Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Robert Jones: Louisiana; White Elephant case? False guilty plea? Withheld exculpatory evidence? Prosecutorial tunnel vision? Loss of DNA evidence? It's all here, (Plus the presence of fabled counsel Barry Scheck who is cross-examining Jones' prosecutor - the prosecutor who put Jones away decades ago. Quite a case! HL)..."Tables turned: Robert Jones' attorney questions prosecutor who put him away. Reporter Emily Lane; The Times Picayune..."

Image result for "white elephant"

In the years since I started publishing this Blog I have become increasingly disturbed by the 'white elephant' in the room: Sheer, unadulterated, willful   misconduct in the criminal justice system - much  of it involving forensic evidence - committed by lab technicians,  pathologists, police officers, prosecutors and others.  Think Annie Dookhan; Think Sonia Farak; Think David Kofoed; Think Charles Smith; Think Ken Anderson; Think Gene Morrison. Think Michael West;   I have therefore decided to run this image of a white elephant at the top of every applicable post henceforth, to draw our reader's attention to   what I see as a major problem in all too many criminal justice system's - my own included.  Harold Levy; Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;
"Reformers have for years recommended that all forensic labs be independent from law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies' and this is a key reform promoted by The Justice Project (2008). But fixing these problems is only half the answer' because half of the wrongful convictions attributed to misleading forensic evidence involved deliberate forensic fraud' evidence tampering' and/or perjury.
From "The Elephant in the Crime Lab," by co-authored by Sheila Berry and Larry Ytuarte; Forensic Examiner; Spring, 2009;


STORY: "Tables turned: Robert Jones' attorney questions prosecutor who put him away," by Emily Lane,  published by The Times-Picayune, on January 23, 2017.

PHOTO CAPTION: Robert Jones, center, hugs his daughter Robriesha "Bree" Anderson, 22, left, and other family members Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, after posting bail at Orleans Parish Prison. Anderson's mother was pregnant with her when Jones was arrested on rape an robbery charges for which he's now awaiting a retrial.

GIST: "Robert Jones sat in a New Orleans courtroom Monday (Jan. 23) and watched his famous defense attorney question a federal prosecutor about a 1996 rape case he tried that sent Jones to prison for more than 20 years. "When you first read through the police report, you were 'repulsed' about what happened to this woman?" posed Jones' attorney Barry Scheck, citing Menner's words from a document. "It was a terrible crime." Scheck, the cofounder of the Innocence Project who is better known as a member of O.J. Simpson's criminal defense team and lawyer to other high-profile defendants, posed his questions to witness Fred Menner, now an assistant U.S. attorney in Baton Rouge. "Yes it was," answered Menner, who prosecuted Jones for rape 21 years ago on behalf of then-Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick's office. "It was a brutal crime." The case is back and court -- and the lawyer who prosecuted the case was put on the witness stand -- more than a year after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal reversed Jones' conviction, finding prosecutors withheld evidence that could have possibly acquitted Jones. Jones' attorneys with Innocence Project New Orleans say Jones was wrongly convicted -- the result of a bad Crimestoppers tip and a subsequent mistaken witness identification. Scheck quoted more of Menner's words back to him, reading excerpts from the closing statement Menner issued at trial 21 years ago. He said Menner asked the jury to find Jones guilty and "asked for justice" for the rape victim. "You believed it? You meant it?" Scheck asked. "I believe that the prosecutor should always believe the defendant is guilty and everything (the prosecutor) says is true," Menner responded. "If not, you shouldn't be trying the case." Menner, who tried the case after he was assigned to as a special prosecutor, conceded Scheck's suggestion that Menner felt passionate about winning the case, for the victim's sake. "I understand that in your mind you were trying to do the right thing," said Scheck, then later added, "Sometimes people get tunnel vision." During Monday's hearing, Schenk questioned Menner, who said he did not have "tunnel vision," in effort to convince retired Orleans Criminal Judge Jerome Winsberg that the robbery and rape indictment should be quashed and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office barred from prosecuting the case. Moreover, Jones' lawyers are asking the judge, who is taking the case in an ad-hoc role, to vacate a guilty plea Jones struck for the manslaughter of British tourist Julie Stott. The hearing is expected to last into Wednesday. Misidentification alleged; Jones, 43, was convicted, at age 19, in the 1992 French Quarter rape and robberies that grabbed headlines as part of an April crime spree. The spree include the murder of Stott, for which Jones entered a manslaughter plea to avoid a second life sentence after he'd already been convicted of the other charges. Jones' attorneys claim he did so on bad advice and even though he was innocent in the crime. Jones' lawyers say the real perpetrator, Lester Jones, acted alone in the crime spree.........After his conviction was vacated, Orleans Criminal District Judge Arthur Hunter granted Jones a bond low enough so he could await possible retrial out from behind bars with a family he has been separated from for nearly a quarter century. Hunter was allowed to consider possible guilt as a factor, so Robert Jones attorneys tried to prove he was not guilty at the bond hearing. The bail order will allow him out of prison for the first time in nearly 24 years. No mention of gold teeth until trial: Scheck questioned Menner repeatedly about possible exculpatory evidence he said the defense did not have an opportunity to review. In one instance, the rape victim gave a number of statements to police describing Robert Jones but never mentioned an obvious descriptor -- he has gold teeth. Only when the victim took the stand, after she had seen pictures of the gold-toothed man arrested in the Stott murder, did she mention gold teeth. Scheck read a transcript from court during which Menner objected to entering the supplemental police report into the record for the defense to look at, even though Scheck argued there was exculpatory evidence contained in that report. Because the judge at the time sided with Menner and did not allow the police report in as discovery, Scheck said, Robert Jones' defense attorney was deprived of an account in which the victim gave a description of her attacker, sans a mention of gold teeth, in addition to an estimated age of the suspect that didn't match up with Robert Jones at that time. Menner agreed on the stand Monday that the suspect description in the supplemental police report contained information the defense should have had. He noted, though, that it was practice back then not to enter supplemental police reports into the record.........."I know myself, and I know how important that issue would have been," Menner said, suggesting he would have heeded his ethical and legal obligation to turn over possible exculpatory evidence. "If I didn't, it was a big mistake." Attorneys for Robert Jones have said his defense attorney at the 1996 trial did not know about the evidence at all the crimes in the spree that linked them directly to Lester Jones, suggesting Lester Jones worked alone. There was a Jesus medallion they found Lester Jones wearing, the gold nugget ring from stolen in another crime and a gold chain taken from another victim.........Scheck spent some time questioning Menner about a memo Menner wrote shortly after the convictions summarizing his knowledge of the Jones case. The memo misstated facts of the case, including the mention of a witness who did not exist. Menner admitted Monday the memo was rushed and sloppily written, relying on second-hand version of the facts. But more importantly, Scheck said, the memo also disclosed that Lester Jones "recanted" the statement he made to police that he knew Robert Jones and that he lent him his car. Menner claimed Monday that Jones' defense attorney was aware Lester backed off his statement, and that the disclosure happened in an off-record meeting with the judge and defense attorney. Menner said from the stand Monday that it wasn't so much that Lester Jones had denied he knew Robert Jones or lent him his car, rather Lester Jones suddenly refused to cooperate at trial because Menner wouldn't promise him anything in return. "Did he tell you police had beaten him up in order to get the statement?" Scheck asked. "I don't remember him saying that," Menner responded. Throughout Menner's testimony, Scheck asked him if he had notes available to assist his memory, and presumably put on the record. Menner did not have any notes or other documentation, he said. Missing from the case, too, Scheck said, is DNA evidence and other files that were lost. One of the arguments Scheck and other attorneys from Innocence Project New Orleans are using to quash the indictment against Robert Jones is the assertion that it's impossible to give him a fair trial with so many missing files and evidence, coupled with shaky, decades-old memories."

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/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;