Why Prisoner Proven Innocent Can't Be Released

Discussion in 'Law & Justice' started by kazenatsu, Aug 24, 2019.

  1. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Donor

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    Why Prisoner Proven Innocent Can't Be Released

    A man was convicted of murder based on the testimony of several witnesses and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

    However, after the conviction the testimony of the witnesses began to unravel.

    Not long after the conviction, one of the witnesses admitted that she had not told the truth in court about whether she had received a reward for coming forward and giving evidence.

    A new trial was set, but the man was now offered a plea deal by the state. He could probably get out of prison in 5 years if he accepted the plea deal. His lawyer told him he should take it. But he didn't accept the plea deal.

    He was convicted again.

    Years later, the prisoner got some help from an outside organization, trying to find evidence that might show the prisoner was innocent. They discovered that the main witness of the trial would not have been able to clearly see what happened at night, all she would have been able to see at that distance from inside her window were shadowy silhouettes. There was no way the witness could have actually been sure the suspect was one of the faces she saw.

    20 years after the crime, a new judge granted an evidentiary hearing. The three witnesses came forward again, and this time two of them backed down. A forensic visual scientist testified that there was no way any of the three witnesses could have clearly been able to make out a face from where they were at the time.

    However, there would be no retrial. While a new judge said that if the new evidence had been presented at the first trial it would be unlikely the man would have been convicted, nevertheless since there was no new evidence presented which incontrovertibly showed innocence, the man was not entitled to a new trial.

    It was now 28 years after the crime. One of the witnesses had died, and another witness now admits that she didn't get a clear look at the suspect, and says she felt pressure from the police to say it was the man.

    They found another witness who was never called to the trial who says she is sure it is not the same man.

    Lastly, the alleged jailhouse informant who had testified against the man had originally been looking at a 25 year sentence but only ended up serving one year in prison after providing his testimony at trial, raising suspicions about whether the prosecutor had taken it easy on him during the prosecution in exchange for a false testimony to make sure the other man got convicted.


    This is also demonstrates how unreliable witnesses can be in some situations.
    You'd think if multiple witnesses say they saw a man at the crime scene, it would prove without any doubt the man had actually been there, but as you can gather from this story, that is not necessarily the case.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
  2. Chester_Murphy

    Chester_Murphy Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Why? Why does this happen?
     
  3. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Donor

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    The short answer... Because sometimes prosecutors want to secure a conviction, and will sometimes resort to unethical tactics to make that happen. The rationale is, if you're 100% sure the defendant is guilty, what's wrong with stacking some extra fake evidence against them, to make sure they go to prison? Happens a lot more commonly than people think.
    Only sometimes the police and prosecutors turn out to be wrong, and what they did ends up contributing to the situation that resulted in an innocent man being convicted.

    If you're a witness and you see a murder take place, are you going to tell the jury "There's an 80% chance that was the man I saw" ? No, a lot of times you're going to say "That is the man I saw, I'm sure of it", because you don't want a murderer to get off, and you want to make sure the jury sends him to prison.

    Sometimes additional evidence can be found after the trial, which makes the evidence that had already been presented at the trial look much weaker.

    During first trial:
    1 witness providing an alibi who said he couldn't have done it
    3 witnesses who said he was there and they were sure it was him
    1 person who said the man made a confession to him that he did it in prison

    Many years later:
    1 witness providing an alibi
    1 new witness who had been there but said she was sure he was not the man she saw, she had originally given her report to police, but had never testified at the trial, the defendant didn't know about her then
    1 of the original 3 witnesses had died
    1 of original 3 witnesses had lied in court and had actually been incentivized by reward money, which would have been reason for her to say she was sure she saw the man, when she wasn't
    1 of original witnesses says she had felt pressure by the police to identify the man, even though she wasn't actually sure
    New evidence suggesting the prisoner who testified in the first trial may have been incentivized to give false testimony to get a much more lenient prison sentence
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
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  4. modernpaladin

    modernpaladin Well-Known Member

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    Everyone involved in providing false witness like this are all dispicable.
     
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  5. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Donor

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    The police thought he did it, because there were 3 witnesses at the time all saying they saw him there.

    Probably explains why they didn't bother telling the defendant about the fourth witness, and why a deal was made with one of the other prisoners to provide false testimony about an alleged confession.

    I've seen several documentaries about innocent men wrongly convicted of murder, and noticed one of the things many of these stories have in common is a witness alleging the suspect confessed to the murder while in prison.
    They thought the suspect was the one who committed the murders, so someone wanted to make sure they got convicted.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
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  6. Imnotreallyhere

    Imnotreallyhere Well-Known Member

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    They're not necessarily providing false witness. Their testimony is manipulated by both sides. A trial is not about the truth, it is a contest.
     
  7. modernpaladin

    modernpaladin Well-Known Member

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    Either you're sure you saw something or you're not.
     
  8. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Donor

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    They weren't sure that it was him they saw, but they said they were.
    One of the witnesses because she wanted to get reward money.
    One of the witnesses because she felt pressure from the police, they really needed her to be sure so they could put the murderer behind bars.
    The other witness, we can't even really be sure because he died after all those years. (Though he backed down and said maybe he wasn't so sure after all, before he died)

    There could possibly be some other unknown motive, since all three witnesses and the suspect all knew each other. That seems like it could be more than just a coincidence, though I'm not sure exactly what they would have had to gain by sending him to prison.

    Maybe he just vaguely resembled the man they saw that night, but they couldn't get a good look at him.

    Seems like two of the witnesses backed down after being confronted by the forensic visual scientist who told them there was no way they could have gotten a good view of the face. They weren't so sure of what they had seen after all.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2019
  9. Mr_Truth

    Mr_Truth Well-Known Member

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    Yup. Reminds me of those crooked cops in the Central Park Five case. Those cops should all be in jail for the rest of their lives.
     
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  10. Imnotreallyhere

    Imnotreallyhere Well-Known Member

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    You have obviously never been to a trial. The lawyers never ask a question when they don't know the answer and they'lll twist the words to say what they want.
     
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  11. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Donor

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    Not so much. The police in this case just "put pressure" on that one witness to try to get her to draw a connection between the man she saw that night and the picture of the man she knew. Probably bad conduct and not the most ethical, but it wasn't outright crookedness.
    We also don't know who it was that made the deal with that prisoner turned witness. It could have been the prosecutor who was crooked. We don't know, but the evidence certainly seemed to indicate something fishy was going on.

    I also disagree with you about the Central Park Five case, I don't feel that story is really directly relevant here.
    They were basically thugs going out beating people up, and the responsibility for the rape/murder was penned on all of them, since it happened at the same time and circumstances indicated it was probably one (or more) of those people who were taking part in the roaming gangs that were attacking people.
    However, I don't want this thread to get derailed, so I'm not going to go into further discussion with you about that case here.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
  12. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Donor

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    Rick Magnis stands on Puget Street in West Dallas where a businessman was found murdered 30 years ago.

    It's not the first time Magnis visited this spot, looking for glimpses of what happened the night Jeffrey Young was slain. Returning to the place where witnesses saw the killer, a man they would later tell police was their neighbor, Ben Spencer.

    Magnis ruled that Spencer was wrongly convicted in Young's killing. But the highest criminal court in Texas disagreed with his legal logic. Spencer remains in prison, serving a life sentence.

    "The justice system failed in this case, and that weighs on me," said Magnis, speaking publicly about the case for the first time. He retired in May on his 60th birthday and will no longer oversee Spencer’s case if new evidence brings it back to court.

    "It's entirely possible I could have done it, and there's really no more evidence convicting him than there would be to convict me — other than he was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

    Magnis read that in March 1987, Young and his steel gray BMW were carjacked from where he worked as a clothing firm employee near Inwood Road. His body was found badly beaten on Puget Street. Magnis was intrigued by experts who questioned the eyewitness identifications because of distance and a lack of light.

    Three people who knew Spencer, then 19, identified him and another man, Robert Mitchell, with Young’s car in an alley behind Puget Street. It was a moonless night and the witnesses were from 100 to more than 200 feet away. The car was illuminated by a nearby streetlight and back porch light.​

    https://www.dallasnews.com/news/cou...an-s-innocence-30-years-after-deadly-robbery/

    You know what else is interesting?

    Spencer, who had a previous conviction for stealing a car, was arrested within days of the murder, as was Mitchell. Both men were convicted in the deadly robbery. Mitchell was paroled in 2003 and died of a heart attack a few months later. Mitchell’s lawyer continues to say both men were innocent.
    So the other alleged accomplice in the murder, besides from Spencer, was already released from prison, because apparently he took the plea bargain and got a lesser prison sentence.
    Demonstrates the difference a plea bargain can make.
    Spencer himself had been offered a 5 year plea bargain by the prosecutor, but because he didn't take it, he's still in prison.

    Spencer hasn't been free for more than 30 years. He spends his days behind bars at the Coffield Unit of the Texas prison system in East Texas.​
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
  13. kazenatsu

    kazenatsu Well-Known Member Donor

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    The article provides a timeline for the case:

    March 1987: Jeffrey Young is killed after being robbed outside his West Dallas office. Ben Spencer and Robert Mitchell are arrested.

    October 1987: Spencer is sentenced to 35 years after being convicted of murder. His conviction is soon overturned because a witness, Gladys Oliver, did not disclose that she received reward money.

    March 1988: Spencer is sentenced to life at his second trial after being convicted of aggravated robbery.

    1990: Spencer first writes Centurion Ministries, a nonprofit group that investigates potential wrongful convictions.

    2000: Centurion begins investigating the Spencer cases. Resources previously prevented it from doing so.

    2003: Mitchell is paroled. He dies of a heart attack four months later.

    July 2007: State District Judge Rick Magnis holds a hearing about claims in Spencer's case.

    March 2008: Magnis rules "actual innocence" in Spencer's case.

    April 2011: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejects Magnis' recommendation that Spencer be declared innocent.

    December 2013: Spencer applies for a pardon, which is denied. He is also denied parole multiple times, including this year.

    2018: Spencer is eligible for parole again.
    The latest news is that the next chance for a parole hearing has been extended to 2020.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
  14. Xenamnes

    Xenamnes Well-Known Member

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    Such is not going to change, so long as prosecuting attorneys continue to possess absolute immunity with regard to their conduct. The united state supreme court has held that prosecutors cannot be held accountable for their actions, regardless of how dishonest or underhanded their conduct may be. No amount of malicious prosecution or false charges can be used against them, even when it is proven the defendants were actually innocent and bullied into admitting guilt that was not their own. In the united state system of justice, convictions are more important than innocence or even the truth.
     
  15. blanco

    blanco Active Member

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    The fact is reasonable doubt is raised and is substantive. Lawyers play to the 12 jury members. I saw a Muslim woman - witness - take the oath using the Bible. (In UK courts it matters not which book or no book -affirm) when questioned the defence lawyer asked her if she was a Muslim and was a devout Muslim. She said yes of course. He then pointed out she swore on the Bible?? That was enough for the jury... the Barrister had planted the seed of doubt in her as an honest person. My point is that the tiniest significant sign, real or unreal as intent, is enough.
    I find this [post question ver interesting and have wondered about this topic many times.
     

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