Updated Thursdays

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Letter to Devon Anderson (10)

Time for another letter to the District Attorney; as always please feel free to write your own, copy this one, or just send one of the downloadable flyers to your right. All of you that send out a letter, thank you. 



Devon Anderson
1201 Franklin St
Suite 600
Houston, Tx 77002-1923

Ma’am,

I’m writing today about the case of Carlos Coy, #908426.
Recently, Representative Harold Dutton of Houston introduced a bill to abolish the death penalty in Texas; while I understand this is a controversial topic, I believe that he has raised some valid arguments. Many Texans do question the fairness of our justice system, and question whether we can morally apply the death sentence when we have proof, in the bodies of many, many exonerated men and women, that a conviction does not always unequivocally equal guilt.

            For those sentenced to death, however, there is a system of appeals and review that may eventually lead to their exoneration. For those sentenced to anything less, very little opportunity is given.  Deference is given to the original trial court’s decision, and nothing short of a miracle, or a revelation of gross misconduct is enough to call these convictions into question.

            Ma’am, I am not a lawyer; I do not have the education, training, or experience to remedy what I believe was a terribly mishandled conviction. You are in a position to do so, and your recent support of grand jury reform gives me hope that you may someday take an interest in Coy’s case. Please, take a look at his trial, or have your Post Conviction Review unit begin an investigation. Please, give us justice for this man.

Me, my address, etc  etc etc.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Backlog

When I started this blog, I was under the impression that there must have been some kind of physical evidence collected at the very beginning of the investigation; I assumed (not unreasonably, I think) that when Jane Doe was taken to the hospital that there would have been a rape kit completed, and I tried to find out why it had not been used at trial.

Unfortunately I was unable to get a hold of the police report, and as far as anyone knows, there was no evidence of this kind taken. However, Harris County has been storing thousands of untested rape kits for years, and has only recently gotten around to clearing the backlog.

I think it’s great that it’s finally done, and that the DA’s office is using the evidence collected to put rapists away. I still wonder, though, if there isn’t a kit somewhere from Coy’s case. While it’s great to compare the DNA to the national database to find matches nationwide, I wonder if the District Attorney will see fit to notify those that were convicted that there may be new evidence available in their cases; are they even testing the kits that belong to cases which have already been decided? Will the defense attorneys be notified? What will be done if the DNA from the kit does not match the DNA of the individual convicted of the crime?

"Though the technology to analyze DNA has been around for decades, hundreds of thousands of sexual assault kits all over the country went untested because investigators didn’t consider them important."

The thought that a kit could be shelved just because an investigator decided it would be is extremely unnerving; not only were rapists able to continue their crimes, but innocent people may have been convicted because no steps were taken that could have proven their innocence.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Current Events

The case of Rodney Reed has been much in the news lately; convicted of murdering a police officer’s fiancĂ©e back in 1996, Reed is slated for execution this March. There are quite a few great articles out there with details about the case but long story short, he was convicted mainly because his DNA was found inside Stacey Stites’ body.

After going through the lengthy appeals process Reed is scheduled to die on March 5. As early as 2002, questions have been raised about the reliability of his conviction. It appears that Stites and Reed were involved in a clandestine relationship, which could explain why there was evidence of sex but nothing else linking Reed to the murder.

Misinterpretation of an expert’s testimony regarding the time of death and incorrect testimony about the life of the DNA found contributed to the conviction.

“…there is one essential piece of physical evidence that Reed's defense attorneys say they never even knew existed. A state DPS lab report, dated May 13, 1998, analyzed DNA taken from two beer cans found near Stites' body. For reasons never satisfactorily explained, that lab report was never provided to the defense prior to or during Reed's trial. The analysis excluded Reed, but two other potential suspects -- former Bastrop Police Officer Ed Salmela (now dead, apparently by suicide), and former Giddings Police Officer David Hall, a good friend and neighbor of Fennell -- could not be excluded. Had they been aware of that DNA evidence, Clay-Jackson said, it would have enabled the defense to offer an adequate explanation of how Fennell could have traveled from Giddings to Bastrop and then back home by 6:45am without the pickup truck, when the call came from HEB reporting that Stites had never arrived for work.”

Jimmy Fennell, the fiancé, is currently incarcerated for the raping a woman while on duty. It will be interesting to see how this case turns out, and whether Texas will be willing to take a closer look at another potentially wrongful conviction.






Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Grand Standing

We’ve talked about the Grand Jury system here before, and how prosecutors are allowed to present evidence to get an indictment without a word from a defense lawyer; the case then proceeds and a trial jury is left to assume that the defendant wouldn’t be the defendant if the courts didn’t have a good reason to charge him or her.

Well, it looks like Devon Anderson, of all people, is advocating for a reform of Texas’ ‘key-man’ system, wherein the head of the grand jury is picked by the judge, often from that judge’s friends and colleagues.

From one of the articles linked below:

“Texas law still allows grand jurors to be chosen in a method that has been outlawed in all but one other state and banned from federal courts since the 1960s. Judges may choose pals, or commissioners, to suggest other pals as grand jurors. The system often results in homogeneous grand juries with substantial ties to the criminal justice system.

You may recall the case of Alfred Dewayne Brown, in which a Grand Jury bullied his girlfriend into changing her testimony that he was at her house at the time of the crime. After veiled threats against herself and her children, she wound up testifying against him. Imprisoned since 2005, Brown is now awaiting a new trial after the Grand Jury transcript was made public.

The Judge in that case was Judge Ellis, the same one responsible for Coy’s trial; one can only assume that he picked the ‘Key Man’ for both Brown and Coy’s Grand Juries. It is heartening indeed to see the Harris County D.A. standing up and advocating reform of this sytem.




Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Why

There is a fantastic article in the Baltimore Sun about the record number if exonerations last year; it talks a little about why they continue to happen, especially after the advent of DNA testing:

"At one level, the answer is that DNA was never the cure-all some expected. In 2014, only 18 percent of the reversed convictions (22 out of 125) occurred after DNA testing proved innocence. This reflects the reality that relevant DNA is available only in a tiny minority of cases. CSI dramas are fantasy; in real life, science can't solve most crimes. At the same time, risk factors that we now know lead to wrongful conviction — eyewitness misidentification, junk science, false confession, ineffective assistance of counsel and police misconduct — are present in thousands upon thousands of cases that pass through our system every year."

I highly recommend reading it, sharing it, etc. In Coy’s case, as far as we know, no DNA samples were ever taken. The D.A. didn’t bother to collect the physical evidence that the assault he was accused of would have left. At one time I believed finding something like that, hidden or lost, would be the only way to exonerate him.

But it’s not. I appreciate that so many of you send in letters to the government with me, asking for a new trial. I hope that our persistence will one day pay off.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Exonerations in 2014

Please allow me to draw your attention to this article via the Huffington post, entitled, “Exonerations Of The Wrongfully Convicted Hit Record High In The US In 2014”.
This is great news and, as the writer points out,

“Of the total known exonerations in 2014, more than half were obtained at the initiative or with the cooperation of law enforcement - the highest number in a single year, the report found. Most of these were the work of "conviction integrity units" set up by prosecutors to review questionable cases.

A large percentage of these exonerations were out of Houston, thanks to what appears to be the ongoing fuckwittery of the Houston Crime Lab. Numerous drug cases have been and continue to be overturned. I may post up a letter to Harris County’s Post Conviction Review unit in the coming weeks, although we have heard from them before. http://www.spmaftermath.com/2011/09/post-conviction-writ-review.html

Although these units rely primarily on DNA evidence to overturn cases, there are a few that were decided because of coerced confessions and recanting witnesses. My hope is that by more closely examining the case and the investigative methods, which Harris County refuses to reveal, something like this can shake loose in Coy’s case.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Letter to Greg Abbott 1

New tack, ladies and gentlemen. Greg Abbot recently took the governor’s office, and it’s time we approached him about SPM’s case. As always, please feel free to copy this letter, write one of your own, or just send one of the downloadable flyers to your right.

Greg Abbot 
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

Sir,
            Congratulations on your recent swearing-in to the office of governor; I hope you are able to accomplish your goals over the next four years. I’m writing to you today about the case of Carlos Coy, #908426. A local celebrity in Houston, he was convicted in 2002 of Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child and sentenced to 45 years.

            Many people, myself included, do not believe that his trial was just; he was convicted on very shaky evidence, contradicted by the complainant several times during the trial. It seems that this young girl’s family was allowed to change their testimony outside the presence of the jury, and the prosecutor, Denise Oncken, was later found to have committed a Brady Violation against a different defendant.

            I know that none of these things alone are enough to prompt a new trial for Mr. Coy; although I believe that there were several other problems with the case against them, I have no new evidence that would exonerate him. However, I urge you to take a look at his case. Please, put asde the severity of the charge against him for a moment and consider the methods used to convict him. If you do, I think you’ll agree that he did not receive justice.

            Ideally, we would like to see him receive a new trial, but that may not be within your powers as Governor. However, a pardon is. Please, investigate his case and consider it; Coy has a large fan base, in Texas and around the world. We would like very much to see justice done.

My name, my address, etc.