Monday, May 26, 2008

The Fight Goes On

Today's Gazette reports the Appellate Court's rejection of Todd's appeal. It is a tragic decision that fertilizes injustice.

Gazette reporter Dennis Huspeni rightly reports our faith in Todd's innocence and our commitment to continue to fight for his exoneration. When he reports that Todd and Anthony Madril argued over a stripper, he is inaccurate. The record clearly shows that the perpetrator of that argument was Brad Orgill, the only person who was seen later fighting with Madril.

Huspeni also quotes Jeff Lindsey, the lead prosecutor on the case, who says, "This is an affirmation of the jury's decision." Lindsey is not burdened by one of those juror's recorded comments indicating that he didn't know if Todd had actually committed the crime.

One of the frustrating things about the appeal process is that it offers far less than a full consideration and review of all that can go wrong in a criminal investigation and trial. We've discussed on these pages how the juror's shocking admission is inadmissible.

We also remain highly critical of the way the District Attorney's Office investigated this case. Assistant District Attorney Amy Mullaney has yet to answer for her decision to cut a deal with Brad Orgill--the only person seen fighting with Anthony Madril--before the evidence in the case had even been sent to the state crime lab for analysis, and almost a year before the Metro Crime Lab determined that Orgill could not be ruled out as the assailant. The DA's office has also failed to explain the preferential treatment Orgill received just a few months after his deal with Mullaney, when Orgill was accused of rape. That accusation was cleared in a highly unusual collaboration between CSPD, Orgill, and Orgill's attorney that included a pretext phone call to Orgill's accuser to get her to drop the charges. Although Orgill's accuser was only 19, and Orgill admitted giving her alcohol (a clear violation of his plea agreement), the DA's office apparently never considered reviewing his non-compliance with the agreement. The effect of Orgill's preferential treatment was to preserve the credibility of a key prosecution witness.

Huspeni reports telescopically about Todd's knife, saying only that it had the victim's blood on it and a black spot that disappeared. There's more to it than that.

When the police first examined the knife, they found no blood on it. They found no blood in Todd's pockets where he had carried the knife.They did find black debris on it. More than a spot, it was described by the detective who examined the knife as "some kind of substance sort of shellacked on the blade.... It was in higher concentration along the serrated edge and most dense near the hilt of the knife." That suggested the knife's use to puncture a tire some 30 feet away from the area where the victim and Brad Orgill were engaged in a violent and bloody fight.

The knife was not shipped to the state crime with the other physical evidence. Some six months after the stabbing the state crime lab called the El Paso Sheriff asking where the knife was. It had been hiding out in their evidence room. So Officer Jeff Nohr drove it down to the state lab in Pueblo. At this point we'd been dogging the authorities for six months to test the debris on the knife because of its apparent exculpatory value.Unfortunately, by the time the knife arrived at the lab, the black debris was gone. We were never told of the missing debris, until in desperation, we obtained a court order 13 months after Todd's arrest, for the state to produce the knife for independent testing. Only when it reached the independent forensic lab did we learn that the debris was gone.

The authorities saw no blood on the knife until it showed up at the state crime lab. The amount was infinitesimal--so little that consumptive testing had to be approved. That is, it could only be analyzed by consuming the entire amount. This little amount of blood was located on the handle and away from the cutting edge of the folding knife. None of the victim's blood was in serrations on the knife or within the channel of the knife or the mechanism of the knife.

Particularly galling to us is that at trial Prosecutor Jeff Lindsey argued that Todd had cleaned the knife, after it was clear that any cleaning must have been done by the state, since it was while the knife was in the state's possession that the debris on the knife was removed.

We would like to know how the condition of the knife alleged to be the murder weapon became altered while it was in the possession of the El Paso County Sheriff's Department, and why this piece of evidence became separated from other evidence in the case and was "missing" in the evidence room for two months. Incidentally, at the time the Metro Lab did its analysis, they did not know about the problem with the knife evidence. They also didn't know that Orgill at trial would admit that on another occasion he had carried multiple knives and voiced an intent to use them should he find himself in a bar fight.

Finally, we insist that the state should not be permitted to gain a conviction by using evidence that has been altered while in the state's possession.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

John Newsome, Amy Mullaney, Poor Judgement, and Moral Decay

KOAA investigative reporter James Jarman's videotapes of District Attorney John Newsome and his deputy Amy Mullaney consuming the equivalent of a twelve-pack and a six-pack respectively during a time with interspersed office responsibilities made the headlines in the Colorado Springs Gazette this week. Then, they drove home, he in a government car.

Poor judgement? For sure. But it's just the tip of the iceberg. Thankfully, Newsome and Mullaney hold their liquor well enough that there have been no accidents (reported). But what about poor judgement on the job?

What about Newsome's elevation of Mullaney to deputy over others with more experience? Was it a decision based upon merit and accomplishment, or based upon drinking comraderie?

Has poor judgement on the job set the guilty free? Imprisoned the innocent?

Early in the morning of November 20, 2004, Anthony Madril shouted to his friends, "It's on! Let's go!" He entered into a fierce fight with Brad Orgill. Witnesses saw no one else near the fighting twosome. Madril emerged from it bleeding profusely--a single puncture to the heart, both ventricles breached. As his friend pulled him into the truck, Madril said, "I just got stabbed." Orgill's clothing was covered with blood, but before the state crime lab even tested it, Amy Mullaney cut Orgill a deal: deferred sentence. No jail time. Just testify against Todd Newmiller. No one had seen Todd near Madril. Madril's blood appeared no where on Todd's clothing.

So, Todd waits for the Court of Appeals to correct the excesses of bad judgment that led to his wrongful conviction. Orgill walks the streets, accused of rape since his deal. Details here.