Last Wednesday afternoon, Everton Wagstaffe said he witnessed a corrections officer in his cubicle in Greene Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in New York, read through his legal papers for three hours, despite this being against policy, a conflict of interest, a violation of attorney-client privilege, among other things. The officer barely looked in his other personal belongings or around his cubicle cell, or anywhere else contraband can be hidden.  Wagstaffe, 45, is in his 22nd year of a 25-year sentence for kidnapping that led to the death of Jennifer Negron, 16, in East New York, Brooklyn, NY. He has always maintained his innocence and has repeatedly turned down parole chances because parole boards require an inmate to express remorse and admit guilt before they are eligible for release.  An investigation of the convictions of Wagstaffe and his co-defendant, Reginald Connor, have been underway for a year. Two new witnesses have surfaced supporting the men’s claims of innocence. New York appellate judges heard arguments 6 months ago for a new trial, but haven’t ruled yet.

A spokesman for the NY Corrections Department cited a general directive that can authorize searches of sensitive material if there is “reasonable suspicion” of contraband. Wagstaffe has had no disciplinary infractions for more than 10 years and before that he was cited for minor infractions like being late to roll call. Not surprisingly, the search yielded nothing suspicious.  The Brooklyn D.A.’s Office, which has been hailed for its efforts over wrongful conviction cases, claims no credit or blame for the questionable search. It remains unclear exactly why his legal papers were so thoroughly looked at.

Wagstaffe has said that he has used philosophy, literature, and the study of his case to keep his bearings and hope while imprisoned.

“What is my life about? All this stuff, all this evidence of innocence, has been brought forth, and I think, ‘Yes, this is it — straight to the point, no way around it.’ But here I am…”

Connor, also insists he is innocent, but was granted parole and registered as a sex offender.

Jennifer Negron was forced into a car after midnight on January 1, 1992. Her body was discovered several hours later about a mile away. She had been beaten and stripped. There was evidence of a struggle and her hand clutched hair. DNA tests show the hair, along with fingernail scrapings, do not belong to either Wagstaffe or Connor, both convicted in relation to her kidnapping and murder.  Like many crimes during that era, the investigation relied heavily on informants and circumstantial evidence. Wagstaffe and Connor were identified by one witness, an informant, who also happened to have a drug addiction problem and was a prostitute.  Held in a hotel to ensure she would testify, a controversial practice which recently came to light during a deposition in an unrelated civil suit, she told the jury that she saw Wagstaffe drag Negron into the car being driven by Connor. She also testified there was an unknown third man. No one else has been charged.

A headband was found in the backseat of a car that another witness testified seeing Connor in earlier. This headband was identified by the victim’s aunt as being similar to one the victim would have worn.  After the conviction, the owner of the car said that she and her daughters had taken the car to a church vigil and no one else had it that night. Detectives did not keep any records of interviews with the owner. An alibi witness, who Wagstaffe provided to police, was never interviewed by anyone until 2013.

“I have to generate patience and perseverance,” Wagstaffe said, “ ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’”

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Comments
  1. Reblogged this on Wobbly Warrior's Blog and commented:
    “There was evidence of a struggle and her hand clutched hair. DNA tests show the hair, along with fingernail scrapings, do not belong to either Wagstaffe or Connor, both convicted in relation to her kidnapping and murder. Like many crimes during that era, the investigation relied heavily on informants and circumstantial evidence. Wagstaffe and Connor were identified by one witness, an informant, who also happened to have a drug addiction problem and was a prostitute.”

    Like

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