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 24.  It was alleged that he was loading Laci's body into it.  Cell phone records establish that he left his Modesto residence at 523 Covena Ave. around 10:08 a.m. to go to a warehouse at 1027 N. Emerald Ave., where his boat was stored.  The warehouse is 9 minutes away.

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Allegheny County, PA Graham & Holliday Convicted 2003
(Federal Case tried in Pittsburgh)  Cordez Graham and his wife Crystal Holliday were alleged to have used counterfeit sales receipts to obtain refunds at several Bed Bath & Beyond stores.  Both were convicted of violating a federal law involving transportation of stolen securities.  In a post trial motion, the defendants argued that legally a security must have a value in and of itself and identify the owner.  Since the allegedly counterfeit sales receipts met none of these criteria, a judge agreed that they could not have violated the law, and overturned their convictions.  A co-defendant, Angela Barnes, who pleaded guilty to the non-crime, was also eligible to have her conviction overturned.  (JD27 p12)  [9/05]


Anne Arundel County, MD Laura Rogers' Daughter 2003
The unnamed daughter of Laura Rogers was convicted as a 16-year-old of filing a false police report after accusing her stepfather of raping her.  Later the girl told her mother that her stepfather had made a videotape of the rapes, and after finding and viewing the tape, the mother, Laura Rogers, shot her husband to death that night while he was sleeping.  After seeing the evidence, prosecutors agreed to vacate the girl's conviction.  Laura Rogers pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served six months in jail.  (Seattle Times)  [10/05]


Pakistan Malik Taj Mohammad 2003

Malik Taj Mohammad was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Malkani Bibi.  Prosecutors claimed that he killed her over an acrimonious property dispute.  Mohammad claimed that he could not have murdered Bibi, as she was still alive.  However, he did not present any proof and the trial court relied on testimony of Bibi's relatives who said they had buried Bibi.  In 2006, Mohammad's supporters discovered that Bibi was alive and imprisoned in the eastern Pakistan city of Gujarat.  She had been imprisoned there on a theft conviction in 2004.

Mohammed petitioned Pakistan's Supreme Court for a new trial based on the new evidence.  The Court then summoned Bibi to appear before it.  Satisfied that Mohammed had been wrongly convicted, the Court ordered his immediate release.  It also ordered a lower court to investigate how Mohammed had been prosecuted and convicted of a crime that never happened.  (JD33:28)  [2/07]


Ada County, ID Donna Thorngren Jan 12, 2003 (Meridian)

Donna Kay Thorngren was convicted of the murder of her 42-year-old husband, Curtis Thorngren. Curt was found shot to death in a bathroom in their home. Two months before the murder, Curt's life insurance, payable to Donna, had been increased to a payout of $320,000. The change was effective as of Jan 1, 2003, 11 days before Curt's murder. However, at Hewlett-Packard, Curt's place of employment, all employees were given the opportunity to increase their policies with new benefits effective the same date.

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Madison County, NY Dan Lackey Jan 16, 2003 (Oneida)

Dan Lackey was convicted of raping Amber Mundy.  Mundy said she was assaulted near some railroad tracks in Oneida.  At this site Mundy's footprints were visible in the snow, but those of her assailant's were not.  It was alleged that passing trains blew snow into the assailant's footprints, but not into those of his victim.  Mundy said she was assaulted with a stick, and according to her testimony, there should have been much blood on the stick, but there was only a tiny amount of blood on it.  She also said her assailant bit her, but when a DNA test was performed on the bite mark, the results were deemed inconclusive because they failed to show the presence of any male DNA.

Although Mundy was not able to positively identify Lackey as her assailant, police alleged that Lackey gave an unrecorded confession to the crime.  Three months after Lackey's conviction, Mundy reported a similar rape in Oswego County.  For this action she was convicted of making a false report and spent 8 months in jail.  A state police investigator had informed the Oneida Police of the case just three months after Lackey's sentencing.  Lackey first learned of Mundy's false report two years later when a defense investigator interviewed Mundy's boyfriend.

In response to this evidence, a judge overturned Lackey's conviction in July 2007.  The judge said he was not convinced that the alleged confession obtained from Lackey was admissible, because with a 73 IQ, Lackey may not have had the mental capacity to waive his Miranda rights.  Lackey was released without bail.  The D.A., however, appealed the decision to overturn Lackey's conviction, but his appeal was unsuccessful.  (Oneida Dispatch) (Video)  [4/10]


Butts County, GA Jean Long Jan 23, 2003

Beverly Jean Long was charged with murdering her husband, James Long, in his workshop.  According to police, she cracked his skull, dragged his body, poured an accelerant on top of him, and ignited it.  Investigators claimed to find pour patterns on the floor where the accelerant puddled.  They said Jean's story that the fire started when James was filling up a kerosene heater did not make sense.  They noted that the red filling can that Jean mentioned was found undamaged outside the workshop.

Defense investigators debunked the pour pattern evidence.  According to them, James mistakenly poured gasoline into a hot, but unlit kerosene heater.  Gasoline residue was found in the heater.  The gasoline exploded, setting James and his workshop on fire.  While he was running around on fire, James apparently hit his head on a metal worktable, cracking his skull.  The red filling can found outside the workshop was apparently not the one that was used as it contained kerosene.  At trial, Jean Long was acquitted.  (Forensic Files)  [9/07]


Howard County, MD Kazeem Adeshina Ishola Mar 19, 2003
“Kazeem Adeshina Ishola was wrongly convicted in 2005 of assuming the ‘identity of another’ after attempting to open two bank accounts using names other than his own.  Ishola appealed on the basis that he used fictitious names, not those of real persons.  Ishola's conviction was upheld in 2007 by the state Court of Special Appeals.  However, the Maryland Court of Appeals overturned his conviction on April 10, 2008, ruling that the law only applied to assuming the identify of an actual person, not a fictitious person.” – FJDB  (Ishola v. State)


Clark County, WA Reshenda Strickland Mar 21, 2003
Reshenda Strickland was convicted of shoplifting based on the erroneous eyewitness ID of store manager Kathy Hanna and loss prevention officer Dawn Porter.  After the conviction, a review of the store's video surveillance tapes showed that Strickland's sister, Starlisha, who had claimed to be in Atlanta at the time of the crime, was the actual thief.  Strickland spent three months in jail.  (Seattle PI) (Columbian)  [10/05]


Los Angeles County, CA Juan Catalan May 12, 2003 (Sun Valley)

Juan Catalan was charged with the murder of 16-year-old Martha Puebla.  Puebla had testified against Catalan's brother in another case.  Catalan insisted that he was watching the Los Angeles Dodgers with his six-year-old daughter at the stadium minutes before Puebla was killed about 20 miles north of the stadium.  He said he had ticket stubs from the game and testimony from his family.  However, police said that they had a witness who placed Catalan at the scene of the crime.

Catalan's attorney, Todd Melnik, subpoenaed the Dodgers and Fox Networks, who owned the team, to scan videotape of the televised baseball game and footage from its “Dodger Vision” cameras.  Some of the videotapes showed where Catalan was sitting but Melnik could not make him out.  Melnik later learned that HBO had been at the stadium the night of the killing to tape an episode of the TV show Curb Your Enthusiasm.  The attorney found what he was looking for in footage that had not made the final cut.  “I got to one of the scenes, and there is my client sitting in a corner of the frame eating a hot dog with his daughter,” Melnik said.  “I nearly jumped out of my chair and said, ‘There he is!

The tapes had time codes that allowed Melnik to find out exactly when Catalan was at the ballpark.  Melnik also obtained cell phone records that placed his client near the stadium later that night, about 20 minutes before the murder.  The attorney said it would have been impossible for Catalan to get out of the parking lot, change vehicles and clothing, and play with his daughter as well as kill Puebla during that span.

Catalan, who could have been sentenced to death had he been convicted of murder, was released after 5 1/2 months of imprisonment because a judge ruled there was no evidence with which to try him.  (CBS)  [7/07]


Forsyth County, GA Anthony McKenzie June, July 2003
Anthony McKenzie was convicted of violating an obscenity statute by engaging in sexually suggestive telephone conversations with a 14-year-old girl he had met over the Internet.  McKenzie, 17, was in the Forsyth County jail and had called his girlfriend collect.  In 2005, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the conviction.  It found the statute an overly broad restriction of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, because it applied to speech that was welcomed by the listener.  (JD28 p13)  [2/07]


Coffee County, TN Andy Houser June 3, 2003

Andy Houser's son Ethan died suddenly while in his care.  After the medical examiner, Dr. John Gerber, ruled that that Ethan died of “shaken baby syndrome,” police arrested Houser for Ethan's murder.  Besides the police, Houser's in-laws and wife soon believed he was guilty.  Houser's first child was born with a chromosome disorder and a hole in his heart, and died days after birth.  His wife became pregnant again, but miscarried in the first trimester.  Ethan, Houser's next child, appeared healthy for the first 9 weeks of his life.  He then had three bouts of projectile vomiting, after which doctors could find nothing wrong with him.  While in Houser's care, Ethan then stopped breathing.  Houser resuscitated him using CPR, but Ethan stopped breathing again while Houser was driving him to the hospital.  The hospital declared Ethan dead.

Houser's trial was delayed because the medical examiner died.  The prosecution needed time for an assistant to examine the autopsy findings so that a witness could present medical testimony.  In the meantime, Houser's defense found a defense expert, Dr. Ronald Uscinski, who was a skeptic of shaken baby syndrome and had testified in numerous shaken baby trials.  Uscinski found nothing to indicate that Ethan was shaken.  Instead he found that Ethan had suffered a series of strokes over time including possibly prior to birth, and that he had died from these.  The medical examiner's assistant, Dr. Thomas Deering, then had second thoughts on the original autopsy findings and subsequently agreed with Uscinski.  Deering then issued an amended autopsy report and the charges against Houser were dropped.  (Tennessean)  [3/07]


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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Australia (QLD) Raymond Paul Davy Dec 2003
Raymond Paul Davy was convicted of murdering 73-year-old Donald Rogers.  Three months after Rogers went missing, Davy led police to his remains in Beerburrum State Forest.  The Crown alleged Davy withheld Rogers' diabetes medicine to extract his credit card PIN number before dumping his body, burning his car, and spending $30,000 from his account.  Davy, a heroin addict, admitted stealing Rogers' money, but always maintained he did not kill him.  An appeals court later quashed Davy's murder conviction because it found the possibility that Rogers died by natural causes was not excluded beyond a reasonable doubt.  (Google)


Montgomery County, MD Maouloud Baby Dec 13, 2003
Maouloud Baby was convicted of raping an 18-year-old Montgomery College student, identified as J. L.  The alleged victim had consented to intercourse with Baby, but told him that he needed to stop if she said so.  During intercourse, J. L. requested the intercourse stop because of the pain it was causing her.  However, she said he continued for “five or so seconds” more.  Baby, who was a 16-year-old high school student at the time of the incident, said he stopped immediately.  Baby was tried as an adult.  His first trial resulted in a hung jury, but he was convicted at a retrial in 2004.  At the end of Baby's retrial, the judge defined rape for the jury as “the unlawful intercourse with another by force, or threat of force, and without consent.” He then had the jury decide whether Baby committed rape.  On appeal in 2006, the Maryland Court of Appeals overturned Baby's conviction on the basis that under Maryland law a man cannot be convicted of rape once a consensual sex act has commenced.  (Maryland v. Baby)  [9/08]


Douglas County, GA Genarlow Wilson Dec 31, 2003
Genarlow Wilson, a homecoming king, was sentenced to 10 years in Georgia for having consensual oral sex with his underage girlfriend.  (He was 17, she was 15.)  Citizens were so troubled by the sentence that the state legislature amended its child protection act to reduce the offense to a misdemeanor.  However, Wilson remained in jail because lawmakers did not make the change retroactive.  In June 2007, a judge ordered Wilson released, citing “a grave miscarriage of justice,” but Wilson remained imprisoned as the state attorney general has vowed to appeal the judge's decision.  He was released four months later after the Georgia Supreme Court determined that his sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment.  (Google)  [6/07]


Washington County, OR Brandon Mayfield Mar 11, 2004

(Federal Case)  On March 11, 2004, a number of bombs were detonated on trains in Madrid, Spain, which killed 191 people and injured about 2000 others, including American citizens.  A bag containing detonation caps was found outside a train station through which all the bombed trains had left or had passed through.  On March 17, digital images of fingerprints found on the bag were transmitted to the FBI and run through their AFIS database of fingerprints.  When latent print #17 was run, the database produced 20 possible matches.  FBI Senior Print Examiner Terry Green then manually compared the potential matches and found a 100% match with the fourth ranked print on the AFIS list.  The FBI has long claimed that fingerprint identification is infallible. A top FBI fingerprint official had testified to a “zero error rate.”

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England (Worcester CC) Sirfraze Ahmed Apr 2004

Sirfraze Ahmed was convicted of robbery.  Three masked men stole more than £30,000 from Neil Bateman outside his home in Bodenham, England.  Bateman had organized a classic car show in Derbyshire that weekend.  In Feb. 2006 two brothers, Khalid and Mohammed Khan, pled guilty to the robbery.  The two denied being at the scene of the robbery, but admitted supplying items used in the robbery.  Although the brothers did not implicate Ahmed, he was also charged in the robbery.  Four of his fingerprints were found on a black plastic bag left at the crime scene after it had been worn as a mask by one of the robbers.

At his Oct. 2006 trial, Ahmed testified he was almost 50 miles away in Birmingham.  Several witnesses corroborated Ahmed's alibi. He said he knew the Khan brothers, and had helped Khalid fix cars at the house the brothers shared.  Ahmed said that they would put plastic bags on the seat of a car to prevent oil stains, and that is how his fingerprints could have gotten on the bag found at the crime scene.  In June 2007 the Court of Appeals quashed his conviction on the basis there was insufficient evidence that he was involved in the robbery.  (Hereford Times) (Hereford Times #2)  [9/08]


Philadelphia County, PA Clyde Johnson Apr 26, 2004 (Logan)
Clyde A. Johnson IV was charged with the attempted murder of William Bryant, 33.  Johnson allegedly had fired five shots at Bryant as Bryant walked in the 1100 block of West Ruscomb St.  Bryant identified Johnson in a photo lineup.  In July 2005, another man, Juan Covington, confessed to three slayings.  Since the Bryant shooting occurred around the corner from Covington's home, police took another look at the case against Johnson.  Bullets fired at Bryant were tested and matched a gun owned by Covington.  Johnson was released on July 29, 2005 without having to post bail.  Because of the ballistics evidence and Johnson's strong alibi, charges were dropped on Oct. 7.  (Phila Inquirer)  [7/05]


Will County, IL Kevin Fox June 6, 2004 (Wilmington)
Kevin Fox was charged with the murder of his 3-year-old daughter, Riley.  Fox had confessed to the crime after a grueling interrogation that lasted more than 14 hours.  Riley had fallen asleep on the living room couch, but was missing from her house the next morning.  The front door was open.  She may have opened it herself and gone outside.  There were no signs of forced entry.  Riley was found later that day, drowned in a creek four miles from her home.  She had been sexually assaulted.  Her arms and mouth were bound with duct tape.  Fox was released after spending 8 months in jail.  DNA tests failed to link him to the crime.  Fox and his wife were awarded $15.5 million from Will County in Dec. 2007.  The County plans to appeal the award.  (Chicago Tribune)  [4/08]


Franklin County, OH David Kibble June 19, 2004 (Columbus)

Around midnight, David Kibble was standing behind 1237 E. 17th Avenue in Columbus with Donnell Broomfield and others.  After Alan Dukes parked his car there, the men there started an argument with him.  Broomfield then took a swing at Dukes and Dukes swung back.  After the fight ended, Kibble came up behind Dukes and hit him in the mouth.  Dukes and an associate then chased after Kibble.  As they entered an alley, Kibble saw a police officer at the other end and ran towards him.  Kibble had pulled his knife out during the pursuit and still had it in his hand.

The officer, Adam Hicks, was looking for a suspect, Melvin Collins, who was seen with a gun and was wanted in connection with a carjacking.  Like Collins, Kibble was a black male of about the same height and weight.  They both were wearing red shirts.  Officer Hicks opened fire on Kibble, hitting him three times while he was still beyond shouting distance.  Dukes' associate, who was pursuing Kibble with Dukes, was also apparently hit.  A video taken after the incident shows a man, who matched a description of Dukes' associate, going up to the camera and showing where a bullet passed through his baggy shorts without injuring him.  Dukes had fled the scene, but was later traced through his license plate number.

After being shot, Kibble was charged with the felonious assault of Officer Hicks, apparently to cover-up the wrongful shooting.  Hicks told a story that did not involve Kibble being chased and which made the shooting seem justifiable.  However, Hicks' story was at odds with the positions of where Kibble and his knife had fallen and where the officer's own shell casings were found.  Dukes and two other witnesses attested that Kibble was being chased at the time of the shooting.

Despite the evidence, Kibble accepted a plea bargain in which he did not have to admit guilt.  Prior to trial his attorney pointed out that Dukes had a warrant out for his arrest and might not show up in court to testify.  Kibble's other witnesses were relatives, which jurors tend to discount.  Kibble faced up to 10 years if convicted.  The plea bargain allowed him to serve only one year and he had already served almost half of it awaiting trial.

When told of Kibble's conviction, Dukes said, “That's crazy.  All [Kibble] was trying to do was get away from us.  I was shocked when I saw the officer start shooting for no reason.  It didn't make any sense.  That's why I took off. I was scared of what might happen next.” (JD28 p4)  [9/07]


Australia (VIC) Christopher Szitovszky July 1, 2004
Christopher Leslie Szitovszky was convicted of the murder of his 58-year-old father, Peter Szitovszky.  The victim was nearly decapitated with an ax outside his home between 3 and 4 a.m. in the Melbourne suburb of Wheelers Hill.  An appeals court acquitted Christopher of the murder in 2009 on the grounds that the evidence against him was insufficient to convict him.  (NetK)


New London County, CT Julie Amero Oct 19, 2004

While serving as a substitute teacher at the Kelley Middle School in Norwich, Julie Amero accessed the classroom computer.  The computer was infested with adware, spyware, and other malware.  It also had a browser that did not protect against pop-ups.  While accessing an innocent web site, the computer launched into an endless cycle of pop-up window ads for porn sites, that was impossible to get out of.  The pop-ups displayed images of naked men and women, couples performing sexual acts, and “bodily fluids.”  Up to 10 students saw the pop-ups, even though Amero tried to shield them by pushing them away or blocking their view.  Amero reported the incident to others, including an assistant principal, who told her not to worry.

Amero was later prosecuted for the incident and convicted in 2007 of multiple felonies involving the endangerment of children.  Norwich Detective Mark Lounsbury, a computer crimes officer, testified as an expert witness for the prosecution.  He maintained that Amero was intentionally surfing for pornography and must have “physically clicked” on pornographic links to unleash the pornographic pictures. Lounsbury's testimony that pop-ups require clicks contradicts the experience of millions of computer users.  Lounsbury admitted under cross-examination that the prosecution never even checked the computer for malware.

Following her conviction, but prior to sentencing, the computer was checked by the Connecticut State Patrol.  It determined that the pop-ups were caused by malicious adware that infected the computer before Amero had access to it.  In June 2007, the trial judge overturned Amero's conviction on the grounds that the jury relied on false testimony.  Amero had faced up to 40 years of imprisonment.  (Norwich Bulletin 1-6-07)  (FJDB)  [2/07]


El Paso County, CO Todd Newmiller Nov 20, 2004

Todd Newmiller was convicted of murdering 22-year-old Anthony Madril.  On the night of Madril's death a dispute arose between two groups of young men at a Colorado Springs nightclub.  The club management forced one group to leave while the other left shortly thereafter.  Two vehicles carrying these men subsequently stopped a short distance away on Conrad St. near Terminal Ave.  The first vehicle, a pickup truck, was driven by Charles Schwartz, with Chisum Lopez on the passenger side and Anthony Madril in the middle.  The second vehicle, a Jeep, contained Todd Newmiller, his brother Joel, Mike Lee, Jason Melick, and Brad Orgill.  The dispute had primarily been between Madril and Orgill.

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Philadelphia County, PA Roland Fuller Dec 14, 2004
Roland Fuller's cousin, Marquise Roberts, 24, was a soldier and did not wish to return to duty in Iraq as some of his friends had been killed there.  According to Fuller's lawyer, Fuller fell sway to Roberts “very strong emotional appeal” and shot Roberts in the leg.  The gunshot wound would presumably prevent Roberts from having to return to Iraq.  Fuller was sentenced to 15 to 30 months for aggravated assault despite having the consent and even the encouragement of his alleged victim.  Although the motive for the shooting was to safeguard Roberts' life, the prosecutor told the judge that Fuller put Roberts' life at risk.  (Phila Inquirer)  [9/05]


McLean County, IL Corey Eason Convicted 2005
Corey Eason was listed in the Illinois sex offender registry and had his picture posted on the Internet as a sex offender.  In March 2005, he was convicted of three counts of failing to notify the McLean County police that he had changed his address.  However, he had never been convicted of a sex-related offense and was not required notify the police.  In Oct. 2005, a judge vacated the convictions and a prosecutor dismissed the charges.  (JD30 p5)  [2/07]


Nassau County, NY Daivery Taylor Convicted 2005

Daivery Taylor, a personal injury attorney, was indicted on charges that he used “steerers” to sign up accident victims and that he coached clients to fabricate injuries.  Following a two-week non-jury trial in 2005, Judge Jeffrey S. Brown convicted Taylor and his Freeport, NY based firm, Silverman & Taylor, of these charges.  Taylor was subsequently disbarred due to these convictions.  The case became a symbol of the efforts of the anti-insurance fraud campaign launched by NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Following Taylor's conviction, his lawyers argued to an appeals court, “It is remarkable that for all of the years-long investigation ... and the thousands of taped conversations, the prosecution had no solid evidence – not a single patient, not a single medical record, not a single document – that demonstrated Mr. Taylor's complicity in an alleged fraud.”  In 2008, the NY Appellate Division, 2nd Department agreed that Taylor's convictions were based on insufficient evidence.  It not only threw out the convictions, but also dismissed the 32-count indictment against him.  (NY Law Journal)  [1/09]


Pulaski County, IN R & L Finnegan 2005

Roman and Lynnette Finnegan were charged with abusing and neglecting their child, Jessica Salyer, following her death at age 14.  Jessica was born with tricuspid atresia, a heart defect that causes the right ventricle to be underdeveloped. She had her first heart surgery at age 2, and was on medication to treat her heart condition and seizures for much of her life.  In 2005, Jessica died from sudden cardiac arrest caused by a prescription error.  Her dose of Coumadin was inexplicably increased to many times the safe limit while she was taken off her seizure medication altogether.  During her autopsy, Jessica suffered a skull fracture.  It was alleged that this fracture had existed prior to her death.  Authorities never explained why it began at the autopsy saw line, why there was no blood in the fracture, or why Jessica never complained of a head injury.

Lynnette was charged in April 2007 with neglecting a dependent resulting in serious injury, a Class B felony.  Both Lynnette and Roman were charged with neglecting a dependent, a Class D felony.  The Indiana Department of Child Services in Pulaski County removed Lynnette's other two daughters from her Francesville home when the investigation began in Nov. 2006. Her son, who was old enough to live on his own, moved out.  Roman Finnegan, who worked as a corrections officer for the Medaryville Facility, was suspended from work because he was charged with a felony.  Lynnette could not work because she suffers from epilepsy.  A bank eventually foreclosed on their home.  By Nov. 2007, the couple got their daughters back and charges against them have been dropped.  Roman even got his job back.  (TIJ)  [11/07]


New York County, NY David Finnerty 2005
(Federal Case)  David Finnerty, a New York Stock Exchange specialist, was convicted of cheating customers by engaging in interpositioning.  Interpositioning means that instead of matching pending buy and sell orders, a specialist can repeatedly trade for his company's proprietary account, making a profit from the slight differences in pricing.  In 2007, the conviction was overturned and judgment of acquittal was entered.  The judge held that the prosecution failed to prove that interpositioning is fraudulent or deceptive conduct.  (NY Law Journal)  [4/07]


Jackson County, IN Charles Hickman Jan 2005
Charles Hickman was charged with murdering Katlyn “Katie” Collman. He confessed that several other people abducted Katie to scare her into not talking about a methamphetamine lab that she accidentally discovered.  He told police that her abductors took her to a creek 15 miles north of her Crothersville home, and that while he was watching her, she accidentally fell into the creek and drowned.  Prosecutors have since dropped charges as DNA tests have since linked another man to Katie's death.  They no longer believe Hickman's elaborate confession.  (JD29 p11)  [2/07]


Ingham County, MI Claude McCollum Jan 23, 2005

Claude McCollum was convicted of the rape and murder of 60-year-old Lansing Community College Professor Carolyn Kronenberg.  The crime occurred in her classroom.  Police had McCollum speculate on whether he could have committed the crime while sleepwalking.  They then termed his speculation a “confession.”  DNA tests of material found under Kronenberg's fingernails excluded McCollum and matched the profile of an unknown male.

New evidence points to serial rapist/killer Matthew Macon as the man who attacked Kronenberg.  The state has been urged to compare the DNA evidence to that of Macon.  Also a videotape has surfaced which apparently shows McCollum to be elsewhere on the college campus at the time of Kronenberg's murder.  On Sept. 24, 2007, a court has overturned McCollum's conviction and charges against him were subsequently dismissed.  (Lansing State Journal) (Case Documents)  [09/07]


Hartford County, CT Michael Cyr Feb 28, 2005 (Manchester)
While intoxicated, Michael Cyr had remotely started his car and sat in the driver's seat with the driver's side door open.  He was subsequently arrested for “driving while intoxicated,” although he never drove the car, nor did he put keys in the ignition.  After unsuccessfully trying to dismiss the charge, Cyr made a conditional no contest plea to the charge, which allowed him to challenge it later.  He was sentenced three years imprisonment with two of the years suspended, three years probation, and a $2000 fine.  In 2007, an appeals court reviewed the conviction.  It noted that the state had produced no evidence that Cyr had the car's ignition keys on him or that Cyr's car was capable of motion without the keys.  It then reversed the conviction, citing insufficient evidence that Cyr was operating a motor vehicle under the meaning of the Connecticut “driving while intoxicated” statute.  (Connecticut v. Cyr) [1/08]


Orange County, CA James Ochoa May 22, 2005
James Ochoa was accused of a robbing two victims of $600 and stealing their Volkswagen Jetta after a bloodhound followed a scent from a swab of the perpetrator's baseball cap to his front door.  The victims also identified Ochoa.  Ochoa had five family members to confirm his alibi.  Nevertheless, against his attorney's advice, he pleaded guilty to the crime in exchange for a two-year sentence after Judge Robert Fitzgerald threatened him with a life sentence if a jury found him guilty.  DNA tests exonerated him and implicated an unknown male.  Ochoa was released after a DNA match was found in Oct 2006 to a man entering the Los Angeles County Jail on an unrelated carjacking charge.  After Ochoa applied for compensation for his wrongful conviction under California law, the state attorney general opposed Ochoa's claim, by stating that Ochoa contributed to the wrongful conviction by voluntarily pleading guilty.  (IP) (LA Times)


Hamilton County, OH Dante Allen June 6, 2005

Along with a codefendant, teenager Dante Allen was convicted of charges related to the boarding a Cincinnati Metro bus, waving a gun at passengers and demanding to know if any of the passengers were from Bond Hill in Cincinnati, or knew anything about the murder of Eugene Lampkin that same day.  Allen's co-defendant testified that Allen was not on the bus with him, but the bus driver and a passenger identified Allen.  Prior to sentencing, another teenager confessed to perpetrating the crime with Allen's codefendant.  Allen was released.  Allen's codefendant was sentenced to 18 years in prison for scaring bus passengers, a sentence Allen would likely have received.  (JD32 p4)  [9/07]


Australia (VIC) Tomas Klamo July 2005
Tomas Klamo was convicted of manslaughter in the alleged shaking death of his four-week-old son, Izaiah.  Klamo admitted to having shaken Izaiah a little harder than normal a week or two before his death.  Izaiah subsequently died of a brain hemorrhage.  At trial the crown's medical expert was unable to say what caused the hemorrhage, but said he did not believe it was caused by shaking as Izaiah had no other injuries consistent with shaking.  Klamo was sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment.  On appeal in 2008, the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal found the evidence against Klamo was insufficient to convict.  It quashed his conviction and ordered his acquittal.  (R v. Klamo) (Herald Sun)  [11/09]


Jefferson County, OR David Lee Simmons Sept 2005

David Lee Simmons was charged with four counts of felony third-degree rape and two counts of felony sodomy for having consensual sex with his girlfriend dating back to Sept. 2005 when he was 17 and she was 14.  Under a plea deal, Simmons pled guilty to two counts of the charges rather than risk many years in prison if convicted by a jury on all counts.  He served 30 days in jail.

However, James Greer, the foreman of the grand jury that was asked to indict Simmons, happened to read a newspaper account of the plea deal.  Since the grand jury specifically declined to indict Simmons, Greer was shocked and he confronted prosecutor Steven Leriche, who in turn contacted Simmons's defense attorney.  The prosecutor may have mistakenly failed to read Simmons's paperwork and thought he was indicted.  However, since the refusal to indict individuals are rare events which receive notice, some observers do not believe it likely the prosecutor made this mistake.  Instead they believe he simply proceeded as though Simmons was indicted.  Simmons's defense attorney failed to catch this error.  In Oct. 2006, Simmons's convictions were vacated.  (Popehat) (FJDB)  [8/09]


Kent County, MI Lisa Hansen Sept 3, 2005 (Grand Rapids)
Lisa Hansen was fined $400 and sentenced to 40 hours of community service for stealing a bank deposit bag that she was supposed to deposit in a night depository.  The deposit bag contained mostly checks and only $80 in cash.  A bank security investigator told police that the bank's 15 surveillance cameras showed no one had stopped at the night depository during the time Hansen said she was there.  Hansen also failed a lie detector test administered by the Michigan State Police.  Nearly a year later, on Aug. 9, 2006, a bank worker found Hansen's deposit bag lodged and hidden within the bank's depository.  (Detroit Free Press)  [3/07]


New York County, NY William McCaffrey Sept 11, 2005
William McCaffrey was convicted of raping Biurny Peguero.  The rape supposedly occurred at knifepoint while McCaffrey was taking Peguero to an after hours party in Upper Manhattan.  Judge Richard Carruthers called the alleged assault “horrific” and “disgusting” when he sentenced McCaffrey to 20 years in prison.  DNA tests in 2008 showed that bite marks on Peguero's arm and shoulder which McCaffrey reportedly inflicted contained no Y chromosomes, indicating they were not caused by a man.  In 2009 Peguero, who had since married and adopted the last name Gonzalez, confessed to perjury.  She said McCaffrey did not rape her and she was riven with remorse for sending an innocent man to prison.  She said her injuries stemmed from a drunken brawl with a female friend.  According to a psychiatrist who examined her, Peguero came to believe her lie because she had been too drunk to remember much of the night in question.  McCaffrey was subsequently exonerated and Peguero was convicted of perjury.  (NY Times) (HPost)  [4/10]


San Juan, Puerto Rico Jonathan Roman Sept 23, 2005

Jonathan Roman Rivera was convicted of the murder of Adam Anhang.  Anhang was a wealthy real-estate investor, an online gambling executive, and a native of Winnipeg, Canada.  He was stabbed and beaten to death along the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan as he and his wife walked from the Pink Slip restaurant to their car.  His wife, Aurea Vazquez Rijos, was wounded in the assault.

Witnesses identified Roman as the assailant, although Vazquez disagreed.  Roman was sentenced to 105 years in prison.  Following Roman's conviction, FBI investigators determined that Vasquez had offered another man, Alex Pabon Colon, $3 million to kill her husband.  The FBI believed that Pabon had agreed to the offer and that he carried out the murder for hire.  Reportedly, Roman and Pabon could easily be mistaken for one another, so it is believed that Roman was a victim of mistaken identity.  Roman was released from prison in June 2008 after having spent 8 months imprisoned.  Charges against him were dropped 3 months later.   (Dateline Video) (CBC)  [8/09]


Jefferson County, KY Matthew Fields Oct 2005
Eighteen-year-old Matthew Fields confessed under police interrogation to a home break-in and a sexual assault.  After spending a year in jail awaiting trial, DNA tests exonerated him.  (Louisville CJ)


Oakland County, MI James Perry Oct 2005 (Oak Park)

James Perry, a kindergarten teacher at Key Elementary School in Oak Park, was convicted of sexually assaulting two boys, ages 4 and 5 based on the boys' testimony.  The complaint began when the mother of the 5-year-old complained her son had been “tea-bagged” – slang for oral sex.  She also said her son had been the victim of a similar assault in Chicago.  Under questioning, the 5-year-old identified Perry and said he was only fondled, but said another boy, the 4-year-old, had been “tea-bagged.”  The 4-year-old initially denied being assaulted.

At trial, the boys claimed to have been pulled from a lunch line and assaulted in an empty Special Education classroom during lunchtime.  However, post-conviction interviews with school personnel indicate that the classroom always contained students who do not go out for lunch, and at least one teacher to watch over them. 

Because of the discrepancies, which were reported in the Detroit Free Press, Perry's conviction was overturned and he was retried in Mar. 2008.  The trial resulted in a mistrial with 11 jurors favoring acquittal and one juror holding out for a conviction.  Charges against Perry were dropped in Aug. 2008.  (DFP 2008)  [3/07]


England (Luton CC) Nico Bento Dec 13, 2005 (Bedford)

Amilton Nicolas Bento (aka Nico), a Portuguese immigrant, was convicted of the murder of his 26-year-old Polish girlfriend, Kamila Garsztka.  The alleged crime occurred in Bedford, England in or near the River Great Ouse.  A CCTV security camera caught Garsztka walking alone on the embankment of the river toward Priory Lake which adjoined the river.  Garsztka's coat, scarf, and shoes were found by the river bank about an hour later.  Bento reported Garsztka missing and pestered police to step up their search for her and keep him informed.  He told police Garsztka had left her handbag in his apartment, which police later retrieved.  Seven weeks after she went missing, canoeists found her body floating in Priory Lake.

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Faulkner County, AR Marvin Earl Goodsell 2006
“Marvin Earl Goodsell was wrongly convicted of four counts of sexually assaulting two girls [his stepdaughters, ages 14 and 17].  Goodsell supposedly confessed, but at his trial he denied committing the crimes and the girls denied anything inappropriate occurred between them and Goodsell.  Arkansas' law requires independent corroboration that a crime occurred apart from an out of court ‘confession.’  The judge refused to direct a verdict of acquittal after the state rested its case.  On December 17, 2008 the Arkansas Court of Appeals unanimously vacated Goodsell's convictions and ordered his release on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence that a crime had occurred.” – FJDB  (Goodsell v. State) (Log Cabin Democrat)


Palm Beach County, FL Cody Davis Feb 27, 2006
Cody Davis was convicted of robbing Foster's Too, a bar in West Palm Beach.  Following the robbery, two witnesses identified Davis from a photo lineup, although one witness remembered the robber had a tattoo on his hand, which Davis did not have.  Police found a ski mask outside the bar, but it was not considered evidence because the robber did not wear a ski mask.  Nevertheless, DNA testing was performed on the mask.  Four months after Davis's conviction, the results came back and matched a man named Jeremy Prichard who had a distinctive tattoo on his hand similar to the one the eyewitness recalled.  When investigators questioned Prichard, he confessed to committing the Foster's Too robbery as well as three other bar robberies.  Davis was released in early 2007.  (IP)  [7/07]


Cass County, NE Livers & Sampson Apr 17, 2006 (Murdock)

Matt Livers, a mentally retarded man, confessed to murdering his uncle and aunt after 18 hours of police questioning.  He also implicated his cousin, Nick Sampson.  The victims were Wayne and Sharmon Stock, who were found shot to death in their home.  Livers knew a few facts about the crime that he learned from relatives, but was unable to provide many details about it without being spoon-fed them by police.

Less than two months after Livers and Sampson were arrested, two Wisconsin teens, Gregory Fenster, 19, and his girlfriend, Jessica Reid, 17, were caught with evidence that they engaged in a multi-state crime spree of farmhouse burglaries and car thefts.  A ring left behind in the Stock's car was identified as having come from one of their burglaries.  The teens then confessed to the murders of the Stocks and were charged.  However, authorities did not drop charges against Livers and Sampson.  Instead, they clung to the idea that Livers and Sampson recruited the teens to kill the Stocks.  The teens at one point adopted this theory after police insisted they were lying.  However, physical evidence soon made this theory untenable and charges against Sampson were dropped on Oct 6.  Charges against Livers were dropped on Dec 4, after the state's own expert agreed with the defense expert that Livers was mentally retarded, vulnerable to police tactics, and that his confession was almost certainly false.  (TruthInJustice)  [2/07]


Bay County, FL Ronald Joseph, Jr. May 10, 2006 (Panama City)
“Ronald Joseph, Jr. was wrongly convicted in 2007 for leaving the scene of an accident, when after hitting a man he drove to a store to call 911 for help.  During his trial the prosecution claimed that neither the tape of his emergency call for help nor a witness at the store could be located.  The judge declared a mistrial.  Ronald Joseph was retried, again without the prosecution producing the evidence he had called for help, and he was convicted.  Joseph was sentenced to five years in prison.  On July 30, 2008 Florida's First District Court of Appeals overturned Joseph's conviction and ordered his release because the judge shouldn't have declared a mistrial in the first trial, and because jeopardy had attached, it had violated his right against double jeopardy for him to have been tried twice.” – FJDB  (News Herald)


Manitoba, Canada Cody Klyne Sept 4, 2006
Cody Klyne was convicted of dangerous driving and flight from police.  His conviction was based on the eyewitness testimony of two police officers who only momentarily saw the car's driver.  In Aug. 2007, the Manitoba Court of Appeal ruled that the officers' identification was too unreliable to support Klyne's conviction, and overturned the conviction.  (Winnipeg Free Press) (R. v. Klyne) [1/08]


Nicaragua Eric Volz Nov 21, 2006

Eric Volz, an American citizen, was convicted of the rape and murder of his Nicaraguan ex-girlfriend, Doris Jiménez.  Jiménez had been found tied and strangled in the clothing store she owned in San Juan del Sur.  Evidence established that Jiménez had been murdered between 11:45 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2006.

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Lee County, NC Donald Edward Sweat Feb 23, 2007 (Sanford)

Donald Edward Sweat was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.  He was sentenced to 93 to 121 months of imprisonment.  Sweat's alleged victim, John Hunter, was assaulted between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. near his mailbox at the intersection of Cletus Hall and Buchanan Farm Roads in Sanford, NC.  The assailant struck John several times in the face, breaking a cheekbone and his jawbone.  John's brother, Joe Hunter, had driven John to the mailbox and told the assailant to stop, but the assailant threatened to kill him if he did not get back in his car.  The assailant then threatened to kill John and slashed his arm with a knife, cutting the sleeve of his coat and requiring him to get nine stitches on his arm.  The assailant left the scene and the Hunters drove 1 1/2 miles to John's house where they called the police at 9:08 p.m.

Sweat lived with his aunt, Vonnie Hall, across a five acre lot from John Hunter's mailbox.  Between 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Hall pulled into her driveway behind a car driven by Sweat's friend in which Sweat was a passenger.  She reprimanded Sweat and his friend because out on the road they had been driving closely behind her with their bright lights on.  According to Hall, Sweat “started acting crazy” and argued with his friend about having his high beams on.  Sweat went outside and Hall watched him walk down the road in a direction away from the intersection with the mailboxes. Sweat came back to the house and said, “I can't satisfy nobody.  I hurt everybody I see.”  He began giving his things to his aunt such as a watch and jewelry he was wearing and items in his pockets, including his wallet and a fold-up razor blade.  Hall stated he used the blade to cut dogs' ears.  Sweat went outside and began yelling, then asked his friend to take him to jail.  The two men left.  Magistrate Randy Carter testified that Sweat came to his office and stated that he “wanted to turn himself in, that he had hurt somebody, and he needed to be locked up.”  Carter called the Sheriff's office and police soon charged Sweat with assaulting John Hunter.

At trial, neither John Hunter nor Joe Hunter could not identify Sweat as the assailant they saw.  The only description they had given of the assailant was that he was a man or a boy.  Sweat's defense asked for a directed verdict of acquittal due to insufficient evidence, but it was refused.  On appeal in April 2009, the North Carolina Court of Appeals agreed with Sweat that the evidence was insufficient and reversed his conviction.  (State v. Sweat)  [7/09]


Orange County, FL Malenne Joseph Dec 2007 (Conway)

A home contractor hired a black woman with an accent to paint a home in Conway, an unincorporated suburb of Orlando, FL.  When the contractor failed to pay her, she reacted by going through the house and splashing it with paint, causing thousands of dollars in damage.  The contractor later told Orlando police Detective Jose Varela that he knew the woman as “Marlene,” and he gave him her cell phone number.  Varela dialed it and got a woman who answered to “Marlene” and who confessed to the crime but would not come down to the police station.

Varela found out from the woman who owned the damaged house that she had seen a black man driving a truck slowly in the neighborhood.  This behavior raised her suspicions enough to write down the tag number.  Varela traced the tag number to a man with a last name of Joseph.  He then went fishing through the motor vehicle records for a black woman named “Marlene,” who might be a relative of the truck owner.  He came up with a Malenne Joseph.  He got a photocopy of her driver's license picture and showed it to the owner of the house and her sister.  Both identified Malenne as the painter who worked at the house.

Malenne, a Haitian woman, had an accent like that ascribed to the painter.  She was brought to trial in June 2010.  Although she said she was not a painter and had never met any of the people who accused her, she was identified in court as the perpetrator.  Over defense objections, Detective Varela testified that she confessed to the crime over the phone.  Malenne was convicted of felony criminal mischief and sent to jail.

When new lawyers took over her case they found out the cell phone number Varela had dialed belonged to a woman named “Merline” whose last name was not Joseph.  Like their client, the woman was Haitian and shared some facial similarities with her.  The lawyers also found work records which showed Malenne was working elsewhere on two of the days she supposedly was painting.  When they informed the contractor that their client was 5'2" tall, he said he knew she could not be the painter as he was 5'6" and remembered the painter as being slightly taller than himself, about 5'7".  He signed an affidavit reversing his trial identification.  Malenne was released from jail after being incarcerated for 77 days.  A motion was filed to overturn her conviction.  Prosecutors decided not to charge the other “Marlene” with the crime as the statute of limitations for it had run out.  (Orlando Sentinel) (TIJ Blog)  [12/10]


England (Teesside CC) Richard Alan Watkins Dec 2007
“Richard Alan Watkins was wrongly convicted on July 2, 2010, of raping a 17-year-old boy during a Christmas party in December 2007.  [Watkins' co-defendant, Kevin David Moore,] was acquitted of committing the rape, while the jury convicted Watkins of having ‘aided and abetted’ him as part of a ‘joint enterprise.’  [Moore's defense] was the sex was consensual and the jury agreed.  The trial judge granted Watkins bail while appealing his conviction.  In September 2010 Watkins' conviction was quashed on the basis that the there was no ‘sensible explanation’ for how the jury could have [convicted] him of aiding and abetting a rape that never happened.  Because he was granted bail after his conviction, Watkins didn't serve any time in jail.” – FJDB


Deschutes County, OR Robert  Hernandez 2008

Robert Hernandez was convicted in 2009 of child abuse charges against a 6-year-old girl and sentenced to 31 years in prison.  Hernandez lived with his girlfriend Tamara Denetclaw.  The alleged victim was Denetclaw's cousin whom the couple had been raising since the child was 2.  The couple raised the child because her mother lived on the streets and couldn't take care of her.  The mother was also legally married to a registered sex offender and there are two registered sex offenders on her side of the family.  When the child was 6 the mother decided she wanted her back.  Since Hernandez and Denetclaw did not have custody, they had to comply.  Many weeks later the mother brought back the child back saying she couldn't take care of her.

At an interview at the Kids Center, a child abuse organization, the child reportedly gave a taped statement that she was abused.  The Center sent the child home with Hernandez.  They later claimed they did not know what else to do.  The Center also told the child's mother what was said, but never mentioned Hernandez.  They later claimed that they did not tell her Hernandez was the abuser because they were afraid the mother would beat Hernandez up.

The Kids Center told the mother they taped a medical evaluation of her child.  They had her sign a paper saying they would not use their child's statement for teaching purposes and that the reason they taped her child was so that her child would not have to testify in court.  However, at Hernandez's trial, the Kids Center claimed that they did not tape the child; that it is not their policy to tape medical evaluations; and that they took notes.  But when asked to see the notes, they said they did not keep them; they shredded them.  The child testified for two days, but never mentioned Hernandez.

The medical examiner said he could not diagnose or confirm any abuse.  Hernandez gave a confession to the alleged charges which he contends was coerced.  A psychologist testified that Hernandez tested in the 95 percentile of being a person who says what people want to hear.  The psychologist was the only trial witness the defense was allowed to call.  The District Attorney, Mike Dugan, was one of the founders of the Kids Center.  Dugan was voted out of office in 2010 and the new DA fired the original prosecutor in the case.  (Source: Relative of Hernandez)  [2/11]


Warren County, OH Ryan Widmer Aug 11, 2008
Ryan Widmer was convicted of murder for the bathtub drowning of his wife, Sarah Widmer.  The drowning occurred at the Widmer's home in Hamilton Township.  Police testified that when found, Sarah's body was drier that it should have been according to story given to them by Ryan.  This alleged discrepancy was basically the sole evidence against Ryan.  There was no known motive and no evidence that either Sarah or Ryan engaged in a struggle.  Sarah's family did not believe the charges against Ryan and held up Sarah's funeral so Ryan could attend.  Friends and family said Ryan had no known history of getting angry. They also said Sarah was known to spend hours in the bathtub and that she habitually fell asleep, even as she sat in a car on her way to social outings or during movies.  It is possible that Sarah suffered from an undiagnosed seizure disorder or narcolepsy.  Some jurors at Ryan's trial engaged in apparent misconduct by conducting their own drying time experiments.  ( (Google)  [6/09]