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A Missouri judge today found Dale Helmig innocent of killing his mother in 1993, a crime for which he has served 17 years in prison. The ruling follows a week-long hearing in July on whether Dale should receive a new trial.
DeKalb County Senior Judge Warren McElwain ruled that Helmig "established his innocence by clear and convincing evidence." He called Helmig, who was convicted in 1996 of killing his mother three years earlier in central Missouri's Osage County, a "victim of manifest injustice."
This one is personal for me, since I spent more than a week in Missouri interviewing Dale Helmig, his family, witnesses, the judge, prosecutors and Dale's trial and appellate defense counsel, for a 2000 TNT movie about his case, Was Justice Denied?. We also conducted our own investigation of the facts and reviewed all of the trial transcripts. I've continued to follow the case through its ups and downs here on TalkLeft. [More...]
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Alan Newton served 22 years for a rape he didn't commit. For years, New York police kept insisting there was no DNA to test. The Innocence Project took up his case and got a DA to find the evidence the police insisted didn't exist:
The rape kit, it turned out, was in its original storage bin from 1984, Barrel No. 22, in the same police warehouse that the authorities said they had searched at least three times since Mr. Newton first asked in 1994.
The DNA cleared Newton and he was released from prison in 2006. A New York jury yesterday awarded him $18.5 million in damages.
The Innocent Project said in 2006 that Newton could have been cleared in 1994, and that 17 other inmates face the same dilemma.
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DNA "touch tests" have produced new evidence in the case of Tim Masters, wrongfully imprisoned for ten years for the murder of Peggy Hettrick. Masters received a $10 million settlement from the City of Fort Collins and Larimer County, Colorado.
Two prosecutors in the case, Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair, are now district court judges. They were censured by the Colorado Supreme Court for misconduct in failing to comply with proper defense discovery requests and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. The Blair decision is here and the Gilmore decision is here. They are up for a retention vote in November. [More...]
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NOW, THEREFORE, the Florida Innocence Commission is hereby established to conduct a comprehensive study of the causes of wrongful conviction and of measures to prevent such convictions. In conducting its work, the Commission may review individual cases involving a wrongful conviction where innocence has already been officially acknowledged, to determine the cause of these wrongful convictions. Such review may include the examination of documents and the interview of individuals involved in the cases. However, unproven innocence claims will not be reviewed.
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New York City has agreed to pay Barry Gibbs $9.9 million. Gibbs served 19 years in jail as a result of being framed by a corrupt detective.
....Barry Gibbs, had served 19 years in prison when his conviction was overturned in 2005 after questions were raised about how his case had been handled by Louis J. Eppolito, a New York City police detective, one of the notorious “Mafia cops” serving life in prison for taking part in mob-related killings.
.... “They are permanent scars,” he added. “It’s been a long road. I’ve been through a lot, and it was very traumatic for me.” Mr. Gibbs, 62, who has recently wrestled with severe health problems, previously received a $1.9 million settlement from the state.
The victim was a prostitute, and at the time of her murder, Gibbs was a postal worker with a drug problem who had had a relationship with her. [More...]
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Solicitor General Elena Kagan has let the time pass for appealing (seeking Supreme Court review) of a historic $101 million verdict for civil rights violations in a lawsuit against the FBI for framing four men from Boston for a mob slaying. The government will pay up.
Josesph Salvati, now 77, served 29 years in prison. He will get $31 million, plus another $2 million in interest.
DOJ tried to get Kagan to seek review but she refused, siding with the wrongfully convicted men. The verdict was rendered by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner, following a 22 day bench trial. [More....]
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Johnny Depp is going to bat for the Memphis 3. Great cause, I hope the publicity that he can bring to the case does some good.
This case clearly reveals the inferior, unprofessional and narrow-minded hayseed police force and prosecutors that took "the easy (and corrupt) route" towards "solving" a crime that they were CLEARLY incapable of handling. This was nothing more than "Keystone Cops get a wink from Judge Good Ol' Boy" - NO MATTER HOW YOU SLICE IT. And now three innocent youths' lives are totally destroyed - not to mention that there is STILL NO JUSTICE for the murdered boys and their families.
So finally - SIXTEEN YEARS LATER - Depp and his fellow "Beautiful People" jump on the bandwagon of social justice and hip-ness (between all of their other photo-op's) to call attention to the injustice. Good timing, folks! Better late than never, I guess... The defense team (and the people that organized and tirelessly assisted them) deserve all of the credit for this cause - NOT the terminally hip "movie stars" and "rock celebrities." They've contributed very little (i.e. their faces), overall.
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Larimer County, Colorado has agreed to pay Tim Masters $4.1 million for the ten years he spent in prison, wrongfully accused and convicted of murder.
Masters was 15 when Fort Collins, Colorado, police began investigating him in the murder of 37-year-old Peggy Hettrick, who was found murdered and sexually mutilated in a field near Masters' family home. He was convicted largely on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of an expert witness who said he fit the profile of a sexual predator.
Two prosecutors, Terrence Gilmore and Jolene Blair, were found to have withheld exculpatory evidence. Both are now judges, and opposed the settlement, saying they didn't have a chance to defend themselves. [More...]
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Bump and Update: Bain was freed from prison today and officially cleared of the crime.
James Bain has been imprisoned for a rape and murder he did not commit for 35 years. Of the 245 inmates cleared and freed by DNA testing, he has been in jail the longest. He is 54 years old, and has been imprisoned since age 19.
Today, he should be going home.
At the hearing Thursday in Bartow, Florida, the state is expected to agree to Bain's release while the final aspects of its investigation are completed. After the initial DNA test, state investigators collected more DNA from Bain and from the victim in the case for further testing. Another hearing will be held, probably after the new year, which would formally vacate his conviction.
..."It's an indication that while all the 'i's' have not been dotted yet, there appears to be a sufficient likelihood of where this is going," said the spokesman, Chip Thullbery. "We don't think it's appropriate for Mr. Bain to spend any more time in prison."
Mr. Bain's family is ready for his return. They have a house, car, and even pajamas waiting for him. And now he will start to rebuild his life. [More...]
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Donald Gates was convicted of rape and murder in 1981. After 28 years, DNA testing has exonerated him. A judge ordered him released today. Formal hearings to clear Gates will follow. The judge also criticized the Government for relying on an FBI analyst whose findings contributed to Gates' conviction:
Senior Judge Fred B. Ugast angrily criticized government officials who relied heavily on the testimony of an FBI analyst during Gates's trial. The analyst incorrectly linked Gates to two hairs from an African American male, found on the body of white college student Catherine Schilling, who was slain in 1981.
That FBI analyst, Michael P. Malone, was discredited in a 1997 review by the Justice Department along with 13 other analysts for making false reports and inaccurate tests.
What is the 58 year old getting?
He'll be given a bus ticket to Ohio, where he's from, winter clothes and $75.
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Biurny Peguero claimed three men kidnapped and raped her. She swore to it under oath at the grand jury and at the trial of William McCaffrey, a construction worker. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years. He went to prison. Four years later, McCaffrey was officially cleared today.
How did it happen? His attorney was able to get new DNA tests on bite marks on Peguero's arms. The reports at the time of the trial were inconclusive. The new testing showed the bites didn't come from McCaffrey but from two women who had fought with Peguero.
Peguero later confessed to a priest and then to the DA's office that she made the whole thing up. She wanted people to feel sorry for her.
She claimed she was raped because she wanted her friends "to feel badly" for her, and then was afraid to back down from her story as the case continued, prosecutors said in court filings this fall. She thought McCaffrey ultimately would be acquitted because of a lack of other evidence, prosecutors said.
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Fernando Bermudez cried as the Judge vacated his murder conviction today, after serving 18 years in prison. There will be no retrial, his case was dismissed.
Bermudez ''has demonstrated his actual innocence,'' state Supreme Court Justice John Cataldo said. ''This court wishes to express its profound regret over the past 18 years. I hope for you a better future.''
He was not freed immediately due to a pending 27 month federal sentence on drug charges. How was he convicted? Faulty eyewitness evidence and another participant in the fight in which the victim was killed got immunity for pinning it on Bermudez. [More...]
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Dewey Bozella was convicted twice of a brutal murder. He served 26 years. His conviction was overturned yesterday and he was immediately freed. DNA evidence did not play a role. What convicted him:
The prosecution relied almost entirely on the testimony of two men with criminal histories, both of whom repeatedly changed their stories and both of whom got favorable treatment in their own cases in exchange for their testimony.
What freed him: A retired police officer who had saved his file, "who said it was the only one he kept after retirement, figuring that the conviction was so problematic lawyers might want it someday." In the file was evidence the prosecution had failed to turn over to the defense. [More...]
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In Texas, police used a dog scent lineup to get the perp in a murder case. The dogs got it wrong.
According to the dogs, the perp was one of the cops. He was under suspicion for five months. Then, DNA revealed the real murderer who pleaded guilty.
The Innocence Project of Texas calls the practice "junk science that's being used by prosecutors and judges to convict people." The nonprofit group... wants state governments to ban the use of dog-scent lineups. It says an unknown number of people have been wrongly accused or convicted from the dog-scent lineups.
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Some welcome news to report on DNA testing in innocence claims:
Funded by a $1.2 million federal grant and using the latest DNA technology, Colorado prosecutors hope to review as many as 5,000 rape, murder and manslaughter convictions in the next 18 months to determine whether any inmates currently in Colorado prisons were unjustly convicted.
....Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said they, along with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and law students, will conduct a "systematic review" of cases where defendants may have been unjustly convicted, using DNA testing as a critical component in the review.
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