Saturday, August 22, 2020

Bulletin: Susan Jean King: Kentucky: (Alleged police lie to grand jury about contents of ballistics report): Police have settled this amputee's wrongful conviction suit, ABC 36 (AP) reports.. "Kentucky State Police have settled a wrongful conviction lawsuit with a woman who contended she couldn’t have killed her boyfriend 22 years ago because she is an amputee who wouldn’t have been able to throw a body into a river. "

STORY: "Kentucky police settle wrongful conviction suit," Associated Press,  published by ABC 36 News on  August 21, 2020. (PS: There is a  fascinating, gripping  story behind this brief bulletin - which is relayed in the Louisville Courier story which you will find after the bulletin.

GIST: "Kentucky State Police have settled a wrongful conviction lawsuit with a woman who contended she couldn’t have killed her boyfriend 22 years ago because she is an amputee who wouldn’t have been able to throw a body into a river. News outlets report Susan Jean King served eight years in prison for the 1998 slaying of Kyle “Deanie” Breeden before another man confessed and her conviction was overturned. WDRB-TV reported Thursday that King’s lawsuit was dismissed after KSP agreed to pay $750,000 in damages. The agency has maintained there was no wrongdoing by the department, but King’s attorneys allege the investigation was marked by errors, false evidence and coverups.""


The fascinating story behind the settled lawsuit as told by Reporter Andrew Wolfson in the Louisville Courier Journal  on April 2, 2018 at the link below - on an earlier occasion after a court ruled against police arguments that the exonerated woman's  case  which had been thrown out should be reinstated. No spoilers! Read on:

"A woman who was exonerated for a homicide after spending more than six years behind bars can sue the Kentucky State Police detective she says framed her," the story begins. 

"The U.S Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Monday reinstated a lawsuit alleging malicious prosecution filed by Susan Jean King against Lt. Todd Harwood," it continues.

"King alleges that Harwood, then a sergeant, lied before a grand jury that indicted her on a murder charge in the death of Kyle Breeden by falsely testifying that it was impossible to determine if the bullets found in King’s floor and the ones found in Breeden’s skull were a match. In fact, Judge Danny Boggs of Louisville wrote for a three-judge appellate panel, a state police forensic examiner had told Harwood the bullets didn’t match.

Boggs also noted that Harwood omitted from his testimony that King had only one leg, which would have undercut his claim that she dragged Breeden from her home and threw him off a bridge.

"We’re very pleased with the decision," Thomas Clay, a lawyer for King, said. "It returns Susan Jean King’s case to court, where hopefully a jury will agree with us that the actions by Kentucky State Police were truly outrageous.”

Harwood referred questions to KSP Lt. Michael Webb, who said he could not comment Monday.

The appeals court reversed U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers, who threw out King’s suit against Harwood and other defendants on the grounds that police had probable cause for her arrest and that the suit was filed too late.

The panel did affirm the dismissal of counts that named the state police and three of Harwood’s supervisors.

The Courier-Journal previously reported that after Breeden’s body was found in 1998 in the Kentucky River, his murder went unsolved for eight years, despite an investigation by six KSP detectives.

But when Harwood was assigned it as a cold case in 2006, it took him only 21 days to say he had solved it and that King was the culprit.

Facing 20 years to life if she went to trial and was found guilty, King, while maintaining her innocence, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree manslaughter and accepted a 10-year sentence.

The Kentucky Innocence Project already had been working on the case for several years when on May 4, 2012, a serial murderer named Richard Jarrell confessed to a Louisville Metro Police detective that he had in fact killed Breeden.

After Harwood initially declined to interview Jarrell, then allegedly intimidated him into recanting his confession, Louisville Detective Barron Morgan reported the confession to the Innocence Project after getting permission from a supervisor.

The newspaper reported that then-state Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer complained to Louisville police Chief Steve Conrad, a longtime friend, that Morgan was meddling in a state police case, and Conrad subsequently transferred him to a graveyard shift as a patrol officer.

Conrad claimed the move was part of a broad reorganization, but Morgan said he was demoted as punishment, and he won $450,000 from the city to settle his whistleblower lawsuit.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals vacated King’s conviction after she had been released from prison on a 10-year sentence, calling it an “egregious violation” of justice, and prosecutors in Spencer County decided not to retry her.

Besides the homicide charge, Harwood also got King indicted for tampering with physical evidence, alleging in part that she had cleaned the floor of her kitchen, which he claimed was the crime scene.

But Boggs noted for the court that the KSP lab found no traces of cleaning solvent on the floor.

Harwood also alleged King had destroyed evidence by later tearing out the floor, when he knew she had it replaced because of flood damage, the Courier-Journal reported.

Harwood, who received a KSP “Commissioner’s Commendation” in 2009 for his “outstanding achievement in solving Breeden’s murder,” is still on the force. He is now a lieutenant and paid $70,346 a year.

Brewer retired last year."


Important side issue of the case: 


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: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:  Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;
FINAL WORD:  (Applicable to all of our wrongful conviction cases):  "Whenever there is a wrongful conviction, it exposes errors in our criminal legal system, and we hope that this case — and lessons from it — can prevent future injustices."
Lawyer Radha Natarajan:
Executive Director: New England Innocence Project;