Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A long day in court

We began at 8:30 and didn't finish until almost 6:00. Mostly, the time was spent in listening to the prosecutor's lumbering and disorganized cross examination of our expert witnesses. 

The best news came at the end the of the day when our attorney told us he is "thrilled" with where we are.

The prosecutor has tried to divert attention from the issues that we have raised, but we all hope the judge sees through this ploy.

Our forensics expert, a retired detective who used to supervise internal affairs, strongly criticized the treatment of evidence in Todd's case. Called it unprofessional and inexcusable in the strongest terms. At the end of the day, an investigator from the State Attorney General's Office admitted that the knife alleged by the state to have been the murder weapon had been altered while in police custody, and he just didn't know how that could have happened. 

Our legal expert also testified that had the jury been able to hear the full medical story, they'd likely have reached another verdict. The deputy in charge of Todd today, told Todd the this witness was doing a "really good job" for him. We agree with the police on that point!

We expect another full day tomorrow. And the hearing may continue on Thursday.

By the way, today is our granddaughter Maya's 11th birthday. Son Joel's girlfriend, K8t, showed her a good time in Colorado Springs while the rest of the family was at the hearing. Everyone is pulling together and we can't begin to express the gratitude we have for the support we've received from so many wonderful people. 

Throughout the day tomorrow, I'll provide updates on Twitter (http://twitter.com/bnewmiller) and on Facebook (http://facebook.com/newmiller).

Monday, August 09, 2010

Hard Questions for the El Paso County Colorado DA

Although the scope of Todd's 35c hearing, which begins in a few hours, is narrowly focused on on constitutional issues, the citizens of Colorado Springs deserve to know how the DA's Office so badly botched the investigation of a tragic killing. Here are a couple questions I'm sure the DA doesn't want to address:

  1. Why did Prosecutor Amy Mullaney rush to cut a deal with Brad Orgill--the only person seen fighting with victim Anthony Madril? Madril, according to witnesses entered into the fight enthusiastically, fought fiercely, and emerged covered in blood and saying, "I just got stabbed." Mullaney cut a deal with Orgill: He would get a few hours of community service in exchange for saying that Todd confessed. The deal was struck before the physical evidence had all been sent to the state crime lab for testing, and long before the Metro Crime Lab did a crime scene analysis.
  2. Why did prosecutors let Orgill get away with violating his plea bargain? Only a few months after Mullaney struck the deal with Orgill, a nineteen-year-old woman accused Orgill of rape. Orgill claimed the sex was consensual, and, despite physical evidence, the case never went anywhere. During the investigation, however, Orgill admitted to giving his underage accuser alcohol--a clear violation of his plea agreement, which in addition to community service required that he keep his nose clean. That is, that he commit no infraction more serious than a four-point traffic ticket.
The questions asked here won't be a part of the current hearing because the law sometimes works in curious ways. They are, as Paul Harvey might have said, "The rest of the story."

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A day in court--finally

For a long time, I've been silent on this blog. Not because I'd nothing to say, but because we've been working hard behind scenes to advance Todd's case on the legal front. Now, after four and a half years of unjust incarceration, Todd arrived on the eve of a court hearing where we will make our plea that his original trial was deeply flawed and profoundly unfair.

We pray that the judge, who will hear this care, Judge John McMullen, will listen with wisdom and decide rightly that Todd's conviction should be vacated.

Judge McMullen has blocked off three days for the hearing, which begins tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. in the El Paso County Courthouse, Room W450.

As the hearing proceeds, I'll post updates. The blog entries won't come until the end of the day, but as I'm able to, I'll tweet throughout the day during any recesses. You can follow those tweets at http://twitter.com/bnewmiller. They'll also be echoed to my Facebook page, http://facebook.com/newmiller.

Finally, a great big thank you to the many people who have supported Todd and our family throughout the nightmare of his wrongful conviction.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Faulty Forensics

The case of David Kofoed feeds directly into horror our family has faced these last few years. Kofoed was the Director of CSI for Douglas County, Nebraska. Last week Kofoed was convicted of planting blood evidence to be used against the suspect in a murder case. The Associated Press reports that a flood of appeals is expected on the heals of Kofoed's conviction.

With David Kofoed's conviction the list grows of cases where forensic agencies have been caught doctoring evidence. In part, the federal government has tried to address this problem through the Coverdell Forensic Improvement program, which requires any forensic agency that receives funding under Coverdell grants to investigate allegations of negligence or abuse.

We filed a Coverdell allegation in May of last year, an allegation we've made available online. Followers of Bearing False Witness know that evidence altered by state authorities was central to Todd's wrongful conviction. Although the allegation was filed almost a year ago, and although the National Institute of Justice has sent additional queries to Colorado authorities, we have so far not even received an acknowledgement from those responsible for investigating the allegation.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An Update on the Legal Battle

It's been a long time since I've posted here. At the time of my last post we were facing a deadline for filing a 35(c) motion, which in Colorado is a motion for post-conviction relief. In it we asked for a hearing where we can raise issues of unfairness in Todd's trial that have not been previously addressed. I'm happy to report that we will receive a 35(c) hearing. It's not yet scheduled, but we're hopeful that it will occur in the next few months.

Presiding at the hearing is Senior Judge John McMullen from Denver, who has been assigned to the case after a ruling that none of the judges in our local Colorado Springs district could hear the case.

Central to the hearing will be medical evidence provided by state "experts" that was misleading, inaccurate, and went unchallenged in the trial.

The prosecution's theory of the crime was that Todd, unseen by any of the six witnesses, stabbed the victim in the heart (a horrific wound that punctured both ventricles). And then the victim went on to a fierce fight with another person--a fight that he entered energetically and that was seen by all witnesses.

State medical witnesses testified that the victim's seemingly miraculous ability to engage in a fierce fight with his heart slashed resulted from a medical condition called "cardiac tamponade."

There are two problems with this theory that never came out at the trial. First, there is much physical evidence indicating that cardiac tamponade did NOT occur. Second, cardiac tamponade is itself a serious condition that leads quickly to death.

We'll keep you updated as events unfold.

In the meantime, please take a look at Todd's latest blog. He along with others is blogging for the National Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform, a newly founded organization chartered in Idaho by the national network of activists that came together for last summer's Freedom March to raise awareness for wrongful convictions.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

New Book on False Confessions

John Maki from the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions writes that Rob Warden and Steve Drizin's new book, True Stories of False Confessions, contains 39 compelling accounts of false confessions—articles adapted from newspapers, magazines, and books by distinguished writers, including Sydney Schanberg, Alex Kotlowitz, and John Grisham.

The book includes the account of Chris Ochoa, who spent nearly 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Chris talks about how interrogators extracted a false confession from him in this video:

Of the book, John Maki writes, "True Stories of False Confessions shows that these cases are not aberrations, but rather evidence of flaws in the criminal justice system that demand reform. To this end, Warden and Drizin organize the stories of false confessions into categories, such as brainwashing, child abuse, and fabrication, and include a postscript for each case, providing legal updates and additional information."

The royalties from the book will go to the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

True Stories of False Confessions is available at Amazon. Learn more about True Stories of False Confessions at http://falseconfessionsbook.com/.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Bad Science + Amateur Expert + Snitch = Execution of an Innocent Man

In this week's New Yorker David Grann chronicles the tragic story of Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham lost his children in house fire in Corsicana, Texas. A local fire inspector called it arson. A jailhouse snitch said that Willingham confessed. A two-day trial followed by a four hour deliberation sealed Willingham's fate. He was executed in 2004.

Unfortunately for Willingham, a re-analysis of the fire, done by a real scientist with a real degree, Gerald Hurst,--an analysis that revealed the fire was not the result of arson--was ignored by those in Texas who were hell-bent on injecting sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride into Willingham's veins.

What runs through the mind of an innocent man facing imminent execution? Willingham's last communications with his parents tell us. When he received word that Governor Rick Perry had denied a last-minute stay of execution, he told his mother, "Don't be sad, Momma. In fifty-five minutes, I'm a free man. I'm going home to see my kids." He told them, "Please don't ever stop trying to vindicate me."

Willingham's heart stopped beating on February 17, 2004, at 6:20 P.M. His death certificate listed the cause of death as "homicide." Who murdered him is clear. They remain at large.