The latest victim is Jodi Arias. If news coverage goes ballistic, it’s often an indication of a wrongful conviction.
Media sensationalism is something we are all collectively complicit in. From the journalists who search for the most dramatic headlines to the readers who voraciously lap up the juiciest stories, we all have a part to play in the melodramatic theatre that is the modern media.
Indeed, exaggerated headlines and yellow journalism are so much a part of our daily lives that we pay its repercussions scant attention. But given its often damaging and irreversible effects, it is high time, we examine the implications of such scandal mongering tactics.
There are of course many cases of irresponsible journalism but in my opinion, there is nothing more tragic than innocuous misogynistic media portrayals that lead directly or indirectly to gross miscarriages of justice.
The Meredith Kercher sagawas one that held Europe and the wider world in thrall. Kercher, a fresh faced twenty-one year old student was found with…
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I came to read this blog today via an unrelated topic, but am glad you are taking an interest in the antics of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
My interest is in judicial corruption, wrongful convictions (especially in Arizona,Texas and Florida) and the spectacular inability of the appellate system of the United States to correct them in a timely way.
I hope to call by again soon.
“In a bombshell diversion from his contempt-of-court proceedings, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio testified under oath Thursday that his attorneys had hired a private agent to investigate the wife of the federal judge who ruled that the Sheriff’s Office had engaged in racial profiling.” Megan Cassidy, Arapio: PI Hired to investigate judge’s wife, The Republic | azcentral.com (April 24, 2015) from How Appealing (April 24, 2015). Sheriff Joe shot at the judge and appears to have missed.
Although somewhat different, this reminds me of the “nuke” dump case where I awarded around $151 million to low level nuclear waste generators against Nebraska because Nebraska had grievously breached the duty of “good faith” under an agreement between states created under the Compact Clause of the Constitution. Entergy Arkansas Nebraska v. Nebraska, 226 F.Supp.2d 1047 (D. Neb. 2002), aff’d 358 F.3d 528 (2004). The decision was wildly unpopular in Nebraska.
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There have been many exonerations from death row in the United States, 152 since 1973 as of April 26, 2015.
This post is to list and document innocent or possibly innocent people who have been executed.
More detail and links/references will be provided over time.
- Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin, Circa 1915
- George Stinney, South Carolina, Convicted 1944, Executed 1944, Exonerated 2014
- Burton Abott, California, Convicted 1955, Executed 1957
- Gary Graham, Texas, Convicted 1981, Executed 2000*
- Larry Griffin, Missouri, Convicted 1981, Executed 1995*
- Leo Jones, Florida, Convicted 1981, Executed 1998*
- Thomas Thompson, California, ~1981, Executed 1998
- Johnny Frank Garrett, Texas, Convicted ~1982, Executed 1992
- Jesse Romero, Texas, Convicted ~1984, Executed 1992
- Carlos DeLuna, Texas, Convicted 1983, Executed 1989*
- Robert Nelson Drew, Texas, Convicted 1983, Executed 1994
- David Spence, Texas, Convicted 1984, Executed 1997*
- Ruben Cantu, Texas, Convicted 1985, Executed 1993*
- Joseph O’Dell, Virginia, Convicted 1986, Executed 1997*
- Frances Newton, Texas, Convicted: 1988, Executed 2005
- Eric King, Arizona, Convicted 1988, Executed 2011
- Claude Jones, Texas, Convicted 1989, Executed 2000*
- Troy Davis, Georgia, Convicted 1991, Executed 2011*
- Cameron Willingham, Texas, Convicted 1992, Executed 2004*
- Kia Levoy Johnson, Texas, Convicted ~1993. Executed 2003
- David Wayne Spence, Texas, Convicted 1994, Executed 1997
- Lamont Reese, Texas, Convicted ~2001, Executed 2006
- Richard Wayne Jones, Texas, Convicted ~1986, Executed 2000
- Davis Losada, Texas, Convicted ~1984, Executed 1997
- David Wayne Stoker, Texas, Convicted ~1986, Executed 1997
- Joseph Nichols, Texas, Convicted ~1980, Executed 2007
- Roy Pippin, Texas, Convicted ~1994, Executed 2007
- Gregory Wright, Texas, Convicted ~1997, Executed 2008
- Jamie McCoskey, Texas, Convicted ~1991, Executed 2013
- Robert Garza, Texas, Convicted ~2002, Executed 2013
- Preston Hughes, Texas, Convicted ~1988, Executed 2012
- Jesse Tafero, Florida, Convicted ~1977, Executed 1990
- Willie Jasper Darden, Florida, Convicted ~1974, Executed 1988
- Edward Earl Johnson, Mississippi, Convicted ~1980, Executed 1987
- Dennis Wayne Stockton, Virginia
- Marcus Johnson, Georgia, Convicted 1998, Executed 2015
- Brian Keith Terrell, Georgia, Alleged Crime 1992 , Executed 2015
- Lester Bower, Texas, Convicted 1984, Executed 2015
- Richard Masterson, Texas, Convicted 2001, Executed 2016
- Leddell Lee, Arkansas, Convicted ~1993, Executed 2017
- Michael Lambrix, Florida, Convicted 1984, Executed 2017
- Robert Pruett, Texas, Convicted 2002, Executed 2017
- Larry Swearingen, Texas, Convicted 2000, Executed 2019
Note: where the exact year of conviction is unknown, it is guessed from the date of the alleged crime.
and The Skeptical Juror re Texas.
and Yes, America, We Have Executed an Innocent Man by Andrew Cohen.
Hmm.. my very early tentative impression is that the HVBS stuff is a load of bullshit.Sure, spatter from a gunshot will have some characteristics, but how can you say a stain on clothing must be a HVBS?I would agree that you might be able to point to some blood spot and say categorically it is NOT a HVBS, but the reverse strikes me as extraordinarily dubious.
The prosecution attacked Jodi’s credibility as a witness, claiming:
- Jodi had blonde hair on the trip when she hired the car.
- Jodi shot Travis after he was dead.
- Amanda Webb knows what she is talking about.
- Jodi faking an orgasm during phone sex means her testimony should not be believed.
- Travis kneeling while masturbating is impossible.
- The items on the shelves must have fallen off when Jodi jumped up to get the gun.
- There was no porn on the laptop.
- Deanna would never lie about having sex with the Travis.
- Bishop Parker knows his dates, so witness #1 must be lying about the child porn.
- Jodi had Travis’ camera on a strap around her neck ( but it was found still in it’s wrapping ).
- Jodi kept the trip secret.
- Jodi didn’t write about Travis choking her so it didn’t happen.
- Jodi didn’t write about Travis kicking her so it didn’t happen.
- Snow White lived in a Shack.
- The room-mates didn’t know Travis had a gun, so he didn’t.
- Travis was a virgin … (oh, ok, he probably didn’t say that).
The chick is right!
I went to see the Magic Flute in Bristol recently.
In the second act, Tamino is tutored in how to overcome the fear of death, and faces trials, of silence, fire and water.
Jodi has learned to overcome the fear of death. It was recently revealed that she declined a plea bargain in which she was offered a life sentence to avoid the possibility of a death sentence. She declined.
But this post is more about Jodi’s trials. The never-ending tests of the veracity of her testimony, that she killed Travis in self-defense after he attacked her, which the State has tested at extraordinary length.
Wise observers have said “it’s better not to testify”. Unfortunately, Jodi, like Tamino, was not so good at enduring the trial of silence after killing Travis, and spoke to the police and public at length, with an account of events that was often the opposite of the truth.
- She claimed Travis did not own a gun [ since if he did, how come it was missing if she didn’t take it ]
- She claimed she never went to Mesa. Photographs recovered at the scene showed this to be false.
- She later claimed intruders appeared just after she was taking pictures of Travis in the shower.
Perhaps these lies created the need for her to testify, and testify she did, for 18 days, through many days of cross-examination by both prosecutor Juan Martinez and the jury, who were able to ask their own questions.
The prosecution had any number of reasons to suspect Jodi of premeditated murder.
Jodi’s Hair Color
Prosecutor Juan Martinez claimed that Jodi had blonde hair when she hired a car ( the car rental guy testified to this ), but changed her hair to brown to go to Mesa, in an attempt at disguise. The defense however introduced photographs showing that Jodi dyed her hair brown many weeks before.
Perhaps the car rental guy remembered Jodi’s driving license:
Not to be deterred, the prosecution claimed in closing arguments that Jodi had “blonde locks” before the trip, not detectable in poorly lit photographs of her in Travis’ bedroom on the day of the killing. Did the jury buy it? Nobody knows.
But Jodi’s trials were not over, not by a long chalk.
Jodi testified that she jumped up to get the gun from a high shelf, momentarily stepping on some shelving. The prosecution suggested the shelf would have tipped, disturbing items on the shelving, which appeared neat and tidy, after despatching lead detective Flores to the scene, nearly five years later. Flores testified that he was able to tip a shelf using just his finger, although no items were on the shelf, and Jodi may have stepped near the point where the shelf was supported. Was the jury convinced? Nobody knows.
Jodi testified that she caught Travis masturbating to a picture of a young boy clothed in underwear. Moreover she suggested looking at Travis’ laptop, for signs of pornography use. Jodi also testified there was a virus on the laptop, and this had caused Travis to be angry earlier in the day. The State called witnesses to expose these lies – State witness Melendez testified he found no virus or pornography on the laptop, and a defense witness found nothing either. In closing Juan Martinez claimed Jodi lied about this as well. Another nail Jodi’s coffin.
The Magic Bullet
Just before trial, apparently to prove Jodi lied about having shot Travis first, the prosecution changed it’s theory, asserting that Jodi shot Travis after he was dead. The Medical Examiner testified that the bullet travelled through Travis’ brain, without leaving any trace, even though he was able to examine slices of the brain. He further asserted his own autopsy report must be erroneous, as it stated the Dura Mater was intact.
The Gas Cans
The culmination of Juan Martinez’ demonstration of guilt was Jodi’s use of gas cans. He theorized that Jodi decided to avoid using her credit card to buy gas while in Arizona, and calculated that she needed three gas cans to achieve this. Two cans were borrowed from her ex, Darryl Brewer, and a third was purchased from Wal-Mart. Jodi had kept the receipt:
Juan surely had his prey cornered, this seemed the decisive proof of guilt he was searching for, and now Jodi apparently panicked, and declared that she returned her purchase to Wal-Mart. Now Juan pounced, he called Amanda Webb, a Wal-Mart employee, who declared that she could find no record of the return. Jodi’s fate was sealed. Her diabolical secret murder mission was exposed.
Defense counsel Kirk Nurmi had no explanation. He feebly claimed Jodi didn’t say she returned the gas can to the same store, but the jury were not fooled. Some trial observers noted that Walmart Salinas relocated in 2010, but the witness and counsel seemed blissfully unaware of this circumstance.
The jury duly found Jodi guilty of 1st degree murder, in May 2013, but there was a hitch – they could not all agree that she should be executed. In Arizona, this meant a retrial. Jodi was offered a life sentence, but as mentioned above, overcame any fear of death, and declined ( acceptance would have meant giving up all hopes of appeal ).
The Penalty Retrial
After a lengthy interval, Act 2, the Penalty retrial began in September 2014. Instead of backing down on the assault on Travis’ character, the defense persisted, and with some success. After many bitterly disputed hearings, it was established that there were indeed pornographic videos on Travis’ laptop – they had been deleted, but could be recovered from the disk free space. And there was a signed affidavit from a witness who claimed Travis downloaded child pornography on a shared computer around January 2001. An attempt by the State to blame someone else ended in disaster – “Did you know he was married in 1999?“.
Moreover, Amanda Webb testified again, and this time she was forced to admit she did not know if the records moved intact to the new store when Wal-Mart Salinas relocated in 2010.
The jury again could not agree that Jodi should be executed, with a single holdout being subjected to threats as a result. Jodi was therefore sentenced to be sent to prison and not to be released for any reason for the remainder of her natural life.
And that is the where we are. Jodi has been convicted based on very uncertain evidence, of a crime that makes no sense. She had nothing to gain from Travis’ premeditated murder, and everything to lose. Jodi needs to appeal. The State’s case has already been undermined, if she can prove she only used two gas cans, Juan’s main argument for guilt is destroyed.
Jodi needs money to fight her wrongful conviction. Please donate to the appeal fund if you can afford it. The forces of evil, symbolised by the Queen of the Night and the traitorous Monostatos in the Magic Flute need to be overcome!
A quotation from the English Libretto :
Ladies: Listen, Tamino, you are lost! Think of the Queen! There are many rumours concerning the wicked ways of these priests!
Tamino (aside): A wise man seeks proof and disregards what the common rabble say.
See Who is Jodi to learn more about who Jodi really is.
MK: Jennifer, you’ve been on the Jodi Arias defense team since 2012 after several other attorneys dropped off for various reasons. Did you ever imagine the furore and the fallout the trial has generated?
JW: No, I mean I had no idea when I first came onto the case I had never heard of Jodi’s name before and I didn’t even know the any of the facts of the case, I had no idea it would turn into something like this.
MK: How much has it affected your life?
JW: Quite a bit. I mean for the first year that when I was just preparing for trial, it was just like any other case. Once we started trial in January 2013, I went through death threats, my family, they threatened my children, having deputies walk up across the street with hands on their guns, things like that I have never experienced before and I really didn’t think this would be this type of case to have that.
MK: Do you think this is an example of how cases are going to be in the future?
JW: I hope not. I don’t see the attraction to this case, I don’t know why there were followers, why people would show up every day. I really hope that as a State, as a Country, as a world, people wouldn’t be that fascinated with someone’s murder. I think it’s a sad commentary.
MK: At sentencing, Jodi admitted for the first time that she remembers slitting Travis Alexander’s throat, and she claimed she did it in self defense, now, during her first trial she claimed that she didn’t remember detail, all she remembered was shooting him. How did she recover that memory, or did she remember it all along?
JW: The memories were always there, it’s just that her ability to deal with it, she wasn’t able to handle them, so as a protection she was dissociating from them, she wasn’t remembering them, so all along I can tell you she did not remember anything, everything that she testified to was what she remembered.
Shortly after the trial, the first trial, after having to go through all the facts, is when she started to remember more, and that’s when she remembered actually cutting his throat.
MK: Or was she lying? She did lie several times at the beginning of this trial… or at the beginning of this case.
JW: At the beginning of the case. I know the prosecution wanted to label her a liar, and she did, she lied when she was first arrested, she lied about some of the things that she knew about Mr. Alexander, she didn’t want all of his skeletons coming out of the closet, as she told us yesterday, but when she testified, no I don’t believe she lied.
MK: You and Kirk Nurmi made a pretty thorough record of your allegations of misconduct by prosecutor Juan Martinez. What’s the process for appeals, and who will do it?
JW: Within 20 days we have to file what’s called a notice of appeal, and that’s something I will do, that’s something that trial attorneys do. And from there, it gets assigned.
MK: What will grounds for appeal be?
JW: That’s for the appellate attorney to decide. I imagine prosecutorial misconduct will be one.
MK: Now County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a press conference last week that Jodi or her team might have been responsible for revealing the identity of the hold-out juror #17, and other jurors. How do you respond to that?
JW: That would be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Juror #17 is the one who saved Jodi’s life, whether she realises it or not, but by hanging in there, and by literally hanging the trial, she saved her life, so there is no way that we would ever disclose her name. The fact that all of the defense team has been subject to so many threats and different types of harassment, knowing that that’s what happens when someones name leaks out, I could never imagine any one of us doing something like that. There would be no point, because we got life, we were very happy and content.
MK: Thank you Jennifer Willmott.
JW: Thank you very much.
Jodi Arias has now been sentenced to life in prison after a ridiculous and unjust circus trial, and the appeal process can at last commence.
( Sandy speaks at 51:30, Jodi speaks at 56 minutes, the judge speaks at 1:17:50 )
That so many people can be so easily fooled is not unusual either.
All we can do is shake our heads at such folly.
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.” — Charles Mackay
This is the third in a series of short posts, my personal “top” wrongful convictions.
The purpose is to explain that “you may be wrong”.
Remember that in every wrongful conviction, a jury is fooled into believing the accused person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Every wrongful conviction has a cause, sometimes there are multiple causes.
I have chosen the case of Hannah Overton as #3.
Hannah was (thankfully!) exonerated on April 8th, 2015.
My view of the causes:
- Medical staff mistook the effects of salt poisoning for neglect
- The prosecutor was an alcoholic, with a “win at all costs” attitude
- Exculpatory evidence was suppressed
- The judge was negligent
Drama 1 hour 3 minutes in.
Kirk Nurmi: But it really is impossible for Mr Thompson, an unmarried Mr Thompson to live with you in the fall of 2000? Was it?
Bishop Parker: Pardon?
Kirk Nurmi: Did you know he was married in 1999? Did you know that?
Bishop Parker: [Unresponsive]
Kirk Nurmi: Let me show you… [ shows Jake Thompson’s marriage certificate ]
The point being that means Jake could not have been responsible for the porn pop-ups.