Justice: Denied -- The Magazine for the Wrongly Convicted




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Innocents Death Row Watch



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Stories From Volume 1 Issue 2 First Published 3/8/99

Shareef Cousin At sixteen, Shareef Cousin was sentenced to die. Wrongly convicted, he was forced to live four years of his young life in the infamous Louisiana Death Row. Read his amazing story.

Lee Barnett He dealt with drug dealers and all kinds of questionable people in spite of being a talented artist, aspiring inventor and amateur geologist. Barnett did some bad things, but says he was framed for Richard Eggett's murder. You be the judge, and see if the declarations below his story persuade you that he is innocent. Many people are not "saints," but that doesn't mean they are killers who should be on death row.

Martin Yant This Month's Champion of the Innocent. Private Investigator and Author Martin Yant exposed injustice... and paid for it.

Shasta Roever "...I was crying loudly and begging Ian, "Come back to me!" "Come back!" "Don't you dare die on me!" After a while, it finally dawned on me that my CPR efforts weren't doing anything.... This was the man I loved!"

Thomas Harris The seven year nightmare Thomas Harris has been forced to call "life" is a fantastic tale that begins with the best intentions and ends with an innocent man behind bars.

Anthony Porter An IQ of 51 qualified Anthony Porter for a hearing to see if he was competent enough to be killed by the state. After 17 years on death row, the first break came for Porter when Professor Protess and his students showed the state that another man had committed the crime for which Anthony Porter might have died..

John Stoll The child who swayed the jury to convict Stoll had never been in Stoll's home. Under questioning, this child told the court it is okay to lie, that he did not know what the oath was, and that it is okay to make a mistake in facts while testifying. In spite of no physical or medical evidence to support a claim of child sex abuse, Stoll was convicted.

Patrick Swiney Patrick Swiney's case is an unusual one to appear on these pages. For one thing, both innocence and possible guilt are discussed. This dilemma has to do with Patrick's claim that he was knocked unconscious before the murder happened. For another, Patrick has supporters, but he has not gathered enough support, and if you feel he merits it, we urge you to help with the easy task Sherry Swiney asks. As you will see, this case has more twists and turns than a maze: the DA and Swiney were once classmates, and was he in love with Swiney's wife? Patrick was exposing corruption, and could that be the reason the possibly incriminating DNA samples were destroyed? Nothing short of a true investigation should have been done, but it never happened. Patrick could well be innocent. You be the judge.

Guest Editorial--This month we are fortunate to have Part One of an introduction to Hans Sherrer's book "The Innocents: the prosecution, conviction, and imprisonment of the innocent". Look for Part Two next month. (Volume 1 Issue 3)

Snapshots--The wrongly convicted in the news--Articles from Volume 1 Issue 2.

Shareef Cousin


Shareef Cousin
Will Justice Be Done?

by Stormy Thoming-Gale with Kira Caywood

At sixteen, Shareef Cousin was sentenced to die. Wrongly convicted, he was forced to live four years of his young life in the infamous Louisiana Death Row. Read his amazing story.

More and more children are landing on Death Row to await the end of their short lives. When we think about who is on Death Row, we invariably think of hardened criminals. Those who have committed heinous crimes. Those with a rap sheet as long as they are tall. The dregs of society. The new residents of Death Row often defy the stereotype. So it is with Shareef Cousin. This is his story.

According to the prosecution, at 10:26 PM, on May 2, 1995, in New Orleans, three men approached Michael Gerardi as he exited a restaurant with his date. One man shot him in the face, then appeared to pick his pockets. Michael's date, Connie Babin, fled and called police.

At that moment Shareef was in a car with three of his basketball teammates being driven home by their coach, Eric White. They had just finished a basketball game that had begun at 9:30 PM. Coach White verified that he dropped Shareef off at home at approximately 10:45 PM.

With an alibi like that, how did Shareef wind up, at 16 years old, the youngest member of Death Row?

At the time the murder was committed, a young man named James Rowell, a former friend of Shareef's, was in jail having been arrested on nine counts of armed robbery. When his lawyer asked if James had any information that might reduce his sentence, he fingered Shareef for the murder. At Shareef's trial nine months later, James completely recanted, and testified that he'd only said what his lawyer and the prosecutors had told him to say.

The prosecution quickly went to work on creating a murderer. Shareef was their man. There was absolutely no evidence against Shareef! No weapon, blood, fibers, fingerprints or any other physical evidence linked Shareef Cousin to the crime. How did they do it?

They left out the inconsistent testimony of Connie Babin, Eyewitness. On the night of the murder, Connie told police that in all the confusion, she doubted she could identify the killer. She did say he was shorter than Michael. Shareef is four inches taller.

Three days later, in a formal, taped police interview, Connie replied to the question of whether or not she could identify the killer, "I don't know. It was dark, and I didn't have my contacts or my glasses, so I'm coming at this at a disadvantage."

At Shareef's trial, Connie claimed to be "100% certain" that Shareef was the killer. The thing that was causing the prosecution the most trouble was Shareef's solid alibi. The solution? Suppress the information.

Coach Eric White testified that he was giving Shareef Cousin and three other players a ride home from a basketball game (which was videotaped) during the time of the murder. In a taped interview with prosecutors, he said that the game started at 9:30 PM. Since games typically last 40 minutes, Shareef hardly could have played the game, crossed town and committed murder by 10:26 PM. When the tape was played in court, Coach White charged that the prosecution had altered it to say the game ended at 9:30 PM. The judge did not allow him to elaborate on his protest.

The three teammates who rode with Shareef and Coach White were waiting outside the courtroom to testify on Shareef's behalf. When defense lawyers were ready to call them, they had disappeared. Too late, the defense found out that prosecutors had relocated the boys to the DA's air-conditioned office, supposedly to provide relief from the hot weather. This happened during one of the coldest Januarys in New Orleans history.

Two referees who participated in the game reaffirmed to prosecutors that the game had started at 9:30 PM, but their accounts were neither shared with the defense nor mentioned during trial.

Also, as previously mentioned, James Rowell, the man who had pointed the finger at Shareef, completely recanted his accusation.

With a case that consisted of nothing but one "positive" and two "tentative" eyewitness identifications (one from a restaurant worker and the other a tourist), the prosecutors sent an innocent man to death row.

What followed was an outcry. People from all over the world stepped up to bat. Time Magazine featured a story about him called, "Dead Teen Walking" and exposed the prosecution for what they were. Liars.

Shareef's attorney, Clive Stafford-Smith, went to work immediately on Shareef's appeal.

On April 14, 1998, the Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed Shareef Cousin's murder and death penalty convictions. The court cited the prosecution's improper use of hearsay but unfortunately did not address the prosecution's withholding of clearly exculpatory evidence. Shareef was granted a new trial, set for January 11, 1999.

On January 8, 1999, just three days before Shareef Cousin's new trial was to begin, the New Orleans District Attorney's office dropped the murder charges against Shareef. Up until the final moment before dropping charges, prosecutors tried to persuade Shareef to sign a confession saying that he murdered Michael Gerardi. They pressured him, promising reduced time. Shareef refused to admit to this crime he did not commit.

Shareef remains incarcerated due to a past plea bargain to four counts of robbery, coerced from him around three years ago, when he felt his future was hopeless. The Louisiana Supreme Court recently denied his appeal on the robbery charges. If that conviction continues to be upheld, Shareef would be required to serve nine years. Shareef's lawyer, Mr. Stafford-Smith is  appealing to the Federal courts.

The New Orleans Police Department has reopened the investigation into Michael Gerardi's murder.

For further information, please visit Shareef's website at:
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Lee Barnett


Innocent but Ten Years on San Quentin's Death Row
Edited by Clara A. Thomas Boggs and Stormy Thoming-Gale

My name is Lee Max Barnett. I used to be a bit of a hell-raiser. I lived in the mountains near Chico, California, where I dredged for gold and mixed with some pretty dubious people. I am no saint. For example, I have used an alias name several times to avoid paying taxes, and I used to grow marijuana. Twelve years ago I was framed for a murder I did not commit. I have spent ten years on Death Row in San Quentin State Prison an innocent man.

Let me give you a brief explanation of how it happened. If you think it rings true perhaps you will look further into my case. I could use your help.

In the summer of 1984 a large quantity of the marijuana I was growing was stolen. When I learned that the thieves were Bill Cantwell and his friends, members of a local biker gang who manufactured liquid methamphetamine (crank oil), I decided to take their drugs. When Richard Eggett, who knew the gang, led me to the laboratory I took 25 gallons of crank oil, worth over a million dollars, intending to hold it until they returned my marijuana.

You won't be surprised to hear that Cantwell and associates came after me. A year later while traveling with Richard Eggett, who they correctly suspected of having helped me find their laboratory, they came upon my camp. They jumped out of their truck with guns drawn. I happened to be in the trees by the latrine, and I also had a gun because of rattle snakes, bear and boar in the area. I fired a shot in the air and told them they were under citizen's arrest. I then disarmed them, tied them up, and bargained with them over what should happen now. They agreed that if I untied them and went off to get their crank oil they would no longer pursue me, and would give me a share of the drugs. I went off but I didn't return.

When they realized I was not coming back they turned on Richard Eggett. Bill Cantwell had told his friends that he tortured Eggett for information on the whereabouts of the drugs and that he then stabbed Richard Eggett to death. They then framed me by falsely stating that I had beaten and threatened to kill Richard Eggett.

My trial was a farce. State witnesses lied, and the appointed Defense Attorneys did not look for witnesses who were present. These witnesses would have told the jury that the State witnesses were lying and that I didn't beat, or kill the victim. Two of Cantwell's friends, who testified for me, stated that Cantwell had told them he had framed me, but the silver-tongued prosecution argued that they were lying, and the witnesses were not believed.

No one testified that they had seen me kill Eggett, though they falsely claimed they had heard Eggett crying in pain when I was alone with him. That forced me to take the stand to testify that they had lied. The lawyer appointed to defend me did not defend me. He allowed the prosecution to ask improper questions and he behaved as a second prosecutor, arguing that I was guilty. He also tried to dissuade Cantwell's friends from testifying in my favor. I was found guilty of the torture, kidnapping, robbery and murder of Richard Eggett. This was based on the lies of the State's witnesses and on the arguments of the prosecutor and appointed attorney. The charges of kidnapping (a citizen's arrest, made in self-defense) and torture ensured that I received the death sentence.

After The Trial

In January, 1992, Bill Cantwell shot himself in the head and died. This happened shortly after he confessed to Kenneth Clumpus that he had killed Eggett. Clumpus later told Bill Cantwell (untruthfully) that he had secretly taped this confession. Cantwell replied that he was not prepared to go to prison for the murder. The suicide of the real murderer leaves me as the only person to blame.

My appeal, earlier in 1998, was no more successful than the original trial. The appointed attorneys were forced upon me and they neglected to raise over 200 serious errors. I have obtained an enormous amount of material in my defense, including sworn statements from several witnesses swearing to my innocence and to Cantwell's guilt, but the appointed appellate attorneys would not use much of it unless I paid them more. My State-appointed attorneys are now asking for $100,000 for investigations to support my final appeal. This sum is completely beyond the means of my family, but if I do not pay it they say they will confine the evidence to material already used in my earlier, unsuccessful court appearances, and I'll be executed.

I hope the above has at least convinced you that I was denied a fair trial and that reasonable doubt exists in my case. I had no motive for killing Richard Eggett. He was a friend who had led me to Bill Cantwell's liquid methamphetamine lab. If I had wanted to kill any of them I would have killed Cantwell or Hampton, the ones who were out to get me. On the other hand, Cantwell, who is well known to have been a violent and extremely dangerous man, did have a clear motive for killing Richard Eggett. He was furious to have lost me and he knew that Eggett had helped me steal his drugs. I believe he vented his frustration and anger by torturing and killing Richard Eggett.

If you wish to read more -- i.e. witnesses' statements and newspaper articles which support my case and all the above statements -- I will be glad to provide them. As I said at the start, I am no saint, but I am not a murderer or a torturer. I have spent twelve years facing death for a crime I did not commit. I urgently need defense funds to establish this.

Please send a donation to
Lee Barnett c/o Walther
Box 102
New Lebanon, N.Y. 12125 USA

I append abbreviated, but otherwise unchanged, extracts from the sworn statements of two witnesses who testified for me in 1993.

You may write directly to Mr. Barnett at:
Lee Max Barnett
PO Box E-03100
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA 94974.

Extracts From Declaration Of Kenneth Clumpus

I, Kenneth Clumpus, declare as follows:

I was interviewed by Lee Barnett's defense investigator. I told the investigator many facts about the murder with which Barnett was charged, facts which were related to me by Bill Cantwell, and which indicated Barnett was innocent and Bill guilty of the murder, having framed Barnett for the murder of Rich Eggett because he thought Eggett was involved with Barnett in ripping off 25 gallons of liquid speed from Cantwell. He said it was crank oil. For quite some time after I testified at Barnett's trial, anytime Bill Cantwell saw me, he would call me "a rat" for repeating what he told me about setting Barnett up for the murder beef. During one of those name-calling incidents I said "No, you're a piece of s**t for lying against Barnett and putting him on Death Row for a crime he did not commit!" Cantwell said: "He shouldn't have stolen my dope." I told him he was really low for blaming Barnett for a murder he himself committed and some day he would go to prison. Cantwell did not appear to be under the influence of any drugs or alcohol and I reminded him that he had admitted to me that he killed Eggett the last time we spoke together. Cantwell said to me: "Yeah, I killed Eggett, but nobody can prove it, so f**k you."

Several days later I saw Cantwell again by a liquor store and I decided to make him sweat. I told him I had a tape recorder on me when he admitted killing Eggett. Cantwell became very concerned and offered me several pounds of crank for the tape (which didn't exist). I told Cantwell that I had given the tape to Barnett's new lawyer and it was too late, that his arrest was going to occur soon. Cantwell said he wouldn't go alive and would blow his own head off before going to prison. I am making this declaration because I believe what Bill Cantwell told me about Barnett's being set up for the murder of Richard Eggett, and that Cantwell was the killer himself. I feel it is very wrong for an innocent man to have been sentenced to death. I only want this terrible mistake and the miscarriage of justice corrected and that Barnett not be executed of imprisoned for something he didn't do.

I declare under the penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct except as to matters based on information or belief, but as to those I believe them to be true.

Dated April in 1993 Kenneth Clumpus Notary Public (signature) Sworn to before me this 2 day of April 1993 Stamp of Judy N Brownfield Notary Public California Butte County

Extracts From Declaration Of Jacek Jerzy Gabryelski

I, Jacek Jerzy Gabryelski, declare as follows:

I met Lee Max Barnett in 1984 while I was living in Centerville, in Butte Canyon, at the junction of Helltown and Centerville roads. The "Junction" was strategically located and served as a stopping place for many gold miners going in to mine and coming out of the canyon with their gold. Lee Barnett was particularly noticed by me because he engaged me in lengthy conversations dealing with his inventions, experiments and observations of a geological nature, where gold most likely could be found and about his mining techniques. I shared with him those interests and found him to be a fascinating individual. I briefly saw Lee Barnett two times again around spring of 1986 at a machine shop belonging to Kyle Riley located on East Avenue in Chico...

The second time, I witnessed Mr. Barnett get run down by a Cadillac on East Avenue close by the driveway of the machine shop. The car was going really fast as it swerved and struck Mr. Barnett. It then slowed down and turned around but it did not stop, then it sped away. From this action it appeared that it wasn't an accident and that someone was either trying to hurt or kill Mr. Barnett...

When I later asked Kyle Riley what this was all about, and why no one called the police, he told me that Barnett was at odds with some bikers because he stole from them and that they were trying to kill him. Riley said that going to the police would be a waste of time.

Some time after the incident in the driveway of Kyle Riley's shop David Clumpus informed me that Lee Barnett had been arrested for the murder of Richard Eggett. He said he knew that the police had the wrong man because Bill Cantwell and possibly others were the real killers. David Clumpus said Cantwell and his friends tried unsuccessfully several times to kill Barnett, and since Cantwell could not get Barnett, he decided to kill Barnett's partner, because he thought Eggett was also involved in the theft of his drugs. He reasoned that if he could not get the stolen stuff back, then he would make them pay, Eggett with the ultimate price and he could blame the murder on Barnett. Apparently, Eggett was murdered somewhere around his mining camp above Forest Ranch during, after or at some time at a party or gathering that had taken place there. David Clumpus was privy to these facts because he knew many of the people involved.

After hearing from David Clumpus about the events surrounding the murder of Eggett, seeing Barnett get run down... I realized that they were telling me the truth about the killing incident up in the mountains and all the other events matched the pattern. While living in Cohasset, in the early part of 1987, I became acquainted with many people who lived in the area. Among others I met Edward (Eddie) Lee. Eddie did not have a car so I at times would give
him a ride into town. On one of our trips into town Eddie asked me to drive him to his cousin's house in Chapmantown because his cousin owed him money.

After we got there I was introduced to Bill Cantwell who was intoxicated and belligerent... He started to threaten Eddie by telling him that he did not have to pay him any of the money if he did him like he did that "motherf____r" Eggett. He seemed very angry one minute, then he was not. Finally Bill and Eddie came to an agreement that Eddie could take a chainsaw as partial payment for the money Bill owed him. We went to the back yard where Bill said we could find the chainsaw in the tool shed. While in the back yard I noticed a Cadillac that I saw run over Lee Barnett. The car was so distinctive that there was no mistake it was the same car that ran over Barnett.

On the way out, Bill's wife or girlfriend said to Eddie that she was really worried about Bill because he has been drinking more and more, taking more drugs than ever, and then stay depressed for longer and longer every day. She said he was paranoid that somehow he would be caught for killing Eggett and that the whole thing was eating him alive. She said that he would beat her, and she was afraid he might kill her one day. It was a well known fact to all of the people who knew about the personal war Bill Cantwell waged against Lee Barnett, that it was Bill Cantwell who killed Richard Eggett, but people were so afraid of Cantwell and his friends that no one involved with him would come forward to tell the truth.

This was primarily because people knew that Cantwell was violent and that he was arrested many times for crimes of violence anyone else would have gone forever to prison, but he somehow always got out of it and continued to terrorize people. It was well known and talk around Chico that Cantwell killed other people and dumped their bodies in the Sacramento River... Chico is a relatively small town and everybody knew about everyone else's business and any news would spread really quickly around town.... From my personal observations while I knew Lee Barnett, I can wholeheartedly say that he was not capable of killing, or a type of person that would hurt someone for any reason. It absolutely made no sense for him to kill Eggett. He was always friendly and good natured... He was always ready to help people he hardly even knew when they needed it. He spent many hours helping me work on my vehicles and around my residence for no compensation other than a thanks. I saw him on several occasions helping people stranded with their vehicles on the side of the road.

Dated New York, New York, December 23, 1993 Jacek J. Gabryelski Sworn to and subscribed before me this 23rd day of December Lawrence W. Schilling Notary Public

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Martin Yant

What forces drive a man like Martin Yant to repeatedly work with great passion to free innocent people? He has lost sleep, money, peace of mind, and many other things people hold dear, and this year a few more innocent people will thank God that there is a Marty Yant in this world.

When Martin Yant became editor of The Mansfield News Journal in 1978 at age 28, he was the youngest editor of a daily newspaper in the United States. Since graduating from Georgetown University in 1971 -- three years behind Bill Clinton -- Yant had earned the reputation in Pittsburgh and the Chicago as a newspaper whiz kid and he was well on his way to meeting his goal of becoming editor of a major metropolitan newspaper by the time he was 40.

The first telephone call Yant got the first day in his new position changed those plans dramatically.

"Are you going to cover up all the corruption in this town like the editors before you," a woman asked after welcoming Yant to Mansfield.

"What are you talking about?" Yant asked skeptically.

"Just look at all the dirt under your rug and you'll know what I'm talking about," the woman said.

It didn't take Yant long to learn the woman was right. But he didn't have to look under his rug to find Mansfield's corruption. Other callers quickly swamped him with information about widespread corruption in Mansfield, to which he had been attracted after his Chicago newspaper portrayed it as the typical American town.

What had seemed like a dream-come-true job quickly turned into a nightmare as Yant sought to expose a corrupt and brutal sheriff's department; a coroner who stole from the dead and endangered the lives of the living at his private medical lab, which routinely fabricated the results of medical tests to save money; a national foundation that had collapsed with several million dollars missing; and a prosecutor who probed or prosecuted those who got in the way.

When the publisher -- who turned out to be intricately involved in the town's corruption -- cut off Yant's exposes, Yant resigned and started The Ohio Observer, a crusading citizen-owned daily newspaper to continue the job. Before it was over, the sheriff and seven of his worst deputies went to prison, the coroner and several other crooked politicians were forced out of office and the private lab was closed.

But Yant's victory was bittersweet. The continual threats on his life, the destruction of one of his paper's buildings by arson and large financial losses caused by threats on sponsors and circulation sabotage eventually cost Yant almost all that he held dear, including his marriage.

Yant learned much about the seamier side of life in America during his widely publicized crusade. One of the sheriff's smaller abuses of the system that Yant exposed -- the framing of a potential political opponent so he could not run against him -- didn't seem all that important at the time. But when Yant looked back on the events after he was finally forced to leave Mansfield and took an editing and column-writing job at The Columbus Dispatch, he realized how the sheriff had demonstrated just how easy it was for an innocent person to be convicted in the American criminal-justice system.

This realization inspired Yant to write a column about the research of C. Ronald Huff, a prominent criminologist at Ohio State University.  A recent study of wrongful convictions by Huff had arrived at a frightening, but conservative estimate that several thousand Americans were convicted every year for serious crimes they did not commit.

Thanks greatly to the concerns expressed by Huff about this then-dirty little secret, Yant found himself hooked on the subject. He realized that each of these wrongful convictions was a major tragedy, and he began regularly writing about them.

When Yant broke the story in Ohio about Columbus native Randall Dale Adams' wrongful conviction in Dallas and how the soon-to-be-released film Thin Blue Line proved his innocence, he became so interested in the subject that he wrote a proposal for a book on the subject titled Presumed Guilty,  and Prometheus Books immediately offered him a contract.

After the book was published in 1991 and Yant had a second contract to write a book on the Persian Gulf War titled Desert Mirage, Yant left The Dispatch to begin investigating wrongful convictions himself.

His first case was in a remote area of West Virginia known as the Mountaintop, where rookie sheriff's deputy Paul Ferrell was railroaded for the murder of Cathy Ford, who had disappeared in February 1988. Ferrell was convicted in a farce of a trial even though no one ever had seen him with the missing woman.

Yant's investigation of the mysterious case, in which he developed evidence that Ford might actually be alive, took six months and over a thousand interviews with people in 17 states.

When he was finished, the local paper reneged on its promise to publish a six- part series on the case because of his explosive revelations, which included recantations from several key witnesses. Yant then decided to publish the story himself in a special magazine called The Public Eye, which sold several thousand copies in the sparsely populated area and got the story exposure on Montel Williams and Unsolved Mysteries. Residents of the Mountaintop, most of whom believed Ferrell was innocent, were outraged by what they read, and that helped gain Ferrell's release pending a much delayed evidentiary hearing.

Ferrell was returned to prison in 1997 after the biased trial judge ruled against his claim of innocence, but his attorneys are hopeful that an imminent federal court ruling will soon free Ferrell for good.

Since that first case, Yant's investigations have freed several other innocent inmates. The best known of those cases was the release of Jenny Wilcox and Robert Aldridge in 1996 after Yant obtained the recantations of three of the six children who testified against them in a 1985 child sex-abuse trial and uncovered a 28-page report full exculpatory information that was never turned over to defense counsel.

Several other cases Yant has investigated are now nearing evidentiary hearings that he is hopeful will lead to the release of more innocent individuals this year. Yant is currently investigating about 20 other apparent wrongful convictions, including three death-penalty cases.

Yant also has worked hard to make people aware of injustice in America through many appearances on numerous TV and radio talk shows; had a second investigation featured on Unsolved Mysteries and another on The CBS  Evening News; In 1992, Yant served as a consultant for Final Appeal, an NBC-TV series on wrongful convictions. 

In his "spare time," Yant is developing a revolutionary new version of The Ohio Observer that will be automatically delivered by the Internet and automatically printed out each morning for subscribers throughout the state. Like its Mansfield predecessor, the new Observer will concentrate on covering what the rest of the media cover up, including, of course, wrongful convictions.

Martin Yant has written four books:

Presumed Guilty: When Innocent People Are Wrongly Convicted   (Prometheus, 1991) shows how carelessness, investigations that fit facts to theories, the use of long-discredited investigative techniques, prejudice and the desire of police and prosecutors to "win" at any price cause several thousand mistaken convictions for serious crimes every year. "Yant...clearly has the evidence to prove this thesis," The Library Journal said. Syndicated columnist Bob Greene wrote: "In a world that prefers to be satisfied and complacent, Martin Yant retains the one attribute that many journalists have lost: He gets angry."

Desert Mirage: The True Story of the Gulf War (Prometheus, 1991) documents how the Bush administration deliberately deceived Americans into supporting the pursuit of power disguised as the pursuit of principle at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. Kirkus Reviews called the book "a carefully documented, scathing indictment of the Persian Gulf War... in the best tradition of contrarian investigative journalism." Foreword by Sen. John Glenn, who called Yant "a journalist's journalist."

Rotten to the Core: Crime, Sex and Corruption in Johnny Appleseed's Hometown (Public Eye, 1994), a personal account of what Time called a "painful victory" by a "persistent editor" over corruption in a typical American town. "Every citizen...ought to read this book," Steve Allen wrote in his foreword. Added Akron Beacon Journal columnist Steve Love: "[Yant] gives journalists a good name."

Tin Star Tyrants: America's Crooked Sheriffs (Public Eye, 1995) unmasks those who use their tin stars as a license to lie, cheat, steal, frame innocent people, beat and kill. "An eye-opening exposé." — Publisher's Weekly. "Corruption and brutality in law enforcement are explored expertly here." — Kirkus Reviews.
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Shasta Roever

The Case Of Shasta Roever

Shasta's case is important to me. Shasta (Lerlene Roever) befriended my daughter shortly after both arrived at the Nevada Women's Correctional Center in Carson City, Nevada. There was only a tiny handful of women among the hundreds who claimed to be innocent, so a special friendship grew between my daughter, who had only begun her life when tragedy struck, and Shasta, whose children were teenagers. In an eerie twist of fate, my daughter's tragedy came on January 9, 1993, and Shasta's misfortune came scarcely a week later. Shasta tells her own story here, but I became involved after Kirk Vitto, her prosecuting DA, paid an unexpected visit to my daughter. I spoke to him the next day, and then again the last week of February. I will share the results of that conversation at the end of Shasta's story. 
Clara A. Thomas Boggs

"...I was crying loudly and begging Ian, "Come back to me!" "Come back!" "Don't you dare die on me!" After a while, it finally dawned on me that my CPR efforts weren't doing anything.... This was the man I loved!"

I Did Not Kill the Man I loved

By Lerlene Roever ("Shasta")

On Jan. 16, 1993, my fiancée, Ian Wilhite, and I were watching television with my three children. Ian was tired from a long work week, and relaxed on the couch with his head in my lap. By 9 P.M., my younger children had gone to bed and my oldest son, Dominic, and I talked about his problems at school with girls. Time elapsed and Ian awoke and reminded us of the hour. Dominic went to bed, Ian went to bed, and I turned off the TV and lights and also went to bed.

When Ian had a few drinks, he would often shove against me in bed and get grumbly. We drank rum and cokes that night (his usual three to my one), so when I finally got under the covers, he shoved at me and I just didn't feel like arguing with him about it. We had a sofa bed in the living room for just such nights, so I once again went back out of the bedroom turned on the TV, fixed up the sofa, and soon fell asleep.

There had been stormy weather for a couple of days and that night there was plenty of rain, lightning and thunder, which sounds louder in a mobile home than in a conventional home. During the night, my youngest son, Raymond, awakened me to ask why the back door was open. This door didn't always catch right, so in my drowsy state I assumed the wind had blown it open again. I mumbled to Ray to close it. He did, then cuddled with me for a few minutes before going back to his bed. My daughter, Jeanine, later told investigators that she witnessed all this because she had wandered out minutes before, turned the TV off, and sat on the other couch (love-seat) without my knowing it. Now I think the murderer must have entered and left, leaving the door open.

The next morning, after waking, I went into the bedroom to get dressed. A drawer creaked as I opened it, and I turned quickly, fearing I had disturbed Ian on his Saturday morning chance to sleep in. He appeared to still be asleep, but I felt a strange and unexplainable feeling come over me that something wasn't right. I went to him and touched his shoulder. He was cold. With an electric blanket on and covering him, this did not make sense to me, and the creepy feeling increased. I turned him onto his back and saw he was too pale and his face didn't move. When I was a child my mother once took an overdose of pills and she looked just like this. I thought she was dead. Seeing Ian like that frightened me and I panicked.  I ran through the trailer screaming hysterically, "He's dead! My God, Ian's dead!" Dominic came out of his room, pulling on his robe and asked, "Are you sure he's not breathing?" Not breathing ... CPR! I ran back in and began CPR procedures, but not too well because I was crying loudly and begging Ian, "Come back to me!" "Come back!" "Don't you dare die on me!" After a while, it finally dawned on me that my CPR efforts weren't doing anything. This was the man I loved! I turned him back onto his side and covered him up again. I guess I somehow thought that if I could warm him up, maybe the paramedics could bring him back. I really don't know what I thought then.

Next I called the local Sheriff's Department by punching the preset button. I was so hysterical that the woman who answered the phone kept saying, "I can't understand you ma'am" and, "You need to calm down ma'am." I finally handed the phone to Dominic, who was more composed and could speak more clearly than I.

He told the woman that Ian was dead and that we were reporting a murder (Dominic thought he saw bruises on Ian's back, which later proved to be lividity), and gave her directions to our home. Soon deputies arrived and forced me to remain in the living room for nearly 12 hours with no one to talk to other than police. They denied me any medical care and repeatedly questioned me. That night, the coroner arrived and they took Ian from the trailer. I saw them drop him once and bang him into the back door frame. After that, I was allowed to go to the neighbor's home because I just couldn't handle being alone in there for the night.

I was questioned again at the neighbor's the next day. On January 18th, I was arrested. The coroner stated that Ian had been shot by a .22 caliber weapon. Since I owned a .22 caliber Astra handgun, I was singled out. (It was my mother's, given to my grandmother, and I had taken it away from her when she began to show the first signs of what I thought was Alzheimer's Disease.) This, plus my supposed "mental state" (the "state" for which they refused to give me medication) were the reasons given for arresting me. Ballistics tests later determined that the Astra was not the weapon used. Even though extensive searches were done on the property, including metal detectors, and it was accepted that I had not left the property during the night, had no wet clothes in the house, and owned no clothes dryer, I was still not released.

Ian had explained to me and to my Uncle, Floyd Draper, that his life had been threatened while he was living in Las Vegas, and that was why he had moved to Pahrump, Nevada, in the first place. He went into more detail with my uncle than he did with me about the details. But this was why he was referred to as "Buddy" in Las Vegas, and by his real name in Pahrump. He also didn't tell anyone in Vegas exactly where he lived until four years after moving, when he even asked me to draw up a couple of simple maps for a friend or two.

Ian worked in Las Vegas, but commuted the hour or so to work. After his death, I was told he had been frequenting some of the adult entertainment places in town and had maintained his old lifestyle of drinking, drugs and strippers. I had known of a couple of times he had gone to "strip bars" whileon lunch break from the elementary school where he worked. We argued about it. He said he wouldn't go anymore, and there wasn't much more said about it until the deputies and other investigators asked me about Ian's past and his life, and if I knew anyone who might have a grudge against him.

At the first trial, I was advised not to testify. My public defender told me, "The State has the burden of proof, and there is absolutely no evidence against you. So unless you have a burning desire to testify, I wouldn't recommend it." He even assured me that it was not for me to defend myself -- that since I was innocent, there was nothing to defend. This is why I didn't take the stand. During this trial, several of my Constitutional Rights were deliberately violated: the State's key witness, the main investigator, lied on the stand. Then during cross-examination, he impeached his own testimony: he chummed up to and chatted with the jurors at the various breaks during trial. His excuse was that it was in the only smoking area in the court building, but this man was present all days of the trial, and never needed to share the area with the jurors before or after our questioning of him. After a mere five days in court, including jury selection, I was convicted of 1st Degree Murder with the use of a deadly weapon, and sentenced to 2 consecutive life terms, with the chance of parole after 20 years minimum.

My Public Defender filed an appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court and, in August of 1995, the unanimous decision came down to overturn the conviction due to the errors and violations that took place during the trial. It was also noted that, "there was no physical evidence to link the defendant to the crime." They also remanded me back to the same court for a retrial.

By the time of the next trial, I was adamant about testifying, and I did. However, the effectiveness of my testimony was severely compromised because my public defender avoided and/or refused to ask the important questions regarding Ian's background and associates, as well as many other things the jury needed to hear to make a fully informed decision. Furthermore, these important points weren't even broached during the trial. I felt that my attorney put on a mere token of a defense. He refused to subpoena anyone on the two-page list I gave him, and even insulted my uncle, the only witness who was there for me. I was convicted again, given the same sentence, and am again sitting in prison awaiting the results of another appeal. This time the district attorney admitted there was no evidence, and the weapon still has not been found to this day, so he felt justified in trying me based on whatever stories or opinions his witnesses could fabricate about my character.

In a press article, the DA himself said he did not believe these stories about me were true:

"However, Chief Deputy D.A. Kirk Vitto argued in his response to the Supreme Court that ultimately, the truth behind the stories is immaterial. In fact, he said, prosecutors assumed the stories weren't true." ("Third time thecharm for PV murder case?" -- Pahrump Valley Times, May 23, 1997.) I am certain that this conviction will also be reversed and overturned. I must admit that this time I am praying that the Supreme Court Justices will simply end this matter and this travesty once and for all.

Some points to consider in my case:

My attorney himself told me that he, the judge and the sheriff are all very good friends. "Best of Buddies," is how I think he put it.

Before the second trial, my public defender refused my phone calls, and for months wouldn't answer letters I wrote to him. I didn't even see him until the first day of jury selection. When I wrote to the judge to complain and express my concern over this and other things amounting to my complete dissatisfaction and lack of confidence in my attorney's abilities to put on the best possible defense for me, I requested that a new lawyer be assigned. The judge brought this up to me and stated that he was denying my request, and that Harry was the best defense attorney, and that he (the judge) had full faith that Harry would do the best job for me. I was not permitted to specify any of the particular complaints.

My first trial was a mere five days, the second trial was only 6 days long -- and both periods included the time-consuming process of jury selection.

The District Attorney deliberately had witnesses testify to events or circumstances that either never occurred and were easily verified, or could have been disproved with minimal checking. One woman stated that I had told her I had killed my own mother and a baby. My mother actually drowned, with occlusive arteriosclerosis of the coronary arteries contributing to her death. There was an investigation on this. I did lose a child at birth years before. He was born at a hospital with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. The doctor said it was asphyxiation. I made the mistake of telling the neighbor I went to stay with that I just didn't think I could handle much more death in my life, and told her about my mom and my baby boy. She perverted my sharing of my tragic history on the stand and, without opposition from my lawyer, made my personal and sad losses seem morbid and tawdry. My ex-husband, whom I had thrown out for lying to me and stealing from me years before also was called to testify against me to tell lies that my son even stated were lies. My ex's mother was called to discredit my character in any way she could. A woman who once admitted to me that she was in love with Ian and wished he would be interested in older women came up with some tales that I hadn't a clue about. Nothing was said about there being no evidence, no motive, and no weapon.

Everything was focused on destroying my character, defaming my reputation -- in short, getting the conviction regardless of what is truth, right or just in a court of law. Shock tactics and lurid and blatant falsehoods presented to prejudice a jury is certainly not proof of any guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

On September 2, 1998 the Nevada Supreme Court once again unanimously overturned my conviction. I found out 11 days later through a friend who read the newspaper article, and not immediately through my lawyer.

Justices Young, Springer, and Rose commented in the main body of the Opinion that, "Much of the bad act evidence admitted was so inflammatory,speculative, and utterly fantastic as to bear practically no probative value." Citing case law, they further stated, "Accordingly, even if clear and convincing evidence established the existence of these acts and the acts were relevant to the crime charged, we conclude that any probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice as a matter of law." They concluded that admitting this "evidence" served only to violate my fundamental right to a fair trial.

The "bad act evidence" referred to the false testimonies given by a neighbor and my ex-husband, evidence which a minimum of investigating would prove to be the lies they are.

The jurors had stated their concern about the lack of evidence, but felt the circumstantial evidence was enough for a conviction. That same circumstantial evidence was what the Justices ruled responsible for violating my rights and being highly prejudicial. Obviously they were correct. The jurors were swayed enough by these lies and the he-said she-said stuff that they were able to overlook the facts of no weapon, no motive, no gain for me and, as the Supreme Court stated in the first conviction overturn, "there was no physical evidence to link Roever to the crime."

Justices Shearing and Maupin differed on particular points, but also concurred to overturn, affirming that my rights were violated. This is twice now that Assistant DA Kirk Vitto feels he can do anything --  regardless of the law or morality and ethics -- to gain the conviction of an innocent woman.

After I received confirmation of the overturn, Mr. Vitto came to the prison and extensively questioned my roommate, my daughter (another innocent victim of our justice system), about me. He still sought to discredit my character. Since this is nearly 6 years later and my roommate didn't know me in January, 1993, when this travesty began, his interrogation of her can only be construed as deliberate persecution. That's how my daughter felt during his interrogation. She also felt that Mr. Vitto was trying to alienate us from each other with his lies and half-truths. Several other people have said the same after hearing about this. Obviously this man is not "seeking the truth," as he claims, but is willing to use any means to hang onto his conviction. The same day Vitto was at the prison, my belongings were thoroughly searched (the first time in nearly 6 years), and Mr. Vitto knew about it and just happened to speak with the same guard who searched my room. Coincidence?

On September 15, 1998, the District Attorney filed a Petition For Rehearing with the Supreme Court. He contends that all five Justices are wrong about particular points and wants the chance to show them their errors, and that he is right.

In our Opposition to Respondent's Petition for Rehearing filed September 17, 1998, my public defender wrote, "The State's miscarriage of justice 'served only to violate Roever's fundamental right to a fair trial'." He further wrote, "The net effect of a petition for rehearing is that Roever will languish for an additional six months or so in prison while the remittitur is delayed. This court had the benefit of two rounds of appellate briefs and oral argument before reversing this travesty. Counsel for the state now asks for a third round. How many times must this court countenance the state's inability or unwillingness to accept what, to the rest of us, is crystal clear? Certainly, sanctions against the state in a published opinion will serve to further educate the Bar and the tiny minority who do not comprehend."

If a proper investigation had been conducted in the first place instead of immediately targeting me and railroading me, Mr. Vitto and the misguided D.A may have found their "truth." As it is, too much time, taxpayer money (now approximately over three-quarters of a million, folks) and effort has been spent to destroy a woman's life, family and naive belief in the police, state investigators and the court system, only to prove nothing, because I am innocent of this crime. I now have complete disgust for prosecutors (such as Mr. Vitto) who profess to be Christian while lying, conniving, and ignoring truth for a conviction for their esteemed "record."

Since I've repeatedly refused all plea bargains offered by the prosecutors (I'm told if I had accepted a plea, I'd likely be out by now), it seems that the State and the court prefer a conviction of any kind over justice or truth. I know my case is in no way unique. Many are being abused and victimized by a system that we, as taxpayers supposedly pay to protect us. I am trying not to become embittered and cynical by this whole mess and am dependent upon the Lord to vindicate me. I sure can't count on honesty, ethics, or integrity in a courtroom.

I appeal to anyone interested to please write your major newspapers, the Nevada Attorney General, TV and radio stations, the Nevada Supreme Court and anyone else you can think of who will make a stand against this deliberateabuse of our legal system and to decry the continual persecution of a woman  who only wants to try to pick up the pieces of a shattered life. Since I was repeatedly offered a plea-bargain which would have made me eligible to get out years ago, it is obviously not a case of my being a threat to anyone, but a pride issue with the prosecutor.

Thank you for your interest and your prayers and support. If you are not wealthy, famous or politically powerful, what happened to me could happen to you. Injustices such as this should not be allowed in our modern and enlightened times. Our "protectors" must not be allowed and/or encouraged to destroy lives and violate our basic Constitutional rights, and perpetuate more lies and pain for the innocent for self-seeking reasons.

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to say howdy, and will answer any and all questions. Thank you for caring to read this from a 40-year-old woman who desperately misses her children and life as she once knew it.

Contact Lerlene "Shasta" Roever: 34972
Nye County Detention Center
1520 E. Basin
Pahrump, NV 89048

You may also contact Shasta's uncle,
Floyd Draper
210 N. Leslie
Pahrump, NV 89048
NV Phone: (775) 727-7557
In Los Angeles, CA: (323) 221-0286

From the Editor: Someone from a men's prison wrote to tell Shasta he knows who killed Ian -- a man who calls himself "The Shadow." Shasta's uncle, Floyd Draper, has this letter. After Kirk Vitto had interrogated my daughter last September, we had a long telephone conversation. I was warned that Vitto could lie convincingly, for he misrepresented several facts to my daughter in what now seems was an attempt to trap her into revealing something he could use against Shasta. Nevertheless, I was not prepared for his disarming first words. When I first identified myself, his tone was indifferent. When I told him who I am, he warmly exclaimed, "Your daughter is a delight!" On that footing, we spoke amiably. Still, I pressed the issue, but could get no further than his saying that he was determined to keep prosecuting Lerlene. Now, calling him almost six months later, I had different questions. According to Shasta, Vitto knows about a man who confessed to the murder. This was the issue I now pressed. I was stymied again. Kirk Vitto maintains that he only acknowledged that the defense informed him that they have a letter saying someone else killed Ian. He also told me that he knows for a fact that the man in question didn't kill Ian. When I asked how he knew, he said he couldn't discuss it.

Meanwhile, there is a new wrinkle to Shasta's case. Sharon Dockter, co-counsel with Harry Kuehn, went to work for the D.A.'s office. Shasta was granted a motion to take Kuehn off the case, and Vitto has assigned the case to Kevin Pasquale, who, Vitto told me, will continue to vigorously prosecute Shasta. At the same time, Shasta will finally get her new attorney, Rick Lawton, of Fallon, Nevada. Shasta may not be much better off: Lawton is six hours from Shasta, and so far he has only briefly introduced himself.

If there is an investigative reporter in our audience, please consider looking into Shasta's case. You may contact me, or Floyd Draper at the phone number given above.

Clara Alicia Thomas Boggs
Justice: Denied -- The Magazine for the Wrongly Convicted
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The Story of Thomas Harris
Edited by Clara A. Thomas Boggs and Stormy Thoming-Gale

The seven year nightmare Thomas Harris has been forced to call "life" is a fantastic tale that begins with the best intentions and ends with an innocent man behind bars.

In May of 1991, Thomas and his pregnant wife, Candida, moved themselves and their five year old daughter, Susana, from Mexico to Texas. A few short months later Thomas received a phone call which would change their lives forever.

Thomas was recovering from major surgery in September, 1991, when the Texas Department of Human Services, Division of Protective and Regulatory Services (TDHS-PRS) contacted him and asked him to explain an allegation of "Sexual Abuse" committed against his oldest daughter, Susana. Stunned, and still recuperating, he explained that he knew nothing of the allegations nor of any abuses in the home. TDHS-PRS came to his home, demanded that he leave (which he refused to do), then took Candida Harris and their daughters to the Hays/Caldwell County Women's Shelter.

Candida was arrested for "sexually molesting" both of their daughters in March, 1992. The incident was witnessed and charges were made. She went to jail, the girls went to foster care. Thomas was never asked if he wanted, nor was he offered,custody of his OWN children. When Thomas discussed all this with PRS caseworker Mary Toms (of the New Braunfels, Comal County office), she blatantly told him that if he did not file for divorce, he was as guilty of the charges against his wife as she was.

Thomas filed for divorce immediately. At his divorce proceedings, Susan Miller, Candida's lawyer, brought up false events, complete with dates and times. The witnesses present on Thomas' behalf were prevented from speaking, as were the doctors who had been treating him on ALL of the dates Susan Miller indicated.

When Candida was released from jail she initiated a reunion. Thomas relented. They decided the best way to get their children back from foster care was to give their marriage another try. Things did not go smoothly for them. Thomas was a student. When he wasn't in classes, he was either in the campus library or in one of the labs. Candida was angry that he was away so much and began accusing him of having affairs. A month or so later, baby Sara (who turned seven in 1998) was returned to them. She had been in foster care for almost 9 months. A few days after the baby was returned, Thomas arrived home from school to a silent house. Candida had left.

What Thomas did not know is that Candida had poisoned some of the food in the house. He found out the hard way -- he succumbed to poisoning and almost died. Candida had put Boric Acid into the sugar. Small dosages over a period of time began to degrade Thomas' nervous system, mimicking Multiple Sclerosis. Five years later, he still suffers from some of the residual effects. Much to his wife's surprise, Thomas recovered. He decided to proceed with the divorce.

At the custody hearing, Sole Managing Conservatorship was granted to Candida. Thomas did not have an attorney to help him and Judge Charles Ramsay almost always granted custody to the mother.

At the hearing, Ms. Miller, Candida's lawyer, continued telling stories about Thomas being domestically violent. There are NO records of any abuses, only Ms. Miller's words on the court transcript. Candida didn't and doesn't speak English and barely spoke in the courtroom. Pastor Carl Culpepper served as Candida's interpreter and colored the few words she did say with incorrect translations. The outcome of the custody hearing was that Thomas was to become Possessory Conservator and maintain visits on Wednesday nights and 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends.

Thomas went to pick up his children in May of 1995. They were not there. He returned home and called several times. Three weeks later, while Thomas was repairing the computer at Carl Culpepper's house, Mr. Culpepper let it slip that Candida was in Mexico. Thomas asked about his children, but Mr. Culpepper would not say anything else. When Thomas returned home, he called the Police and the FBI. The Police located the children a day later and returned them to him.

Because Candida had been out of the country for several weeks, Thomas filed for custody and it was granted. However, Ms. Miller, Candida's attorney, somehow convinced Judge Linda Rodriguez to return the children to their mother again. Even though a higher court had ruled in Thomas' favor, the threat of contempt and incarceration forced his hand again.

Unknown to Thomas, a safety plan had come into effect. In May, 1996, Candida's boyfriend had fondled Thomas' oldest daughter, Susana. Candida was told to stop seeing this man and to prevent any and all contact between him and the daughters. Because she violated this plan the state had already decided to remove the children from Thomas' ex-wife. The children were once again returned to foster care.

In August, 1996, while in court on the child support issues, Susan Miller learned from the Family Law Master that her actions regarding the order to return the children to Thomas' ex-wife were improper, so she took another action. She convinced Candida to accuse Thomas of sexually abusing their youngest daughter, Sara. Thomas Harris ended up in jail.

Innocent, but in jail. Judge Charles Ramsay assigned a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) to oversee the PRS actions and advocate on behalf of the children. The CASA was appointed in September, 1996, but it was not until the end of November that advocate Connie Peña, an Hispanic female, tried to get in touch with Thomas. Ms. Peña had many visits with Candida, according to her own statements. Ms. Peña, however, contacted Thomas by telephone only after he called her supervisor asking why contact had not been made.

During the telephone conversation, Ms. Peña asked Thomas what happened. He replied that these were false accusations against him. She said she had different information and asked Thomas to tell her his version of the events. Thomas explained that there was a witness who knew that the events as stated in the PRS records were untrue. Peña asked him to identify this person and was quite offended and abusive toward him when he refused. Thomas ended the conversation, explaining that he would discuss nothing more with her until he had spoken to his attorney.

The next morning, while Thomas was in court yet again, his attorney, Mark Jenssen, told him NOT to discuss anything with Ms. Peña and not to trust her in any way. That same morning he also explained to Thomas that the state had told him, "that should [Thomas] plead guilty, they were going to try to get him sentenced to 50 years in jail."

Thomas Harris' trial began on May, 19, 1997, with jury selection. The state then began its case. The state called a total of five "witnesses": Two, Candida Harris and Sara Harris, gave questionable testimony. Another, Dr. Jennifer Driscoll (from Central Texas Medical Center where Sara was first examined), interestingly, was the same doctor against whom Thomas had begun malpractice suits in 1993. Could her testimony have been retaliation? According to Thomas, Candida Harris' interpreter was not accurate at translating her testimony, and her questions and answers had been rehearsed. At one point, Candida said SHE was sure that Thomas would NOT have done anything to Sara. The DA objected, saying Candida could not have correctly "understood" the question and repeated it. Candida replied differently the second time. Thomas Harris' attorney, Mr. Jenssen, should have objected, but didn't. Next, Sara Harris was asked a few questions. She was held on the lap of her foster mother and was positioned so that she could not look over or around the Judge's bench to see Thomas. At first, Sara said Thomas had done nothing. When the question was repeated, she contradicted her first response. Again, there was no objection by the defense. Mr. Jenssen's questions had been screened and censored by the Prosecution AND the Judge during pretrial the preceding Thursday. Mr. Jenssen asked Sara only a couple of questions: "Do you know the difference between the truth and a lie?" "Yes" she said. "Do you love your Daddy?" "Yes," she said. "Do you want to see your Daddy again?" "Yes," she said. Mr. Jenssen had no further questions. Court adjourned.

The following day, the defense began calling its witnesses. April Brown, character witness for Thomas, testified for almost an hour. She called the trial "a kangaroo court" and a "travesty of justice." The Prosecution had no questions for April, perhaps because Mr. Jenssen mentioned her experience as a paralegal, a student of Criminal Justice, a single mother and a dedicated friend of Thomas' and the children for almost 4 years. Shawn Lowary testified next, saying that it was impossible for the alleged events to have occurred at Thomas' house on the weekend in question, because Thomas and he had spent the entire weekend at his home. The Prosecutor then grilled him to get him to state that he was "involved" in the offense and, when that failed, to persuade him that he was "perjuring himself" by providing an alibi for Thomas. Thomas was then allowed to testify but his attorney only asked a few questions: name, address, income, education. Next, Prosecutor David Watts and CPS attorney Angela Goodwin questioned Thomas for almost 3 hours. They asked about his medical problems, his time in Mexico, his income, his internet mail and website(s), his relationship to, and knowledge of, Texas Fathers' Alliance and VOCAL, about the "stories" that Alice Robinson Bond, an assistant attorney general in Ohio, had heard about his Defense. (Ms. Bond took the information she learned about Thomas through an internet forum for the falsely accused, and sent it to Texas authorities. Thomas had joined the forum to get help against false accusations.)

Defender Mark Jenssen's closing arguments were inept and weak on Thomas' behalf, lasting a brief 5 minutes. Prosecutor Watts, however, dramatically brought up Thomas' arrears of $1,132 in child support, his disability and inability to find employment while downplaying almost 4 years of college education. For almost an hour Watts pleaded that the jury sentence Thomas to the maximum time and fine -- 99 years and $20,000. After only one half hour of deliberating, the jury sentenced Thomas to 50 years and $10,000. Thomas sits in jail now. He is falsely accused and wrongly convicted. When Thomas' case came up in the Court of Appeals on August 3l, 1998, his lawyer filed for an Evidentiary Hearing via a Habeas Corpus, based on Morris' Affidavit of Sara's retraction. Please read the following affidavit:

Affidavit of Morris A. Esmoil, III, July 15, 1998, as recorded by Cynthia S Pressley, Notary Public. (Mr. Esmoil is the Home teacher to whom Sara told her account.)

"On 18 June 1998, I visited the home of Candida Harris to visit with Susanna and Sara Harris in the capacity of "Home Teacher" for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Previous to this visit, Candida Harris had voluntarily told two lady missionaries from the same church that Sara had told her that her X-husband, Thomas Harris, who was in jail for molesting Sara, had not done it. As an acquaintance of Thomas and wanting to know the truth about what had happened, I planned to talk to Sara myself if I could. I told Sara that some judges were reviewing her Father's case and they may let him out of jail, have the sentence stay as it is or have a re-trial. She said that she did not want to see her Father because he was mean to her. I then asked if he had bothered her. She said no. I asked if someone else had bothered her and she said yes but that some people had told her to say it was her Father so that he could be put in jail. I asked who and Sara said that Susan Miller had. I asked who else and she said Trine Rodriquez. I asked Sara if I could write this information down and she said I could which I immediately did while talking to her. /s/ Morris A. Esmiol, III 15 July 1998 - The State of Texas - County of Hays - This instrument was acknowledged before me on July 15, 1998 by Morris A. Esmoil, III. /s/ Cynthia S Pressley - Notary Public, State of Texas."

Mr. Thomas Harris will only awaken from his seven year nightmare when justice is done in his case. If you want to help, Thomas asks that you please lend your support by calling the Hays County Judges and by writing to the Senators and Representatives of Texas.

Thomas Harris 793685
9601 Spur 591
Amarillo, TX 79107-9606
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Anthony Porter

An IQ of 51 qualified Anthony Porter for a hearing to see if he was competent enough to be killed by the state. After 17 years on death row, the first break came for Porter when Professor Protess and his students showed the state that another man had committed the crime for which Anthony Porter might have died.

With this story about Anthony Porter, writer William Kreuter makes his debut as a contributing writer on the pages of Justice Denied. William Kreuter is Amnesty International's death-penalty abolition coordinator for Washington state, and he serves on the steering committee of the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Protess' Journalism students bring freedom to death row prisoner

by William Kreuter

Authorities in Illinois scrambled for damage control when an inmate who had come within two days of execution last September, Anthony Porter, was exonerated and released this February.

This turn of events followed a conference held in Chicago last November that featured dozens of the more than seventy persons released from death row since the 1970's because they were innocent. (The conference did not directly address those, like Jesse Tafero in Florida or Wayne Felker in Georgia, who were executed despite the doubtless evidence of their innocence.)

Although the most ardent death-penalty supporters are casual about the possibility of executing innocent people, clearly the public at large is more than a bit queasy about these executions. During coverage of the November conference by the national media, death-penalty proponents were on the defensive. Their claims that the conference only proved that "the system works" -- because the innocent prisoners were eventually freed -- were easily refuted by such stories as the Ford Heights Four. Those prisoners, two of them on death row, were set free not by the diligence of prosecutors or courts but by the efforts of college journalism students completing a class assignment. Cook County, Illinois, in March, settled with the Ford Heights Four for $36 million as damages for their outrageous prosecution and many years of false imprisonment.

Then this winter, Anthony Porter was freed through the work of another set of students taught by the same investigative journalism instructor, David Protess. Porter's execution was stayed last year by the Illinois Supreme Court, not because of the innocence Porter had always maintained, but to hold a hearing to establish if he was mentally competent to be put to death. Illinois law requires that inmates understand their punishment before they are executed. In August, 1998, Anthony Porter's IQ was measured at 51, which would have made him the most severely mentally retarded prisoner killed since the 1967-1977 national moratorium on executions ended. The mentally retarded are often easily manipulated by prosecutors and police -- indeed, the whole capital punishment system in the US depends on the indigence or incompetence of its defendants.

Porter's competency hearing began on February 1. On February 2, the findings of Professor Protess, his students and a private investigator working with them became public.

The senior journalism students had pored over transcripts and court records from the trial. Among the discrepancies they noted was that the state's key witness, William Taylor, testified that Porter, who is right-handed, used his left hand to fire the fatal shots.

The state's case against Porter depended on Taylor, who testified that he saw Porter, about five hundred feet away, fire his pistol in the dark of night. Just after the slayings, Taylor told police only that he had seen Porter in the park at the time the victims, Jerry Hilliard and Marilyn Green, were shot. Taylor's story later accrued details.

The students went to the scene of the crime to investigate. Holding transcripts of the trial, they re-enacted the crime: they stood precisely where Taylor testified he had stood. In broad daylight, they couldn't see the face of the person standing where the killer had fired the gun, proving that Taylor's testimony was false, as he recently admitted. No one has explained why the prosecutor didn't perform the same simple test the students did.

The climax of the investigation came in a videotaped interview with Alstory Simon on February 3, conducted by one of the students and the private investigator. On tape, Simon admitted to the killings, saying he'd shot Hilliard in self-defense while arguing over drug money. He said he accidentally killed Green. Alstory Simon's estranged wife and her nephew signed affidavits implicating Simon as the killer.


On February 5, after living on death row for seventeen years, Anthony Porter was released on bail pending likely dismissal of all charges. Two days later Alstory Simon was arrested and charged with the 1982 killings.

Porter's exoneration immediately renewed calls for a moratorium on all executions in Illinois. Capital punishment supporters who are giving some consideration to this call include Chicago's Mayor Daley, who was the district attorney whose office initially prosecuted Porter. Governor Ryan issued a series of confusing statements, and at one point his spokesman implied that it was Professor Protess' fault for taking seventeen years to assign the case to his students.

The same day Porter's competency hearing was suspended, February 2, a coalition of defense attorneys and activists called for an independent investigation into the cases of an additional ten men on Illinois' death row, saying their prosecutions were built on confessions obtained by torture committed or overseen by a police official who was fired in 1993. One of these ten is Aaron Patterson, whose case Professor Protess is also investigating.

Porter's exoneration was the tenth in the past two decades in Illinois; only Florida, with nineteen, has been forced to free more from its death row. Then, hot on the heels over the Porter and moratorium flaps, the state acknowledged that another man had been wrongfully sent to death row. Steven Smith's conviction was thrown out by the state supreme court due to insufficient evidence of guilt. With Smith, as many men -- eleven -- have now left Illinois' death row by exoneration as by execution. Nationwide, Smith is the 77th death-row prisoner exonerated since 1973. This comes to more than one for every seven executed.

Cara Rubinsky, one of the four students who worked to free Anthony Porter, said, "One of the things I've learned from the class which I'll take with me as I start a journalism career is that journalists really need to do this kind of stuff. Basically, the press just reported it at the time -- Porter was arrested for this murder and nobody cared. It was a couple of people on the south side. People get killed there regularly."
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John Stoll



Case Account written by Nicholas Peters

This case is about John Stoll, Grant Self, Margie Grafton, and Tim Palomo, who were accused of  molesting a group of male children over several months in the middle 1980's. The Kern County District Attorney called them a "sex ring." At the time Kern County was going through a period of hysteria over alleged satanic sex rings which supposedly inflicted severe abuse on many children in the county and even sacrificed infants to the devil. The result was that a great number of persons without criminal records were charged and convicted of vicious child abuse on the basis of scanty and contaminated evidence and sentenced to long prison terms. Many of these convictions were overturned by higher courts. However, in this case the injustice of a false accusation has not yet been remedied.

The alleged molestation was said to have occurred in Kern County, California, where the defendants lived. The trial started on September 24, 1984. The state evidence was almost invariably faulty, false, or irrelevant, yet was allowed to be presented in the court room against them. The four defendants were convicted and sentenced to long prison terms. Since that time, Margie Grafton and Tim Palomo's convictions have been overturned. Unfortunately, John Stoll and Grant Self remain in prison today because of the contaminated, even fantastical, evidence.

At the time of his arrest, John Stoll was a gas plant foreman for the Jon William Bras Engineer Company which owned and operated a natural gas plant. John Stoll also owned a small construction company he had started where he worked  after his foreman job and on weekends. Grant Self worked as a laborer for this company.

John Stoll and his wife, Ann Karlan, divorced in 1980 and after a very bitter divorce and custody fight Stoll obtained joint custody of their son, JD. Joint custody was unusual in Kern County in the early 1980's, and Stoll's former wife took the court decision very badly. Karlan and her pastor (whom she dated at the time) later instigated the complaint against Stoll.

John Stoll owned a house in which he rented out rooms.  At the time the molestation case developed, the rooms were rented to Robin and Mandy Garrett.

The house  had a big in-ground pool that was a big summer attraction for two or three other neighborhood children who often came to play.  Stoll's son, JD, came over every weekend.  Stoll often entertained friends at his home and Tim Palomo and Margie Grafton with their two sons DG and AG, were also frequent visitors.  DG was five, the same age as JD.  AG was seven.  Stoll's girlfriend and her daughter, age ten, were often present. Tim Palomo was a long-haul truck driver, driving propane tankers at the time. His girl friend, Margie Grafton, was a computer programmer for the Prudential Life Insurance Co.

Grant Self rented the pool house that was part of Stoll's rental house. Self  had a few prior troubles with the law and his parole conditions forbade him to be around children. After renting the pool house, Grant Self moved to live with his girlfriend and her two children, yet he continued to rent the pool house to comply with the terms of his parole. At the time none of the other defendants was aware of Grant Self's parole status.

When JD left John Stoll's house to return to his mother's home, his mother, Ann Karlan, and her pastor boyfriend questioned him extensively about what occurred at John Stoll's house. At one time JD told them Grant Self had touched him and DG on the outside of their pants. With this information, Ann Karlan filed the original complaint.

When Karlan filed her complaint, Kern County was in the midst of an hysteria over child abuse and child abuse "sex rings." Spurious Accusations about child abuse in sex groups or multimember groups of adults were directed against people without criminal records who held steady jobs and supported families. In these cases, concocted and contrived evidence was all that was necessary to send men and women to prison with long sentences. In this case, as in others, the Kern County authorities turned a simple complaint against one person into an accusation of a monstrous multi-offender sex ring.

Kern County officials accused John Stoll, Grant Self, Tim Palomo and Margie Grafton of forming a "sex ring" which molested children. They were accused of molesting five boys over a period of several months. Three of these children were JD, DG, and AG. The other children, CD and VM, had played in the pool.

Judge John Jellitch presided at the September, 1984 trial. Steve Tauser was the prosecutor.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the trial was the children's testimony. It became apparent that the minors learned they could lie while testifying under oath in criminal proceedings without any penalty or censure, even with the approval of parents, social workers, law enforcement officials and the prosecutors. A cavalier attitude existed among the prosecutors and social workers toward the solemnity of their oath. Thus the entire testimony of the children was tainted.

After the trial, JD and CD both made public statements that they lied during both the preliminary hearing and the trial. The testimony of the other three minors is extremely dubious.

AG and DG admitted they lied during the preliminary hearing on matters of great substance. A major problem in the four defendants' trial was that AG prevented the defense lawyers from cross examining him in any meaningful way. To virtually every defense cross examination question asking for specific information he replied "I don't know," or "I don't remember." Whether he did this by choice or instruction after having spent a great deal of time with prosecution-provided therapists is a matter for speculation.

VM was clearly unqualified to testify because he failed to understand the nature and obligation of the oath to truthfully answer all questions. When VM was questioned by Ron Jackson, John Stoll's attorney, VM stated that it is okay to lie, that he did not know what the oath was, and that it is OK to make a mistake in facts while testifying. Further, in violation of court orders, VM spoke to his mother and a prosecutor about his testimony when the court was in overnight recess. Before the overnight recess, he denied there had been any act of sodomy, but after the recess, VM claimed several acts of sodomy took place.

In general, the children were inconsistent in describing the alleged acts of sexual molestation as to the time, location, adults involved and children involved. Rarely did two children agree on the details of a single act of molestation. They described incredible acts -- incidents of anal intercourse that would have been impossible. Other acts of sexual activity they described would have been done in a highly unlikely fashion. The testimony of these children was not corroborated by any physical evidence.

One of the five children, VM, had never been in John Stoll's house, yet at trial he claimed he had been in the house five times and narrated improbable episodes of sexual molest that occurred there. At cross examination this witness could not describe a single item in the house and did not know the living room from the kitchen.

Deputy Connie Ericsson interrogated the children about the alleged sexual molestation before the accusation and trial.  He was and remained an ill- trained police officer.  The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training issued a book of guidelines, best known as the POST guidelines, which Deputy Ericsson admitted he had never heard of, had never read and further had never taken the POST guidelines training most other California police officers receive.  It was later found that by suggestive and leading questions, his examination of the minors fell into almost every trap the POST guidelines were designed to avoid.  In essence, he coached the minor witnesses on what to say, regardless of the actual truth.

Some of the parents also tampered with the testimony of the children. VM's mother was mentioned above. Ann Karlan, John Stoll's former wife, also indulged in this kind of tampering. With partial custody of their son, Ann Karlan had the opportunity and motive to direct JD's testimony against the defendants. She did this by improper directions and suggestions to her son. Ann Karlan, known to have mental and emotional difficulties, often was unable to separate reality from fantasy. Karlan had previously been committed to a mental institution for a period. However, the court allowed none of this evidence of the bias and delusions of Ann Karlan to reach the jury that judged the case against the defendants.

The leading and unprofessional questioning by Deputy Ericsson of the minors, the admissions of two minors about their false trial testimony, the inability of defense lawyers to genuinely cross-examine AG, the adult tampering with the testimony of the children, along with the grave inconsistencies and bizarre nature of their testimony and VM's inability to appreciate the need for truthful answers to the Court makes the entire testimony of the children tainted and worse than useless.  Hence, the main prosecution case against the defendants is of no value.

Disturbingly, the children's testimony was not corroborated by any medical or psychological evidence. An adult cannot rape a small child without hurting the child and leaving wounds. Yet such evidence was not found. The defense request for medical examinations of the children, even when offered with safeguards to protect the children from discomfort, inconvenience, embarrassment and intrusion, was denied by the court. The prosecution was clearly not interested in obtaining any medical evidence to support the incredible testimony of the children in this case.

Corroborating physical evidence of multiple episodes of sexual molest was somehow lacking. During the trial the prosecutor made numerous references to photographs of the molests, yet no such photographs were ever found or produced into evidence. Mentioning such nonexistent evidence prejudiced the case against the defense.

Another very troubling feature about the trial of Stoll, Self, Grafton, and Palomo concerned the introduction of clearly irrelevant materials designed to turn the trial against the defendants. The prosecutors were allowed to question Sheila Harvey about her son's contact with John Stoll after the time of the alleged offenses. The prosecutor was clearly trying to create the impression that Stoll was continuing to lure minors, yet Stoll and the other defendants were never charged with these offenses. This testimony was clearly prejudicial against the defense.

Moreover, the prosecutor presented as evidence numerous magazines such as Playboy, Penthouse, and Club the police had seized from John Stoll's house after his arrest in spite of the fact that many of the magazines had been seized from rooms John Stoll had rented to other adults. No witness mentioned these magazines as present during the alleged acts of molestation. This evidence was also clearly prejudicial. By using the magazines a person possesses as evidence against him, the Kern County police and prosecutors clearly violate any person's privacy and civil liberties. A person should be able to buy and read any magazine he chooses without fear that the magazine will be used as irrelevant evidence against him or her in some court trial. The trial and conviction of these defendants became a threat to our most sacred liberties.

Another deficiency of the trial was the refusal to separate John Stoll's case from that of Grant Self and the other defendants. Because of Grant Self's prior troubles and convictions, he could not live with minor children. His girl friend had an apartment with her children, but Grant could not legally live there, which is why he continued to rent a room from John Stoll, but actually lived with his girl friend.

However, this evidence could not be presented at trial because the case against Self would be prejudiced by testimony about, and records of, his prior legal troubles and convictions. To refute some of the children's testimony, John Stoll testified that Grant Self did not actually live on the property but only rented the pool house. Neither the court nor his attorney permitted Stoll to explain why Grant Self did not live at the pool house while renting it, namely the conditions of his parole. However, on several occasions district attorney Tauser could and did ask Stoll why Grant Self would pay rent on the pool house but not live there. In his final argument, Tauser held up Stoll's testimony to ridicule and scorn. The prosecutor discredited the testimony of Stoll without rebuttal.

For reasons explained later, Stoll's attorney, Ron Jackson, did not locate and introduce into the trial the phone, light, and gas bills that proved Grant Self did not live at the pool house. Being unable to prove Self did not live at the pool house deprived John Stoll and the other defendants of an effective defense. The prosecutor made John Stoll seem deceitful, and the defense did not provide evidence to prove otherwise. Clearly, separate trials for Stoll and Self would have been necessary to enable the defendants to provide an adequate defense.

Another trial defect was the prosecution's intimidation of possible defense witnesses. When Robin and Mandy Garrett would not testify for the prosecution, Tauser threatened to press molestation charges against Robin Garrett and put him in jail with the rest of the defendants. Robin and Mandy then fled to Denver to live with Mandy's brother until the trial was over. Due to this reprehensible intimidation, the only witnesses who lived in the house and knew what did and did not occur in the house were not available to testify for John Stoll and the other defendants.

There is also the matter of ineffective counsel for defendant John Stoll. His lawyer, Ronald Jackson, began to represent John Stoll only 24 days before the trial. The case against John Stoll involved the combination of two court cases. There were 70 felony counts to be considered, numerous witnesses to locate, motions to be prepared and evidence to be examined. Jackson asked for more time to prepare his case, but his motion for an extension was denied. As a result, Ronald Jackson's defense of John Stoll suffered. Jackson was unable to locate possible defense witnesses Robin and Mandy Garrett. The utility records that could have supported some of the trial testimony of John Stoll were also not found and presented into evidence.

Later in the long trial, John Stoll could no longer pay Ronald Jackson. Jackson notified the court several times that he either wanted to be relieved as attorney or be the court-appointed attorney of record. His motions were all denied. Ronald Jackson was faced with representing Stoll without pay while maintaining his legal practice. It was clearly in Jackson's interest to keep the trial as short as possible, but John Stoll's defense suffered. The alleged victims of sexual assault were not recalled as witnesses despite a prior defense request to do so. The minors would have corroborated the testimony of Stoll's trips out of Bakersfield on many of the dates of the alleged molests. Exculpatory utility records were not introduced.

During trial, the defense lawyers tried to call Dr. Roger Mitchell, a licensed clinical psychologist, to testify. Dr. Mitchell had conducted psychological exams of Margie Grafton and Tim Palomo, so he was able to testify whether those defendants possessed the characteristics of sexual psychopaths. Dr. Mitchell could have been considered as a character witness, yet the Kern County Superior Court refused to allow his testimony. The defendants were denied a means to corroborate their not guilty pleas.

Later, a California Appellate Court overturned the Grafton and Palomo convictions because Dr. Mitchell was not allowed to testify. The court found the two defendants were denied the right to introduce exculpatory evidence that they were not sexual psychopaths. However, the Stoll and Self convictions were not overturned. These unfortunates remain in prison, yet the prosecution had accused all four defendants of operating as a single group (or "sex ring," as Kern County DA Edward Jagels put it). So, if two of the defendants are unlikely to commit the crime because they are not abnormal, is not the innocence of the other defendants proved? The existence of the entire group or "ring" becomes extremely questionable and not proved in any legal sense.

Other possible defense evidence was withheld at the trial. The POST manual guidelines for interviewing children was not allowed to be presented to the jury. The District Attorney argued that POST guidelines are optional. But in fact the POST guidelines are obligatory for any California law enforcement agency receiving state financial aid. This is certainly the case with the Kern County Sheriff's Department. Therefore, the POST manual was denied to the jury as defense evidence because of the District Attorney's false assertion.

There was also gross juror misconduct at this trial. Juror Babcock, a former Los Angeles Police Officer, told the jury that from his knowledge of court procedure he knew the defendants were in custody despite their street clothing. Juror Babcock's comments helped prejudice the panel against the defendants.

The trial events related here demonstrate that the Stoll, Self, Grafton, and Palomo trial was a complete travesty of justice. The prosecution's and other adult influencing, cajoling, and coercing of desired testimony from minor children, the absence of any physical evidence against the defendants and the total indifference -- even hostility -- of the police and prosecution to gathering such evidence, the presentation of irrelevant evidence prejudicial to the defendants, the lack of effective counsel for John Stoll, the inability of the defense to present needed evidence, and juror misconduct make the trial and convictions of the defendants a clear injustice.

Two of the defendants have been released because of an Appellate Court ruling. They have not been retried. However, John Stoll and Grant Self languish behind prison walls, doomed to serve long prison sentences. Justice is left undone until they are released from prison. Their release must be demanded by people who believe in justice.

Support: John Stoll CDC D15734
Avenal State Prison
P.O. Box 9, 210-2-40L
Avenal, California, 93204

The writer of this case account, Nicholas Peters, has created a website about Kern County police misconduct.  Go here to visit his site.
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Patrick Swiney

Patrick Swiney -- From Police Officer to Prisoner

Patrick Swiney, once an Alabama police officer for 13 years, is now 54 years old and is serving life without parole since 1989 when he was tried, wrongfully convicted and sent to prison. Since then, he has endured injustice by the courts and abuse by prison officials. It wasn't until 1996, after he had been in prison for 8 years, that Patrick's case was investigated by Dr. Boris deKorczak, Chief Investigator for the National Police Defense Foundation, in Washington, DC. The NPDF is backed by Congress. Congressman Trafficant, of Ohio, is the NPDF Honorary Chairman. Dr. deKorczak, a former CIA member, has a Ph.D. in psychology, and about 30 years of investigative experience.

Around the end of 1998, Dr. Boris deKorczak resigned from the NPDF to continue his investigations of Patrick's and four other similar cases on his own -- all former police officers, each not guilty of the crime for which they were convicted.[*]

While investigating Patrick's case, Investigator deKorczak found huge, gaping holes in testimony and due process of law, Brady violations, each breaching the fiduciary trust officers of the courts are sworn to uphold. Patrick had been run through an Alabama-style kangaroo court and, apparently, that was to be the end of it. Case closed. No more Patrick Swiney to deal with as Vice President of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) when he refused to allow his fellow officers to be bad cops. The petty vengeance of one of those officers, and his later lies in court, helped convict Patrick. That officer testified that Patrick's mother hid the murder weapon from the police to protect her son from being charged. The prosecutor went many steps better than that. He called the Coroner's office and told them not to perform certain very standard and typical examinations during autopsy. The State Medical Examiner testimony of this is recorded in the transcripts. (TR-768) (TR-805,806, 807)

What's so important about this move by the DA? Well, the whole case is centered on adultery. Patrick was convicted of murdering his wife and her lover while they were committing adulterous acts in Patrick's and his wife's kitchen. Ironically, the lover turned out to be the ex-husband of Patrick's wife. We believe the DA purposely made sure that DNA testing was not done, thereby allowing the DNA evidence to be destroyed forever by making sure the vaginal swab and fingernail cultures were not done. In Alabama, jurors strive to please the officials because they respect authority. Of course, those who question their honesty do not become jury members. Therefore, when the DA responded to the defense attorney's statement about suppressing evidence, the DA told the Jury that these tests were irrelevant and unimportant to the case. He stated as fact that Patrick stalked the pair in a hot jealous rage and murdered them. He reminded the Jury of the deceased wife's mother's testimony which proved that Patrick wanted to kill the ex-husband. At trial, the mother said that the ex-husband told her, some time ago that Patrick told him, "If I ever see you in my house, I'll kill you."

In fact, Patrick never met the ex-husband. If he did, he would have recognize the dead man lying on the floor. As Patrick later related the event, at the very moment he saw his wife and the man, he felt a blow to the back of his head, which he describes as though he'd been hit with a baseball bat. That's the last thing he remembers until he came to and found himself inside the house with a rifle lying across the palms of his hands, and the two lying on the floor, shot. As soon as Patrick regained consciousness, he contacted the paramedics, but it was too late because the two were dead from the gun shot wounds. If he had premeditated a murder, he would not have immediately contacted the paramedics because, as a former police officer, he knew they would contact the police. When he told the police (most of whom he knew) he didn't know what happened because he was knocked out, he was not sent to the hospital for an examination. Instead, he was charged and arrested for the murder of Betty Snow and Ronnie Pate.

Another irony is that Patrick Swiney, Betty Snow and the DA went to school together and sat in classrooms together for years. The DA had even come to their house before this tragedy occurred, and Patrick used to joke that the DA called Betty Snow more than Patrick ever called her. When the DA began his carefully planned conspiracy against Patrick, things began to fall into perspective -- sort of. No one knows, except of course the DA, why exculpatory evidence was purposely suppressed and destroyed. Only the DA knows why he had the bond raised from $150,000 to $500,000 after the community raised the $150,000 in one day to release Patrick. The DA told the Judge that Patrick was a transient and the Judge raised the bond. When the community raised the larger bond in one day, the DA quickly proceeded to the kangaroo trial.

There are many points that show fraudulent court proceedings in this case, but Alabama courts have denied all motions for a review of the facts. Their stated denials were based on the hearsay testimony that the General Attorney told them about. We believe this means that Patrick's motions were not even read. The hearsay evidence that the officials say prove Patrick is guilty of premeditated murder and should die in prison consists of what the deceased ex- husband reportedly said before he died that Patrick said to him. Now, Patrick never knew, or had even met this man, so he could not have threatened him in any way, and the man who supposedly said this is dead, so he cannot confirm or deny what the mother of the deceased wife told the court. Yet, the DA said it was fact, so the jury convicted Patrick, and now the Courts in Alabama also claim this is fact, but when the Alabama Courts are asked to look at the physical and verifiable facts, the requests are denied.

Following are a few examples of injustice in the courtroom during this trial
and some facts:

• No Motion for Discovery was ever filed.
• No blood on Patrick's clothing, shoes, jeans, shirt, skin: the DA reported this as "inconclusive."
• No evidence of gun power residue on Patrick's skin or clothing -- also reported as "inconclusive."
• The crime scene was abandoned for 24 hours.
• There were no witnesses who saw Patrick shoot anybody.
• No witnesses for the defense were asked to testify.
• No Motion to keep all records was filed.
• Exculpatory evidence was suppressed.
• Jury strikes included all 5 of the only Black candidates because, according to the DA, Blacks tend to be more lenient. (You see, the DA was seeking the Death Penalty.)
• The DA reported that the murder weapon was Patrick's .22 survival rifle, but ballistics testimony indicates that this could not be confirmed.

When we bring up these issues in our Motions, the Courts stamp DENIED on them as though the Motions held blank pages.

While attempting to gather the exhibits and evidence presented at trial, the Chief Investigator for NPDF only ran into blocked walls. No one in government in Alabama wants to help him seek the truth in Patrick's case. We think this is not necessarily "personal" toward one man, Patrick Swiney, but simply the way Alabama politics has worked since the days of slavery. When you have the Chief Federal Judge in Mobile, Alabama, call the US Marshal to tell him to place Patrick, a heart patient, into lockdown (a 5 ft x 8 ft concrete cell with inadequate ventilation and heat indexes of 112 degrees F) for having an article published (a free speech issue), without so much as one ounce of concern for retribution, then you get a better idea of the corruption in Alabama's justice system.

Patrick's case is now before the 11th Circuit Court, headquartered in Georgia. The 11th Circuit Court oversees the District Courts in Georgia, Florida and Alabama. This court has the authority to order the Alabama District Court to look at the facts of Patrick's case and seek the truth in his case. We don't know if they will do that, so Patrick's supporters have begun a letter campaign. (Contact me at the address given below for a sample letter, if anyone wants to help by writing a letter to the court).

To this day, Patrick does not know what happened the night of the tragedy. The police did not investigate the crime. The DA ordered the Coroner not to perform DNA tests during autopsy. Those DNA tests would have proved adultery and we wonder why the DA would purposely suppress evidence that would prove adultery and at least allow Patrick exoneration or, at worst, the lesser crime of passion, of a man witnessing his wife violating the sanctity of marriage by committing adultery. The DA, incidentally, has been accused by family, friends and community of being Betty Snow's lover. Mind you, Patrick does not know what happened. The lies in court, the suppression of exculpatory evidence, and a long list of violations of his Constitutional rights swept him away while he was still dazed. It took several days after the tragedy before Patrick could say he felt clear-headed.

Patrick's story is longer and more complicated than I can cover here, because there is also a history of Alabama style pay-back time with Patrick. As a policeman, Patrick was responsible for exposing corruption among high officials. Two of these officials were sent to federal prison for money  laundering and racketeering. Patrick was convicted on hearsay only. There is no evidence that he shot Betty Snow and Ronnie Pate. There are witnesses who say that the DA and others lied in court. These are the people who were never called to testify.

Patrick never met Ronnie Pate, yet Betty Snow's mother testified that Ronnie Pate told her that Patrick told him he would kill him if he ever showed up at their house. Patrick would not have said that because he never questioned his wife's fidelity. Ex-husbands visit their children and that's normal stuff. Betty Snow had a teenager, but Ronnie Pate never came to visit as far as Patrick knew, or he would have known the man who was fondling his wife. But DA  J. Michael Campbell told the jury that the hearsay was fact, that the matter of not performing DNA testing was irrelevant and the judge and defense attorney said nothing to object or to instruct the jury about how illegal this was in court. There were several witnesses for the prosecution, yet no one saw Patrick shoot anyone. There were NO witnesses for the defense, yet they could have confirmed that the witnesses for the prosecution were lying about Patrick's character.

About Patrick's Character:

Boris Korczak from Npdf Supports Swiney
The former Chief Investigator for the National Police Defense Foundation states, "Patrick Swiney's case is an unusual one. The justice system, being in total disregard in observing the difference between what's right and what's wrong, sent this man to prison for life without the possibility of parole. The lack of evidence in this case, and the harshness of the sentence bestowed upon this man is analogous to hanging an offender of a parking ticket violation."

Support From Ex-Chief Of Police
The former Chief of Police of Alabaster, Alabama, with whom Patrick worked for 8 years has gone on record stating, "I support the National Police Defense Foundation's effort to get Patrick out of prison. His was a crime of passion and it is a proven fact that with a crime of passion, they never bother anybody else again. Because of this and because I personally know Patrick's demeanor, I can assure you that he is not a danger to the public."

Universe Ex-Chief Of Police Says Not A Fair Trial
The Director of the Criminology and Criminal Justice Department at the Alabama State University who is a former Chief of Detectives and Chief of Police states, "One fact that is evident is that this case did not meet the threshold or the legal criteria of a capital murder case. Even the District Attorney has been quoted as admitting this. Even if Patrick Swiney did shoot the two victims, it was at best a crime of passion which should have resulted in a sentence of eight years. Instead, Mr. Swiney received life without parole due to the DA's thirst for a capital case. I strongly recommend Mr. Governor that Patrick Swiney be released. He is no threat to society."

Ex-Warden Of Prison Supports Swiney
The former President of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and also former Warden of Holman Prison and Chief of Police of Auburn, Alabama, states, "I have known Patrick Swiney for over 20 years. I have been in contact with Patrick Swiney since the 1987 tragedy. He is a good man. Without hesitation, I wholeheartedly support your [NPDF's] effort in obtaining Patrick's release from prison. I believe in Patrick and I know that he can become a member of society again."

Retired Prison Official Notes Swiney's Positive Attitude
The retired Alabama Correctional officer who worked at Holman Prison where Patrick has been serving time states, "As a former Alabama Correctional Officer at Holman Prison I have had the ability to observe and assess him in a way and in circumstances very few people could or would appreciate. Despite his heavy sentence he has always conveyed a positive attitude and I submit that he poses no threat to society and in fact could and would be a benefit to his family and society if pardoned."

Support From Department Of Transportation Chief Engineer
The Chief Engineer of Alabama Department of Transportation and former Director of ADOT during the George Wallace administration states, "I commend you [NPDF] for this effort as I strongly believe in Patrick's innocence for whatever reason. I knew him when he was a policeman in Gulf Shores. As stated, I could not believe this had happened to Patrick. I strongly believe that if he is released, he would not be a threat to society, but would be a good responsible citizen."

Governor James Guarantees Due Process
These are the words of former Alabama Governor, Fob James: "The Constitution's Fifth Amendment, provides that no person shall....be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. This means that the authorities cannot not put any person to death, or into prison, or take away his property, without first giving him a trial in accordance with pre- established rules. When the Supreme Court interpreted the language of the due process clause with judicial integrity and gave the clause its legally recognized meaning, the Court held that it guaranteed to any person charged with a crime a trial pursuant to pre-established law..."

So far, the courts in the State of Alabama have refused to abide by this due process for Patrick Swiney. Perhaps the State Court's boss, the 11th Circuit Court, will decide to make them abide by the United States Constitution for a change.

Contact for Patrick Swiney: Sherry L. Swiney taoss@worldnet.att.net

[*] For further information about Boris deKorczak's qualifications, please e-mail Dr. deKorczak at bkor@erols.com
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Guest Editor Hans Sherrer

This month, we are pleased to bring you a preview of the book, "The Innocents: the prosecution, conviction, and imprisonment of the innocent," by author Hans Sherrer. We are publishing the introduction only, but will notify our readers when "The Innocents" is available to buy. Due to its length, we will publish the introduction, with footnotes, in two parts. If you have wondered how innocent people come to be in prison, Sherrer's book will enlighten you. You will not only learn how innocents can be convicted, but will be wondering if it could happen to you.

Clara Alicia Thomas Boggs, for Justice Denied

You may write to Author Hans Sherrer at ipse@teleport.com

The Innocents: the prosecution, conviction, and imprisonment of the innocent by Hans Sherrer

Introduction (Part One)

Over one and a third million innocent men and women are entrapped at any given time within the confines of the criminal justice system. [1]   While this is a staggering number, this book documents how it is the result of innocent people being arrested, prosecuted, convicted, imprisoned and, yes, even executed.

Remarkably, the story of this widespread human carnage remains largely untold. In large part this is because, except for rare exceptions, the inner workings of the criminal justice system are hidden from public view.  This is due in no small part to the way it is typically portrayed on the nightly news, in television programs and movies, and in the daily newspaper.  Contrary to the view it normally projects, what we call the justice system functions as an assembly line designed to produce results in the form of closed files, and not to ensure justice for the men and women who find themselves traveling on its conveyor belt. As an elaborate bureaucracy, the criminal justice system does everything it can to close files as quickly and with as little effort as possible. One consequence of this is a pervasive "win at all costs" mentality among police and prosecutors, who all too often are assisted in acts of injustice by the "blind eye" of cooperative federal and state judges. [2]

In spite of the resistance by preservers of the status quo of the criminal justice bureaucracy, a revolution in thinking about how men and women are labeled as criminals is brewing.  One trigger causing this is the increasingly widespread use of DNA testing to exonerate men and women who are innocent of the crime for which they were convicted.   Before such tests became available, the people who are now being exonerated could do little more than futilely proclaim their innocence while wasting away year after year in prison.  Even though the people freed by DNA testing represent only the tip of the iceberg of those actually convicted, they provide evidence of the enormous number of innocent people who are routinely prosecuted and convicted in state and federal courts, and imprisoned throughout the United States.

It can be a hard truth to accept, but innocence isn't a bar to innocent people being duly processed at each level of the criminal justice system and approved to pass onto the next level until they are officially adjudged as guilty.  It isn't an aberration when people are falsely convicted, imprisoned and, in many cases, waiting on death row for their date with the executioner.  Rather, it is the result of the justice system effectively working as it is designed to do. [3]

In spite of the injustices that DNA testing is helping to reveal, it is important to understand that it hasn't uncovered anything new in the way that law enforcement works to entrap the innocent in its clutches. There are many hundreds of well known cases involving innocent people who were falsely convicted and eventually had their innocence established through conventional means. [4]  So DNA analysis is only a new tool in helping to identify those men and women who, before now, could only proclaim their innocence without any way of proving it.   However, the sheer numbers of people DNA is identifying as innocent, all of whom were duly convicted by a reliance on normal means of ascertaining guilt, is a fact that cannot be ignored.  It also gives special significance to the fact that there have been many men who maintained their innocence even as the hangman's noose was being placed around their neck.  The scientific developments of the last ten years show that they may well have been telling the truth.

In other words, there are serious, fundamental, and long-standing defects in the way the criminal justice system functions.  The defects in any system are best revealed by looking for those failures that occur from its operation in the real world. If one wants to understand the deficiencies in the justice system, the most direct way is to investigate its most spectacular form of failure -- which is when men and women are enmeshed ever deeper into the bowels of its inner processes without their innocence being detected.  While DNA analysis is helping to identify a small number of these people, it doesn't tell us anything about how it happens.  Exploring how it is possible for innocent men and women to be prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned with alarming regularity is a central theme of this book.

This disturbing fact is of concern to everyone, not just those you might think are on the fringes of society, because the criminal justice net hovering over America is expanding by leaps and bounds. This is partly evidenced by the 1,000% increase in the prison population in the United States over the past 25 years, and there is no sign yet that it is near to leveling off. [5]  The huge number of bodies needed to fuel the vastly expanded criminal justice system are coming from all stratums of American society. Not only has the number of prisoners increased from less than 200,000 in 1973 to nearly 2,000,000 today, but there are at least two compelling reasons to think that the number of innocent men and women entombed in prisons is increasing at an even faster rate than the general prison population.

First, all systems subject to growth pressures are prone to decreased quality controls.  The rapid and continuing expansion of the justice system has compounded its inherent deficiencies at fairly determining someone's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This creates an increased likelihood that someone entrapped on the criminal justice conveyor belt will erroneously be stamped as a criminal when they should have been rejected as innocent. [6]

Second, over the past quarter century there has been a mind-numbing proliferation of thousands of new criminal statutes nationwide for previously non-criminal actions. [7]  In general, these new "crimes," many of which are related to "economic activities," "personal associations," and "public behavior" provide a lower threshold of proof necessary for the government to obtain a conviction than is necessary for crimes such as murder, rape and arson.  As just one example of this, criminologist Robert Bohm has estimated that the effect of making marijuana and other drugs controlled substances is that as many as thirty-four million otherwise generally law-abiding Americans have been made criminals. [8]

The enormous expansion of criminal laws and their enforcement have extended the reach of the criminal justice system into the very bowels of everyday life in America.  So it is realistic to think that every adult in the United States has done something for which they could be criminally prosecuted and imprisoned. [9] This omnipresent threat of criminal prosecution is just as true for the most vociferous advocate of law and order who thinks he or she is law abiding and a paragon of virtue as it is for an admitted rogue.   Although, as it will be shown in the following pages, when people are innocent, their political, social, or economic positions may enable them to defend or extricate themselves from a legal onslaught with less personal harm than those less fortunate.

Fortunately, in recent years there have been several widely publicized events that provide help in understanding the phenomena of innocent people enmeshed in the justice system.  Three of these events that we have been able to observe are the O. J. Simpson criminal trial that resulted in his acquittal in 1995, the near-lynching of an innocent Richard Jewell by the FBI for the 1996 Olympic park bombing, and the spectacle of special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's intensive five year investigation of President Clinton. [10]  It also needs to be noted that even though the mass print and broadcast media has fueled wild speculation about each of these events, the other side of the coin is that without their reporting, none of these events would be a part of the public consciousness of America. Why are these cases important to understanding the prosecution of the innocent?  Because O. J. Simpson was found to be legally innocent, Richard Jewell was found to be actually innocent, while President Clinton has been investigated for suspected criminal wrongdoing.

Elements of each of these dramatic real life events vividly demonstrate how frighteningly easy it is for anyone to become entangled in the criminal justice system as a suspect or defendant, and even branded and imprisoned as a convicted criminal. This book is not specifically concerned with these three real-life events from the 1990's, but as you read of the myriad ways in which innocent men and women become victims of the criminal justice system, you may gain a new understanding of the issues involved in each of them.  As new legal scandals unfold, and they always do, perhaps you will view them from a perspective that may at this time seem strange.  What is that perspective? That it is not only a legal principle in America that someone is innocent until proven guilty, but that it is a common sense principle, because all too often it turns out that someone suspected or accused of a crime is innocent.

In our self-righteous smugness, it is easy to look at an accused man or woman shown on the evening news being led into jail while manacled, shuffling his or her feet with head downcast, and think, "The dirty SOB is guilty as sin."   But ask yourself what you would do if you suddenly traded places with that person, and were transported from the comfort of your chair to being manacled and having hundreds of thousands or millions of people staring at you on television? With the desperation of a man dying of thirst in the middle of a desert, you would want every one of those people to be open minded and recognize that your arrest didn't mean that you were guilty.

If you need some help imagining this, think of how in the snap of a finger Richard Jewell went from being one of the watchers, to being one of the "bad people" he had watched on television and made fun of up till then.  Except that he wasn't one of the "bad people."  He was innocent.  In the world of instant defamation we live in, Richard Jewell was identified as "the chief suspect" and had his face plastered all over every newspaper, broadcast by every television station, and his name was sent out over the airwaves of every radio station in the United States.  His innocence didn't prevent any of that from happening.  It is sobering to think that if, just like him, you found yourself in the glare of the spotlight being talked about as if you were a mad bomber, you would walk across burning coals barefoot if it would help people to keep an open enough mind to be able to grasp that you were caught in a web of circumstances. Richard Jewell was lucky.[11]

Even though he was all primed and set up as the perfect patsy to neatly solve the Olympic bombing, the enormous publicity he received, along with the increased scrutiny by the press caused by the then-recent O. J. Simpson acquittal, forced the FBI to never move beyond the stage of suspecting and crucifying him in the press.  As you will see in the following pages, the lack of being guilty is normally a minor hurdle for those in law enforcement to overcome when they want to criminally prosecute someone.

Yes, such injustices happen in the United States with alarming regularity. Nothing more than an objectively unsupportable suspicion by a policeman is sufficient to start the process that can culminate in your worst nightmare becoming a reality, and start a chain of events that is beyond your ability to control or readily extricate yourself from.  When a determined policeman, prosecutor, judge or, as often happens, all three lock onto you as "the guilty" person, your innocence won't prevent your arrest, prosecution, conviction, imprisonment and, as has been known to have happened dozens of times in this century, your execution.

Footnotes for Introduction:

[1] [1] See Chapter 3: How Many Innocents Are There? for a detailed explanation of this estimated figure.  It includes all innocent people imprisoned in the criminal justice system, as well as those who are jailed and on probation and parole.[back to the story]

[2] [2] For a recent scathing indictment of the culture of conviction that pervades the activities of the police and prosecutors, see the ten-part series by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that ran from November 22, 1998 to December 14, 1998, entitled: "Win At All Costs," by Post-Gazett investigative reporter Bill Moushey.[back to the story]

[3] [3] The Innocence Project, based in New York, has already helped establish, through DNA analysis, the innocence of twelve people who were waiting on death row to be executed.  See: For Innocent, DNA proving sturdy ally," Naftali Bendavid (staff), Chicago Tribune, October 27, 1997, p. 1, Newsbank, Inc., record no. 002760D1D3CFAA9AFAB80. [back to the story]

[4] [4] See e.g., "In Spite of Innocence: Erroneous Convictions in Capital Cases," Michael L Radelet, Hugo Adam Bedau, and Constance E. Putnam, Northeastern University Press, Boston, 1996 edition.[back to the story]

[5] [5] There were 1.306 million inmates under the jurisdiction of state and federal prison as of December 31, 1997. See: "Prisoners in 1997," Bureau of Justice Statistics, U. S. Department of Justice, August, 1998 NCJ-170014. There were 652,933 inmates under the jurisdiction of jails in the U. S. as of June 31, 1997.  See: "Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 1997," Bureau of Justice Statistics, U. S. Department of Justice, January 18, 1998 NCJ-167247.[back to the story]

[6] This totals 1.959 million imprisoned men and women, while in 1973 there were 196,000 inmates.  See: Bureau of Justice Statistics, U. S. Department of Justice.  From 1973 to 1997 the prison population increased from 196,000 to 1,959,000, or by %1,000.[back to the story]

[7] [6] For comparisons of the criminal justice system to an assembly line, see: "The Limits of the Criminal Sanction," Herbert L. Packer, Stanford University Press, Palo Alto, CA, 1968[back to the story]

[8] [7] An example of this is that just on the federal level, almost one hundred previously non- criminal actions were made criminally prosecutable in only two recent congressional periods.  See: "The Energizer Leviathan: Still Growing and Growing," James Bovard, Freedom Daily, Vol. 8, No. 10, October, 1997, pp. 31-32.  Quoting from the article, "Few Americans -- and few congressmen -- are paying attention to the constant growth in the federal government's power to punish American citizens.  The 103rd Congress (1993-94) passed more than seventy criminal statutes and the 104th Congress (1995-96) passed more than twenty more, according to a recent piece in the New York Law Journal." Another example of this disturbing trend is that in the last twenty years, California has enacted more than 1,000 bills that created new crimes and/or lengthened sentences. See: "California Prisons: Singapore West?" Mark Koeting and Vincent Schiraldi, "Social Justice: A Journal of Crime, Conflict & World Order," Vol. 24, No. 1 (1997), Issue 67, Spring, 1997, p. 47.  A variant of creating wholly new criminal offenses is increasing the severity of punishment associated with an existing offense.  An example of this is that "A 500-bed minimum-security prison is being built in Grafton to house only drunk drivers. A new state law requires drivers with five DUI convictions in six years be incarcerated for 2 to 18 months and undergo substance abuse treatment.  Prison officials admitted they didn't know if this prison would be enough, since some 107,000 Ohio drivers already have more then 3 DUI convictions." Source: "News in Brief," Prison Legal News, Vol. 9, No. 4, April, 1998, p. 14[back to the story]

[9] [8] "Crime, Criminal and Crime Control Policy Myths," Robert M. Bohm, Justice Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 2, June, 1986, p. 198.   It is important to note that this estimate was made in 1986, when the prison population was not only approximately one- third of what it is today, but a lower percentage of the total prison population was imprisoned for drug offenses.  So it is realistic to think that if he were to make such an estimate today, he would dramatically revise it upward, perhaps by as much as 100% -- to sixty-eight million.[back to the story]

[10] [9] See e.g., "Crime, Criminal and Crime Control Policy Myths," Robert M. Bohm, Justice Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 2, June, 1986, p. 197.   Quoting from this page, "Evidence indicates ... that over 90 percent of all Americans have committed some crime for which they could be incarcerated."  With the proliferation of laws since this was written in 1986, it is likely that the percentage is something closer to 100%. [back to the story]

[11] [10] The Clinton investigation is broad-based and includes many other people, political associates, business associates, sexual playmates, and campaign contributors.  Among these people are Monica Lewinsky, Susan McDougal, Webster Hubbell, Ron Brown, Mike Espy and Vincent Foster.  One collateral effect of Kenneth Starr's years-long criminal investigation of President Clinton has been to cause everyone even peripherally touched by it to spend massive amounts of money on legal fees in an effort to minimize the damage to them personally.  For example, one estimate is that as of July, 1998, about twenty people (other than the Clintons) incurred legal expenses near to or more than $100,000, while many more have legal bills of between $30,000 and $100,000.  It is estimated that everyone subpoenaed to appear before Starr's Grand Jury incurs a minimum of $5,000 in legal fees per visit.  Altogether, it is estimated that people touched by the investigation of Robert Fiske (the first Whitewater independent counsel) and Kenneth Starr have spent more than $23 million in legal fees trying to protect themselves.  See: "Collateral Damage: The Personal Costs of Starr's Investigation," Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation, July 27/August 3, 1998, pp. 11-18.[back to the story]

[back to top]


The Wrongly Convicted in the News

Wrongly Convicted Receive 36 million Dollar Settlement

Professor David Protess, of Chigago's Northwestern University, and his students were in the news again last week. Heroes again (see The Anthony Porter story), Protess and his student journalists uncovered new evidence that a state witness had lied and that other people had killed the couple in the case of four wrongly convicted black men. Kenny Adams, Dennis Williams, Willie Raines and Verneal Jimerson, in their 20's in 1978 when they were wrongly convicted of a gang rape and double murder of Lawrence Lionberg and Carol Schmal, agreed to a $36 million settlement with Cook County on March 5. Williams and Jimerson were on Death Row and Raines and Adams were serving life in prison. The four innocent men, imprisoned until 1996, claimed that the sheriff's investigating police hid evidence that would have helped the defense and ignored leads pointing to the real killers because they were racists. Three other people have now been convicted in the 1978 double murder.

A sobering fact to ponder is that eleven people have been released from death row in Illinois since capital punishment was restored. This figure includes Anthony Porter, freed last month also by the work of Protess' class.  Although it is good to know that Adams, Williams, Raines and Jimerson are receiving many millions for their wrongful convictions, there is no way they can be repaid for the 18 lost years from 1978 to 1996. They were effectively robbed of some of their most productive years. It could have been worse -- Williams and Jimerson could have been dead by now. No money can replace lost life by wrongful imprisonment... or death.

Book Review:

Prison Madness The Mental health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About It. by Terry Kupers

Excerpted review comments about Prison Madness:  The Mental health Crisis Behind Bars and What we Must Do About it. (Jossey-Bass) by Terry Kupers.

"A passionately argued and brilliantly written wake-up call to America about the myriad ways our penal systems brutalize our entire culture. Dr. Kupers not only diagnoses the problem, he also offers a set of solutions. ...truths that are vitally important to all of us." --James Gilligan, M.D., Dept. of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and author of Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic.

"A chilling picture of how American prisons have become among the most barbaric in the world, driving petty offenders and dangerous people alike into madness. We must consider the madness of a public policy that routinely turns nonviolent offenders into dangerous misfits who threaten our safety when released." -- Joseph D. McNamara, research fellow, The Hoover Institution, Stanford University and retired police chief, San Jose, California.

"Dr. Kupers reminds us that cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of inmates -- particularly those who are mentally ill -- violates their rights, betrays our national commitment to decency, and jeopardizes the safety of our communities. A splendid book." --Jamie Fellner, Associate Counsel, Human Rights Watch.

A description from Dr. Kupers:

"Drawn from my experiences as a psychiatric expert witness in large class action lawsuits about prison conditions and the quality of mental health care "inside," and as a consultant to Human Rights Watch and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Dept. of Justice.  I begin with the plight of the seriously mentally ill in prison -- that population is being funneled into corrections at an unbelievable rate today, and then suffer horrible abuses and lack of care once incarcerated.  I expand from there into an exposé of the brutal conditions, lack of rehabilitative opportunities, the horrors of supermax confinement (where prisoners are locked in their cells nearly 24 hours per day and are cell-fed and idle) and the fact that so many prisoners confined there are mentally ill. I move on to the flagrant racism, the special problems of women, the horrors of prison rape (the men by other prisoners, the women by male staff), etc.  I make very concrete recommendations, including an end to prison overcrowding (for instance by diverting the large majority of prisoners who have not been convicted of a violent crime and are in prison mainly because of drug abuse), expansion of rehab and education opportunities, correction of racial disparities, zero tolerance for sexual harassment and rape, and an end to supermax control units. Of course, along the way, I recommend better public mental health services out in the community, and quality mental health care inside."

Order PRISON MADNESS at your local bookstore or from the publisher, Jossey- Bass in S.F., at 800-956-7739.

In 1971, Mr. Lawyer Johnson was convicted for a murder he did not commit. The victim, James Christian, was shot in Boston's Mission Hill project. One would think that after Mr. Johnson had spent 10 years behind bars, a portion of that time with a death sentence hanging over his head, he would not be anxious to go back.

Johnson was released in 1982 when a new witness came forward to clear his name. Just 10 years old at the time of the murder, Dawnielle Montiero, witnessed the crime. She knew the alleged killer, the chief trial witness against Johnson, and was too afraid to speak out. The actual murderer was known around the neighborhood as a violent troublemaker.

Seventeen years later, the Roxbury man continues to be haunted by the time he spent in prison.

Johnson is currently serving a six-month sentence for drug possession at the Suffolk County House of Correction He claims he never did drugs before entering prison as a teenager and that he took them only as an escape from the wreckage of his life. At 47, he is in rehab, still bitter about his wrongful conviction nearly three decades ago.

"There's no telling where I'd be today if that didn't happen," he said. "I know I wouldn't be sitting here in prison because of drugs. When I left, they said, 'Go. You're lucky to be getting out.' But go where? I didn't have any money. I didn't have any skills. I always felt I was trying to catch up. I lost 10 years. You can't catch up. It hurt. I put up a wall of not letting anybody get into my world and blocked out the pain by getting high. Being in prison just warped my whole perception of everything."

Johnson said the push to bring the death penalty back to the Bay State has rekindled his worst memories: monotonous days that blurred together in lockdown, the dwindling hope of freedom, the terrifying certainty that the state of Massachusetts would one day kill him.

He said he hopes that when legislators vote on the capital punishment measure brought by Gov. Paul Cellucci, they think of his case as a reference point.

"The only thing that can prevent future mistakes is to vote against the death penalty," Johnson said. "I'm the perfect example. If they moved quicker, I'd be dead already."

Justice Denied

News of Wednesday, February 24, 1999, Los Angeles:

Former Black Panther, Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, who spent 27 years in prison for a murder he said he didn't commit, will not be retried. Gil Garcetti, Los Angeles County's top prosecutor, told reporters it would be impossible to retry Geronimo because most of the witnesses had died. Stuart Hanlon, the San Francisco lawyer who spent 25 years fighting for Pratt's freedom, told the press he only felt frustration and anger that it took so long when it's clear to everyone that Pratt was wrongly convicted.

Pratt, a Vietnam War vet and Purple Heart winner, claimed he was in Oakland for Black Panther meetings when two men robbed and fatally shot Caroline Olsen on a Santa Monica tennis court, and complained that FBI agents and police hid and possibly destroyed wiretap evidence that could prove his innocence. Julio Butler, a prosecution witness, testified that Pratt had admitted to the crime, all the while denying under oath that he had any relationship with the prosecution or law enforcement. He lied. Butler was a paid informant of the FBI, LAPD, and the L.A. DA's Office, and received dropped charges on a violation as well as mere probation on an assault charge as payment for his false testimony.

Other Black Panthers who say they were framed for murders they did not commit are Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Mumia Abu Jamal. There are others Justice Denied does not yet know about. Pratt and other Panthers blame these wrongful convictions on a campaign by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI against the Black Panthers and other alleged subversives.

Justice Denied is not surprised that Garcetti said he stands behind the prosecutors who tried the case and won a conviction in 1972, but are thankful that he will not seek further prosecution. The system has a long record of not acknowledging its wrongs... and committing more wrongs to cover the first.

We are just as committed to bettering the system.

The Editor of Justice Denied

In Indiana, Michael Weber, 44, who maintained for years that he did not set the fire that killed his wife and four children was freed after arson charges were dismissed. He was released on February 22nd after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms questioned the arson ruling by the state fire marshal's office.

Thankfully, two witnesses said they saw Weber in Wisconsin in the hours before the fire. Weber, a truck driver, had told police he was on the road in Wisconsin at the time his wife and children were killed. To the credit of Weber's prosecutors, they will now look for other possible suspects, since arson has not been ruled out -- although the ATF did say that the state's arson ruling was not supported with a reasonable degree of scientific certainty. Not to the prosecution's credit is that they looked no farther than Weber for a suspect. It is easier to accuse the handiest person than to do a first-rate investigation. At a time when prosecutors are coming under greater fire for shoddy work, it behooves their entire profession to cover all bases.

Justice: Denied

A Fair Prosecutor?

Wenatchee, Washington, 2/26/1999: In a remarkable move, Chelan County Prosecutor Gary Riesen asked the state Court of Appeals to free Henry Cunningham, 50, sentenced to 47 years in prison in 1994. Cunningham, in jail for five years now, was among many others convicted of child sex abuse in Wenatchee in the mid-1990's. Many of these convictions have been overturned as the cases have proved defective. Those freed from their wrongful convictions have said Detective Bob Perez conducted coercive interviews which led to their convictions. One equation frequently noted concerning the convicted of Wenatchee is that all who were represented by public defenders lost their cases, whereas all who sought private counsel eventually were exonerated. Mr. Riesen admits Cunningham was denied a fair trial, but rejected defense attorney Glenn S. Draper's claims of wrongdoing by prosecutors, Perez and state Child Protective Services caseworkers. The court was asked to act by Monday, March 1st, but judges may take as long as a month to decide.

The "Wenatchee Witch Hunt" has become more widely known in the last few years largely due to the efforts of Pastor Roby Roberson. Roberson, among those who sought private counsel, gained freedom and then worked to free others. Now about a dozen of the original people convicted are still in prison. Between 1994 and 1995, authorities accused 43 adults of 29,726 counts of sex abuse involving 60 children. Five convictions were overturned last year. A group made up of 60 lawyers, professors and students acting as volunteers, called the Innocence Project, has been filing petitions to help those still in prison.

There is a great deal of material about the Wenatchee cases on the net. There have also been many articles and television shows devoted to individual cases, in addition to a book by Kathryn Lyon. We direct our readers to write "Wenatchee" in their search engines to learn more.

Justice Denied


©Justice: Denied

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