Louisiana death-row inmate Damon Thibodeaux exonerated with DNA evidence

A little after 4 a.m. on July 21, 1996, Damon Thibodeaux, a deckhand on a Mississippi River workboat, cracked at the end of a nine-hour interrogation and confessed to the brutal rape and murder of his 14-year-old step-cousin, Crystal Champagne.

“I didn’t know that I had done it,” Thibodeaux said at one point, according to a police transcript. “But I done it.”

Before that day was over, Thibodeaux had recanted his confession, telling his court-appointed lawyer that he told police what they wanted to hear in response to threats of death by lethal injection and his grief over the death of his cousin. Nonetheless, Thibodeaux was later convicted of both crimes and sentenced to die.

Now, after more than 15 years spending 23 hours a day in solitary confinement on death row at Louisiana’s Angola prison farm, Thibodeaux is free.

Read the rest here.

Also check the Innocence Project’s page on Damon here.

There are many more people with innocence claims and who are wrongfully convicted, also with no DNA evidence available, who need to be released and compensated for the years they had to endure as innocent people in prisons, threatened with death.

Free the Innocent!

DNA tests lead to new trial for man serving life term

From: Columbus Dispatch, July 10th 2012


Dewey Jones, 17 years into a life sentence, gets murder conviction overturned by state judge


Dewey Jones’ quest to prove that he isn’t a murderer took another step forward yesterday when a judge overturned his felony conviction and granted a new trial for the Akron man, who has served 17 years of a life sentence.

The ruling by Summit County Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands follows the release in April of new test results showing that DNA recovered from an Akron murder scene didn’t come from Jones.

Read the rest here: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/07/10/dna-tests-lead-to-new-trial-for-man-serving-life-term.html

100,000 Call For DA To Allow DNA Testing In Kirstin Lobato Case

100,000 Call For DA To Allow DNA Testing In Kirstin Lobato Case

Kirstin “Blaise” Lobato

Over 100,000 people have signed a Change.org petition in support of a powerful campaign to free Kirstin “Blaise” Lobato. Lobato was wrongfully convicted in 2006 for the murder of Duran Bailey, which occurred in Las Vegas in July 2001. Lobato came to the attention of the police because of statements she made regarding a traumatic incident in which she had to fight off a man attempting to rape her. This incident occurred in May 2001, one month earlier and several miles away from the location of Bailey’s murder.

In an act of pure negligence, the police interpreted Lobato’s statements about the May 2001 rape defense as a “confession” to the July 2001 homicide, which actually occurred several weeks later on July 8. This so called confession led to Lobato’s wrongful conviction in 2006.

Lobato’s case has garnered a great deal of support as she continues to fight for her freedom. Six innocence groups are currently working on her behalf. The Justice Institute, Proving Innocence, Worldwide Women’s Criminal Justice Network,  the Innocence Project, the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted, and Injustice Anywhere.

In addition to the support mentioned above, the organization Justice4Kirstin has worked tirelessly on Lobato’s case and thousands of people are taking notice of their efforts. The Change.org petition created by Michelle Ravell from the Justice4Kirstin team has been a huge success. At the time of this writing, the number of signatures continues moving upward at an impressive rate.

The petition urges Clark County’s District Attorney Steven Wolfson not to file any opposition to Lobato’s Appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, and requests that he allow the Innocence Project to conduct DNA testing and re-testing of crime scene evidence.

Those who have followed the case are not surprised by the support Lobato is receiving. The facts of this case are crystal clear. Kirstin Lobato is innocent. Lobato’s Habeas Corpus petition includes affidavits of numerous expert witnesses including renowned entomologist Dr. Gail Anderson who concluded that the time of death was late in the evening and could not have been as early as contended by the prosecution. This would mean that the crime had to occur at a time when the prosecution conceded that Lobato was in Panaca 170 miles from the crime scene as verified by numerous eyewitnesses.

In addition to Lobato’s rock solid alibi, she also passed a polygraph administered by highly-respected Ron Slay whose work is frequently used by prosecutors. Additional proof verifying Lobato’s statements was provided by eight people who gave witness statements to the police that Lobato discussed her attacker’s failed rape attempt prior to the July 8 homicide, proving that her statements had absolutely nothing to do with Bailey’s murder.

Lobato’s case is the clearest case of a wrongful conviction that can be found. There is absolutely no forensic evidence linking Kirstin Lobato to the murder of Duran Bailey. In fact there is no evidence of any kind. Support for Lobato will continue to grow until this miscarriage of justice is corrected. How many signatures will it take before District Attorney Steven Wolfson takes notice?  

Please visit www.injustice-anywhere.org and www.Justice4Kirstin.com to learn more about Kirstin Lobato’s case.

DNA evidence doesn’t match inmate serving time for murder

From the Columbus Dispatch
April 24, 2012
By  Mike Wagner


New lab test results show that DNA recovered from a murder scene in Summit County didn’t come from an Akron man who has served 17 years of a life sentence for the crime. 

Dewey Jones, 50, who has always maintained that he was innocent, predicted during a prison interview last year that DNA testing would show he was not a murderer. Jones was convicted in March of 1995 for robbing and killing 71-year-old Neal Rankin, who was considered a family friend. 

“I’ve done some things I’m not proud of in life and made some bad choices,” Jones told The Dispatch from the Richland Correctional Institution in Mansfield. “But I’ve not hurt or killed anyone.” 

The tests, conducted by DNA Diagnostics Center of Fairfield, north of Cincinnati, found a partial male DNA profile on the piece of rope used to tie Rankin’s wrists, the knife used to cut the rope and pieces of Rankin’s shirt sleeves. None of it matched Jones when compared to his DNA. 

Attorneys from the Ohio Innocence Project, who are representing Jones, believe the results prove Jones’ innocence and want him set him free. 

“This is significant because we know that the perpetrator touched the items revealing the unknown male DNA profile,” said Carrie Wood, Jones’ attorney from the Innocence Project office in Cincinnati. “With DNA test results excluding Dewey Jones, along with other evidence demonstrating Mr. Jones’s innocence, our hope is that the court will overturn Mr. Jones’ conviction.” 

Prosecutors from the Ohio Attorney General’s office are handling the case. Lisa Peterson Hackley, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Mike DeWine, said prosecutors are reviewing the court filings and DNA test results. They had no other comment. 

The test results were filed in court today, and Wood filed motions today asking Summit County Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands to either overturn Jones’ conviction or grant him a new trial. Prosecutors have until late May to respond, and Rowlands is scheduled to rule on the case on July 9. 

Jones’ case was highlighted in the Dispatch series “Test of Convictions,” which exposed Ohio’s flawed evidence-retention and DNA-testing systems. 

The 2008 series, which can be found online atwww.Dispatch.com/reports, has led to the exoneration of four men and proved the guilt of four others based on DNA testing during the past three years. 



Read the rest here.

Ohio Learns the Lessons of Wrongful Conviction

From: Chang.org
By Matt Kelly
March 20, 2010

The Ohio House of Representatives this week passed sweeping reforms addressing the causes of wrongful conviction, setting a new standard for other states to follow in preventing this unimaginable — but very real — injustice.

The bill addresses evidence preservation, eyewitness identification procedures, recording of interrogations and improved access to DNA testing. It gained momentum in the wake of a groundbreaking series in the Columbus Dispatch highlighting cases of Ohio prisoners unable to obtain DNA tests that could prove them innocent.

SB 77 passed both chambers of the Ohio legislature with near-unanimous bipartisan support, and Gov. Ted Strickland is expected to sign it into law with a few days.

Ohio Rep. Tyrone Yates, who sponsored the bill in the House, called this bill “one of the most important pieces of criminal justice legislation in this state in a century.”
# The bill puts Ohio out ahead of many other states on four major reforms to prevent wrongful convictions and overturn injustice, including: Requiring the preservation of DNA evidence in serious crimes (such as homicide and sexual assault), because post-conviction reviews can’t be conducted when evidence has been tossed.

# Improving lineup procedures to significantly reduce the chance of misidentification, the leading cause of wrongful conviction.

# Incentivizing police departments to recording interrogations, a safeguard that prevents false confessions and a technique that helps law enforcement agencies conduct more efficient investigations

# Allowing parolees to apply for DNA testing in cases where it could potentially prove their innocence.

The Dispatch series that helped bring about these reforms has also led to two DNA exonerations so far, and other cases are in testing. The Innocence Network announced this week that the series’ two lead reporters, Mike Wagner and Geoff Dutton, will be given the group’s first annual Investigative Journalism Award in April.

With this bill, Ohio moves to the forefront on smart reforms to prevent injustice and improve efficiency in law enforcement and in courts. No one wants the innocent to go to prison. Wrongful convictions destroy lives and communities and leave the real perpetrators of crime on the streets. Kudos to Ohio for learning the lessons of injustice and making these critical changes.