New Trial For Ralph Armstrong

by TChris

Reversing decisions of a trial court and the state court of appeals, the Wisconsin Supreme Court today ordered a new trial for Ralph Armstrong, convicted of the 1980 rape and murder of Charise Kamps. While the prosecution clung to its theory that Armstrong was the rapist, it had difficulty explaining new DNA tests that excluded Armstrong as the source of the semen recovered from Kamps. It turned out that the semen belonged to Kamps' boyfriend.

The prosecution nonetheless argued that "head hairs found on a bathrobe belt draped over Kamps' mutilated body ... were similar to Armstrong's" hair, and hey, superficial similarity should be good enough to sustain a murder conviction, right? Wrong. New DNA tests revealed that the hairs didn't come from Armstrong.

The prosecution's shakey case was always controversial, given the decision police made to "reconstruct" events by hypnotizing a witness, and the witness' subsequent flip-flopping testimony.

In the original trial, prosecutors relied on testimony from Riccie Orebia, a transvestite prostitute, who said he saw a man fitting Armstrong's description driving a car that looked like Armstrong's entering and leaving Kamps' apartment several times. Orebia, who underwent hypnosis to help recall the events of the night, later recanted his testimony, then recanted the recantation.

The prosecution rested its case on other mistakes, as well.

The state also made the case that a substance underneath Armstrong's fingernails was blood, but later testing found it was not.

Despite the dramatic new evidence undercutting the prosecution's case, Armstrong won a new trial by only a 4-3 decision. Kudos to Barry Sheck, Jerome Buting, and the rest of the defense team for giving Armstrong the chance to have a fair trial.

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    Re: New Trial For Ralph Armstrong (none / 0) (#1)
    by Dadler on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:08 PM EST
    Good deal. The sad deal is how many of these cases are out there, unheard of. And not just death penalty cases, but cases involving decades in prison, which might as well be a death sentence. We must do better.