Saturday, July 31, 2021

Fall River; Massachusetts); Drug cases under scrutiny after evidence found in officer's desk, WPRI (Reporters Eli Sherman and Tim White) reports in a story referring to other current Mass. drug-related 'scandals'..."(Defence Attorney Mark) Booker also expects many accused and convicted drug offenders arrested by the vice squad over the past eight years will likely start reaching out to attorneys after hearing about Robillard’s actions, especially because it’s unclear which cases might have been affected. He likened it to the aftermath of the Annie Dookhan and Sonja Farak scandals, involving Massachusetts chemists convicted of tampering with drug evidence."



PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "The internal investigation began in February after an accusation surfaced that Robillard was giving confiscated drugs to confidential informants in exchange for information on drug dealers. Cardoza said that accusation was unfounded after both the Bristol County District Attorney’s office and the Mass. State Police investigated the tip. No criminal charges were filed. But a subsequent internal investigation — headed by former Fall River Police Chief Jonathan Souza — led to the discovery of the seized narcotics inside Robillard’s desk. The drugs had no paperwork other than those documented by Duarte. When asked why he decided to suspend rather than fire Robillard, Cardoza underscored that the detective admitted to mishandling the evidence, chalking it up to sloppy police work rather than nefarious actions. He said the investigation into Robillard is now closed."


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STORY: "Fall River Drug cases under scrutiny after evidence found inside cop's desk," by reporters  Eli Sherman and Tim White, published by WPRI (Target 12) on July 28, 2021. (Eli Sherman  is an investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Tim White is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News.)


GIST: "Two members of a Fall River police unit responsible for running high-profile drug investigations are facing discipline for improperly handling evidence that could result in at least a dozen cases getting tossed out, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.


Fall River Police Chief Jefferey Cardoza confirmed Tuesday the department is disciplining Det. Joshua Robillard and Sgt. Luis Duarte, both formerly of the Vice and Intelligence Unit. The chief said Robillard was discovered improperly keeping confiscated drugs inside his desk instead of documenting and submitting them into an evidence locker. A portion of the drugs found in Robillard’s desk had been tagged by Duarte, he added.


“We’re not talking about one small bag,” Cardoza said about the evidence found in Robillard’s desk. “We’re talking about multiple, multiple packages.”


Robillard, who worked for the vice squad for at least eight years, was reassigned out of the unit to a non-investigatory assignment during the internal probe. Cardoza said the detective would begin serving an unpaid suspension this week, but declined to disclose how long. A message left with Robillard’s union group was not immediately returned.


“Detective Robillard will not — as long as I am the chief of police here — will not ever be in an investigative assignment,” Cardoza said. “He will be assigned to in-house duties as long as I am chief. We have given him a lengthy, a very lengthy suspension.”


The internal investigation began in February after an accusation surfaced that Robillard was giving confiscated drugs to confidential informants in exchange for information on drug dealers. Cardoza said that accusation was unfounded after both the Bristol County District Attorney’s office and the Mass. State Police investigated the tip. No criminal charges were filed.


But a subsequent internal investigation — headed by former Fall River Police Chief Jonathan Souza — led to the discovery of the seized narcotics inside Robillard’s desk. The drugs had no paperwork other than those documented by Duarte.


When asked why he decided to suspend rather than fire Robillard, Cardoza underscored that the detective admitted to mishandling the evidence, chalking it up to sloppy police work rather than nefarious actions. He said the investigation into Robillard is now closed.


“Every decision I have made inside the building and outside the building has been second guessed by people — it just comes with the territory,” Cardoza said. “A very lengthy suspension and an assignment inside was the best decision for the organization.”


The detective’s mishandling of evidence, however, is already raising questions outside the department among defense attorneys, who are asking whether similar behavior happened in the past and how it might affect open and closed cases. The Vice and Intelligence Unit is a well-known division of the city’s police force, responsible for some of the biggest drug busts in city history, according to a Target 12 review of hundreds of court documents.


Bristol County District Attorney spokesperson Gregg Miliote said at least a dozen cases in Fall River District Court could be affected, along with an unknown number in Bristol County Superior Court. The DA based that estimate on upcoming cases involving Robillard as witness. In accordance with the law, Miliote said defense attorneys in those cases are being notified. He also acknowledged that the list of affected cases could grow.


“We’ll have to handle the potential ramifications on a case-by-case basis, or if a defense counsel wants to look back and file a motion,” Miliote said. “That’s clearly appropriate.”


Kevin Reddington, a long-time South Coast defense attorney who’s currently representing a man arrested by Robillard, said the development “could deal a fatal blow to any case he was lead detective on.”


“It does create a very, very heavy amount of baggage for the prosecutor,” said Reddington.


Fall River attorney Sarah Emery, who currently represents a handful of defendants arrested by the vice squad, declined to comment on how Robillard’s mishandling of evidence might affect her legal strategy moving forward. But Emery said she was shocked by the news and expects the number of affected cases to increase as more people learn about it.


“I’d be surprised if it was only a dozen,” Emery said Tuesday.


Cardoza would not comment on what specific drug cases might be affected, but Robillard’s actions have already come up in at least one case so far. Defense attorney Mark Booker confirmed Robillard in April unexpectedly admitted to being under investigation for mishandling evidence while testifying in one of his cases.


Booker estimated most attorneys handling drug arrests in Bristol County Superior Court or Fall River District Court have at least one case involving the vice squad, and he encouraged lawyers to “roll up their sleeves and do the painstaking work of digging through files, making motions in front of judges and being dogged in the pursuit of truth and justice.”


Booker also expects many accused and convicted drug offenders arrested by the vice squad over the past eight years will likely start reaching out to attorneys after hearing about Robillard’s actions, especially because it’s unclear which cases might have been affected. He likened it to the aftermath of the Annie Dookhan and Sonja Farak scandals, involving Massachusetts chemists convicted of tampering with drug evidence.


Thousands of drug cases were thrown out as a result of their misconduct.


“[Defendants] read that news and said, ‘Hey, it turns out that while the government is pointing a finger at me, four fingers should have been pointed back at the government,'” Booker said about the misconduct. “If a person has a good reason to attack the validity of a drug conviction that has already occurred in Fall River, I’d say, more power to them, and they should do it promptly.”


Inside the Fall River Police Department, Cardoza has already moved to shake up the vice unit, and now requires supervisors to examine all evidence that comes into the building.


“It goes directly to the evidence locker,” the police chief said.


Mayor Paul Coogan, who appointed Cardoza roughly a year ago after the former police chief stepped down amid a separate Target 12 investigation, lauded the current chief for trying to clean up misconduct inside the department.


“We don’t want anyone there stepping outside the line,” Coogan told Target 12.


Cardoza, a veteran of nearly 30 years, nonetheless apologized for Robillard’s actions.


“I’m sorry it occurred and obviously the buck stops with me,” Cardoza said. “I am going to do everything I can to make sure nothing like this happens again.”


Thee entire story can be read at: 

mailto:esherman@wpri.com https://www.wpri.com/target-12/fall-river-drug-cases-under-scrutiny-after-evidence-found-inside-cops-desk/


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;
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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;
—————————————————————————————————
FINAL, FINAL WORD: "Since its inception, the Innocence Project has pushed the criminal legal system to confront and correct the laws and policies that cause and contribute to wrongful convictions.   They never shied away from the hard cases — the ones involving eyewitness identifications, confessions, and bite marks. Instead, in the course of presenting scientific evidence of innocence, they’ve exposed the unreliability of evidence that was, for centuries, deemed untouchable." So true!
Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;

Kevin Cooper: Death Row: California: Excellent backgrounder of his ordeal - and the years he spent seeking further DNA testing - leading into the on-going independent investigation ordered by Gov. Gavin Newsom... "With Kevin Cooper applying for clemency yet again, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation on May 28, 2021. The independent investigation (or full innocence investigation) will try and help Cooper make his case for clemency by reviewing the ordeal. Moreover, reports also suggest that the investigation will take into account the recently completed DNA results from the tested evidence. Meanwhile, Kevin Cooper remains on death row at the San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California, as he waits for the independent investigation to run its course."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY; 'The reports of the evidence DNA testing ordered in 2018 haven’t been made public as of yet. However, Governor Gavin Newsom’s office affirmed that the tests are still ongoing and said, “The Special Master is working closely with the parties and supervising this process to ensure that it proceeds in a fair, thorough, and appropriate fashion.”


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STORY: "Where is Kevin Cooper today?" by Reporter Shamra Mitra, published by The Cinemaholic on July 24, 2021 with reference to '48 Hours: The troubling case against Kevin Cooper.' "


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GIST: "A semi-rural home in Chino Hills, California, was the site of a gruesome crime in 1983. In June 1983, the bodies of Douglas and Peggy Ryen were discovered by Bill Hughes. Bill also found his own son, Christopher, and the Ryens’ daughter, Jessica, dead in the house. Miraculously, the Ryens’ son, Josh, survived the attack even though his throat was cut.


The brutal nature of the crime shocked authorities as they found that the murderer had used a knife to slice his victims. He even stabbed them with an ice pick and chopped them with a hatchet. ‘48 Hours: The Troubling Case Against Kevin Cooper’ paints a detailed picture of this crime and portrays how law enforcement zeroed in on Kevin Cooper as a suspect. Let’s dive into the details of this case and find out where Kevin Cooper is today, shall we?

Did Kevin Cooper Kill the Ryens?


Soon after the gruesome discoveries, Kevin Cooper was announced as the sole suspect, and the police launched a massive manhunt to apprehend him. Ultimately, he was arrested from a boat after a woman identified his picture as the man who had apparently raped her. Once arrested, Cooper was charged with one count of attempted murder with an intention to cause injury and four counts of first-degree murder. Although he maintained his innocence, he was found guilty in 1985 and sentenced to death. Cooper ended up appealing his conviction and sentencing, but the state’s Supreme Court upheld the original decision in May 1991.


Cooper then requested DNA testing of evidence which was carried out in 2001 and 2002. However, these, too, failed to prove his innocence. With his February 2004 execution date fast approaching, Cooper approached the then-Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and filed for clemency. Yet, in January 2004, Schwarzenegger declined to grant him clemency. However, just days before his execution, he managed to get a ruling which stalled his execution until further DNA could be tested in the trial.


Over the years, Kevin Cooper has filed numerous petitions, which the court has turned down. In 2007, his petition for a writ of habeas corpus was denied for the third time. In 2009, he was again turned down when he requested a rehearing of his petition. After getting turned down by the lower courts, he filed for a judicial review with the United State’s Supreme Court in 2009, but this petition too was not accepted. In December 2010, Cooper used new evidence and requested clemency from then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, with a change in government just around the corner, the petition was left to be determined by the new Governor-elect in 2011.


Not finding a way out, Cooper decided to try his luck with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2011. The commission looked into the matter and recommended that Cooper’s case be reviewed as his rights were violated. He also got the support of the American Bar Association in 2016 when they suggested that he be given clemency. Kevin Cooper’s case was slowly gaining popularity, and ultimately in 2018, Senator Dianne Feinstein and then-Senator Kamala Harris recommended further DNA testing of the evidence. Then-Governor Jerry Brown agreed to the recommendation and ordered a DNA test. His successor, Governor Gavin Newsom, expanded upon that order in 2019 and made sure additional evidence related to the case was tested.


Where Is Kevin Cooper Now?


The reports of the evidence DNA testing ordered in 2018 haven’t been made public as of yet. However, Governor Gavin Newsom’s office affirmed that the tests are still ongoing and said, “The Special Master is working closely with the parties and supervising this process to ensure that it proceeds in a fair, thorough, and appropriate fashion.”


With Kevin Cooper applying for clemency yet again, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation on May 28, 2021. The independent investigation (or full innocence investigation) will try and help Cooper make his case for clemency by reviewing the ordeal. Moreover, reports also suggest that the investigation will take into account the recently completed DNA results from the tested evidence. Meanwhile, Kevin Cooper remains on death row at the San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California, as he waits for the independent investigation to run its course."


The entire story can be read 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;
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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;
—————————————————————————————————
FINAL, FINAL WORD: "Since its inception, the Innocence Project has pushed the criminal legal system to confront and correct the laws and policies that cause and contribute to wrongful convictions.   They never shied away from the hard cases — the ones involving eyewitness identifications, confessions, and bite marks. Instead, in the course of presenting scientific evidence of innocence, they’ve exposed the unreliability of evidence that was, for centuries, deemed untouchable." So true!
Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;

Friday, July 30, 2021

Rodney Reed: Texas: After 9 days, Rodney Reed hearing closes with woman accusing him of 1995 rape," The Austin-American Statesman , Reporter Clair Osborn, reports... We proved medically and scientifically that it was impossible for him to do this," said Rodrick Reed. "We are feeling pretty good. We are feeling positive about this."


QUOTE OF THE DAY: ""One of Rodney Reed's brothers, Rodrick Reed, said after the hearing that defense attorneys had demonstrated that Rodney Reed did not kill Stites. We proved medically and scientifically that it was impossible for him to do this," said Rodrick Reed.  "We are feeling pretty good. We are feeling positive about this."  Defense witnesses testified during the hearing that Stites died much earlier than the prosecution claimed, which would mean that she was with Fennell when she died."

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PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "One of the defense lawyers, Jane Pucher, said after Thursday's hearing that the defense had brought forth "very powerful evidence" during the hearing that Reed had a consensual affair with Stites. Several defense witnesses testified they had seen Stites with Reed before she died or had heard her talk about having an affair with a Black man. Reed is Black while Stites and Fennell are white.  The defense witnesses also testified they had seen Stites and Fennell fighting or had heard Fennell saying derogatory things about Stites after she was killed. A defense witness also testified that Fennell made a remark while in prison about strangling a woman.  Fennell was sentenced in 2008 to 10 years in prison for kidnapping and inappropriate conduct with a person in custody while a police officer in Georgetown."

----------------------------------------------------

STORY: "After 9 days, Rodney Reed hearing closes with woman accusing him of 1995 rape," The Austin-American Statesman, Reporter Clair Osborn) reports. 

 GIST: "The Rodney Reed hearing ended Thursday with prosecutors presenting witnesses in an effort to prove Reed had a history of violence toward women, including one who said he raped her in 1995. 

A defense attorney said the judge should not consider the rape testimony or the testimony of another woman who testified Thursday that Reed assaulted her in 1996, because Reed had not faced trial in either charge. 


Reed was convicted of capital murder in Stacey Stites' strangulation death in 1998 and received the death penalty. Stites' body was found by the side of a rural road in Bastrop County on April 23, 1996, with Reed's sperm in her. Before she died, Stites had planned to marry her fiancĂ©, Jimmy Fennell, then a Giddings police officer.


Five days before Reed's scheduled execution in 2019, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered that a hearing be held in state District Court in Bastrop after defense attorneys presented new evidence they said exonerated Reed.



The hearing started July 19Attorneys will have until Aug. 17 to write up proposed findings and conclusions of fact and then present them to the judge, said defense lawyer Andrew MacRae.


The lawyers will then make closing arguments to the judge, he said. District Judge J.D. Langley will them make his recommendations to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on whether Reed should receive a new trial, be found innocent or be executed.


Langley said he plans to ask for an extension from the appeals court on the Aug. 31 deadline for his recommendations. Langley also said Thursday that he is still considering whether to use the testimony from the women who said Reed attacked them in his recommendations.


The woman who testified Thursday that Reed raped her said she met him on some railroad tracks after she had been drinking at a party in October 1995. She said she didn't know who Reed was when he pulled her under a railroad trestle and sexually assaulted her. Prosecutor Lisa Tanner said the DNA that the victim submitted after the attack matched Reed's DNA.


Another woman also testified Thursday that Reed punched her and dragged her by the hair on Nov. 9, 1996, after she agreed to give him a ride home after meeting him at a convenience store. She said she did not know him at the time but later identified him in a photo lineup. He asked her for oral sex and she refused, she said. 


"I responded you will have to kill me before you get anything from me," the woman said. "He (Reed) said, 'I guess I will have to kill you.'" 


The woman said she kept punching Reed until she was able to escape from the truck and run for help.


During the sentencing phase of his capital murder trial in 1998, prosecutors said Reed had been considered a suspect in sexual assaults of six other women. He was only charged in one case and was later acquitted. It is from one of those cases that police had Reed’s DNA on file when it was matched to DNA found on Stites’ body.


He testified at the hearing last week that he did not kill Stites and did not know Reed.


MacRae, the defense attorney, said after the hearing that the 15 to 20 defense witnesses who testified "had no axe to grind, don't know Jimmy Fennell and don't know Rodney Reed." 


Debra Oliver, one of Stites' sisters, cast doubt on the testimony of the defense witnesses after the hearing, saying sometimes distant memories are "inaccurate." 

Oliver also said in an interview outside the courtroom earlier Thursday that "finally the truth is out" that Stites did not have an affair with Reed.  


Stites' daughter, Demi Nugent, also said outside the courtroom Thursday that the hearing was "a mess."


"We shouldn't have to keep reliving it because we are the victims," she said. "Stacey was the victim and not the other way around."


One of Rodney Reed's brothers, Rodrick Reed, said after the hearing that defense attorneys had demonstrated that Rodney Reed did not kill Stites.


"We proved medically and scientifically that it was impossible for him to do this," saId Rodrick Reed. "We are feeling pretty good. We are feeling positive about this." 


Defense witnesses testified during the hearing that Stites died much earlier than the prosecution claimed, which would mean that she was with Fennell when she died."


The entire story can be read at:

https://www.statesman.com/story/news/2021/07/29/after-9-days-rodney-reed-hearing-closes-woman-saying-he-raped-her-1995/5415660001/

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;
-----------------------------------------------------------------
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;
—————————————————————————————————
FINAL, FINAL WORD: "Since its inception, the Innocence Project has pushed the criminal legal system to confront and correct the laws and policies that cause and contribute to wrongful convictions.   They never shied away from the hard cases — the ones involving eyewitness identifications, confessions, and bite marks. Instead, in the course of presenting scientific evidence of innocence, they’ve exposed the unreliability of evidence that was, for centuries, deemed untouchable." So true!
Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;

Keith Davis Jr. Death Row; Baltimore Maryland: Support mounts as he faces his fifth trial for the murder of a security guard in 2015 - including prominent activist DeRay McKesson...“The truth is actually just so clear that we don’t need to embellish it. I don’t need to do anything to it. I just need to show you,” activist DeRay Mckesson told reporters in a law office downtown. He said his team has uncovered a slew of inconsistencies, problems and lies from the five-year legal saga that’s included four murder trials against Davis and one trial for armed robbery. These issues are explored on the new website keithdavisjr.com, with links to portions of the trial transcripts."


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "University of South Carolina School of Law Professor Colin Miller, who investigates cases on the podcast “Undisclosed” — which explored the Davis case in 13 episodes by journalist and private investigator Amelia McDonell-Parry — said the repeated prosecutions of Davis are unprecedented in the courts. “Keith Davis Jr. will become just the second person in U.S. history to be tried this many times for the same incident,” Miller said in a news release issued by the campaign. “This case — like the case of Curtis Flowers, a Mississippi man who endured six trials and spent more than two decades behind bars before his charges were dropped — is troubling because of what appears to be strong evidence of police and prosecutor misconduct.”

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PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "Mckesson pointed to one example in the testimony of a firearms examiner who says he “eyeballed” the shell casings to identify the murder weapon.  He also pointed to testimony in which a state witness says he had no evidence the gun found when police arrested Davis was actually fired. These discrepancies are among nearly 200 problems found in the case by Mckesson and his organization, We The Protesters. The New York-based nonprofit led by Mckesson is spearheading effort to set Davis free."

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PASSAGE TWO OF THE DAY: "n the summer of 2019, prosecutors tried Davis a fourth time for the murder. They presented jurors with evidence that his clothing matched that worn by the killer in surveillance footage, that cellphone records place him in the area at the time of the killing, and that police found him with the murder weapon. Police lab technicians testified that they found Davis’ fingerprints on the gun. Firearms analysts said they test-fired the weapon — a distinctive target pistol — and found it matched shell casings around the body of the victim. Davis’ defense attorney and supporters have questioned the credibility of the forensics tests of the gun. For example, a fingerprint examiner conducted her exam in all of six minutes, according to the trial testimony. The defense team presented a theory that police planted the gun after chasing Davis into a garage, mistakenly believing he was armed and firing 30 to 40 shots, grievously wounding him. Still, jurors convicted Davis of second-degree murder. Last year, Baltimore Circuit Judge Sylvester Cox sentenced him to 50 years in prison."

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"STORY: "Activist De Ray McKessson's nonprofit takes up defence of Keith Davis Jr, unveils website faulting estate's case," by Police and Courts Reporter Tim Prudente, published by The Baltimore Sun on July 21, 2021.

GIST: "Mobile billboards roll through the streets of Baltimore, demanding the state’s attorney drop the murder case. Volunteers canvass city neighborhoods, distributing flyers with “Marilyn Mosby is lying to you.” They unveiled a website to fight the prosecution of Keith Davis Jr.


It’s all a campaign to build national support for the Baltimore man now facing his fifth trial for the murder of Pimlico security guard Kevin Jones in 2015. Activists, attorneys and the Davis family gathered Wednesday to announce their new effort to clear the name of the 29-year-old defendant. They had a firm message for Baltimore State’s Attorney Mosby: “Drop the charges.”


“The truth is actually just so clear that we don’t need to embellish it. I don’t need to do anything to it. I just need to show you,” activist DeRay Mckesson told reporters in a law office downtown.


He said his team has uncovered a slew of inconsistencies, problems and lies from the five-year legal saga that’s included four murder trials against Davis and one trial for armed robbery. These issues are explored on the new website keithdavisjr.com, with links to portions of the trial transcripts.


Mckesson pointed to one example in the testimony of a firearms examiner who says he “eyeballed” the shell casings to identify the murder weapon.


He also pointed to testimony in which a state witness says he had no evidence the gun found when police arrested Davis was actually fired. These discrepancies are among nearly 200 problems found in the case by Mckesson and his organization, We The Protesters. The New York-based nonprofit led by Mckesson is spearheading effort to set Davis free.


McKesson, a former Baltimore schools administrator, emerged as a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement after he became nationally known for his activism during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the killing of Michael Brown. He formed the We the Protesters to raise awareness and research police violence against African Americans and other minorities. The nonprofit’s Campaign Zero project studies policing and issues reports on topics such as use-of-force policies and body cameras.


The nonprofit brings more resources, staff and experience to bear on Mosby to drop the case.


A spokeswoman for the state’s attorney declined to comment.


Shortly before Wednesday’s news conference, Mosby invited reporters to an event at the same time and announced assault charges against a Maryland Transit Administration Police officer. She was asked about the effort to free Davis.

“I’m not here on the Keith Davis trial,” she said. “The one thing I can say about that matter is that I’m going to fight for victims of crime in the city of Baltimore. That is my job. That is my role. That is my responsibility. And my concern in that case is Kevin Jones.”


In May 2017, Davis’ first murder trial resulted in a hung jury. He was tried again five months later and convicted of murder. That conviction, however, was overturned because a judge found prosecutors withheld information that raised doubts about the credibility of a key witness.


His third murder trial brought another hung jury.

In the summer of 2019, prosecutors tried Davis a fourth time for the murder. They presented jurors with evidence that his clothing matched that worn by the killer in surveillance footage, that cellphone records place him in the area at the time of the killing, and that police found him with the murder weapon.


Police lab technicians testified that they found Davis’ fingerprints on the gun. Firearms analysts said they test-fired the weapon — a distinctive target pistol — and found it matched shell casings around the body of the victim.


Davis’ defense attorney and supporters have questioned the credibility of the forensics tests of the gun. For example, a fingerprint examiner conducted her exam in all of six minutes, according to the trial testimony. The defense team presented a theory that police planted the gun after chasing Davis into a garage, mistakenly believing he was armed and firing 30 to 40 shots, grievously wounding him.


Still, jurors convicted Davis of second-degree murder. Last year, Baltimore Circuit Judge Sylvester Cox sentenced him to 50 years in prison.


His defense attorney, Deborah Katz Levi, the director of special litigation for the public defender’s office, appealed, citing a recent ruling from the state’s highest court. The judge agreed that Levi did not get the chance to question jurors about legal principals surrounding impartiality. He tossed out Davis’ conviction.

Levi has said she expects Davis to be tried again for the murder next year.


University of South Carolina School of Law Professor Colin Miller, who investigates cases on the podcast “Undisclosed” — which explored the Davis case in 13 episodes by journalist and private investigator Amelia McDonell-Parry — said the repeated prosecutions of Davis are unprecedented in the courts.


“Keith Davis Jr. will become just the second person in U.S. history to be tried this many times for the same incident,” Miller said in a news release issued by the campaign. “This case — like the case of Curtis Flowers, a Mississippi man who endured six trials and spent more than two decades behind bars before his charges were dropped — is troubling because of what appears to be strong evidence of police and prosecutor misconduct.”


In May, prosecutors filed new charges against Davis and accused him of stabbing an inmate during a jailhouse fight; his defense attorney said he was attacked.

Meanwhile, the Davis case has pitted a growing number of his supporters and social justice activists in Baltimore against Mosby. Keith Davis’ wife, Kelly, has organized years of rallies and protest marches over her husband’s case.

“It should not take this much,” she said Wednesday. “It should not have taken six years to fight against a narrative from this city when they couldn’t be more wrong about my husband.”

The Law Offices of A. Dwight Pettit is working as civil attorneys for their family.

“Mr. Davis could be you. Mr. Davis could be your loved one. And the only person, or persons, that could put a stop to this is the state’s attorney for Baltimore City,” Latoya Francis-Williams, the civil attorney, told reporters. “Drop the charges. That’s what we scream: Drop the charges.""


Th entire story can be read at:


bs-md-ci-cr-campaign-zero-keith-davis-jr-20210721-oa2cjygd2ngi7kq5c3fsraqmue-story.html

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;
-----------------------------------------------------------------
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;
—————————————————————————————————
FINAL, FINAL WORD: "Since its inception, the Innocence Project has pushed the criminal legal system to confront and correct the laws and policies that cause and contribute to wrongful convictions.   They never shied away from the hard cases — the ones involving eyewitness identifications, confessions, and bite marks. Instead, in the course of presenting scientific evidence of innocence, they’ve exposed the unreliability of evidence that was, for centuries, deemed untouchable." So true!
Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Kevin Cooper: Death Row: California: Former FBI agent Tom Parker's fight to save him...The Santa Barbara Independent (Lily Mae Lazaras) tells the story in The Santa Barbara Independent..."Kevin Cooper awaits death in his San Quentin prison cell, as he has during the 36 years since he heard the ultimate punishment pronounced in a San Diego County courtroom. He has always protested his innocence since being arrested for the horrific murders of four people in 1983. His appeal for clemency was answered by Governor Gavin Newsom a month ago, spurred in part by the footwork of Tom Parker, the former assistant agent in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office who retired to Santa Barbara and is convinced of Cooper’s innocence. Parker is somewhat of a G-man turned local criminal justice warrior."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: " Prior to his retirement in 1994, Parker was second in command at the FBI’s Los Angeles bureau. He led the FBI’s investigation of the Rodney King beating in 1991. Parker also served on the Santa Barbara Fire and Police Commission for two years. He joined Cooper’s defense team in 2011 and now works free of charge in the quest to prove Cooper’s innocence. Using his investigative expertise, Parker has traveled across the country, gathering evidence that debunks the prosecution’s side of the story."

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PASSAGE TWO OF THE DAY: "Only four days after the Ryen murders, Sheriff Tidwell announced to the media that investigators had identified the killer. His certainty, according to Parker, was based solely on the fact that Cooper had just escaped from prison. The evidence found at the scene certainly supported that conclusion, though Parker and members of the judiciary question the validity of that evidence. For instance, the prison-jacket button allegedly recovered was the wrong color for the uniform Cooper wore, and the fingerprint evidence placed a deputy in the Lease house, possibly planting the hatchet sheath, who denied ever being in that house. Similar questions remain regarding evidence found in the Ryen residence, including a pin-sized drop of blood in a hallway. Prosecutors claimed it belonged to Cooper; Parker believes it was planted after the fact. “There’s no reason that that blood drop would’ve been where it was,” he said. That drop of blood had a strange trajectory after it was tested at the crime lab. First, the criminologist altered his records to show a result conforming to Cooper’s known blood characteristics. The drop was labeled totally “consumed” during testing; inexplicably, it reappeared in a different form when further testing was useful to the prosecution. A bloody T-shirt had an even stranger history after it entered the crime lab. Found nearby shortly after the murders, the T-shirt’s first tests disclosed only blood from the victims; Cooper’s blood was not on the T-shirt. Subsequent tests, however, located not simply Cooper’s blood, but Cooper’s blood containing a preservative only used to store blood samples. Cooper’s defenders believe that authorities took blood from samples he’d given, one vial of which was discovered empty, and contaminated the shirt. That T-shirt was improperly stored, the DNA degraded, and retesting is now impossible. The same pattern surrounds the stolen family car, which had been parked in the driveway with its keys in the ignition..."

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STORY: "Fighting to Free Kevin Cooper," by Lily Mae Lazaras, published by The Santa Barbara Independent on July 22m 2021.

SUB-HEADING: Santa Barbara G-Man fights for an innocent man's release from death row.

PHOTO CAPTION: "Tainted evidence? Kevin Cooper has been on Death Row at San Quentin since 1985 and has filed multiple appeals. Gov. Newsom ordered a reexamination of the case that enables a new review of evidence, such as a tan T-shirt that Parker believes had Cooper’s blood planted on it."

PHOTO CAPTION: "Evidence points to Lee Furrow as a prime suspect in the Ryen murders, Parker believes".

GIST: "Kevin Cooper awaits death in his San Quentin prison cell, as he has during the 36 years since he heard the ultimate punishment pronounced in a San Diego County courtroom. He has always protested his innocence since being arrested for the horrific murders of four people in 1983. His appeal for clemency was answered by Governor Gavin Newsom a month ago, spurred in part by the footwork of Tom Parker, the former assistant agent in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office who retired to Santa Barbara and is convinced of Cooper’s innocence.


Parker is somewhat of a G-man turned local criminal justice warrior. Prior to his retirement in 1994, Parker was second in command at the FBI’s Los Angeles bureau. He led the FBI’s investigation of the Rodney King beating in 1991. Parker also served on the Santa Barbara Fire and Police Commission for two years. He joined Cooper’s defense team in 2011 and now works free of charge in the quest to prove Cooper’s innocence. Using his investigative expertise, Parker has traveled across the country, gathering evidence that debunks the prosecution’s side of the story.


Parker’s trust in Cooper’s proclaimed innocence is out of the ordinary for him. “I’m always skeptical on cases where somebody has gotten the death penalty, but I’ve seen some that were wrongful convictions,” said Parker. This skepticism changed after Parker reviewed Cooper’s case files and saw “a very good likelihood” Cooper is innocent.


“I continued going through these cases to see if I could figure something out that would be a plausible motive,” said Parker, “number one, for the murders, because it didn’t make a lot of sense that Cooper would have committed these murders; and number two, a plausible basis to prove that he was in fact wrongfully convicted and that somebody else did it.”

Parker believes he’s found a connection between the victims, who raised Arabian horses, and the last man executed in California, Clarence Ray Allen. Parker then ran down what he believes to be new suspects with means and motive that prove Cooper was simply at the right place at the wrong time.


It has been an uphill battle. The prosecutor built a strong case based on what Parker views as circumstantial evidence that connected Cooper to the murders, which were brutal and bloody. Late at night on June 4, 1983, four victims  —  Franklin Douglas Ryen; Peggy Ryen; their daughter, Jessica, 10; and an 11-year-old houseguest, Christopher Hughes  —  were killed by dozens of blows with a hatchet or ax, a knife, and possibly a third weapon like an ice pick, according to the coroner. Young Joshua Ryen, having a sleepover with his friend Chris, survived, though he sustained serious wounds. Their home was in an affluent section of Chino Hills, roughly 130 miles from the Mexican border.


Two days before the murders, Cooper, a serial burglar and accused rapist, had escaped from minimum security at the California Institution for Men in Chino. He’d hidden out in a vacant house, the Lease residence, next door to the Ryens’ home until the night before the murders.

It was Chris Hughes’s father, come to pick up his son, who found the murder scene. During the investigation, deputies with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department conducted two searches of the Lease residence. While the first proved insignificant, secondary searches uncovered a host of new evidence, including a bloodstained khaki-green button, identical to some sewn on field jackets worn by inmates at the prison; prison-issue loose tobacco; cigarette butts; and a hatchet sheath. Investigators also found hairs in the Lease residence similar to the murder victims’.


In the Ryen house, investigators found shoe-print impressions that appeared to come from tennis shoes worn by prison inmates. Investigators found a single drop of blood that did not belong to the victims, which a criminalist who analyzed the blood linked to “a Black person.”

The Ryen family’s station wagon was missing from their home. The vehicle was found in a church parking lot in Long Beach, 40 miles west of where the murders occurred. Upon first inspection, the car had blood smeared across the front and back seats. Deputies later found a small hair they believed probably came from a Black person and two cigarette butts with the same prison-issue tobacco.


Cooper’s story was that he’d hidden at the Lease house but left at dark the night before the murders and hitchhiked to Tijuana. He found work aboard a boat that was headed south, but bad weather caused the captain to turn instead across the border to Santa Cruz Island, off Santa Barbara. Cooper was captured after a couple boating at Santa Cruz had returned to town and recognized his photograph on a wanted poster. They contacted authorities, and the young woman told officers Cooper had raped her. This rape accusation, which was never formally charged, contributed to Cooper being sentenced to death.


Kevin Cooper has sworn for 36 years he is innocent. He has long declared that investigators framed him and that law enforcement ignored potentially exonerating evidence. And central concerns remain regarding evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, and possibly planted or hidden from the defense.


Governor Orders Review

Since his sentencing, Cooper has filed multiple appeals; all have been denied. Notably, in 2009, five federal judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals signed a dissenting opinion on Cooper’s case with the opening remark: “The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man.”


This year, on May 28, Governor Newsom signed an executive order calling for an independent investigation into Cooper’s clemency application. As a result, the law firm of Morrison & Foerster will conduct a comprehensive review of Cooper’s trial and appellate records. It allows a reevaluation of all existing evidence and recently conducted DNA tests, which could never happen on appeal. Newsom’s executive order is the latest progression in the governor’s opposition to the death penalty since he suspended it in California in 2019.


Cooper’s defense attorney, Norman Hile, is excited that an independent investigation will occur. He stated, “We are very confident it will show Kevin Cooper is innocent and that he should be released from prison.”


According to Parker, “The courts, unfortunately, have been swayed into believing that the police are always right, and that the police always tell the truth. And that just isn’t the case.”

On the other hand, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson wrote to Newsom, stating, “Cooper’s claims and defenses are not new or novel, and they have been repeatedly examined and tested for more than thirty-five years.” (Cooper’s trial was moved to San Diego due to the notoriety of the crime in San Bernardino.)


Questions Emerge

Cooper’s defenders have expressed numerous concerns about the behavior of law enforcement and the investigators, as well as the contamination and disposal of evidence. They point to confessions  —  albeit third-party hearsay  —  pertaining to a longtime suspect. Many question how one man could use the multiple murder weapons in the short time in which the coroner said the murders occurred. And Joshua Ryen’s testimony, as well as hairs found at the crime scene, described three white perpetrators; Cooper is Black. Parker has investigated the validity of these concerns as a part of his work on Cooper’s defense.


The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department has a history of skirting the rules. The sheriff at the time, Floyd Tidwell, was later convicted for the theft of more than 500 firearms from county evidence rooms  —  he would gift them to his supporters. A lab technician, who claimed he found shoe-print evidence pointing to Cooper’s guilt, was later fired for stealing heroin from an evidence room; he was also responsible for “discovering” evidence in a separate case that was later found to be planted.


Only four days after the Ryen murders, Sheriff Tidwell announced to the media that investigators had identified the killer. His certainty, according to Parker, was based solely on the fact that Cooper had just escaped from prison. The evidence found at the scene certainly supported that conclusion, though Parker and members of the judiciary question the validity of that evidence. For instance, the prison-jacket button allegedly recovered was the wrong color for the uniform Cooper wore, and the fingerprint evidence placed a deputy in the Lease house, possibly planting the hatchet sheath, who denied ever being in that house.


Similar questions remain regarding evidence found in the Ryen residence, including a pin-sized drop of blood in a hallway. Prosecutors claimed it belonged to Cooper; Parker believes it was planted after the fact. “There’s no reason that that blood drop would’ve been where it was,” he said. That drop of blood had a strange trajectory after it was tested at the crime lab. First, the criminologist altered his records to show a result conforming to Cooper’s known blood characteristics. The drop was labeled totally “consumed” during testing; inexplicably, it reappeared in a different form when further testing was useful to the prosecution.


A bloody T-shirt had an even stranger history after it entered the crime lab. Found nearby shortly after the murders, the T-shirt’s first tests disclosed only blood from the victims; Cooper’s blood was not on the T-shirt. Subsequent tests, however, located not simply Cooper’s blood, but Cooper’s blood containing a preservative only used to store blood samples. Cooper’s defenders believe that authorities took blood from samples he’d given, one vial of which was discovered empty, and contaminated the shirt. That T-shirt was improperly stored, the DNA degraded, and retesting is now impossible.


The same pattern surrounds the stolen family car, which had been parked in the driveway with its keys in the ignition. The first detailed search of the vehicle found no evidence tied to Cooper. In a second search, deputies found evidence of prison-issued tobacco and cigarette butts, akin to those found in Cooper’s hideout, some of which disappeared from police evidence. Despite a legal obligation to preserve evidence in death-penalty cases, Parker said the Ryens’ station wagon was scrapped years ago, along with any surviving evidence it might have held.


Parker Points the Finger

The Ryen family’s stolen car and a pair of bloodied coveralls may connect to hearsay testimony collected by Parker that paints a different picture of the murders.


Two former girlfriends of a longtime potential suspect named Lee Furrow provided sworn statements, said Parker, in which they relayed identical stories of a confession to killing people that match the Ryen murders. One of these women claims Furrow carried a briefcase containing knives, a hatchet, and an ice pick. More recently, two different witnesses claimed Furrow bragged to them about having murdered an entire family.


These accounts relate to testimony in 1983 from a woman named Diana Roper. She told the authorities her boyfriend, Lee Furrow, returned home late on the evening of the murders wearing blood-spattered coveralls. He was driving a white station wagon with wood paneling and a luggage rack, like the one stolen from the Ryen driveway. Although deputies entered the bloodied coveralls into evidence, on the day of Cooper’s arraignment, their superior officers said to get rid of them; they were not tested for the victims’ blood.


Roper also stated that on the day of the murders, she noted Furrow returned to her home without his hatchet. The tool, resembling one of the reported murder weapons, was missing from his tool belt.


What is known about Furrow is that he is a convicted murderer who in 1977 pleaded guilty to killing Mary Sue Kitts in 1974 on the orders of Clarence Ray Allen, who was covering up a burglary. According to Parker, “Clarence Ray Allen had a long record of basically either going after and injuring or killing people that have turned against him for one reason or another.” Furrow was released the year prior to the Ryen family massacre.


Allen and the Ryens both raised Arabian horses, a popular trend among equestrians in the early 1980s. They had disagreed over a horse he had purchased from them, and there are indications the Ryens had repossessed the animal.


Furrow has never been arrested or charged in connection to the murders. However, after collecting statements from Furrow’s acquaintances and potential suspects, Parker and a fellow retired FBI agent decided to interview Furrow and attempt to collect his DNA. Furrow lived in Pennsylvania, and Parker invited him to a hotel across the border in New Jersey to talk about the Ryen murders. Unlike Pennsylvania, New Jersey allows recordings with the consent of only one party to the conversation.


“We got the two adjoining hotel rooms. We wired one up with hidden cameras, and we put a couple of other cameras in the room, too, so that we could observe him from all angles,” said Parker. “We staged the room the way we wanted it: where we wanted him to sit, and where I would sit.”


Furrow denied having any involvement in the murders, Parker said. He also maintained his innocence when he was questioned about the bloody coveralls by San Bernardino authorities a year after the murders. Furrow agreed to Parker’s interview voluntarily and agreed to have his DNA collected. 


That evidence will be part of the independent investigation, Parker said. And as Kevin Cooper waits in San Quentin, it is evident that the counsel appointed by the governor will have much to examine. 


Parker noted, “It’s such a complicated situation where you’ve got a case that’s 36 years old, and times have changed so much in terms of what technology is capable of, but hopefully there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” 


The entire story can be read at:

https://www.independent.com/2021/07/21/fighting-to-free-kevin-cooper/

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;
-----------------------------------------------------------------
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;
—————————————————————————————————
FINAL, FINAL WORD: "Since its inception, the Innocence Project has pushed the criminal legal system to confront and correct the laws and policies that cause and contribute to wrongful convictions.   They never shied away from the hard cases — the ones involving eyewitness identifications, confessions, and bite marks. Instead, in the course of presenting scientific evidence of innocence, they’ve exposed the unreliability of evidence that was, for centuries, deemed untouchable." So true!
Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;