PUBLISHER'S NOTE: A new years resolution: Let police crimes aimed at perverting the criminal justice process be rooted out like a badly infected tooth, instead of being hidden by fellow officers - and played down, ignored, or buried by prosecutors anxious to maintain the fiction of the balanced scales of justice.
Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;
POST: "Peacock: A Case for Justice Reform in 2017," by Nancy Petro, published by The Wrongful Convictions Blog on December 31, 2016.
GIST: "The year 2016 will go down as a good one for Freddie Peacock. But because it was so long in coming, it surely must be bittersweet. His story illustrates the slow pace and enormous hurdles in correcting criminal justice miscarriages post-conviction. It also calls on our individual and national conscience to make 2017 the year responsible citizens send the message loud and clear to all public and criminal justice professionals that this nation must replace the mantra of “tough on crime” with “smart on crime.”......... In the Peacock case we learn many lessons about wrongful conviction rarely delivered so clearly by a federal judge. In August 2016 U.S. District Judge Michael Telesca awarded Freddie Peacock nearly $6.2 million long after Peacock’s conviction of and imprisonment for a 1976 Rochester (NY) rape he didn’t commit. Peacock had sued the city of Rochester and Rochester police. Judge Telesca’s decisions in May (here) enabling Peacock to pursue civil damages and in August (here) determining his damages are instructional for those who believe wrongful convictions are the inevitable rare result of innocent human error. In these two rulings (from which the judge’s quotes were garnered for this article), the judge revealed that public officials presented to the grand and trial juries faulty evidence that conspired to convict an innocent man........."The jury convicted Peacock on the powerful evidence of a confession and victim’s identification.........Judge Telesca explained that, after interrogating Peacock, [Detective John J.] Wernsdorfer [now deceased] typed a report he called an “oral synopsis” which he said contained Peacock’s admissions, such as “I did it,” and “I raped her.” This was the document provided the prosecutor “who relied on it in securing an indictment.” It was also referenced in Wernsdorfer’s trial testimony and in the prosecutor’s trial summation. Peacock never signed this synopsis. In fact, Peacock claimed he never confessed or admitted involvement in the crime. According to the Judge’s ruling in the civil case forty years after the crime, Rochester Police Officer Wayne Markel, who was present during Peacock’s interrogation, conceded under oath that Peacock “never made any admissions during the interrogation.” Instead, he “consistently and adamantly denied raping the victim.” Markel acknowledged that his colleague, Wernsdorfer, “must have fabricated the confession.” Judge Telesca wrote, “…the record permits a reasonable jury to conclude that Wernsdorfer concocted Plaintiff’s confession out of whole cloth.”.........Officer Markel acknowledged that a confession was important to support thin evidence against Peacock. The prosecutor, knowing the victim’s identification had weaknesses, assured the jury they need not rely on her testimony alone. The judge outlined facts suggesting the police fabricated Peacock’s confession. If so, they perjured themselves in permitting its use by the prosecutor. In deposition Officer Markel said he did not know of Peacock’s confession until the civil case decades later. The Judge wrote, “…a reasonable jury could find this unworthy of belief, given Markel’s direct participation in the investigation, interrogation, and prosecution.” The judge noted the officers’ failure to comply with the police department’s “well-established policy and practice,” which “calls for, whenever possible, a stenographically recorded confession or a statement written out and signed by the subject…” Officer Markel’s testimony at trial also makes his claimed ignorance problematic. According to the judge, the prosecutor “who testified that it was his practice to speak to all trial witnesses beforehand, said that it ‘just doesn’t make sense’ to him that Markel would have had no idea, until his deposition, that Plaintiff allegedly had confessed to the crime.” Markel was obligated to report to the prosecutor Peacock’s denials of guilt. The prosecutor recalled receiving no such report and none was in the case file. Judge Telesca concluded, “Viewing the facts and inferences to be drawn from them in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, a reasonable juror could find that Markel had contemporaneous knowledge that Wernsdorfer had falsified the confession, and had sufficient opportunity to intervene to prevent a wrongful conviction based on fabricated evidence.”.........Peacock was the 250th person exonerated by DNA. The National Registry of Exonerations recently reported 1,956 exonerations since 1989 gained through DNA testing and other evidence.........If the human tragedy of wrongful convictions is not enough to prompt calls for reform and best practices in criminal justice, perhaps settlements of nearly $8.5 million will do the trick. In addition to the $6.2 million award, Peacock’s attorneys were awarded fees of $770,000. Peacock was previously granted $1.5 in the Court of Claims. (It must be noted that the wrongly convicted are often compensated much less or not at all, another inequity.) Perhaps recognition that a brutal rapist remained free to victimize others for more than three decades is a motivator to demand better. What’s certain: We as a society can no longer claim ignorance or innocence. Too many lives have been trampled by miscarriages to ignore imperatives to implement best practices in criminal justice procedures…. follow forensic science reform recommendations…properly fund indigent defense…review miscarriages to prevent repeating them, and more."
The entire post can be found at:
See National Registry of Exonerations entry at the link below: "Freddie Peacock served five years in New York prisons for a rape he didn’t commit, but it was nearly three decades after his release on parole that DNA testing finally cleared his name. In 2010, DNA testing obtained by the Innocence Project and partner attorneys exonerated Peacock, making him the 250th person cleared through DNA testing nationwide. The Crime: On a July night in 1976, a Rochester, New York, woman was attacked as she returned home to her apartment after work. As the victim unlocked the door to her apartment, a man approached her from behind, took her keys and threw her to the ground, where she struck her head. The perpetrator told the victim he would kill her if she screamed. He pulled her from the ground and led her to the side of a nearby house where he raped her. The perpetrator returned the victim’s keys and fled. The victim returned to her apartment building where she alerted the building superintendent who called police. The victim would later testify that she was only able to see the perpetrator’s face when in the dark area on the side of the house. She described him as an African-American man weighing about 150 pounds and wearing a white, flowery shirt. The Identification and Alleged Confession: The victim initially struggled to convey details of the crime to the superintendent and police officers, but then told the superintendent that she believed a neighbor had been the perpetrator. The superintendent asked if she meant “Freddie,” and she said yes. Before she had shared these details with police officers, the victim fainted and fell to the ground. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she later told an officer that Freddie Peacock was the attacker. Peacock’s photo was then included in a 10-photo array, and she identified him again. Barely two hours after the attack, Peacock was arrested at his apartment where he was asleep. The victim identified him again through a window in a one-person “show-up” procedure. He was interrogated for about two and a half hours. He initially denied any involvement in the crime, but police claim he ultimately confessed. Peacock told the detective handling the interrogation that he had severe mental illness and had been hospitalized for it several times. In his alleged confession, Peacock could not tell officers where, when or how the victim was raped. An officer wrote out the details of the alleged confession, but Peacock was never asked to sign it. The Trial and Conviction: At Peacock’s trial, the victim testified that she knew he was the perpetrator because of his “beard and eyes” and also “because [she] knew deep down that it was him.” She testified that she and Peacock had spoken twice before and that he had once entered her apartment uninvited and asked if she would wear a dress or negligee for him. She had asked him to leave. Another time, she said, Peacock had attempted to enter her apartment and she had closed the door to stop him. A doctor testified that bodily samples were collected from the victim at the hospital, but no further forensic evidence was presented at trial. According to reports, the doctor had identified sperm on samples collected from the victim’s body and estimated that it came from intercourse within the past 48 hours. The victim said she had had consensual intercourse the day before the crime with her boyfriend. Two neighbors said they heard “hollering” or “horseplay” outside the apartment around 2 a.m., when the attack occurred, but had not seen the attack themselves. A woman who lived next to Peacock testified that the walls between her apartment and Peacock’s were so thin that she could hear everything he did as if they were in the same room. She said that on the night of the crime, Peacock turned down his stereo when she got home at 12:05 a.m., he pulled down his hide-a-bed at 12:30 a.m. and he didn’t make any other sounds before 4 a.m. when she went to bed. Peacock was convicted by a jury and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. DNA Testing and Exoneration: Peacock was released on parole after serving five years in New York prisons. He relied on the support of his family and church community in the Rochester area and has continued rigorous treatment for his mental illness. After he contacted the Innocence Project for assistance with the case in 2002, attorneys and students searched for evidence that could be subjected to DNA testing. Don Thompson, of Easton Thompson Kasperek Shiffrin, LLP, joined the Innocence Project as co-counsel. Ultimately, DNA testing was conducted on semen on the underwear the victim wore before and after the rape. The case became complicated when the victim’s boyfriend could not be located to give a DNA sample (which could rule him out as the source of the semen portion of the bodily fluid, meaning it definitely came from the perpetrator). The victim’s boyfriend had been deported to another country, but his biological mother provided a DNA sample that proved he was not the source of the semen part of the bodily fluids. DNA testing also excluded Peacock as the source — meaning that another, unknown man was the rapist. Based on these results, the Innocence Project joined with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, which had consented to the DNA testing, in seeking to vacate Peacock’s conviction. A state judge tossed out the conviction, fully clearing Peacock’s name 34 years after his wrongful conviction and making him the 250th person exonerated through DNA testing nationwide. After his release, Peacock said: “I never gave up hope that this day would come. When the truth is all you have, you learn to hang onto it. I am grateful to my family and everyone who has supported me over the years. I am looking forward to moving on with my life, now that my name is finally cleared.” Peacock filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in 2013. In May 2016, a federal judge ruled that “a reasonable jury” could find that the Rochester police officer who claimed that Peacock confessed "concocted (Peacock's) confession out of whole cloth. In August 2016, the judge awarded Peacock $6.2 million and his lawyers $770,000. Peacock had previously been awarded $1.5 million by the New York Court of Claims."
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/