Wednesday, July 06, 2005

2000

91.California...Convicted 1983
Morris was convicted in 1983 and sentenced to death. The California Supreme Court vacated his death sentence in 1988. Although the court did not overturn his conviction, it later ordered an evidentiary hearing when the state's chief witness against Morris issued a deathbed recantation. After the evidentiary hearing, the Los Angeles County Superior Court granted Morris a new trial. Prosecutors decided not to retry the case and Morris was freed in 2000. At his initial trial, Morris was represented by Ronald Slick, who was criticized in 2001 for giving prosecutors confidential documents to help them keep a former client on death row. Morris's chief accuser was Joe West. West implicated Morris after being arrested while on parole. "Joe West testified on direct examination by the prosecutor that his motive for cooperating with the prosecution was a quarrel with defendant which resulted in his attempt on defendant's life..." According to the California Supreme Court, "no motive or explanation for the murder was disclosed at trial other than the statement attributed to defendant by Joe West" that Morris wanted to kill someone. The prosecutor in the case, Arthur Jean, Jr., now a L.A. Country Superior Court Judge, withheld from the defense that West was given special treatment in light of his testimony. The California Supreme Court noted that Jean had written two pretrial letters on West's behalf, asking a fellow prosecutor and the parole board to grant West leniency for other crimes to reward his testimony against Morris. The California Supreme Court held that the prosecutor's failure to disclose these actions violated Morris's due process rights. The court added, "The nondisclosure was compounded, moreover, by the district attorney's affirmative representation to the jury that West had not received any benefits in return for his testimony. Jean told jurors in the case that "[There] is no evidence, not a shred, and you would have it if it existed, if Mr. West got any benefit from this, that is, in the handling of his criminal case." West later confessed that he fabricated the entire case against Morris. "The testimony I gave against Oscar Morris...in 1978 was a lie," said West in a 1997 sworn declaration a few weeks before his death. (Note: Morris was originally charged with robbery and murder. The California Supreme Court in its 1988 ruling reversed the robbery charge when the court overturned his sentence.)92. Peter Limone Massachusetts Convicted 1968 Charges Dismissed 2001 Thirty -three years after being convicted and sentenced to death for a 1965 murder, Peter Limone's conviction has been overturned and the case against him officially dropped. The move came as a result of a Justice Department task force's discovery of compelling new evidence that Limone and his co-defendants Joseph Salvati, Henry Tamelo, and Louis Greco were actually innocent of the murder of Edward Deegan.In 1968, all four were convicted and Limone was sentenced to die in Massachusetts' electric chair, but was spared in 1974 when Massachusetts abolished the death penalty and his sentence was commuted to life in prison. Salvati, who was released from prison in 1997 when the governor commuted his sentence, received word from prosecutors that they were dropping the case against him as well. Tamelo and Greco both died in prison. At trial, the main witness against the four men was Joseph Barboza, a hit man cooperating with prosecutors, who later admitted that he had fabricated much of his testimony. The recently revealed FBI documents show that informants had told the FBI before the murder that Deegan would soon be killed and by whom, and a memorandum after the crime listed the men involved. Neither list included Limone, Salvati, Tamelo or Greco

90.
Louisiana...Convicted 1987
89
.
Louisiana...Convicted 1987
After spending 13 years on death row, Michael Graham was released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola on December 28, 2000 after the Louisiana Attorney General dismissed charges against him and his co-defendant Albert Burrell. Burrell was released on January 3, 2001. Graham and Burrell were sentenced to death in 1987 for the murder of an elderly couple. Earlier this year, a judge threw out their convictions because of a lack of physical evidence and suspect witness testimony used at trial. Prosecutor Dan Grady acknowledged that the case was weak and "should never have been brought to [the] grand jury." During the trial,
prosecutors withheld key information from the defense, failed to produce any physical evidence, and relied only on witness testimony, which has since been discredited. Dismissing the charges, the Attorney General's office cited a "total lack of credible evidence" and stated "prosecutors would deem it a breach of ethics to proceed to trial." Recent DNA tests proved that blood found at the victims' home did not belong to Burrell or Graham. The trial attorneys appointed to defend Burrell were later disbarred for other reasons.

88.
Florida...Convicted 1985
Frank Lee Smith, who had been convicted of a 1985 rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl, and who died of cancer in January 2000 while still on death row, was cleared of these charges by DNA testing, according to an aide to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. After the trial, the chief eyewitness recanted her testimony. Nevertheless, Smith was scheduled for execution in 1990, but received a stay. Prosecutor Carolyn McCann was told by the FBI lab, which conducted the DNA, tests that: "He has been excluded. He didn't do it." Another man, who is currently in a psychiatric facility, is now the main suspect.

87.Pennsylvania...Convicted 1994
On October 20, 2000, William Nieves was freed from death row when a Philadelphia jury acquitted him of the 1992 murder of Eric McAiley. Nieves was convicted of the murder in 1994, but maintained his innocence. In 1997, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that Nieves was inadequately represented at his first trial and granted him a new trial. "William Nieves' first trial was not presented in the way it should have been presented, and that's wrong when someone is being sentenced to death," said Nieves' new attorney, former prosecutor John McMahon, Jr. At the re-trial, McMahon pointed out inconsistencies in the key witness's identification of the killer.

86.Virginia...Conviction 1984
Earl Washington suffers from mental retardation. After he was arrested on another charge in 1983, police convinced him to make a statement concerning the rape and murder of a woman in Culpeper in 1982. He later recanted that statement. Subsequent DNA tests confirmed that Washington did not rape the victim, who had lived long enough to state that there was only one perpetrator of the crime. The DNA results combined with the victim's statement all but exonerated Washington. Shortly before leaving office in 1994, Governor Wilder commuted Washington's sentence to life with the possibility of parole. In 2000, additional DNA tests were ordered and the results again excluded Washington as the rapist. In October 2000, Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore granted Earl Washington an absolute pardon.

85.Florida...Convicted 1993
Joseph Nahume Green was acquitted on March 16, 2000 of the murder of Judith Miscally. Circuit Judge Robert P. Cates entered a not guilty verdict for Green, citing the lack of any witnesses or evidence tying Green to the murder. Green, who has always maintained his innocence, was convicted largely upon the testimony of the states only eyewitness, Lonnie Thompson. In 1996, Green Is conviction was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court, which held that Thompson’s testimony was often inconsistent and contradictory, and that he not been fit to testify during Green's trial.

84.
Missouri...Convicted 1987
Clemmons was sentenced to death for a 1985 murder, which occurred in a Missouri prison. After losing all his appeals in state court and his initial appeal in federal court, Clemmons had called his mother to make his funeral plans. But new attorneys convinced a federal appeals court to reverse themselves and grant a new trial, partly because of issues and evidence that Clemmons had filed himself. When all the new evidence was presented at re-trial, the jury acquitted him in 3 hours on February 18, 2000. Clemmons remains incarcerated on other charges, which he is also challenging.

83.Illinois...Convicted 1993
Steve Manning became the 13th inmate exonerated in Illinois, when prosecutors announced that they are dropping charges and no longer plan to retry Manning for the 1990 slaying of trucking company owner Jimmy Pellegrino. Manning was convicted and sentenced to death on the word of informant Tommy Dye, who testified that Manning twice confessed to him when they shared a jail cell. However, secret tape recordings of the two men's conversations, made at the request of the FBI, revealed no such confession, and Manning vehemently denied confessing. In exchange for his testimony, Dye received an 8-year reduction on his prison sentence on theft and firearms charges. Manning remains in prison on unrelated charges.
Despite being exonerated in Illinois, Manning was being held in Missouri on a kidnapping conviction. On February 26, 2004, Manning was also cleared of those charges and walked out of prison a free man. New investigations revealed that the informant who testified against Manning had received special treatment while in prison. A federal appeals court had ordered a new trial on the kidnapping charges in November of 2002, but prosecutors decided instead to drop all charges. Manning was the 13th person exonerated in Illinois and this led Governor George Ryan to declare a moratorium on executions as exonerations exceeded executions
.

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