Posts Tagged ‘Brevard County’

Press Release: DNA Exoneree & Recording Artist William Michael Dillon Performing In Tallahassee on Sept. 7

Alejandra de la Fuente — August 31, 2011 @ 10:23 AM — Comments (0)

DNA Exoneree, Songwriter & Recording Artist William Michael Dillon Performing In Tallahassee on September 7, 2011

Dillon Will Release Full-Length CD, Black Robes & Lawyers on September 27, 2011

DNA Exoneree, Songwriter & Recording Artist William Michael Dillon will perform on Wednesday, September 7th from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at The Moon (1105 E. Lafayette Street) in Tallahassee. Admission is free.

As an innocent man, Dillon spent 27.5 years in prison for a Brevard County murder that he did not commit. He was released in November 2008 after DNA testing proved his innocence. More information about Dillon’s case is available on the Innocence Project of Florida website, Click here to learn more.

While in prison, Dillon learned to play guitar and began singing country and rock tunes with other inmates. He started writing song lyrics on the backs of official notices, on money receipts, on loose sheets of paper he’d pick up from the library.  Dillon remarks, “I’ve used everything, I think. I’ve even written a song on toilet paper.”

On September 27, Dillon will release a full-length CD of original songs. Each song speaks to the pain, sorrow and injustice of a lifetime lost. The wisdom gained from Dillon’s struggles shines through each verse as he sings of hope, perseverance and the eternal flame of the human spirit. The CD is currently available on iTunes.

William Michael Dillon continues to be a voice for the wrongfully incarcerated men and women in prisons across our nation. He now lives in Chapel Hill, N.C.

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Innocence Commission is Cooking with Gas

Seth — February 14, 2010 @ 9:00 AM — Comments (1)

As you can see from our Press Release below, IPF’s efforts to create an Actual Innocence Commission in Florida have just been buoyed by one of, if not the most conservative members of the Florida Senate, Mike Haridopolos (R-Brevard).  It is not insiginificant that he also happens to be the next President of the Florida Senate.  He sent a letter this week to Chief Justice fo the Florida Supreme Court, Peggy Quince, supporting and offering legislative assistance in the creation of the Innocence Commission, the creation of which is being considered currently being considered by the court.

The Commission would not determine claims of innocence, which is the primary function of IPF, prosecutors and courts in innocence-based litigation.  However, it would look at those cases where innocence has been determined and find out why those wrongful convictions occurred so it can make recommendations for policy reforms that will prevent wrongful convictions going forward.

Senator Haridopolos has cut his teeth on wrongful conviction issues by being the Senate sponsor on claims bills to compensate Florida DNA exoneress Wilton Dedge and, now, Bill Dillon.  John Torres from Florida Today reports:

“Our goal should be justice,” Haridopolos said. “I’m known as being tough on crime, but let’s make sure the right guy is behind bars.”  He said the letter is a result of his research on a special bill for William Dillon, a Satellite Beach man who spent 27 years in prison before DNA ultimately excluded him from key evidence.Haridopolos said the commission would save the state money by weeding out frivolous lawsuits and keeping guilty inmates from “abusing the system.”  It also would eliminate the need for special compensation bills in the future because it would help limit wrongful incarcerations.

Haridopolos said the commission idea had been “floating around” for a couple of years. He said Florida could use a similar project in North Carolina as a model.  “Their hard work has provided an example of how other states should react when faced with a plethora of wrongful incarcerations,” he wrote.

Reached in Tallahassee Thursday, Haridopolos said the time is ripe for this to happen.  “The criminal justice system is not perfect,” he said. “We need to have something established like this. It will make sure that when a person is sentenced to a life sentence, or even to the death penalty, that they are truly the guilty one.”

This is just more proof that the “Innocence” issue must not be an issue where lines are drawn by party affiliation or political persuasion.  With the support of the legislature and the recent unanimous support of the Florida Bar Board of Governors, the chances of creating this Innocence Commission have dramatically improved.

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More About Snitch Testimony in Dillon

Seth — November 05, 2009 @ 10:50 AM — Comments (0)

As we chronicled here on Tuesday,  Roger Dale Chapman, who testified during William Dillon’s 1981 trial that Dillon made a jailhouse confession, attended Dillon’s compensation hearing on Monday to set the record straight.  The news reports don’t really do this riveting moment justice.  So I wanted to recount what occurred from my perspective at counsel’s table:

  • While Dillon was on the stand, he was asked about his time in the county jail.  He noted that while he in jail after arrest, he was in a large cell with upwards of 20 inmates and a story about the Dvorak murder came on the TV.  Many people asked him about it and Bill stated that he told them “I had nothing to do with that there.”
  • Dillon also stated that he did not know Roger Dale Chapman, and therefore didn’t know if he had ever spoken with him at the jail.  The first time he found out about Chapman was when Chapman was on the stand testifying to the jailhouse confession at trial.
  • Then Dillon was dismissed and counsel called Roger Dale Chapman to the astonishment of the hearing officers and just about everyone in the room.
  • Chapman stated that he was in the county jail after being falsely accused of rape.  A Sheriff’s Office Agent, Thom Fair, came to him in the jail and made him an agent of the State for the purposes of soliciting damaging admissions from Dillon.  Fair threatened Chapman with jail time if he didn’t comply.
  • Chapman then stated that he went into the “bullpen” where Dillon was being held with many other inmates and, when the story of the murder came on the TV with a picture of Dillon, he asked Dillon whether he did it and Dillon protested his innocence vehemently.
  • Several days later, Fair came back to the jail to meet Chapman.  At this point Fair already knew that medical testing came back which demonstrated that Chapman could not have committed rape.   Yet, when Chapman stated that Dillon didn’t give him anything and maintained his innocence, Fair held out his hand and stated “I have your life in the palm of my hand and if you don’t give me something on Dillon, I can make that rape charge come back.”
  • Fair also told Chapman that they had Dillon as their “fall guy.”
  • Chapman then stated that he didn’t have anything to say so Fair decided to record a statement by Chapman which would implicate Dillon, only when Fair asked the questions about the specifics of the crime, another investigator held up the answers so Chapman could parrot them back for the recording and the eventual transcribed statement.
  • Dillon’s counsel also entered into evidence secret handwritten notes from Dean Moxley, the Chief Assistant State Attorney, indicating that Chapman may have been made an agent of the State and that they already gave him a bond reduction and they should probably enter into a deal with him.
  • Chapman then testified at trial that Dillon confessed to him in jail with detail about the crime.  Chapman’s rape charge was dropped in exchange.
  • After this testimony, Chapman apologized to Dillon for contributing to his wrongful conviction.

Obviously, none of this was turned over to the defense before trial and at trial, the State insisted that there was no deal.

This is the most pernicious kind of misconduct.  Law enforcement had their mind made up and then just needed to fabricate the evidence to fit that preconceived notion.    We call this tunnel vision.

This misconduct seems to have been the norm in Brevard County in the 1980s and the John Preston+snitch formula worked for the State in Dedge and Dillon, and we’ll find out whether it worked in the case of Gary Bennett.

Either way, this is the beginning of the pulling back of the curtain of the muck that regularly served to cause wrongful convictions in Brevard.  I suspect it won’t be the last we hear.

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Bill Dillon on the Radio

Seth — August 04, 2009 @ 5:25 PM — Comments (1)

Bill Dillon appeared on Deminski and Doyle on 94.7 WCSX, Detroit’s Rock Station to talk about his case.  The segment lasted roughly 13 minutes and is a really great conversation on Bill’s case and the corruption that is systemic in Brevard County.

It is exciting that Bill’s case and the infamous John Preston is becoming a national story, and this should be a lesson to folks in power who think that they can avoid this issue because the public doesn’t care.

You can listen to the segment here.

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Well Said: Florida Today Questions Legitimacy of Wolfinger Investigation

Seth — August 03, 2009 @ 8:50 AM — Comments (0)

Yesterday, Florida Today’s editorial board asserted that the proposed Brevard State Attorney investigation into the John Preston cases does not go far enough as it is narrowly tailored to rape and murder cases where the defendant is still in prison.

We argued pretty much the same thing last week stating that the investigation should include any case that Preston even sneezed at and we wondered whether Wolfinger and his people can even be trusted to perform such an investigation considering that they have performed two such investigations in the past, one of which they approved of Preston’s work and the other they never found Bill Dillon’s case who was later exonerated.

A week has gone by and we still think that this investigation is more likely an attempt to make this whole mess go away now so it will not be politically inconvenient for Wolfinger as he begins another run for State Attorney.

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Dillon CNN piece from the other night

Seth — August 02, 2009 @ 6:10 PM — Comments (3)

In case you missed it, here is the piece on Bill Dillon and fraudulent dog handler John Preston, as shown on Anderson Cooper 360:

We’ll try and get a hold of the really great commentary by Anderson Cooper and Jeffrey Toobin on junk science. As soon as we do, we will post it.

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AC 360 Take 10

Seth — July 29, 2009 @ 9:22 AM — Comments (2)

Here at Plain Error, we have chronicled the drawn out saga of Bill Dillon’s appearance on AC360 on CNN.  Anderson Cooper’s folks came down to Brevard County about six weeks ago to film a great segment with Bill and Melissa Montle from IPF.

The first time it was to appear, we got bumped at the last minute when SC Guv Mark Sanford decided, unbeknown to his staff or family, to take a weeklong hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail (code for secretly flying to another continent to rendezvous with his Argentinian mistress).  We understood that this was big political news, as far as sex scandals go.

Then it was supposed to be on the next day.  But at 5:00 we got the news of Jacko’s death.  We have two wars in the middle east, a nuclear North Korea, a big legislative fight over carbon taxes and universal healthcare, and our story gets bumped for the better part of five weeks for Wacko Jacko.

Then we get the call yesterday that the segment will finally air after weeks of MJ mania had finally died down.  At the last minute, however, we find out that police searched MJ’s doctor’s home, which reignited the Michael Jackson furor.  That and a rabbit that walks upright bumped us again!!!

So here we are, with word from CNN that the Dillon segment will finally run tonight on AC360, 10 PM on CNN.  Clear out all the false alarm AC360s from your Tivos and DVRs, and tune into CNN for news about IPF or maybe just another trivial development involving Michael Jackson that no one really cares about.

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Preston and the Magical Dog: Prosecutor relents and candidates weigh in

Seth — July 27, 2009 @ 4:57 PM — Comments (3)

We had a big weekend on the Brevard County/John Preston front.  We we have noted here, here, and here, that there has been mounting pressure on Brevard prosecutor, Norman Wolfinger, to do the simply task of looking through his own files to determine any cases that may have involved John Preston.

Wolfinger continually said that he wouldn’t do that, instead arguing that it was up to individual inmates to challenge their convictions that may have been tainted by John Preston and his magic dogs.  Meanwhile, Florida Today and the local public defender commenced their own investigations into identifying the universe of John Preston cases.

Now, the state attorney’s office has finally realized that it may be wise to get out in front of this issue before it gets out of control.  from Florida Today’s Saturday edition, Wolfinger said:

I asked my staff to re-review the cases we can identify as involving John Preston. To the best of my knowledge, there are four people in prison today who had cases in which Preston and one of his dogs were used.

Wolfinger also explained that his office did an examination of the Preston cases in 2004 after Wilton Dedge’s exoneration and that they believed then, and they believe now that three of the four people still in prison, possible because of Preston’s fraud, are in fact guilty.  He also noted that this re-review would be limited to sexual battery and murder cases

One way to look at this is that it is better late than never.  But there are a so many problems with these statements.  First, as I stated int he article, this proposed state attorney reinvestigation is too narrow.  It only looks at those cases where Preston was involved and the subject is still in prison.  But the offending acts took place over twenty-five years ago.  Those affected may have been released or maybe even are deceased.  Or maybe they pled when they were confronted with Preston’s conclusions.  And what about the cases that are not rape and murders?  So this proposed investigatio is clearly not adequate.

Second, and probably most disturbing, is that when they reviewed the cases in 2004, after Dedge, they apparently didn’t even turn up Bill Dillon’s case.  As we all know, Bill was an IPF client who was exonerated last fall.  So how thorough could they have been and how thorough can we expect them to be this time around.

Third, can we trust them?  The reason folks of all stripes have been urging an outside investigation is that no one really believes that an internal investigation will be anything more than a CYA mission.  Despite all the highminded rhetoric about justice and innocence, when Wolfinger’s office did a review of Preston’s work in the 1980s, his office determined that it was sound and admissible and that critiques about the Preston’s veracity or reliability were mere complaints by guilty litigants.  The same people who came to that conclusion then, are still with the state attorney’s office and will likely be the one’s who perform the proposed re-review.

This is a classic example of the ox guarding the henhouse.  Luckily, as the Orlando Sentinel noted on Sunday, candidates for Florida’s highest office are weighing in on the side of accountability:

At that moment in 1984, every one of the cases in which Preston testified should’ve been reviewed.

So says State Sen. Dan Gelber, a former prosecutor and one of two Democrats hoping to face the Republican Kottkamp in the attorney general’s race next fall. “The nightmare of any prosecutor is to put an innocent person in jail,” Gelber said. “It’s an abomination of the system.”

His Democratic opponent, Dave Aronberg, agreed. “The attorney general has an obligation to do justice, no matter what. And justice is not just convictions,” he said. “I will look at this. I will not ignore it.”

So there is hope, I guess.  Lots of rhetoric, we’ll see about the action and whether it is honest, or a self-serving attempt to make this issue go away.

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Florida Today continues posthumous pummeling of Preston

Alejandra de la Fuente — July 06, 2009 @ 1:04 PM — Comments (0)

Florida Today continues to harp on the need for an independent investigation into the corruption and collusion engendered by John Preston and his cronies in Brevard County.

The Public Defender’s Office, a few local attorneys and the Innocence Project of Florida have called for Gov. Charlie Crist to assign a special prosecutor to look into the cases in which Preston assisted.

But while Crist refuses to appoint a special prosecutor, an investigation could be ordered by the Brevard County judiciary.

Though not typical, it is within the power of the chief judge of the 18th Circuit — which includes both Brevard and Seminole counties — to order a special grand jury to investigate the State Attorney’s Office if warranted.

Judge Preston Silvernail, elected chief judge of the 18th Circuit this week, said he is aware of the controversy surrounding the state’s use of Preston at trial but said empanelling a special grand jury would be a last resort.

And a quick rundown of the outrage generated by Preston’s shenanigan:

Seth Miller, executive director of the nonprofit Innocence Project of Florida, has said Preston was fed information. Former prosecutor Sam Bardwell said he quit working for the State Attorney’s Office because of “fabrication of evidence,” and retired Judge Gilbert Goshorn said the dog handler must have obtained information about cases before putting the dog to work.

And to really hammer the point home, they published a new editorial on Sunday, calling the investigation a “political hot potato.”

[The testimony of Goshorn and others] underscores questions about the possible innocence of other inmates still imprisoned — questions that must be answered for justice to be served.

So must questions about the actions of public officials, who, if found guilty of manufacturing evidence, should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Kudos once again to Florida Today for playing the part of the media watchdog: demanding transparency and accountability for heinous crimes against justice.

Innocence Project of Florida,justice, , , hits Preston hard with new series

Alejandra de la Fuente — June 29, 2009 @ 10:48 AM — Comments (0)

Patricia Phillips writes for the out of Oklahoma, but she’s heard of John Preston. That’s how far-flung his chicanery and fraud were. She writes today for the website in part of a new series exposing Preston, and she has what is possibly the best Preston lede I’ve read yet:

The situation in Brevard County, FL was so bad that one prosecutor resigned because he couldn’t stand the lies any more.

Hop over and check out the story. More news is good news.

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