The Francisco De Aragon Case: A Wrongful Conviction in Florida

Francisco De Aragon

Francisco “Fran” De Aragon, age twenty-six was working as a swim instructor at the Deerfield Beach Aquatic Center in 2015 when his world was turned upside down. May 20th started out as a normal day, and he was looking forward to taking a short vacation with his wife, Savannah to visit family. Instead, a deputy arrived at his place of employment and detained him with no explanation. There he sat for hours until police obtained probable cause to arrest him. Then he was transferred to the police station, handcuffs and leg restraints were placed on him and he was interrogated.

He was shocked when police informed him that he had been accused of inappropriately touching two six-year-old girls during their swim lessons the prior day. He was outraged and vehemently denied the accusations. He informed the detective that he had never been accused of anything of this nature and was a law abiding citizen with nothing more than a speeding ticket on his record. Detective Gittens lied and told him that he had DNA evidence to support the allegations. De Aragon maintained his position that he had never inappropriately touched a child and agreed to submit a DNA specimen. He did not ask for an attorney at any time during the interview.

He told the detective that he took his coaching and lifeguard responsibilities seriously. He was with the USA Swim Team where members are educated about the importance of avoiding any inappropriate contact. They are also subjected to frequent background checks. He had been working as an instructor/coach/lifeguard for the past ten years and had never received a single complaint. He’d worked with thousands of children.

The setting of the alleged abuse defies common sense. He and another instructor worked with entire classes of students who were transported to the facility from their schools. They would split the class in half so each instructor could work with approximately ten students at a time. As is typical with beginner swim lessons, the instructor would stand approximately five feet out and have the children take turns pushing off the wall and swimming toward them, often with the use of a kickboard. They would then be turned around and directed back to the wall. The entire class would be watching, and waiting for their turn. The teachers were close by, keeping an eye on the students. How could a child be abused in this setting with no one observing anything?

The Accusations:

The parents of six-year-old A. C. called the police the evening of May 19th and reported that their daughter had been inappropriately touched by a  swim coach that day. Officer Sobrino with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office responded and spoke first to the parents. They told the officer about the alleged inappropriate touching described by their daughter. The officer then spoke privately to A.C., and she told him she was in the pool and a man touched her private parts inside her bathing suit, but there was no penetration.

The next day, at a separate precinct, parents of six-year-old B.E. reported that their six-year-old daughter was inappropriately touched by a swim instructor. The same details were described — that he touched her private parts inside her swimsuit. No penetration had occurred. This report was taken by Investigator Preston, also with the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Note that B.E. attended a different school than A.C. This reduced the likelihood that the children knew each other and possibly made up the claim after discussing it at school, but it shouldn’t eliminate the need for a thorough investigation into these very serious allegations. Unfortunately, police immediately accepted the claims as fact, and confirmation bias was a factor in the children’s interviews.

It’s important to distinguish between an allegation of touching versus penetration as the latter results in a sexual battery charge, which carries a life sentence.

Deputy Gittens

Things happened very quickly . . . almost too quickly. Detective Keith Gittens with the Special Victim’s Unit was assigned to the case the morning of May 20th. He called A.C.’s mother at 10:17 a.m. and then her school teacher at 10:49, but the odd thing is that Officer Sobrino did not speak to Gittens, and did not type up his report until 11:15 p.m. that night . . . so how did Gittens obtain the family’s number and the name of the teacher? At a deposition months later he explained that he must have received a draft copy of Sobrino’s report.

Whatever the case, before he’d even conducted forensic interviews with the children, he contacted the pool where Francisco De Aragon was employed and determined exactly where he was at that time and then sent a deputy to detain him until he secured probable cause for his arrest. De Aragon was detained at 12:22, held at his work location until Gittens completed his interviews. He was arrested at 3:54 p.m.

Normally when young children make sexual abuse allegations, authorities consult with child psychologists and medical professionals to verify or rule out the claims. There are recommended guidelines for questioning children in the 2-7 age range. For example, open-ended questions are supposed to be asked. That didn’t happen in this case. Outside specialists were not consulted, and open-ended questions were not asked. It was later learned that Gittens had never received any formal training in this area.

A.C. was interviewed first. He asked her simple questions — could she count to 100, did she know her alphabet? He felt comfortable that she understood the difference between truths and lies, then he jumped right into the “good touch/bad touch” questions. He proceeded to draw a body and asked the child to name the anatomical parts. Then he asked her if anyone had ever done a bad touch on her privates.

A.C. Yeah.

Gittens: Who?

A.C. When I went to the pool I was trying to swim and I couldn’t and they touched my privates.

If the child had been coached to make the accusation against the swim coach, the detective just led her right to that. There was no open-ended question about her day, or school or the swim lesson . . . just directly to the inappropriate touch questions.

Gittens: What was the person doing with you?

A.C. He was trying to push me on the wall for I can swim. (English was her second language)

Gittens: Uh-huh.

A.C. And then he put his hand on my bathing suit and touched my private.

(note: I am skipping ahead and omitting some of the irrelevant sections to avoid being too lengthy).

Gittens: So while you were in the water with the man is when he touched your privates?

A.C. We were playing and then trying to swim, he was touching my bathing suit and then he went under his hand. And then he touched my privates.

It sounds like A.C. could have been coached by someone to say, “He put his hand under my bathing suit . . .” , but it didn’t quite come out right.

Gittens: Okay. Did he put his hand inside your bathing suit, or outside.

A.C. Inside.

Gittens: Okay, and he touched your privates or?

A.C. Yeah.

Gittens: Okay, when he touched your privates did he do anything with his hand?

A.C. He just touched it.

Gittens: Okay. Did he only touch it like this or did he do something else?

A.C. He was touching it like this because I was with my bathing suit and I was trying to swim. And then when I was trying to swim when I did it wrong he went under my bathing suit.

Gittens: Okay. When he touched your private did his hand move around or stay still?

A.C. He keep his hand still.

Gittens: Okay. Did his hand go inside your private or stay outside?

A.C. A little bit outside.

Gittens: Well, let me ask you . . . did the man’s finger go inside your private or something else?

A.C. Inside my private.

He kept asking her the same question until he received the answer he wanted. Clearly, the detective was manipulating the child to secure the harshest possible charge against De Aragon — sexual battery. Does the child even understand what the detective means? We already know that the officer who responded to the complaint reported that no penetration had occurred, so why was this detective pursuing this line of questioning when it was clear the child denied it in both interviews? Gittens kept at it, and she told him that the coach also put his hand inside the butt area of her swimsuit, but based on the questioning and the responses, it does not seem like the child understands what the detective is talking about.

Gittens: So did he touch your private, then your butt or . . . tell me. Tell me what happened.

A.C. First I was on the bus — and the person on the bus she was staying on the bus. And then I got started and when they tapped me on the head, I had to go this way with my friends. And then when we were doing things what I was saying. And then after that we were playing and kicking. We were playing red light and green light.

He attempts to refocus her but doesn’t seem to be successful.

Gittens: When the man was touching you, was he showing you how to swim?

A.C. Yeah. He was showing some other kids. And then — we were going, my other friends. They were on this side, and my other friends were on this side.

Gittens wrapped up the interview shortly after that, having secured his first sexual battery charge.  A.C. was unable to identify De Aragon in a photo line-up just after the interview.

Gittens interviewed B.E. next. She was crying hysterically as she entered the room, so he allowed her mother to stay for the interview. This interview is very important because the child told the detective that a boy from school touched her, and that a grownup had never touched her inappropriately.

Gittens: Has anyone ever touched you on your parts that they’re not supposed to touch?

B.E. Nods.

Gittens: Who touched you there?

B.E. Elijah.

Gittens: Huh?

B.E. Elijah.

Gittens: Elijah? Who is that?

B.E. Someone from my class.

Gittens: Somebody from your class touched you there named Elijah? Okay. A boy or a grownup?

B.E. A boy.

Gittens: A boy? Okay. Has anybody else touched you on your private? (B.E. shakes her head no) No? Okay. So, besides Elijah has any grownup touched you on your private there?

B.E. No.

At this point the detective should be considering the possibility that the child may have lied in the initial police report about the swim coach. Was it possible that it was the classmate, not the coach? Instead, he keeps pushing — even resorting to the use of a toilet paper roll and pen to simulate sexual penetration, in an effort to coax the child into admitting that penetration had occurred. He was determined to secure a second sexual battery charge.

Gittens: Besides mommy from bathing you there, has any grownup ever touched you there?

B.E. No.

Gittens: It’s okay. You can tell me. Mommy said it’s okay to tell me. Any grownup ever touch you there? Huh? Yes or no? You’re nodding yes?

B.E. (mumbling)

Gittens: I want to be sure I understand you. Okay? So, can you say yes or no? Which one?

B.E. I’m scared.

Gittens: Don’t be scared. No one’s going to hurt you. I promise.

B.E. Yes.

Gittens: So who was the grownup that touched you there?

B.E. I don’t know his name. Someone who works at the pool. And he did it to everybody that had on a bathing suit two-piece.

(skipping some of the dialogs)

Gittens: So, tell me about it. Tell me how the man touched you there.

B.E. I don’t remember.

Gittens: What were you doing at the time?

B.E. I was in the pool.

Gittens: You’re in the pool? Okay. Were you learning to swim? Yeah? And there were other kids there too? Okay. And were you by yourself with the man at the pool? No? Other kids were there? Were the other kids sitting on the wall? Yeah? Okay. So, then you went out when it was your turn? Okay. And was it then that he touched you there? Yeah? Okay. And you had on a two-piece bathing suit? Yeah? Okay. And he used his hand to touch you there? Yes or no?

B.E. Yeah.

Gittens: Did his fingers touch you there? Yeah? Okay. Was it inside your bathing suit or on the outside?

B.E. Inside.

Gittens: Inside? Okay. So, here we have a roll of toilet paper. Right? Right now where is the pen?

B.E. On the outside.

Gittens: On the outside? Okay, now where’s the pen?

B.E. On the inside.

Gittens: Were his fingers on the outside or did it go inside?

B.E. Inside.

Gittens assumed the child understood what he was referring to with this ridiculous pen demonstration, but I don’t believe it’s at all clear that she did . . . and it’s quite possible she interpreted the pen inside to mean inside the bathing suit. Remember that the police officer the night before reported that no penetration occurred.

Gittens then asked the child to pretend the pen is the coach’s finger, and show him how much of the pen went “inside.” The child points to a spot on the pen. That resulted in the second sexual battery charge. B.E. did identify De Aragon in a photo line-up, so this was enough for probable cause. De Aragon was immediately arrested and taken to the police station.

A third six-year-old girl, A.P. was interviewed the following day. She was in B.E.’s class, and it was established during later depositions that the two girls were friends and had discussed the touching. B.E. told her mother that the man touched A.P. too. B.E. then sent an email to A.P’s mother about this, and police were later contacted.

A.P.’s mother told police that her daughter was in the pool, then went to get a drink, and the lifeguard touched her . . . so this was very different than what the other girls had described. But Gittens didn’t ask A.P. anything consistent with her mother’s statement. He stuck with the same script . . . Did it occur while you were in the pool, etc? A.P. said she would scream if anyone touched her private parts . . . yet she didn’t scream at the pool that day. Gittens conducted the same toilet paper roll demo that worked well with B.E., but A.P. maintained that the pen remained outside the toilet paper roll — so no sexual battery charge this time.

B.E.’s mother also told police a contradictory story. She said that her daughter told her that the coach lined up all the girls wearing two-piece bathing suits and touched all of them. In fact, another lifeguard working that day described how she was the one who split the class in half for the lesson, and it was simply the first ten children who were sent to have their lesson with De Aragon. This apparently wasn’t a red flag to police that the stories weren’t matching up with what the children had allegedly described. Also, the mothers of B.E. and A.P. denied knowing each other, and denied that their girls had ever been to each other’s homes, even though the children said that they had.

The investigation was over at the time of De Aragon’s arrest. Gittens never attempted to determine whether A.P. and B.E. may have jointly planned to falsely accuse their instructor. He did not look into B.E.’s classmate Elijah, despite the fact that she’d named him as the person who did the inappropriate touching during her police interview. Shouldn’t he have considered the possibility that she (and A.P.) may have implicated De Aragon to protect Elijah? Someone that they would see at school each day? He did not question the other classmates to see if they’d observed anything at the pool that day.

Since A.P. and B.E. had been to each other’s homes, the parents may have been friends too, and there may have been collusion to frame De Aragon by coaching the children. Gittens never considered the possibility, or that the parents of these two girls may have known the parents of A.C., the third girl who attended a different school. A.C.’s swim lesson was actually scheduled right before the other girls’ lesson, so it’s quite possible the children knew each other from that, but Gittens never asked.

Gittens also failed to consider the possibility that the parents may have had had financial motives to make false claims. He never arranged for the children to be medically examined, did not collect their bathing suits for DNA, and did not inquire if the pool facility had cameras that may have captured the events of that day. In fact, no investigation took place at all, and the parents were actually brought in to make sworn statements after the arrest.

A spokesman with the Broward Sheriff’s Office informed the public about the arrest on the local news. He stated that he believed this man to be a predator, and asked the public to come forward if they had any information. No one ever came forward.

Detective Gittens was demoted from Detective of the Special Victim’s Unit to Deputy a few months after this incident. In his deposition, he stated that it was due to personal reasons. During a pre-trial hearsay hearing a judge was curious about the demotion and even asked the prosecutor if there was a reason why the detective was no longer a detective with the the SVU. He wondered if it was related to his interview technique. He referenced the end of one of the girl’s interviews in which the detective told the child that he believed her.

“It’s fundamentally flawed for him to say at the end we believe you. It’s fundamentally flawed for him to say at the end of the interview for him to tell the child he won’t do this to anyone else. There’s a huge problem with that because you are now making sure the child is now married to her statement and she has to stand by that statement now. She can never recant because she’s now the hero. They believe her and he’s the monster because of her testimony.”

Is it possible Gittens was demoted because he was involved in a set-up? He moved very quickly and did not conduct a proper investigation. Did he have something to gain?

Depositions

Fifteen months after the accusations were made, De Aragon’s private attorney, Scott Janowitz deposed the parents, the children, the detective, and the teachers.

A.C. was very quick to mention the touching. It seemed obvious she had been coached. Janowitz did a poor job questioning the witnesses, failing to ask open questions much like the detective.

Q. When you got into the pool, where did he first touch you?

A. In my private part.

This is clearly inconsistent with the earlier story — that she was touched while he was helping her swim.

Q. When you first got into the pool, he immediately touched your private part or did he touch some other part of your body?

A. No. First he keep pushing me and pushing me. And then until he just touched my private part. And then we were done I went home. And then, like in the night time I tell my mom, and then my dad came, and then my dad called the police.

A.C. did not seem to understand any questions about penetration.

B.E. was reluctant to discuss this again.

Q. Do you remember a day in which the swim instructor touched you? (Again, the attorney’s line of questioning was exactly like Gittens’)

A. No.

Q. Okay. Do you remember a time where the swim teacher put his hands inside your bathing suit?

A. No.

Then Janowitz began asking her about private parts and at that point she responded “yes” when asked about the touching. B.E. stated clearly that his hands remained outside her private part, thus no penetration. Stupidly, Janowitz was trying to encourage her to admit to the penetration, and even brought up the toilet paper roll demonstration. He asked her if she knew a boy named Elijah, and she said she did not.

Incentives to lie

Sometimes children are coached to lie about sexual abuse. Unfortunately, it’s common in divorce and child custody cases. One parent will accuse the other of sexually abusing the children to win full custody. Sometimes teachers, daycare workers, relatives, and youth counselors are falsely accused. The Tonya Craft case is well known — a kindergarten teacher falsely accused of sexually abusing three girls. A possible motive was that one of the mothers was upset that Craft didn’t believe her child was ready for first grade. A vendetta can be the incentive, and children can be coached. Craft had a strong defense team and was ultimately acquitted, but many aren’t so lucky. These cases are difficult because the physical proof isn’t needed to win a conviction. The child’s story is often enough.

One of the other incentives is financial. A false allegation can result in a massive lawsuit. In fact, at a hearsay hearing before trial, Judge Bailey was considering any possible motives for the children to have made false claims, and one of the things he referenced was civil lawsuits.

“I don’t find any motive to fabricate, as far as some of these cases end up in lawsuits, and civil actions, and so on. I don’t find anything of that nature here. It may be a question of whether because there’s a discussion at the school going on, that there’s no motive to fabricate.”

The judge stated that he didn’t see anything of that nature, however, there had been a pre-suit filing just five weeks after the alleged incidents. It was filed against the schools and the City of Deerfield Beach by A.C.’s and B.E.’s mothers, yet De Aragon’s attorney, Scott Janowitz did not bring it to the court’s attention. In fact, at trial, both women denied that they’d gone to the attorney together which was odd since both their names were on the documents. During De Aragon’s trial in May 2017, one of the mothers was asked if she was planning to pursue a civil lawsuit. She stated that she had no plans to do so.

In June 2017, De Aragon was convicted of capital sexual battery, three counts of lewd and lascivious acts and one count of battery. The first charge carries an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The children all testified, yet much like the questioning by police and during the depositions, claims of actual penetration were unclear, despite lots of coaxing. There’s a hearsay exception in cases like this, with children under the age of twelve, so all of the mothers were able to testify about what the children allegedly told them about the touching. All three women cried on the stand, even though they did not cry during any of their interviews or depositions. And this was two years later.

It didn’t matter that the sexual battery charge was never confirmed through testimony, because the jury was shown the taped interviews of the children and the responses to the toilet paper roll demonstrations were accepted as the children having admitted to there being penetration. The defense case centered around witnesses who were at the pool that day. Many lifeguards and teachers testified that they did not witness anything unusual, and that none of the children reported being touched inappropriately. At the sentencing hearing, De Aragon’s family testified about his character and how he’d been swimming since he was very young, and loved teaching people of all ages how to swim. Both of his parents were coaches as well. The family is obviously devastated.

In November 2017 a civil suit was filed by all three families against the school, the City of Deerfield Beach, and Francisco De Aragon. A quick look at their public records revealed that one of the fathers is currently being sued for $170,000 in a lawsuit that was initiated close to the time of the accusations against De Aragon. Another father was arrested in 2018 for domestic violence and drugs. One of the mothers has a history of foreclosures. Maybe police should have investigated the families. The lawsuit could potentially yield a multi-million dollar award. Could this have been an incentive for what appears to be obvious false allegations? Did the families conspire to put an innocent man in prison for life for money? It certainly seems possible.

As an advocate for the wrongfully convicted, I became interested in this case after Francisco’s wife, Savannah posted about it on a social media site. I read the articles, and had to learn more. She provided me with the case files, and I’ve spent many hours reading through everything. I am convinced he is innocent because it defies common sense that any abuse could have occurred unnoticed in a public pool with dozens of people around. I will do what I can to raise awareness to this case, and hopefully one day he will be cleared of these charges.

You can listen to an exclusive jailhouse interview by WFORTV that occurred shortly after the conviction. De Aragon has appealed his conviction, but things seem to be moving rather slowly. I will post updates on this site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jason Young Case: The Jewelry Box

On November 3, 2006 Meredith Fisher dialed 911 to report that she had just found her sister lying on the floor and that she believed she was dead. Paramedics arrived and confirmed the death. Her husband, Jason  who was out of town on a business trip would be convicted of the murder in 2012 with no evidence linking him to the murder.

Investigators observed that two of the three drawers were missing from a jewelry box.  Why would the killer(s) take the drawers? Why not simply take the valuables? Michelle’s diamond wedding ring set was removed from her finger. Also, Young’s family noticed that expensive jewelry was missing, while the costume jewelry was left behind.

While researching this case in an effort to find new evidence that could prove Jason’s innocence, I came across an evidence sheet in which Detective Spivey obtained the jewelry box from Meredith Fisher following the first trial. I was surprised because I assumed the item would have been stored as evidence. However, I learned from Jason’s family that police swabbed the box for DNA and placed it back in the home. It was there when the house was released following the two week investigation.

Jason never entered the home again after leaving for his business trip the evening of November 2. He knew it would be too painful to ever go back there. He put it up for sale and he and Cassidy moved in with family. When the house finally sold, Jason’s family packed everything up and put most of  the belongings into  a rented storage facility nearby. The box would have been stored there, though the Youngs didn’t give it much thought. They were all coping with a lot, as there were online vigilante attackers harassing them, and it seemed like investigators were focused solely on Jason — despite the fact that he was verified checking into a hotel one-hundred and seventy miles away the night/morning that Michelle was murdered and no evidence pointed toward Jason.

Meredith likely took possession of the box in the spring of 2009 — shortly after Judge Stephens issued a default judgment against Jason in a civil wrongful death lawsuit launched by Michelle’s mother, Linda Fisher. Jason’s storage shed was accessed by Linda and Meredith around that time. According to Jason’s family, they informed the storage manager that they were entitled to access Jason’s belongings as a result of the civil judgement. Whether it was legal or not, they did take things. The jewelry box must have been taken at that time. If not then, it’s very puzzling how she could have ended up with it.

The jewelry box had been  a special gift for Michelle. Jason’s mother, Pat Young had it hand-made for her. Why would Meredith  have wanted a jewelry box with missing drawers that should have held no sentimental value to her?  And why weren’t investigators puzzled about it? How did they find out that Meredith had the box? That is unclear.

In 2011, a DNA swab from the box was sent to LabCorp for more sensitive testing than the SBI’s capabilities. Analyst, Shawn Weiss identified x-chromosome (female) DNA from the swab. Since investigators only provided LabCorp with Michelle’s and Jason’s DNA profiles to compare to the various swabs, it seems no one has ever attempted to identify the origin of that female DNA on the box. They did of course eliminate Jason and Michelle as contributors.

Banana Republic Bag

On November 16 2006, investigators collected a Banana Republic bag while conducting the initial crime scene investigation. It is unclear if it is a store shopping bag or a purse/hand-bag/travel bag. The bag contained a slew of items, to include the following (from court bates stamp 002084): assorted receipts, travel documents, gift cards, photos, calendar, address book, scraps of paper with notes, names, and phone numbers, luggage tags, knife and sheath, answering machine, plug and power supply cord, financial records, and other miscellaneous documents. The investigator noted that it was collected for “trace evidence to reconstruct events.” The bag was sealed in a box where it likely remains as stored evidence. There is no indication that police ever attempted to test the bag or the items inside for DNA and finger-prints. The items are consistent with what one may expect to find in a large jewelry box like Michelle’s. In fact, at trial the defense asked Meredith what sort of items Michelle kept in the box. It’s been a while since I watched the trial, but I recall her saying that Michelle kept jewelry in there and also gift cards. That makes it even more likely that the bag may contain the contents of the jewelry box. Perhaps the killer(s) forgot to take it with them, or simply forgot it in the rush to clean up after the crime. Perhaps the bag is the key to determining who killed Michelle.

Fuel Receipts Strong Evidence of Innocence – Jason Young Case

For a background of this case, please read this.

During closing arguments in Young’s first trial, the defense presented the jury with specific details of Young’s fuel purchases during his business trip beginning the evening of November 2, 2006 and into the next day. The evidence is compelling proof of innocence.  The receipts line up perfectly with Young’s version of events. There is no logical explanation to refute this.  Young would have had to somehow purchase fuel with cash along the way . . . but how would he have been able to ensure that his credit card fuel purchases would be consistent with him not driving back to Raleigh that night as alleged by the state? It seems practically impossible.

The alleged stop at 4 Brothers in King, North Carolina doesn’t account for it either. He would have run out of fuel before even arriving at that location. Further, he would have needed additional fuel before arriving at his customer location that morning. If the state would have been able to provide proof that he left the hotel that night, they would have had a strong case. They failed to do so.

Please watch this video to see what the jurors were shown. It’s unfortunate that the defense didn’t repeat this for the second trial. Maybe he wouldn’t have been convicted.

Death by the River: The Fisherman’s Defense

Elizabeth Leland with the Charlotte Observer recently published a six part series about the Mark Carver case. The series contains updates about Mark’s case as he continues to maintain his innocence. The North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence is currently representing Mark Carver.

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http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/special-reports/death-by-the-river/

Steven Avery case: New information questions if bones found were Teresa Halbach’s

Thanks, Global News for sharing my blog article on your site!

 

 

Making a Murderer subject Steven Avery may have even more hope for freedom after new research, conducted by Stop Wrongful Convictions campaigner and author Lynne Blanchard, has seen the light of day.

Blanchard points out a seemingly obvious fact: that people are taking for granted that the bone fragments discovered in Avery’s outdoor fire pit are those of murdered photographer Teresa Halbach.

Netflix’s Making a Murderer is a 10-part documentary series that follows the case of 53-year-old Wisconsin native Avery. He is serving a life sentence (without the possibility for parole) for the murder of Halbach and illegally possessing a firearm. Avery  had previously been jailed for 18 years for a sexual assault in 1985, but was exonerated in that case by DNA evidence in 2003.

READ MORE: Steven Avery’s lawyer: It’s “fairly obvious” who killed Teresa Halbach

Two years later, Avery brought a US$36-million lawsuit against Manitowoc County, Wis., for the wrongful conviction. Making a Murderer calls into question the investigation and trial that put Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, behind bars in the Halbach killing. The program alleges that the investigators and police planted evidence and otherwise manipulated the outcome of the trial.

Steven Avery's fire pit

Steven Avery’s fire pit.

Netflix

In a blog post, Blanchard outlines why she doubts the bone-fragment analysis, and questions how the authorities knew they were Halbach’s.

“Obviously it appears to be very incriminating, but what is going on with this evidence?” she writes. “Why weren’t protocols followed? No coroner, forensic anthropologist, arson investigator or photographer was called to the scene when the evidence was discovered. They had all of these high paid experts at their disposal and didn’t call on them until after the evidence had been shoveled up and taken to the sheriff’s office.”

READ MORE: Juror involved in Making a Murderer homicide case stands by the verdict

“The DNA evidence described above is not conclusive,” she continues. “How is it even possible for tissue to survive a fire that disintegrated 60% of the bone mass? The teeth which are commonly used to identify a body because they outlast bone didn’t even survive the fire.”

According to Blanchard, lab analyst Sherry Culhane issued a report in December 2005, stating that a partial profile was retrieved from charred tissue, and that seven of 16 markers matched Halbach’s profile.

Netflix

Blanchard says the absence of a chain of custody of the bones is critical because it could have rendered the fragments inadmissible, especially considering all the accusations of police cover-ups and bias.

“They brought in the state officials right away to ensure that everything would be properly handled,” writes Blanchard. “Who dropped the ball? It is very suspicious given everything else that happened in this case. Since the scene wasn’t documented, there is no proof that any bones were ever on the Avery property.”

“As well, the Manitowoc County coroner was forbidden from entering the scene and none of the forensic experts were summoned until after the bones had been removed,” she continues. “We are to simply accept the word of the state witnesses who claimed to see the bones.”

Avery’s lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, was also sent new research involving the bones by a Reddit blogger known as Amberlea1879.

The blogger, who claims she’s been poring over Avery legal transcripts and documents online, asserts that prosecution lawyer Ken Kratz and analyst Culhane were colluding to frame Avery.

Amberlea1879 says the FBI did not confirm that the tested bone fragments belonged to Teresa Halbach, and that Culhane was sent only “charred material.”

On Jan. 20, 2006, Calumet County Sheriff Jerry Pagel released a statement to the media that confirmed the FBI matched the fragments found in the fire pit to Halbach. Shortly after, on Feb. 7, Kratz sent an email to Culhane reiterating that statement.

The new information put forward to Zellner suggests that the analyzed material is, in fact, a general mitochondrial DNA match connected to a relative of Halbach’s mother, and not the actual bones of Halbach herself.

All of these new findings suggest that evidence could easily have been tampered with, giving Avery and Zellner more opportunities to prove his innocence.

Zellner has been publicly announcing her discoveries on Twitter as the evidence-gathering continues. She recently told Dateline NBC that she has found evidence that proves Avery innocent.

Over 400,000 people have signed online petitions to see Avery freed or pardoned.

Steven Avery case: New information questions if bones found were Teresa Halbach’s

 

 

 

Scrutinizing the Bone Evidence – Teresa Halbach Investigation

There’s undoubtedly a lot of questionable evidence in this case – the magic key, the magic bullet and the possibility that Steven Avery’s blood was planted in the RAV 4. Should the bone evidence rise above similar scrutiny or can we consider the possibility that the bone evidence was also fabricated?  The suspicious mishandling of the bones is described in this article.

Summary of discovery and handling of bone evidence

  • Teresa’s ’99 Toyota RAV 4 was found at approximately 10:30 the morning of Saturday 11/5/05 on the Avery salvage yard. Investigators arrived at the scene and remained on site for eight days — searching for Teresa and/or evidence of foul play.
  • Bone fragments were allegedly found in the burn pit behind Avery’s garage on Tuesday 11/8/05.
  • Special Agent Tom Sturdivant requested sifting equipment from the Wisconsin crime lab (John Ertl).
  • No one photographed the bones or the collection process.
  • The (alleged) bones were placed into boxes and removed from the site.
  • Dr. Leslie Eisenberg, a Forensic Anthropologist with the crime lab received a box of bones on Wednesday 11/9/05.
  • Since Dr. Eisenberg often worked at the Dane County morgue, she carried the box to the morgue for examination on 11/10/05. She concluded that the bones were human. Specimens were submitted to the crime lab and the FBI for identification.
  • Special Agent Pevytoe allegedly discovered bones in the Janda burn barrel at the Calumet sheriff’s office on 11/12/05. No photos documented this discovery either.
  • Lab analyst Sherry Culhane issued a report on 12/5/05 stating that a partial profile was obtained from a charred piece of tissue and that seven of sixteen markers matched Teresa’s standard profile. The other markers were not present due to the condition of the sample.
  • On December 5, 2005 Dr. Eisenberg, Special Agent Pevytoe, John Ertl, Detective Wiegert and Special Agent Fassbender gathered at the crime lab (basement?) to sift through more of the ash and debris. They allegedly found metal grommets consistent with what would be common on blue jeans.

 

Sifting through ash and debris 12/5/05
Sifting through ash and debris 12/5/05

Exhibit-274-processing-debris-1024x676

The absence of a chain of custody of the bones is critical because it could very well have rendered it inadmissible. What happened? They brought in the state officials right away to ensure that everything would be properly handled. Who dropped the ball? It is very suspicious given everything else that happened in this case.

Since the scene wasn’t documented, there is no proof that any bones were ever on the Avery property. As well, the Manitowoc County coroner was forbidden from entering the scene and none of the forensic experts were summoned until after the bones had been removed. We are to simply accept the word of the state witnesses who claimed to see the bones.

Interestingly, the descriptions of the bones were inconsistent. Dr. Eisenberg claimed to have pieced together fifty-eight fragments of skull bones from the burn pit. That is consistent with them finding a considerable number of fairly large pieces; yet Agent Pevytoe described seeing very small pieces of bone fragments.

  “Yes, the fragmentation that I was finding from the burn pit was very small. Much of it was — in some cases was the size of half your little fingernail, if you will. Most of the bones were very fragmented there.” (Pevytoe testimony, day 18)

Pevytoe testified that three to four larger bones were found in the Janda burn barrel. If only a few bones were found in the barrel and tiny fragments were found in the burn pit, where did all the larger bones originate? This is a box of bones in evidence. Note that non-human charred bones were also found in each of the locations – burn pit, Janda barrel and quarry. Burnt insulation that appeared to be bone fragments was also found in the burn pit.bones3

 

Exhibit 391 skull bones
Exhibit 391 skull bones

DNA Testing

Crime lab analyst, Sherry Culhane reported that a partial DNA profile was obtained from a charred piece of tissue (item BZ) alleged to have been found in the burn pit ash. She used the STR Promega 16 amplification kit where fifteen markers are compared, with one gender marker. Culhane testified that since the specimen was degraded (likely due to extreme heat) she only obtained peaks for seven markers of the fifteen plus the gender marker, so less than 50%. The FBI CODIS database does not even record DNA profiles with less than nine identified markers.

The partial profile matched Teresa Halbach’s standard, but since it’s a partial profile it can’t be conclusively reported as matching Teresa’s DNA. What is the degree of certainty? Culhane reported that the probability of a random unrelated person matching the same seven (eight if including the gender loci) markers is 1 in a billion in the Caucasian population.

DNA stat

 

DNA pic

It’s unclear how she arrived at that statistic. Arizona is the only state that made their DNA database publicly accessible. Interestingly, based on the available DNA information from Arizona, it appears that the partial profile of item BZ would in fact be much more common than 1 in a billion. These are the actual matches based on a total of approximately 65,000 profiles:

  • 122 pairs match at 9 of 13 loci
  • 20 pairs match at 10 of 13 loci
  • 1 pair matches at 11 of 13 loci (full siblings)
  • 1 pair matches at 12 of 13 loci (full siblings)

(source)

This means that even with 12 of 13 markers matching there would be an occurrence of 1 in 65,000 — much more common than 1 in a billion. The less markers compared, the more common the occurrence. 122 pairs matched at 9 of 13 markers. Clearly a match of 7 of 15 would be considerably more common than the reported 1 in a billion at trial. The DNA evidence should have been reported more generally as “Teresa Halbach can not be excluded as source.”

FBI DNA Analysis

A section of the charred specimen (BZ) was also sent to the FBI in November, 2005. They conducted a mitochondrial DNA test and reported that Teresa could not be excluded as the source of the charred remains.

In 2006 investigators sent the FBI thirty-one additional samples – bone fragments. The FBI reported that no mitochondrial DNA testing was conducted due to the condition of the fragments but interestingly they also reported that some DNA was obtained and they were returning the processed DNA samples.

DNA fragments FBI

It is puzzling that they obtained DNA yet were unable to perform the mitochondrial testing. Is it possible it excluded Teresa Halbach as the contributor? Contrary to the DNA report, Calumet County Sheriff Jerry Pagel incorrectly informed the media that the FBI confirmed the bones were Teresa’s.

The Calumet County Sheriff says bones found at the family auto salvage yard of a man charged with murder match those of a freelance photographer.Sheriff Jerry Pagel says the FBI confirms that the bones found at Steven Avery’s family salvage yard are those of 25 year old Teresa Halbach. The report from FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia says Mitochondrial DNA analysis of evidentiary remains found in a burn pit match the DNA sample of Halbach’s mother.

Prosecutor Ken Kratz referenced this in an email to Sherry Culhane. Apparently the media was never instructed to edit their misleading articles about the FBI “match” so the public believed there was conclusive proof that Teresa’s remains were found on the Avery property.

Kratz Culhane email

Why question this?

Everyone accepts as fact that Teresa’s remains were found in the burn pit. Obviously it appears to be very incriminating, but what is going on with this evidence? Why weren’t protocols followed?  No coroner, forensic anthropologist, arson investigator or photographer was called to the scene when the evidence was discovered. They had all of these high paid experts at their disposal and didn’t call on them until after the evidence had been shoveled up and taken to the sheriff’s office.

The DNA evidence described above is not conclusive. How is it even possible for tissue to survive a fire that disintegrated 60% of the bone mass? The teeth which are commonly used to identify a body because they outlast bone didn’t even survive the fire. Something’s wrong and it becomes difficult to accept this evidence as presented.

Since there’s circumstantial evidence that all of the other evidence was fabricated, is it such a stretch to consider that the bone evidence doesn’t hold up either?  If we can accept that the RAV4 was placed on the property, key planted in his residence, blood planted in vehicle, bullet planted in garage, should we blindly accept 100% that the bones were Teresa’s just because Culhane reported the partial profile as a “match?”  It’s difficult to trust it when proof of the bones on the property doesn’t even exist!

Is it possible that police were unable to find a body but wanted to secure a conviction so they fabricated the bone evidence?

A Similar Case

Around the time of Teresa Halbach’s disappearance, Kristine Rudy of Clark County, Wisconsin also went missing. She was last seen November 12, 2005.  She was twenty-one years old and six months pregnant, married to Shaun Rudy. Search efforts were unsuccessful and in December, 2005 investigators discovered a burn pit — sound familiar?

In December, detectives piecing together a case against Christine’s husband Shaun were led to the suspect’s mother’s home in northwestern Clark County. According to court documents, they found a burn pile they believe Shaun used to destroy evidence of the crime. In that burn pile, they found what a well-respected forensic anthropologist determined were fetal remains.

Court documents show Dr. Leslie Eisenberg of the State Crime Lab in Madison wrote investigators asking them to consider the mechanisms by which the fetal remains, yet very few adult remains, made their way to the burn pile, and says it’s possible the fetus was deliberately removed and burned independently of the majority of the adult remains. (link)

The really interesting thing is that the victim’s body was found a few months later – fetus intact.

But investigators were surprised when what’s believed to be Christine Rudy’s body was found last month in the Chippewa River – the fetus was still intact.

It kind of throws us for a loop. It raised a couple questions, says Clark County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Jim Backus.

The bones found in the burn pile were severely charred, but Dr. Eisenberg has an excellent reputation and it’s seen as somewhat unlikely that her analysis was wrong, Backus says.(audio)

Dr. Eisenberg incorrectly identified bones as human. Though it may be possible to make a mistake like that, it certainly calls her credibility into question. Had they not found the woman, would they have prosecuted Shaun Rudy with the bone evidence?

We must consider the possibility that Dr. Eisenberg may have been mistaken with the Halbach case as well. We know there were charred animal bones mixed in. Is it possible there was nothing but animal bones?

We can also consider that maybe the state revealed just enough to convince the public that Teresa’s remains were found — photographs of random bones in a box and high priced experts sifting through debris. If true, it’s possible Teresa’s body was never found because it wasn’t on the Avery property. Police were searching in the wrong place.

 

 

David Thorne Case: The Framing of Joseph Wilkes

YvonneTwenty-six year old, Yvonne Layne was found dead in a pool of blood the morning of April 1, 1999. She had four young children in the home. Two were locked in an upstairs bedroom, a baby was in a crib in another bedroom and a four year old was loose in the house. The children were unharmed.

The killer slit Yvonne’s throat, dragged her across the floor and laid the body down on the living room floor. She was found with several objects against and on top of her. A bleach bottle with gloves were found on the kitchen sink. Please read more background about this case here.

Joe Wilkes allegedly “confessed” that he murdered Yvonne Layne 5 minutes after police had him in the interrogation room at the Ravenna police department on 7/14/99.  He allegedly broke down and said “I’m sorry.  I killed her.”  The story would go that David Thorne paid him to kill her for the sum of $300.

Police testified at trial that just before the “confession” they confronted him with the following:

  • Information that Joe had been telling others that he murdered Yvonne
  • Proof that he stayed at the Comfort Inn on the night of 3/31/99
  • Proof that he purchased a knife and batting gloves at K-Mart on 3/31/99
  • Proof that he called David Thorne’s home from the mall the morning of 4/1/99

Leech supplement

After that, they describe how Joe broke down and said “I’m sorry.  I killed her.”

confession

There are several problems with this scenario.  To begin, if Joe truly confessed (before the tape recorder was turned on) as police allege, why do they then begin the recorded interview with Miranda rights and inform him that he is not under arrest?!  A man just confessed to a murder and he is NOT under arrest?!  How is that possible?

transcript - beginning of interview

What really happened: There is much evidence to support a theory that police set out to frame a co-conspirator for this crime and they selected Joe Wilkes.  They knew they couldn’t pin the murder on David Thorne because he had an alibi.  They wanted to solve this murder so they created a “murder for hire” plot.  Once they selected Joe, they then had to build a case against him.  They did this via police informants, coercion of witnesses, planted evidence and a threat on Joe’s life – confess to the murder or face the electric chair.  To be blunt, they threatened the life of a frightened 18 year old kid by describing exactly what evidence they cooked up against him and telling him that his friend, David Thorne implicated him in the murder.  That is how they secured this conviction.

I believe police told Joe that if he cooperated, if he made the required statements – statements probably presented to him with cue cards – that he would be free to go.  Why else would they tell him he was not under arrest?!  They totally manipulated him.  Once they had the statements and all of the details (that they fed to him) on tape, they were able to make their arrest and then they were able to arrest David Thorne. Case closed – only it’s not closed because this murder remains unsolved.

How do we know Joe was framed?  For starters, none of his statement was consistent with the evidence at the crime scene.  His description of how the murder occurred was impossible, he didn’t see any children in the home, he didn’t see the yelping puppies on the deck, he didn’t have any blood on his clothing or shoes as there was no blood found in David Thorne’s car that he allegedly drove him home in the following morning.  He had no change of clothes with him.  There were no bloody footprints on the stairs that Joe said he descended following the murder. The pants that were allegedly “found” in the woods had no blood on them.  The (planted) knife found in a storm grate had no blood on it.  Not one person saw a bloody man walking down around that night.  His own story changed during several times during the interview.  It just doesn’t fit!  This was a personal crime, but I won’t go into that in this article.

Samantha Pegg

Police informed Joe that he had discussed the murder with others during the unrecorded portion of the interview (see above) —- how then is it possible that the person Joe stated he talked to about the murder (Samantha) didn’t contact police about the information until 7/18 – four days after Joe’s interrogation?  I believe police coerced her to make a statement against Joe before his interview.  That is the only thing that makes any sense.  Detective Sampson stated during a preliminary hearing on 7/23 that Samantha is the only person that Joe allegedly spoke to about the murder – yet police already HAD the information before Joe uttered a word.  They wanted to make it appear as if they learned about Samantha during Joe’s recorded interview but that conflicts with their own statement that “We informed Joe that he was discussing the murder with others…”

In a post conviction hearing, Joe testified that he received a letter from Samantha while in prison and that she apologized for what she had told police about him.

Samantha Pegg PC

This is what Joe stated during the taped interview – remember that police said they told Joe that he was talking to others about the murder before the recorded interview began.  How did they know?  Because they had already coerced her!

Joe speaks about Samantha

informantsInformants/snitches  Chris Campbell and Rose Mohr allegedly saw Joe Wilkes the evening before the murders at Carnation Mall. They told police that he was in town to do a job and that he purchased a knife at K-Mart (more about that soon).

An article was published one day after Joe’s interview.  There are references to police “working their informants”.  Were Rose Mohr and/or Chris Campbell informants?  They are the only people I can think of that could be informants who “helped” with the investigation.

One of the police’ hand written notes has “Chris Campbell – suspect” written on it.  Did this suspect turn into a witness?  What did police potentially do to coerce Campbell?

Campbell suspect

Chris Campbell was allegedly witnessed by police placing his hands in his pockets and suspected of pocketing drugs.  They ended up arresting him and holding him in prison until after David’s trial.  This occurred two days after David and Joe were arrested.  Is it possible that this was a deal?  Did they hold him and threaten to keep him in prison until he testified at trial?  I think it’s very likely the case.

The K-Mart murder supply shopping:  Remember that police told Joe that he purchased a knife and batting gloves the night before the murder, at K-Mart.  How did they know?  They claim they learned of this from Chris and Rose but if that were true, shouldn’t there have been some mention of it in their hand written notes of their interview on 7/9?  There isn’t one word about it.

Campbell hand written note by Mucklo - Copy (2)

One could say that possibly they didn’t tell police about it until their recorded interview on 7/12, but that’s impossible because police stated in their supplemental report that they visited the Comfort Inn on 7/9 to confirm that Joe Wilkes had rented a room that night. That is the date written on the hand written note above. You can see that there is no mention of the K-Mart shopping and no mention of the hotel rental. I believe they built both the K-mart shopping and the hotel stay into their story line before even speaking to Chris and Rose.

There are receipts – hotel and K-Mart receipts.  The K-Mart receipts make no sense at all as the batting gloves were purchased early in the day, at approximately 2PM and the knife was purchased at 8:10PM – cutting it rather close with a planned murder for that very evening.

During Joe’s interview on 7/14, he never speaks about Chris or Rose and is never asked about them.  There are several inconsistencies about this chance encounter the evening of 3/31.  I don’t believe they ever saw Joe that night because I don’t believe he was in Alliance.

The phone call:  Police told Joe that they had evidence that he attempted to contact David the morning of 4/1 from a payphone at the Carnation Mall.  They told him they had a record indicating that a call was placed at 8:28AM.  The problem is, the number of the mall phone ends in 3566 and the number on David’s phone record looks more like 3588.  Was there really a call from the mall that morning?  I don’t think so.  If Joe needed a ride home from the mall that morning, why didn’t he call David’s pager?  He never attempted to reach him that way.  We never saw the Carnation Mall phone records to verify that an outgoing call was placed at 8:28 that morning.

carnation mall phone callCrime Scene Photos 431The Nike theme:

According to the official story, Chris and Rose stated that Joe was wearing brand new Nike shoes, Nike swishy pants and a Nike jacket.  They gave conflicting statements about the color but they definitely mentioned Nike.  Did police weave this into the story because they had visited Dick’s Sporting Goods in an attempt to “match” the bloody footprint from the crime scene (in a very unscientific way) and the store clerk believed the murder print was produced from a Nike cross trainer?  I think so.

I believe that police wanted the story to go that David gave Joe money to buy the new Nike murder outfit ahead of time to wear to the murder and that is what the witnesses described and Joe told police that he threw away the “murder” pants in a wooded area in Ravenna – over 20 miles away from the murder scene – they conveniently recovered them.  There was no blood on them but that doesn’t matter because the story sounds good. I believe they planted them to go along with the Nike shoes identified by the Dick’s Sporting goods clerk.

Police wanted the story to go that the Nike outfit was purchased before the murder but Joe messed that up and stated that he shopped for new Nike clothing a week after the murder.

Photo of police “finding” the Nike swishy pants

Crime Scene Photos 439

It’s all a bit too convenient.  Police also recovered the K-Mart folding knife in a storm grate two blocks from Yvonne’s home.  We’re to believe that fleeing her home on a dark night, Joe noticed this flat, metal grate that is sitting well within the person’s lawn and put a knife in there?

storm drain Morgan and College

Crime Scene Photos 440Police “finding” the knife

It doesn’t matter that the knife had no blood on it, or that the blade was only 3 1/2 inches long and the cut to Yvonne’s throat was 4 inches deep.  It makes for a good story – “Murder weapon recovered”!   Oh!  The home where the knife was found?  Linda McLaughlin’s friend’s home.  Coincidence?  (Linda is the mother of Yvonne’s boyfriend at the time – Erick).  He would have been the suspect but he was in prison at the time of the murder so the focus was all on David.

David_10David Thorne: Police alleged that his motive was that he wanted custody of Brandon (his 2 year old son to Yvonne) and that he didn’t want to pay child support.  It had recently been implemented, two months prior to the murder.  The problem with that is, there are NO reports of any issues at all between Yvonne and David.  Everyone police interviewed said that they got along well.  It’s not logical that one would want custody so they could “save money”.  How would someone save money by having full time care of a child?  Ridiculous.

Additionally, it’s clear that David loved his son and cared for him.  He had him at his home on weekends typically.  For someone who cared for a child like this, how could he ever have possibly left this child alone in a home unattended for hours with his dead mother’s body?  No way.

Based on everything described, I can’t be certain that Joe was even in Alliance that night.  There is no evidence that he ran into Chris and Rose and it seems unlikely as their stories are so inconsistent with each other and from one interview to the next. There is also no evidence that Joe was at Yvonne’s that night.  If he was, there should have been some physical evidence tying him to the scene.  There isn’t.  If police did search the hotel room for evidence, there is no record of it.  For that reason, I don’t believe that he rented a room that night.  Yes, there is a receipt but I believe they fabricated it.

This crime remains unsolved.  This was a personal crime – someone close to the victim. Joe Wilkes was not close to the victim.  I’m unsure why police would go to such great lengths to pin this on Joe and David, but like many wrongful conviction cases – they wanted to show that the crime was solved.  They had it in for David because he refused to speak to them.  I believe that is why they framed them for this murder.

My Thoughts On The Jeffrey Havard Case

1513332_742855735744353_1157837102_nOf all the wrongful conviction cases I’ve covered, the Jeffrey Havard case has been the most difficult for me to write about. Not because I don’t believe in his innocence; quite the contrary. It is a challenge to discuss it because I believe that as soon as people see that the case involves the death of a 6 month old baby and alleged sexual assault, people shy away from it. It’s important for people to understand this case so I’m going to try to describe it in the simplest form possible – how this could happen to anyone who has ever cared for a child. This case is unique in the fact that no crime occurred. As an advocate for the wrongfully convicted, I typically write about murder cases in which the State convicts the wrong person and much research goes into what really happened to the victim(s) and who may have been responsible for the crime. I do this because the cases are questionable, the evidence doesn’t add up, too many things indicate that the wrong person was convicted of the crime so I (and others) relentlessly pursue all avenues that can potentially free the person. The Havard case is different. It was a devastating tragedy…the loss of a baby girl. When something like this happens, people want answers, people want someone to be held responsible. It’s a way of coping with the tragedy, but in this case there was an irresponsible rush to judgement that has resulted in an innocent man being sentenced to death. It doesn’t get any more serious than that. We can’t let this happen and once one takes the time to look at the facts of this case, it is clear that Chloe’s death was the result of an accidental drop, a slip while being lifted out of the bathtub. It could happen to any one of us.

Imagine what it felt like from Jeffrey’s perspective:

  • Imagine holding a baby and experiencing an accident that causes an injury to the child.  Chloe hit her head on the toilet after her bath.  He dried her, dressed her and she appeared to be fine so she was placed in her crib.
  • Imagine a short time later, having to rush the baby to the hospital because she wasn’t breathing.
  • Imagine being at the hospital when the hospital staff comes in and tells you the baby died.
  • Imagine the shock of being arrested – for murder and taken to jail that night.
  • Imagine sitting in court and listening to people accuse you of horrific things – sexual abuse of a baby.
  • Imagine that the trial is only two short days and your defense attorneys don’t do anything to counter these outrageous claims.
  • Imagine that there isn’t even a defense expert to testify on your behalf.
  • Imagine that the jury is only out for a few short hours and returns with a guilty verdict and death sentence.

This is the nightmare that Jeff Havard was subjected to 12 years ago and still he remains on death row in Mississippi.  People are fighting hard for him and recently his attorneys filed a motion for relief from judgement.  I don’t have a law background but I believe that could result in the reversal of the conviction.  The State has been fighting this for years, rejecting his appeals despite many attempts to correct this injustice.

I believe the latest motion will be the one that will finally free Jeffrey Havard.  Attached to this motion are the opinions of four medical experts – all with a list of impressive credentials.  All concluded that Chloe was not sexually abused as the State alleged. The evidence is irrefutable.

An important note about how the State convicted Jeff:

I believe many are confused about how Havard was convicted of murder in what was alleged to be a shaken baby syndrome (SBS) case with little evidence to support it.  I myself had trouble understanding how this happened.  I would like to quote from Jeff’s website: Mississippi law allowed the prosecution to argue that the sexual abuse led to the murder. In the court’s view, if Jeffrey committed the abuse, he must be guilty of the murder.

Now that it’s clear that no abuse occurred, the State of Mississippi must grant Jeffrey Havard a new trial or release him.  If a jury had been able to hear from these experts at his trial, he would never have been convicted.  A tragedy occurred with the death of this child but another tragedy was added to it by placing an innocent man in prison on death row for the past 12 years.  It affects so many people – family, friends, the entire community.

The current status of this case is that the State requested another delay to respond to the motion earlier this week.  Let’s hope that this is the last delay and that they accept the obvious truth from all of the experts and set Jeffrey Havard free.  A lot of people are watching this closely.  You can learn more about this case at the website.

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