District attorney

A Death Penalty Advocate’s Sad Argument

July 17, 2015

The modern American death penalty has few advocates as aggressive and outspoken as Dale Cox. He is the acting district attorney of Caddo Parish, La., a poor region in one of the nation’s poorest states. From 2010 to 2014, prosecutors in Caddo Parish won more death sentences per capita than anywhere else in the country.

In March Mr. Cox drew national news coverage for his response to a former colleague’s public apology for putting a man on death row who later turned out to be innocent. “I think we need to kill more people,” Mr. Cox said.

The purpose of the death penalty, he has said repeatedly, is not to deter crime but to exact revenge. “Retribution is a valid societal interest,” he told The New York Times.

He has denied that the death penalty is racist or arbitrary, even though Caddo Parish, like most places in the country, applies it disproportionately in cases involving black defendants.

His concern about the method of execution is whether it inflicts enough pain. In a recent case of a man sentenced to death for suffocating his 1-year-old son, Mr. Cox was upset that lethal injection would be used. The convict, he said, “deserves as much physical suffering as it is humanly possible to endure before he dies

But on July 14, Mr. Cox — who took over as top prosecutor when his boss died suddenly in April — announced that he would not run for election in the fall, as he had originally planned.

His reasoning? Beyond the usual comment that the media attention was a distraction, he said, “I have come to believe that my position on the death penalty is a minority position among the members of this community.”

It was an interesting admission for several reasons, not least of which is that Mr. Cox himself used to be opposed to capital punishment. Raised Catholic and educated in a Jesuit school, he left an earlier job in the district attorney’s office because of his discomfort with such cases, according to a New Yorker profile of Mr. Cox published this month.

Over the years he changed his mind, he explained, in reaction to the cases of unspeakable brutality that he was exposed to as a prosecutor. “The nature of the work is so serious that there’d be something wrong if it didn’t change you,” Mr. Cox told The Times, saying also that he now takes medicine for depression.

It is easy to caricature Mr. Cox as little more than the angry, unrepentant face of vengeance behind America’s ever-narrowing campaign of state-sponsored killing. But it is important to listen closely to what he is saying about his job, which subjects those who do it to daily trauma and cruelty on a level most people never experience.

And that is another reason the death penalty must end: It dehumanizes not just those put to death, but everyone involved in the process — from the prosecutors who seek it to the juries who impose it and the executioners who carry it out.

Man gets death penalty in 1992 killing of 6-year-old- Obel Cruz-Garcia

July 19, 2013 http://www.chron.com

It took more than two decades for Angelo Garcia‘s mother to see her 6-year-old son’s killer sent to death row.

On Friday, she said it was worth it.

It’s the greatest news, and it took 21 years,” the woman said after jurors sent Obel Cruz-Garcia to death row for the 1992 slaying. “It was good when they got the DNA, but this is better.”

Cruz-Garcia marks the first defendant from Harris County this year to receive the death penalty.

Over the past two weeks, jurors heard a brutal story about a home invasion that turned into a rape that turned into a kidnapping and murder. They also learned it was the sexual assault that ultimately led police to identify the 45-year-old.

Cruz-Garcia was serving time for kidnapping in Puerto Rico in 2007 when DNA from the 15-year-old rape kit tied him to the 1992 case.

Cruz-Garcia and another man were wearing ski masks when they broke in to the family’s south Houston apartment around midnight on Sept. 30, 1992.

The child’s mother and stepfather testified they were part of the defendant’s cocaine-trafficking operation. They said they were tied up while the duo ransacked the home.

The men then fled with Angelo in a car driven by a third man, who testified that Cruz-Garcia and the other suspect took the child to a Baytown lake, where he was stabbed. His remains were found in the lake about a month later.

On Monday, jurors convicted Cruz-Garcia of capital murder after deliberating about four hours. After days of more testimony, they sentenced him to die Friday.

Thinking about the time between crime and punishment left the victim’s family weeping after the verdict.

‘Waited all these years’

“We just waited all these years, all this time, and it finally happened,” said Angelo’s brother, James Garcia, with tears in his eyes.

Cruz-Garcia, who jumped bail on a felony drug case to flee the country two days after the abduction, was brought back to Houston in 2008 for trial.

Prosecutors praised the verdict after jurors deliberated about seven hours over two days.

“It’s an important decision, and sometimes it takes some people a little bit longer to get there,” said Assistant Harris County District Attorney Natalie Tise. “All in all, they weren’t deliberating all that long.”

Defense lawyers for Cruz-Garcia said they were disappointed and that the defendant is focused on his appeal.

Cruz-Garcia did not react to the verdict when read by state District Judge Renee Magee.

“He was pretty even-keeled through the entire trial,” said defense attorney Mario Madrid. “He didn’t show a lot of emotion during the trial or after trial.”

Cruz-Garcia has denied any involvement in the home invasion, the abduction or the child’s death.

Young Killers in Texas Await Change in Mandatory Life Sentences

NEW BOSTON, Tex. — Scottie Forcey nervously drummed his fingers behind the thick glass in the Telford Unit’s visiting room as the camera shutter snapped, capturing images of the 21-year-old convicted murderer.

“I want some pictures. I ain’t seen myself in like” — he paused to count on his fingers — “five years. I know I look different. Check it out.” He pressed his prison ID card against the glass. In the photo, a plumper, baby-faced 17-year-old stared at the camera.

Mr. Forcey was convicted in 2009 of fatally shooting Karen Burke, a 52-year-old Alvarado convenience store clerk. He is the youngest of 23 Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates who received mandatory sentences of life without parole for committing capital murder when they were younger than 18.

Now, as legislators work to comply with a United States Supreme Court ruling, those inmates could become eligible for parole after serving 40 years.

The justices ruled last year that sentences of life without parole for 17-year-old murderers violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Either the courts or Gov. Rick Perry could change such sentences in Texas. But both are waiting for legislators to decide what punishment juveniles like Mr. Forcey should face. Lawmakers, who failed to pass legislation in two sessions this year, are trying now for a third time.

In Texas, 17-year-olds have faced the same sentencing options as adults convicted of capital murder: the death penalty or life without parole. In 2005, the Supreme Court prohibited the death penalty for anyone under 18, deciding that the less-developed brains of juveniles rendered them less culpable. That left only life without parole as the punishment for 17-year-olds.

After the court’s decision last year, in Miller v. Alabama, prosecutors said they had no sentencing options for 17-year-old killers. They asked lawmakers to make them subject to the same punishment Texas law requires for 14- to 16-year-old capital murderers: life with parole eligibility after 40 years.

Lance Long, a Harris County assistant district attorney, recently told lawmakers that until they decided on a sentencing option, such murder trials were being delayed across Texas.

“None of these cases are anything but very, very, very serious,” Mr. Long said.

The Texas Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee has approved a bill that would require a sentence of life with parole eligibility after 40 years. The House, however, has indicated it wants to give juries the option to sentence 17-year-olds to life without parole if other factors — like evidence of abuse or mental illness — are considered.

In previous sessions this year, both chambers approved bills addressing the sentencing question, but time ran out before they could get final approval.

Mr. Perry has told prosecutors that when lawmakers decided on a new sentencing bill, he would consider recommending commutation for inmates like Mr. Forcey who were sentenced under the old law.

“It really only seems fair and just,” said Justin Wood, the legislative liaison for the Harris County district attorney’s office in Houston.

Mr. Forcey, meanwhile, contends that he did not pull the trigger in Ms. Burke’s murder in 2008. He said he was targeted because he ran with the wrong crowd.

Now, he said, “I wouldn’t put myself in that situation.”

Mr. Forcey has spent most of the last four years in isolation, punishment for fights he said were constant when he first arrived.

“I grew up back there,” he said.

Asked about the possibility that his sentence could be commuted, Mr. Forcey was ambivalent. Forty years, he said, is too long.

Then a wide smile spread across his face. He figures he will be out by December. Mr. Forcey spent those years in isolation researching his case, he said, and plans to file an appeal.

“My mind’s already set,” he said. “I’m going home — wherever home is.”

Execution date moved for El Paso man convicted of killing boy -Rigoberto “Robert” Avila Jr.

June 24, 2013 elpasotimes.com


The execution date for an El Paso man convicted in the 2000 death of his then-girlfriend’s 19-month-old son has been rescheduled again.

The request was made by his attorneys who wanted more time to explore the possibility he may be innocent.

Rigoberto “Robert” Avila Jr., 40, has been on Texas’ death row since 2001 after his capital murder conviction in the Feb. 29, 2000, death of Nicolas Macias.

In 2001, a state district court jury sentenced Avila to death after convicting him in Nicolas’ death. Prosecutors had alleged Avila fatally beat Nicolas while Avila was baby-sitting Nicolas and his sibling.

At the time, Avila was dating the children’s mother, who was attending classes when Nicolas was injured. Nicolas’ mother, Marcelina Macias, has declined interview requests from the El Paso Times.

Avila was initially scheduled to be executed on Dec. 12 — which happened to be the Catholic Church’s feast day for Our Lady of Guadalupe — but was rescheduled for April 10. After defense attorneys asked for more time to explore scientific evidence in the case, Avila‘s execution was rescheduled again for July 10.

Cathryn Crawford and Kathryn Kase, attorneys with the Texas Defender Service who are representing Avila in his appeals, requested that Avila’s July 10 execution date be withdrawn to allow them to explore the possibility Avila may be innocent, based on a scientific study that Nicolas was injured by a sibling.

District Attorney Jaime

Esparza did not oppose the request, which was granted by 41st District Judge Anna Perez last week. Perez also scheduled a new execution date in January 2014.

Avila’s attorneys commended Esparza for not opposing their request for more time. Esparza declined to comment on the request, but said he allowed prosecutors to seek the death penalty against Avila based on Nicolas’ brutal death. At the time, jurors did not have the option of sentencing Avila to life in prison without parole.

According to testimony by two medical experts at Avila’s trial, Nicolas had severe internal injuries, including a severed pancreas, that were caused by the same amount of force seen in high-speed traffic crashes. They also testified Nicolas’ injuries could not have been caused by an accident.

One witness, pediatric surgeon Dr. George Raschbaum, testified the only way a 4-year-old child could have caused Nicolas’ injuries was if he had jumped on Nicolas from a height of 20 feet.

During an El Paso Times editorial board meeting last week, Crawford said testing by their defense expert indicates Nicolas’ injuries could have been caused by a 4-year-old child jumping from a height of 16 to 24 inches. The bed in the bedroom Nicolas and his sibling were playing in was 18 inches high.

“It is very clear that physically, this is a very possible scenario,” Crawford said. “We’re hoping to present the evidence to the court to determine if the jury had heard this, would they have possibly found him not guilty. That’s all we’re asking for.”

Crawford and Kase stopped short of saying Avila is innocent, but said they are exploring the possibility Nicolas was fatally injured by his 4-year-old sibling, who was mimicking wrestling moves both had seen on pay-per-view a few days earlier.

According to preliminary biomechanical testing conducted by a defense expert, Crawford and Kase said, it is possible Nicolas could have suffered his injuries after his sibling leaped from a bed onto the boy, who was lying on the floor.

However, the biomechanical testing was not available to Avila’s defense attorneys at the time of his 2001 trial, and according to Senate Bill 344, a state law that will take effect Sept. 1, a defendant is entitled to a court hearing based on “relevant scientific evidence” not available at the time of the defendant’s trial.

Crawford said she and Kase are also looking into the possibility that Avila unknowingly signed a confession where he admitted to hitting Nicolas.

Avila had initially told then-El Paso police homicide Detective Tony Tabullo that Nicolas and his sibling were playing in a bedroom while Avila was watching television in a different room when Nicolas’ sibling told Avila the boy was not breathing.

Crawford said in the first statement, Avila initialed each paragraph indicating he had read them. She said Avila’s first statement was consistent with what he told police and paramedics at the scene and what Nicolas’ sibling described during an initial interview with a police investigator.

During the early morning hours of March 1, 2000, while Avila was still at police headquarters, Tabullo learned of a bruise on Nicolas’ abdomen that paramedics interpreted as a shoe mark, Crawford said.

Crawford said Tabullo, who retired from the police department in 2003, had Avila sign a second statement that said Avila confessed to beating Nicolas. Avila signed the second statement because he trusted it was the same as the first.

Kase and Crawford also noted Avila had no previous criminal or violent history and was a Navy veteran.

Crawford and Kase said they expect to file more extensive documents once the new law becomes effective in September. Kase said Avila’s case will very likely be the first case heard under the new law.


Ray’s Mom Petition : Read and share when u can

Another post on the blog from Ray’s mom :

In Pennsylvania anything is probable in the not so justice system there. the innocent may be prosecuted and the guilty go free due to the political corruption and police, DA and coroner, medical examiner that are untrained in death scene investigation. My son died from poison and the coroner refuses to allow an investigation. Their word over rules that of the DA or prosecutor.

My petition is here :http://www.causes.com/causes/794844-regulation-of-coroner-and-medical-examiner 

the blog http://www.justiceforraymond.wordpress.com

Many thanks for what you are doing and perhaps with proper publicity we can effectively change the justice system. Contact me – I welcome participation

Tennessee death-row inmate’s conviction overturned – Michael Dale Rimmer

October 12, 2012 http://www.usatoday.com

8:33PM EDT October 12. 2012 – A Tennessee judge on Friday overturned the conviction and death sentence of a man who has spent 14 years on death row over the killing of an ex-girlfriend whose body was never found.

A USA TODAY investigation last year showed that Memphis prosecutors responsible for the case never told the man, Michael Dale Rimmer, or his lawyers, about an eyewitness who had told the police that two different men were inside the office around the time she disappeared, and that both had blood on their hands. One of the men that the witness identified was already wanted in connection with a stabbing.

Document: Court order

Shelby County Judge James C. Beasley Jr. wrote in a 212-page order released late Friday afternoon that Rimmer’s trial lawyers repeatedly failed to unearth that evidence, a “devastating” blow to his contention that someone else committed the crime. That problem was compounded, the judge wrote, because the lead prosecutor in the case, Thomas Henderson, made “blatantly false, inappropriate and ethically questionable” statements to defense lawyers denying that the evidence existed.

The case is the latest black eye for prosecutors in Memphis, who have been faulted repeatedly for failing to disclose evidence that could be helpful to defendants. In 2008, for example, a federal appeals court blasted the office in another death penalty case for a “set of falsehoods” that was “typical of the conduct of the Memphis district attorney’s office.” At least two other cases handled by Henderson — who went on to supervise all of Memphis’ criminal prosecutions — have come under scrutiny over similar lapses.
Beasley on Friday accused Henderson of “purposefully” misleading Rimmer’s lawyers, and making “comments to counsel and the court were both intellectually dishonest and may have been designed to gain a tactical advantage.”

Still, Beasley wrote, that conduct alone wasn’t enough to overturn Rimmer’s conviction and death sentence, because his lawyers could have discovered the evidence on their own if they had looked more carefully. Instead, he said, it was the “seriously deficient” investigation by Rimmer’s “overburdened” lawyers that required him to order a new trial.

John Campbell, Shelby County’s deputy district attorney general, said Friday he had not read the entire order and could not comment on specific findings. But he said prosecutors would either appeal the decision or re-try Rimmer for Ricci Ellsworth’s murder. “I can’t imagine ever not re-prosecuting the case,” he said.
Rimmer’s new lawyer, Kelly Gleason, said she “happy and relieved that the court has set aside this unjust conviction.”

Ellsworth, Rimmer’s former girlfriend, disappeared from the office of a seedy Memphis motel where she worked as an overnight clerk in February 1997, leaving behind only an office and bathroom soaked with blood. Her body has never been located.

Rimmer, then 30, was the obvious suspect. The two had dated, but the relationship soured, and Rimmer eventually went to prison for raping her. There, other prisoners said, he repeatedly threatened to kill Ellsworth, suggesting that he could make sure she was not found. Rimmer was arrested in Indiana a month after Ellsworth disappeared; police there found blood on the back seat of the car he was driving that they later said was consistent with samples taken from the motel office and from Ellsworth’s mother.

Still, a witness who visited the motel office around the time Ellsworth disappeared told the police that he had seen two different men inside, both with blood on their hands. When FBI agents showed him photographs of possible suspects that included a photo of Rimmer, he picked out a different man, Billy Wayne Voyles, who was already wanted in connection with an unrelated stabbing.

Rimmer’s lawyers, Beasley wrote, were unaware of those facts, though they could have learned of the witness’ identification if they had reviewed the “residual” evidence in the court clerk’s vault. Instead, he wrote, they relied on Henderson’s repeated representations that no such evidence existed. As a result, he wrote, the jurors who found Rimmer guilty of the murder and sentenced him to die never heard about it.

That witness, James Darnell, told a court for the first time that he had seen one of the men carry what looked like a heavy object wrapped in a comforter out of the motel office and load it into the trunk of a car.

California- Man accused in 1982 gay slaying to be retried – James Andrew Melton

May 29, 2012  Source : http://www.ocregister.com

SANTA ANA – More than three decades after a Newport Beach retiree was found dead in his condominium – naked and with a cord wrapped around his neck – prosecutors are preparing to retry the man found guilty for the killing but who had his murder conviction overturned.

James Melton, 60, was plucked from death row at San Quentin State Prison in 2007 and brought back here to face retrial after a federal judge threw out his 1982 death penalty conviction finding he had been overmedicated by Orange County jail staff and could not understand his trial.

Article Tab: James Andrew Melton. (file photo)

James Andrew Melton.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas earlier this month decided not to pursue the death penalty against Melton, who is facing the same charges as before: a special circumstances murder during the commission of a robbery.

If convicted, the defendant faces life in state prison without the possibility of parole.

On June 22, Superior Court Judge William Froeberg will consider a motion to dismiss the case by Melton’s defense attorney, Denise Gragg, a senior assistant public defender, because as she put it “there’s been so much damage done by the passage of time that (Melton’s) due process rights to the trial have been violated.”

Prosecutors say Melton is as culpable as before.

“The facts establish just as they did back in 1982 that he’s guilty of the crime of murder,” Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy said.

The crime

Melton, a Los Angeles resident, was convicted by an Orange County jury of killing Anthony Lial DeSousa, 77.

The victim’s nude body was found in the bed of his Newport condominium Oct. 11, 1981. The coroner found DeSousa had been beaten unconscious and strangled.

The prosecution’s main witness, Johnny Boyd of Pasadena, said he and Melton had been lovers in prison and plotted to rob elderly men who ran personal ads in homosexual publications.

Prosecutors said Melton met DeSousa through a personal advertisement the victim placed in a gay newspaper.

Boyd, who was given immunity from prosecution, said he answered the ad in the Advocate and set up a dinner meeting between DeSousa and Melton. Boyd testified Melton admitted the slaying to him and that he had seen Melton wearing DeSousa’s diamond rings.

Melton’s 1982 conviction for DeSousa’s murder followed a history of violent crime, including an attempted rape, robberies, an assault and two rapes – one of which occurred on a synagogue altar in Berkeley, the Orange County Register reported.

Melton was released from custody five months before DeSousa was slain.

The reversal

After his conviction, Melton filed numerous appeals.

His appellate attorney took the case all the way to the California Supreme Court, which upheld Melton’s conviction in 1988.

Melton then filed a federal appeal, claiming the medical staff at Orange County jail gave him a variety of psychiatric drugs that impaired his ability to understand his trial and contribute to his own defense. Melton was in the jail in Santa Ana for 13 months during the trial.

The late U.S. District Judge Robert Takasugi overturned his conviction in 2007, saying in a ruling that Melton was given “high doses of powerful mind-altering drugs,” despite the fact he never exhibited symptoms of psychosis or received psychiatric treatment.

The antipsychotic and antidepressant medication “suppressed Melton’s mental functioning, impaired his memory and cognition and made him indifferent to his surroundings,” Takasugi wrote.

“As a result, he was docile and compliant at trial, but also frequently unable to rationally consult with counsel about his defense,” the judge said.

Death penalty decision

Prosecutors were disappointed in the federal court’s ruling but are ready to prove their case again.

“While some of the methods of proving and establishing the circumstances might change, the goal remains the same: to hold the defendant responsible for the brutal murder of Mr. DeSousa,” McGreevy said.

The time lapsed since the crime is part of the reason why the district attorney has decided not to seek the death penalty at retrial, McGreevy said.

“It will definitely be a different case than that tried in 1982,” he said, adding the passage of 30 years with the ultimate penalty contributed to the decision.

Melton’s attorney Gragg is appreciative of Rackauckas’ move to drop death penalty.

“I think the D.A.’s Office has done a wonderful job in evaluating whether this should be a death penalty case. I am grateful for the time they took as well as the decision.”

LOUISIANA – Todd Wessinger wins 3rd hearing on death sentence

May 18, 2012 Source : http://theadvocate.com

Todd Wessinger must receive a third federal court hearing on his push to overturn his death sentence after being convicted of murdering two workers at a Baton Rouge restaurant in 1995.

U.S. District Judge James J. Brady scheduled the hearing for Dec. 13, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

In February, Brady denied Wessinger, 44, a new trial. The judge ruled that “overwhelming” state court evidence supported Wessinger’s conviction on charges that he murdered 27-year-old Stephanie Guzzardo and 46-year-old David Breakwell at the since-closed Calendar’s restaurant on Perkins Road.

In April, however, Brady took additional defense motions under consideration and indefinitely blocked Wessinger’s scheduled May 9 execution.

On Wednesday, Brady rejected four of Wessinger’s latest five claims of state court errors.

But the judge ruled that Wessinger’s claim of “ineffective assistance of counsel at the penalty phase of the trial” is “deserving of further proceedings.”

By limiting his latest ruling to the penalty phase of Wessinger’s trial, Brady signaled his future decision would either support or overturn the jury’s imposition of the death penalty. The murder conviction stands.

Brady noted that an on-point ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — which governs federal court decisions in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi — shows new claims of mental illness, low intelligence and childhood abuse can be raised at sentencing and on appeal.

The judge noted the 5th Circuit’s decision only applies to defense evidence on federal appeal that is “significantly different and stronger” than defense evidence presented to state courts.

But Brady added Wessinger cannot win a new sentencing hearing unless he can show his defense attorney’s failure to present new evidence of his claimed mental problems at sentencing was so significant that “he might not have received the death penalty.”

In April, defense attorneys argued Wessinger suffered childhood seizures and physical and emotional abuse, developed substance addictions and was traumatized by the deaths of his children prior to the murders of Guzzardo and Breakwell.

Those arguments were presented by appellate attorneys Danalynn Recer, of The Gulf Region Advocacy Center in Houston; Soren Gisleson, of New Orleans; and Federal Public Defender Rebecca Hudsmith, of Lafayette.

Assistant District Attorneys Dale R. Lee and J. Christine Chapman argued against Wessinger’s stay of execution.

Chapman and Lee told Brady the families of Guzzardo and Breakwell “have endured years of uncertainty and appeals. They undoubtedly endure harm each day that the lawful sentence of the court is not carried out, and they are clearly entitled to finality and closure.”

DALLAS COUNTY : Exonerates Two More Men, 30 Years After the Crime They Didn’t Commit

April 30 source : http://blogs.dallasobserver.com

Thumbnail image for IMG_1616.jpg

This morning, two men stood in the same courtroom where they were convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to life in prison for a rape and shooting that happened almost 30 years ago. This time, both were smiling, as they were one step closer to exiting the criminal justice hell that consumed the last three decades of their lives.

Raymond Jackson and James Curtis Williams donned suits and were surrounded by friends, family and fellow exonerees, as Judge Susan Hawk, with her declaration of relief from conviction based on actual innocence, granted them entrance into the ever-expanding brotherhood of Dallas County exonerees. This morning’s double exoneration hearing comes just weeks after the exoneration of three men for one crime.

With dozens of men having come before them and about 10 sitting behind them in the audience, it’s clear that systematic flaws that have lead to so many wrongful convictions. Under District Attorney Craig Watkins, Dallas County has been famously proactive in freeing the wrongfully convicted. But what’s less readily apparent is how deep the problem runs.

“I know for a fact” there are other innocent men in prison, Williams said to the crowd gathered after the hearing. “You will not get the proper representation if you are poor,” he added. “A lot of them had to cop out to cases that they knew they was innocent on because they didn’t want to face the jury.”

He and Jackson never backed down. Both had been released on parole in the past two years. “We knew in our heart and we thank God,” Williams said.

Judge Hawk couldn’t find words strong enough for a suitable apology for what the men had faced.

“To say I’m sorry is not enough,” Hawk told the men. “I hope that you have full and happy lives.” The full courtroom cheered after the judge shook their hands. This was Hawk’s fourth exoneration hearing in her nine years on the bench, she said. All four cases were originally heard in the same 291st district courtroom in front of Judge Gerry Meier.

Former public defender Michelle Moore worked with Watkins’ Conviction Integrity Unit from its 2007 creation until last year. When she left her position, Julie Doucet took over. Moore said Jackson’s and Williams’ cases were initially rejected, until the Conviction Integrity Unit revisited them sometime around 2007 during an intense review of hundreds of cases.

“There was a lot of arguing about this one,” Moore says. “Finally, we found some evidence to test.” The biological evidence not only determined the innocence of Jackson and Williams, but it also revealed two men believed to be the actual perpetrators, both in prison for other crimes. Marion Sayles and Frederick Anderson have since been indicted for attempted capital murder.

As has become tradition on exoneration mornings, District Attorney Watkins addressed the courtroom when the hearing was over. “We are doing something wrong with our criminal justice system and we need to fix it,” Watkins said. He addressed the two men, adding, “I am sorry the criminal justice system was not working for you.”

Jackson wasn’t mad, only thankful. “I hold no grudge against the victim. I’m just thankful that they had DNA and they kept ours,” he said.

But accountability in this case, as in many similar cases, is tough to nail down.

“I think the real thing was just getting you convicted, and they didn’t care whether you was innocent or not,” Jackson said. If a jury sees a distraught victim and she identifies the men in court as having done the crime, Williams said, it’s pretty tough to convince a jury otherwise. He added that the jurors in their cases were all white.

“Back then the system was different,” Jackson said. And while the system “back then” put him in prison, he’s sure glad the system now cleared his name. Williams had a different explination: “See, this is a miracle.”

DALLAS – 2 men to be exonerated in Dallas sex assault case

april 27 source : http://www.chron.com

Two men convicted of raping a woman outside a Dallas bar almost 30 years ago will be declared innocent after DNA testing implicated two other men in the attack, authorities said Friday.

James Curtis Williams and Raymond Jackson received life sentences for the November 1983 assault but were recently released on parole.

They will be formally declared innocent in Dallas County court Monday morning. The two other men,Frederick Anderson and Marion Doll Sayles, will be charged with attempted capital murder, authorities said.

Dallas County has now exonerated 32 people since 2001, most during the tenure of District Attorney Craig Watkins. Almost all of those exonerations have involved faulty eyewitness identifications.

Authorities say the woman was forced into a vehicle at gunpoint and later sexually assaulted by two men. She was then shot and left for dead in a field.

Williams and Jackson had been implicated in another sexual assault case and were placed in a photo lineup for this one, said Russell Wilson, the prosecutor in charge of Dallas County’s conviction integrity unit. The victim picked them out of the lineup.

The Associated Press does not name victims of sexual assault.

DNA collected from the woman’s clothing and a rape kit exam was preserved and later tested. Tests linked the DNA to Anderson and Sayles.

After they were convicted, Williams and Jackson pleaded guilty in the other sexual assault case and received shorter sentences that have since expired, authorities said. The men didn’t challenge their convictions in that case and will still have to register as sex offenders because of that crime, said Julie Doucet, an attorney in the Dallas County public defender’s office.

“They’re extremely happy to finally be cleared of this crime,” she said.

Williams, now 54, will no longer be on parole after Monday. Jackson, 67, will for a robbery committed in 1970, Doucet said.

The charges to be brought against Anderson, 52, and Sayles, 55, are rare. Despite the high number of exonerations in Dallas County, only three people have been prosecuted in cases where someone was wrongfully convicted, said Jamille Bradfield, a spokeswoman for the Dallas County district attorney.

In this case, prosecutors are charging Anderson and Sayles with attempted capital murder because that crime doesn’t carry a statute of limitations, Wilson said.

Anderson is being held in the Dallas County jail, and a bench warrant has been issued for Sayles, Wilson said. Neither man had an attorney listed in online jail records.