STORY: "Lawyer: Cops 'put a thumb on the scale' to convict innocent man," by reporter Ann O'Neill, published by CNN on October 17, 2016.
STORY Highlights: Jack McCullough was wrongfully convicted in oldest cold case ever tried; Exoneration Project alleges law enforcement mistakes.
GIST: "A man whose murder conviction in a 1957 cold case was thrown out earlier this year is asking a judge to clear his name once and for all. Attorneys with The Exoneration Project have filed court papers seeking a certificate of innocence for Jack Daniel McCullough, a 76-year-old military veteran and former police officer. McCullough was convicted in September 2012 of kidnapping and killing a 7-year-old girl in Sycamore, Illinois, 55 years earlier. At the time of his conviction, police and prosecutors boasted they had closed the nation's coldest case. But doubts lingered about the evidence against McCullough; after a new prosecutor determined he was innocent, McCullough's guilty verdict was reversed, and in April he was set free. But the judge who dismissed the case declined to go so far as to declare him innocent, meaning McCullough could again face arrest and prosecution. Maria Ridulph's murder went unsolved for half a century. Then detectives pursued a tip, and a man was brought to trial and convicted in the 1957 murder of the 7-year-old in Sycamore, Illinois. Now that man is free. Ann O'Neill's 2013 series on the case, "Taken," raised questions about whether the trial was unfairly one-sided. Friday's filing by The Exoneration Project, a legal clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, takes apart the case built against McCullough -- including eyewitness identification, a timeline of events and the testimony of jailhouse informants. With their filing, McCullough's attorneys also raised the specter of possible police and prosecutorial misconduct.
"There are serious issues with all of this evidence," the filing states. Russell Ainsworth, one of McCullough's lawyers with The Exoneration Project, elaborated in an interview that investigators and prosecutors believed they'd solved "a one in a million case." But when the facts didn't add up, he added, "the authorities started to put their thumb on the scale to implicate Jack in this crime. But Jack is innocent, and that's not fair.".........A hearing on the motion to declare McCullough innocent is set for Thursday in Sycamore, a small town about 70 miles west of Chicago.........Just as State's Attorney Richard Schmack did before them, McCullough's Exoneration Project lawyers raised troubling questions about whether the original prosecution team manipulated the timeline, cut testimony deals with inmates and ignored or buried details that pointed to McCullough's innocence.........The McCullough investigation began in late 2008. Documents obtained by CNN through a public records request revealed that police and prosecutors did not receive the FBI's reports from 1957-58 until June 3, 2010 -- nearly two years into their investigation. And then prosecutors fought to keep the contents of those reports -- including McCullough's alibi and the fact that the FBI had cleared him -- out of his murder trial. "Jack McCullough is an innocent man who was victimized by the judicial system," said Ainsworth, who has gone to court on behalf of several clients who were wrongfully convicted. "You have detectives who picked their perpetrator before they looked at all the facts, and then they tried to make the facts fit their perpetrator. They turned everything on its head." In particular, The Exoneration Project's lawyers contend that investigators buried evidence about the Rockford pay phone that supported McCullough's alibi. "ISP investigators knew that there was a pay phone in the Rockford Post Office in 1957 and were provided a number for that pay phone which matched the number from which McCullough placed that 6:57 p.m. call on December 3, 1957, establishing an airtight alibi for Mr. McCullough, but (they) chose to ignore this evidence, even excluding it from their reports, because it did not fit their theory of the crime," the court documents say. In addition, Exoneration Project lawyers took aim at the photo lineup at the heart of the case against McCullough.........At McCullough's trial, Chapman testified she'd been shown hundreds, maybe thousands of photographs of suspects in the weeks and months after Maria's disappearance. Each time she was, her memory was corrupted, Steblay said in her report. In December 1957, Chapman falsely identified a "filler" as the suspect in a lineup held in Madison, Wisconsin. And she said another suspect in another lineup seemed similar to "Johnny." On the witness stand, she did not recall those events, and so the defense wasn't able to ask more questions about that misidentification. By then, Steblay said, Chapman's memory and any identification she made could already be considered unreliable. The passage of 52 years only dimmed her memory further......... Since McCullough's release, two inmates who testified about jailhouse conversations with him have filed federal lawsuits against police and prosecutors, saying they failed to uphold their end of deals they made for the testimony. A third inmate was deported. The informants' testimony, along with Chapman's eyewitness identification, were the two main pillars Judge James Hallock cited in finding McCullough guilty.........McCullough wants a finding of innocence not just to remove the possibility of a retrial; he also needs it to qualify for state compensation, counseling and job training, as well as unemployment benefits and back Social Security payments. The maximum amount of compensation available to Mr. McCullough is relatively small given the magnitude of his loss, but significant for a man who left prison with very few assets to his name," the court papers say. McCullough, the lawyers said, was able to have his conviction overturned and the charges dismissed "due to his steadfast determination to prove his innocence and an exhaustive FBI investigation in 1957 and 1958 that proves that innocence." And now, the court papers say, he's asking a judge to officially declare him innocent of the Maria Ridulph murder "so he can move on with his life and leave this conviction and its terrible consequences behind him."
The entire story can be found at:
The entire story can be found at:
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/
Harold Levy. Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.