Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Bulletin: 2015 U.S. National Registry of Exonerations report; (Part One)... (Link to the actual report); Beniah Alton Dandridge; Anthony Ray Hinton; Botched forensics a factor in two of the four Alabama exonerations: "Three-quarters of the homicide exonerations included known official misconduct, such as concealing evidence of the real criminals or allowing witnesses to testify falsely, according to the report." AL.COM;

"Alabama is tied for seventh among states with the most defendants exonerated of crimes in 2015, according to a report from the National Registry of Exonerations released today. The report, "Exonerations in 2015," states that there were 149 people exonerated last year, which is the most since the group began tracking exonerations in the late 1980s. That also includes a record of 58 defendants exonerated in homicide, or more than one a week, according to the group. Of the 58, five were on Death Row. That includes Anthony Ray Hinton in Alabama. Texas led the nation with 54 exonerations, followed by New York with 17, Illinois, 13, Alaska, 6, North Carolina and California with five each, and Alabama , Connecticut and Wisconsin with four each. Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia had three exonerations each.  Six states had two exonerations each and a dozen  had one each. The federal system had three exonerations and Guam had one. "Increasingly, prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys are acknowledging the systemic problem of wrongful convictions," Michigan Law Professor Samuel Gross, editor of the National Registry of Exonerations and the author of the report stated in a press release. "That's a welcome change," Gross said, "but it's just a start. We've only begun to address this problem systematically." Gross said in an interview with most of the information for the report came from news accounts, interviews with lawyers and prosecutors, and court records. The four men exonerated in Alabama are: Hinton, Beniah Alton Dandridge, Evan Lee Deakle, and Frank Sealie.  Beniah Alton Dandridge spent 20 years in prison for a murder before his exoneration and release in October. Dandridge was released after a fingerprint match that led to his conviction turned out to be wrong..........Dandridge was convicted of intentional murder in the 1994 slaying of 71-year-old Riley Manning of Montgomery. Dandridge was sentenced to life in prison in 1996. Investigators said fingerprints in blood found on a bathroom wall at the crime scene matched Dandridge. But a few days after the murder, another man, David Sudduth, driving Manning's truck was arrested by Florida police. Sudduth later pleaded guilty to capital murder and is serving life without parole. Sudduth implicated Dandridge in the crime, but would later, after Dandridge's conviction, give a sworn statement saying that Dandridge was not involved. Besides  the fingerprints, prosecutors relied on a jailhouse informant who testified against Dandridge but later admitted he lied in exchange for a lighter sentence for a pending felony charge.........Anthony Ray Hinton was freed from Alabama Death Row in April 2015 after prosecutors retested the gun in his capital murder case. Hinton had won a retrial because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled his trial attorney could have hired a better firearms expert than the visually impaired civil engineer who had testified on Hinton's behalf. .........Prosecutors told a judge they wouldn't re-try Hinton for the 1985 slayings of two fast-food managers because the new testing couldn't match crime scene bullets to .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver found in Hinton's house. Hinton had been convicted and sentenced to death for the Feb. 25, 1985 shooting death of John Davidson, an assistant manager at a Southside Mrs. Winner's, who was forced into the restaurant's cooler and shot twice in the head. He also was convicted in the July 2, 1985 death of 25-year-old Thomas Vason, an assistant manager at a Captain D's in Woodlawn, who was forced into a cooler and shot twice in the head. The conviction was based largely on the prosecution's gun experts and the eyewitness testimony of a surviving restaurant manager in a July 26, 1985 shooting and robbery of a Bessemer Quincy's night manager. But Equal Justice Initiative argued in its motion for dismissal that Hinton had a "powerful alibi" for that night, with co-workers confirming he was at work 15 miles away at the time. Hinton was not tried for the Quincy's shooting.........The report states that 27 exonerations in 2015 were for convictions based on false confessions - more than 80 percent in homicide cases, mostly by defendants who were under 18 or had intellectual disabilities or both, according to the report. Three-quarters of the homicide exonerations included known official misconduct, such as concealing evidence of the real criminals or allowing witnesses to testify falsely, according to the report. More than two-thirds of the defendants exonerated in homicide cases were people of color, including half who were African American, according to the report."

Read the  actual report at the following link:

See Hamilton Spectator story: "More people were exonerated in 2015 Than in any other year."..."A remarkable number of these cases occurred in just one place: Harris County, Texas, home to Houston. More than a quarter of all exonerations last year involved people in Harris County who had pleaded guilty to drug possession, only to be cleared last year. The registry's report described how the Harris County District Attorney's Office had investigated cases after noticing a number of people who pleaded guilty to possessing illegal drugs, only for a crime lab — sometimes months or years later — to reveal that the materials these people had were not drugs after all. Some of the people who wound up pleading guilty likely agreed to plea bargains to avoid long prison terms, the report noted."