Category Archives: Defense lawyering (good and bad)

Adrian Thomas “Not Guilty” in Second Trial

Adrian Thomas was originally convicted of causing the death of his 4-month old son in 2008.  This was largely a result of his confession under interrogation by the police in Troy, NY.

As previously posted on this blog, Thomas was subjected to a 9 hour highly coercive interrogation by the Troy police:  Blatantly Coerced Confession Results in Conviction Reversal.

Thomas’s confession was even the subject of the documentary film Scenes of a Crime.

In a second trial, just concluded June 11, 2014, Adrian Thomas was found not guilty.

See the Times Union story here.


Interesting SCOTUS Forensics Case….

Today, in Hinton v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court found the trial attorney’s failure to request funding for a sufficient expert to challenge the State’s ballistics experts constituted ineffective assistance of counsel.  Opinion here.

Anthony Graves, Exonerated Death Row Inmate, to File Grievance Against Former Texas Prosecutor Charles Sebesta


Yet another case of egregious prosecutorial misconduct.

Anthony Graves was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for a gruesome multiple homicide that occurred in Somerville, TX in August of 1992.  He was ultimately exonerated and released from prison in 2010.

The prosecutor in the case, Charles Sebesta, under intense public pressure for a conviction of Graves with a death sentence, ignored all evidence pointing to his innocence,  pressed ahead, and, as the special prosecutor appointed to handle Graves’ retrial said, “Sebesta manufactured evidence, misled jurors and elicited false testimony.”  The special prosecutor laid the blame for Graves’ wrongful conviction squarely at the feet of Sebesta.

Anthony Graves and the Houston law firm of Bob Bennett & Associates will file a grievance with the Texas Bar’s Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel seeking sanctions against Sebesta for his central role in Graves’ wrongful conviction and imprisonment.

Read the case statement of facts here – Statement-of-Facts.

You can see the full press packet here.

And read the Texas Monthly story here.

Editorial PS:  I think it’s tragic that Mr. Graves has to pursue redress through the Bar Association.  He should have remedy available through the courts.

Jerome Morgan Wins New Trial in New Orleans

With the help of the New Orleans Innocence Project, Jerome Morgan, who has spent 19 years in prison for a murder termed the “sweet 16 birthday shooting,”
has been granted a new trial.

The prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence in the case, and in Judge Darryl Derbigny’s order he states, “the evidence presented before this court is wrought with deception, manipulation, and coercion by the New Orleans Police Department,” and that “such newly discovered evidence undermines the confidence of the verdict and is fit for a new jury’s judgment.”

Additionally, two prosecution witnesses have recanted, and it was also determined that Jerome had ineffective assistance of counsel.

Read the New Orleans Times-Picayune story here.

Prosecutorial Misconduct Causes Reversal in California…

From the Northern California Innocence Project:

The Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP), acting as amicus, assisted veteran appellate and postconviction attorney Marc Zilversmit in reversing the conviction of Jamal Trulove, wrongfully convicted of murder after a single eyewitness implicated him in a killing San Francisco.  Zilversmit is a long-time supporter of NCIP and it was a pleasure to be able to assist him in attaining justice for Mr. Trulove.

On January 6, following a grant of rehearing on direct appeal, the California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District reversed the murder conviction of Jamal Trulove on claims of IAC and prejudicial prosecutorial misconduct.

Trulove’s murder conviction relied entirely upon the eyewitness, whose initial description was very vague and who had sat in a police interview room for 2 to 3 hours with a mug shot of Mr. Trulove on the wall in front of her, without ever identifying him.  Her subsequent ID of him was tentative, and only many months later (after seeing him on an episode of a reality TV show) did the witness claim certainty.  Attorney Zilversmit located two witnesses in support of the new trial motion, who testified to Mr. Trulove’s innocence.  Nonetheless, the San Francisco Superior Court denied the motion and affirmed the verdict.  Five additional witnesses then came forward, and Zilversmit filed a habeas petition alongside the direct appeal.  The appeal raised claims of innocence based on eyewitness error, prosecutorial misconduct, and ineffective assistance of counsel.
The trial prosecutor had argued, without any support in the record, that the eyewitness was putting herself in danger by willingly implicating Mr. Trulove and that the jury should be as “courageous” as the witness.  The Court of Appeal initially affirmed the conviction and denied the writ.  Zilversmit then filed a petition for rehearing and reached out to NCIP for amicus support.  NCIP filed an amicus curiae letter brief in support of rehearing and of granting the writ.  The Court granted rehearing, ordered further briefing and reversed Mr. Trulove’s conviction on the grounds that the prosecutor’s argument was prejudicial misconduct and defense counsel’s waiver of the issue by failure to object deprived Mr. Trulove of the effective assistance of counsel.  The Court of Appeal denied the habeas petition as moot without ever evaluating the serious flaws in the eyewitness testimony or the impact of the seven additional defense witnesses on the strength of the case.  The California Attorney General is still deciding whether it will seek review in the California Supreme Court.

Wrongfully Jailed Man Dies in an Argentinean Prison

Luciano Peralta was the father of three children.  He earned his living as a gardener. He had recently separated from his wife, Esther Cerrudo, but the two were on very amicable terms. On Sunday, October 27, 2013, Esther asked Luciano to watch the kids while she took care of some personal matters.

Argentinian police officers allege that a neighbor called to report a robbery at Esther’s residence. When they arrived, the officers arrested Luciano in front of his children. They proceeded to seize his motorcycle and the bicycle that belonged to Luciano’s young son.

Luciano was imprisoned in La Plata, a province in the capital city. When his ex-wife and mother arrived at the prison, Esther explained that she had asked him to be there and the children at the house were Luciano’s children.  Nonetheless, they were told he would be spending the night in jail.

The following day, a public defender assured Luciano he would be free. She noted that he seemed lost and confused. Prior to his being released, Luciano began to suffer a panic attack. He started trembling and convulsing. His mother was at the prison, but she was not allowed to see him. The officers did not call a doctor nor did they call an ambulance. Luciano received no medical attention. Ultimately, he died in his cell.

Norma Silguero and Tatiana Peralta, mother and sister of the deceased. (Photo: @martinenlared)

Norma Silguero and Tatiana Peralta, mother and sister of the deceased. (Photo: @martinenlared)

We may never know the true motivations for the arrest or what really happened to Luciano at the jail.  This case is another example of tragedies that can result from wrongful arrests and the need for reform within the Argentinian police.

Follow me on Twitter: @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101

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Friday’s Quick Clicks…

  • A Connecticut judge on Wednesday ordered a new trial for Michael C. Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy who was convicted in 2002 of bludgeoning a neighbor with a golf club in 1975, saying his original lawyer had not represented him effectively.
  • Two men exonerated by DNA evidence in the rape of a Washington woman have reached a $10.5 million settlement with the county that wrongly imprisoned them for 17 years.  Larry Davis, 57, and Alan Northrop, 49, were falsely convicted of raping a housekeeper in 1993, victims of technological limitations that prohibited the use of DNA testing on the small samples collected in the case. Ordered since then by a judge, and aided by the Innocence Project Northwest, to do conduct post-conviction DNA testing, Clark County (WA) retested the samples and found that neither belonged to the two men.  Since their release, Davis and Northrop have fought Clark County in pursuit of restitution, citing negligence by the sheriff’s office and the lead detective on the case, Don Slagle. Davis and Northrop were accused based on sparse details provided by a victim who was blindfolded throughout the crime. The county finally decided to settle once Slagle took the stand when it was revealed that he not only had other leads, but he completely neglected them to pursue Davis and Northrop.  Keep reading original story….
  • Baltimore police implement “double blind” lineup procedure
  • A federal judge has entered a default judgment against former Douglas County crime scene investigator David Kofoed in two wrongful prosecution lawsuits.  Matthew Livers and Nicholas Sampson sued several Nebraska law enforcement agencies and officials, including Kofoed, who spend two years in prison for evidence tampering in the case. Prosecutors said Kofoed planted blood evidence in a car to bolster a case against Livers and Sampson, who were later exonerated.  The other defendants agreed to pay a total of $2.6 million to the men to settle the suits.  Continue reading…
  • Three men who were sentenced to death only to be exonerated years later have a message for Ohio and the rest of America: Abolish the death penalty because the judicial system doesn’t work.  Delbert Tibbs, Joe D’Ambrosio and Damon Thibodeaux, who collectively spent almost 40 years on death row before being set free, are giving 10 talks in five days in Ohio this week in hopes of persuading people to oppose the death penalty.  Continue reading....