Posts Tagged ‘innocence project cases’

The Marshall Project has a new article written by Lorea Gillespie, an investigator with The New England Innocence Project.  She talks about what it takes to hunt down witnesses for a case 23 years old.

As I virtually pass by each house on Google Maps Street View, I grow increasingly disheartened.

I’ve been in Orlando for almost two days now, and I’m worried that I’m not going to find this witness — and this witness is huge. She’s the only person who may have seen the 1989 murder I’m working on.

I’m an investigator with The New England Innocence Project, and we believe that our client, JIMMY1, is innocent, even though he was convicted 23 years ago.

I’ve spent hours driving back and forth across this city, trying dozens of addresses. Each time, I run back to my hotel room, get on the computer, and use my locations program to find more options. I try old neighbors, old roommates, old friends — anyone I can find.

No matter who I talk to, though, no one can help me. “Yeah, so-and-so lived here about a year ago, but I don’t know where she’s at now.”

Another door closes in my face.

Read the rest here.



Innocence Project Northwest client Donovan Allen was released this week after DNA testing revealed another man was responsible for the murder for which he served 15 years.

Allen was convicted in 2002 in the death of his mother, Sharon Cox.  She was found strangled and bludgeoned to death in her home in 2000.  Allen falsely confessed after 14 hours of overnight interrogation.  He recanted, but in the end it did no good.

His first trial ended in a hung jury.  At his second trial, Allen was convicted of aggravated first degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the charges against Allen and have arrested Brian Del Kitts, the victim’s nephew.  His DNA was found on Cox’s clothing after new testing.  Despite this, police are sticking to their original findings.  They told the press that Kitts is now considered to be an “additional” perpetrator and that Allen is not exonerated.

Innocence Project Northwest Policy Director Lara Zarowsky said last week that prosecutors never suggested the crime was committed by more than one person and the evidence against Kitts matches this theory and fully exonerates Allen.

“Any additional time he has to spend in prison for the murder of his mother is a tragedy.  To us, this is a clear case,” she said.

Attorneys for the Innocence Project Northwest requested the testing this past May on Cox’s clothing, nail scrapings, and other evidence in the case.  DNA found on the collar of Cox’s sweater and on her shirt matched Kitts, who was a person of interest during the investigation.  Allen was not officially exonerated so, charges could still be brought against him in the future if prosecutors so choose.

“It feels surreal.  I can finally begin the life I was robbed of.  I’m so glad to have a second chance to be a father, a son, an uncle,” Allen said.

Sources:  Innocence Project 1  |  2

Steven Mark Chaney who was imprisoned for 28 years for the 1987 murders of two people in Dallas, TX was released this week after his conviction based upon discredited bite-mark evidence was thrown out.  Chaney was sentenced to life in prison after a forensic dentist told a Dallas jury in 1989 that there was a 1 in 1,000,000 chance that the murderer was someone other than Chaney.  The bite-marks were allegedly found on John Sweek.  The dentist has since recanted his testimony.  State District Judge Dominique Collins overturned Chaney’s conviction after receiving a joint request from the District Attorney Susan Hawk, the Innocence Project, and the Public Defender’s Office.

Chaney, 59, will remain free while the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reviews the case.

“I could sit and recount all the wrongs,” Chaney told reporters, “The loss of my oldest stepson, my oldest grandchild two years ago, but this is a time for rejoicing…”

At least one juror after his initial trial said that the bite-mark evidence convinced them of Chaney’s guilt, despite testimony from 9 witnesses that he was somewhere else during the murders of John and Sally Sweek.  In recent years, forensic scientists have raised doubts about the reliability of bite mark evidence among others.  In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences published a report concluding that there was insufficient scientific basis to conclusively match bite marks to individuals.  The Texas Forensic Science Commission is reviewing cases in which bite analysis contributed to a conviction to determine whether they warrant further investigation.  In addition, defense lawyers also allege that prosecutors knowingly presented false evidence that blood had been found on Chaney’s shoes.  Prosecutors withheld notes from another expert who said that there was no blood.  They also say that prosecutors elicited false testimony from the co-worker of Chaney who initially told police that Chaney had asked him to tell authorities that he had last been at the victims’ home a week before their murder.  At trial, the co-worker told the jury that Chaney had asked him to be his alibi.  Chaney’s attorneys have filed court papers saying new evidence establishes he is innocent.

“We’re confident that when the reinvestigation is complete, the district attorney’s office will be in a position to formally agree that he is innocent of this crime,” said Julie Less, exoneration attorney for the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office, in a statement.

Sources:  Independent  |  Wrongful Convictions Blog