Links to recent articles. For older articles see "Links to Articles - (old)"
Below are links to press articles, web pages and legal decisions relating to the Alfred Trenkler case and to convictions of innocent people around the country.
17 January 2014. The Stephanie Hartung article (see below at 26 August) was published in the Stanford University Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
26 August 2013 Article to be published in Stanford University Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties with much emphasis on Alfred Trenkler's case: "Missing the Forest for the Trees: Federal Habeas Corpus and the Piecemeal Problem in Actual Innocence Cases," by Professor Stephanie Roberts Hartung of Suffolk University Law School.
Excerpts From the Introduction to the article....
This Article is inspired by Alfred Trenkler [“Trenkler”], whose story provides an illustration of the piecemeal problem. Trenkler has been incarcerated in federal prison for twenty years for a crime he did not commit. Since his trial in 1993, the evidence originally supporting Trenkler’s murder conviction has been roundly discredited, piece by piece. Virtually all of the circumstantial trial evidence has been undermined by new, and more reliable, information. In the process, numerous federal district and appellate courts have reviewed Trenkler’s conviction, at times acknowledging fault with the trial evidence. Each court has either examined the evidence presented at trial, or reviewed new evidence that has since come to light. For example, the law enforcement database used at trial to support a modus operandi theory for the crime has been deemed to be unreliable hearsay. The co-defendant, who originally inculpated Trenkler, has since recanted his statements and claimed to have been threatened by government attorneys. New evidence of the co-defendant’s long history of mental illness has also come to light. The jailhouse snitch, who testified to hearing Trenkler confess while in custody, received a dramatically reduced sentence following his testimony, and has since made a career as a government witness. Fingerprint evidence, not disclosed at trial, also exculpates Trenkler. However, while this new evidence has come to light bit by bit, strict post-conviction limitations periods have demanded immediate filings. Additionally, since his conviction in 1993, Trenkler has been largely unrepresented by counsel and has pursued post-conviction relief pro se. Each claim has been raised individually, either on direct appeal, or as part of a motion for new trial or a separate habeas petition. The courts have effectively reviewed each new claim in isolation, and no court has had the benefit of assessing all the new evidence in the aggregate. Thus, there has been no opportunity to view the evidentiary landscape as a whole, and recognize that virtually every piece of evidence originally supporting Trenkler’s conviction is no longer viable. In short, the courts have failed to see the forest for the trees. Trenkler sits in federal prison despite the absence of any credible evidence that he actually committed the crime.
28 July 2011 "Wrongly convicted sees rapist sentenced" by Brian Ballou in the Boston Globe
Excerpts from the article...
During his 12 years behind bars on rape charges, Anthony Powell staunchly maintained his innocence. Eventually, DNA forensics, which had come of age, showed that he was telling the truth, and he was freed....
“Nothing can return those years to him,’’ said Daniel F. Conley, Suffolk district attorney. “No amount of compensation that he may have received is going to make this right.’’
17 November 2010. "New trial for Brockton man convicted of 2001 Taunton arson" by Marc Larocque in the Taunton Gazette.
Excerpts from the article...
A Brockton-based boxer convicted in 2006 of arson for setting his Taunton convenience store on fire may get a new trial based on the ruling of a federal judge on Monday.
[See followup article about his life after his release from Federal prison, where he knew Alfred Trenkler: "Alleged arsonist who was jailed for 2001 Taunton fire gets a new chance at life" See also the coverage at the website of the New England Innocence Project and the NEIP BLOG ABOUT THE HEBSHIE CASE See also, Judge Gertner's opinion and orders at
1 May 2010 "US won’t appeal verdict in case of four framed by FBI - Plaintiffs to get damage judgment of $101.7 million" Boston Globe, by Jonathan Saltzman
The article begins....
The federal government has decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court a landmark verdict for four men framed by the FBI in a gangland slaying, meaning the plaintiffs will receive a damage judgment that totals $101.7 million, according to one of their lawyers....
6 March 2010. "Prosecutor Reflects on wrongful conviction in D.C. killing" by Keith Alexander, in the Washington Post
Excerpts from the article....
"I can't express how sick this has made me feel," said Harrington, 61. "I was always trying to be about protecting people. To find out that I had the wrong guy is beyond description."
It was the first murder conviction overturned by DNA evidence in the history of the U.S. attorney's office in the District. Prosecutors there declined to talk about the Gates case publicly. Behind closed doors, many are checking and double-checking their caseloads to make sure they don't have another Gates.
"Not only can this happen again, but it will," said Harrington, now an ordained minister in Fort Worth. "Nobody has any interest in convicting somebody who didn't commit a crime. You do your best with the evidence you have. I was just flatly wrong about it. I did my best, and it wasn't good enough."
25 February 2010. Cape Cod Times Editorial: "Improve Justice"
Excerpts from the editorial....
"These DNA exonerations show us how the criminal justice system is flawed and how it can be fixed," said Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project. "DNA exonerations have helped transform the criminal justice system, leading to reforms in virtually every state, but there is still a great deal of work to do to make our system of justice more fair, accurate and reliable."
In the last several years, state and federal policy makers have begun using the lessons of DNA exonerations to prevent wrongful convictions.....
24 February "Judge Rules Not to Impose Sanctions on Boston Federal Prosecutor" by Sheri Qualters in the National Law Journal.
The article begins....
Chief Judge Mark Wolf of the District of Massachusetts ruled not to sanction Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Sullivan for failing to disclose exculpatory evidence in a timely fashion despite his doubts that new government discovery training programs for prosecutors would succeed.
Wolf's Friday, 23-page order in U.S. v. Jones explained his reasoning, and his reservations, about not imposing sanctions on Sullivan or the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts for Sullivan's prosecutorial misconduct.
Wolf cited Sullivan's participation in several U.S. Attorney's Office and U.S. Department of Justice training programs and "independent efforts to educate herself on her discovery obligations." Wolf also said Sullivan's violation of the defendant's rights was "unintentional rather than deliberate" and that she's "not likely to commit comparable errors in the future.
24 February 2010. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz orders review of law enforcement handling of 1993 mail bomb attempt. Boston Globe: "US orders review of attempted bombing" and Boston Herald:"Investigation ordered in 1993 attempted mail bombing"
The U.S. Attorney stated, “We have commenced a thorough review of the information related to this incident to confirm that all appropriate steps were taken in that matter, and to determine whether information related to this incident may be of assistance to other law enforcement agencies.”
The question arises: when will such a review be launched in the Roslindale Bomb cases?
20 February 2010. Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts orders investigation of 1986 shooting by Amy Bishop of her brother, Seth, in Braintree, Mass. in 1986. Showing that the executive branch can play a role in the provision of justice. See Boston Globe article, "Review set for Bishop’s ’86 case" by Maria Cramer and John Guilfoil.
Governor Deval Patrick has ordered a review of the State Police role in the investigation of the 1986 shooting death of Seth Bishop at the hands of his sister, Amy, who later became a biologist and is now accused of gunning down three of her colleagues at the University of Alabama.
“It is critical that we provide as clear an understanding as possible about all aspects of this case and its investigation to ensure that where mistakes were made, they are not repeated in the future,’’ Patrick said in a statement yesterday.
A Patrick spokesman said that the review would focus only on the role of the State Police and not on the investigation conducted by Braintree police officers, whose work on the 23-year-old case is being reexamined by Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating.
9 January 2010. USA Today published link to Huffington Post Part III article by Cari ShanE Parven. in its "MAINE" Section.
In its entirety....
Shane Parven: DNA: The Freedom Fighter (Part III of III)
8 January 2010. Huffington Post Article by Cari Shane Parven about DNA and wrongful convictions (DNA: The Freedom Fighter, Part III of III) features Alfred Trenkler case. [See also PART I and PART II.]
The article begins....
Since 2006, Maine resident Morrison Bonpasse has worked tirelessly for the exoneration of a man he had never met or even heard of until just a few years ago. Alfred Trenkler was convicted in Federal Court in 1994 for making a bomb that killed a Boston police officer.
Trenkler was sentenced to two concurrent life terms in prison.
Bonpasse believes whole-heartedly in Trenkler's innocence.
According to Bonpasse, two to 5 percent of all people in prison have been wrongfully convicted. That translates to 40-thousand to 100-thousand people. Bonpasse, a non-practicing attorney, believes so strongly in the imperfect storm that led to Trenkler's conviction that he wrote a 700- page book about Trenkler, Perfectly Innocent. He also created a website for him, www.alfredtrenklerinnocent.org,....
8 January 2010. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will attend the formal investiture of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz on Monday, 11 January. See web article at MAIN JUSTICE.
The article begins....
Attorney General Eric Holder will attend a ceremonial swearing-in Monday for Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz , a spokesperson for Ortiz's office told Main Justice.
Ortiz was officially sworn in on Nov. 9, a few days after the Senate confirmed her. But U.S. Attorneys often have a later ceremonial investiture with local, state and federal leaders in attendance.
The Attorney General has attended six U.S. Attorney investitures so far....
3 January 2010. "Pleas, doubts ignored in man's wrongful conviction for clerk's murder" [but police finally re-investigated case] by Jason Riley at Louisville Courier-Journal.
Excerpts from the article....
— more than two months after a judge vacated Edwin Chandler's conviction
for manslaughter and robbery in Brenda Whitfield's death — another man,
Percy Phillips, will appear in court on charges that he shot Whitfield
in the head during a burglary at Watterson City Chevron Food Mart....
by Kirk Makin in the Gobe and Mail.
Excerpts from the article....
...Mr. Lockyer also plays a key role in the chain of accountability that typically follows a miscarriage of justice. Wrongful convictions beget judicial inquiries, probes that force changes to every corner of the justice system â€“ and to which Mr. Lockyer has devoted years of his life.
...As a direct result of these dynamics, police confessions are now viewed with healthy skepticism and untrustworthy jailhouse informants have been driven from the courtroom. Reports by forensic scientists and pathologists no longer overreach the way they once did, prosecutors take extra care to ensure the integrity of evidence, and judges have learned a newfound sense of humility.
The wrongful-conviction movement has also brought cultural changes. The public and media are no longer so quick to ignore cries of innocence from within prison walls, and the defence bar has acquired a sheen of crusading respectability that it hitherto lacked.
31 December 2009. "End of year truth in justice for West Memphis Three, none since 1993" by Virginia Jones, www.examiner.com.
Excerpts from the article....
of 2009 brings indecisive
news of the, more likely than not, innocent three young
men, Damien Echols, 18; Jessie Misskelley Jr., 17, and Jason Baldwin,
16, wrongly convicted by the Circuit
Court of Craighead County, Arkansas, Case No. CR93450 & 450A.
Evidence confirms actual innocence. The videos below attest to the facts,
but the courts are reluctant to act. Even most of the victim's parent[s]
wants the conviction overturned.
29 December 2009. "Man freed in rape case settles suit for $3.25m" by Jonathan Saltzman in the Boston Globe.
Excerpts from the article....
Ulysses Rodriguez Charles, who spent about 18 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of raping three women in a Brighton apartment, has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Boston for $3.25 million, according to a city lawyer....
"There are five victims in this case," Charles's lawyer, Frank C. Corso, said yesterday. "There are the three women who were raped. There is the man who spent 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. And there's society, which is paying money and not solving a crime."
27 December 2009. Washington Post Editorial: "Innocents in Prison" [after the Gates and Bain cases - See Below, both on "16 December."]
Excerpts from the editorial...
"...As appalling as the two cases are, what's even scarier is the thought that imperfections in the criminal justice system will go uncorrected and more people could be wrongly jailed.
...In a letter to the court admitting that they had received information almost six years ago that called Mr. Gates's conviction into doubt, prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney's Office said that they have referred the matter to the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility. They also should follow the lead of states such as North Carolina in establishing innocence commissions that bring together judges, police, prosecutors, defense attorneys and victim's advocates in an attempt to identify the practices that lead to wrongful convictions and to recommend reforms."
17 December 2009. "21-Year-Old Case Goes to Court With New Suspect" by Joe Piraneo, Associated Press, on NBC Connecticut
Excerpts from the article....
man suspected in the rape and kidnapping that left the wrong person in
jail for 18 years will stand trial next year, but only on the kidnapping
charges. Jury selection for the trial of Duane Foster will begin on March
22, Judge David Gold says.
16 December 2009. "After 35 years, freedom in sight for Florida man exonerated by DNA evidence" by Rich Phillips on CNN.
The article begins....
Bartow, Florida (CNN) -- After more than three decades in prison, James Bain is eager to be able to help his wheelchair-bound mother.
If all goes as planned in a Florida courtroom Thursday, Bain, 54, will be allowed to go home for the first time in 35 years -- free from his life sentence thanks to a DNA test that showed he was not the man who took a 9-year-old Lake Wales, Florida, boy from his bed in 1974 and raped him.
[This exoneration makes Bain the person who has suffered the longest wrongful imprisonment for prior to exonerated with DNA evidence since the first Innocence Project exoneration in 1989.]
16 December 2009. Boston Globe article about Boston Bar Assn report, "Getting It Right", "Study says widen access to DNA tests" by Jonathan Saltzman.
Excerpts from the article....
The two cochairmen of the committee are well-known former prosecutors, David E. Meier and Martin F. Murphy.
Meier knows all too well about wrongful convictions. As head of the homicide unit of the Suffolk district attorney’s office from 1996 to 2008, he had to inform judges that prosecutors had wrongfully persuaded juries to convict eight murder defendants who were ultimately freed.
"The wrongful conviction of an innocent defendant strikes at the foundation of the criminal justice system," he said in an interview. "It impacts everyone: the defendant, the victim and the victim's family, the integrity of the system, and, perhaps most importantly, the public's confidence in our system of justice."
[For the report, click on "Getting It Right, Improving the Accuracy and Reliability of the Criminal Justice System in Massachusetts"]
16 December 2009. "DNA sets free D.C. man imprisoned in 1981 student slaying" by Keith Alexander, in the Washington Post.
The article begins....
District man who was incarcerated for 28 years in the rape and murder
of a Georgetown University student in Rock Creek Park was ordered released
Tuesday by a D.C. Superior Court judge after DNA evidence revealed that
another man committed the crime.
[Because of the unique justice system in the District of Columbia, Gates was prosecuted by the Office of U.S. Attorney for the District.
Gates was released after DNA testing, and questions were raised about a government FBI expert witness whose work on other cases had been strongly criticized. Gates had written to his judge in 1988 and ASKED for DNA testing, but the science was then in its early stages. Gates was released from the Federal Prison in Tucson, to which Alfred Trenkler is slated to be shipped, from his current temporary cell in Brooklyn NY where he has been since 13 November.]
[See also, Associated Press article: "DNA testing clears man who served 28 years" and same AP article in Boston Globe, "DNA tests free man after 28 years in prison - Conviction based on lab work that has been refuted"]
14 December 2009. "In New York state, a new look at the wrongly convicted" from Reuters, by Edith Honan.
Excerpts from the article....
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A recent spate of exonerations in New York state has put renewed focus on the plight of the wrongly convicted, with advocates saying it is not as easy as it should be to get an unjust verdict reversed.
In the last two decades, 246 people have been exonerated in the United
States with the help of DNA evidence after being convicted of crimes.
The New York state legislature is considering a bill that would remove administrative hurdles to having a court hear an appeal on the grounds of "actual innocence" -- cases where a convict claims conclusive proof he or she did not commit the crime.
The bill would codify a remedy that courts have put in place in some form in at least eight states, including New York.
"There are a lot of procedural obstacles to individuals who want to get into court and demonstrate that they're innocent," said the bill's sponsor, state Senator Eric Schneiderman.
[See related article below, at 22 November by John Eligon in the NY Times.]
6 December 2009. Sunday Boston Herald runs story, "Cop-killing bomber’s appeal hits delay" by Jessica Fargen
Excerpts from the article....
The man convicted of building a bomb that killed a Boston police officer 18 years ago will wait another month before he knows how the government will respond to his latest bid to get out of prison....
...The Sunday Herald reported on Nov. 29 that Ortiz's office, at the request of high-ranking Boston Police Department officials, reviewed the case and Bonpasse's manuscript in September.
After the review, which has not been made public, Ortiz said she stood behind Trenkler's conviction. BPD Police Commissioner Edward Davis has said he stands behind Ortiz's decision. Bonpasse said he has written to the U.S. Attorney's Office to offer his cooperation but has had no response.
Trenkler, an electrical engineer, was recently moved from a federal prison in Ayer to a holding facility in Brooklyn, N.Y., en route to Tucson, Ariz. It is unclear what prompted Trenkler's sudden transfer, Bonpasse said
4 December 2009. "Stevens prosecutors face questioning" by Carrie Johnson in the Washington Post.
The article begins....
"The special prosecutor investigating whether criminal contempt statutes were violated in the government's botched case against Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has scheduled interviews with the six Justice Department lawyers at the center of the episode, according to three sources familiar with the effort.
Henry F. Schuelke III, named to the assignment this year by a U.S. district judge who oversaw the Stevens case, is nearing the end of his investigation and already has sifted through thousands of documents related to the prosecution, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe is still underway.
The interviews are expected to conclude by the end of January. They may help Schuelke determine whether prosecutors did not share critical evidence with the Stevens defense in an effort to hide material, or because of sloppy mistakes by a government team burdened by tight deadlines and inexperience...."
22 November 2009. Sunday Boston Herald runs story, "Boston Police Department takes new look at bomb case" by Jessica Fargen and Peter Gelzinis, and a column by Peter Gelzinis, "Cops earn salute for seeking truth justice." See also the Herald's "Photo Gallery" with 8 photos/images, and related UPI story, "Boston police review bombing case"
The article begins...
Police Department has quietly reviewed the investigation into an 18-year-old
Roslindale bombing that left a heroic bomb squad cop dead and maimed another,
the Herald has learned.
column stated, "...Hopefully, the feds will soon issue a thorough
and complete refuting of every doubt raised by Trenkler's dogged advocate.
It's not simply what justice demands.
22 November 2009. "Hope for the Wrongfully Convicted" by John Eligon, in the New York Times.
Excerpts from the article, written after the exoneration of Fernando Bermudez in New York on 9 November 2009:
In a recent 79-page decision, a Manhattan judge could well have stopped after the first four sentences of his concluding paragraph and still conveyed his main point: that Fernando Bermudez was no longer guilty of murder....
"It elevates substance over form," said Glenn A. Garber, a Manhattan defense lawyer and founder of the Exoneration Initiative, an organization that focuses on innocence claims that lack DNA evidence. "If they know they're required to engage in actual innocence analysis, it sends a message to courts that they have to do more when they're confronted with compelling evidence of innocence."
[See 13 November NY Times article, below, of Bermudez's exoneration.]
19 November 2009. "Ohio launches new non-DNA innocence initiative"
[The New England Innocence Project (NEIP) now handles non-DNA cases, together with DNA cases. Alfred Trenkler has applied for NEIP assistance]
13 November 2009. "Man Jailed for ’91 Murder Is Cleared by Judge" by John Eligon, New York Times.
In his 79-page decision, Justice Cataldo wrote that Mr. Bermudez's rights were violated because the police had allowed prosecution witnesses to view Mr. Bermudez's mug shot as a group and to discuss his resemblance to the killer. Justice Cataldo also found that the prosecution should have known before sentencing that one of its cooperating witnesses, Efraim Lopez — a teenager whom Mr. Blount had punched at the club — had given false testimony.
“I find no credible evidence connects Fernando Bermudez to the homicide of Mr. Blount,” Justice Cataldo wrote. “All of the people's trial evidence has been discredited: the false testimony of Efraim Lopez and the recanted identifications of strangers. I find, by clear and convincing evidence, that Fernando Bermudez has demonstrated he is innocent of this crime.”
But prosecutors have contended that witnesses may have been pressured into changing their testimony.
“We don't think the defense has shown anything wrong with the verdict,” Mr. Dwyer said.
5 November 2009. "Ortiz confirmed as state’s first Hispanic U.S. attorney" from the Associated Press in the Boston Herald.
Fortunately for Alfred Trenkler and for truth and justice, Ms. Ortiz has had experience searching for the truth.
Excerpts from the Boston Herald article....
.....In 1992, Ortiz was a member of the “October Surprise” team for the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which found no basis for allegations that the 1980 Reagan campaign tried to delay the release of hostages in Iran to undermine President Carter's re-election. Ortiz also helped investigate allegations of sexual harassment made by a Boston Herald sports writer against the New England Patriots in 1990.
(See also, in the Boston Globe, "Carmen Ortiz confirmed as US attorney for Massachusetts")
22 October 2009. "2 men wrongly convicted in 1997 Dallas murder to be exonerated" by Diane Jennings, Dallas Morning News
Excerpts from the article about this non-DNA case....
are expected to be released Friday after spending 12 years in prison for
a murder they did not commit, the latest in a string of exonerations in
Dallas County. Like most of the other wrongful convictions, these
cases also hinged on faulty eyewitness identification.
[The confession was secured by a University of Texas (Arlington) Innocence Project volunteer student.]
13 August 2009. "Bruce Lisker walks out of prison, but not yet entirely free" from the Los Angeles Times. Also, "For Bruce Lisker, a 'surreal' return to society" from 14 August LA Times.
Excerpts from the article.....
"Though he is no longer in prison, Lisker is not a free man. He must be in federal court Monday to go over the terms of his release with U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips, who overturned his conviction. Additionally, the district attorney has filed court papers ordering Lisker to appear in state court Aug. 21, even though a spokeswoman has declined to say whether the office intends to retry Lisker....
At an evidentiary hearing in federal court, each of those elements was seriously undermined or disproved. For example, an LAPD analyst and an FBI expert testified that a bloody footprint found in the bathroom of the Lisker house and attributed to Lisker at trial was, in fact, not made by Lisker's shoes. Additionally, that print appeared to match an apparent shoe impression on the victim's head, according to the LAPD analyst.
The attorney general arguing in support of the conviction pointed to confessions that Lisker made while trying to secure a plea deal and while seeking parole. Judge Phillips, in adopting the findings of U.S. Magistrate Ralph Zarefsky, who held the evidentiary hearing, dismissed those confessions, calling them "self-serving when they were made and unaccompanied by verifying details."
Lisker has long said his admissions were bogus and desperate attempts to get out of prison. Phillips and Zarefsky also found that the LAPD detective on the case had inexplicably dismissed another "likely suspect," who lied about his whereabouts at the time of the slaying, admitted being in a knife fight on the day of the crime and acknowledged going to the victim's house and talking to her the day before the slaying.
That suspect, Michael Ryan, who had a long history of violence, later killed himself. Phone records from the Lisker home show that a call was made minutes before the murder -- the number matched that of Ryan's mother, except for the last digit and the area code, which wasn't dialed. "There is a strong suggestion that someone else was responsible for the crime," the judges concluded.
[See earlier articles, 6 may 2006, 5 May 2006, 10 December 2005, and 27 May 2005, about the Bruce Lisker case below, and his website at http://www.freebruce.org/ ]
19 May 2009. "Prosecutor tapped as next US attorney for Mass." (breaking news, online) by Jonathan Saltzman in the Boston Globe.
Excerpts from the article....
The two US senators from Massachusetts have recommended that President Obama nominate Carmen M. Ortiz, a federal prosecutor and former state prosecutor, to become the next US attorney.
Assuming that the president follows the recommendation and that the Senate confirms the nomination, Ortiz would be the first woman and first Hispanic to be US attorney in Massachusetts, the highest federal law enforcement official in the state. Her parents are from Puerto Rico.
has more than 20 years of experience as a federal and state prosecutor,
most recently serving as an assistant US attorney in the office's Economic
Crimes Unit, according to the senators. She previously was a prosecutor
in the Middlesex District Attorney's Office.
The article begins...
A federal prosecutor and two prominent partners at a Boston law firm have been recommended to Senator Edward M. Kennedy as potential successors to former US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, according to several current and former prosecutors.
Assistant US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Michael B. Keating and Martin F. Murphy, partners at Foley Hoag, were recommended this week as finalists by a screening committee picked by Kennedy, said the current and former prosecutors, who requested anonymity but said the recommendations are common knowledge at the US Attorney's Office....
An excerpt from the article....
"Last Thursday, he wrote to US Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to ask him to crack down on prosecutors who fail to disclose information that could clear defendants and repeated his past assessment that the local office has a 'dismal history of intentional and inadvertent violations.' "
[See also the 3 May 2008 letter to Judge Wolf and other judges about the prosecutorial misconduct in the Alfred Trenkler case.]
9 April 2009. Boston Globe Article, "US attorneys told to expect scrutiny" by Nedra Pickler
Excerpts from the article...
WASHINGTON - US Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday warned federal prosecutors of increased scrutiny in the wake of mistakes in the corruption case against former senator Ted Stevens of Alaska.
18 March 2009. Boston Globe article by Maria Cramer about Judge Zobel ruling: "Trenkler denied new trial in bombing that killed Boston officer - 5 jurors advocated for man they jailed"
The article begins...
Alfred Trenkler has failed in his latest attempt to convince a federal judge that there is enough evidence to prove he was not the man who planted a bomb that killed a Boston police officer and maimed another nearly 19 years ago....
24 February 2009. Book "Picking Cotton" published about the active and forgiving relationship of victim in wrongful conviction case and man she wrongly identified as her rapist who served 10 years in prison.
From a review...
"Once acquainted with the authors, it is impossible to detach from this story. [Jennifer] Thompson-Cannino makes no effort to pretty up her role as the woman who so confidently (and wrongly) picked co-author Cotton as her rapist, sending him off to more than a decade in prison. Cotton resists the temptation to which most victims of such injustice would fall prey: Self-aggrandizing renditions of his plight and vengeful blame."
[In the Roslindale Bomb case, the victims' families had absolutely no role in the identification and investigation of Aflred Trenkler and Thomas A. Shay, so they are far less committed to the identification of those men than was the rapist-victim in this story, and who later chose to support the search for truth.]
23 February 2009. Boston Globe article by Maria Cramer: "Jurors who convicted in '93 ask judge to retry case"
The article begins...
"For almost two decades, Alfred Trenkler and his family have tried unsuccessfully to get a new trial in the 1991 bombing that killed a Boston police officer, maimed another, and put Trenkler behind bars for life.
Now the convicted man has new and surprising advocates for his cause: three of the jurors who helped imprison him...."
Bonpasse posted a comment on the Boston Globe website which begins, "
Officer Jeremiah Hurley's widow, Cynthia, is absolutely correct that her
husband should have been allowed "rest in peace." She and her
family, and Officer Francis Foley and his family, should have been able
to obtain closure long ago to the 1991 Roslindale Bomb tragedy.
See also: News Media
Patriot Ledger: "Jurors who convicted cop killer ask for new trial"
Cape Cod Times: "Jurors who convicted cop killer seek new trial"
NECN (New England Cable Network: "Jurors say they wrongly convicted killer"
(with video of Boston Globe reporter Maria Cramer)
UPI (Inited Press International): "Jurors from bombing case seeking retrial"
WCVB-TV: "Juror Who Convicted Bomber Calls For Retrial" (with video of juror)
Boston Herald: "Jurors who convicted cop killer ask fo new trial"
MarketWatch: "Jurors from bombing case seeking retrial"
WWLP-TV (Springfield): "Jurors think defendant may be innocent"
ABA (American Bar Assn.) Journal News: "Swayed By Lawyer's Book, Jurors Ask Judge for New Trial in '93 Case"
Times of the Internet: "Jurors from bombing case seeking retrial"
See also: Blogs
19 February 2009. National Academy of Sciences calls for forensic science reform. See Story on NPR: "Call for Forensics Reform Linked to CSI effect"
The article begins:
"Millions of people watch CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation every week. But forensic evidence isn't nearly as ironclad as it appears on television. In fact, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's crime labs need a total overhaul."
[See Morrison Bonpasse comment to Article at the NPR website and at COMMENT.]
13 February 2009. Boston Globe article: "Search for Vindication" by Shelley Murphy about James Haley's 34 years in prison for a wrongful conviction.
Excerpts from the article....
James Haley's 34 years behind bars ended with little fanfare and no publicity in January 2008, when a state judge quietly overturned his 1972 murder conviction and set him free.
The judge found that two Boston police detectives had withheld critical evidence at trial that may have helped Haley prove his innocence, and prosecutors have decided not to retry him for the decades-old slaying.
Now, the 62-year-old Haley is looking for compensation for his years of hard time. On Wednesday, he filed a federal lawsuit against the city and the detectives, who have long since died, alleging wrongful imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and other violations.
"I'm not a murderer," Haley, a slender man with wire-rimmed glasses, said yesterday as he sat in his lawyer's Boston office, talking about his wasted years.
[See also, Haley's FEDERAL COMPLAINT]
8 February 2009. New York Times article by John Eligon, "New Efforts Focus on Exonerating Prisoners in Cases Without DNA Evidence"
Excerpts from the article....
Two decades later, DNA evidence has been used to exonerate more than 230 people wrongfully convicted nationwide, including 24 in New York State....
But the proliferation of such exonerations, as well as the wider availability of DNA evidence, has also made it harder for prisoners seeking to prove their innocence in the much larger number of cases that do not involve DNA evidence. Many lawyers have grown more reluctant to take on these kinds of cases because they are much harder and more expensive to pursue....
Craig Watkins, the Dallas County district attorney, said he began taking aim at such cases after DNA tests performed by his office led to 13 exonerations. Now his office has established a conviction integrity unit to re-examine the validity of hundreds of convictions.
'This is about the duty of the district attorney to seek justice.' Mr. Watkins said. 'Justice means we right the wrongs of the past.'
[emphasis added here.]
7 February 2009 Senator Kennedy announces 12 Person Advisory Comittee to recommend candidate for U.S. Attorney position. Related articles were published in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and Worcester Telegram.
The members of the committee are Michael Mone, chairperson, and Joyce London Alexander Ford, Luz Arevalo, Sarah B. Christie, John P. Driscoll, Jr., Bill Lee, Ralph Martin, Tracy Miner, Charles Ogletree, John Pucci, Robert Toone and Kathy Weinman.
[responding to the articles in the newspapers, Morrison Bonpasse posted the following "comment":
The committee headed by Attorney Mone must nominate a candidate for U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts who will be dedicated to justice, and who will be dedicated to preventing wrongful convictions and to seriously investigating substantiated claims of previous wrongful convictions.
One such claim of wrongful conviction involves the Roslindale Bomb case where Alfred W. Trenkler and Thomas A. Shay were wrongfully convicted. See the website, www.alfredtrenklerinnocent.org and the online book there, "Perfectly Innocent". The memory of Jeremiah Hurley and his maimed partner, Francis Foley, deserves more than to have innocent men in prison while the real perpetrator(s) of the Roslindale Bomb remains free.]
30 January 2009. "Fair Trials at Risk" Editorial in the Boston Globe.
The editorial begins...
"THE CHIEF judge of the federal district court in Boston, Mark Wolf, has for several years battled with prosecutors over their failure to provide defendants with all the evidence that might help exonerate them.
[See Judge Wolf's OPINION in the Darwin Jones case.]
[In response, Morrison Bonpasse posted a COMMENT to the article at the Boston Globe website regarding the 1994-95 failure by Federal Prosecutors to disclose to the defense and to the Appeals Court the fact of W. David Lindholm's 1994 release from prison, 55 months early, despite his claim to the jury that there was no agreement for favorable treatment in return for his testimony and his explicit statement that he would not seek such favorable treatment.
See also the 5 May 2008 LETTER to the Judges of the U.S. District Court and Court of Appeals about this failure to disclose and resulting "fraud" on those courts.]
27 January 2009. "Judge chastises federal attorney - Says prosecutor failed to disclose crucial evidence" by Jonathan Saltzman in the Boston Globe.
The article begins...
"The chief judge of the US District Court in Massachusetts is threatening to sanction a federal prosecutor for what he characterized as the latest 'egregious failure' of the US attorney's office to disclose evidence that could have helped clear a defendant." [See Judge Wolf's OPINION in the Darwin Jones case.]
[In response, Morrison Bonpasse posted a COMMENT to the article at the Boston Globe website regarding the 1994-95 failure by Federal Prosecutors to disclose the fact of W. David Lindholm's 1994 release from prison, 55 months early, despite his claim to the jury that there was no agreement for favorable treatment in return for his testimony and his explicit statement that he would not seek such favorable treatment.
See also the 5 May 2008 LETTER to the Judges of the U.S. District Court and Court of Appeals about this failure to disclose and resulting "fraud" on those courts.]
13 January 2009. Senator Kennedy to appoint committee to present nominee for U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts. See article "Committee will recommend new US Attorney" by Jonathan Saltzman of the Boston Globe.
The committee is expected to have about 12 members. The Alfred Trenkler Innocent Committee will be contacting those members to ensure that they consider the need to prevent wrongful convictions and to re-investigate substantiated claims of wrongful conviction among the committee's other criteria in selecting nominees for U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts. See the COMMENT posted at the Globe website from the Alfred Trenkler Innocent Committee which urges the next U.S. Attorney to re-investigate the Roslindale Bomb case.
8 October 2008. Josephine Barnum "Jo" Wallace, mother of Alfred Trenkler, dies. Her Death Notice in the Boston Globe began:
WALLACE, Josephine "Jo" Barnum Age 79, a long-time resident of Milton, died at Massachusetts General Hospital on Wednesday, October 8, 2008 after a brief illness. She was a great-grandniece of the showman P.T. Barnum. Jo is survived by her husband John D. "Jack" Wallace, her two sons, Alfred W. Trenkler and David Johnson Wallace,... [See also the OBITUARY in the Milton Times.]
6 August 2008. "It’s double-life in prison for Trenkler" by Wayne Braverman in the West Roxbury Transcript.
Excerpts from the article...
Alfred Trenkler won't be leaving prison any time soon. The First Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered his original double-life sentence to be reinstated....
The court also ruled that U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel overstepped her authority last year when she reduced his sentence to 37 years....
2 August 2008. "Life term reinstated in '91 homicide" by Shelley Murphy in the Boston Globe.
The article begins....
A federal appeals court yesterday reinstated a life sentence for a man convicted of building a bomb that killed Boston police Officer Jeremiah J. Hurley and wounded his partner, Francis X. Foley, in 1991, ruling that a judge overstepped her authority last year when she reduced Alfred Trankler's term to 37 years in prison.
32-page decision, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit concluded
that Trenkler, who has already served more than 15 years in prison, waited
too long to challenge his 1994 life sentence on a procedural claim that
"if true, does not suggest a miscarriage of justice."
1 July 2008. "No Retrial in '88 Double Killing on Long Island " by Bruce Lambert in the New York Times.
The article begins....
"RIVERHEAD, N.Y. — A criminal investigation that started two decades ago effectively came to an end on Monday, as the state attorney general's office said it would not retry Martin H. Tankleff for the murder of his parents."
[Someday, the case against Alfred Trenkler will end this way, and as with Marty Tankleff, there will be pressure on the authorities to prosecute other suspects.]
23 June 2008. "Doubting Case, a Prosecutor Helped the Defense" by Benjamin Weiser in the New York Times. A story of prosecutor initiatives to re-investigate and bring justice to previous crminal convictions.
Excerpts from the article.....
It is not as if Mr. Morgenthau has refused to admit mistakes. In 2002, in spectacular fashion, his office recommended dismissing the convictions of five men in the attack on a jogger in Central Park, after its reinvestigation showed that another man had acted alone. “It's my decision,” Mr. Morgenthau said then. “The buck stops here.”....
When Mr. Morgenthau's office was asked to take another look [at the Palladium case], Mr. Bibb said, his supervisors gave him carte blanche. “It really was, leave no stone unturned,” he said.
Over 21 months, starting in 2003, he and two detectives conducted more than 50 interviews in more than a dozen states, ferreting out witnesses the police had somehow missed or ignored.
Mr. Bibb said he shared his growing doubts with his superiors. And at a meeting in early 2005, he recalled, after defense lawyers won court approval for a hearing into the new evidence, he urged that the convictions be set aside. “I made what I considered to be my strongest pitch,” he said.
Instead, he said, he was ordered to go to the hearing, present the government's case and let a judge decide — a strategy that violated his sense of a prosecutor's duty.
[This case is complicated, but the shows how prosecutors can reinvestigate previous convictions, and bring reaffirm the cause of justice.]
23 June 2008. Exibit A News publishes in July issue, "Blast from the Past" by Julia Reischel.
Excerpts from the article....
After years of denying Trenkler's various legal motions, U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel accepted this one and appointed a lawyer for Trenkler, Joan M. Griffin, who is fighting to win him a shorter sentence. If Trenkler is lucky, his new sentence could be less than the time he has already served, and soon he could be free.
Researching it ‘up and down'
But Trenkler says he will not be satisfied with an early release. He wants to clear his name and bring the real bomb-builder to justice.
up to someone, either in the government or the Boston Police [Department],
to demand they reinvestigate this case,” he says. “They were on the right
track. They got five sets of prints under Shay's car. … Whose prints might
5 June 2008. "Bomber’s lawyers ask to switch to new court" by Jessica Van Sack in the Boston Herald.
The article begins...
A federal appeals court is considering whether convicted bomber Alfred Trenkler's case should be remanded to U.S. District Court for resentencing, prolonging the nightmare for those who knew the Boston police officer killed in the 1991 explosion.
[Posted at the Boston Herald website was the COMMENT by Morrison Bonpasse, which noted that resentencing is tragically ironic for a perfectly innocent man.]
3 June 2008. "Bomb-maker’s appeal for reduced jail term outrages Hub cops" by Jessica van Sack in the Boston Herald.
The article begins...
Lawyers for the man convicted of building the bomb that killed one Boston police officer and maimed another in 1991 are scheduled to argue in federal appeals court tomorrow that Alfred Trenkler has already served too much time behind bars and should be resentenced, outraging members of the Boston Police Department.
“It is a shame that the victim's family continues to be victimized because of the suspect's unwillingness to accept responsibility,” said Boston Police Superintendent Daniel Linskey. “We hope that Mr. Trenkler is never again able to take an innocent life.”
[Superintendent Linsky is correct that the Hurley and Foley families continue to be victimized, but it is not because of the innocent Tom Shay or Alfred Trenkler. It's because the ATF and U.S. Attorney's office in Boston have, so far, declined to "accept responsibiity" for any reasonable re-examination of the facts. At the end of such re-examination, they will have to "accept responsibility" for two wrongful convictions. Then, they and the Boston Police Department can renew the search for the real builder of the Roslindal Bomb, and they can start with the suspects already high on the BPD's list.]
[See similar story at WBZ radio website: "Convicted cop killer seeks release from prison"]
15 May 2008. "Cops to judge: Say sorry" by Jessica Van Sack in the Boston Herald.
This article concerned Judge Redd's comments about the large number of uniformed Boston policemen at Tom Shay's hearing on the revocation of his previously suspended 1-year sentence.
14 May 2008. " '91 Bombing Convict Gets Added Sentence" by Kim Ring in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.
Thomas Shay is sentenced to six months in the Worcester County House of Correction, afer he completes his Federal sentence in December of 2009.
10 May 2008. "Even After Great Loss, Embracing Innocence" by Jim Dwyer in the New York Times.
Brought together for an Innocence Project fundraiser, the mother of Debbie Carter (the murder victim in John Grisham's The Innocent Man), is now the loyal friend of one of the two men originally convicted of her daughter's murder, Dennis Fritz. The other econerated man was Ron Williamson who died in 2004.
Said Mrs. Sanders, "I hated him so bad.. Why did they do that to my little girl?
Later, after the exoneration, "I had to do it [reconciliation withh the exonerees] for my daughter.. They [Fritz and Williamson] had become victims of this, too. People still don't believe they're innocent...."
[Someday in Massachusetts, one or more members of the family of Jeremiah Hurley and Francis Foley and his family will embrace the exonerated Alfred Trenkler and Thomas A Shay, and work together to urge authorities to find the person(s) responsible for the Roslindale Bomb.]
5 May 2008. 5/7 Lawyers' publication, "Exhibit A," publishes story (1 April 2008), including description of U.S. Atty assistance to John and Donna Shea in return for assistance in prosecuting Alfred Trenkler.
Titled "Left to Die" the story is primarily about the casting overboard of two women in Quincy Bay by John Shea and James Smith in 1991 and the recently produced movie about the case, "Wake."
The connection to the Roslindale Bomb case is that Alfred Trenkler knew John and through him, his wife, Donna Shea. Said the article, "In 1993, when Trenkler went on trial for his role in killing the police officer, the Sheas made themselves useful to the prosecution. The information they provided about the 1986 explosion helped implicate Trenkler as a serial bomber and led to his conviction and life sentence.
In exchange for the Sheas' cooperation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Kelly pushed the court to revise John Shea's sentence."
24 April 2008. "Tankleff Awaits Decision on Future" by Bruce Lambert in The New York Times.
The article begins....
The very first thing Martin H. Tankleff ever looked up on the Internet was www.martytankleff.org, the elaborate Web site created in the campaign to free him. Having spent 17 years in prison, Mr. Tankleff was an Internet novice, and pulled the site up on a cousin's computer, finding “Marty Didn't Do It” T-shirts ($15), an extensive archive of legal briefs, and the Marty Blog, which chronicles his life and times. He clicked and scrolled through it with delight.
[Someday, Alfred Trenkler will be exonerated and liberated from his 16 or 17 years of wrongful imprisonment. As an electronics engineer, he will take even more delight than Marty Tankleff in a future immersion in the cyberworld, and then working with law enforcement to help determine the true source fo the 1991 Roslindale bomb.]
25 March 2008. "Consensus on Counting the Innocent: We Can't" by Adam Liptak in the New York Times.
Excerpts from the Article...
... Those numbers are too small to be reliable, of course, but they would suggest a false conviction rate of 6 percent. ...
Ms. Armbrust said investigators in Virginia were able to get results in only 22 of the 31 tests, suggesting a false conviction rate of 9 percent....
Professor Gross concluded that the false conviction rate for death row inmates has ranged from 2.3 percent to 5 percent. Were even the lower end of that range applied to people who received prison sentences of a year or more in the last three decades, he wrote, it would suggest that about 185,000 innocent people have served hard time....
[Even at 1% of the 2 million people in U.S. Jails and prisons, that would mean 20,000 innocent people in prison. How do lawyers, legislators, police, corrections officials, and judges sleep at night? Included in that hypothetical 1% are Alfred Trenkler and Tom Shay of Massachusetts.]
21 March 2008. "Man freed after wrongful conviction forgives witness who lied" By DAISY NGUYEN Associated Press Writer in the San Jose Mercury News
Excerpts from the article....
LOS ANGELES: Willie Earl Green, caged for a quarter-century for a murder he didn't commit, has every reason to be bitter after the lies of a drug-addled witness put him behind bars for nearly half his life.
But moments after his release Thursday, the 56-year-old Green basked in sunshine outside the downtown courthouse and graciously said he forgave prosecutors and the witness who recanted....
Four years ago, witness Willie Finley, a convicted killer and drug dealer, told Green's attorneys he was high on crack when the woman was murdered and didn't get a good look at the shooter because he had been pistol-whipped and couldn't see well.
Finley also said a detective coached him to identify Green in a photo lineup.
Green had sought a new trial for years, contending the witness had lied. Green eventually won the support of the forewoman of the jury and the legal backing of Centurion Ministries, a nonprofit group that advocates for the release of wrongfully convicted prisoners.
Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus overturned the conviction last week, saying Green did not receive a fair trial because jurors never heard enough of Finley's story to evaluate his credibility.
Prosecutors said they would not oppose his release, and Green was freed by an order from Marcus....
18 March 2008. Georgia (U.S.) Supreme Court denies new trial for death row inmate, Troy Davis despite considerable doubt of guilt. See New York Times story, "Georgian on Death Row is Rebuffed" Once again, judges sometimes favor their rules more than their common sense.
Incredibly, the court's 4-3 vote means that Troy Davis will be executed despite
"The dissent, written by Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, called the court “overly rigid” in its consideration of new evidence in support of a retrial and said it had failed to allow 'an adequate inquiry into the fundamental question, which is whether or not an innocent person might have been convicted or even, as in this case, might be put to death.'
The chief justice acknowledged that sworn trial testimony was generally considered more credible than later recantations made out of court. But, she wrote, 'it is unwise and unnecessary to make a categorical rule that recantations may never be considered in support of an extraordinary motion for a new trial.' ”
(For more information about this case, see below for 3 August 2007, 16 July 2007 and 15 July 2007. Davis' fate is again up to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.)
28 February 2008. article in Washington Post: "Record-High Ratio of Americans in Prison" by N.C. Aizenman. See the related article by Adam Liptak in the New York Times/International Herald Tribune, "1 in 100 U.S. adults behind bars, new study says"
The Washington Post article begins....
"More than one in 100 adults in the United States is in jail or prison, an all-time high that is costing state governments nearly $50 billion a year, in addition to more than $5 billion spent by the federal government, according to a report released today."
Bonpasse posted the following comment
at the Washington Post website: "morrisonbonpasse
24 January 2008. Tim Masters interviewed on CNN, "Masters: Cop's big ego stole half my life" by Elliott C. McLaughlin.
Excerpts from the interview...
"My opinion is that Jim Broderick, the guy in charge of it, has a very big ego and would not allow anything or anyone to convince him that he was wrong," Masters said.
"He made up his mind in the beginning, from day one when he walked into my bedroom and saw my horror drawings and war stories, that I was guilty. Nothing would change his mind."...
"They won their case by assassinating my character," he said.
His father allowed police to search their trailer. He also allowed Masters to be interrogated for hours without an attorney. Police would use the evidence and interrogation to convict Masters in 1999.
"We'll cooperate with them and give them anything they want and then they'll see that you didn't have anything to do with this and they'll move on," Masters recalled his father telling him in 1987. "It turns out that by cooperating with them it just encouraged them, because I was the easiest suspect to go after."
Clyde Masters knew his son hadn't committed the crime, but he thought police were there to help, Masters said. His father was in the Navy for 22 years and felt you should obey authority, he added.
"Well, you know what? You shouldn't always submit to authority. Our country wouldn't exist if everyone submitted to authority," he said. "It's just a shame Dad didn't know how the system was."
[All such cases share some characteristics. Like Tim Masters, Alfred Trenkler was pursued by a few ATF investigators who made up their minds early, and disregarded contrary evidence. Also, Alfred Trenkler cooperated with the investigators and talked with them - and his words were distorted and used against him. This problem was compounded by Alfred's decision to accept the advice of his attorneys and not testify at evidentiary hearings and at his trial.]
23 January 2008. "Man Imprisoned for 9 Years for Murder Is Released in Wake of DNA Evidence" by Kirk Johnson in the New York Times. Tim Masters is released.
The article begins....
FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A judge on Tuesday threw out the murder conviction and life sentence of a Fort Collins man who said for years that he was innocent of one of this city's most sensational killings, the stabbing and mutilation of a woman whose body was found in February 1987 in a vacant field near the man's home.
]See 19 January story, below.]
18 January 2008. CNN nightly news with Anderson Cooper highlights story of Tim Masters who claims wrongful conviction in Fort Collins, Colorado: "Police Split over Conviction in Colorado Slaying"
As with the case of Alfred Trenkler, there was zero physical evidence linking Masters to the crime. Instead, there was a police hunch. In 1987, the police tried to get the 15 year old Tim Masters to confess, but he did better than Marty Tankleff against such browbeating. As with the Roslindale Bomb case, the investigators barely looked at the alternate suspects and alternate theories. Once they identified their lead suspect, the challenge was not to discover further truth, but to find the evidence that would convict Masters. Now a former policewoman, Linda Wheeler-Holloway, has come forward with her qualms about the case.
Question for Colorado: How did a jury find this man guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in 1999?
[See also, the 17 December 2007 New York Times article, "Colorado Hearings Re-examine '97 Murder Case".]
13 January 2008. "Cuomo Set to Look Into 1988 Long Island Murders" by Ray Rivera in the New York Times.
Excerpts from the article...
Gov. Eliot Spitzer appointed Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo on Saturday as a special prosecutor to investigate the 1988 murders of a Long Island couple whose son, Martin H. Tankleff, was recently released from prison after doubts arose over his conviction in their deaths...
Though the attorney general's criminal division typically investigates cases like welfare fraud, racketeering and environmental crimes, Mr. Cuomo said his staff — made up of former state and federal prosecutors — was well prepared to take on a murder investigation. Even so, the 20-year-old Tankleff case could prove particularly difficult.
“It's a challenging situation on a number of fronts,” he said. “The length of time that has passed, a 1988 murder doesn't make it any easier, and there are questions as to what is an allowable confession, so we'll take all those questions into consideration.”
A separate inquiry is under way by the state Commission of Investigation into how Suffolk County prosecuted the case. Mr. Cuomo said his office would have no role in that investigation....
[Someday, there will be a federal inquiry into the Roslindale Bomb case, and why two innocent men were convicted.]
10 January 2008. In editorial, "More than a Steak Dinner" the New York Times notes that wrongful conviction rate in U.S. could be as high as 5%.
Excerpt from the editorial...
There are more than two million inmates in American prisons and jails, and some studies estimate that as many as 5 percent may be innocent. There are few procedures in place, however, for the wrongly convicted to put forth evidence to exonerate themselves....
Better oversight and funding of crime labs is also crucial, along with creation of innocence commissions to manage claims of wrongful conviction. A groundbreaking federal law now grants federal inmates access to DNA testing.
[That "groundbreaking federal law, the Federal Justice for All Act of 2004 is an ironic development for Alfred Trenkler, as the Federal Government recently admitted that in 2005 and 2006 it had destroyed the evidence in his case including layers of electrical tape, thought to have fingerprints and DNA. This was AFTER the passage of the 2004 Federal law.]
5 January 2008. "US judge chastises Dept. of Justice - Blasts handling of prosecutor's misconduct" by Jonathan Saltzman in the Boston Globe.
Excerpts from the article...
The chief federal judge in Boston has urged the new US attorney general to crack down on prosecutors who commit misconduct and to force Justice Department lawyers to be truthful in court.
Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf, in an extraordinary letter to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, skewered the Justice Department's mild and secret discipline of Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey Auerhahn in 2006 for misconduct that Wolf said required him to order the "release from prison of a capo and associate of the Patriarca family of La Cosa Nostra."...
Wolf also wrote that "the department's failure to be candid and consistent with the court has become disturbingly common in the District of Massachusetts."...
"There has been a disturbing pattern of the Justice Department taking inconsistent positions in litigation based upon how it views its interests at the time," said William Christie, a New Hampshire lawyer...
[In Alfred Trenkler's case, the Assistant U.S. Attorneys obtained a reduction in sentence for W. David Lindholm in another court, with Judge Douglas Woodlock, without telling Alfred's trial judge or the defense, or the First Circuit Court of Appeals which relied upon the testimony of Lindholm that he would NOT seek such a reduction.]
4 January 2008. "15th Dallas County Inmate Since ’01 Is Freed by DNA" by Ralph Blumenthal in the New York Times.
Excerpts from the article...
HOUSTON — After nearly 27 years in prison for a rape he did not commit, Charles Chatman walked free on Thursday, the 15th wrongfully convicted prisoner in Dallas County to be exonerated by DNA testing since 2001.
The innocence claims of seven other Dallas-area prisoners are pending, thanks in large part to a crime laboratory that, unlike others in Texas, has preserved evidence going back as long as three decades.
“I'm bitter toward what happened,” Mr. Chatman, 46, said by telephone after Judge John Creuzot of State District Court, who had championed a review of his case, ordered him released in a jubilant Dallas courtroom.
“He's my fourth one,” said Judge Creuzot, who had invited Mr. Chatman to his courtroom on Wednesday to hear the news that a DNA sample recently taken from him did not match the profile from the rape victim's vaginal swab of 1981.
The judge said that he had bought Mr. Chatman a T-bone steak for lunch but that he had to instruct him how to use a knife to cut the meat — he was only allowed spoons in prison — and later showed him his first cellular phone and helped him call his family....
The lawyers and District Attorney Craig Watkins of Dallas County credited Judge Creuzot for taking a personal role in the case. But they also said the unusual string of exonerations was made possible by the many specimens saved by the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences, the laboratory under contract to Dallas County, and the latest DNA testing by Orchid Cellmark, a leading genetic research organization.
“I think we're no worse than any other part of the country,” Judge Creuzot, 50, said of the wrongful convictions. “We just keep the samples.”
[The role of Judge Creuzot is heartening. In Massachusetts Federal Court, it would be a great day for justice if Judge Douglas Woodlock, Judge Nancy Gertner or Judge Rya Zobel would do for the Roslindale Bomb case what Judge Creuzot did for Charles Chatman.]
2 January 2008. "Murder Charges Against Tankleff Are Dropped" by Bruce Lambert and Paul Vitello in the New York Times.
The article begins...
The Suffolk County District Attorney announced on Wednesday that he was dropping the charges against Martin H. Tankleff for the 1988 murders of his parents and will ask Governor Eliot Spitzer to appoint a special prosecutor to re-investigate the case.
2 January 2008. "Colorado Hearings Re-Examine '87 Murder Case" by Kirk Johnson and Dan Frosch in the New York Times. (article published 27 December)
Excerpts from the article ...
No physical evidence or murder weapon was ever produced linking Mr. Masters directly to Ms. Hettrick, but on the basis of his drawings, his knives and a psychological profile, he was arrested more than a decade later, convicted in 1999 and sentenced to life in prison.
Now the case has been reopened with hearings that have riveted Fort Collins and the Colorado legal community. Mr. Masters's new lawyers, in seeking a retrial, have cast suspicion on a Fort Collins eye surgeon, Richard Hammond.
Dr. Hammond, who also lived near the murder scene, killed himself in 1995 after being arrested as a sexual voyeur, but he was never considered a suspect in the Hettrick case. He was also acquainted, according to new court documents, with a prosecutor in Mr. Masters's case, Terence A. Gilmore, who is now a District Court judge.
Evidence that might have raised suspicions about Dr. Hammond was never given to the defense team in Mr. Masters's trial, according to documents and testimony in the hearings, including a report from a woman who said she had seen a middle-aged man with a “square jaw,” similar to the description of Dr. Hammond, exposing himself near the field where Ms. Hettrick's body was found.
“We're willing to admit that there are some things that should have been provided the first time around and weren't,” said Don Quick, the Adams County district attorney, who is serving as a special prosecutor looking into the handling of the case. “We find it troubling.”
“I've been a cop for over 32 years, and I've put a lot of people in prison,” Ms. Wheeler-Holloway said. “This is the one and only case where I felt there has been an immense miscarriage of justice. I think Tim is truly innocent.”
Ms. Wheeler-Holloway, now an investigator for a district attorney in Fort Morgan, who is helping Mr. Masters's defense team, said she started questioning his guilt in 1992. Mr. Masters had enlisted in the Navy, and she had traveled to Philadelphia, where he was stationed, to arrest him.
Instead, after two days of intense interrogation, Ms. Wheeler-Holloway said she came away struck by the consistency of Mr. Masters's story and his explanation that the graphic drawings were a product of teenage angst and nothing more.
“I began to have concerns that we'd gotten tunnel vision out of the starting gate,” she said.
["Tunnel vision" was one contributing factor in the wrongful convictions of Tom Shay and Alfred Trenkler, as well.]
29 December 2007. "New York Is Said to Have Inquiry in Tankleff Case" by Bruce Lambert in the New York Times.
The article begins...
New York State has begun an official inquiry into Suffolk County law enforcement's handling of the investigation into the 1988 murders of a Long Island couple, Arlene and Seymour Tankleff, according to people involved with the inquiry.
The inquiry began quietly more than a year ago when the State Investigation Commission started gathering legal documents in the long-disputed case, people familiar with the inquiry said.
The Tankleffs were fatally bludgeoned and slashed in their home in Belle Terre overlooking Long Island Sound. Their son, Martin, was imprisoned after being convicted of the crimes in 1990, but last week an appeals court vacated his convictions. Extensive new evidence pointing to other suspects probably would have changed the jury's verdict, the court ruled.
“The S.I.C. is viewing this as a serious and significant investigation,” said a person who works with the officials overseeing the investigation and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter was confidential.
[There should be a Federal investigation of how the prosecution and appellate defense of the Roslindale Bomb cases were handled, too.]
27 December 2007. "Man Convicted in Parents' Death Set Free" by Bruce Lambert in the New York Times.
The article begins...
Martin Tankleff walked out of court a free man for the first time in the 17 years since he was convicted of murdering his parents. But his next step was less clear.
Prosecutors have not said whether they will retry Tankleff, who was released on $1 million bail Thursday, days after an appeals court overturned his 1990 conviction and ordered a new trial because of new evidence. Relatives paid the bail....
[See also, "After Half a Lifetime in Prison, an Inmate Is Free for Now " also by Bruce Lambert in the New York Times.]
26 December 2007. "An Acquittal After 15 Years on Death Row" from the Associated Press in the New York Times.
Excerpts from the article...
"A jury on Wednesday acquitted a man who spent more than 15 years on death row in Tennessee for the fatal shooting of a woman.
Jurors in the retrial of the man, Michael L. McCormick, agreed with defense lawyers who said Mr. McCormick, 55, had been lying when the police secretly recorded his confession....
Mr. McCormick's lawyer, Michael Richardson, said in his closing argument on Tuesday that the only prosecution evidence was the recording, which was obtained by the police who had 'set up a man they knew to be an alcoholic and a notorious liar.' "
[This article is posted here as it echoes the prosecution's use of Tom Shay's lies in the trial against him and in Alfred Trenkler's trial in 1993.]
26 December 2007. "Justice Dept. Numbers Show Prison Trends" by Solomon Moore in the New York Times. (published on 6 December)
The article begins...
"About one in every 31 adults in the United States was in prison, in jail or on supervised release at the end of last year, the Department of Justice reported yesterday.
An estimated 2.38 million people were incarcerated in state and federal facilities, an increase of 2.8 percent over 2005, while a record 5 million people were on parole or probation, an increase of 1.8 percent...."
22 December 2007. Jailed 17 Years, Long Island Man [Marty Tankleff] Gets Second Trial - by Bruce Lambert, in the New York Times.
Excerpts from the article...
A state appeals court on Friday overturned the conviction of a Long Island man imprisoned 17 years for the grisly murders of his parents in 1988. The decision cited the “cumulative effect” of new witnesses and extensive new evidence that have emerged in recent years, pointing to other suspects as the real killers. ...
“It is abhorrent to our sense of justice and fair play to countenance the possibility that someone innocent of a crime may be incarcerated or otherwise punished for a crime which he or she did not commit,” the judges wrote in a 21-page opinion.
4 December 2007. Innocence Project Exoneree #209 is freed.
The Innocence Project Press Release begins...
FL; December 4, 2007) – Chad Heins, who was convicted in 1996 of the 1994
murder of his sister-in-law despite a lack of evidence against him, was
exonerated today when the Florida State Attorney in Jacksonville dismissed
all charges against him. The Innocence Project, which represents Heins,
said he is the 209th person nationwide exonerated through DNA testing
(and the ninth in Florida).
1 December 2007. "DNA Evidence Frees a Woman Convicted of Killing Her Daughter" New York Times, 29 November 2007.
The article begins....
BUFFALO, Nov. 28 — In 1994, Lynn DeJac was found guilty of strangling her 13-year-old daughter during a night of drinking and bar hopping. On Wednesday, Ms. DeJac walked out of the Erie County courthouse free, and the first woman in the United States to have her conviction for killing someone overturned based on DNA evidence. [Emphasis added here.]
[The Innocence Project will add her to its Exoneree list. Maybe someday, when the DNA, which is expected to be found between layers of electrical tape found amidst the Roslindale Bomb debris, is examined, Alfred Trenkler will be placed on the Innocence Project Exonereee list - unless he's freed beforehand for non-DNA reasons.]
13 November 2007. "Judge won’t set aside former Quincy man’s guilty plea in fatal car bombing" by Dennis Tatz in the Patriot Ledger.
The article begins....
BOSTON - A federal judge has refused a former Quincy man's request to toss out his guilty plea for a 1991 car bombing that killed a Boston police officer.
Thomas Shay, who is serving time for a probation violation, filed a motion in September to have his conviction set aside and a lawyer appointed to represent him.
U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel on Friday denied both motions.
29 October 2007. "Inmate wants guilty plea tossed in '93 homicide - Questions raised in homicide case" by Shelley Murphy in the Boston Globe.
Of particular interest for the Roslindale Bomb case...
... Today, after a decade behind bars, Bogues is urging a state appeals court to toss out his guilty plea. And he has found an unlikely ally, Brown's mother, Tina Chery, who became a leading crusader against violence after her son's death and formed the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in his honor.
"My fear is that he didn't do it," said Chery, who has forged a friendship with Bogues's mother, Doris, through a support group for the mothers of victims and killers. After reviewing evidence that she believes points toward other possible suspects, she said she has questions about whether Bogues, the son of a Boston police officer, killed her son.
"If he's saying he didn't do it and he wants a jury trial, then give him a new trial," said Chery, citing a series of wrongful convictions in Suffolk County in the 1990s. "Mistakes have been made in the past. If this was one of those mistakes . . . then I would hope it would be brought to light."...
As Chery met with Bogues's mother, Doris, and sister, Sam, last week, the women said the case is riddled with unanswered questions and urged anyone with information about Brown's slaying to come forward.
Chery said she wants a face-to-face meeting with Bogues so he can look her in the eye and tell her he didn't kill her son.
27 October 2007. Michele McPhee in Boston Herald, "Bomber’s snitch sis wants $$ - Seeks reward for tip on fugitive"
The article begins...
The Shay family circus continued yesterday after the not-so-loving sister of cross-dressing, convicted cop killer Thomas Shay demanded that Boston police cough up the $1,500 reward money offered for information leading to her fugitive brother's capture.
“They couldn't find him without me. They were looking for him for a year,” Paula Shay told Herald yesterday. “I told on him. I did the right thing. Now I can use the money.”
[Strange things happen in troubled families when a brother is wrongly convicted of conspiring to build and place a bomb that kills a Boston policeman.]
24 October 2007. Lincoln County News, Maine, runs ARTICLE about Alfred Trenkler case. by Sherwood Olin.
Excerpts from the article...
While working for Dechaine, Bonpasse said he developed a philosophy about advocating on behalf of a wrongfully convicted person. Such advocacy should involve a combination of educational, legal, political and public relations campaigns that involve all of the stakeholders in the case.
tenet of this philosophy, outlined in Bonpasse's introduction to Perfectly
Innocent is that every citizen, including the families of the
victims, the officers of the court, and members of the jury have an obligation
to "pursue justice and when necessary, to correct injustice.""
[The article stated that Alfred Trenkler was convicted for his role in the 1986 device, but that is incorrect. The charges were dropped by the prosecutors after a year, as the offense was not deemed sufficiently serious to warrant further prosecution.]
24 October 2007. Innocence Project releases report on New York State and its "Lessons Not Learned"
Excerpts from the Innocence Project summary...
– In 9 of the 23 exoneration cases, the actual perpetrators of crimes for which innocent people were wrongfully convicted went on to commit additional crimes while an innocent person was in prison.
– In 10 of the 23 cases, innocent people falsely confessed or admitted to crimes that DNA later proved they did not commit.
[For the Roslindale Bomb case, has the real Bomb Maker committed any crimes since the wrongful convictions of Tom Shay and Alfred Trenkler? Do the 10-out-of-23 odds help in understanding the risk involved in accepting Tom Shay's admissions as truthful, without even knowing Tom Shay's personal psychological history?]
18 October 2007. "Slain 150 years ago, thanked once more - 'Brothers in blue' honor first to die in line of duty" by John Ellement, Boston Globe
The story is about the new memorial to Ezekiel Hodsdon, the first Boston Police officer killed while on duty, on 18 October 1857, 150 years ago.
[18 October is an important day for the Roslindale Bomb case, too, as that was the day in 1991 that "Jyt Sahy" purchased six items at the Radio Shack store on Mass. Ave in Boston. One of the six items was a package containing the same model toggle switch as was found amidst the Bomb debris. Also, this day is the birthday of Tom Shay's mother, Nancy Shay.]
2 October 2007. New York Times article, "Exoneration Using DNA Brings Change in Legal System" by Solomon Moore, shows increasing awareness of the widespread conviction of innocent people in ALL crimes, and not just those involving DNA.
The article begins...
"State lawmakers across the country are adopting broad changes to criminal justice procedures as a response to the exoneration of more than 200 convicts through the use of DNA evidence."
[However, except for the District of Columbia, there is no mention of changes in the Federal Criminal Justice system, and such agencies as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.]
16 September 2007. "Boston Maggie" posted a blog comment(actually in April, but just seen today) about the Roslindale Bomb case.
The original comment with the subsequent comments are presented below...
Boston Maggie: I
was glancing at the headlines of the Patriot Ledger. This one caught my
convict fights for release; But feds want him to die in prison"
You have to get to the 9th paragraph before they mention Officer
Hurley . It should be more prominent. Anyway, my point. This
worthless piece of shit should rot in jail until it's time for him to
rot in hell.
Shawmut said... Let's send Trenkler some batteries for his pacemaker. I'd hate to see him deprived of the challenge to complete his full sentence. On the other hand, an officer of the law died - was killed, an officer who had taken on the burden of our safety. Actually, I'm more inclined to have his pacemaker charged by direct current.
26 April, 2007
Gunny John said... Maybe his pacemaker will crap out on him. That would break my freakin' heart...NOT. Scumbag.
28 April, 2007 BostonMaggie said...
SB liked the direct current idea, ggod job!
(Morrison Bonpasse posted a comment on the Blog and wrote an email to "Bostonmaggie" to ask her to consider taking a deeper look at the case by reading the manuscript of Perfectly Innocent [to be posted on this website late next week] and reading materials on this website. She responded promptly by email and with her own posted comment to my posting.)
13 August 2007. Michele McPhee includes paragraph on Tom Shay in column: "A cop’s sacrifice is remembered...150 years later" in the Boston Herald.
Excerpts from the column...
October morning [the 18th] in 1857, Boston cop Ezekiel W. Hodson was on
the lookout for burglars that had been preying on the Maverick Square
section of East Boston.
[One reason is that Tom Shay was wrongly convicted in 1993.]
8 August 2007. "Shay what? Con reaches out to Howie" by Howie Carr in the Boston Herald.
Excerpts from the column...
you have arrived in Boston journalism when you get a jailhouse letter
from convicted cop-killer Thomas Shay...
[Howie Carr's "initial diagnosis" is reasonable. When the bomb exploded on 28 October 1991, Tom Shay immediately sought publicity and made himself part of the story, even though he actually had no role in it whatsoever. As he is not a "cop killer", he should not have been sent to prison for that crime, and if not, he would not have been on probation. Click here for his entire letter.]
3 August 2007. "Georgia Supreme Court will hear Troy Davis' appeal" by Rhonda Cook, Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Excerpts from the article...
Davis, whose scheduled execution last month was put on hold by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles.
The court has put it on its November calendar.
Penny Haas Freesemann [the Savannah judge] ruled that Davis' new evidence did not meet the legal standards for new trials. Some of the new evidence was cumulative to evidence Davis presented at trial, some was obtained as long as 10 years ago, some was based on inadmissible hearsay evidence and some was not sworn testimony, the judge said....
4 August 2007. "A TV News Gumshoe Who Stayed on the Case" by Brian Stelter, in the New York Times.
Excerpts from the article...
...Dan Slepian, an NBC News producer, found himself filming a nonfiction version of that plot for three years, from 2002 to 2005. Then he became something of a detective himself.
Mr. Slepian chronicled the reinvestigation of the 1990 murder of a bouncer at the Palladium nightclub in Manhattan for a 2005 segment on “Dateline NBC.” Two men, David Lemus and Olmedo Hidalgo, were convicted of the murder in 1992. They spent 13 years in prison after their conviction, but their convictions were dropped in 2005 after new evidence emerged.
The documentary does not dwell on the circumstances of the murder; it focuses instead on what Carol Kramer, the forewoman of the jury that convicted the two men 12 years earlier, called a “travesty of justice” in the 2005 “Dateline” report...
In July 2004, after interviewing Mr. Pillot in prison, Mr. Slepian approached NBC's New York affiliate and encouraged the station to cover the case. Mr. Slepian produced the resulting reports, and Ms. Kramer, the original jury forewoman, happened to be watching.
Startled by what she saw, Ms. Kramer, a veteran magazine editor, contacted the lawyers and eventually concluded that she had helped put two innocent men behind bars.
One of the most dramatic moments in the documentary was filmed just a few months ago. On camera, Daniel Bibb, an assistant district attorney, said in an interview that he believed the men were innocent, even as he argued in court to keep them in prison — because, he said, he was under pressure to do so. Mr. Bibb did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Mr. Lemus's lawyers subsequently cited Mr. Bibb's admission in a motion, later denied, to have the case dismissed. Mr. Lemus's trial is scheduled for the fall.
[emphasis added on website]
2 August 2007. "The Presence of Malice" by Mt. Holyoke College professor Richard Moran, in Op-Ed in the New York Times.
Excerpts from the article...
...My recently completed study of the 124 exonerations of death row inmates in America from 1973 to 2007 indicated that 80, or about two-thirds, of their so-called wrongful convictions resulted not from good-faith mistakes or errors but from intentional, willful, malicious prosecutions by criminal justice personnel. (There were four cases in which a determination could not be made one way or another.)
Yet too often this behavior is not singled out and identified for what it is. When a prosecutor puts a witness on the stand whom he knows to be lying, or fails to turn over evidence favorable to the defense, or when a police officer manufactures or destroys evidence to further the likelihood of a conviction, then it is deceptive to term these conscious violations of the law — all of which I found in my research — as merely mistakes or errors....
27 July 2007. "US ordered to pay $101.7m in false murder convictions" by Shelley Murphy and Brian R. Ballou, in the Boston Globe
Excerpts from the article...
A federal judge held the FBI "responsible for the framing of four innocent men" in a 1965 gangland murder in a landmark ruling yesterday and ordered the government to pay the men $101.7 million for the decades they spent in prison. The award is believed to be the largest of its kind nationally.
"FBI officials up the line allowed their employees to break laws, violate rules, and ruin lives, interrupted only with the occasional burst of applause," said Gertner, berating the FBI for giving commendations and bonuses to the agents who helped send the men to prison for the killing in Chelsea of Edward "Teddy" Deegan, a small-time hoodlum.
As Limone, 73, of Medford, and Salvati, 74, of the North End, sat stoically with their wives and children by their side in a courtroom packed with supporters, Gertner said it was only right to publicly vindicate the men, just as they had been convicted with much fanfare nearly 39 years ago to the day....
The FBI has never apologized for the wrongful conviction of the four men....
"Sadly when law enforcement perverts its mission, the criminal justice system does not easily self-correct," Gertner said. "We understand that our system makes mistakes; we have appeals to address them. But this case goes beyond mistakes, beyond unavoidable errors of a fallible system."
She added, "This case is about intentional misconduct, subornation of perjury, conspiracy, the framing of innocent men."
Later in the day, Gertner released a 223-page decision detailing her findings. She found that the government, which was sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act, was liable for the malicious prosecution of the four men, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.
[Judge Gertner was Thomas A. Shay's defense lawyer for his first trial and has recently spoken openly of his belief in his innocence. The New York Times story,. "U.S. Told to Pay $101 Million for Framing 4 Men", said the amount appeared to be "the largest sum of money ever awarded to people who were wrongfully convicted". “The government's position is, in a word, absurd,” Judge Gertner said.]
25 July 2007. "Cop killer gets 33 months for probation foul" by Laurel Sweet in the Boston Herald.
Excerpts from the article...
Even his lawyer doesn't advise taking Thomas Shay at his word.
The cross-dressing bomber behind the grisly 1991 death of a Boston police officer was sentenced to 33 months behind bars yesterday for violating the terms of his probation for the third time since his 2002 release.
he is a very sick man,” said U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel, whose
many kindnesses toward Shay over the years have been thrown back in her
U.S. Attorney James Lang had beseeched her to put Shay away for four years
and four months, calling the cop killer's ungrateful conduct “disgusting.”
25 July 2007. "Man convicted in bombing returned to prison" by John Ellement in the Boston Globe.
Excerpts from the article...
A federal judge has ordered Thomas Shay, who served a decade in prison for a 1991 bombing that killed a Boston police officer, to serve 33 more months for violating the terms of his supervised release.
Shay, 35, was released from prison in August 2002. Under the terms of his release, he was required to stay out of trouble or face more jail time.
A fugitive warrant was issued for Shay last August after he was arrested in Spencer on charges of allegedly selling drugs to one teenager and stealing from another....
He was ordered back to prison today by US District Judge Rya Zobel, the same judge who had presided over his original trial....
18 July 2007. "Fugitive sought on warrants - Man served time in Officer's Death" by Kim Ring, Worcester Telegram and Gazette.
Excerpts from the article...
SPENCER— Police expect that a Boston man who served time for his role in a 1991 bombing that killed a Boston police officer will soon be brought to Western Worcester District Court, where he is wanted on three warrants....
Mr. Shay is being held pending a hearing July 24 to determine whether he should go back to prison.
18 July 2007. "Shays have no shame: Source: Boozing sis gives up bro, loses baby to DSS" by Jessica Van Sack and Michele McPhee in the Boston Herald.
The article begins...
Thomas Shay's not-so-loving older sister, Paula Shay, led authorities
to her cop-killing, cross-dressing brother after allegedly choking another
sibling during a booze-fueled family circus that brought Quincy cops to
the Shay family manse three times in two hours Sunday night, sources told
18 July 2007. "Tip on fugitive came after plea for child; Sister led officials to Shay, police say" by Mac Daniel, Boston Globe.
The article begins...
QUINCY -- After police responded for the third time Sunday to calls of domestic violence at the faded white duplex on Beacon Street, the sister of fugitive Thomas A. Shay offered to serve her brother "up on a silver platter" if she were allowed to keep custody of her infant son, according to a police report....
17 July 2007. "Quincy woman turns in fugitive brother; Despite serving tip on a ‘silver platter,’ DSS takes custody of son during arrest" by Dennis Tatz, Patriot Ledger.
Excerpts from the article...
QUINCY - Fearing
she would lose her infant son if she did not cooperate, a Quincy woman
tipped police off to the whereabouts of her brother, a fugitive wanted
by U.S. marshals....
Federal prosecutors had argued that it was Trenkler who built the explosive placed under the car of Shay's father.
Boston police officer Jeremiah Hurley Jr., a member of the bomb squad, was killed when he went to the Roslindale home of the elder Shay to investigate the suspicious package. Hurley's partner, Francis Foley, was seriously wounded in the explosion.
The 51-year-old Trenkler, who has continued to maintain that he had nothing to do with the crime, has been behind bars since his arrest in 1993.
Trenkler was originally sentenced to two life terms, but Judge Zobel reversed herself in April and re-sentenced him to 37 years. He could be eligible for release in 19 years.
Trenkler has fought unsuccessfully to have the court hear new evidence that he claims would lead to his conviction being tossed out.
Investigators believed Trenkler was helping Shay murder his father following years of physical abuse.
But Trenkler has insisted that the two men were only casual acquaintances and his only connection to Shay was giving him a ride home a few times.
There was no forensic evidence to link Trenkler to the deadly bombing....
17 July 2007. "Man Convicted In Bombing That Killed Police Officer Is Rearrested" from WCSH6, Portland, Maine, from the Associated Press.
17 July 2007. "Man convicted in bombing that killed police officer is rearrested" from WPRI, eyewitness news, Providence. From the Associated Press.
17 July 2007. "Man Guilty In Fatal Police Bombing Rearrested" from WCVB-TV, Boston, from the Associated Press.
17 July 2007. "Dress-up cop killer caught" by Michele McPhee in the Roslindale West Roxbury Transcript. (portions of the article from the Boston Herald, below.)
17 July 2007. "JOKE'S ON YOU! Dress-up cop killer caught: Captured at mom’s after taunting letter to Herald" by Michele McPhee in the Boston Herald.
Excerpts from the article...
...Fugitive cross-dressing cop killer Thomas Shay taunted investigators
searching for him in a letter to the Herald received yesterday just hours
after federal marshals tracked him down at his mother's Quincy home and
hauled him away in handcuffs.
[Also published with the front page article was an image of a letter sent to the Herald and received a few hours after his capture. Of Alfred Trenkler, Shay wrote, "He is an innocent man." Click here for the rekeyed text of the letter.]
17 July 2007. "Fugitive bomber is caught napping" by Shelley Murphy, Boston Globe
Excerpts from the article...
...Shay, 35, was pulled out of bed at about 9:30 a.m. and arrested without incident, Bohn said.
"He should be locked up," said Thomas J. Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association. "We're thankful someone else wasn't maimed or even killed. The kid doesn't belong out there, free. We've been very disturbed that he was out on the street."
Shay was convicted of plotting with a friend, Alfred W. Trenkler, to make a homemade bomb, which was planted under Shay's father's car and exploded when members of the Boston Police Bomb Squad were examining it in a Roslindale driveway on Oct. 28, 1991. Officer Jeremiah J. Hurley Jr. , 50, a father of four, was killed in the blast, and his partner, Officer Francis X. Foley, lost an eye and was never able to return to his police job. Trenkler, 51, who had been serving a life sentence, had his sentence reduced in April to 37 years.
Since Shay's release from prison in August 2002, after serving 10 years, he has repeatedly violated the terms of his federal supervised release, which require him to stay out of trouble or face up to five more years in prison. In late 2005, he was sent back to prison for four months after assaulting a Northeastern University officer and leaving a halfway house.
16 July 2007. "Condemned Ga. killer wins 90-day stay" San Jose Mercury News, Associated Press (See related article below, for 15 July 2007)
Excerpts from the article...
ATLANTA—A man convicted of killing a police officer won a reprieve a day before his scheduled execution, after his lawyers argued that several witnesses had recanted or changed their testimony....
The officer's widow, Joan MacPhail, decried the ruling. "I believe they are setting a precedent for all criminals that it is perfectly fine to kill a cop and get away with it," she said. "By making us wait, it's another sock in the stomach. It's tearing us up."... Prosecutors and the victim's family have argued that [Troy] Davis received a fair trial and has had plenty of appeals, all of which failed.
"I believe police did their job correctly and found the right man," the slain officer's son, Mark MacPhail Jr., told reporters after his family addressed the board.
MacPhail said he told the board what it was like to grow up without a father. The son, now 18, was less than 2 months old when his father was killed.
The elder MacPhail was shot twice after he rushed to help a homeless man who had been assaulted. The Aug. 19, 1989, shooting happened in a Burger King parking lot next to a bus station where MacPhail, 27, worked off-duty as a security guard.
[As with the Roslindale Bomb case, the victim's family is again being victimized, not by appeals from an innocent man, but by the mistakes made by police and prosecutors eager to build a case to fit their mistaken theory of the case. Erroneous witness identifications materialized once it was known who the police wanted identified.]
16 July 2007. "Fugitive in Boston cop killing case captured in Quincy" by Shelley Murphy in the Boston Globe.
"A yearlong manhunt for Thomas Shay, who violated his probation after serving time for killing a Boston police officer, came to an end this morning as US marshals tracked him to his mother's home on Beacon Street in Quincy and found him sleeping in a second-floor bedroom.
Shay, 35, who served 10 years in prison for helping plant a bomb under his father's car in Roslindale in 1991 that killed officer Jeremiah J. Hurley Jr. and maimed Officer Francis X. Foley, was arrested last July in Spencer on drug and larceny charges and fled to avoid going back to prison for violating the terms of his federal probation, according to the US Marshal Service.
Supervisory deputy US Marshal Jeffrey L. Bohn said deputy marshals and Boston and Quincy police went to Shay's mother's home at about 9:30 a.m. today after receiving information that he was there.
"Everybody in his family said he wasn't there," said Bohn, adding that the task force quickly discovered that they weren't telling the truth. "He was sleeping in a room by himself."
It's the third time Shay has violated his probation since he was released from prison.
Bohn said Shay was believed to have been moving around a lot over the last year, sometimes dressing as a woman to disguise himself, and had been tracked to Maine, New Hampshire, and Chicago before his arrest today.
Shay is scheduled to appear in US District Court this afternoon."
16, 2007 - Updated: 01:44 PM EST
Shay served 10 years for planting a bomb under his father's car in 1991. The explosive detonated, killing Boston police bomb squad cop Jeremiah Hurley and critically wounding his partner, Frank Foley.
Shay was considered one of Boston's most wanted by police.
Look for more in tomorrow's Herald."
[The supporters of the innocence of Alfred Trenkler look forward to hearing Tom Shay present the truth, from what he knows, about the Roslindale Bomb. We expect that he will repeat and elaborate upon what he said in his interview with the Patriot Ledger for its 7 August 2006 article, below. That was that he had absolutely no role in the creation or placement of the Roslindale Bomb and, to his knowledge, neither did Alfred Trenkler.]
15 July 2007. "As Execution Nears, Last Push from Inmates's Supporters." New York Times
Troy A. Davis, Savannah, Georgia. Davis was convicted of a 1989 killing of Police Officer Mark MacPhail who intervened to try to stop a fight between the homeless Larry Young and Sylvester Coles, who was trying to take Young's beer and was pistol whipping him.
Davis was convicted by the testimony of 9 witnesses, including Coles. Seven of those witnesses have recanted, but Davis is still scheduled for execution. On Monday, 16 July, 2007, he sought clemency from the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.
25 June 2007. "Meet Hub's Worst of Worst" by Michele McPhee in the Boston Herald.
Tom Shay was the last listed, as follows....
"Convicted Cop Killer Wanted For Probation Violations: Thomas Shay , 34, 5-foot-9, 145 pounds.
Dressed in drag to avoid capture, convicted cop killer Thomas Shay is wanted for a bevy of probation violations after he served a decade behind bars for planting the bomb that killed BPD bomb squad cop Jeremiah Hurley and maimed his partner, Frank Foley. While on probation, Shay has been busted on charges of attacking another city cop; posing as a massage therapist to sexually assault college students; and distributing drugs to minors in Spencer.
[Note: On 4 November 2006, Tom Shay turned 35 years old. He is actually about 6 foot 4 and approximately 200 pounds.]
Excerpts relating to Tom Shay and Boston Police Deputy Superintendent Dan Linsky
What does it take to go to jail in this city?
... Murder a Boston cop, and maim another, by planting a bomb under your father's car - like Thomas Shay did in 1991 - the explosive detonating as it was being examined by the BPD bomb unit, and you get sentenced to a measly 10 years.
That's 10 years for killing a cop and for ending the career of another's.
Weeks after Shay was released, he violated the conditions of his probation, fled the state, and was captured and brought back to face the same federal judge who gave him the despicably short sentence.
Judge Rya Zobel's punishment for Shay after he was caught running from the law just weeks after serving time?
She tacked another year onto his probation and he remained a free man.
And guess what? While free, Shay allegedly assaulted another cop in the city, this time a Northeastern University detective who was trying to arrest him on charges that he posed as a physical therapy student in order to give sexually inappropriate massages to college-age boys on campus.
His punishment for the latest two incidents of running afoul of the law?
again. Only the agency can't find him. Shockingly, Shay is now on the
lam- dressed as a woman to elude authorities.
Boston police and federal marshals continued their intensive manhunt yesterday for convicted cop killer Thomas Shay, who is on the lam believed to be disguised as a woman after he allegedly assaulted a Northeastern University cop who tried to bust him for posing as a massage therapist.
Yesterday, the Herald reported that Shay is dressing in drag to elude U.S. Marshalls and cops assigned to the Boston Police Department Fugitive Unit after he violated probation for the third time since he was released from prison in 2003.
Shay was passing himself off as a student therapist to “entice college-age males to massage them for money,” according to a BPD report.
The story prompted several tips from Herald readers, said U.S. Marshal Jeff Bohn. “We are following several leads, so far all negative,” Bohn said yesterday.
Shay served 10 years for planting a bomb under his father's car in 1991. The explosive detonated, killing Boston police bomb squad cop Jeremiah Hurley and critically wounding his partner, Frank Foley.
Within weeks of his release, Shay vanished from a court-ordered federal
halfway house and fled the state, but federal Judge Rya Zobel allowed
him to remain free despite that violation of the terms of his release.
7 June 2007. "Boston Blotter: Cross-Dressing Cop Killer?" by Caroline Roberts, online, e-magazine: The Bostonist.
The article in its entirety...
--You heard that right. A man who was convicted for killing a police officer may be in hiding – as a woman. In 1991, Thomas Shay was involved in planting a bomb that killed one police officer and maimed another in Roslindale. Now, he's violated his probation, and he assaulted another police officer.
The Herald explains the cross-dressing thusly: "[Officials think] that Shay is donning a wig and a dress to avoid detection. Shay, who has an arrest record for male prostitution, could be selling his body as a transsexual, investigators believe."
Why Shay was on probation is a mystery to us. His original offense involved plotting to put a bomb under his father's car, which killed the police officer. Another man, Alfred Trenkler, is doing time for the bombing, which was allegedly intended to kill Shay's father. Most recently, in 2005, he was posing as a physical therapy student and assaulted male students at Northeastern.
[Morison Bonpasse responded to this article with the same "Letter to the Editor" as was sent to the Boston Herald. See below.]
7 June 07. "Transsexual cop killer hunted in Bay State" by Michele McPhee in the Boston Herald
The article about Tom Shay begins...
Dressed in drag to evade capture, notorious Boston cop killer
Thomas Shay is the target of a massive manhunt after violating his probation,
for the third time, since he killed one BPD officer and maimed another
in a 1991 bombing, the Herald has learned.
31 May 2007. Testimony of Lonnie Soury, member of Marty Tankleff Defense team, before the New York Assembly, in favor of taping interrogations and for a State Innocence commission.
The testimony begins....
Hello, I am Lonnie Soury, part of a legal defense team from five law firms in New York and Washington, DC who having been fighting for over ten years on behalf of Martin Tankleff, a man who has been imprisoned in New York State since he was a teenager and has served 17 years of a 50-to-life sentence for a murder he did not commit. I represent Marty Tankleff and his family, the sisters of his murdered mother Arlene, brother of his murdered father Seymour and the dozens of cousins and relatives who have been fighting for 17 years to free Marty....
24 May 2007. Bangor Daily News reporter solicits interviews with jurors in 1984 trial.
juror? By BDN
Our reporter is looking for people who sat on the jury in the 1984 murder trial of James Hicks. At the conclusion of that trial, Hicks was found guilty of murdering his wife, Jennie Cyr Hicks, seven years afer her disapperance. He became the first person in Maine convicted with no evidence of a dead body.
Reporter Sharon Kiley Mack is working on a story related to the case, and is interested in talking with those who served on the jury. She can be reached at (207) 487-3187, or by email."
[This is good news for the Alfred Trenkler case, as the Alfred Trenkler Innocent Commitee believes that the jurors in Trenkler's case can play a positive role in uncovering the truth. As of 12 June, several jurors had responded to the BDN inquiry.]
24 May 2007. "Cops snare drivers who stop at nothing" by Michele McPhee in the Boston Herald.
As Leanne Hurley stepped off Tremont Street into a crosswalk
at Worcester Street pushing a baby stroller yesterday morning, a BMW screeched
past without stopping.
Fortunately, Hurley's “baby” was just a doll - a child's toy decked out in a cute white sundress and a visor. Unfortunately for the crosswalk violators, Hurley was a Boston cop, undercover. She is the mother of two little girls and the daughter of a slain Boston bomb squad cop, Jeremiah Hurley, killed in the line of duty.
Each of the crosswalk violators nabbed in the sting was slapped with a $200 fine.
even for women with baby strollers,” said Boston
Police Deputy Superintendent Thomas Lee of the failure of
the motorists to stop. “It's unbelievable.”
The sting was effective, netting 214 citations over the four-day operation for failing to stop for a pedestrian. But the BPD initiative was not to test the politeness of the Hub's notoriously rude drivers. It was a response to numerous complaints from South End residents who said it is impossible to cross the street without risking their lives.
Last year, seven pedestrians were killed on city streets and another 683 were hit, according to BPD statistics. Cops wrote 860 citations in 2006 to drivers who did not stop for pedestrians.
This year, two bicyclists have been struck and killed in Boston.
City Councilor Michael Flaherty is calling for an official hearing on pedestrian safety to explore the possibility of increasing the penalty for failing to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.
26 April 2007 "Bomb convict fights for release; But feds want him to die in prison" by Dennis Tatz in the Patriot Ledger.
The article begins...
Federal prosecutors want to make sure Alfred Trenkler dies in prison.
Trenkler was originally sentenced to two life terms, but the trial judge reversed herself and sentenced him earlier this month to 37 years.
He could be eligible for release in 19 years.
The U. S. Attorney's office has filed documents in federal appeals court to reinstate the life sentences, but Trenkler's lawyers are still fighting for his release.
Defense attorney Joan Griffin said yesterday that an appeal of
the 37-year sentence is also being planned....
5 April 2007. "Judge resentences bomber to 37 years; Says she didn’t have authority to give former Quincy man life in officer’s death" by Dennis Tatz in The Patriot Ledger.
Excerpts from the article...
BOSTON - Alfred Trenkler will have to wait 19 to 20 years before he is eligible to get out of a federal prison for building a bomb that killed a Boston police officer and maimed another in 1991.
As the family of slain officer Jeremiah Hurley Jr. watched, a federal judge said yesterday that she improperly sentenced Trenkler, now 51, to life in prison in 1994 after a jury trial.
U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel dismissed defense claims that the one-time Quincy resident had served his time and should be released. Zobel resentenced Trenkler to 37 years. Since Trenkler has already served 14 years and could get as much as 5½ years shaved off his sentence for good behavior, he'll be about 70 when he is eligible to get out.
Zobel's decision came after she listened to emotional statements from one of Hurley's daughters and Francis Foley, Hurley's bomb-squad partner, who was severely injured when a device fell from the undercarriage of a car and exploded.
‘‘Do you know he suffered for 8½ hours before he died?'' Hurley's daughter, Leanne Teehan, 33, of Hyde Park, asked Trenkler, who was sitting a few feet from her. ‘‘He touched so many lives. I wish he could have met you before you made this awful mistake. You chose to be in this position.''
Teehan, who is also a Boston police officer, said Trenkler deserved to spend the rest of his life behind bars....
In a brief interview later, Trenkler's stepfather, Jack Wallace of Milton, said the family would continue to fight for Trenkler's release.
‘‘He's innocent, and we're not going to stop,'' Wallace, 80, said.
It was Trenkler who researched sentencing guidelines and wrote a letter informing Zobel that federal law at the time prevented her from giving him a life sentence in 1994....
5 April 2007. "Officer's killer resentenced to 37 years" by Shelley Murphy and Megan Tench.
Excerpts from the article....
A man who had been serving a life sentence for building a bomb that killed one Boston police officer and maimed another in 1991 was resentenced yesterday to 37 years in prison.
The sentence means that Alfred W. Trenkler, 51, could be freed in about 19 years, with so-called good time.
That prospect was a disappointment for his family and the families of his victims and left both the defense and prosecutors saying they may appeal it.
"We shouldn't have had to be here today," said Cynthia Hurley. Trenkler should spend the rest of his life in prison for orchestrating the Oct. 28, 1991 blast that killed her husband, Officer Jeremiah J. Hurley Jr., 50, she said.
Still, she said she was thankful to US District Judge Rya W. Zobel "for not letting him walk out the door today."
But that was exactly what Trenkler's family said they had been hoping for.
"I came in here thinking it was going to be time served, and I'm very disappointed," said Trenkler's stepfather, John Wallace of Milton. "We know that Alfred is innocent. . . . We will not give up."
Trenkler, of Milton, was convicted by a federal jury in 1993 of plotting with his then 21-year-old lover, Thomas A. Shay, to build the bomb that was meant to target Shay's father. The elder Shay called police to his Roslindale home after the suspicious device fell from the undercarriage of his car as he pulled into the driveway....
Zobel sentenced Trenkler to life in prison in March 1994. The younger Shay, who was convicted for his role in the bombing, was released from prison two years ago after serving 12 years.
[Mrs. Hurley was correct that she should not have had to be there yesterday. That is, The real Bomb Maker should have been found and prosecuted and convicted, and not two innocent men. Also, Thomas A. Shay was not Alfred Trenkler's "lover," as he was a mere acquaintance, for whom Alfred had given a few rides in June and July 1991. There was never a sexual relationship between then. On 28 October 1991, Thomas A. Shay was 19 years old, and turned 20 on 4 November. Tom Shay was released from Federal prison on 30 August 2002. Subsequently, he was on supervised release, which continues.]
5 April 2007. "Victim, family dealt new blow: Judge cuts life sentence for maker of fatal bomb" by Michele McPhee in the Boston Herald
The article begins...
The bomb that Alfred Trenkler built 16 years ago - which killed a Boston
cop and father of four and maimed another BPD officer for life - continues
to hurtle shrapnel into the lives of those affected.
4 April 2007. Posted on on the Boston Globe website: "Officers out in force at resentencing of convicted police killer" by Shelley Murphy and Megan Tench.
Excerpts from the article....
About 150 police officers stood shoulder-to-shoulder outside Boston's federal courthouse this afternoon as a judge prepared to resentence Alfred W. Trenkler, the man convicted of building a bomb in 1991 that killed one Boston police officer and maimed another.
Officers lined both sides of Northern Avenue -- some in blue uniforms and others in plainclothes -- in remembrance of Officer Jeremiah J. Hurley Jr. and in support of his partner, Francis X. Foley, who was wounded....
Trenkler was found guilty of building the bomb for his 21-year-old lover, Thomas A. Shay, who wanted to kill his father. The elder Shay called police on Oct. 28, 1991, 1991 to report that a suspicious device had fallen from under his car when he parked in the driveway of his Roslindale home. The officers were examining the black box when it exploded.
Shay, who was convicted and served only 12 years in prison, was released in April 2006.
[The article said nothing about Alfred Trenkler's claim of a wrongful conviction. Also, it had several errors. Thomas A. Shay was not Alfred Trenkler's "lover," as he was a mere acquaintance, for whom Alfred had given a few rides in June and July 1991. There was never a sexual relationship between then. On 28 October 1991, Thomas A. Shay was 19 years old, and turned 20 on 4 November. Tom Shay was released from Federal prison on 30 August 2002. Subsequently, he was on supervised release, which continues.]
4 April 2007. "Boston Police rally in support of family of fallen officer" WBZ Radio Podcast of Tommy Nee's statement.
"Dozens of police officers gathered outside the federal courthouse in Boston Wednesday to protest the re-sentancing of Alfred Trenkler . WBZ's Lana Jones spoke with Tommy Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolman's Association."
TRANSCRIPT OF PODCAST:
Mr. Nee. "There's a great show of support here to the Hurley and the Foley families.
It's a great tribute to their memory and the honor to their service to this great city."
Ms. Jones. "And you're hoping for the best."
Mr. Nee. "Yes. Certainly, Judge Zobel has an opportunity to right a wrong here. There's no reason that the perpetrator of this crime has the right to right walk amongst good and free citizens. He's perpetrated a crime that's reprehensible. It will never bee forgotten by this rank and file patrol force.
Hopefully, the city stands in support of the Hurley family also.
4 April 2007. "Convicted killer could get lighter sentance in death of Police officer" WBZ 1030 Radio.
From the Associated press....
Boston(AP) -- A man who was convicted of building a bomb that killed a Boston police officer could get a new sentence today.
Alfred Trenkler received two concurrent life sentences in 1994 for assembling a bomb and helping plant it under the car of a friend's father. The device exploded as bomb squad officers were examining it, killing Jeremiah Hurley and seriously injuring his partner.
In February, a federal judge ruled that Trenkler was wrongly sentenced to life in prison for the crime and granted his request to be re-sentenced. A hearing is scheduled this afternoon in federal court.
The US Attorney's office admits it dropped the ball, and could have prevented today's re-sentancing had it responded to two motions filed by the defense requesting the re-sentancing.Â US Attorney Michael Sullivan says his office is looking into it's own handling of the case.
Prosecutors plan to ask Judge Rya Zobel to either reimpose Trenkler's original life term or sentence him to two consecutive terms of 45 years each.
Trenkler's lawyers aren't saying what new sentence they'll seek. Dozens of Boston police officers gathered outside the courthouse prior to today's hearing to show support for Hurley's family.
4 April 2007. "Trenkler sentence reduced from life to 37 years" by Denise Lavoie from the Associated Press, at the Boston Herald website.
Excerpts from the article....
BOSTON - A federal judge on Wednesday reduced the life sentence of a man convicted of building a bomb that killed a Boston police officer and seriously injured another, though he will be in his 70s when he is eligible for release.
U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel ruled in February that she did not have
the authority to impose a life sentence for Alfred Trenkler and ordered
a new sentencing hearing. On Wednesday, Zobel imposed a 37-year sentence.
Trenkler was convicted of building a remote-controlled bomb containing several sticks of dynamite and helping his friend, Thomas Shay Jr., plant it under the driver's seat of Shay's father's car. Authorities said Trenkler and Shay were trying to kill Shay's father for insurance money.
The device exploded on Oct. 28, 1991, as bomb squad officers were examining
it, killing Jeremiah Hurley Jr. and maiming his partner, Francis Foley,
who lost an eye.
[This article also appeared in the Portsmouth (NH) Herald and the Portland Press Herald.]
3 April 2007 Letter to the Editor, Boston Herald, "Fallout Forever" by Deborah DeVincent, Cambridge.
In its entirety...
"I thank Michele McPhee for detailing the extent to which Alfred Trenkler's bombing still impacts the Boston Police Department. As citizens we never really understand the total toll that our collective rights to safety takes on police ("Explosion's latest victim," March 26).
I certainly don't suggest that anyone should be sentenced on inadmissible evidence, but I do believe that public safety should not be compromised for what may have been a mistake. The bomb didn't walk under the car by itself. We hope that Judge Rya Zobel 'reduces' Trenkler's sentence to 100 years so that he spends the rest of his life in prison."
26 March 2007. "Explosion’s latest victim: Stress of fatal blast had role in cop’s death" by Boston Herald Police Beat Columnist Michele McPhee
In the days before Boston police officer Denise Corbett died, she had become obsessed with explosions - including the one that changed her life forever. She asked her mother to mail back to her the envelope stuffed with yellowing newspaper clips with horrific headlines like:
“Bomb Blast Kills Police Officer.”
The articles were all about the dynamite planted in a Roslindale driveway that killed BPD bomb squad officer Jeremiah Hurley and maimed his partner, Francis X. Foley, on the afternoon of Oct. 28, 1991.
But when Denise Corbett took her own life Dec. 2, she became the second Boston police officer to die as a result of that merciless 1991 explosion.
April 4, U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel will consider whether Alfred
Trenkler should serve any more time for Hurley's death. He was never charged
or convicted in the death of Corbett so many years later, though his bomb
killed her just as surely as it killed Hurley.
In the weeks before she died, Corbett began to watch gory war movies. Then she started writing checks to Iraq war veterans maimed in bombing attacks. Many mornings she was jerked awake by nightmares.
All of it was a reaction, said her husband Mark Corbett, also a Boston cop, to the idea that she may be called to testify in a court hearing for Trenkler.
“She was terrified that she would be dragged back through it,” he told me last week in an interview at his family's Walpole home, which is festooned with crayon-scrawled pictures drawn by the youngest of the couple's five children. Two of the youngest are severely autistic.
that trial, she was up all night, every night. It was so hard for her,
looking at the Hurley family and Foley family in the court room,” he said.
tearful testimony about that day is unforgettable to veteran cops who
attended the trial of Trenkler and Shay.
As her testimony grew even more graphic, Hurley's widow and two of their five children fled the courtroom crying. Corbett's own voice was shaking with tears as she went on.
“They wanted to know how each other was doing,” she testified.
Last Dec. 2, the trauma she suffered that day became too much and she took her own life. Her husband found her in their car parked outside.
Now Corbett, who has lost 25 pounds since his wife's death, is facing life without his “angel.” Their children are facing life without their mother. And their financial picture worsens with each day Mark Corbett cannot return to work.
Zobel thought a paltry nine years behind bars was appropriate for Shay, even after he violated probation upon his release. Let's hope that Trenkler is not treated with such leniency.
Perhaps before she makes any decision, Zobel should attend the Friends of the Corbett Family Fundraiser at Moseley's in Dedham this Saturday night - which is open to anyone who wants to help the fallen cop's family. I'll even buy Zobel's $20 ticket so she can see firsthand how the Boston Police Department is now dealing with the loss of two fine BPD cops at the hands of Alfred Trenkler and Thomas Shay.
agrees that the death of Jeremiah Hurley and the injury to Francis Foley
were tragic and criminal. The traumatic stress carried by Denise
Corbett was also tragic. However, convicting the wrong men for building
the Roslindale Bomb is not the solution.]
5 March 2007 "No even Breaks for cop killers, please" A column by Michele McPhee, Boston Herald Police Bureau Chief.
The column is about a man convicted of killing two policemen in New York, but then moves to the Trenkler case...
But Cynthia Hurley will never see that kind of justice for the murder of her husband, heroic Boston bomb squad officer Jeremiah Hurley.
He was killed while responding to a Roslindale home, where a man had planted an explosive device under his father's car. The senseless 1991 blast also maimed Hurley's partner, Francis Foley, for life.
In fact, Cynthia Hurley has received little justice at all.
Hurley likely saved the life of the bomb's intended target, Thomas Shay. Shay's son and namesake - the man who planted the bomb - was released from prison in 2002, just nine years after he was sentenced to a paltry 15 years for his role in the death of the 50-year-old police officer and father of five.
It's incredible that Thomas Shay Jr. is able to roam free again at all. He should be sharing a cell on Death Row with Ronell Wilson.
But he's not. Not even after he was caught violating his probation in 2005.
In that case, federal judge Rya Zobel took pity on him after he gave her a sob story in court that he deserved a second chance because, “I'm a piece of wood adrift. I want to give and feel real love. I want to live an ordinary life,” Shay said, as reported by the Herald's Laurel Sweet.
Well, Jerry Hurley had an ordinary life. He had a loving wife and five kids, four of whom are now Boston cops, and a storied, decorated police career. What about him?
Zobel set Shay loose again, saying: “I do think he needs a great deal of encouragement.”
He won't even be under any supervision when his probation ends next year.
Now Zobel will have a chance to free Shay's accomplice, Alfred Trenkler. He was convicted of building the bomb that killed Hurley and left Foley without an eye.
Last week, Zobel vacated the two life sentences another federal judge saw fit to impose on Trenkler after his conviction in 1993, saying that the sentence was a “miscarriage of justice.”
Her decision was due in part to U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan's admitted failure to respond to motions made by the bomb-builder's defense attorney.
The real miscarriage of justice is the idea that any cop killer could be freed - ever.
It is unclear what will happen to Trenkler when he shows up in Zobel's court on April 4, but the city should say a collective prayer that she sends him back to his cell for good. The last thing cop killers need is “encouragement.”
[The supporters of Alfred Trenkler agree that punishment for people who kill policemen should be harsh. However, Alfred Trenkler is not one of those people. We believe that the person or persons who built the Roslindale bomb are still at large.]
1 March 2007 "Wrongly Convicted say FBI was at Fault" by Shelley Murphy in the Boston Globe
Portions of the article...
Lawyers for four men wrongly convicted of a 1965 gangland slaying argued yesterday that the FBI was squarely to blame for withholding critical evidence during their trial and urged a federal judge to order the government to compensate them for the decades they spent in prison.
Three members of Congress who were involved in a two-year investigation of the FBI's mishandling of informants and had condemned the government's handling of the Deegan case were in court yesterday for final arguments, including Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican who spearheaded the probe and formerly chaired the House Committee on Government Reform. Also present were William D. Delahunt, a Quincy Democrat, and Stephen F. Lynch, a South Boston Democrat.
US District Judge Nancy Gertner said she expects to rule by late March or early April on whether the government is liable and, if so, how much it should pay.
28 February 2007 "Judge orders re-sentencing of convicted cop killer" in the South Coast Today News by the Associated Press (Same article as posted with WCVB, below.)
28 February 2007 "Judge Orders Resentencing Of Cop Killer - Life Sentence Vacated After Mistakes Made" from WCVB-TV, Channel 5, Boston. (Article from Associated Press.)
In its entirety...
BOSTON -- Mistakes by federal prosecutors have prompted a U.S. District Court judge to vacate the life sentence of a man convicted of building the bomb that killed a Boston police officer, sparking outrage from police and the victim's family.
Alfred Trenkler, who was sentenced to life in prison for building the bomb that killed Jeremiah J. Hurley Jr. in 1991 will be resentenced at an April 4 hearing because the U.S. attorney's office missed two critical deadlines to respond to motions in the case.
The Feb. 20 ruling vacating the sentence and the possibility of Trenkler receiving a lighter sentence prompted an apology Tuesday from U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, who called the situation "unacceptable."
"The U.S. Attorney's Office unintentionally failed to respond to the Court as required by two separate orders," Sullivan said in a statement. "We have begun an immediate internal review to determine how the office failed to comply with the Court's orders. There appears to have been a significant breakdown in communication."
When Trenkler was convicted in 1993, the trial judge dismissed the jury and sentenced him to two concurrent life terms.
Trenkler's lawyers argued in their motions that federal law allows only juries, not judges, to impose life sentences, and Judge Rya Zobel agreed in her decision earlier this month.
Sullivan's office twice did not address court orders seeking a response to those defense motions.
Trenkler was convicted of building and planting a bomb under a car belonging to the father of his co-defendant Thomas Shay on Oct. 28, 1991. The device exploded while bomb squad officers were examining it, killing Hurley and injuring his partner, Francis Foley.
Authorities said Trenkler and his partner, Thomas Shay Jr., were trying to kill Shay's father for insurance money. Shay is free after serving 11 years of a 15-year sentence.
Although he is unlikely to be freed, Trenkler could receive a lighter sentence, which has angered police and Hurley's family.
"I pray that he is sentenced to what he deserves for taking my husband," Hurley's wife, Cynthia Hurley, said in a statement issued through a family friend.
Thomas Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said he was angered by the government's failures.
"We're very upset that a technicality within the law has reopened a very dark day and a very difficult time for Officer Hurley's family, Officer Foley's family, and Boston police officers," Nee said.
Police Commissioner Edward Davis sent a memo this week to Boston police officers explaining the situation.
"It frustrates me that the persons responsible for the murder of Officer Hurley continue to victimize the victims and their families and refuse to take responsibility for their crimes," Davis wrote.
David added that the department stands by both families. Three of Hurley's four children are Boston officers.
[And see similar broadcast from WHDH-TV, "Judge orders re-sentencing of convicted cop killer" Channel 7.]
[For the supporters of Alfred Trenkler, it's frustrating that an innocent man is in prison and that one or two people who actually built the Roslindale bomb have been free from the beginning.]
28 February 2007 "Fed Flub May Free Cop Killer - Judge to resentence bomber now serving two life terms" by Michele McPhee in the Boston Herald
The entire article...
A convicted cop killer who built the bomb that took the life of Boston police officer Jeremiah Hurley and maimed his bomb squad partner for life could be released from a federal prison on a technicality after the United States Attorney's Office missed two critical deadlines to respond to briefs in the case.
“We dropped the ball,” Samantha Martin, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, said yesterday.
U.S. District Court Justice Rya W. Zobel ruled that Alfred Trenkler's 1993 conviction, which prompted a judge to dismiss the jury and sentence the bomb-maker to two concurrent life terms for explosives charges and sixty months for conspiracy, was a miscarriage of justice.
In the decision, Zobel ruled that a judge did not have the authority to issue concurrent life sentences. Federal prosecutors missed opportunities to contest that assertion.
Trenkler will be in court for re-sentencing April 4, infuriating rank and file police officers who fear that Zobel could release a cop killer.
Trenkler was convicted of building and planting a bomb under a 1986 Buick belonging to the father of his co-defendant Thomas Shay on Oct. 28, 1991. The device, a wooden box containing dynamite wrapped in duct tape, exploded while the bomb squad officers were examining it, killing Hurley and critically wounding his partner, Francis Foley.
The slain cop's distraught widow Cynthia Hurley, delivered a statement through a family friend.
“I'm very disappointed that the murders Alfred Trenkler and Thomas Shay, who are responsible for killing my husband continue to haunt us,” she said. “I pray that he is sentenced to what he deserves for taking my husband.”
Shay, who was targeting his father with the bomb, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and is already free.
Trenkler has consistently maintained his innocence and his supporters created a Web site detailing the case. Sullivan's office has successfully opposed at least four earlier post-conviction challenges by Trenkler until they failed to respond to defense motions despite two separate orders from Zobel.
“We have begun an immediate internal review to determine how the office failed to comply with the court's orders. There appears to have been a significant breakdown in communication,” Sullivan said. “This failure is particularly concerning given that this case was brought because one Boston police officer was killed, and another seriously injured.”
Sullivan called the failure “unacceptable.”
Boston Police Patrolmen's Association President Thomas Nee said, “We're very upset that a technicality within the law has reopened a very dark day and a very difficult time for Officer Hurley's family, Officer Foley's family, and Boston police officers.
“Alfred Trenkler should never be allowed out of jail in his natural life. He was convicted of putting a bomb under a car that killed a Boston police officer, and that officer's family received a life sentence without their loved one,” Nee said.
Three of Hurley's four children are currently Boston cops.
This week, police Commissioner Ed Davis issued a department-wide memo saying that the Hurley and Foley families have the BPD's unending support.
“It frustrates me that the persons responsible for the murder of Officer
Hurley continue to victimize the victims and their families and refuse
to take responsibility for their crimes,” Davis wrote. “We have been in
contact with both the Hurley and Foley Families. I assured them that the
members of this Department will continue to stand with them to ensure
justice is obtained.”
28 February 2007 "Sentence tossed in officer's slaying - U.S. Attorney Makes Public Apology" by Suzanne Smalley and Mac Daniel in the Boston Globe
The entire article...
An oversight by the US attorney's office led a federal judge to throw out the life sentence of a man convicted in the death of a Boston police officer in 1991, outraging many in the department.
Legal specialists say it is unlikely that Alfred W. Trenkler, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1994 for building the bomb that killed Officer Jeremiah J. Hurley Jr. and injured his partner, Francis X. Foley, will be freed at his April 4 resentencing.
But the Feb. 20 ruling vacating the sentence and the possibility of Trenkler receiving a lighter sentence prompted US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan to issue a public apology yesterday.
"The US Attorney's Office unintentionally failed to respond to the Court as required by two separate Orders," Sullivan's statement reads. "We have begun an immediate internal review to determine how the office failed to comply with the Court's Orders. There appears to have been a significant breakdown in communication."
Sullivan's office twice did not address court orders seeking its response to a motion by Trenkler's lawyers to throw out the life sentence. Trenkler's lawyers argue that federal law allows only juries, not judges, to impose life sentences. In his case, the trial judge dismissed the jury after it convicted Trenkler, and the judge imposed the sentence. Sullivan's office said that it will file a response by March 7 and that it had successfully opposed four challenges by Trenkler's lawyers.
Thomas J. Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said that although he expects Trenkler to be resentenced to a significant time in prison, he is angry about the government's failure to keep on top of the case.
"It does outrage me," Nee said. "The taking of a life during this terrible incident, especially the life of a Boston police officer, should be met with an equal justice."
Nee said that he is not as anxious as he would otherwise be, however, because Trenkler's conviction stands and the federal judge who ruled on the sentence, Rya W. Zobel, still has the power to ensure that Trenkler spends the rest of his life in prison.
"We may not be able to call it a life sentence under technical terms," Nee said, "but certainly he should serve enough years that he will never be able to walk among good and decent people again."
Although lawyers interviewed last night said Trenkler will not get out of prison, Randy Gioia, a criminal defense lawyer, said the ruling "could be an apparent victory for Mr. Trenkler, because the judge has the discretion to sentence him to any number of years."
"His lawyers are probably going to argue that the judge has to impose a sentence for a term of years that would be less than life," Gioia said. "At that point, it gets very foggy as to what term of years would be less than a person's life. I think that's going to be the problem."
Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis sent a memo to Boston police officers late Monday explaining the situation and underscoring his concern for the officers' families.
"I assured them that the members of this department will continue to stand with them to ensure justice is obtained," the memo reads. "It frustrates me that the persons responsible for the murder of Officer Hurley continue to victimize the victims and their families and refuse to take responsibility for their crimes."
Hurley's daughter declined to comment last night. Since the officer's death, his widow, Cynthia Hurley, has founded the Massachusetts chapter of a national nonprofit dedicated to helping the survivors of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
Sullivan's statement acknowledges the seriousness of his office's lapse, given the nature of Trenkler's crime.
"This failure is particularly concerning given that this case was brought because one Boston police officer was killed and another seriously injured," it reads.
"Without question, this is a matter that is deserving of our highest attention, and this failure is unacceptable."
[For the supporters of Alfred Trenkler, it's frustrating that an innocent man is in prison and that one or two people who actually built the Roslindale bomb have been free from the beginning. What should be 'unacceptable' is the idea that a wrongful conviction whould be allowed to stand.]
23 February 2007 "Unfinished Justice" by Brian McGrory in the Boston Globe
Excerpts from the column...
The topic today is the city of Boston and what it did to a young man named Shawn Drumgold by sending him to prison for 15 years on ridiculously flawed evidence and by refusing to make good to him ever since.
Drumgold, people may recall, was convicted of the 1988 slaying of Darlene Tiffany Moore, the 12-year-old girl felled by a stray bullet as she sat on a mailbox in the middle of a gang-infested section of Roxbury. Her death came to represent the lawlessness that existed on the streets at the time, marked by shootouts between rival gangs of drug dealers.
Some 14 years after Drumgold's conviction, the Globe's Dick Lehr wrote a 5,000-word story that made a veritable mockery of the police and prosecutors' case. One key eyewitness was suffering from a brain tumor that caused severe memory loss, a fact never reported to the defense. Another witness said she was pressured by police to place Drumgold at the scene of the crime...
The only issue remaining is what the city owes a man for taking away 15 years of his life. Drumgold filed a federal civil rights suit in 2004, so it's up to the city to make a nice offer and make the whole thing go away. Right?
22 February 2007 "Attorneys fight new ruling in bomb case" by Dennis Tatz in the Quincy Patriot Ledger.
In its entirety...
BOSTON - The U.S. Attorney's office is fighting a federal judge's ruling to resentence a 51-year-old former Quincy man serving two life terms for building a bomb that killed a Boston police officer in 1991.
Alfred Trenkler, who has maintained his innocence since his arrest, told Judge Rya Zobel in a December 2005 letter that federal law at the time of his conviction prohibited her from sending him to prison for life.
‘‘Since the matter of punishment was never presented to the jury, the statute prohibits the court from independently imposing a life sentence,'' Trenkler wrote.
On Tuesday, Judge Zobel agreed and ruled the sentencing mistake was a ‘‘miscarriage of justice.'' She ordered Trenkler to be resentenced April 4.
‘‘He will likely die in prison while serving the two invalid life sentences imposed by this court,'' the judge wrote in an 11-page decision. ‘‘Had the error not occurred, the maximum possible legal sentence would offer him the possibility of leaving prison in his lifetime.''
Federal prosecutors yesterday filed a motion asking Zobel to stay her order for resentencing to give them another chance to argue against it.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan admitted his office had unintentionally failed to respond to two court orders about Trenkler's illegal sentence claim.
‘‘The government has successfully opposed at least four earlier post-conviction challenges by Trenkler, and it was always our intent to do so in this instance,'' Sullivan said. ‘‘Additionally, we have begun an immediate internal review to determine how the office failed to comply with the court's orders. Without question, this is a matter that is deserving of our highest attention and this failure is unacceptable.''
2 February 2007 "A Death in Destrehan" by Bob Herbert in the New York Times
The article about a wrongful conviction of a teen-ager in 1974 begins...
On the afternoon of Oct. 7, 1974, a mob of 200 enraged whites, many of them students, closed in on a bus filled with black students that was trying to pull away from the local high school. The people in the mob were in a high-pitched frenzy. They screamed racial epithets and bombarded the bus with rocks and bottles. The students on the bus were terrified.
When a shot was heard, the kids on the bus dived for cover. But it was a 13-year-old white boy standing near the bus, not far from his mother, who toppled to the ground with a bullet wound in his head. The boy, a freshman named Timothy Weber, died a few hours later.
That single shot in this rural town about 25 miles up the Mississippi River from New Orleans set in motion a tale of appalling injustice that has lasted to the present day....
[In this case, as in Alfred Trenkler's, evidence for the prosecution is said to exist, but it doesn't. People testify for the prosecution with ill-motives and questionable stories.]
24 January 2007 "With DNA From Exhumed Body, Man Finally Wins Freedom" by Fernanda Santos, New York Times.
The article begins...
AUBURN, N.Y., Jan. 23 — Roy Brown, who spent 15 years in prison on a murder conviction and uncovered evidence while there that linked another man to the crime, was released from prison on Tuesday after DNA tests on the other man's exhumed body matched saliva on a nightshirt at the crime scene.
After 15 years behind bars, Mr. Brown stepped out of court into a light snowfall and gently pushed his way through a cluster of relatives who vied for his attention. The reception was fine, he said, but he is too sick with liver disease to stand on his feet for long.
“Changes have got to be made, man,” Mr. Brown said later at a lawyer's office across the street, answering questions in a monotone as he rested awkwardly in a black swivel chair. “They say the wheels of justice move slowly, but you know what? The wheels of justice are flat.”
Mr. Brown, 46, is the eighth person in New York State exonerated through DNA evidence in the past 13 months, more than in any other state during the same period.
The DNA tests that freed him confirmed the results of his own jailhouse investigation, in which he discovered documents that incriminated Barry Bench, a volunteer firefighter, in the murder of Sabina Kulakowski, 49, a social worker who had lived with Mr. Bench's brother until months before her death. Earlier DNA tests conducted by Mr. Brown's lawyers linked Mr. Bench's daughter, Katherine Eckstadt, to the genetic code lifted from the saliva on Ms. Kulakowski's nightshirt.
(One important aspect of this case is that the daughter had voluntarily contributed a DNA sample in order that justice be done, even though she knew it might mean that her father could be named as a murderer, and thus also responsible for the wrongful conviction of a completely innocent man)
8 January 2007. Marty Tankleff news. "Ex-Prosecutors Urge New Trial for Man Convicted of 2 Murders" by Bruce Lambert, New York Times.
This is an extraordinary development for Marty Tankeff. The entire article is pasted below:
The campaign to overturn the conviction of a Long Island man for the murders of his parents has gained a highly unusual group of supporters: 31 former federal, state and local prosecutors.
They argued in court papers filed today that the prisoner, Martin H. Tankleff, “has presented persuasive evidence” that he was wrongly convicted and deserves a new trial. Justice demands “punishing the guilty and freeing the innocent,” the prosecutors wrote.
The Tankleff case has drawn national attention and coincidentally is scheduled to be featured on the “Dr. Phil” television program on Tuesday.
“I can’t think of another case like this where so many prosecutors signed on behalf of a convicted murderer,” said Bennett L. Gershman, formerly an assistant district attorney in Manhattan and special state prosecutor who teaches law at Pace University. “It’s extremely, extremely unusual and shows the critical nature of this case as a symbol of justice gone wrong.”
The friend-of-the-court brief was one of several accompanying Mr. Tankleff’s 157-page appeal filed at the state Appellate Division in Brooklyn . Other briefs came from former state and federal judges, a man freed after being wrongly convicted of killing his mother, a network of 36 groups dedicated to helping innocent prisoners, the national association of defense lawyers and 54 of Mr. Tankleff’s high school classmates.
One signer, Michael F. Armstrong, served as Queens district attorney, chief counsel to the Knapp Commission on police corruption and chairman of the review panel on the Central Park jogger rape case. “The new evidence certainly seems to indicate that a mistake has been made,” he said today.
Another prominent supporter is John S. Martin Jr., formerly a federal judge and United States attorney.
Arlene and Seymour Tankleff were savagely attacked in their waterfront home in Belle Terre in 1988. Martin, then 17, was arrested, based on a police-written confession that he never signed and immediately disavowed. Convicted in 1990, he has been imprisoned ever since.
Over the last three years, Martin Tankleff’s investigator, Jay Salpeter, has produced a series of new evidence implicating three ex-convicts. The Tankleff defense asserts that the ex-convicted were acting at the behest of Seymour Tankleff’s embittered business partner, Jerard Steuerman, who owed the elder Tankleff $500,000. Mr. Steuerman was in the Tankleff home on the night of the attacks, but the police did not investigate him.
The new evidence included a man who said he was the getaway driver for the killers and several witnesses who quoted the other two ex-convicts as privately admitting their involvement.
But last year a Suffolk County Court judge rejected that evidence as lacking credibility. Mr. Tankleff’s lawyers are appealing that ruling, contending it had factual and legal mistakes.
“Twenty-six witnesses and counting have now come forward from all walks of life to add pieces to the factual puzzle of who murdered Seymour and Arlene Tankleff,” the appeal said. “This court should hold that there is clear and convincing evidence that a reasonable jury would find a reasonable doubt as to Marty’s guilt.”
8 January 2007. "Tankleff defense argues for 'relief' " by Alfonso Castillo in Newsday, Long Island.
The article, about the latest appeal for Marty Tankleff, begins...
No court could maintain its legitimacy if, after digesting the 180 pages of Martin Tankleff's appeal, it didn't believe the Belle Terre man at least deserved a new trial on charges that he murdered his parents, his attorneys said yesterday as they filed their latest appeal.
an innocent man serving a sentence for crimes he did not commit," attorneys
said at the start of the appeal. "Marty has already gathered a critical
mass of evidence showing his innocence; he is legally entitled to relief
5 December 2006. "New commish stands in solidarity after Hub cop tragedy" by Michele McPhee, in the Boston Herald. A column about the death of Denise Corbett, who was one of first Boston Police officers on the scene of the 28 October 1991 "Roslindale Bomb" explosion.
Excerpts from the column...
There are many ways a police officer can be killed in the line
But maybe for Boston police Officer Denise Corbett - who was found in
front of her suburban home Sunday with a gunshot wound that may have been
self-inflicted - her line-of-duty death was a slow, painful process.
She and her
sergeant were on Eastbourne Street in Rosindale interviewing Thomas L.
Shay about a device that his son, and namesake, had planted under his
car while two bomb squad cops investigated the mysterious black box nearby.
[Many tragedies arose from that terrible explosion, including the conviction and life sentence of at least one very innocent man, Alfred Trenkler.]
Phineas Taylor Barnum, a founder of what is now the Barnum & Bailey Ringling Brothers Circus, was named the 67th most influential American, after Elvis Presley and before James D. Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA helix. The survey was done for The Atlantic Monthly magazine.
[Alfred Trenkler is related to P.T. Barnum as a direct descendant of Barnum's brother, William.]
October 2006. DNA
Clears Man of 1981 Rape Conviction in the Washington
Post. By ANABELLE GARAY The Associated
DALLAS -- A decorated Vietnam veteran convicted of rape 25 years ago became a free man Tuesday after a judge ruled he probably wouldn't have been found guilty if DNA testing had been available.
Specialized DNA testing performed this year proved Larry Fuller, 57, was not the assailant who raped a Dallas woman in her home. Fuller has spent about two decades in prison for the crime.
"My faith was tested and I won," he said, trembling slightly as he left the courthouse carrying two worn paperback Bibles.
Fuller was sentenced in 1981 to 50 years behind bars after jurors convicted him of aggravated rape. Authorities claimed that he broke into a 37-year-old woman's apartment and raped her, using a butcher knife to cut her as she struggled.
The woman looked at two photo lineups, both of which included Fuller. She picked him in the second one, even though Fuller was bearded in the picture and she said her attacker had no facial hair.
At the time, Fuller was a 32-year-old Vietnam veteran who had received the Air Medal for taking care of his crew. He was pursing a career in art and had worked as a driver and warehouse employee.
Fuller served 18 years in prison before being released in 1999. He was sent back to prison last year for a parole violation. All the while, he professed his innocence and tried to prove it through DNA. This year, the Dallas County prosecutor's office agreed to allow the additional testing.
Both the assistant district attorney and state District Judge Lana McDaniel apologized to Fuller; neither were involved in the original case. The judge said she felt sick to her stomach over all the time he spent in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
"Thank you," Fuller responded. "Apology accepted."
25 October 2006. New Development in Marty Tankleff case. " ‘Accomplice’ Recants Alibi in Killing of L.I. Couple" by Bruce Lambert in The New York Times.
Excerpts from the article...
Peter Kent offered a novel alibi two years ago when new witnesses accused him of involvement in the murders of a Long Island couple in 1988.
At the time of the attacks, Mr. Kent testified in court, he was busy elsewhere committing other crimes with an accomplice, buying and using illicit drugs in the middle of a robbery spree.
Now the man he says was his accomplice, Daniel Raymond, has come forward — not to corroborate the alibi, but to deny it. Further, he charges that Mr. Kent was desperate to concoct a cover story and intimidated him by threatening his wife and children.
Mr. Raymond is the sixth witness to implicate Mr. Kent. Mr. Harris said he was the getaway driver who took Mr. Kent and Mr. Creedon to and from the murder scene. An acquaintance testified that the crew visited him that night and invited him to join. Mr. Creedon was quoted by his son as saying that Mr. Kent killed Mrs. Tankleff. A former co-worker quoted Mr. Kent as bragging about killing the couple. A former boss said that when he assigned Mr. Kent to work on the pool at the former Tankleff home, Mr. Kent said he had been there before.
[For more about the Marty Tankleff story, see his website at http://www.martytankleff.org, and articles below at 17 Mar 06, 19 Feb 06 and 7 Aug 05. See, also, the 27 June 2005 posting, below, in "Links to Articles" and the 5 February 2005 , 5 December 2004 and 2 October 2003 postings in "Links to Articles - Old". Note also, that the Marty Tankleff story was covered in the once-yearly showing of the Court TV series, "The Wrong Man" in 2004.. Marty Tankleff's story was also featured in a CBS "48 Hours" documentary "Prime Suspect" which was shown in 2004 and 2005.]
24 October 2006. "Waiting for Leadership" by Brian McGrory in the Boston Globe
Excerpts from the Column...
Nineteen years, that's what Dennis Maher lost when Lowell police arrested him and the Middlesex district attorney prosecuted him for rapes he didn't commit....
Just about everyone of authority expressed public remorse, everyone, that is, except for Edward Davis. Yes, that Ed Davis, the one who's all over the front pages this week with his appointment as the next Boston police commissioner.
Regarding Dennis Maher, Davis has never expressed regret or remorse or just about anything at all.
In 1983, Davis was a Lowell detective investigating the scene of two of the attacks. One of the victims had reported that the assailant wore a green Army jacket over a red hooded sweatshirt. As Davis was on the street, he saw Maher walking across the square in a red hooded sweatshirt. He found a green Army jacket and an Army knife in Maher's car that night....
"Certainly, if Dennis Maher is innocent, it's a great tragedy," Davis replied. "But there's litigation on it, so I can't say much. It was pre-DNA, and we presented the best case we had."
If Maher is innocent? If? Let's get something straight: There are no ifs, no ands, no buts about it. Maher is an innocent man. It is nothing short of bizarre that Davis won't acknowledge that....
[How long will it be before the world acknowledges the innocence of Alfred Trenkler? See below, for 16 Oct 06, 2 Feb 06, and 12 Aug 05and, and in "Links to articles-old" for 12 Oct 03 and 2 Apr 03 for more about the Dennis Maher story.]
16 October 2006. Editorial in the Boston Globe. "DNA Truth Seeking" Even though Alfred Trenkler's case does not yet involve DNA, and his case was tried in Federal Court and thus not subject to the laws of Massachusetts, the editorial is relevant to his search for justice.
Excerpts from the editorial.....
DENNIS MAHER was a brutal serial rapist, until he wasn't. In 1984, the Lowell mechanic was convicted of three sexual assaults, attacking one victim at knife point and punching another into submission. Two victims identified him and two juries convicted him; his appeals failed. But in 2003, after Maher had spent 19 years in prison, the juries, victims, prosecutors, and judges were proven wrong when DNA evidence exonerated him....
While Dennis Maher walked in circles in his cell, the statute of limitations on the rapes he did not commit ran out. Whoever did commit the crimes will never pay for them and may never be caught. Any governor who is interested in criminal justice should want to punish the right criminals and set free the innocent.
[A similar, future, editorial might begin, "ALFRED TRENKLER was the conspiring builder of a deadly bomb, until he wasn't..."]
13 October 2006. "Justice’s defense must never rest" by Mark Mason, President of the Massachusetts Bar Association, and Jack Cinquegrana, President of the Boston Bar Association.
Recent political debate has focused on the role of lawyers in defense of those accused of the most heinous crimes. We write not to take sides in the political process, but only to affirm that our adversary system of justice depends on the commitment of lawyers who are willing to take on those burdens. They are the essential defenders of our liberties.
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote: “The liberties of none
are safe unless the liberties of all are protected.” For most of us, stories
about those wrongfully convicted in our courts do not strike home, when
the accused is neither friend nor relative. In Massachusetts, we know
the case of Bobby Joe Leaster, who was exonerated after serving 15 years
in prison for a murder he did not commit.
9 October 2006. Author John Grisham publishes first non-fiction book, The Innocent Man.
See "For Grisham, a new turn into non-fiction" by Carol Memmott in USA Today
Excerpts from the article....
Grisham found Williamson's real life just as compelling as the stories he has told in his hugely successful legal thrillers. "It just had everything," Grisham says. "A wrongful conviction, the near execution, the exoneration, the mental illness, the insanity, the baseball."
Grisham, 51, was so taken by the Ada, Okla., native's story that it has changed the course of his career. The author of 18 best-selling novels has now written his first non-fiction book, The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town (Doubleday, $28.95), on sale Tuesday.
"Every time there's an exoneration and people walk out of prison after 10 or 15 years, people say, 'How could this happen?' Well, I want this book to show people how it can happen," Grisham says. "It was sloppy police work, or worse, cops who didn't want to find the real killer, vindictive police work and a prosecutor who became convinced he knew who the real killer was...."
With no solid evidence, the police and the district attorney decided Williamson and an acquaintance, Dennis Fritz, were the murderers, Grisham writes.
There was no proof the two men knew Carter, their fingerprints were not found at the scene, and there were no eyewitnesses. Grisham writes in the book that the case against Williamson consisted of "two 'inconclusive' polygraph exams, a bad reputation, a residence not far from that of the victim's, and the delayed, half-baked eyewitness identification" from the man who would turn out to be the real murderer.
In 1988, Williamson and Fritz were convicted of first-degree murder. Fritz received a life sentence. Williamson was sent to death row. It's where he would stay for 11 years until DNA evidence exonerated him â€” just five days before he was to be executed.
DNA testing proved that hairs and semen found at the Carter murder scene did not match either man. They were later shown to match those of Glen Gore, the last man to see Carter alive and someone to whom the police had paid little attention. Gore actually testified against Williamson at his trial. He was eventually convicted of murdering Carter and is in prison.
Despite his exoneration, Williamson's story had no happy ending. The mental illness and drinking problems he had struggled with all his life continued to haunt him. He died of cirrhosis of the liver five years after he left prison in 1999. He was 51.
So how could two men be tried and convicted on non-existent evidence, the false testimony of jailhouse snitches, faulty forensics work and suppressed evidence?
"I don't know how it got that far," Grisham says. "Bad police work is not unusual, bad defense work and incompetent defense lawyers are not unusual, and rough, mean prosecutors are not unusual, but that's why you have a judge. The judge has got to guarantee that when you come into the courtroom, there's got to be a fair trial, and that was the great tragedy here. The judge was asleep at the switch."
A hard look at the system
In 2002, a federal judge ruled that the circumstantial evidence used against the men "indicates a concerted pattern" that deprived them of their constitutional rights. The judge cited "repeated omission of exculpatory evidence ... inclusion of debatably fabricated evidence, failure to follow obvious and apparent leads which implicated other individuals, and the use of questionable forensic conclusions...."
7 October 2006. "Judge: exonerated man owed millions for wrongful imprisonment" Associated Press in the Boston Globe
Excerpts from the article...
MARLBOROUGH, Mass. -- A man who spent nearly a decade in prison for a rape he did not commit should be compensated more than $13 million for his suffering, a U.S. District Court judge has ruled.
The judge said imprisonment worsened Eric R. Sarsfield's substance abuse problems and his social life.
"He has developed a condition of sudden jerking of his limbs that carries with it thoughts or dreams of dying," Judge Rya W. Zobel wrote in her decision, "He is often unable to sleep. He is also depressed and his alcoholism has worsened...."
Sarsfield said in his suit that he and the victim, who was 30 years old at the time, were "manipulated, cheated and betrayed by law enforcement officers more interested in closing a case and getting a conviction than playing by the rules."
The victim in the 1986 rape victim told the newspaper seven years later that she wondered whether she had picked the wrong man out of a photo lineup. She had just moved to Marlborough from Iowa three weeks before the attack. She said a man on the street asked for directions, then for a glass of water. She told police he dragged her into her apartment and raped her several times.
Sarsfield pleaded not guilty at the time, but was convicted and sentenced to 10 to 15 years. He was paroled in 1999. He was cleared in 2000 by DNA tests. His conviction was vacated that year....
6 October 2006 "Judge: Wrongfully convicted man deserves $13.6 M" in the Boston Herald, by Jennifer Kavanaugh
Summary of article...
Wednesday's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel allows [Eric Sarsfield]'s lawyers the option to chase after city insurers, to the extent they exist, for the rest of that money.
The judge's decision comes almost four years after Sarsfield first sued the city and several police officers over his 1987 conviction for a rape he did not commit.
In March, city officials said they agreed to the $2 million settlement because they feared a much larger payout if the case went to trial. The state has also paid Sarsfield $500,000.
[and see also, the article in the Patriot Ledger "Wrongly jailed for rape, he gets $13.6M"]
6 October 2006 "Righting a wrong isn't being 'soft' on crime" in the Boston Globe by Ralph Martin, formerly Suffolk County District Attorney, Boston. Now a partner in Bingham McCutchen LLP.
Excerpts from the Op-Ed...
PEOPLE MAKE mistakes in life, and evaluating them long after is the pursuit of critics galore.
Currently the gubernatorial race features the Democratic candidate, Deval Patrick, who lent financial and other support to assist a convict who claims that he was wrongly convicted; Republican candidate Kerry Healey says that his assistance was a mistake, and makes him "soft on crime." A highly partisan political campaign is not the best way for voters to evaluate the societal issues raised by this subject matter...
When I was district attorney of Suffolk County, I remember when my office first confronted the possibility that someone had been wrongly convicted. Barry Sheck, a lawyer in New York who pursues wrongful convictions in conjunction with the Innocence Project, cold-called me one day -- we had never met. He told me that he represented a defendant who had been convicted of rape approximately five years before the date of his call.
Barry also told me that the Innocence Project carefully selected cases for review. This defendant's case had been selected because physical evidence was available to be tested with the use of DNA, a procedure that did not exist at the time of the defendant's trial. He then told me that they had obtained biological material of the defendant, had it tested, and that their test exonerated the defendant.
Even though the conviction of this defendant occurred before I became district attorney, I was still disturbed that someone might have been wrongly convicted. I told Barry that he had raised enough concerns that I would arrange for my office to have a second DNA test performed and that I would get back to him after we received the test results.
Approximately six weeks later, I called Barry to tell him what he already knew -- we had convicted the wrong person. I didn't resent Barry for his efforts, and I certainly didn't think he was soft on crime for raising the possibility that someone might have spent several years in state prison for something he didn't do.
In fact, I continue to admire the work that Barry and the Innocence Project did in that case because it helped my office reverse an unjust conviction and pursue the truth. In that regard, the Constitution is the higher ideal that was served. It served no purpose or ideal to stonewall Barry Sheck or ignore the evidence; that would not have made me tough. It would have made me stupid.
I had other wrongful conviction cases that my office had to contend with; in each case, we worked to squarely confront the truth. In at least one instance, the DA's office was the "moving party" -- the initiator of proceedings that released a man wrongly convicted of murder.
I specifically remember that the seasoned homicide prosecutor who handled that case said he received more satisfaction from seeking the release of an innocent man than he did from hearing a jury say the word "guilty" at the end of its deliberations. That prosecutor is as "tough" on crime as anyone I know; he is also one of the most principled people I know.
I never thought that serving the ideals of the Constitution made you soft or tough on crime. In this gubernatorial race, it is important for the voters to recognize that the governor should aspire to serve the ideals of the Constitution because it is the Constitution that governs us all. Respecting the Constitution doesn't make you soft or tough -- it only makes you just and fair.
[If such a column could be written by former Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Kelly and Frank Libby, the wrongful conviction of Alfred Trenkler would move closer to being vacated.]
3 September 2006 "DAs call for more staff at crime labs" by Tracy Jan and Maria Sacchetti in the Boston Globe.
Even though the article presented in its entirety below is about prosecutions at the Massachusetts State level, the work of the District Attorneys Association is still important for a Federal case like Alfred Trenkler's. When available, the guidelines will be posted on this website.
Spurred by the discovery of more than a dozen wrongful convictions in recent years, Massachusetts' district attorneys have issued new guidelines about how quickly forensics evidence should be analyzed and how suspects should be interrogated.
The Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, in a report released Friday, recommended the state beef up staffing at the State Police Crime Lab to slash the time it takes to analyze DNA samples used to identify suspects or exonerate them. It also urged the state to increase the number of chemists at the crime lab from 30 to 80.
Geline W. Williams , executive director of the association, said the hiring would help reduce the backlog. While the district attorneys would like to see a one-month turnaround on DNA samples, the analysis now takes about 10 months, she said. And that's an improvement: a year ago, the analysis took 18 months, she said.
``We always have to be scrutinizing what the police do and what the prosecutors do to make sure we obtain justice," Williams said. ``It's not just about convicting the guilty, but exonerating the innocent."
The report is the outcome of a 2004 initiative launched because of wrongful conviction concerns . At least 15 erroneous convictions surfaced in recent years, mostly from Suffolk County, which includes Boston.
The report also includes instructions on how police should handle suspects and eyewitnesses. Police officers should electronically record all interrogations conducted when the suspect is in custody, the report said. The association also urged police to follow federal guidelines that require having an officer who is not involved in a case handle line-ups to avoid influencing eyewitnesses. Also, at least six people, including the suspect, should appear in a live line-up.
The district attorneys stressed that police should give witnesses clear instructions when identifying suspects, including the fact that the suspect may not be included in the lineup and that the witness should not feel compelled to identify a suspect .
Stephen Hrones, a Boston defense attorney, said he is surprised and pleased by the recommendations, which he called ``progressive." But he said they do not go far enough.
Police should also ensure that witnesses do not contact one another before a lineup, he said. Witness identifications should be tape-recorded to guard against any influence by the officer conducting the lineup, he said .
Hrones represented Donnell Johnson, who was freed in 1999 after spending five years in prison for the murder of a 9-year-old boy caught in gang crossfire on Halloween. The state's recommended safeguards on witness identification, coupled with his own suggestions, could have prevented Johnson from being wrongly pinpointed, he said.
"The toughest thing of all is changing the mindset of the police," Hrones said.
"They still believe that once they have a suspect, their whole effort is centered on getting as much evidence against that particular suspect instead of thinking the suspect might be innocent and getting leads on someone else who may have done it."
[emphasis added on website]
by JOAN OCHS, Milton, Mass.
The recent headline, ‘‘Bomber's conviction decried,'' caught my eye. As I read through your story, I began to wonder if this was perhaps just another instance of an innocent person being convicted on insufficient or ill-begotten evidence.
It would seem to me, especially after the recent iterations of Thomas Shay, whose father was involved, that Alfred Trenkler's situation deserves another review by the Justice Department. Too many people have been wrongly convicted because of overzealous government prosecutors.
by JACK WALLACE, Milton, Mass.
After Alfred Trenkler was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to two illegal life sentences, on of Tom Shay's attorneys said "The truth will eventually come out."
Thank God for The Patriot Ledger's excellent article on Aug. 7, "Bomber's conviction decried." The truth finally came out, as it always does.
20 August 2006. Boston Globe editorial, "A salve for Justice"
IN 1989, an Illinois man who had spent 10 years behind bars on rape and kidnapping charges became the first prisoner to win his freedom using DNA evidence. The case did more than usher in a new era of post-conviction DNA testing for the wrongly accused: It forced states to confront evidence of systemic, costly failures in the criminal justice system.
Some states have responded with reforms to eyewitness identification, crime labs, and the like; others have put a stop to executions indefinitely. But no state has gone as far as North Carolina now has in conceding that its legal system cannot correct itself. This month, it created a groundbreaking Innocence Inquiry Commission to investigate wrongful conviction claims.
The first of its kind in the nation, the commission gives prisoners a final chance for justice when all other court appeals have failed. Unlike appellate courts, which consider technical points of law, the commission can consider new evidence and actual innocence. Cases will be reviewed by a finely balanced, eight-member panel: a judge, a prosecutor, a sheriff, a defense lawyer, a victim's advocate, and three at-large members. If a majority finds compelling evidence of innocence, the case would go to a panel of three Superior Court judges, who would have to rule unanimously to overturn the conviction.
The allowances for prisoners are considerable. For example, they can appeal to the commission even after having pleaded guilty to a crime, following a two-year waiting period. But the law also sets a high bar for cases to be considered, and if the commission or the judges rule against the prisoner, that ruling is final.
The commission follows several overturned convictions in the state, including one man wrongly imprisoned for 18 years for murder, whose 11 motions for appeal were denied. Of course, wrongful convictions are not unique to North Carolina. Massachusetts has had nine prisoners set free using DNA evidence, where North Carolina has had only four. But something about those cases clearly did not sit well with the citizens of that state or its lawmakers, compelling them to take their legal system into completely uncharted waters.
Going far beyond innocence commissions in some states, which review wrongful convictions and recommend reforms, North Carolina has taken the work traditionally done by law and journalism schools on behalf of the falsely accused and embedded it into its judicial system.
It's an experiment other states need to watch closely, but not necessarily jump to replicate. There are significant unknowns here, including the effect of having panel members who hold elected office or have vested interests on opposing sides of the legal system. The New York-based Innocence Project, which has helped free dozens of prisoners, is among those reserving judgment. ``In a lot of these cases, one's life is in one's hands," said Stephen Saloom, its policy director. ``So the question is, do I go with the old system of appeal, which has problems and was seen to be inadequate? Or do I go with the new system, that is untested and that has some political elements? It might be a Hobson's choice. Just because it was created with good intentions doesn't necessarily mean that it's worth betting your life on it."
Meanwhile, there is plenty that other states can do to work toward ensuring that only the guilty remain behind bars. Massachusetts and Vermont are among just 10 holdout states -- Alabama and Mississippi are others -- without laws providing inmates access to postconviction DNA testing. That is an embarrassment, and should be remedied quickly.
Massachusetts also has failed to create an innocence panel to look at 23 overturned convictions since the 1980s. Anyone who doubts the wisdom of reviewing those cases should consider this: Since 2000, in Suffolk County alone, the cumulative time exonerated prisoners had spent behind bars was 214 years.
7 August 2006. "LEDGER UPDATE: Bomber's conviction decried; Imprisoned Quincy man unjustly convicted, says another man linked to deadly crime" by Dennis Tatz, in the Quincy Patriot Ledger. (See "front page article" for view of actual article appearance on front page)
The article begins:
Since his arrest for building a bomb that killed a Boston police bomb squad officer and badly injured another in 1991, former Quincy resident Alfred Trenkler has insisted he is an innocent man...
Alfred Trenkler is quoted in the article:
‘‘It was convenient to nail me,'' Trenkler, 50, said during a recent telephone interview from the Allenwood Federal Penitentiary in White Deer, Pa.
‘‘My saving grace is that I had nothing to do with it. It keeps me sane. I hope the truth comes out sooner than later. I had nothing to do with this.''
16 July 2006 "Innocence by the numbers" by David Feige, Boston Globe.
The article begins:
ALAN NEWTON LEFT PRISON last week after serving 22 years for a rape he didn't commit. Though eligible for parole for nearly a decade, he was repeatedly denied his freedom because he insisted on his innocence. Through repeated motions and letters from his prison cell, Newton relentlessly sought the DNA testing that eventually cleared him. But it took the New York City Police Department nearly a dozen years to locate that evidence-even though it was stored in the original evidence barrel the whole time-years Alan Newton spent in prisons like Attica and Sing Sing.
The Newton exoneration stands as a poignant rebuke to Justice Antonin Scalia's concurring opinion in the recent Supreme Court case of Kansas v. Marsh. In that death penalty decision, Scalia went far out of his way to attack what he termed the death penalty ``abolition lobby." In his analysis, Scalia joined a growing chorus of death penalty proponents who claim that our criminal justice system is nearly perfect in adjudicating guilt and innocence. Indeed, Scalia devoted entire pages of his opinion to excoriating several of his fellow justices for succumbing to what he believes are unfounded fears of fallibility created by the extensive attention garnered by the exonerated.
A principal flaw in Scalia's argument is that it is grounded in misleading statistics from a pro-death penalty piece published on the op-ed page of The New York Times in January. In the piece, which Scalia both cites and quotes at length, Joshua Marquis, the district attorney of Clatsop County, Ore., and an oft-quoted spokesperson for the prosecutorial lobby, asserts that the conviction of the innocent is essentially unheard of in our system of criminal justice.
Citing a 15-year study of exonerations by Samuel Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan, Marquis argues as follows: ``Let's assume...that there were 4,000 people in prison who weren't involved in the crime in any way. During that same 15 years, there were more than 15 million felony convictions across the country. That would make the error rate 0.027 percent-or, to put it another way, a success rate of 99.973 percent."
Surely, Marquis suggests, when only a few out of every 10 thousand criminal defendants are innocent, and they have appeals and executive clemency to rely on, the criminal justice system is working as well as we could possibly hope. That argument, presaged in a law review article Marquis wrote in 2005, has driven the thinking and rhetoric of those who oppose criminal justice reform. With Justice Scalia's imprimatur, this flawed analysis is sure to take an even more prominent place in the criminal justice debate.
Unfortunately, Marquis has propounded a flawed analysis grounded in faulty, irresponsible arithmetic. Here's the problem: Comparing exonerations to felony convictions is like arguing that the Ford Pinto was safe because compared to the total number of automobiles sold in the United States, not many of them blew up. The proper way to determine the failure rate of the Pinto is not to use the total number of cars sold as the denominator, but rather the number of Pintos sold. Likewise, the denominator in Marquis's fraction shouldn't be the 15 million felony convictions over the past 15 years, but rather the number of similar cases in which innocence is actually disputed.
Marquis's most glaring error is his failure to acknowledge the fact that most felony arrests aren't contested. In fact, 95 percent of them are resolved by plea rather than trial. Thus in 19 out of every 20 felony cases, there is no contested issue of guilt and no real claim of error....
23 June 2006. "Convicted child molester hopes new trial proves innocence" by Adam Gorlick, Associated Press, in the Boston Globe.
This case shows what a website and public support might be able to do for Alfred Trenkler.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- When he was convicted in 1985 of raping five children, Bernard Baran joined the ranks of a new kind of criminal gripping the nation's attention: a child molester who used his job at a daycare to prey on his victims.
But some have always seen Baran, who calls himself "Bee," as the unfair target of what they say was an overzealous prosecution driven by widespread hysteria about such cases.
Two decades after he began serving three life sentences, a Superior Court judge has ruled that Baran should receive a new trial, and his supporters are hopeful that he will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
"I'm convinced that all of the high-profile daycare cases of the 80s were absolute hogwash," said Bob Chatelle, a Baran supporter who has helped attract attention to Baran's case and about $280,000 for his new defense with his Web site, http://www.freebaran.org.
"The Baran case was railroaded through in a couple of months and was then forgotten about," Chatelle said. "No one was lifting a finger to do anything."
18 June 2006. Euka Wadlington, of Illinois, applies for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court on a claim that unreliable jailhouse snitches wrongfully procured his conviction.
See the issue presented in the brief:
"Whether the lower court misapplied Schlup v. Delo (and House v. Bell ) in evaluating life prisoner's actual innocence gateway claim where petitioner presented undisputed new evidence, including the sworn statement of a key prosecution witness admitting that government agents coerced him to falsely implicate petitioner and sworn statements from other members of the drug conspiracy admitting that petitioner was not involved in their crimes, and where the lower court rejected this new evidence on the grounds that new evidence failed to extinguish the entirety of the prosecution's case and left intact sufficient evidence to support a conviction."
27 May 2006. "Case Dropped Against New Jersey Man After 18 Years" by Laura Mansnerus in The New York Times.
With direct relevance to Alfred's case, a jailhouse snitch's testimony was discredited.
Excerpts of the article ...
Prosecutors have dropped their rape and murder case against a New Jersey man who was cleared by DNA testing after spending almost 18 years in prison and most of the last year awaiting a second trial for the brutal killing of a young woman....
"I was emotional, overwhelmed" by the news, Mr. Peterson said yesterday in a telephone interview. "I have proclaimed my innocence for so long, and now others will know I'm innocent as well."...
"Here we have a man who was charged with capital murder, he went on trial for his life and he could have been executed," Ms. Potkin said. "His case is a perfect illustration of how dangerous snitch testimony is."...
In the brief filed yesterday, prosecutors acknowledged that when they once again tracked down the three men who said Mr. Peterson had confessed to them, their recollections and reliability had "eroded substantially." One witness, Robert Elder, said he had "made up" some key facts and based others — which only the killer or the police could have divulged — on conversations among detectives that he heard while he was being questioned.
Mr. Elder, who prosecutors said was found in the county jail last month and was not immediately cooperative, was granted immunity for his statements recanting his earlier account. The prosecutor's office said in its filing that Mr. Elder "made no claims that police induced him to fabricate his earlier testimony."...
22 May 2006. "Justice Derailed" column by Bob Herbert in The New York Times.
The column begins...
The murder happened in snow-covered Rochester, N.Y., on New Year's Day in 1996.
As the police and prosecutors told it, a 63-year-old activist named William Beason was stabbed to death in his home by a young sex hustler and ex-convict named Douglas Warney. The case was solid, the authorities said. They had a confession....
As other articles have noted, e.g. "Justice comes 10 years late for inmate", Douglas Warney was recently exonerated by DNA evidence. Bob Herbert wrote:
It was ever thus. Law-enforcement officers tend to fight to the very limits of their strength against any and all evidence that would exonerate defendants or convicts.
Most people in prison have committed crimes. But it's also true that there are many, many inmates who were wrongly convicted. And the recent record of people being released from death row as a result of DNA evidence is itself evidence of horrifying law-enforcement abuses.
Don't expect much in the way of change. Indifference to injustice in the criminal justice system is so pervasive, and so difficult to counteract, as to seem part of society's DNA.
6 May 2006. Judge Chipped Away at Lisker Evidence by Matt Lait and Scott Glover, Los Angeles Times. (see earlier articles, 5 May 2006, 10 December 2005, and 27 May 2005, about the Bruce Lisker case below, and his website at http://www.freebruce.org/
In a telephone interview from Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, Calif., Lisker said he was "overjoyed" by the magistrate's findings. "I just want to go home," he said. "Day by day, I'm dying in here."
Testimony from an LAPD analyst and an FBI expert also undermined the prosecution's contention that only Lisker's shoe prints were found at the scene. A bloody print found in the bathroom of the Lisker house was proved not to have been made by Lisker's shoes, they said. Additionally, that print appeared to match an apparent shoe impression on the victim's head, according to the LAPD analyst.
"It's a grand slam for Lisker," she said. "It's going to be hard for the attorney general to attack [[Ralph Zarefsky]'s] work."
5 May 2006. " Judge Recommends Lisker's Claim Proceed" by Matt Lait and Scott Glover, Los Angeles Times.
In a 57-page report, U.S. Magistrate Judge Ralph Zarefsky wrote that he had "no confidence" in the guilty verdict rendered at [Bruce Lisker]'s 1985 trial in Van Nuys and that, based on new evidence, "no reasonable juror" would be likely to convict him today.
William Genego, one of Lisker's attorneys, was elated. "Bruce Lisker has waited 22 years to get his first taste of justice," Genego said. "We're glad it's finally come, even though it's long overdue."
Were a jury to consider the case in light of all the new evidence put forth by Lisker's attorneys, Zarefsky wrote, it would "know that there is essentially no evidence of [Lisker's] guilt" beyond the confessions he ultimately recanted, which were "self-serving when they were made and unaccompanied by verifying details."
16 April 2006. "David Evans' background lacrosse-filled" in the Durham Sun-Herald. by Bryan Strickland.
The noteworthy aspects of this article about the indictment of one of the captains of the Duke lacrosse team is that he chose to speak out publicly against the charges against him. (See Houston Chronicle article below.) Also, his former prep school in Washington, D.C. issued a statement of support,
"David was an outstanding member of our school community," Landon headmaster David M. Armstrong said in a statement released by the school Monday. "The allegations coming from Durham today are inconsistent with the character of the young man who attended our school, and they stand in stark contrast to the principles of honor and civility that are central to our school."
16 April 2006. "Third Duke lacrosse player indicted" in the Houston Chronicle, by Aaron Beard of the Associated Press. (see above Durham NC Sun-Herald Article)
Excerpts from the article....
Monday, minutes before turning himself in to authorities, the clean-cut athlete stood up and loudly proclaimed that he and the rest of his teammates were innocent of allegations he labeled "fantastic lies."
"I look forward to watching them unravel in the weeks to come," said the 23-year-old economics major from Bethesda, Md.
"I am innocent. Reade Seligmann is innocent. Collin Finnerty is innocent," Evans said, defending the two other players charged. "Every member of the Duke lacrosse team is innocent. You have all been told some fantastic lies.
"I'll gladly stand up to anything that comes against me. I've never had my character questioned before. Anyone who's met me knows this didn't happen."
April 2006. Wrongful
Conviction Prompts Detroit Police to Videotape Certain Interrogations
By JEREMY W. PETERS
The Detroit Police Department, whose image has been marred for years by
complaints of wrongful detentions, the excessive use of force to obtain
confessions and other civil rights abuses, has agreed to videotape interrogations
of all suspects in crimes that carry a penalty of life in prison without
the possibility of parole.
7 April 2006. "CBC News: the fifth estate: The Steven Truscott Story" on Canadian Broadcasting System
fifth estate uncovered evidence that showed the case
against Truscott was
April 2006. "You
don't Shay . . . con cowboys up for Whitey" By
It was only a matter of time until somebody accused me of being a homophobe on the subject of Whitey Bulger.
But who knew it would be an imprisoned cop killer who would write me the letter from inside the joint? Remember Tommy Shay? He tried to blow up his father with a car bomb back in 1991 and ended up killing a Boston cop instead.
Shay is now 34, inmate No. 4235 at the Plymouth County House of Correction and, once again, he's gone after the wrong guy. He's all bent out of shape because another guy wrote about Whitey allegedly having sex with Sal Mineo in the back room at Blinstrub's in 1965.
I heard the same story, but didn't include it in my book - and boy, what a fool I was for not putting it in. But it's not Whitey that Tommy Shay seems to have a crush on. He really has a thing for Sal Mineo, the B-list actor who was stabbed to death by a male hustler in 1976.
“Who gives you the right to bash an American idol?” Shay writes. “Sal Mineo may have had sex with anybody, Whitey Bulger, Rock Hudson, James Dean or even you, but who's (sic) business is it. Who cares if Whitey Bulger had contact with gay men?”
Have you seen the photo in my book, Tommy? It's been in the paper, too. It's Whitey in his Village People cowboy drag. It was taken in Provincetown.
Did I mention that Tommy began his missive, “You once wrote an article about me, my sexual preference and a gay bar.”
Actually, I mentioned that when he was first in jail, he was seeking gay pen pals. And now that I think about it, what Tommy would really appreciate right about now is a personal note from the old queen himself, Whitey.
These strange Bulger blasts from the past keep arriving over the transom. Here's a deposition taken from one of Whitey's boys, Kevin O'Neil, who was arrested for murder back in 1968 (the charges were eventually dropped). O'Neil had a real good lawyer - William M. Bulger, Whitey's little brother.
Anyway, Donnie Killeen used to own a bar called the Transit Cafe, and after Whitey murdered him, Kevin O'Neil eventually ended up with the bar. Renamed Triple O's, it was a convenient place for Whitey to kill people.
In 1992 the bar was being sued by someone who claimed she'd been injured there. O'Neil was asked, under oath, about the ownership.
Q: Who did you buy the bar from?
A: I'd have to really check back in my records . . .
Q: When did you assume ownership?
A: Off the top of my head, I couldn't tell you. . . .
The property, O'Neil said, was owned by a trust, neither the name nor the trustee of which O'Neil claimed to know.
Q: Are you a beneficiary of the trust?
A: I'm not sure.
Why is it that nobody in the Bulger mob can ever remember anything?
These days, it's left to the likes of Tommy Shay of the Plymouth House of Correction to defend Whitey and his sexual proclivities.
“Your intention,” Shay wrote, “may be at the request of the embattled FBI to flush out Whitey.”
No, but if these stories do flush him out, as you say, then I'll file for the $1 million reward. And you'll still be in the can, writing about your role models.
“Like James Dean, Rock Hudson, Anthony Perkins, Robert Reed, Ellen DeGeneres, Sal Mineo is an American idol, a personality that showed us grace and entertained our lives.”
But not as much as he entertained Whitey, apparently.
Rejects Tankleff's Bid for New Trial" New York Times By BRUCE
The ruling, by Judge Stephen L. Braslow, reviewed the testimony of some 20 witnesses in sporadic hearings that he presided over starting in 2004 in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead.
The new evidence contended that two men committed the murders at the behest of Seymour Tankleff's estranged business partner, who had argued over a $500,000 debt to him and acknowledged being in the house that night. The partner and the other two accused men publicly denied guilt. But one accused accomplice privately admitted involvement several times, according to five witnesses, including his own son. And another man said he was the getaway driver who took the two men to the house.
Judge Braslow dismissed the new evidence on various grounds, however. He barred some of it as belated, saying that defense lawyers could have found and presented it years ago. The judge excluded other evidence as hearsay that would be inadmissible at a trial. And he disputed the credibility of many witnesses who had criminal records, suffered emotional problems or abused drugs or alcohol. He also cited some inconsistencies in the testimony and bias stemming from revenge or favoritism.
The new evidence "consisted mainly of the testimony from a cavalcade of nefarious scoundrels paraded before this court," Judge Braslow wrote. He added that "the court finds them not worthy of belief."
Disputed from its inception, the Tankleff case has drawn growing attention on national television, an organized campaign of sympathizers and a crew of pro bono lawyers. Some critics of the judicial system who have followed the case say that the new ruling is the latest chapter in a miscarriage of justice.
19 February 2006 "Sundays With Marty" by Op-Ed Contributor MARC HOWARD, in the NEW YORK TIMES
LIKE most Americans, I was brought up to have deep respect for our judicial system.
But over the last 17 years since Martin Tankleff's arrest for the brutal murder of his parents, Seymour and Arlene Tankleff, I have learned about the all-too-human shortcomings of this system.
Though we were more acquaintances than close friends, Marty and I attended the same nursery, elementary, junior-high and high schools. I still vividly remember the confusion among our classmates on Sept. 7, 1988, the first day of our senior year, when news of the murders began to spread. I had no idea whether Marty was innocent or guilty, especially as details emerged and it became clear that this was a very strange case.
The only thing I could be sure of was that the cornerstone of the American justice system is the presumption of innocence. As the editor of the newspaper at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson, I wrote an editorial, concluding, perhaps naïvely: "We the editors of 'The Purple Parrot' believe in 'innocent until proven guilty.' We are far from convinced of Marty's guilt, and therefore presume him innocent."
Already, I was troubled by the prosecutors' single-minded focus on Marty, as well as the media's complete deference to the prosecutors. After all, Marty's father's business partner, Jerard Steuerman, who owed him more than $500,000, was the last person to leave the high-stakes poker game at the Tankleff house that ended in the wee hours of the morning of the murders. A week later, Mr. Steuerman faked his own death, only to be found in California with a new appearance and identity.
Yet prosecutors say that they never considered him a suspect. Instead, because there was no physical evidence linking Marty to the crime, the prosecutors' entire case was based on a much-disputed "confession" that Marty immediately disavowed and never signed.
I was away in college when Marty was tried, convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison in 1990. Although I occasionally mentioned to friends that I knew a convicted murderer whom I believed was probably innocent, I have to admit that the case — and Marty's plight — became more and more distant for over a decade. After all, how could mistakes like this happen in America?
I took a renewed interest in the case about two years ago, when I heard that Marty's legal team had found evidence that might exonerate him. Since then, I have reviewed all aspects of this case from the original trial to the recent hearing with new evidence that might lead to a new trial. I have visited Marty in prison five times. In fact, we've now become friends. When I see him, I am inspired by his optimism, his fortitude and the diligence with which he works on his case.
The American public is finally learning about wrongful convictions, as DNA evidence has proven that judges and jurors have convicted and incarcerated hundreds of innocent people with tens of thousands more, at a minimum, still languishing in prison.
The most remarkable similarity among these cases is the unwillingness of most district attorneys to consider — much less admit — that they can make mistakes. Even when a prisoner is cleared by DNA evidence, prosecutors tend to fight to maintain the conviction, often delaying that person's release from jail for years.
Marty Tankleff's case offers a textbook illustration of this backwards prosecutorial mentality, which is particularly pernicious in Suffolk County. From the beginning, the authorities considered the case closed once they had obtained their "confession." Back in 1988, little was known about the potential for, and frequency of, false confessions especially from distraught and impressionable juveniles.
And at that time, confessions were the norm in Suffolk, which boasted an astounding 94 percent confession rate in homicide cases, nearly double the national average of 48 percent. More recently, however, Richard Ofshe, a leading expert on false confessions, called Marty's confession "evidence of his innocence," since the details of his narrative do not at all match the crime scene.
Even more important are the remarkable recent developments implicating Mr. Steuerman and several of his criminal associates. Multiple and unacquainted witnesses have said that one of the real murderers admitted his involvement to them and another declared that he drove two men to the crime scene that night.
Not only did Suffolk's prosecutors refuse to investigate these new claims, they simply dismissed them as lies. Moreover, the district attorney's office has steadfastly opposed Marty's efforts to get DNA testing for the skin found under his mother's fingernails, despite repeated requests.
That all this could happen to Marty, who comes from an educated, white, upper-middle class background, has support from his family and receives pro bono assistance from first-rate lawyers and savvy communication consultants, suggests how common injustice like this is for people who don't come from privileged backgrounds.
In the version of American justice that I once believed in so strongly, prosecutors and judges would be eager to correct these mistakes in their pursuit of justice. That is, after all, their sworn mission. Instead they behave as if these cases threaten a self-protecting network that, at best, wants wrongfully convicted people like Marty Tankleff to quietly accept living the rest of their lives in prison.
Marc Howard is an assistant professor of government at Georgetown University.
[Read another interesting recent article about Marty.]
[Note, the gist of the above Op-Ed by a childhood freind of Marty Tankleff, could have esily been written by the any of the many friends of Alfred Trenkler.]
5 February 2006. "False Conviction Study", Letter to Editor of The New York Times.
To the Editor:
In "The Innocent and the Shammed" (Op-Ed, Jan. 26), Joshua Marquis says that after an exhaustive study, several students and I were able to document only 340 innocent defendants who were exonerated between 1989 and 2003.
In fact, we also discussed hundreds more documented cases in mass exonerations that were not part of our statistical analysis.
Our purpose was not to count exonerations, but to use the few false convictions that came to light to learn something about the many we never see.
Almost all the individual exonerations we found were for the rarest and most violent crimes, murder and rape.
Are we to believe that false convictions basically never occur in drug cases, robberies or frauds?
Nobody knows how many false convictions happen in America. A rough guess from a recent DNA review, for rape convictions in Virginia, is very troubling, about 1 in 14. Whatever the number, we should work to solve this tragic problem, not ignore it.
2 February 2006. Review of the film, "After Innnocence" in the BOSTON PHOENIX
Hollywood studios looking for movie ideas should check out Jessica Sander's After Innocence. One after another, innocent people relate how they were convicted and then served years in prison and even on death row until exonerated by DNA or other evidence. Their stories of injustice, agony, and perseverance surpass any scriptwriter's invention. Perhaps some feature filmmaker could render these tales with the poignancy, irony, and depth that Walter's well-intended but superficial account lacks.
Sanders has none of the cinematic ambitions of an Errol Morris, whose The Thin Blue Line (1988) addressed a similar topic and sprang Randall Adams from death row in Texas. That's not necessarily a bad thing; her goal is not to dramatize a single case but to explore an entire issue. Her style of choice, though, is the infomercial. She translates each of her portraits into a sound bite pushing an agenda with feel-good manipulativeness. And the treacly piano soundtrack! It puts the Hallmark touch on every talking point; Philip Glass it's not.
But the cause, the stories, and especially the characters transcend Sanders's fumbling efforts. I'd point an interested studio in the direction of Wilton Dedge, who was convicted of sexual battery in Florida and served 22 years of a life sentence. His persistence and that of Barry Scheck's Innocence Project resulted in DNA tests that proved that he wasn't the culprit. Three years after his innocence had been established, the intransigent Florida justice system still refused to overturn the conviction; it was more interested in escaping blame than in releasing an innocent man. Sanders uses Dedge's ongoing story as a recurring narrative to add suspense and coherence to her film. But his diabolical, Kafka-esque fate fits uneasily into the filmmaker's generally sunny, progressive message. Maybe Hollywood could do it justice; I'd suggest Arliss Howard as the dignified, haunted, almost ethereal Dedge.
The interweaving narratives include that of Lowell resident Dennis Maher, who was identified by a rape victim as her assailant and spent 19 years at Walpole before DNA evidence cleared him. How did he avoid turning that false accusation and those lost years and into bitterness and rage against the system and against women? Therapy. Sanders misses an opportunity to delve deeper into her subject's suffering and resilience.
The Maher blunder aside, Massachusetts is one of the few states that has attempted restitution. The attorney who prosecuted the case apologized, and the state has since passed legislation providing wrongful-conviction compensation. Few other states do so, most taking Florida's heel-dragging route. Meanwhile, Scheck estimates that thousands of innocent prisoners still languish behind bars and on death row. Such revelations are especially troubling at a time when the administration is seeking to curtail further the rights of the innocent. Despite Sanders's limitations, her film is essential viewing.
31 January 2006. Christian Science Monitor
"DNA tests gain ground as legal defense"
Even Prosecutors are embracing the technology as a protection against wrongful imprisonment.
By Warren Richey, Staff writer
Miami - When Alan Crotzer emerged from a Tampa courthouse last week a free man, he became the fifth person in Florida and the 173rd nationwide to be cleared from a wrongful conviction by DNA testing.
But his exoneration after serving 24 years of a 130 year sentence far a crime he didn't commit is significant for another reason. It marks a possible turning pointing how Florida prosecutors and lawmakers approach DNA testing. Prosecutors had fought earlier attempts to use DNA to prove someone's innocence, keeping one man behind bars three years after testes proved he couldn't have committed the crime that sent him to prison on a life sentence. In Mr. Crotzer's case, by contrast, they ultimately filed the legal motion that set him free, once defense lawyers convinced them he was innocent.
The state has jumped onboard and finally started to realize that we can't just use DNA to convict, we have to also use DNA to free,” says Jenny Greenberg, director of the Florida Innocence Initiative and one of Crotzer's lawyers.
Legal analysts say it is part of an evolution taking place across the country in which prosecutors and lawmakers who were once suspicious of the DNA challenges are now increasingly embracing the new technology as a backstop in the criminal justice system.
There have been some very positive results and legislators have seen the benefits of proving an innocent person innocent,” says Blake Harrison, who follows the issue at the Nation Conference of State Legislatures. If anything, there is public pressure to expand the use of these types of post-conviction reevaluations because of the obvious public benefit to making sure that you have got the right person.
On Thursday, Arthur Humphrey of Texas was freed after nearly 20 years in prison after new tests showed his DNA didn’t match that found at a 1986 rape scene.
Of the 33 states that have passed laws establishing procedures for DNA testing, 12 have sunset provisions, which offer only limited time for DNA tests in cases where inmates have no more options for appeal. Such provisions were enacted in part out of concern five years ago that state courts might be flooded with appeals calling for expensive tests. But the flood isn't happened, analysts say. In the meantime, the steady flow of exonerations has resulted in widespread public and political support for DNA testing.
Opponents of sunset provisions say states should never enact a deadline that would prevent people from proving their innocence. Innocence Project lawyers say it often takes months or years to locate evidence, investigate a past crime, and prepare the necessary legal arguments needed to convince a judge that a DNA test should be administered.
When Florida passed its DNA law in 2001, legislators gave potential appellants until 2003 to file a request for testing. That deadline was extended to 2005, and then further extended to July 2006. Now a powerful state senator- and former prosecutor-is pushing for a new DNA law that removes any deadline. In addition, it calls for preservation of evidence for the entire length of someone's incarceration, thus preserving the possibility of future appeals as testing technologies improve.
State officials worry about the possible cost of evidence preservation. But proponents say the bill received unanimous support in its first state Senate committee hearing last week.
"What is driving it is the general public's horror at the difficulties that innocent people have had here in Florida to prove their innocence," say Ms. Greenberg, "Most people in Florida are appalled that innocent people might be in prison and they want something done about it."
The same trend is apparent across the country, says Kathy Swedlow, co-director of the Innocence Project at Thomas Cooley Law School in Lansing Mich. Ms. Swedlow has studied post-conviction DNA laws nationwide-including laws with sunset provisions. She says many of the laws have expired at least once and been extended for a couple years as lawmakers study the issue. "The fear I had in early 2001 was that the statutes would expire and it would be over," she says. "That is not what we are seeing."
In Michigan, the deadline has been extended from January 2006 to January 2009. Louisiana moved its deadline from August 2005 to August 2007. And New Mexico has pushed its deadline from July 2002 to July 2006.
As more cases work their way through the system, lawmakers and prosecutors are becoming more supportive of the idea that DNA testing can help establish the truth about particular crimes, she says. "These statutes are a win-win. They help us identify finally if people are innocent," she says. "In some instances they help us learn that even with the crude technologies of 20 years ago, that police got the right guy."
Authorities in Virginia took the extraordinary step of conducting DNA testing to determine whether Roger Coleman had been wrongfully executed in 1992 for rape and murder. Death penalty opponents investigated the case and suggested he was innocent. But DNA test results showed he, in fact, the killer.
DNA tests have helped clear the names of 174 people in 31 states and the District of Columbia, who had been convicted of crimes.
Dist of Columbia 1 New Jersey 3
Minnesota 1 Maryland 3
Wisconsin 3 Virginia 10
Michigan 2 North Carolina 4
W. Virginia 6 South Carolina 1
New York 17 Georgia 5
Mass. 9 Florida 5
Connecticut 1 Louisiana 6
Alabama 2 Montana 3
Idaho 1 Utah 1
California 8 Arizona 2
Kansas 2 Oklahoma 8
Texas 20 Missouri 5
Illinois 25 Indiana 4
Kentucky 1 Tennessee 1
Ohio 6 Pennsylvania 8
*SOURCE: The Innocence Project
26 January 2006. "False Convictions": Two Letters to the Editor of The New York Times.
To the Editor:
Joshua Marquis ("The Innocent and the Shammed," Op-Ed, Jan. 26) impugns the innocence of three individuals portrayed in "The Exonerated," Sonia Jacobs, Kerry Cook and Robert Hayes. Mr. Marquis seems eager to discuss DNA when it serves his agenda (as in the Coleman case, in which advanced DNA testing put the odds of the executed prisoner, Roger Coleman, as not being the killer at less than 1 in 19 million), but less so when it does not.
He doesn't note that semen recovered from the victims in both the Cook case and the current Hayes case matches neither Mr. Cook's DNA nor Mr. Hayes's DNA.
Mr. Marquis claims that Mr. Cook and Ms. Jacobs "were not exonerated, but ... agreed to plea bargains." Both took specially designed pleas in which they did not admit guilt after decades of being brutalized in prison and watching the system fail them repeatedly.
The citizens of Mr. Marquis's home state of Oregon would be better served if he focused on prosecuting real perpetrators rather than on pursuing the innocent and those working diligently to fix a broken justice system.
27 January 2006. "We Were Convicted, but We're Innocent", Four Letters to The New York Times.
To the Editor:
"The Innocent and the Shammed," by Joshua Marquis (Op-Ed, Jan. 26), a district attorney in Oregon, exemplifies the reluctance of prosecutors to acknowledge the severity of the problem of wrongful convictions in this country.
I am living proof, having spent years on death row for a crime I did not commit. Even after DNA proved my innocence, prosecutors waited 10 years to admit their mistake.
Innocent people do end up in prison, on death row and possibly even executed because of poor performance from prosecutors as well as defense counsel, and because of a refusal to concede and correct errors like false confessions and faulty eyewitness identification procedures.
Officials from all quarters of the criminal justice system must seek the truth and act accordingly, for only then will the public have confidence that their country is protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty.
To the Editor:
If one based one's philosophy of justice on Joshua Marquis's Op-Ed article, one would be led to believe that the courts are always just and that the "occasional" exoneration is little more than a publicity stunt aimed at disemboweling the entire criminal justice system.
The reality of DNA testing, mistaken identification and underfinanced public defense systems teaches us that the criminal justice system is not always right. Hundreds of exonerations shed light on a broken system, and show that justice in America, while constitutionally guaranteed, is not always guaranteed in life.
For nine years, I sat in a cell on Florida's death row for a crime I did not commit, while my friends and family suffered the consequences of a failed criminal justice system. I know firsthand the pain, agony and fear of being trapped on the flip side of Mr. Marquis's coin.
His failure to recognize that people who are wrongfully convicted means that those who are guilty are left to wander the streets is inexcusable.
Until we face the reality that our criminal justice system is flawed, we will never be able to protect our communities or ensure justice.
26 January 2006.
To the Editor:
A district attorney arguing that the number of people wrongfully convicted is statistically insignificant? Hmmm ... only if it's not his turn in the death chamber.
26 January 2006.
To the Editor:
Joshua Marquis argues that "Americans should be far more worried about the wrongfully freed than the wrongfully convicted." His viewpoint would be different if a member of his family suffered what we have: the tragedy of wrongful conviction.
We are part of a growing population that has been forced to re-enter society with little or no assistance from the system that stole our freedom. No state, with the exception of Massachusetts, provides government-supported health care, counseling, housing assistance or job training, and only a handful of states provide meaningful financial compensation to the wrongfully convicted.
Through media projects like the feature documentary "After Innocence," which follows our eight stories and the fallout of being wrongfully imprisoned for a combined 127 years, the public is encouraging the government to act.
The Justice for All Act of 2004 provides those wrongfully convicted of a federal crime $50,000 for each year of incarceration, and $100,000 for those who served on death row.
We hope that local governments will follow Washington's lead and put forward plans that recognize society's moral obligation to the exonerated. Through films like "After Innocence," we hope people like Mr. Marquis will realize that wrongful conviction is not a "misconception" but a tragic reality.
26 January 2006
To the Editor:
Joshua Marquis, a prosecutor, defends his profession by telling us that most people in prison are guilty. I don't think anyone doubted that.
The question I would like answered is why most prosecutors, when confronted with evidence that a mistake may have been made, fight efforts to learn the truth.
It took years to confirm that Roger Coleman, the executed prisoner whose case Mr. Marquis discussed, was in fact guilty because the State of Virginia fought all the way to its Supreme Court to block additional testing of the DNA evidence. In that case, the district attorneys were right. But they should also have been willing to learn they were wrong.
Prosecutors represent the people's interest, not their own. It is in the people's interest to be as certain as possible that everyone in prison deserves to be there. It should not damage a prosecutor's reputation to correct an injustice.
26 January 2006 Op-Ed in the New York Times: THE INNOCENT AND THE SHAMMED
''In Justice'' has received dismal reviews. But that hasn't stopped its premise from permeating the conventional wisdom: that our prisons are chock-full of doe-eyed innocents who have been framed by venal prosecutors and corrupt police officers with the help of grossly incompetent public defenders. It is a misconception that has run through our popular culture from ''Perry Mason'' to the novels of Scott Turow to the recent hit play ''The Exonerated.''
It was also seen on the front pages in recent weeks, in reporting about Roger Coleman, who was executed in Virginia in 1992 for rape and murder. DNA testing at the time had placed him within one-fifth of a percent of possible suspects, leading to widespread claims that he was innocent. The governor, L. Douglas Wilder, said he would consider commuting Mr. Coleman's sentence if he passed a lie detector test. He failed and was executed.
For more than a decade opponents of the death penalty have held up the Coleman case as the example that would prove that America executed an innocent man. Yet on Jan. 12 the Canadian laboratory that had been sent the last remaining DNA sample in the case announced the results of more advanced testing: it put the odds of Mr. Coleman not being the killer at less than 1 in 19 million. Still, while Mr. Coleman's face graced the cover of Time magazine at the height of the controversy, it is unlikely you will see him on the cover again marking his rightful conviction.
Americans love the underdog. Thousands of law students aspire to be Atticus Finch, the famous fictional lawyer from ''To Kill A Mockingbird.'' But this can go too far: one of the jurors who acquitted the actor Robert Blake of murder last year cited the TV program ''CSI'' as the basis of her knowledge of what good police work should be. And if we take a deep breath and examine the state of American justice, a very different picture will emerge.
To start, only 14 Americans who were once on death row have been exonerated by DNA evidence alone. The hordes of Americans wrongfully convicted exist primarily on Planet Hollywood. In the Winter 2005 Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, a group led by Samuel Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan, published an exhaustive study of exonerations around the country from 1989 to 2003 in cases ranging from robbery to capital murder. They were able to document only 340 inmates who were eventually freed. (They counted cases where defendants were retried after an initial conviction and subsequently found not guilty as ''exonerations.'') Yet, despite the relatively small number his research came up with, Mr. Gross says he is certain that far more innocents languish undiscovered in prison.
So, let's give the professor the benefit of the doubt: let's assume that he understated the number of innocents by roughly a factor of 10, that instead of 340 there were 4,000 people in prison who weren't involved in the crime in any way. During that same 15 years, there were more than 15 million felony convictions across the country. That would make the error rate .027 percent -- or, to put it another way, a success rate of 99.973 percent.
Most industries would like to claim such a record of efficiency. And while, of course, people's lives are far more important than widgets, we have an entire appeals court system intended to intervene in those few cases where the innocent are in jeopardy.
It is understandable that journalists focus on the rare case in which an innocent man or woman is sent to prison -- because, as all reporters know, how many planes landed safely today has never been news. The larger issue is whether those who influence the culture, like an enormous television network, have a moral responsibility to keep the facts straight regardless of their thirst for drama. ''In Justice'' may soon find itself on the canceled list, but several million people will still have watched it, and they are likely to have the impression that wrongfully convicted death row inmates are the virtual rule.
The words ''innocent'' and ''exonerated'' carry tremendous emotional and political weight. But these terms have been tortured beyond recognition -- not just by defense lawyers, but by the disseminators of entertainment under the guise of social conscience.
''The Exonerated'' played for several years Off Broadway with a Who's Who of stage and screen stars portraying six supposedly innocent people who were once on death row. The play, originally subsidized by George Soros, the liberal billionaire philanthropist, now tours college campuses and was made into a television movie by Court TV.
The script never mentions that two of the play's six characters (Sonia Jacobs and Kerry Cook) were not exonerated, but were let out of prison after a combined 36 years behind bars when they agreed to plea bargains. A third (Robert Hayes) was unavailable to do publicity tours because he is in prison, having pleaded guilty to another homicide almost identical to the one of which he was acquitted.
American justice is a work in progress, and those of us charged with administering it are well aware that it needs constant improvement. But nothing is gained by deluding the public into believing that the police and prosecutors are trying to send innocent people to prison. Any experienced defense lawyer will concede that he would starve if he accepted only ''innocent'' clients. Americans should be far more worried about the wrongfully freed than the wrongfully convicted.
23 January 2006
"DNA tests outpace justice - As scientific evidence gains accuracy, the system finds ways to catch up by looking back." By CANDACE RONDEAUX, St. Petersburg, Fla, Times Staff Writer
When convicted killer Roger Keith Coleman proclaimed his innocence for the last time from Virginia's electric chair in 1992, DNA tests showed there was roughly a 1 in 500 chance that someone else had raped and murdered his sister-in-law. But last week, new tests ordered by Virginia's outgoing governor, Mark Warner, found there was only a 1 in 19-million chance that someone other than Coleman was guilty.
A lot has changed since Coleman, an Appalachian coal miner, was executed for the 1981 murder of Wanda McCoy. Since its introduction into the legal system in 1989, DNA testing has grown far more accurate, helping convict thousands, while exonerating more than 170 wrongfully convicted people.
DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, taken from human blood, semen, hair or saliva, can be used to identify an individual with near perfect accuracy. Once considered a fringe science, DNA testing is rapidly redefining guilt and innocence.
"In the last 15 years, DNA has caused, literally, a revolution in the criminal justice system," said Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, a group that uses DNA to ferret out wrongful convictions. "There's an awareness that DNA evidence is a much more reliable type of evidence than other evidence."
And, if recent events are any measure, it is the new gold standard in the nation's criminal justice system, gradually replacing reasonable doubt with scientific exactitude.
"It's made people more aware of the vulnerability of the criminal justice system," Neufeld said.
In Florida, Hillsborough prosecutors said a week ago that St. Petersburg native Alan Crotzer should go free after DNA tests showed he didn't commit two Tampa rapes in 1981.
In Virginia last month, the governor ordered DNA testing on evidence from about 660 old cases, after a review of a former lab analyst's files led to the exoneration of five men.
In Washington, an attorney argued last week before the U.S. Supreme Court that new DNA evidence should earn his client a retrial in a Tennessee rape and murder.
Legal experts say the recent Supreme Court hearing on Tennessee inmate Paul G. House's case could have far-reaching ramifications.
Convicted in 1986 of raping and murdering rural Tennessee resident Carolyn Muncey, House maintained his innocence. Police initially suspected Muncey's husband, Hubert Muncey, who had a history of drinking and domestic violence.
But prosecutors built a case around House, a convicted sex offender who was seen in the woods where Muncey's body was found.
Postconviction DNA tests revealed that semen found on Muncey's nightgown belonged to her husband. House's defense attorneys told the Supreme Court the tests pointed out a significant flaw in the prosecution's case. But a Tennessee deputy state attorney argued that House could still be guilty of the murder.
At least one justice acknowledged that the DNA tests might have affected a jury's decision. The question now before the panel is whether a federal court can order a retrial when new scientific evidence - like DNA - points to the possibility of innocence and appeals have been exhausted.
Rob Warden, executive director of Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions, agrees. A ruling in House's favor could put prosecutors nationwide on notice that they should think hard before resisting attempts to prove innocence claims through DNA testing, he said.
"The prosecution hasn't been able to prevail in the courts in most of these cases, but they have been able to create a smoke screen or create enough public doubt that the guilty verdict lingers even after exoneration," Warden said. "The technology is a double-edged sword: You can use it to convict and you can use it to exonerate."
Joshua Marquis, vice president of the National District Attorneys Association, says his group sees the need for postconviction DNA testing. But there are limits. Crime victims and the public shouldn't have to wait years for sentences to be carried out, he said.
"There's a reason we have deadlines on appeals in postconvictions. If you rely on defendants to tell you about new evidence, it will never, never end," Marquis said. "People are being led to believe by the popular culture that wrongful convictions are epidemic in this country. And that's just wrong."
Regardless of the outcome, House's case is a significant milestone for DNA testing in the courts. It could reinforce the reliability of the science in courts, conferring the ultimate legal seal of approval to DNA. Such a move, legal experts say, might also strengthen the argument for expanding access to postconviction DNA testing for inmates with a claim of innocence.
Currently, 38 states allow postconviction DNA tests, and a 2004 federal law also guarantees federal prisoners access. Many states have called for evidence to be preserved for possible DNA testing.
Laws vary, however, from state to state. Several impose deadlines on accessing evidence while others restrict eligibility for postconviction access. In Kentucky and Nevada, for instance, only death row inmates can apply for testing.
Florida imposes an arbitrary deadline on such appeals. That deadline has been pushed back three times since the Legislature enacted a law allowing inmates to seek court review of old DNA evidence. Last fall, the Florida Supreme Court ruled inmates will have until July 1 of this year to file.
State Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, the sponsor of the original bill, plans to push for the elimination of a deadline this legislative session.
"When you're after truth, just because a period of time has gone by, (that) doesn't change the facts. What justification is there not to use it? The cost? Okay, well, how much does it take to incarcerate someone vs. doing a DNA test?"
Since the DNA testing law was passed in 2001, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has received from 125 to 150 requests for postconviction DNA testing, according to agency officials. It costs about $600 to $800 to process each request.
Critics argue that opening the door wider to testing could lead to a flood of appeals. But many experts agree that the era of postconviction DNA exonerations will be short-lived because DNA has become a routine part of courtroom proceedings.
FDLE forensic services director Sue Livingston said Florida's crime labs continually receive requests for DNA testing. She estimates it could take five to 10 years for DNA-based appeals to drop off.
"Will it eventually come to an end?" she said. "Yes. It'll be some years before it dies out and even then it may not die out completely. But eventually the numbers will dwindle."
[Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Candace Rondeaux can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813 226-3337.]
On January 23, 2006, Alan Crotzer was freed from prison after postconviction DNA testing proved his innocence of a 1981 rape, kidnapping, and robbery. Crotzer had spent 24 years in prison in Florida for this crime - more than half his life. Crotzer and two co-defendants, Douglas James and Corlenzo James, were convicted of these crimes in 1982.
January 2006. New York Times Editorial "DNA's
Weight as Evidence"
A watershed moment was instantly proclaimed by proponents of capital punishment, as if the case were the ultimate proof of the universality of justice. Rather, it was still another proof of the growing reliability of DNA testing, which has cleared more than 170 wrongly convicted people since 1989.
In fact, the Coleman outcome is further evidence that the authorities should embrace DNA testing as a continuing tool of justice, whatever the outcome, as Gov. Mark Warner did before he left office in Virginia. Far too often, state officials wary of soft-on-crime demagoguery fight DNA testing during postconviction court challenges and tolerate the premature destruction of evidence in slipshod forensic procedures that undermine criminal justice.
The reassuring value of DNA was demonstrated not only by the Coleman finding, but also by a largely unnoticed case a few days later in neighboring Washington. Detectives used Virginia's pioneering DNA archive to bring charges against the deacon of a storefront church for a rape and murder that had been unsolved for 22 years. Unpaid interns checking old cases in a police warehouse found usable DNA in a cardboard box; a match was found by way of the deacon's 30-year-old robbery conviction in Virginia, where forensic databases are better preserved than in many other states.
Sadly, this was far from routine detective work. Washington - called the nation's murder capital - has no up-to-date crime lab for the sophisticated testing of DNA. It must rely on F.B.I. specialists and, in this case, unpaid volunteers studying cold-case files. Many other jurisdictions are similarly hobbled. Yet DNA's value as a double-edged sword becomes ever clearer in confirming innocence or guilt, providing political leaders dare to allow its full application.
16 December 2005. Three articles about release of wrongfully convicted man in Ohio: Clarence Elkins, Innocence Project DNA Exoneree #165 . "Elkins wins his freedom - After nearly 8 years in jail, man cleared of murder, rape. Victim's neighbor, linked by DNA, likely to be charged" from Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio; "UC students free man doing life - Murder conviction tossed after he served 7¨ö years" from the Cincinnati Enquirer; and "DNA from cigarette could free Ohio man - Wife works to clear husband of rape, murder conviction" from the Dayton Daily News.
The first article begins....
When a prison guard brought him his things Thursday morning, Clarence Elkins got the feeling his life was about to change. Awhile later, another prison official came by and told him he had a call to make. It would be to his wife, Melinda.
The news she would share was nearly eight years in the making: Clarence Elkins was going home. "I just said, `Praise God. Hallelujah,' '' Elkins said Thursday, about five hours after Summit County prosecutors conceded his innocence.
Not only is Elkins free, the charges that he killed his mother-in-law and raped his niece in June 1998 are gone forever.
Instead, a Barberton neighbor of Judith Johnson is now the prime suspect, linked with initial DNA that Elkins himself first retrieved from a cigarette butt tossed by a fellow inmate last summer....
10 December 2005. "Ex-Lisker Juror Couldn't Stay Away" by Matt Lait and Scott Glover, Los Angeles Times.
Lorraine Maxwell] was 56 years old and working at Prudential Securities in Encino when she served on the [Bruce Lisker] jury. Lisker was accused of killing his mother, Dorka, 66, by bludgeoning her with a Little League trophy and stabbing her with two steak knives.
After speaking to [Anthony G. Kent] and [Holly Russo], Maxwell received a call from a private investigator for Lisker. He was calling jurors to see whether any would make a sworn statement saying they would not have convicted Lisker based on the latest evidence. Maxwell agreed.
Not all of the testimony went well for Lisker. On Wednesday, correctional officials and psychologists testified that Lisker had confessed to killing his mother. Lisker's lawyers called them phony confessions offered out of desperation by a man trying to minimize his time in prison.
8 December 2005. Wrongfully convicted man, Innocence Project #164, exonerated in Georgia: "After 24 Years in Prison, Man Has a Reason to Smile" In New York Times, by Shaila Dewan
MARIETTA, Ga., Dec. 7 - It is rare to see a prison inmate with a life sentence who cannot stop grinning.
But that was Robert Clark Jr. on Wednesday, the day before his conviction for rape, robbery and kidnapping was expected to be vacated on the strength of a DNA test that showed he was not the rapist.
After 24 years in prison - one of the longest incarcerations served by the 164 people who have been exonerated by DNA testing - Mr. Clark, 45, was buoyant at the prospect of seeing his siblings, children and the five grandchildren he did not have when he was sentenced in 1982.
"I still got a little life in me," he said.
Though wrenching, Mr. Clark's story is not so different from that of others who were wrongfully convicted. What is stunning about it is the fact that the man who the authorities now believe was the real rapist, Floyd Antonio Arnold, was in easy reach of the police at the time.
The DNA test that exonerated Mr. Clark started a chain reaction that revealed not just Mr. Clark's innocence, but a series of law-enforcement bungles. Those missteps allowed Mr. Arnold to commit violent crimes repeatedly and, very nearly, to walk out of prison, where he is serving time for cruelty to children, at the end of January, despite the fact that his DNA matches that found in Mr. Clark's case and two other previously unsolved rapes.
"This is the worst case of tunnel vision that we've seen in the history of the Innocence Project," said Peter J. Neufeld, a co-founder of the project, which has been instrumental in DNA exonerations and which is handling Mr. Clark's case.
At 21, Mr. Clark was living with his mother and 5-year-old son in southwestern Atlanta. He worked as a roofer and had no criminal record, save a juvenile burglary charge. One day an acquaintance, Mr. Arnold, lent him a car. Because the car was not hotwired and Mr. Arnold had the keys, Mr. Clark said, he did not think the car was stolen.
But the car had belonged to Patricia J. Tucker, 29, who had been getting into the driver's seat in a Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot when she was carjacked, kidnapped, taken to the woods and raped three times. At Mr. Clark's trial, the sole defense witness identified Mr. Arnold in the courtroom and testified she had seen him driving the car before Mr. Clark was arrested with it.
But Ms. Tucker testified that Mr. Clark had been her attacker, even though she had initially described him as 5-foot-7 and Mr. Clark was 6-foot-1. The detective in the case told the jury that he never investigated Mr. Arnold because Mr. Clark had initially lied to officers about where he had gotten the car, then switched his story. The judge sentenced Mr. Clark to life.
When Mr. Clark heard that, he interrupted, saying: "Your Honor, they had Tony here. I can't put him on the stand. He'll tell you I didn't do nothing but drive the car two weeks later. Y'all got him right here."
"Mr. Clark, you have had your trial," the judge admonished. "Just remain silent."
Mr. Arnold went on to commit a string of felonies, including burglary, gun possession and sodomy. In 2001, he was charged with multiple counts of child molesting in a case prosecutors say involved a 13-year-old female relative. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, cruelty to children, for which he is now serving time.
Meanwhile, Mr. Clark wrote birthday cards to his children and letters to anyone he thought might be able to help with his case.
When his mother came to visit, he would lay his head in her lap and sleep. When her kidneys failed, he asked to be locked up in solitary confinement so he could be alone to grieve. She died last year, before he gained his freedom. "She knew I got the court order I needed," Mr. Clark said, smiling again.
Finally, the Innocence Project took his case, and a DNA test was done on the evidence. In November, the results showed that the attacker was not Mr. Clark. The district attorney in Cobb County, Pat Head, ran the DNA profile against the criminal offender database. A match came back: Mr. Arnold.
But there was more, said Ted Staples, the manager of forensic biology for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The printout showed that in 2003, when Mr. Arnold's DNA was first added to the database, it matched that in two other rapes, in Fulton and DeKalb Counties. No action was taken against Mr. Arnold, who will finish his current sentence on Jan. 31.
Mr. Staples said the police in those jurisdictions were notified at the time by phone and letter. But a spokesman for the Fulton County Police Department said it did not know of the match until last week. It has put a hold on Mr. Arnold so he cannot be released.
In DeKalb, Detective Sgt. K. D. Johnson, of the DeKalb County Police Department's youth and sex crimes unit, acknowledged that the department was notified in 2003, but said that the information had slipped through the cracks. "It had gone through several different detectives who have since been transferred to other departments," Sergeant Johnson said. "We're trying to figure out who had it and when."
For his part, Mr. Clark stands to get some restitution from the state, which has paid $1.5 million to two other exonerated men. But, he said, he is thinking more about his 5-year-old granddaughter, Alexis, than how much he might be owed. "They owe me an apology," he said. "They done messed my life up." And he smiled.
Brenda Goodman contributed reporting for this article.
3 December 2005. Chicago charges man in 1983 murder of 10 year old girl, in case where two innocent men were previously convicted and sentenced to death(but fortunately exoneratedd and freed): "Ill. Death Penalty Case Back in Court" In the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and other national newspapers, including the Portland Press Herald, By DON BABWIN, Associated Press Writer
In 1983, Jeanine was kidnapped from her home outside Chicago, raped and murdered. During the two decades that followed, two men were tried over and over amid allegations that sheriff's deputies and prosecutors concealed and fabricated evidence and put lying jailhouse snitches on the stand.
Ultimately, Rolando Cruz was acquitted at his third trial in 1995, and the charges against Alejandro Hernandez were dropped the same year after his conviction was overturned for the second time.
The furor over the case set in motion a chain of events: It led to other investigations in Illinois that freed prisoners wrongfully convicted of murder. It played a key role in then-Gov. George Ryan's decision to suspend all executions and clear out the state's death row in 2003 of all 167 inmates.
And it helped change the terms of the death penalty debate in the United States. Instead of arguing over the morality of capital punishment or whether it deters crime, politicians and activists found themselves questioning the reliability of the criminal justice system and contemplating the risk that an innocent person might be put to death.
"This case helped break the myth that the system is infallible," said Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Rob Warden, director of Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful
Convictions, said: "I do not believe any of this would have happened
without the Cruz case."
30 November 2005. In case of destruction of DNA evidence by Court Clerk, Virginia Governor commutes death sentence to life imprisonment.
The New York Times article, "Clemency Stops an Execution in Virginia" begins....
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 - Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia granted clemency Tuesday to a convicted killer, declaring that the loss of a crucial piece of evidence had persuaded him that the man should not be put to death as scheduled on Wednesday....
that latter article, Innocence Project co-founder Peter Neufeld said "I
know no [other] case where the evidence has been lost or destroyed within
two years of conviction." Paraphrasing President John F. Kennedy
in Berlin in 1963, Let him come to Maine...]
22 November 2005. The story of Ruben Cantu in Texas: "12 Years After Execution, Evidence of Innocence" from the New York Times.
The article begins...
HOUSTON, Nov. 21 (AP) - Doubts are being cast on the guilt of a San Antonio man executed in 1993. The questions were raised after the only witness to the crime recanted and a co-defendant said he had allowed the man to be falsely accused under police pressure, The Houston Chronicle reported Sunday.
The executed man, Ruben Cantu, was 17 in 1984 when he was charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of a man in an attempted robbery. ...
[and related article in the Houston Chronicle, "Did Texas execute an innocent man?"]
6 November 2005. "Using DNA to free the innocent" in the San Francisco Chronicle, by Susan Rutberg and Janice Brickley.
The article begins...
A year ago, 37-year-old Peter J. Rose walked out of Mule Creek State Prison in Ione (Amador County), straight into the arms of his children. He had served nearly 10 years of hard time for the 1994 rape of a 13-year-old girl before DNA testing proved his innocence. If not for the Northern California Innocence Project, he'd likely still be behind bars.
To date, there has been no official inquiry into the failures that led to his wrongful conviction, nor has anyone been held accountable. Sadly, that means it will take longer for Rose and his family to heal from this miscarriage of justice and the decade they lost.
Which is precisely why California needs an "innocence commission."...
29 August 2005. "Mixed Results: Forensics, right or wrong, often impresses jurors" by Phoebe Zerwick, Winston-Salem (NC) Journal.
The article, including a case where a footprint analysis was crucial, begins...
Scientific advances in fighting crime make forensic evidence the stuff of television dramas. A single hair can identify a killer. A fingerprint can prove that one witness is lying, the other telling the truth. DNA, preserved for years in drops of dried blood or even a stray skin cell can solve cold cases that once left investigators stumped.
Darryl Hunt won his freedom two years ago after DNA correctly identified another man as the person who had stabbed Deborah Sykes to death in Winston-Salem, a crime for which Hunt spent 18 years in prison.
25 August 2005. The David Milgaard Inquiry continues in Canada. "Joyce Milgaard cries at Milgaard inquiry testimony" from CBC, Canada.
The article begins....
Joyce Milgaard broke down Thursday as a retired Saskatoon police detective testifying at an inquiry into her son's wrongful conviction for murder started to apologize, then stopped.
"I started to cry because I thought, finally, someone is admitting they did something wrong and we're making progress," said Milgaard, whose son David spent 23 years in prison before he was exonerated.
"And then I really cried when he turned it around and said he did nothing wrong and that he had nothing to apologize for. The whole thing, the denial, denial, denial, I find extremely upsetting and unbelievable."
Lawyer James Lockyer, representing Joyce Milgaard, had asked retired detective Eddy Karst if he wanted to apologize.
[for previous articles about this case see "Links to Articles (Old)" for 30 May 2005, 20 April 2005, 17 January and 1 January 2005. The inquiry described above is what should be done in the Alfred Trenkler case.]
20 August 2005. "For justice to prevail, prosecution must be just" Roanoke Times, VA
by John Flannery, a former federal prosecutor, former director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and former special counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.
...We are convicting innocent people in Virginia because of false eyewitness testimony, false confessions, over-eager snitches, faulty forensics, bad defense lawyers but also, and this is the worst of all, because of prosecutorial misconduct and police misconduct.
In this last category, what we often mean by misconduct is that the government is concealing or destroying evidence that is exclusively within its possession that demonstrates, or tends to demonstrate, that the accused is innocent or his accusers are not reliable.
The commonwealth will fight to hold onto its information, keep it confidential from the accused, even at the risk of convicting the innocent.
When I was a puppy prosecutor and other prosecutors would ask my advice as to whether they should turn over evidence to the defense counsel, I'd ask why they were asking the question.
It must have been, so I thought, that the information might tend to help the accused and, consciously or not, that these eager advocates -- my colleagues -- were reluctant to yield that advantage.
I always thought the impetus for such questions led to only one obvious answer -- that the information must be handed over.
The best defense lawyer in the nation, ignorant of a client's factual innocence because the commonwealth is sitting on the evidence of his innocence, is helpless to save his client from prison or death row.
We know that the innocent have been convicted in Virginia because DNA evidence now allows us to exclude individuals as suspects in crimes -- if the DNA evidence has been preserved....
[This is one of the best general statements in this website about wrongful convictions and the obligation of prosecutors to provide justice, not just victories. For other statements see:
"Justice Stevens Criticizes Death Penalty" at 7 August 2005,
"DNA Tests Can Free the Innocent. How Can We Ignore That?" By William S. Sessions at 7 August 2005,
"Our duty to free the wrongly convicted" by Suffolk County (Boston) District Attorney, Daniel Conley, 19 March 2004.]
19 August 2005. "A Freed Man Loses His Bid for a Pardon" in the New York Times, by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The article begins...
RALEIGH, N.C., Aug. 18 (AP) - Gov. Michael F. Easley has refused to pardon a man he put behind bars when he was a prosecutor, even though the man was freed from prison after the victims recanted their testimony.
Mr. Easley denied a petition filed by the man, Sylvester Smith, 54, who was convicted in 1984 of first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sexual offense, the governor's office said Wednesday.
At the same time, however, the governor pardoned Leo Waters, 56, who served 21 years in prison for a 1981 rape. Mr. Waters was freed on the basis of new DNA evidence.
A pardon in North Carolina allows a wrongfully convicted person to seek $20,000 a year from the state for each year of imprisonment, up to $500,000.
Mr. Smith said Mr. Easley had a conflict of interest because he prosecuted the case when he was district attorney in Brunswick County. "I don't think he's man enough to say he made a mistake," Mr. Smith said.
[For more information about the Sylvester Smith case, see "Links to Articles (old)" for 7 November 2004. For more information about Leo Waters, see 17 August, below.]
18 August 2005. "Oregon Innocence Network helps free wrongly convicted; The group of University law and journalism students investigates cases of convicts who claim innocence" by Gabe Bradley, Unov of Oregon Daily Emerald.
Until recently, Oregon was one of only two states in the country that didn't have a non-profit organization dedicated to helping wrongly convicted inmates prove their innocence.
That began to change a year and a half ago, when Cheri Brooks was a second-year law student at the University.
"I was working for a lawyer - a defense lawyer in town," Brooks said. "He asked me if there was an innocence project at the U of O."
When Brooks looked into the question, she found out that not only was there no innocence project at the University, there was no innocence project whatsoever in Oregon....
"Everybody understands that having an innocent person in jail serves no one's interest," Metcalfe said. "We have had a lot of student interest. I've been very pleased."
[One interesting aspect of this article is that Maine is still without an active in-state" non-profit organization dedicated to helping wrongly convicted inmates prove their innocence" While there may be more than one such hold-out state, See the Innocence Project Listings [linked], it provides food for thought about justice and innocence in Maine.]
August 2005. "Mother
seeks help raising son's bail "
Susie Peterson is hoping the public's belief in the innocence of her son Larry is as strong as her own. And she prays they are willing to back it up with some cash.
It is her only chance of raising enough money to post bail and free him pending his retrial on rape and murder charges.
"He shouldn't have to spend one more day in there," she said yesterday. "He's been proven innocent, but I need some help getting him out."
Larry Peterson, 54, has been behind bars for 18 years, since his arrest in the slaying of Jacqueline Harrison, 25, of Pemberton Township. Her body was found near a soybean field in August 1987.
Last month, a state Superior Court judge overturned Peterson's conviction based on DNA testing, which was not used in New Jersey at the time he was tried.
He had been found guilty on the word of four people who said he had confessed, and on the evidence of hair that experts said had come from him. DNA tests later showed that the hair belonged to the victim.
Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi said that although the test results on hair, blood and semen from the crime scene failed to connect Peterson to the killing, they did not prove his innocence. That will again be up to a jury to determine, he said.
A judge set Peterson's bail at $200,000. Susie Peterson has been trying to scrape together the $20,000 needed to secure a bail bond and bring her son home to Pemberton Township.
Since establishing an account for bail money at a bank, she said, she has collected $7,000. Most of that came from a fund-raising karaoke party put on by former law students who have worked on Peterson's case. Someone who had read about her son's case sent $1,000 to his attorney to help with bail.
Peterson is represented by the Innocence Project of New York, which helps inmates obtain DNA testing when it believes the results will reveal wrongful conviction.
Susie Peterson said her public plea for an additional $13,000 for bail was not begging but the duty of a mother who believes in her son.
"I love him very much," she said. "I have to do what I can to help him out."
Contributions may be sent to the Larry Peterson Exoneration Fund in care of Bank of America , Box 583, Browns Mills, N.J. 08015.
17 August 2005 "Pols: Keep innocent out of prison - Gov backs package of reforms" The Capital Times, Madison Wisconsin by David Callender
Gov. Jim Doyle and a bipartisan group of lawmakers were poised today to endorse a far-reaching package of reforms intended to make it harder to send innocent people to prison.
The proposed reforms would require law enforcement officials to record interviews with all felony suspects, improve police line-ups and other eyewitness identification procedures, streamline DNA tests in cases where a wrongful conviction is involved, and extend the statute of limitations for many cases involving DNA evidence.
The proposals come in response to the wrongful conviction of a Fond du Lac man, Steven Avery, who served more than 18 years behind bars for a rape and brutal assault that he did not commit. Avery was released from prison about two years ago after DNA tests exonerated him and proved that another man had committed the crimes.
[Actually, Wisconsin has had 3 Exonerees from the Innocence Project list of DNA-exonereees: Frederic Saecker(39), Anthony Hicks(43) and Stephen Avery(136).]
17 August 2005 "Mass. inmate charged in 1981 rape that led to wrongful conviction" Boston Globe (See Maine connection, below)
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. --Prosecutors here have charged a Massachusetts prison inmate in a nearly 25 year old 1981 rape case that led to the wrongful imprisonment of another man for more than two decades.
Joel Bill Caulk, 58, was indicted Tuesday in North Carolina for rape, sexual offense and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Caulk is currently serving time for rape and robbery at the maximum-security Souza-Baranowski prison in Shirley, Mass., and has also been convicted of rape and other violent crimes in Maine, New Hampshire and California.
The announcement of his indictment came on the same day North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley pardoned Leo Waters, who was cleared of the crime by a DNA test in 2003.
District Attorney Dewey Hudson dismissed the charges against Waters more than year ago, after Waters had already served 21 years in prison.
"Two conclusive DNA tests prove Leo Waters did not commit these crimes. This pardon of innocence fully exonerates Mr. Waters," Easley said in a statement.
Waters was convicted in a March 31, 1981, attack on a Jacksonville woman. The rapist answered the victim's classified ad to sell a water bed, then bound her hands and feet before taping shut her eyes and raping her.
DNA testing wasn't available at the time that Waters was convicted of the crime, but authorities determined that his blood type matched that of the rapist and the victim identified him as her attacker. He was given two consecutive life sentences.
But in January 2003, Waters' blood was analyzed and compared to swab samples taken from the victim and semen stains on a bedspread at the scene. The DNA from the scene didn't match that of Waters.
[This story was carried on 18 August in the Portland, Maine Press Herald.. Joel Bill Caulk was convicted in 1987 of the 1981 murder in Yarmouth of realtor Nikki K. Cleveland. The article did not say what punishment resulted and how he was transferred to the Massachusetts prison where he now is incarcerated.]
[Also, note that Leo Waters is not listed on the Innocence Project's list of DNA-exonerees. Also, note that a pardon was still needed for him, in order to securly announce his innocence and also to claim compensation from the State, even though he was cleared by the courts of the charges. CORRECTION: Mr. Waters was listed by the Innocence Project on or about 20 August as Exoneree #162. . See "Latest news" for 20 August 2005.]
12 August 2005. "State settles first three cases under wrongful conviction law" by Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press, and published in the Boston Globe.
BOSTON --Three men wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they didn't commit became the first to receive cash compensation from the state under a law approved last year.
Two of the men, Eduardo Velazquez and Eric Sarsfield, received the maximum allowed under the law -- $500,000 each. A third man who had submitted two claims, Dennis Maher, received $550,000.
The cases were reviewed by the attorney general's office before they were sent to Gov. Mitt Romney's budget chief, Eric Kriss, who signed off on the three settlements Friday.
Another nine cases are still pending.
The three men had each been convicted of rape and spent a decade or more in prison. All three were later exonerated with the help of DNA evidence.
Sarsfield was convicted in 1987 for a rape in Marlborough. The victim identified Sarsfield three months after the attack, and after he was cleared, she wrote a letter in support of his attempt to get compensation from the state.
Velazquez was convicted in 1988 of aggravated rape and indecent assault in Chicopee. He served nearly 14 years in prison before being released in 2001.
And Maher was convicted in 1983 of two rapes and an assault in Lowell and Ayer. He was identified as the attacker by each of the three victims at two separate trials. He ended up serving 19 years in prison before being released in 2003.
Peter Neufeld of the law firm Cochran, Neufeld and Scheck, represented Sarsfield and Velazquez.
He said both men suffered during their time in prison. Velazquez spent a portion of his sentence in a private prison for sex offenders on the Texas/Mexican border.
Neufeld said Velazquez appreciates both the public declaration of innocence and the fact that he received the maximum available under the law.
"There's no question that the state can't adequately compensate Eric and Eduardo for the time they spent in prison and the freedom they lost," Neufeld said. "Other young men were going out and getting married and starting family and starting careers and they were in these facilities punching license plates."
Corey Welford, a spokesman for Attorney General Tom Reilly, said that under the law the three men were clearly entitled to the settlement.
"We're pleased to quickly resolve these cases for these three men whose innocence was clear and who clearly met the standards of the statute," he said.
Under the law passed by the Legislature late last year, exonerated people can ask for a civil trial to make their case for compensation of up to $500,000.
Anyone filing a claim has to show by "clear and convincing evidence" that they did not commit the crime for which they were convicted. They must also show they spent at least a year in prison. The state isn't liable for punitive damages.
Supporters of the law say it's a matter of simple justice that the state compensate the wrongfully convicted for the time spent behind bars.
More than a dozen other states already have similar laws, including New York and Illinois.
Before the law was approved, it required a special act of the Legislature to compensate the wrongfully convicted.
[For more about the Dennis Maher case, which is included in the soon-to-be-released movie "After Innocence", see "Latest News" for 23 April 2005, and "Links to Articles (old) for 12 October 2003, and 2 April 2003.]
[For a summary of the claims of the 3 + 9, see "Wrongful conviction: 12 filers" from the Metro West Daily.]
10 August 2005. Editorial from the York Daily Record (Pennsylvania): "Not Guilty and Not Compensated - The state should make amends to inmates exonerated of crimes and released."
Imagine spending 20 years in prison for a crime you didn't commit.
It must be agony knowing that you're innocent of the crime that has separated you from your family and friends.
Thank goodness, this situation isn't too common. Most of the people behind bars in Pennsylvania richly deserve every second they spend there.
But what about those who are innocent? What about those who are ultimately absolved by the state and released? What do we as a community owe them in compensation for the time that has been taken from them?
In Pennsylvania - officially, at least - the answer is nothing.
Maybe an apology and a bus ticket home.
Consider the case of Thomas Doswell. The Pittsburgh-area man was convicted of rape and other charges in 1986, but steadfastly denied guilt - through the entire appellate process, which proved unsuccessful. When he came up for parole, he was denied because he refused to admit guilt.
Finally, his lawyers persuaded the state to test DNA taken from his alleged victim - why it would take 20 years to run such obviously relevant tests is a subject for another day.
The analysis excluded Mr. Doswell as a suspect. Prosecutors agreed, a judge apologized and he was released Aug. 1 - refusing to cast aspersions on the justice system that had stolen two decades of his life.
He'll receive nothing in compensation from the state.
State Rep. Mike McGheehan, D-Philadelphia, thinks that's heaping unfairness atop injustice. He's proposed a bill that would set up an official compensation system for those found to be innocent and released. He would give those inmates an award equal to lost wages or a legislator's $129 a day in expense money, whichever is higher. He'd also give inmates who had wrongly served on death row $50,000 a year.
State Attorney General Tom Corbett's spokesman says the bill is unnecessary because exonerations in our state are rare - which seems patently illogical. In the rare case where the justice system does make a mistake, shouldn't we voluntarily make amends?
No, says the AG's office, that's what the civil court system is for.
In other words: So sue us.
What a shameful attitude toward justice - which is supposed to involved seeking the truth, not just notching criminal convictions.
Rep. McGheehan's bill would probably end up being a bargain for taxpayers. Mr. Doswell would be eligible for about $890,000, give or take. Compare that to the $1.4 million Arizona recently paid Dover's Ray Krone as a court settlement for his wrongful conviction on murder charges.
And Mr. Krone only spent about a decade in jail.
Double the time spent in prison, and who knows, the courts might award Mr. Doswell $2.8 million.
Our local state lawmakers should support Rep. McGheehan's bill. Compensating wrongly convicted citizens isn't being soft on crime - it's being hard on justice.
7 August 2005. Justice John Paul Stevens at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association, "Justice Stevens Criticizes Death Penalty" from the Washington Post by Gina Holland, Associated Press.
While much of his presention was about the death penalty, he expanded his concerns to incude the overall justice system:
Recent exonerations of death row inmates through scientific evidence are significant, he told the American Bar Association, "not only because of its relevance to the debate about the wisdom of continuing to administer capital punishment , but also because it indicates that there must be serious flaws in our administration of criminal justice ." (emphasis added by Trial and Error.)
[The U.S.Supreme Court will be hearing two DNA-related cases this Fall. See the Robin Lovitt case below at 12 July 2005, and the Paul House case at 30 June 2005.]
7 August 2005. Marty Tankleff case - continued "True confession? Teen says his father admitted to taking part in the Tankleff killings, for which the victims' son is imprisoned." / by BY ZACHARY R. DOWDY AND ROBIN TOPPING in Newsday
The article begins.....
As a county court judge prepares to consider whether Martin Tankleff deserves a new trial for the murder of his parents, a 17-year-old boy says another man -- his father -- confessed to the crime.
Joseph John Guarascio, son of Joseph Creedon -- the Selden man who Tankleff's attorneys have said participated in the Sept, 7, 1988 killings of Arlene and Seymour Tankleff -- claims his father told him he took part in the grisly murders of the Belle Terre couple.
Tankleff's attorneys said they submitted the teen's affidavit and motion to the court yesterday, just over a year since the start of a hearing to determine whether Tankleff should get a new trial. Tankleff is serving a 50-years-to-life sentence.
[See, also, the 27 June 2005 posting, below, in "Links to Articles" and the 5 February 2005 , 5 December 2004 and 2 October 2003 postings in "Links to Articles - Old". Note also, that the Marty Tankleff story was covered in the once-yearly showing of the Court TV series, "The Wrong Man" in 2004.. Marty Tankleff's story was also featured in a CBS "48 Hours" documentary"Prime Suspect" which was shown in 2004 and 2005.]
August 2005 (but article originally published 21 September 2003 in Washington
Tests Can Free the Innocent. How Can We Ignore That?" By William S.
Sessions, former Federal District Court Judge and former FBI director.
When I became the director of the FBI in 1987, the forensic use of DNA to find and convict wrongdoers was just emerging as a tool in criminal investigations and trials. This "genetic fingerprinting" provided an entirely new capability in the effort to separate the guilty from the innocent. In early 1988, the FBI Laboratory Division created a DNA testing lab; by year's end, testing was completed in 100 active cases. I was fully expecting the results to confirm the careful investigative and evaluative work that had gone into the decisions to prosecute these suspects.
Instead, I was stunned by the results. In about 30 percent of the cases, the DNA gathered in the investigation did not match the DNA of the suspect.
Fifteen years later, this rate remains virtually the same....
Prosecutors not only have a professional duty to seek the truth, they have a moral responsibility to respond to the DNA no-match rate....
It is one thing for prosecutors to argue that, in some cases, DNA test results wouldn't necessarily establish a defendant's innocence and that other evidence is so strong that the conviction should still stand. But what is not understandable, nor seemingly justified, are the efforts of prosecutors to deny defendants access to DNA evidence for testing in cases where the results could make a difference...
In 1997 in Harris County, Texas, after DNA testing exonerated Kevin Byrd of rape, court officials decided to discard the "rape kits" -- the vaginal swabs taken from victims -- in 50 other cases. They cited a lack of storage space....
Prosecutors have nothing to lose -- unless they put their pride before their professionalism -- in allowing post-conviction DNA requests to go forward. If the DNA test proves the defendant is guilty, then all doubts will be resolved. If it exonerates the defendant, then there is an opportunity to correct a tragic mistake and begin the search for the real criminal....
[Mr. Sessions did not mention the statistic that a very small percentage of crimes involve DNA, but it's the foolproof DNA that is leading to a epidemic of exonerations for wrongfully convicted people. As it's safe to assume that the wrongful conviction rate for non-DNA-rich crimes is the same as for DNA-rich crimes, that means that there are thousands of innocent/wrongfully convicted people in America's prisons.]
2 August 2005. "DNA Tests Come to Prisoner's Defense" by Amy Goodnough and Terry Aguayo in the New York Times.
The article begins...
MIAMI, Aug. 2 - Luis Diaz says he was never a rapist. So do his children, former wife and colleagues. But in 1980, eight assault victims swore otherwise, and that was enough to send Mr. Diaz, a fry cook and father of three, to prison for life.
On Wednesday, Miami-Dade prosecutors say they will ask a state judge to vacate his convictions and sentences based on DNA evidence that was not available 25 years ago.
The prosecutors say that they are not convinced that he is innocent of all the crimes he was imprisoned for, but that it is too late to retry him successfully. Lawyers for Mr. Diaz, now 67, say that his case is the best evidence yet that witnesses can make devastating mistakes, and that such testimony, however earnest and convincing, cannot be trusted.
Mr. Diaz's ordeal began on a summer day in 1977, when a teenage gas station attendant took his license plate number and called the police, saying he was the man who abducted and raped her a few nights earlier.
Lacking enough evidence to charge Mr. Diaz, who had no prior record, the police let him go. But similar attacks followed, and a cloud settled over Mr. Diaz, a Cuban immigrant whose wife usually picked him up from work at 11 p.m.......
[Also, it must be noted that Diaz was originally prosecuted when former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno was the County Prosecutor, and his attorney was Roy Black, who later became a famous defense attorney. See the MSNBC story, "After 26 years, DNA frees Florida convict"]
2 August 2005. "DNA test clears man after 20 years in jail Wrongly jailed for 20 years, man to go free" from Pitsburgh Post-Gazette - one of a series of articles about the latest person freed by the Innocence Project, with the help of DNA testing.
Almost 20 years after his imprisonment for an early-morning rape in the cafeteria of an East End hospital, a Homewood man will be freed Monday because DNA testing proved he did not commit the crime.
Thomas Doswell, now 44, who has professed his innocence since the victim and another witness identified him just hours after the 1986 attack, will walk free on a motion by the Allegheny County district attorney, who concedes the forensic tests prove police got the wrong man.
The action will cap a flurry of legal activity over the past 10 days that started when DNA tests, which the prosecutor had initially fought against, excluded Doswell as the man who raped a 48-year-old woman at the former Forbes Hospital on Frankstown Road.
Doswell, who was 25 and the father of two young children when he was sentenced to 13 to 26 years in prison, has been denied parole four times over the past eight years because he refused to take responsibility for the crime. Had the DNA testing not exculpated him, he would not have been eligible for release until about 2012. His children are now adults.
After checking with the victim, the district attorney's office vacated the sentence last Monday. Doswell was brought this week from the State Correctional Institution Forest County to the Allegheny County Jail, where he will stay until a hearing at 11:30 a.m. Monday before Common Pleas Judge John A. Zottola.
The legal work to implement the DNA testing was done by the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York City. Through DNA testing, it has successfully exonerated more than 160 wrongfully convicted people.
"These tests confirmed what Mr. Doswell has been saying from the moment he was charged, that he was innocent and that this was a misidentification brought about by police officers who may have engaged in misconduct," said Colin Starger of the Innocence Project.
Innocence Project officials believe the rape victim and a witness identified Doswell in 1986 because his photo was the only one in an eight-person array that had a large "R" under the photo, a police practice at the time for identifying people previously charged with rape.
After he was convicted of the attack based on the witness identifications, Doswell filed several unsuccessful appeals, claiming the identification was not based on the witnesses' ability to recall him, but on the suggestive letter under his picture, which was there because a former girlfriend had accused him of raping her, a charge of which he was acquitted.
During almost 20 years of imprisonment, he cited several other discrepancies in the witness identifications. The victim said her attacker had a beard, but Doswell only had a mustache. A former employee of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority, he also said he was wearing a neck brace from a work-related injury at the time, which limited his ability to run.
"The Doswell family has been telling me for 15 years that he was innocent, that he was railroaded. They never let it rest," said Pittsburgh attorney James E. DePasquale, who helped put together a motion for the DNA testing. "Now it's proven," he said.
Until Doswell sent a letter to the Innocence Project, he could not get court permission to test the semen specimens taken after the rape, tests that can cost as much as $1,000 per item.
Prosecutors initially argued that Doswell was not eligible for the testing, but a judge ordered it.
Assistant Chief William Mullen of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau said the practice of marking mug shots of rape suspects with the letter "R" was halted "a long, long time ago." He said detectives today do not allow witnesses to see identification cards on mug shots when they are used in photo arrays. "I feel bad for that man," Mullen said, "but I do not believe that could happen today."
In response to the Post-Gazette series "Sight Unseen" last May about faulty witness identifications, Mullen said the city is redoing its policies to bring its witness identification procedures in line with national standards. The new guidelines say that the person who does the investigation and has identified suspects should not put together or present photo lineups to witnesses. Few area police departments use the standards.
In the Doswell case, the investigating officer presented the photos to the victim.
Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Cardozo Innocence Project, said the most important reform is to require that the officer who runs the identification procedure not know who the suspect is and who the others in the photo lineup are.
"That eliminates the possibility of officers ... knowingly or unknowingly influencing the witness identification. Had that simple control been used in this case, a father of two young children would not have been torn from his family almost 20 years ago," he said.
The case against Doswell started at 5:45 a.m. on March 13, 1986, when a female service worker at Forbes Hospital, now Forbes Nursing Center and Hospice, was followed into the hospital cafeteria by a man who locked the doors behind him, tossed her on the floor, threatened to kill her and raped her.
About 15 minutes later, another employee heard a commotion and started banging on the locked door, causing the assailant to flee, eluding others who gave chase.
The victim was taken to Shadyside Hospital, where physical evidence of the rape was taken. At the trial 19 years ago, existing testing methods were not advanced enough to exclude anyone as the source of the semen, leaving the witness testimony as the only evidence against Doswell.
"The Innocence Project is grateful for the district attorney's swift reaction to the DNA results. Their cooperation should be a model for other prosecutors throughout the country," Neufeld said.
[For other articles about this case see:
"DNA test clears Homewood man of rape" - Pittsburgh Tribune Review
"DNA Tests Clear Man After 19 Years in Prison" - Los Angeles Times
"DNA clears man of rape after 19 years" - New Zealand Herald
"Innocent after 19 years in jail" - South African Star
"DNA TEST CLEARS PRISONER" -New York Times
"DNA clears man of rape after 19 years in jail" - London Times (U.K.)
[Special credit goes to the Point Park University Innocence Institute which approaches wrongful convictions from a journalism perspective. Among the many college-based Inocence Projects in the U.S., this one is unique. See RELATED WEBSITES.]
31 July 2005. "Mo. Prosecutor Re-Investigates Old Cases" from the Associated Press, appearing in Newsday. (This is a continuation of the
wrong-man-executed story posted below on 18 July 2005.)
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- After landing a job at a prestigious law firm, Jennifer Joyce was making good money with an office overlooking the Gateway Arch -- and was miserable. So she took a job at half the pay as an assistant prosecutor, sharing a dingy office with three other lawyers and one computer.
''Within a week I was just in love with the work,'' said Joyce, 43. ''I went from helping people fight over money to helping them pursue justice.''
Now the city's top prosecutor, part of Joyce's pursuit of justice has been to re-investigate more than 1,400 old cases to see if DNA evidence would prove the guilt -- or innocence -- of the person convicted of the crime.
One of those cases could change the debate over the death penalty -- an investigation into whether a man was executed in 1995 for a murder he didn't commit. If so, it would be the first known execution of an innocent person in the United States.
Looking into old cases isn't unheard of when new evidence arises, but few prosecutors have gone as far as Joyce.
''What she's doing here is appropriate and not common enough,'' said Barry Scheck, best known as part of O.J. Simpson's defense team. ''Prosecutors sometimes believe it's more important to win or to appear as though you don't make mistakes.''
So far, three St. Louis men convicted of rape have been exonerated -- each after serving at least 17 years in prison.
Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, tried for years to convince Joyce's predecessor as circuit attorney, Dee Joyce Hayes, to reopen old cases. Hayes refused. When Hayes decided not to seek re-election in 2000, Joyce was elected to the post.
Joyce said she spent her first day in office considering Scheck's request. At the time, he criticized her for not moving quickly enough.
Eventually, her office determined that 1,400 people convicted in St. Louis before 1992 -- when DNA technology became widely available -- for crimes from robbery to rape to murder were still in prison.
Joyce decided their cases deserved a second look, but with caution. Opening old wounds can be hard on the victims and their families.
''I've seen victims become suicidal,'' she said. ''I've seen victims throw up, become extremely emotional at the thought of reopening cases. We have to be mindful of that.''
Joyce brought in law students, working under the supervision of her staff, to examine all 1,400 cases, determining those in which DNA testing could potentially prove guilt or innocence. She estimated it took about 10 hours to look at each case.
The ''DNA Justice Project'' is nearly complete -- fewer than a dozen cases remain to be looked at. So far, DNA evidence has exonerated three men.
In July 2002, Larry Johnson was cleared after serving 18 years for the rape of a Saint Louis University student. The next year, Lonnie Erby was freed after serving 17 years for three assaults on teenage girls.
Earlier this year, Anthony Woods was exonerated for a rape conviction. He was not among those studied through the DNA Justice Project because he had been released from prison after serving 18 years. Woods' attorney asked Joyce for the test.
Joyce ''recognizes that prosecutors are human like the rest of us, and mistakes can be made,'' said Chet Pleban, Johnson's lawyer. Now her office is focusing on what would be a monumental mistake -- the potential execution of an innocent man.
Quintin Moss, a 19-year-old drug dealer, was shot to death in 1980. Larry Griffin was an immediate suspect since word on the street was that it was Moss who weeks earlier had killed Griffin's brother.
Griffin was convicted in 1981 largely on the eyewitness testimony of Robert Fitzgerald, a career criminal from Boston who was in St. Louis under the Federal Witness Protection Program. He was executed in 1995.
Earlier this summer, Joyce was presented with a report on a yearlong study by Michigan law professor Sam Gross that cast doubt on Griffin's guilt. Among its findings:
--A police officer who testified in support of Fitzergald's account now believes Fitzgerald's story was false. Gross cited other evidence that Fitzgerald, who died last year, had a reputation as an ''unreliable snitch.''
--A second victim of the shooting, Wallace Conners, has come forward. Conners, now 52, was shot in the buttocks, but was never called to testify. He said the government's witness was not even there -- and he was certain the shooter was not Griffin.
''The thing that was even more compelling was the victim's family had deep concerns about whether the right man had been convicted and executed,'' Joyce said. The investigation, headed by two assistant prosecutors, is expected to take months.
Joyce said her feelings about the death penalty are irrelevant, though she seeks death for only the most heinous crimes. Had she been prosecutor when Griffin was tried, he might be awaiting results of the new investigation from a prison cell.
''In a case like Mr. Griffin's, a drive-by shooting, I don't know if that would rise to that level in my mind,'' Joyce said.
Associated Press story by Jim Salter, "Mo. Prosecutors Look Into 1995 Execution"]
[Note that in this case, some members of the victim's family doubted that Griffin was the killer, and thus were asking for re-opening an investigation.]
by Maurice Possley, Chicago Tribune.
The article about this Innocence Project case is presented in its entirety. Together with the Philadelhia Inquirer articles linked at the end, they show how the vacating of a conviction, and retrial can play out:
Larry Peterson, a U.S. Army veteran, was arrested for a 1987 rape and
murder in Burlington County, N.J., the only physical evidence that linked
him to the crime was six pubic hairs.
[For the related Philadelphia Inquirer articles, see " Murder conviction thrown out" and "Retrial likely if man jailed in 1987 killing is freed"
Social Concerns, Inc is a St. Louis-based non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about issues of wrongful imprisonment. Social worker and President of Social Concerns, Rebecca Rengo, was an alibi for a man who is currently serving 25 years...
St. Louis, MO (PRWEB) July 17, 2005 -- Rebecca Rengo-Kocher, a respected St. Louis social worker and psychotherapist, didn"t expect to run a nonprofit organization. But she also didn"t expect her testimony to be discounted in a recent court case. And she didn"t expect to see an innocent man sent to prison as a result.
Rengo-Kocher"s experience in the case of Guy Woolfolk compelled her to act by starting the Guy Woolfolk Trust Fund through Social Concerns, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of and addressing issues surrounding wrongful imprisonment. The organization helps low-income, at-risk individuals involved in cases of wrongful conviction.
"I know Guy is innocent - he was sitting beside me in my home at the time the crime was committed," says Rengo-Kocher, referring to Guy Woolfolk, who was accused and convicted of a carjacking in 2003. Rengo-Kocher provided one of three alibis for Woolfolk, but he was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison despite her testimony.
"I simply couldn"t accept this outcome, and I know Guy is only one of hundreds of people who face similar situations," Rengo-Kocher says. "We like to think that our justice system is flawless, but it"s not. And it"s not right to sit by and let an innocent person go to jail in America."
Social Concerns is hosting a public, educational screening of The Hurricane at 7 p.m., Thursday, August 4th at the Regional Arts Commission located at 6128 Delmar Boulevard in the Loop. The film, starring Denzel Washington, dramatizes the life of Rubin Carter, a middleweight boxer who was wrongfully convicted of murder in the 1960s. Carter was released in 1985 after nearly 20 years in prison. Admission for the movie is Free. To purchase a wine, cheese and raffle ticket package, the cost is $25 in advance, $30 at the door, and $20 for students.
One Hundred percent of the money raised will go towards The Guy Woolfolk Trust Fund. Packages may be purchased by calling Kim at 314-832-2580 or Meredith at 314-726-1622.
While Social Concerns works to assist Woolfolk"s appeal, Rengo-Kocher says the organization is concerned with issues surrounding social justice and wrongful imprisonment in general.
"Guy"s case inspired Social Concerns, but there is a definite need to raise awareness of these cases across the country," she says. "We don"t want another young life to be destroyed this way."
18 July 2005 "Executed Man May Be Cleared in New Inquiry" by Kate Zernike, New York Times.
ST. LOUIS, July 18 - The corner of Sarah and Olive looks almost nothing as it did 25 years ago when a 19-year-old drug dealer named Quintin Moss was gunned down from a slow-moving car. The boarded-up houses have been replaced by a new townhouse development marked by sleek stone gates; the drug dealers and prostitutes are gone.
And the man convicted of the killing, Larry Griffin, was executed 10 years ago.
Yet the city's top prosecutor has decided to re-investigate the murder as if it just happened, out of new concerns that the wrong man may have been put to death for the crime.
Prompted by questions raised in a report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the prosecutor, Jennifer Joyce, hopes to decide once and for all whether Mr. Griffin was guilty or innocent - though she acknowledges that 25 years later it may be hard to do more than show the flaws in the earlier prosecution.
Still, should Ms. Joyce, the St. Louis circuit attorney, demonstrate Mr. Griffin was not the killer, as the report and even some members of the victim's family contend, it would be the first proven execution of an innocent person, so far as death penalty advocates or opponents can recall.
Though dozens of people have been exonerated while on death row - from 30 to 75 in the last two decades, depending on which side of the debate is talking - proving Mr. Griffin's innocence would hand death penalty opponents the example that they have lacked in arguing for the abolition of capital punishment.
Already, Ms. Joyce's decision last week to investigate has prompted newspaper editorials to suggest that the case could be cause for a moratorium on the death penalty. Even some death penalty supporters say that her willingness to officially re-open the investigation is a remarkable, and perhaps unprecedented, development in the debate.
"If they prove that he was innocent, that would be the gold standard," said Joshua Marquis, the prosecutor in Clatsop County, Ore., and a frequent speaker in support of the death penalty. "I'm not sure opponents of the death penalty would start prevailing, but they'd be able to say to people like me, 'What about Mr. Griffin?' "
Still, Mr. Marquis said, "innocence is very different than saying this guy maybe didn't do it."
And it is hard to sort out an absolute truth 25 years later.
Unlike many cases that have resulted in exonerations, this case has no DNA evidence. The man whose testimony is now being challenged died last year. Other witnesses have changed their stories; memories are hazy. And like the debate about the death penalty itself, beliefs about what really happened here that June afternoon in 1980 are colored by race.
The prosecutor has seen three exonerations since taking office in 2001.
"Every prosecutor conceptually has the notion that someone innocent can be convicted," Ms. Joyce said. "I've seen it firsthand."
Her decision to revisit the Griffin case followed the report by the NAACP group, which began investigating the case last year after people here expressed long-simmering doubts about Mr. Griffin's guilt. The report contends that three other men killed Mr. Moss. Mr. Moss's family joined the NAACP group in raising questions about Mr. Griffin's guilt.
[For Columnist Bob Herbert's 14 July column about the same case, see "Convicted, Executed, Not Guilty"]
16 July 2005. "Baltovich to face second trial" from the Globe and Mail, Canada.
Crown 'should just apologize' to man charged in 1990 death of girlfriend, defence lawyer says" by Oliver Moore in the Globe and Mail.
This Canadian case involves a publicly identified alternate suspect and there was a book published about the case, "No Claim to Mercy", by Derek Finkle
16 July 2005. "Morin case started honoured career" - Lawyer James Lockyer, who works with the wrongfully convicted, gets an honorary degree. by Jame Sims, London Free Press, Canada.
Lawyer James Lockyer is slated to receive an honorary degree Monday from the province's legal regulatory body in the city that sparked his passion for defending the wrongly convicted....
12 July 2005. Washington Post Article, "Va. Man Granted Stay of Execution - High Court Agrees To Consider Case"
Excerpts of the article which involves the destruction of DNA evidence ....
4 1/2 hours before his scheduled execution, Virginia death row inmate Robin Lovitt was given a reprieve yesterday by the U.S. Supreme Court, which stayed his sentence until the fall, when it will consider whether his case deserves a hearing on its merits....
Lovitt's case had raised legal questions as seldom heard before in capital punishment. Four years ago, a court clerk mistakenly destroyed nearly all the evidence from his trial, including DNA from the pair of scissors that was used to kill Arlington pool hall manager Clayton Dicks, 45, in a robbery there in 1998.
Lovitt's attorneys, including former independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, had argued that Virginia's mistake took away Lovitt's last chance to prove his innocence -- through post-conviction DNA testing, which other inmates have used to clear themselves.