Andrew Cohen retweeted
David McCallum (pic) & Willie Stuckey falsely confessed to murder @ 16. Exonerated yesterday: http://bit.ly/1rzYIFO
On October 20, 1985, 20-year-old Nathan Blenner was forced into his car and abducted in Queens, New York. The following day, Blenner’s body was found in Aberdeen Park in Brooklyn with a single gunshot wound in the head. His car was found on October 22 when a security guard reported that a group of youths set it ablaze on Fulton Street in Brooklyn.
Police canvassed Blenner’s neighborhood and found a woman who said that about an hour before the crime, she was washing her car on the street about a block from Blenner’s residence. She told police that two black men walked by and one said she had a nice car. She replied that if her car were stolen, she would “know where to look.” The woman said the men were in their 20s and one had braided hair. One was 5 feet 10 inches tall and the other was 5 feet 6 inches tall.
The woman went through several police books of mugshots of robbery arrestees, but she did not identify anyone. …
Texas releases death row inmate Manuel Velez after wrongful conviction
Innocent man cleared of 2005 murder of one-year-old after review of evidence determines he could not have killed child
Photograph: Cameron County sheriff’s department
A building worker from Texas, who was sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit, was released on Wednesday after spending nine years in prison, four of them on death row.
Manuel Velez, 49, emerged from Huntsville prison a free man at 11.32pm CT. He was arrested in 2005, and sentenced to death three years later, for killing a one-year-old who was partially in his care.
But over the years the conviction unravelled. Tests on the victim’s brain showed that Velez could not have caused the child’s head injuries. Further evidence revealed that the defendant, who is intellectually disabled, had suffered from woeful legal representation at trial, and that the prosecutor had acted improperly to sway the jury against him …
6 Prison Stories Reveal How Flawed Our Justice System Really is
After 14 years on Florida’s death row, Frank Lee Smith died of cancer in January 2000, before he was exonerated of rape and murder. The DNA results not only cleared Smith of the crime, but also identified the true perpetrator, Eddie Lee Mosley.
According to the Innocence Project, 311 people in U.S. history, 18 of whom were sentenced to the death penalty, have been freed after DNA evidence proved them innocent. The average DNA exoneree has served 13.6 years behind bars.
At the center of the national death penalty debate today is the controversial case of Cameron Todd Willingham, put to death for the arson-murder of his three little girls. But was he guilty?
Watch the Full Program
October 19, 2010
Did Texas execute an innocent man?
Several controversial death penalty cases are currently under examination in Texas and in other states, but it’s the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham — convicted for the arson deaths of his three young children — that’s now at the center of the national debate.
In Death by Fire, FRONTLINE gains unique access to those closest to the Willingham case — meticulously examining the evidence used to convict Willingham, offering an in-depth portrait of those most impacted by the case, and exploring the explosive implications of the execution of a possibly innocent man.
“The state of Texas executed a man for a crime that they couldn’t prove was really a crime,” nationally renowned fire scientist John Lentini tells FRONTLINE.
The re-examination of the case turns on a critical finding that came only weeks before Willingham’s scheduled execution: The investigators who determined that Willingham had set the fire that killed his three daughters had relied on an outdated understanding of arson evidence. “Todd Willingham’s case falls into that category where there is not one iota of evidence that the fire was arson,” forensic scientist Gerald Hurst tells FRONTLINE of the results of his review of the evidence. “Fundamentally, this was a classic accidental fire.”
Death by Fire tells the story a writer named Elizabeth Gilbert who first began to question Willingham’s conviction and to draw attention to the possible miscarriage of justice after corresponding with Willingham as part of a prison pen pal program. As Gilbert dug into Willingham’s case, she found problems with the alleged jailhouse confession and the evidence that Willingham was a sociopath or Satanist. In fact, the satanic images prosecutors had introduced at trial were posters for the rock bands Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin. “They never established a motive,” Gilbert tells FRONTLINE. “So then their motive shifted to Todd just being an evil person.”
JUST GOT A COMMENT:
(a) “Family’s Effort to Clear Name Frames Debate on Executions”, John Schwartz, New York Times, October 14, 2010,
(b) The Innocence Project Invents False Confessions
Oklahoma Mother Exonerated of Infant Son’s Death
Photo: Michelle Murphy with exoneree Cornelius Dupree.
On September 12, with the consent of District Attorney Tim Harris, a Tulsa court exonerated Michelle Murphy of the murder of her infant son. Recent DNA testing of crime scene evidence points to an unknown male as the real perpetrator. In the course of representing Michelle, lawyers also uncovered other evidence pointing to her innocence that was known to the prosecution but never disclosed to the defense.
Michelle’s 15-week-old son was brutally stabbed to death on September 12, 1994. Michelle, just 17 at the time, was in her apartment with her son and two year old daughter on the night of the murder. Murphy later woke up and discovered her son’s body in the kitchen. She immediately went to a neighbor and called the police.
After hours of interrogation, Michelle, who was very young and had just learned that her son had been brutally murdered, was coerced into claiming that she accidentally killed her baby when she knelt down to pick up a knife following a confrontation with a neighbor. At her trial, the prosecution also falsely implied to the jury that blood recovered from the scene matched Murphy’s blood type. Michelle was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.
On the eve of being called to the witness stand to testify regarding what was known about the blood evidence at trial, the District Attorney moved to overturn Murphy’s conviction on May 30th, and she was released. Subsequent DNA testing found that blood evidence at the scene did not come from Michelle but from an unknown male. Based on this, and with the District Attorney’s consent, the court entered an order dismissing the charges based on a showing of actual innocence.
After More Than Twenty Years, Conviction Overturned in Philadelphia
With the consent of the Philadelphia district attorney, a Court of Common Pleas judge granted Anthony Wright’s motion to overturn his conviction. Anthony served 23 years for a rape and murder that new DNA testing reveals was committed by another man with a long criminal history. In addition, DNA testing of clothing alleged by police to have been worn by Anthony to commit the crime, now shows that the clothes were not, in fact, his.
Police claimed that after merely 14 minutes in custody, Anthony voluntarily gave a full and complete signed confession to the 1991 rape and murder of 77-year-old North Philadelphia resident Louise Talley. Anthony, however, who was just 20 years old when he was arrested, has always maintained his innocence and testified that he only signed the alleged confession, which the police wrote out, after the interrogating detectives threatened him with bodily harm. Subsequent to securing the confession, police also claimed that they recovered from Anthony’s home the bloody clothes that he wore on the night of the crime. DNA testing now proves that the clothing actually belonged to the victim, which raises serious questions about where the police actually recovered the clothing.
The testing of the rape excluded Anthony as the source and identified Ronnie Byrd as the real perpetrator. Ronnie had a long criminal record, which included crimes in and around Philadelphia, but died in South Carolina in early 2013 and was never able to be questioned about the crime or prosecuted for it.
Wright was surrounded by his relatives when he received the news in court that his conviction was reversed. The case was adjourned to give the district attorney’s office time to conduct further investigation and decide whether it intends to retry Wright for the crime. Read more.
Two Men in Brooklyn Have Convictions Overturned, Charges Dismissed
A panel of New York state appeals court judges have unanimously reversed the convictions and dismissed the indictments against Everton Wagstaffe and Reginald Conner, two Brooklyn men who were found guilty of murder and kidnapping more than two decades ago. The Innocence Project has been consulting on the case since 2006.
Post-conviction DNA testing revealed foreign hairs on the victim’s body that did not come from Everton or Reginald. But the ruling was based primarily on the fact that prosecutors violated the defendant’s constitutional rights by burying documents that might have shown that detectives and the prime witness, Brunilda Capella, who has serious substance abuse problems, had lied.
Reginald, now 46, served 15 years and works for a film production company while Everton, 45, remains in state prison where he has been in custody since his arrest in January 1992. Read more.
AJAM Presents: The SystemSUNDAYS @ 9p ET/6p PT
PHOTOGRAPH & WHOLE ARTICLE HERE:
Gerard Richardson, center, hugs Karen Wolff, a social worker with the Innocence Project, moments after he was exonerated of murder in December. DNA evidence has freed hundreds of wrongfully convicted people since 1989.
Going to prison for a crime you did not commit is a nightmare that has inspired great fiction, from “The Count of Monte Cristo” to modern Hollywood takes such as “The Shawshank Redemption.”
Meanwhile, in the real world the introduction of modern genetic testing into the criminal justice system has added a new twist to these old themes, providing for some a way out from behind bars — through an exoneration process that leads from the laboratory to the courtroom.
DNA evidence has saved the lives of those on death row and freed others from long prison terms. Since the first convicted inmate was exonerated using DNA evidence in 1989, there have been 316 DNA exonerations nationwide, with the vast majority since 2000 ending in freedom for the convicted. Today, all 50 states have laws that, to varying degrees, permit convicts to access DNA tests — even decades after what may have been a wrongful conviction.
Lawrence Kobilinsky, chair of the sciences department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said that the public, as well as judges and juries, considers DNA testing to be “the gold standard” for proof that, if produced, can trump other types of evidence. …
…Many jailed convicts remain unable to access tests that could prove their innocence. In terms of racial disparity, 62 percent of the freed prisoners are African-American…
DNA exoneration cases involve irrefutable evidence that the suspect was wrongfully convicted, and can spring from a number of causes, including bad lawyering and government misconduct, as well as the following relatively common reasons:
Flawed forensics — This type of scientific mistake occurred in the process of convicting around half of those ultimately exonerated through DNA testing. Botched forensic techniques include hair microscopy, firearm analysis and shoe print comparison. Some cases are led astray due to misconduct by forensic scientists.
Eyewitness misidentification — Testimony based on false identification of the suspect was the cause in almost three-quarters of DNA exoneration cases, meaning it was the most frequent error. Forty percent of these mistakes involved cross-racial identification in which the eyewitness picked out a suspect belonging to a different racial group.
False confessions — About a quarter of the DNA exoneration cases contained false confessions, which are a disproportionately high factor in homicide cases. Advocacy groups say police should record the entirety of every interrogation.
Unreliable informants — Almost one-fifth of the cases stemmed from a wrongful conviction that hinged on testimony by a “snitch,” often given in exchange for better treatment by law enforcement or in exchange for dropping charges….
READ MORE/SHARE THIS: http://alj.am/SEnoEb http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/ajam-presents-thesystem/articles/2014/5/8/dna-exoneration-wrongfullyconvicted.html#
Originally posted on HumansinShadow.wordpress.com: