US – Prosecutors help set record number of exonerations in 2013

February 4, 2014 (dallasnews)

ST. LOUIS — A nationwide push by prosecutors and police to re-examine possible wrongful convictions contributed to a record number of exonerations in 2013, according to a report released Tuesday.

The National Registry of Exonerations says 87 people falsely convicted of crimes were exonerated last year, four more than in 2009, the year with the next highest total. The joint effort by the Northwestern University and University of Michigan law schools has documented more than 1,300 such cases in the U.S. since 1989 while also identifying another 1,100 “group exonerations” involving widespread police misconduct, primarily related to planted drug and gun evidence.

The new report shows that nearly 40 percent of exonerations recorded in 2013 were either initiated by law enforcement or included police and prosecutors’ cooperation. One year earlier, nearly half of the exonerations involved such reviews.

“Police and prosecutors have become more attentive and concerned about the danger of false conviction,” said registry editor Samuel Gross, a Michigan law professor. “We are working harder to identify the mistakes we made years ago, and we are catching more of them.”

Texas topped the state-by-state breakdown with 13 exonerations in 2013, followed by Illinois, New York, Washington, California, Michigan and Missouri.

District attorneys in the counties containing Dallas, Chicago, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Santa Clara, Calif., are among those to recently create “conviction integrity” units. The International Association of Chiefs of Police also is pushing to reduce wrongful convictions, joined by the U.S. Justice Department and The Innocence Project, an advocacy group that seeks to overturn wrongful convictions. The association’s recommendations to local departments include new guidelines for conducting photo lineups and witness interviews to reduce false confessions.

Fifteen of the 87 documented cases in 2013 involved convictions obtained after a defendant pleaded guilty, typically to avoid a longer prison sentence. Forty of the cases involved murder convictions, with another 18 overturned convictions for rape or sexual assault.

The number of exonerations based on DNA testing continued to decline, accounting for about one-fifth of the year’s total.

“It’s extremely valuable to use,” Gross said. “But most crimes don’t involve DNA evidence. … DNA hastaught us a huge amount about the criminal justice system. Biological evidence has forced all of us to realize that we’ve made a lot of mistakes. But most exonerations involve shoe-leather, not DNA.”

In Illinois, Nicole Harris and Daniel Taylor each received certificates of innocence from a Cook County judge in January after their respective murder convictions were tossed out in 2013 — a designation that allows both to receive financial compensation from the state. Harris had been convicted in 2005 of strangling her 4-year-old son, who had an elastic band wrapped around his neck. Taylor was released after spending more than 20 years in prison for a fatal robbery that occurred while he was in police custody for an unrelated incident.

In Missouri, former death row inmate Reginald Griffin went free in October 2013 after a small-town prosecutor declined to refile murder charges in connection with a 1983 prison stabbing for which Griffin spent nearly three decades behind bars. Griffin denied his involvement but was convicted after two inmates claimed to have seen him stab the prisoner. One of those inmates later recanted, saying he had not seen the attack. An appellate attorney also discovered that prosecutors had withheld a report that guards had confiscated a sharpened screwdriver from another inmate as he was attempting to leave the area where the attack took place.

Ryan Ferguson, convicted in 2005 in the beating death of a Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune sports editor, was freed in November 2013 after a state appeals court panel ruled prosecutors had withheld evidence from his attorneys and that he didn’t get a fair trial. The state attorney general’s office decided not to retry Ferguson, who had received a 25-year prison sentence.

Like their counterparts across the country, Missouri prosecutors are reviewing not just questionable individual convictions but also the broader issues that lead to exonerations, from coerced confessions to contaminated crime labs.

“It’s the duty of police and prosecutors to protect everyone in the community, including victims and defendants,” said Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight. “We want the process to be as fair and transparent as possible.”


ILLINOIS -Man convicted in 1970 slaying to ask for release – Calvin Madison

february 3, 2014 (

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) — A man originally sentenced to death who has spent 44 years behind bars in the slaying of a Rockford gas station attendant is scheduled to make his 33rd plea for freedom.

Calvin Madison, 66, appears to have a chance to win his release from Graham Correction Center after last year when five members of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board — three short of the number needed to be granted parole — voted last year to release him. His co-defendant in the case, Thomas Ray Charles, was released from prison in 1986 after he was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison.

Madison is scheduled to appear before a member of the Illinois Review Board on March 4, and the entire board is expected to decide on May 1 whether or not Madison should be released.

The Rockford Register Star ( ) reported Sunday that Madison’s family has started to encourage people to write letters in favor of Madison’s release and the family of the victim, 19-year-old John Hogan, is arguing against his release.

The slaying took place on Jan, 22, 1970, at the Gas-For-Less service station in Rockford. According to the newspaper, when Madison and Charles ordered him to hand over money, Hogan did as he was told and gave them about $100 in cash.

Then, Madison forced Hogan into a restroom, ordered him to his knees and shot him four times in the back of the head with a pistol.

“It was premeditated murder — there’s no other way of looking at it,” said Hogan’s brother, Terry.

Madison, who was sentenced to death in 1970, was resentenced in 1972 to 75-100 years in prison after the U.S. Supreme Court suspended the death penalty in the United States in 1972. The court ultimately reinstated the death penalty a few years later.

Former Illinois governor released from custody

Good luck to George Ryan, who as Illinois governor jump-started modern progress in abolishing the death penalty by first enacting a moratorium on executions and then in one of his last acts of governor, he commuted the sentences of all 167 inmates on Illinois’ death row. Three inmates had their sentences reduced to 40 years in prison, while the remaining 165 received life in prison. The Illinois death penalty was finally abolished in 2011.

(CNN) – Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan has been released from federal custody, according to Bureau of Prisons spokesperson, Chris Burke.

Ryan had been on home confinement for the past five months in Kankakee, Illinois. He will now be on supervised release for the next year.

The former Republican governor was serving a 6 1/2-year sentence on racketeering and fraud convictions.

The disgraced ex-governor was convicted in April 2006 of fraud in a case stemming from bribes paid for various state licenses. The Supreme Court turned down his appeal in 2008.

His wife, Lura Lynn Lowe, passed away in 2011 while he was in custody but he was temporarily released so he could be with her during her final hours.

Ryan served as governor from 1999-2003. In one of his last acts of governor, he commuted the sentences of all 167 inmates on Illinois’ death row. Three inmates had their sentences reduced to 40 years in prison, while the remaining 165 received life in prison.

Death Row exoneree Randy Steidl
 to speak Nov. 27 at NKU

November 13, 2012


As part of the Journey of Hope Tour sponsored by the Northern Kentucky University Chase American Constitution Society, the ACLU of Kentucky and the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, NKU will host a free public lecture by death row exoneree Randy Steidl on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at noon in room 302 of the James C. and Rachel M. Votruba Student Union.

Steidl and a co-defendant were convicted for the 1986 murder of newlywed couple Dyke and Karen Rhoads in the small town of Paris, Ill. The two maintained their innocence but it was not until Northwestern University journalism students got involved that Steidl’s case received a proper review.

The entire case against Steidl was based on unreliable eye-witness testimony. Even though their stories conflicted with one another, both witnesses claimed to be present on the night of the attack and both described a gruesome scene. Yet, in spite of the violent stabbing that occurred, there was no physical evidence tying Steidl to the crime.

It was only after the in-depth investigative journalism conducted by Northwestern students that new information was uncovered and old evidence invalidated. With the aid of a local police officer, students were able to present enough evidence of Steidl’s innocence to call for a new trial. Eventually, all charges were dropped and Steidl became the 18th person to be released from the Illinois death row because of a wrongful conviction.

Steidl described his ordeal in a CNN interview. “Torture,” he said. “Actually being innocent and knowing that the state of Illinois wants to kill me for something I did not do.”

His NKU visit comes just weeks after the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights called on state lawmakers to abolish the death penalty and less than one year after a team of Kentucky legal experts published a 400-page report alleging serious flaws within the state’s death penalty system.

10 years after DNA cleared York County man, death penalty still debated

april 8, 2012 source :

Some believe that Pennsylvania will eventually abolish the death penalty.

Ten years ago today, Ray Krone walked out of an Arizona prison after DNA tests showed he did not murder a Phoenix bartender in 1991.

He became the 100th death row exonoree, and his case came at a time when federal legislators were considering death penalty reform, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

What shook many was that Krone had been convicted twice in the murder, he said.

Krone was a military veteran, a Bible reader, and one of the top graduates in his Dover Area High School class. He had maintained his innocence during the 10 years he spent in prison, two of those years on death row.

“It was a revelation that so many mistakes could have been made,” Dieter said.

In the past 10 years, several states, such as Illinois, New Mexico and New Jersey, have abolished the death penalty, Dieter said. Others, such as Maryland, Connecticut and California, are seriously considering it.

The number of executions nationwide has dropped in the last 10 years, and the public is more aware of the errors that can occur.

Pennsylvania to study the death penalty

The last execution in Pennsylvania took place in 1999.

It marked only the third execution in the state since 1976, and in all three cases, the defendants gave up their appeal efforts.

Yet, today, more than 200 remain on death row in the state. Eleven are from York County cases.

A death penalty without executions is not a death penalty, Dieter said.

The state Senate passed a resolution in December authorizing a study of the death penalty.

Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery/Bucks counties, who sponsored the resolution, said he thinks the review is appropriate, given the studies done by other states. Questions about the cost, deterrence and appropriateness of the death penalty need to be answered, according to a news release.

The study will involve The Justice Center for Research at Penn State,

the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness, and the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission.

The task force will study more than a dozen areas, including whether the selection of defendants for capital trials is arbitrary, unfair or discriminatory, and whether adequate procedural protections exist to prevent an innocent person from being sentenced to death and executed.

It will have two years to do the work.

Problems with the death penalty

Some, such as Kathleen Lucas of Springettsbury Township, believe it is only a matter of time until Pennsylvania repeals capital punishment.

Since the 1970s, 140 exonerations now have been reported nationwide, said Lucas, executive director for

Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Six have been in Pennsylvania.

In addition to Krone’s exoneration, the Sept. 21 execution of Troy Davis in Georgia has left a bad taste in people’s mouths, she said.

Davis was sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of a police officer, but he maintained his innocence until the end. His defense team had argued that some of the witnesses had recanted their statements that implicated him.

Pennsylvania has been singled out for problems with the death penalty, Lucas said. The American Bar Association cited numerous areas for reform in a 2007 report.

Studies have revealed, for example, that 98.6 percent of jurors in capital cases in Pennsylvania failed to understand “at least some” portion of the jury instructions, the report states.

Of those questioned, 82.8 percent of the jurors did not believe “that a life sentence really meant life in prison,” according to the report.

Racial and geographical disparities also exist, according to the report. A Pennsylvania Supreme Court committee found that one third of black death-row inmates in Philadelphia County would have received sentences of life in prison if they had not been black.

Death penalty cases are costly

Lucas questions why the state keeps the death penalty when it isn’t executing anyway. She argues the money spent on capital cases costs three times or more than sentencing a defendant to life.

The average death penalty case in Maryland costs about $3 million, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (citing the Urban Institute, 2008). It’s anticipated the state will pay $186 million for cases pursued between 1978 and 1999. The state has had five executions since 1976.

Death penalty cases demand more work because of what’s at stake, Dieter said. Typically, two defense lawyers and two prosecutors are assigned to the case. They must prepare for two phases — the trial and the sentencing — which require different investigations.

“We’re just throwing money down a big, black hole,” said Marc Bookman, executive director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation.

It also costs more money to incarcerate death-row inmates, Bookman said.

In these tough economic times, Lucas said, the money could be used elsewhere, such as education. Police also could pursue cold cases.

Support of the death penalty

The state District Attorneys Association doesn’t think the death penalty should be abolished, executive director Richard Long said.

It helps to bring a measure of closure to the victim’s family, and it has a deterrent effect as well.

“We think Pennsylvania has decided it’s an appropriate penalty in the most egregious type of murder cases,” he said.

It is the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that is slowing down the cases, Long said. The appeals are not moving through the process and being addressed in a timely manner — no matter what the outcome.

Many cases are being overturned because of problems, such as ineffective counsel, Lucas said.

Some, who started with the death penalty, end up with a life sentence, Dieter said. Pennsylvania has done studies and made efforts to fix problems, but “at this point, I think it’s still not working.”

York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said he has taken an oath to uphold the will of the people.

“When we seek the penalty, it is for the worst of the worst, and that is what we’re charged with doing,” he said.

His office takes great pains to consult with the victims, looking at the statute and reviewing the case to determine if the death penalty is a realistic option.

He pointed to the Michael and Nanette Craver case as an example. His office withdrew the death penalty against the couple in the death of their 7-year-old adopted Russian son.

That’s because after talking with experts, it appeared the mitigating circumstances would outweigh the aggravating circumstances. It would have meant a life in prison without parole.

The couple later was convicted at trial of involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment and conspiracy.

“The taking of a life is a serious business,” Kearney said. “This is not something we do on the fly.”

Kearney said he thinks it’s healthy for the community to discuss the death penalty and whether they believe legislators should change the law.

Local defense attorney Gerald Lord said he has handled numerous death penalty cases in which the defendants are found not guilty of first-degree murder. Some are convicted of lesser charges.

Lord cited the 2003 shooting death of 25-year-old Anthony Lloyd as an example.

A jury acquitted his client, Dorian Eady of Erie, of first- and third-degree murder, attempted homicide, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment in the case. At one point, he faced a death penalty notice.

Witnesses testified Eady was in Buffalo the day before the shooting and in Erie when the shooting occurred. Eady had always maintained his innocence.

“It’s the ultimate penalty, and if you make a mistake, you can’t take it back,” Lord said.

Ten years later

As for Ray Krone, he moved back to York County and has made attempts to resume a normal life.

He has been thankful for the support of his friends, family and the residents of York County, he said. It has helped him as he has traveled across the country trying to make a difference.

Krone has been an outspoken proponent of abolishing the death penalty. He has spoken with legislators, students and others about his case, wrongful convictions, DNA testing and judicial reform.

Krone serves as director for communications and training for Witness to Innocence, an organization that consists of exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones who are fighting to end the death penalty.

Krone said he traveled to Connecticut last year to testify along with Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project for the repeal of the death penalty.

Legislators did not approve the repeal last year, but it is moving through the legislature this year.

“If they could do it to me, they could do it to anybody,” Krone said.


Who is on death row

Eleven people from York County cases are on death row in Pennsylvania.

They are:

— Kevin Dowling, 53, convicted in the October 1997 murder of Spring Grove shop owner Jennifer Myers. The York County District Attorney’s Office maintained Dowling killed Myers to prevent her from testifying against him in an attempted rape and robbery case.

— Daniel Jacobs, 41, convicted in the February 1992 stabbing death of his girlfriend, Tammy Lee Mock of York, and the drowning of their 7-month old daughter, Holly Danielle Jacobs.

— Harve Johnson, 30, convicted in the April 2008 beating death of 2-year-old Darisabel Baez.

— Kevin Mattison, 35, for the December 2008 shooting death of Christian Agosto during a robbery and burglary. Mattison of Baltimore had a previous murder conviction for killing a man in a street fight in Maryland in 1995.

— Hubert Lester Michael Jr., 55, pleaded guilty to the July 1993 kidnapping and shooting death of 16-year-old Trista Elizabeth Eng in the Dillsburg area.

— Milton Montalvo, 49, and Noel Montalvo, 48, convicted of the April 1998, stabbing deaths of Miriam Asencio-Cruz and Manuel Ramirez Santana, also known as Nelson Lugo. Asencio-Cruz was Milton Montalvo’s estranged common-law wife, and Santana was her friend.

— Hector Morales, 29, convicted of the July 2009 murder and burglary of Ronald Simmons Jr. Simmons was shot about 12 hours before he was to testify against Morales in a drug case.

— John Small, 52, convicted of the 1981 murder and attempted rape of 17-year-old Cheryl Smith, whose body was found in West Manheim Township.

— Mark Newton Spotz, 41, convicted of the February 1995 shooting death of Penny Gunnet, 41, of New Salem, his third victim in a four-day crime spree through central and eastern Pennsylvania.

— Paul Gamboa-Taylor, 51, pleaded guilty to the May 1991, hammer slayings of four family members: his wife, Valeria L. Gamboa-Taylor; their two children, Paul, 4, and Jasmine, 2; and another child, Lance Barshinger, 2. He received a life sentence for killing his mother-in-law, Donna M. Barshinger.

About the Krone case

Ray Krone was convicted twice and later exonerated in the 1991 murder of a Phoenix bartender.

Kim Ancona, 36, was found stabbed to death Dec. 29, 1991, in the CBS Restaurant Lounge in Arizona.

Police began their investigation, including questioning Krone. Police arrested him on New Year’s Eve.

Krone believed that police, in their investigation, would realize they had the wrong man. But he went to trial in the summer of 1992. An expert presented a videotape showing that a bite sample from Krone matched a bite mark on the victim’s breast.

A jury found Krone guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping. He was sentenced to death.

In 1995, the Arizona Supreme Court overturned Krone’s conviction, granting him a new trial.

At his second trial in 1996, the prosecution argued that the bite marks on the victim’s body matched Krone’s “unique dentition.” Krone’s attorney, Christopher Plourd of San Diego, countered that the bite marks were not Krone’s, and the saliva found on the victim provided a DNA pattern that excluded Krone.

A jury convicted him again.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James McDougall said he had doubts about Krone’s guilt and sentenced him to life in prison.

In 2002, testing of DNA on the victim’s clothes proved Krone wasn’t the killer and instead implicated Kenneth Phillips Jr.

Krone was freed that year after 10 years in prison.

Krone sued Maricopa County in Arizona, and the city of Phoenix over his wrongful conviction. He received settlements totaling $4.4 million.

Krone now lives in Conewago Township.


Life in prison

Is there a difference between how death row inmates versus those sentenced to life without parole live in prison?

The answer is yes, said Sue McNaughton, press secretary for the state Department of Corrections.

Death row inmates are locked in their cells 22 hours a day. They are allowed outside to exercise, to shower or to research their appeals in a mini law library, she said.

When they do leave their cells, they are shackled and escorted by several staff members, McNaughton said.

Inmates who are in for life live in regular housing. In general population, two inmates can live in a cell, but those with lifetime sentences might be offered a single cell.

Inmates serving a life sentence can work prison jobs, she said. They can go to the library to read a book. They are not as restricted.

In 2000 Illinois discovered we had 13 innocent men on death row waiting to be executed

And when I say innocent I don’t mean they got off because of a technicality or something like that. I mean they were truly innocent of the crimes they were scheduled to be put to death for. Think Illinois is the only state this kind of stuff happens in ?


source :

from Innocence Project, u can find exonerations by state (289)