Category: witness recantation

Innocent man finally exonerated

Richard Miles served 14 years in prison for the murder of one man and the attempted murder of another.

Miles’ guilt rested on the testimony of one eyewitness who claimed that he saw Miles shoot two men in a Texaco parking lot. Similar to the Curtis Flowers case, detectives pinpointed Miles and decided that he was guilty within a few hours of the shootings. Miles had an alibi and several individuals who corroborated his story, but that was irrelevant. 

Despite little evidence, Miles was found guilty and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

As of yesterday, however, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Richard Miles is officially exonerated.

Unlike most of the exonerations thus far, there was no DNA to test. After it was discovered that prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense, Miles was released in 2009 (but not officially exonerated). In 2010, the original eyewitness recanted his testimony, claiming that prosecutors coerced him into identifying Miles as the perpetrator.

Miles is one of many men who have recently been exonerated in Dallas, TX. The stories of several of these men are told in the book “Tested: How Twelve Wrongfully Imprisoned Men Held Onto Hope” by Peyton and Dorothy Budd. MWN

Two Years After Wrongfully Convicted Richard Miles Was Released, He’s Officially Innocent

by Leslie Minora

Free for two years, Richard Miles has nevertheless waited and waited for today — the official acknowledgement that he did not commit the  murder and attempted murder at a Texaco near Bachman Lake in 1994 for which he was sent to prison. The detailed 52-page opinion handed down from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reads like the outline of a Hitchcock film, detailing two police reports that weren’t disclosed at the time of Miles’s conviction, a 2010 recantation from the only uninvolved eyewitness and the determination that the small amount of gunshot residue on Miles’ hand was inconclusive. All of which amounted to the decision that the wrong man spent 14 years behind bars.

“When we balance the newly available evidence … with other exculpatory evidence and the evidence of guilt presented at trial, we are satisfied that Applicant has shown by clear and convincing evidence that no rational jury would convict him in light of the new evidence,” reads the court’s opinion released today.

The Dallas County District Attorney’s office recommended Miles’s release in 2009 after they determined that flaws in his trial violated his constitutional rights. Since his release more than two years ago, he’s been working, piecing his life back together and finding support in other exonerees as he waited for a decision from the state court, which must rule on all exoneration cases. But finally, as of today Miles can file for state compensation for his years spent locked up.

“This is going to be great for him because now he can do some of the things he wanted to do” like help his mother, said Charles Chatman, an exoneree who was released in 2008. Chatman and the other exonerees, including Miles, meet monthly, and Chatman tells Unfair Park that he and the other guys have given Miles a helping had since his release.

“We have helped him,” Chatman says, quickly adding that Miles isn’t “the kind of person who just depends on nobody.” Miles has been getting by working at a hotel, Chatman said, but even finding a job was difficult without a declaration of “actual innocence.”  (more…)

Michelle Alexander on the execution of Troy Davis

Take a moment to check out this video of an interview with Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” and hear her response to the recent execution of Troy Davis. MW

“What I hope is that the passion and the energy and momentum that was generated to save Troy’s life…won’t just fade away, won’t be one of these episodic spurts that we’ve seen in the past, but will actually signal a new phase in the movement to end the death penalty. [I hope] that we’ll be able to look back and see Troy Davis’ death as the day when the movement to end the death penalty and the movement to end mass incarceration gained new steam.” -Michelle Alexander

Troy Davis and the growing case against eyewitness ID

by Melanie Wilmoth

The case against Troy Davis hinged on the eyewitness testimony of several individuals who claimed that Davis shot police officer Mark MacPhail. Many began to have serious doubts about Davis’ guilt, however, after several witnesses recanted their original testimony. Despite witness recantations, hundreds of thousands of petitions, and international protests against Troy’s execution, the state of Georgia remained steadfast in its belief that Davis was guilty and, ultimately, executed him.

In a recent Associated Press article, Michael Tarm and Eric Tucker highlight how the controversy around Troy Davis’ execution has sparked debate about the accuracy of eyewitness identifications.

Davis’ execution came at a time in which the reliability of eyewitness identifications was increasingly questioned. Studies on the fallibility of human memory as well as a host of recent DNA exonerations have contributed to the doubt surrounding the accuracy of eyewitness ID, and increased concerns that these identifications may lead to wrongful convictions.

Just last month, we reported that the New Jersey Supreme Court decided to reform rules around eyewitness ID, requiring more rigorous evaluations of eyewitness identifications and making it easier for defendants to challenge eyewitness testimony. Several other states have recently attempted to reduce the reliance on eyewitness identification as well.

As Tarm and Tucker point out, the doubt surrounding Davis’ conviction and subsequent execution will likely “fuel the eyewitness ID debate” and will hopefully lead to more sound rules and regulations regarding the use of eyewitness identification. Check out what they have to say in their article below.

You may also want to check out a related article published by Time Magazine.

Troy Davis execution fuels eyewitness ID debate

(AP)  SAVANNAH, Ga. — When Georgia executed Troy Davis last week, it brushed aside international protests that too many witnesses had recanted trial testimony that he was the gunman who killed a police officer in 1989.

The issue raised in Davis’s case, however, is getting harder to ignore. With scientific studies showing the human memory can be surprisingly faulty, the once-damning weight of eyewitness testimony has come under question in courts and state legislatures. (more…)

Former FBI Chief says Troy Davis should not die

By Alan Bean

In an op-ed written for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, William Sessions asks the State of Georgia not to execute Troy Davis.

Four Months ago I predicted that the State of Georgia would not execute Troy Davis

It wasn’t suggesting that mercy tinged with common sense would prevail. 

In the absence of outside scrutiny, there is no question that Georgia would send Mr. Davis to God without a single qualm.   (more…)

Congress members seek clemency for Troy Davis

by Melanie Wilmoth

In the wake of the announcement that Troy Davis’ execution is scheduled for September 21, several US Congress members are seeking clemency for Mr. Davis.

Fifty-one Congress members, all Democrats, have signed a letter addressed to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles stating that “considerable doubts as to Troy Davis’ guilt remain.”

The evidence against Mr. Davis is questionable at best. As Congress members point out:

“Several witnesses testified at the evidentiary hearing that they had been coerced into making statements implicating Troy Davis at trial. At the hearing, one witness testified for the first time that he saw another suspect in the case commit the crime. The credibility of various witnesses was challenged by the state of Georgia, and the judge in that case agreed. Many of these same witnesses, whose credibility is now questioned, were essential to obtaining Troy Davis’ original conviction.”

Despite claims of coercion, questions about witness credibility, and 7 of 9 witnesses recanting their testimony, Troy Davis is still considered guilty and set to be executed.

Congress members are not the only people speaking out against this injustice. Other world leaders, artists, and public figures have joined the fight as well.

John Lewis, Hank Johnson, David Scott, Sanford Bishop seek clemency for Troy Davis

By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

The Georgia members of Congress have asked the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant clemency for Troy Davis, who is scheduled to face execution next week the 1989 killing of off-duty Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail.

Hank Johnson of Decatur, John Lewis and David Scott of Atlanta, and Sanford Bishop of Albany, all Democrats, put their signatures to the letter that can be read here. A total of four dozen members of Congress signed. (more…)

Appeals court thinks defendant may be innocent but denies appeal

A federal appeals court thinks John Kinsel (pictured to the left) may be innocent, but that will do him little good.  Kinsel’s 1999 conviction for aggravated rape drew a sentence of life without parole.  Barring intervention, he will die in Louisiana’s Angola prison.

The federal court acknowledged the obvious: when the single witness to a crime recants her testimony there should be a new trial.

Unfortunately, the Anti-Terrorism Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (passed in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing) makes it virtually impossible to pursue a federal appeal once you have had your first bite of the apple.  The fact that the single witness changed her story after the initial appeal makes no difference. (more…)

European Union supports commutation for Troy Davis

Baronness Catherine Ashton

By Alan BeanNo one was particularly surprised when Jesse Jackson called on the state of Georgia to commute the death sentence against Troy Davis.  Now the European Union is going to bat for Davis.  According to the Canadian Press, the EU is concerned that an innocent man may soon be scheduled for execution.

Popes and former presidents have previously gone to bat for Mr. Davis and this isn’t the first time the European Union has expressed its concerns about the case.  International outrage over this case is understandable–the United States is the only western democracy that uses the death penalty.  It’s a key ingredient of what Sarah Palin calls “that American exceptionalism”.  (more…)