Posts Tagged ‘Chad Heins’

Florida Exoneree Finds Success Post-Exoneration

Alejandra de la Fuente — September 03, 2013 @ 12:41 PM — Comments (0)

Congratulations to Florida DNA exoneree Chad Heins, who graduated from Fox Valley Semi-Truck Driving Program in Appleton, Wisconsin. Upon graduation, he received numerous calls from companies interested in hiring him. He chose instead to work with his father who has a lifetime of experience driving semis. He has logged tens of thousands of miles on the in the last two months. He recently delivered 46,000 tons of lumber to Kentucky.

Heins lives in Wisconsin with his children and family. We wish him the best of luck in his new career path and the rest of his endeavors! Keep up the hard work!

Innocence Project of Florida,Uncategorized,

RSVP to Step Out for Justice with IPF

Alejandra de la Fuente — April 11, 2012 @ 12:28 PM — Comments (2)

RSVP today to reserve your spot to step out and support the innocence movement and sponsor fairness in our justice system. The evening will feature a special VIP reception where you’ll get to meet and speak with some of Florida’s exonorees, a magnificent silent auction, dinner with keynote speaker Professor Larry Marshall, an awards ceremony, and more.

Buy your ticket for justice today!

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William Dillon to Perform at IPF’s First Annual Gala

Alejandra de la Fuente — March 28, 2012 @ 1:23 PM — Comments (2)

Can you imagine losing decades of your life to punishment for a crime you did not commit?

Florida’s 13 DNA exonerees don’t have to imagine; they know just how it feels to serve time for crimes that they had nothing to do with. At Steppin’ Out with the Innocence Project of Florida, IPF’s first annual gala, you will get to hear the stories of these amazing men. Amazing, inspiring, and horrifying – the stories that they have to offer are the best proof that our justice system is broken and needs to be fixed.

William “Bill” Dillon is one of Florida’s DNA exonerees, and he will share his stories through song with a performance at this special event. Dillon learned to play guitar while serving 27 years for a murder he didn’t commit and released his first album, Black Robes and Lawyers, in 2011.

Reserve your spot today to step out for justice and hear these inspiring men share their stories.

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Steppin’ Out with Florida’s Exonorees

Alejandra de la Fuente — February 28, 2012 @ 5:56 PM — Comments (2)

Steppin’ Out with the Innocence Project of Florida is your opportunity to meet many of Florida’s exonerees who spent two or three decades wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. Chat with them one-on-one at the VIP reception. Hear their inspiring stories of hope and perseverance.

You’ll get to know Derrick Williams, Alan Crotzer, Orlando Boquete, James Bain, William Dillon and others.  Learn what life is like after exoneration for them and their families.

William Dillon will perform several songs from his CD including Black Robes & Lawyers.  He wrote all of the songs on the CD during his 27.5 years of wrongful incarceration.

Buy your tickets today and step out for justice for the many others remaining in prison yet completely innocent.

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Award Recipients Announced: Holland & Knight and Martin J. McClain, Esq.

Alejandra de la Fuente — February 24, 2012 @ 5:31 PM — Comments (1)

At our first annual gala on April 27, 2012 we will be giving two very special awards to honor some of the people who inspire IPF with their commitment to justice and the innocence movement.

We are proud to announce that the Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte Commitment to Justice Award will go to Holland & Knight LLP. Holland and Knight has a long history of providing substantial assistance to the Innocence Project of Florida. Holland & Knight’s work on our behalf included taking on the bulk of the pro bono representation of our first 40 cases in 2003 to prevent those clients from being time barred by the DNA testing deadline then in effect. Holland & Knight was also the counsel of record in the Luis Diaz and Chad Heins cases, both of which led to exonerations. These are but a few examples of the continuing contributions to the cause of justice made by Holland & Knight over a span of decades, and we are thrilled to be able to honor them for those contributions.

The Frank Lee Smith Innocence Award will go to Martin J. “Marty” McClain. Marty is the post-conviction attorney who represented Frank Lee Smith, in whose name this award is given. Marty also represented Juan Melendez in his post-conviction case. Melendez is a non-DNA Florida exoneree who was on death row and now is an anti-death penalty advocate living in New Mexico. Marty has been tirelessly representing inmates on death row, innocent and guilty alike, since the 1980s. He was chief assistant and director of litigation at the Office of the Capital Collateral Representative and has continued his representations of those on death row in Florida and elsewhere since leaving that office. He is currently in private practice in Ft. Lauderdale. His sterling advocacy is a primary reason that Frank Lee Smith was proven innocent.

“Marty’s work as a post-conviction litigator representing death row inmates has earned him the deserved reputation as a top defender of those in peril of execution.  Among his many successes over the past two decades is the bittersweet posthumous exoneration of Frank Lee Smith. We are so pleased to honor Marty in this way,” said Michael Minerva, IFP’s CEO.

Congratulations to both of our awardees! We’re excited to see them at the gala in April, and will hopefully see you!

Get your tickets to step out with IPF and support justice.

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Three years ago today…

Seth — December 03, 2010 @ 9:37 AM — Comments (0)

Chad Heins With his Legal Team (Nina Morrison from The Innocence Project not pictured) in Jacksonville, FL After his Exoneration on Dec. 4, 2007

Congratulations Chad on three great years of freedom and many more to come.

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Activity in the Case of Chad Heins

Seth — November 26, 2008 @ 12:03 PM — Comments (0)

In December 2007, in the face of DNA evidence pointing to Chad Heins’ innocence, the State Attorney’s Office in Duval County dropped the murder charge against Chad and set him free after almost 14 years in wrongful incarceration; reuniting him with his family in Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, the State still has the opportunity to retry Chad and it appears that they may still have him in their sights. First Coast News in Jacksonville, FL is reporting that investigators for the State are talking to people who used to work at the Sea turtle Inn, where the victim Tina Heins worked, around the time of her murder. In these discussions, the State is asking these individuals to hand over samples of their DNA for comparison to the DNA found at the crime scene.

Now, there are a number of possible interpretations of these actions, some good others not so good:

1. The Good – The State is finally ready to admit that the semen, hair, and blood/skin cells under the victim’s fingernails, which all belong to the same individual, are truly from the perpetrator. If this is the case, then it is clear that the focus of the case has shifted away from Chad Heins as the perpetrator and to some other person, possibly one of the victim’s fellow co-workers.

2. The Not So Good – The State does believe that someone other than Chad, possibly one of the victim’s co-workers, killed Tina Heins and this person’s DNA matches that found at the scene. However, the State wants to invent a conspiracy between this person and Chad to murder the victim; thus being able to again try Chad for murder. Even before the State dropped the charges against Chad, this appeared to be their new angle, so it is one to watch out for.

3. The Bad – The State now believes that the victim was having an affair and the foreign male DNA found on and around her is that of a consensual sexual partner, possibly a hotel co-worker. Of course, there is absolutely no indication that she was having an affair, and this just appears to be another attempt to minimize clealy exculpatory evidence. Considering the State’s track record for finding jailhouse snitches to provide erroneous testimony against Chad in his first trial, it would not be stretch to think that when confronted with evidence that their DNA was at the crime scene (and a possible murder charge), a former hotel co-worker would miraculously morph into the victim’s on-the-side sexual partner. This would surely be convenient.

Whatever the reason is, let’s hope that the State will opt to not retry Chad and find Tina Heins’ true killer.

Visit IPF’s Website here; sign up to volunteer here; contribute to our work here.

Innocence Project of Florida,litigation,

Chad Heins: 45 Degrees Below and Happy to Free

Seth — February 22, 2008 @ 3:18 PM — Comments (0)

The Florida Times Union ran an article on adjustment of Chad Heins to home life in Nekoosa, Wisconsin after his long-sought exoneration out of Jacksonville, Florida in December 2007:

But for Chad Heins, everything changed. Like a modern-day Rip Van Winkle, he returned to a strange new world of cell phones, e-mails and DVDs. Even the multiple buttons on his parents’ TV remote control baffle him.

His relationship with his brother, once close, is shattered, perhaps beyond repair. He’s learning how to be a dad to two teenagers without the benefit of watching them grow up. A simple trip to Wal-Mart is an adventure.

“You don’t walk that close to people in prison,” he says.. . .

But for now, Heins chooses to bask in being there, rather than obsess over the lost years or how the story might end.

. . .

“You don’t realize how good it is to be home until you get it all snatched away,” he told the Times-Union as he relaxed at the dining room table noshing on brats and cheese curds.

Chad seems to be adjusting well and is enjoying his family. What is most disconcerting is how his case is seemingly becoming a political football in the upcoming State Attorney race back in Jacksonville, Florida:

But Heins also admits to some concern about what will happen to the case if Angela Corey, one of the prosecutors in his case, is successful in her bid to replace Shorstein this year.

“I don’t know what I done to her, but she hates me,” he said.

Corey said his fears are well-founded. If elected, she said she will review the evidence to see what’s changed since she left the State Attorney’s Office in 2006, but she would re-charge him with the evidence that exists now. She reasons that jurors knew about unidentified hairs from another man on Tina’s body, and they convicted Heins anyway.

Her opponent, Chief Assistant State Attorney Jay Plotkin, said although the case remains open and Heins is a suspect, “people deserve better than prosecution by politics.” He said arguments Corey made to jurors in 1996 about stray hair being transferred from a used mattress couldn’t be made now in light of the additional DNA evidence.

Some people just never learn. This is the first instance I have ever seen of someone using the retrial of a completely innocent and already exonerated individual as a campaign slogan. Especially in light of the fact that there is semen on the victim’s bed, blood from her fingernail scrapings, and pubic hair found on her body that all match the same unknown male perpetrator. Instead of using Chad Heins as a political pawn, they should be concentrating on finding this still unknown murderer.

Innocence Project of Florida,post-conviction,

Unpacking the Misconduct in the Chad Heins Case: Improperly Influencing Witnesses Edition

Alejandra de la Fuente — January 09, 2008 @ 11:59 AM — Comments (0)

Today, the Florida Times Union published an article that begins to unlock the prosecutorial misconduct that took place in the case of Chad Heins, Florida’s 9th and most recent DNA exoneration:

Only weeks before Chad Heins’ murder trial in 1996, a Jacksonville prosecutor sent a memo asking a state crime lab supervisor to downplay findings that stray hairs found on the victim’s body came from an unknown person. “I need to structure your testimony carefully so as to convince the jury that the unknown hairs are insignificant,” Assistant State Attorney Stephen Bledsoe wrote in a letter recently obtained by the Times-Union.

In December 1996, a jury convicted Heins of the first-degree murder of his sister-in-law in her Mayport apartment. He was sentenced to life in prison until new DNA tests led to his release last month.

Some prosecutors will argue that this is simply just a case of Mr. Bledsoe alerting his witness of the intent to perpetuate testimony that will raise possible reasons why unknown hairs were found at the scene of this murder. In fact, that is exactly what Mr. Bledsoe’s boss stated:

But State Attorney Harry Shorstein called Bledsoe, who he’s known for 35 years, one of the most ethical prosecutors in his office. Bledsoe probably wanted to ensure that the crime lab witness testified about possible explanations for the unknown hairs, Shorstein said.

“I don’t like the wording of the letter because I think it does lead to conjecture or suspicion of wrongdoing,” he said. “But the important thing is he disclosed that evidence. Steve Bledsoe is about a straight an arrow as any lawyer I’ve ever worked with.”

But this letter from Mr. Bledsoe is far more nefarious, despite his current boss’ protests to the contrary, arguing about the inartful wording of this letter and Bledsoe’s supposedly high ethical status. In the face of evidence that casts serious doubt on Chad Hein’s guilt (nevermind the recent DNA testing of these hairs, fingernail scrapings from the victim, and semen found on her bed sheet that all pointed to the same unknown male perpetrator), Bledsoe is trying to improperly influence his witness, a State of Florida employee, to conceal the truth about this hair evidence; to convince the jury that it really isn’t what it truly is.

What’s more, before Chad’s exoneration, current prosecutors, led by Harry Shorstein, sought to prevent introduction of this letter into evidence at a new trial, clearly understanding the import of the letter and what it would say to the jury about the probative value of this hair evidence.

Chad’s attorneys used phrases like “cavalier disregard for the actual evidence.” Another attorney made the point that if the roles were reversed, the prosecution would be trumpeting this letter as the defense’s attempt to improperly influence a witness.

Regardless of how you characterize these actions, it’s a sad commentary on the tunnel vision of the Florida prosecutor bar writ large, where we have become more interested in convictions at all costs than finding the truth.

Kudos to Paul Pinkham for beginning the public dissemination of misconduct in this case. To read more about this the Chad Heins case out of Jacksonville, Florida (Duval County),go here.

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IPF Profiled on Fla. Bar News Cover Story

Alejandra de la Fuente — January 03, 2008 @ 8:15 PM — Comments (1)
Photo Credit: The Florida Bar NewsPicture: Chad Heins, leaving Duval County Jail, December 4, 2007.

This is a great story on what’s going on at IPF, including updates on three of our exonerees (Chad Heins, Larry Bostic, and Alan Crotzer), and much, much more. Here is the lede:

Clutching his worldly possessions in one small packet, Chad Heins walked out of the Duval County Jail on December 4 a free man, after spending nearly 14 years locked up for the stabbing death of his sister-in-law he’d insisted from the beginning he did not commit.

With a broad grin, Heins, now 33 — only 19 when he was sentenced to life in prison — gratefully hugged his lawyers one by one.

Among them were Jennifer Greenberg and Seth Miller of the Innocence Project of Florida, buoyed by yet another flesh-and-blood reminder of the merit of their nonprofit legal clinic’s work: the ninth DNA exoneration in the state and the 210th nationwide.

Also, the Bar News included a cut away on our creation of the Exoneree Emergency Fund, which is designed to provide modest, but immediate assistance to our exonerees when they get released from prison until they are compensated by the legislature. The fund will obviously not meet all of their needs but can be used for general transition needs, such as clothing, food, housing assistance, medicine, etc. domain list If you would like to contribute to this vital fund, go to our contribution page to donate online or, for information on where to send contributions through the mail, go here. Whether contributing online or by mail, please indicate that you would like your donation earmarked for the Exoneree Emergency Fund.

Thanks to Jan Pudlow of the Florida Bar News for spending multiple days at our office with us and for putting together such a nice piece which will be viewed by every licensed lawyer in Florida.

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