Exoneration Anniversary of Jules Letemps

Victoria Inzana — October 14, 2017 @ 12:00 PM — Comments (0)

One year ago today, Jules Letemps was exonerated after 27 years in prison.

Although he was exonerated of a crime he did not commit, he is still not free.

On May 29th, 1989, a young woman on her way to work was waiting for a bus in Orlando, Florida. A man had approached her, placed a metal object to her neck, and led her towards some bushes where he forced her to remove her clothing and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. She was able to flee her attacker, obtain help from a nearby resident, and contact the police. Once home, the victim showered and called her cousin. Together, they went back to the location of the crime to search for her assailant. This was when the victim spotted Jules Letemps, then 26, on his way to work. She immediately summoned an officer who arrested Jules. He attempted to tell the officer that he was on his way to the Toyota dealership where he was employed as a maintenance man where he was charged with the task of washing the cars.

Jules was charged with three counts of sexual assault, and one count of kidnapping. His trial was held in Orange County in November of 1989, where the main evidence against him was the victim’s testimony. At trial, a forensic analyst testified that she had examined the robe worn by the victim after the assault, and found a semen stain. She claimed that this stain was so diluted that she could not conclude anything. After a two day trial, where Jules’ defense attorney did not cross-examine any of the police officers who testified for the prosecution, he was sentenced to four consecutive terms of life in prison.

With the help of fellow immigrants, Jules filed numerous post-conviction petitions in the hopes of getting his sentence overturned. All of his attempts were unsuccessful. In 2010, Centurion Ministries began examining his case. His attorney, Paul Casteleiro, found the cassette tapes of various pretrial depositions, one of which was the forensic analyst on the case. In her deposition, she explained to Letempt’s attorney the testing procedures used to analyze the semen stain that was found on the robe the victim had been wearing.

In the deposition, the forensic expert explained that the blood type identified on the robe was O, which matches the blood type of the victim. This should have excluded Jules as the perpetrator because his blood type is B. However, due to the dilution, they could not positively exclude Jules, even though no blood type B was found.

Centurion obtained all notable documents of this forensic expert (lab notes and transcribed deposition) and enlisted a number of experts in serology to review the document. It was concluded that the expert was incorrect in the determination that the semen was too diluted to obtain an exact result, and they also were able to positively exclude Jules as the source of the semen.

Once this information was found, Centurion procured the additional counsel of Seth Miller, Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida, and filed a motion for post-conviction relief. The court denied this petition, and the appellate court affirmed. Jules’ lawyer, Castelerio, then filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and on July 20th, 2015, Judge Gregory Presnell granted it and ordered a new trial for Jules.

In this new trial, it was ruled that Jules’ trial attorney had provided inadequate defense by failing to investigate the analysis of the forensic expert. The judge determined that the new evidence, combined with Jules’ alibi testimony, raised enough doubt to undermine his conviction and on October 14th, the prosecution dropped their charges.

Usually, when an inmate is exonerated, they are free. However, Jules’ journey is quite different than any other exoneree.

Jules is a Hatian immigrant who came to the United States on “humanitarian parole” in 1981. This is a temporary status granted to those fleeing their country for urgent humanitarian reasons. He had fled Haiti due to political unrest and economic turmoil. Due to a past felony drug charge, immigration officials revoked his parole and planned to try and deport him after he had served his sentence for the wrongful conviction. After 27 years, of wrongful imprisonment, Jules is still waiting to be reunited with his friends and family in Florida. His lawyer, as do many others, believe that permitting his residency here would be proper compensation for the injustice he has suffered.

His next hearing is February 7th; it will likely be months before the court gives a final decision on his deportation.

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Time Magazine Special Edition: The Fight Against Wrongful Convictions

Alejandra de la Fuente — February 17, 2017 @ 5:06 PM — Comments (1)

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To commemorate the Innocence Project’s 25th anniversary, Time magazine’s special edition issue Innocent: The Fight Against Wrongful Conviction is officially out to the public.

The issue focuses on Innocence Project Co-Founders Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck’s road to reform America’s criminal justice system as advances in DNA technology opened the door for wrongfully convicted individuals across the country. The magazine includes profiles on Innocence Project clients such as Anthony Wright and Lewis Fogle as well as articles by California Innocence Project Director Justin Brooks, Jon Eldan from After Innocence, Innocence Project New Orleans Executive Director Emily Maw, and more!

This special edition issue is a huge milestone in the movement to raise awareness of the Innocence Network’s fight for the wrongfully convicted and criminal justice reform. Although the plight of the wrongfully convicted has gained widespread media attention through shows such as Making a Murderer and podcasts like Undisclosed, there are still many individuals who are unaware of the injustices occurring within our criminal justice system.

If you see an edition out in the wild, please tweet us a picture with the hashtag #IPspecialedition!

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: February 9th

Alejandra de la Fuente — February 9, 2017 @ 1:53 PM — Comments (0)

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Today is the exoneration anniversary of Tim Atkins from Los Angeles, California.

In 1987, Tim Atkins went to trial for the armed robbery of Vincente and Maria Gonzalez that resulted in the murder of Vincente. He and Ricky Evans were arrested and charged with murder and armed robbery after a woman named Denise Powell told police she heard the two street gang members bragging about the crime.

While Evans was assaulted and killed in jail in 1985, Atkins waited two years for his trial. Once it began, Powell could not be located to testify. Despite this, her testimony from the preliminary hearing was presented to the jury as a confession. Maria also identified Atkins as the man who stole her necklace at the scene of the crime. Due to this, Atkins was sentenced to 32 years to life in prison.

In 2001, Atkins wrote to the California Innocence Project where a law student found Powell at a drug rehabilitation center. When approached, Powell admitted her testimony was false. Not only did she confess to lying about overhearing a confession, Powell said police threatened to charge her with a narcotics offense if she didn’t provide information about the two suspects.

In 2007, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan granted Atkins’ a new trial and on February 9th, he was released. While he was cleared of all charges, the state did not grant Atkin’s compensation as they felt he did not wholly prove his innocence.

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: December 14th

Alejandra de la Fuente — December 14, 2016 @ 11:11 AM — Comments (1)

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Today is the exoneration anniversary of Philip Bivens, Larry Ruffin, and Bobby Ray Dixon.

In 1979, all three men were wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of a woman in Forrest County, Mississippi. All three gave confessions to the police under the threat of the death penalty. Despite the inconsistencies in their confessions with each other and with the evidence in the case, they were sentenced to life in prison.

In 2010, the Innocence Project New Orleans and co-counsel Rob McDuff obtained DNA testing that effectively excluded all three of the men convicted and instead pointed towards a different man altogether.

Sadly, Ruffin died in prison in 2002 and Dixon passed away from lung cancer in November of 2010. Neither got to witness their official exoneration on December 14th, 2010 when a Forrest Count Grand Jury declined to indict the three men.

In January of 2013, a federal wrongful conviction lawsuit was filed against the Forrest County law enforcement officials for coercing the three men’s confessions. Although Bivens passed away in 2014, the state agreed to pay $500,000 to the estate of Ruffin and $375,000 each to the estates of Bivens and Dixon in 2015. Earlier this year, Forrest County has settled the federal lawsuit for a total of $16.5 million.

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Florida Supreme Court Grants Re-trial for Death Row Case

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 28, 2016 @ 4:42 PM — Comments (0)

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In a unanimous decision, the Florida Supreme Court has vacated the conviction of Clemente Aguirre based on DNA evidence that points towards another suspect for the murder of Cheryl and Carol Williams in 2004.

Aguirre was convicted in 2006 for the double homicide after the prosecution found that 64 out of 67 bloody shoe impressions found inside the victims’ residence matched Aguirre’s footwear. In addition, forensic evidence showed that his clothes contained traces of blood that belonged to both Cheryl and Carol Williams. However, Aguirre has maintained his innocence and testified that he had found the bodies while trying to take some beer from his neighbor’s house. He attempted to revive Cheryl Williams and, once he was unsuccessful, ran without calling the police because he is currently an illegal immigrant who could face deportation.

After being denied by a circuit court on his appeal, the Florida Supreme Court has found that they “agree with Aguirre that the cumulative effect of the newly discovered evidence requires a new trial.” At the postconviction evidentiary hearing, Aguirre and his legal team showed that on 150 previously untested bloodstains from the crime scene, his blood was not present. Additionally, it showed that eight of the bloodstains matched someone else entirely: Samantha Williams, Cheryl’s daughter. Samantha had testified at Aguirre’s trial stating that she had found him “standing over her bed” at 2AM months before the murders. In addition, it was her boyfriend who found the bodies and was also her alibi, even though he testified that at the time of the murders he was “dead to the world” asleep.

However, the newly discovered evidence was not simply limited to the presence of Samantha’s blood at the crime scene. There is also proof that Samantha Williams also confessed to the double homicide to four different people.

The Florida Supreme Court’s opinion specifies that Samantha told her friend in 2010 that “demons in her head made her do it.” She also confessed to three of her former neighbors (in three separate instances) to the crime. While the State stated that her confessions were inadmissible as hearsay, the Supreme Court ruled that “the trial court erred by excluding … the testimony of three witnesses that another person had admitted, on three separate occasions, to committing the murder of which the defendant was convicted.”

The Court concluded their decision by stating that “adding the newly discovered evidence to the pictures changes the focus entirely: No longer is Aguirre the creepy figure who appears over Samantha’s bed in the middle of the night; he is now the scapegoat for her crimes.” Because of the reasonable doubt this casts over Aguirre’s culpability, he will receive a re-trial.

To read the Florida Supreme Court’s full opinion, click here.

 

 

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: March 27

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 27, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (1)

Happy exoneration anniversary Thomas Kennedy! Thomas was exonerated in Washington state in 2012.

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Man Receives 6.42 Million in Wrongful Conviction Lawsuit

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 25, 2016 @ 4:00 PM — Comments (0)

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This week we congratulate former Greensboro resident LaMonte Armstrong for being paid 6.42 million dollars by the city of Greensboro, North Carolina because of his wrongful conviction in 1995.

Armstrong was exonerated in 2013 of a murder he did not commit. From the start, the case against Armstrong was shaky. The charges against him rested on testimony from Charles Blackwell, a police informant who later revealed he was paid $200 dollars for his testimony and later threatened with jail time for the murder if he didn’t testify.

In 2010, the case crumbled when Blackwell recanted his testimony and admitted to the detective misconduct rampant in the investigation. The Duke Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic took on the case in 2011 and discovered through DNA testing that a palm print found at the scene of the crime did not match Armstrong but a convicted felon who had briefly been a suspect in 1992.

After Armstrong was exonerated, the state gave him $750,000 in compensation as well as a governor’s pardon from Pat McCrory. However, because of the aforementioned detective misconduct, he filed a lawsuit against the city of Greensboro in 2013. On October 21th of this year, Armstrong and his attorney David Rudolf won the case 5-1.

Armstrong currently works as a peer counselor at a Durham nonprofit that helps substance abuse survivors and people caught up in the criminal justice system. “It seems to me that the more I continue to be of service to my fellow man and help people, the more that God continues to serve me,” Armstrong told N&R Greensboro.

Although money will never be able to give LaMonte Armstrong the years he lost in prison, compensation is an important part of helping victims of wrongful conviction find justice and rebuild their lives after prison. To find out more about Florida’s own compensation laws and how you can help, be sure to follow the link below.

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Lawrence McKinney Granted Exoneration Hearing

Alejandra de la Fuente — @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

Last month, an article was posted to our blog about Lawrence McKinney’s request for exoneration and Tennessee State Representative Mark Pody’s frustration with how long that process was taking. Nike Roshe Run Two femme Now, New Balance 446 femme some progress has finally been made, Doudoune Parajumpers Angie Master as the Tennessee Board of Parole recently granted McKinney an exoneration hearing. asics onitsuka tiger homme The board is responsible for reviewing applications such as McKinney’s and gives recommendations to the governor, Nike Flyknit Lunar homme who makes the final decision on exoneration requests. Adidas Superstar Femme If McKinney is exonerated, Nike Pas Cher it will make him eligible to file for compensation for his wrongful conviction. Nike Air Max 98 Homme David Raybin and Jack Lowery, New Balance 533 homme whom Pody referred to as “good legal representation,” will represent McKinney at the upcoming hearing,

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: May 23

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 23, 2016 @ 9:38 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Marvin Mitchell and Orlando Boquete! Marvin was exonerated in Massachusetts in 1997 with help from the Innocence Project. nike air zoom pegasus 33 donna marvin Orlando is one of Florida’s very own exonerees and was exonerated in 2006 with help from the Innocence Project. asics kayano 23 femme He spent 13 years in prison for attempted sexual battery and burglary that he did not commit. New Balance 1300 homme Unfortunately, Chaussures New Balance he is ineligible for compensation because he managed to escape from his wrongful conviction twice before filing a motion on his own seeking DNA testing in 2003, nike internationalist femme the results of which proved he was not the perpetrator. He did, New Balance 373 femme however, Air Jordan 3 Homme fulfill his dream of becoming a U.S. Adidas Yeezy 750 Boost Homme naturalized citizen on March 27, 2015. nike tn homme 2017 Orlando and IPF have maintained close ties since his release, Nike Air Max Thea Homme Noir where we have helped him with myriad reentry issues. You can read more about his case here.

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: July 22

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 22, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Rodell Sanders! Rodell was exonerated in Illinois in 2014 with help from the Exoneration Project.

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