Category Archives: Exonerations

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Johnson, Wheatt, Glover – All Charges Dismissed – After 20 Years

Johnson, Wheatt, Glover – this was the very first case I worked on with the Ohio Innocence Project eight and a half years ago. At the time, it was a GSR case (gunshot residue). The GSR evidence was always highly questionable, but it was a major factor in their conviction. As it turns out, not only was the GSR evidence bogus, but the case is also an example of egregious prosecutorial misconduct.

Please see the story by Maurice Possley on the National Registry of Exonerations website here.

 

Higashi Sumiyoshi Arson Case, Finally Acquitted Today.

I have posted several times about Higashi Sumiyoshi arson case. The Osaka District Court finally acquitted Ms. Keiko Aoki and Mr. Tatsuhiro Boku today.

From the Japan Times:

Retrial acquits Osaka woman, former partner in daughter’s 1995 fire death

Kyodo, Aug 10, 2016

The Osaka District Court acquitted a couple on Wednesday over the 1995 death of an 11-year-old girl, in a long-awaited retrial.

Keiko Aoki, 52, and Tatsuhiro Boku, 50, each served a little over 20 years for the murder of Aoki’s daughter in a house fire in Osaka Prefecture.

In the retrial, the court found no credibility in confessions that the pair allegedly gave during interrogation.

“I was given a complete acquittal. It was a great judgment,” Aoki said after the ruling.

She plans to sue the state for compensation for being deprived of liberty on false grounds. The pair were serving life terms when they secured the retrial.

It is the 10th case since 1975 in which a person sentenced to either the death penalty or life in prison has been acquitted in a retrial, according to the Supreme Court.

In Wednesday’s ruling, presiding Judge Goichi Nishino said none of the confessions made by Boku during investigations could be taken as evidence of guilt. The court similarly found no credibility in Aoki’s confession during investigations.

“There is a possibility that the two were forced into making false confessions after (investigators) instilled fear in them and applied excessive psychological pressure,” the judge said.

The ruling said the fire could have been accidental, adding that Boku’s confession contained nothing that could be considered first-hand insight.

The court also said it was possible that an interrogator coerced Boku into making an “unnatural” and involuntary confession.

But the court did not address the reason for the judiciary’s wrongful conviction, or apologize to Aoki.

Aoki and Boku were retried separately, with their verdicts given on the same day.

Prosecutors decided in March not to pursue fresh convictions against the couple as they could not prove the two were guilty of the crime in the retrial. The move effectively ensured the couple’s acquittal.

Aoki and Boku were convicted by the district court in 1999. Their conviction mainly relied on Boku’s confession that he spread gasoline inside a garage and set it on fire with a lighter.

Aoki and Boku have maintained their innocence throughout the retrials. They requested in 2009 that their cases be retried.

The couple were granted retrials by the court in 2012. The decision was upheld by the Osaka High Court last October and the two were subsequently released from prison.

But doubts were raised about Boku’s confession as evidence, following experiments conducted by both prosecutors and defense lawyers after their sentences were finalized by the Supreme Court in 2006. The experiments indicated the possibility that the garage blaze could have been accidental.

Another key piece of evidence that led to their retrials was an Osaka police diary detailing forceful police questioning.

The defense lawyers presented the diary during Aoki’s trial and also disclosed beforehand a portion of it to reporters.

In her retrial session in April, Aoki told the court she had falsely confessed to her daughter’s murder as she “felt like dying” after a prolonged interrogation by an investigator who continued to shout at her.

The couple were arrested in September 1995 on suspicion of lighting a fire that killed the girl at their Osaka home in July 1995. A life insurance policy had been taken out for the girl, then a sixth-grader in elementary school.

 

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Post Exoneraton Developments in the Debra Milke Case

I hope that by now, everybody knows that Debra Milke, previously convicted and inprisoned in Maricopa County, AZ, for contracting the murder of her young son, has been exonerated.

We’ve posted about the Debra Milke case on this blog several times previously. In chronological order –  here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here(The red link is particularly germane to the subject of this post.)

Pursuant to her wrongful conviction, wrongful imprisonment (22 years on death row), and eventual exoneration, Debra filed suit with five claims against four defendants, including two former Phoenix police officers and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (Bill Montgomery), stating that that she was denied a fair trial and due process of law. The two police officers and the Maricopa County Attorney filed a motion with the court to dismiss the suit. Judge Roslyn O. Silver of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona has denied the motion to dismiss, and is allowing the suit to go forward.

See the story from azcentral here.

You can read the decision by Senior United States District Judge Roslyn O. Silver here:  97-OrderreMotionstoDismiss

 

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

Field-test errors may lead to thousands of wrongful drug convictions

At least 100,000 Americans plead guilty every year to drug-possession charges that rely on often-inaccurate field-test results as evidence. At that volume, even the most modest of error rates could produce thousands of wrongful convictions, yet police and prosecutors continue to rely on the tests, Pro Public reports here.

 

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Jack McCullough Exoneration. Case Not “Yet” Closed.

We have previously written about the Jack McCullough case here, here, and here.

Jack was convicted in 2012 of the 1957 abduction and murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, IL. Jack was a neighbor of the Ridulph’s at the time. This used to be called the coldest case ever “solved.”

The current DeKalb County prosecutor, Richard Schmack, felt ethically compelled to review the case, and determined that evidence proved Jack could not be guilty.  Consequently, he filed a motion with the court to dismiss charges. Just this past April, Judge William Brady did dismiss the charges, but declined to do so “with prejudice.” This now leaves Jack vulnerable to being re-charged and re-tried. Maria Ridulph’s brother is continuing to seek appointment of a special prosecutor to re-open the case against Jack.

Now, a witness for the prosecution, who was incentivized to testify at Jack’s trial, has come forward to claim the the state did not live up to its part of the deal they made with him.

Well, if you’ve ever doubted the politically-driven and self-serving nature of the justice system, please see the recent CNN story HERE.

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Jon Eldan can be an exoneree’s best friend

First comes exoneration. Then, if you re lucky, comes Jon Eldan, an attorney who left his corporate practice to help exonerees with the everyday problems they face after prison. Eldan says he has helped 303 men and women in 33 states since late 2014, entering their lives after those who helped get them released have moved on to other cases.The Marshall Project’s Rachel Siegel tells Eldan’s story here.

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Most Brooklyn wrongful convictions preventable, analyst says

Examination of the 19 Brooklyn Conviction Review Unit exoneree cases suggests that most of the wrongful convictions were highly preventable, City University of New York doctoral student Rakiya King says in a Viewpoints Column for The Crime Report. You can read her analysis here.

 

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…