Wednesday, July 06, 2005

1997

72.Alabama...Convicted 1976
Bo Cochran was convicted in 1982 of the murder of a Stephen Ganey, the assistant manger of a grocery store. Upon his conviction, Cochran told the judge, "I did not kill Mr. Ganey. . . . When will I get justice in the courtroom?" The 1982 trial was Cochran's third trial. His first trial ended in a mistrial, and the second trial, which resulted in a conviction, was reversed and remanded for a new trial after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Alabama's death penalty statute. The 1982 conviction was also overturned. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld a District Court's decision to overturn the conviction, stating that "in [Cochran's] 1982 trial race was a determining factor in the prosecution's exercise of its peremptory challenges Cochran, who is black, was being tried for the murder of a white person, and the Eleventh Circuit found that during Cochran's previous trials, the district attorney's office that prosecuted his case had used an informal practice in peremptory challenges of striking black jurors based on their race. The Eleventh Circuit ordered a new trial for Cochran in 1995. Cochran was retried in 1997 and acquitted by the jury not only of capital murder but also of all lesser included offenses. At re-trial, defense attorney Richard Jaffe pointed out to jurors that there were no eyewitnesses to the murder and that it would have been impossible for Cochran to move the victim's body under a trailer in a nearby mobile home park while being chased by police.

71.Alabama...Convicted 1992
Padgett was convicted of murdering his estranged wife in 1990 and was sentenced to death. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction in 1995. In October 1997, Padgett was acquitted of all charges at a retrial. There was some evidence presented that another woman had committed the crime. Padgett's brothers, children and other relatives burst into tears when the foreman read the not guilty verdict.

70.Florida...Convicted 1991
Hayes was convicted of the rape and murder of a co-worker based partly on faulty DNA evidence. The Florida Supreme Court threw out Hayes's conviction and the DNA evidence in 1995. The victim had been found clutching hairs probably from her assailant. The hairs were from a white man, whereas Hayes is black. Hayes was acquitted at a retrial in July 1997.

69.Washington...Convicted 1985
On March 2, 1994, U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan overturned Harris' conviction and vacated his sentence of death for the 1984 murder of Jimmy Turner on the basis that his original trial lawyer had been incompetent. Harris's attorney interviewed only 3 of the 32 witnesses listed in police reports and spent less than 2 hours consulting with Harris before trial. Harris's co-defendant was acquitted. Bryan ordered Harris released from custody if not brought to a speedy retrial. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision on September 12, 1995. The prosecution decided not to retry Harris but tried to have him confined as insane. (They had previously argued that he was competent to stand trial.) On July 16, 1997, a jury decided that Harris should not be imprisoned at Western State Hospital. Harris maintains his innocence and says he was framed.

68.Texas...Convicted 1982
Guerra was sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer in Houston. Federal District Judge Kenneth Hoyt ruled on Nov. 15, 1994 that Guerra should either be retried in 30 days or released, stating that the actions of the police and prosecutors in this case were "outrageous," "intentional" and "done in bad faith." He further said that their misconduct "was designed and calculated to obtain . . . another 'notch in their guns.'" The U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously upheld Judge Hoyt’s ruling. Although Guerra was granted a new trial, Houston District Attorney Johnny Holmes dropped charges on April 16, 1997 instead. Guerra returned to his native Mexico.

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