Wednesday, July 06, 2005

1996

66.Illinois...Convicted 1990

Lawson was convicted of killing Terrence Jones in a family dispute. He was tried three times. The first trial resulted in a conviction and death sentence, but that conviction was overturned in part because Lawson's public defender had been an assistant State's Attorney when Lawson was arrested. The second trial resulted in a hung jury, reportedly 11-1 for acquittal. Nevertheless, the prosecutors tried Lawson again and again sought the death penalty. This last trial produced an acquittal and Lawson was freed on December 12, 1996. On August 1, 2002, Illinois Governor George Ryan issued a pardon to Lawson based on innocence. 67. David Wayne Grannis Arizona Convicted 1991 Charges Dismissed 1996 On November 6, 1996, Pima County, Arizona, Superior Court Judge Bernardo Valesco dismissed the murder charges against David Wayne Grannis, and he was freed. Grannis was sentenced to death in 1991 for first-degree murder, but his conviction was overturned and remanded for a new trial in July 1995 by the Supreme Court of Arizona. At trial, Grannis testified that he and his co-defendant, Daniel Webster were hitchhiking and were picked up by the victim, Richard Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe offered the men a place to stay. Although the state argued that Grannis and Webster killed Sutcliffe in the course of robbing him or burglarizing his home, Grannis testified that he did not know Sutcliffe was dead until he was arrested.Grannis testified that Sutcliffe, who became aggressive, sexually propositioned him. Grannis stated that his screams awakened Webster, who killed Sutcliffe after Grannis ran out of the house. At trial, Webster's friend, Eva Marie Lopez, stated that she "overheard Webster bragging to [her cousin] Baker about committing a murder. In addition, she testified that she heard Webster tell Baker that he (Webster) killed someone and that he liked the feeling it gave him." At trial, the state offered into evidence photos depicting homosexual activity that were found in Grannis' room at the time of his arrest. In overturning the conviction, the Arizona Supreme Court held that the photos were "marginally relevant" and that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting them. The Court stated that the probative value of the photos was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. "The jurors' verdict may well have been improperly influenced by their revulsion and not entirely based on a belief that the state proved the elements of the crime." Although Webster was again convicted for Sutcliffe's murder, the charges against Grannis were dismissed at retrial because of insufficient evidence.

65.California...Convicted 1982

The California Supreme Court ruled in June, 1996 that Jones should have a new trial because he was not adequately defended at his original trial for the murder of Carolyn Grayson in 1981 (In re Troy Lee Jones on Habeas Corpus, 917 P.2d 1175 (1996)). The Court found that the defense attorney failed to conduct an adequate pretrial investigation, speak with possible witnesses, obtain a relevant police report, or seek pretrial investigative funds. Moreover, the attorney elicited damaging testimony against his own client during cross-examination of a witness. The prosecution announced that it was dropping all charges against Jones in November 1996, after he had been on death row for 14 years.

64.Illinois...Convicted 1993

Gauger was convicted of killing his parents in April 1993. In September 1994, the trial court judge reduced Gauger's sentence to life imprisonment. In March 1996, the U.S. District Court overturned his conviction, ruling that authorities never had probable cause to even arrest Gauger or to subject him to 21 hours of intensive questioning. He was released in October 1996 by the same judge that had sentenced him to die by lethal injection. The prosecution did not challenge his release.

63.Nevada...Convicted 1982

Miranda was released in September 1996 after the prosecution declined to retry him following the reversal of his conviction. Miranda had maintained his innocence through his 14 years on death row. He originally came to the U.S. from Cuba during the Mariel boatlift. Prosecutors originally offered him a plea bargain whereby he would serve as little as 10 years in prison, but he refused because he was innocent. One day after being released from death row with only the clothes on his back and a few belongings, the Immigration Service incarcerated him. He was subsequently released pending a deportation hearing. At trial, an attorney with one year’s experience who had inherited the case when his colleague died had represented Miranda. In overturning his conviction, Clark County Senior District Judge Norman Robison wrote: "The lack of pretrial preparation by trial counsel . . . cannot be justified."

62.Illinois...Convicted 1979

Williams was convicted, along with three others (including Verneal Jimerson, above), for the murder of a young couple in 1978. After spending 18 years in prison, Williams was released on June 14, 1996 because new evidence pointed to the fact that all four men were wrongly convicted. Three journalism students did much of the investigative work, which led to the defendants’ release. Recent DNA tests indicate that none of the four men were involved in the crime, and another man has confessed to the murder. Charges against Williams, and two others who received lesser sentences in the same case, were dropped on July 2, 1996. Cook County State's Attorney Jack O'Malley apologized to the four wrongly convicted defendants, including Verneal Jimerson, who had also been on death row.

61. Illinois...Convicted 1985

Jimerson was sentenced to death in 1985 for a murder, which occurred in 1978. The chief witness against him was Paula Gray, who has an IQ of 57. In her original story to the police, she did not mention Jimerson. Then she added his name to her account, along with three other names, including Dennis Williams. She later recanted her entire testimony, saying the police had forced her to lie. The original charges against Jimerson were dismissed, but they were resurrected seven years later when the police offered to drop some charges against Gray if she would implicate Jimerson. Gray's 50-year sentence was converted to 2 years probation. In 1995, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously reversed Jimerson's conviction, because
Gray had been allowed to testify falsely about her bargain. Jimerson was released on bond in early 1996, and charges against him were subsequently dropped.

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