Dallas County (TX) District Judge Mark Stoltz issued findings of fact and conclusions of law last week before recommending that the murder convictions of Dennis Lee Allen and Stanley Orson Mozee be overturned. The two men were subsequently released after each had served 15 years in prison. The judge’s findings will now go before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for review. ABC News WFAA 8 reported (here) that the two are expected to be exonerated.
Allen and Mozee were convicted of the 1999 murder of Reverend Jesse Borns Jr., who was found stabbed outside his workplace, a retail store. No physical evidence linked the men to the crime. The conviction was won on the unrecorded confession of Mozee — who immediately recanted and claimed he was coerced into signing the police-written statement — and the testimony of two jailhouse informants. The informants denied under oath at trial that they were promised compensation for their testimony. Continue reading
A New York Times editorial yesterday properly urged that the Justice Department require federal prosecutors’ files be open to the defense. While Brady v Maryland requires disclosure of exculpatory evidence, too often prosecutors at all levels skirt this requirement and courts dismiss the undisclosed information as not “material,” a subjective call that can be flawed as revealed in many DNA-proven wrongful convictions.
As the editorial points out, 96% of federal cases are resolved in plea bargains. The lax application and court enforcement of Brady puts defendants at the considerable disadvantage of not knowing the evidence against them in plea negotiating. The editorial advocates an open files federal rule, which would be an important example for the states.
Ohio and North Carolina were mentioned as two states that now have open files rules. At the state level this requires leadership; Ohioans can thank the late Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, who championed this rule change, adopted by the high court’s rules committee in July 2010.