Charles L. Cotton wrote:
I agree that some very few innocent people are convicted, but it doesn't happen "all the time" as you contend. I'm still waiting to see the list of the dozen Texas death row inmates who were wrongfully convicted. When wrongful convictions do happen, it's usually because the prosecutor, COP, witness, or some combination thereof, lied, falsified evidence or testimony, or hid evidence proving the defendant was innocent. When this happens, I think everyone involved should suffer the maximum penalty the defendant faced, including execution. Execute a few prosecutors who hid evidence of innocence and convictions of innocent people will indeed be rare.
Check my post on page 1 for a list Charles.
I can't believe I'm spending this much time on this issue! I guess the attorney in me can't let it go.
First, citing an anti-death penalty website is problematic at best. It should be noted that in each of the cases cited, either the system did work, or it failed and allowed murderers to go free to walk among us. The vast majority of those convicted were not proven innocent; they won new trials for other reasons and charges we either dropped or they were acquitted by a second jury. As others have noted, an acquittal doesn't prove innocence. I may have missed one, but of the 11 cases I found on the biased anti-death penalty website, only one was proved to be innocent (Brantley). It could well be that the original conviction was the correct result, and later release or acquittal resulted in guilty people walking free.
When death penalty opponents point to cases like these, they usually overtly state that these people were "innocent" and that is rarely proven to be the case. As noted elsewhere, the lack of DNA at a crime scent means nothing, unless the victim was raped or has their attacker's DNA under their fingernails. Even then, it could simply be a matter of one attacker being scratched and others not. (This was not the case in any of those cited by the website.) One should also note that often when convictions are overturned, it is many years later and this makes retrying the case difficult because witness die, their memory fades, or they simply refuse to go through a trial again.
No one is more critical of crooked COPS or prosecutors than am I. Prosecutorial and/or law enforcement falsification of evidence should be punished harshly as I have repeatedly stated. If COPS and prosecutors go to prison or get executed for such conduct, it will stop.
My comments about the cited cases are noted below. In reading these case descriptions, remember the comments were drafted by an organization that opposes death penalty and is trying to get it repealed throughout the country. The descriptions are crafted with that goal in mind and their bias is readily apparent. In fairness, I deleted some their more absurd editorial comments, when they were not supported by any evidence. If you wish, you can see their full comments here: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocen ... -death-row
Anti-Death Penalty Website wrote:Vernon McManus Texas Conviction: 1977, Charges Dismissed: 1987
After a new trial was ordered, the prosecution dropped the charges when a key prosecution witness refused to testify. [Not shown to be innocent, the witness refused to testify.]
Randall Dale Adams Texas Conviction: 1977, Charges Dismissed: 1989
Adams was convicted of killing a Dallas Police officer and sentenced to death. After the murder David Harris was arrested for the murder when it was learned that he was bragging about it. Harris, however, claimed that Adams was the killer. Adams trial lawyer was a real estate attorney and the key government witnesses against Adams were Harris and other witnesses who were never subject to cross examination because they disappeared the next day. On appeal, Adams was ordered to be released pending a new trial by the Texas Court of Appeals. [Not shown to be innocent, key witnesses were missing and the case couldn't be retried without witnesses.]
Clarence Brandley Texas Conviction: 1981, Charges Dismissed: 1990
Brandley was awarded a new trial when evidence showed prosecutorial suppression of exculpatory evidence and perjury by prosecution witnesses. An investigation by the Department of Justice and the FBI uncovered more misconduct, and in 1989 a new trial was granted. Prior to the new trial, all of the charges against Brandley were dropped. [I'm very familiar with this case and I have no doubt he was innocent. Several "state employees" should be in prison. He was not executed and the appellate system worked.]
John C. Skelton Texas Conviction: 1983, Acquitted: 1990
Despite several witnesses who testified that he was 800 miles from the scene of the murder [juries have the job of judging the credibility of all witnesses[, Skelton was convicted and sentenced to death for killing a man by exploding dynamite in his pickup truck. The evidence against him was purely circumstantial [this is often the case as direct evidence is not required to convict in any state or the federal system]and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that it was insufficient to support a guilty verdict. The Court reversed the conviction and entered a directed verdict of acquittal. [Again, the system worked.]
Federico M. Macias Texas Conviction: 1984, Charges Dismissed: 1993
Macias was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a man during a burglary. Macias was implicated by a co-worker, who in exchange for his testimony was not prosecuted for the murders, and from jail-house informants. Post-conviction investigation by pro bono attorneys discovered substantial evidence of inadequate counsel. A federal district court ordered a new hearing finding that "[t]he errors that occurred in this case are inherent in a system which pays attorneys such a meager amount." Macias's conviction was overturned and a grand jury refused to reindict because of lack of evidence. [Not shown to be innocent. Also, there were witnesses against him and the federal court overturned the case allegedly because of low-paid attorney. Really?]
Muneer Deeb Texas Conviction: 1985, Acquitted: 1993
Deeb was originally sentenced to death for allegedly contracting with three hitmen to kill his ex-girlfriend. The hitmen were also convicted and one was sentenced to death. Deeb consistently claimed no involvement in the crime. Deeb's conviction was overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 1991 because improper evidence had been admitted at his first trial. With an experienced defense attorney, Deeb was retried and acquitted in 1993. [No information about what "improper evidence was admitted in the trial. Testimony by accomplices is routinely used. Later acquittal doesn't prove innocence; it proves his 2nd attorney did a better job changing the jury's perception.]
Ricardo Aldape Guerra Texas Conviction: 1982, Charges Dismissed: 1997
Guerra was sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer in Houston. Federal District Judge Kenneth Hoyt ruled on Nov. 15, 1994 that Guerra should either be retried in 30 days or released, stating that the actions of the police and prosecutors in this case were "outrageous," "intentional" and "done in bad faith." He further said that their misconduct "was designed and calculated to obtain . . . another 'notch in their guns.'" (Guerra v. Collins, 916 F. Supp. 620 (S.D. Texas, 1995)). Judge Hoyt's ruling was unanimously upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals. (Guerra v. Johnson, 90 F.3d 1075 (5th Cir. Tex. 1996)). Although Guerra was granted a new trial, Houston District Attorney Johnny Holmes dropped charges on April 16, 1997 instead. [A decision from Hoyt is . . . well it's a decision from Hoyt. If misconduct as he described existed, then everyone involved should be in prision now.]
Michael Blair Texas Conviction: 1994, Charges Dismissed: 2008
Michael Blair was sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of 7-year old Ashley Estell. In May 2008, following a re-investigation of the case by the Collin County prosecutor's office, District Attorney John Roach announced that in light of the results of advanced DNA testing and the absence of any other evidence linking him to the crime, Mr. Blair's conviction could no longer be upheld. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the decision of the Collin County trial court that:
"The post conviction DNA results and the evidence discovered in the State's new investigation have substantially eroded the State's trial case against [applicant]. This new evidence in light of the remaining inculpatory evidence in the record, has established by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable juror would have convicted [applicant] in light of newly discovered evidence." [Apparently the system worked, although it appears that the prosecutor was guilty of misconduct. If so, he should be in prison.]
Michael Toney, Texas Conviction: 1999, Charges Dismissed: 2009
Toney was released from jail on September 2, 2009 after the state dropped all charges against him for a 1985 bombing that killed three people. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Toney’s conviction on December 17, 2008 because the prosecution had suppressed evidence relating to the credibility of its only two witnesses. (Ex parte Toney, AP-76,056 (Tex. Crim. App. December 17, 2008)). The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office subsequently withdrew from the case based on the misconduct findings. In September 2009, the Attorney General's Office, which had been specially appointed to the case in the wake of Tarrant County’s withdrawal, dismissed the indictment against Toney. He had consistently maintained his innocence. The case had gone unsolved for 14 years until a jail inmate told authorities that Toney had confessed to the crime. The inmate later recanted his story, saying he had hoped to win early release. The state said it is continuing its investigation into the murders. Toney was killed in an automobile accident one month after his release. The state said it is continuing its investigation into the murders. [The defendant was already in prison for something and the state had a witness who said he confessed. The witness/convict later recanted and he was released. Again, he was not proven innocent.]
Robert Springsteen, Texas conviction: 2001, Charges dismissed: 2009
On October 28, 2009, Travis County, Texas, prosecutors moved to dismiss all charges against Michael Scott and Robert Springsteen, who had been convicted of the murder of four teens in an Austin yogurt shop in 1991. (Springsteen was convicted in 2001; Scott in 2002.) Springsteen had been sentenced to death and Scott was sentenced to life in prison. The convictions of both men were overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals because they had not been adequately allowed to cross examine each other. (See Springsteen v. Texas, No. AP-74,223 (May 24, 2006)). State District Judge Mike Lynch had released the defendants on bond in June, pending a possible retrial by the state. However, sophisticated DNA analysis of evidence from the crime scene did not match either defendant and the prosecution announced it was not prepared to go to trial. The judge accepted the state's motion to dismiss all charges. Prosecutors are still trying to match the DNA from crime with a new defendant. [I remember this case well. This involved the murder of 4 kids and the lack of DNA from the defendants is meaningless. One wouldn't expect to find DNA at the scene; in rape, no bleeding from the defendants, etc. Also, one or more of the defendants confessed to the murder, but there was concern about how the confession was obtained. Again, either the system worked, or guilty men are walking free.]
Anthony Graves, Texas conviction: 1994, Charges dismissed: 2010
Anthony Graves (pictured) was released from a Texas prison on October 27 after Washington-Burleson County District Attorney Bill Parham filed a motion to dismiss all charges that had resulted in Graves being sent to death row 16 years ago. Graves was convicted in 1994 of assisting Robert Carter in multiple murders in 1992. There was no physical evidence linking Graves to the crime, and his conviction relied primarily on Carter’s testimony that Graves was his accomplice. Two weeks before Carter was scheduled to be executed in 2000, he provided a statement saying he lied about Graves’s involvement in the crime. He repeated that statement minutes before his execution. In 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned Graves’s conviction and ordered a new trial after finding that prosecutors elicited false statements and withheld testimony that could have influenced the jurors. [No evidence, much less proof, of innocence. The accomplice stated he was involved, then later recanted a mere two weeks before the accomplice was executed. That case should never have been overturned.]