Posts Tagged ‘Manatee County Sheriff’s Office’

Breaking News: Derrick Williams Receives New Trial

Seth — March 30, 2011 @ 8:00 AM — Comments (1)

We have told you before about Derrick Williams’ case.  On March 15-16, we had an evidentiary hearing in Bradenton, Florida where we were able to present our DNA evidence to the judge, and all of our evidence regarding the State’s unlawful destruction of evidence in Derrick’s case, as well as 3,600 other cases.  At the hearing, IPF attorneys Melissa Montle and Michael Minerva (who did an absolutely superb job) put on Dr. Julie Heinig, a DNA expert from DNA Diagnostics Center, Dr. Jennifer Dysart, an eyewitness identification expert from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and almost a dozen current and former members of the Manatee County Sheriff’s office.

You can read more about the nuts and bolts of the hearing here, here, and here.  But onto the good stuff.

Around 10 AM yesterday, we received an order from the judge on our fax machine, which vacated Derrick Williams’ 1993 convictions of sexual battery, kidnapping, and related offenses.  In the twenty-two page order by Manatee County Circuit Judge Marc B. Gilner issued March 28, 2011, the court agreed with the IPF’s contentions that newly discovered DNA evidence undermined confidence in the previous guilty verdicts, which were largely based on challenged eyewitness identification. The recently conducted DNA test on the shirt worn and abandoned by the true perpetrator excluded Williams as a contributor to DNA found on the shirt, which made it “highly likely that [Williams] did not wear the shirt,” the order found.

The court also found that the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office violated Williams’ due process rights when it unlawfully destroyed evidence in 2003 that could have conclusively excluded him as the perpetrator.  Specifically, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office destroyed, en masse, 3,600 cases worth of evidence, which included key evidence in the Williams case.  Lost in the destruction was a hair taken from the perpetrator’s t-shirt after the crime that was conclusively determined in 1993 to come from someone other than Derrick Williams.  State law in effect at that time required law enforcement officials to maintain physical evidence that might contain DNA for post-conviction testing, such as this evidence in Williams’ case.

This is just wonderful news for Derrick and his family.  Because the ruling grants Derrick a new trial on all charges, there are three possible conclusions.

  1. The State could simply see the writing on the wall and drop the charges.  This would make Derrick a free man and reunite him with his family. We have been and will continue to urge this morally correct option, especially given the judge’s finding that the jury would have acquitted had it known about the new DNA results.
  2. The State could retry Derrick.  This would be difficult, again, given the judges ruling and the fact that we demonstrated at the hearing that the victim’s likely misidentified Derrick and that a Sheriff’s deputy was dishonest in sworn trial testimony in providing evidence of opportunity for Derrick to have committed this crime in order to rebut his alibi evidence at trial.  If they decide to retry, the judge ruled that, because of the unlawful destruction of evidence, Derrick is entitled to a favorable jury instruction related to that destruction of evidence.
  3. The State could appeal.  This would be the most cynical move, as it would not be likely to succeed, but would have the likely effect of keeping Derrick in jail until the appellate court disposes of the appeal (which could take months).

Here is a link to the order and here are some links news articles about the order today:

Keep your fingers crossed and we will update you as soon as we know what is going on.  Thanks for all of your support.

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More News Clippings on Derrick Williams

Seth — July 29, 2010 @ 10:05 AM — Comments (1)

Here are some straggler news articles on Derrick Williams:

Family Rallies to Proclaim Palmetto Convict’s Innocence (With Video) (Bradenton Herald)

Press Conference Photo Gallery (Bradenton Herald)

Inmate’s Case Puts Focus on Flawed System (Miami Herald)

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Press Conference Regarding Derrick Williams’ Innocence

Alejandra de la Fuente — July 28, 2010 @ 1:07 AM — Comments (1)

Once again, IPF attorneys Seth Miller and Melissa Montle are onto a wrongful conviction.  DNA test results proving the innocence of Derrick Williams who had been convicted of an August 1993 kidnapping and rape in Palmetto, Manatee County, FL were released by a Fairfield, Ohio laboratory on Monday, July 26, 2010.  In addition to that, the IPF has unveiled other factors plaguing Williams’ case, including witness misidentification, the damaging and destruction of the evidence while it was under the care of Manatee County Sheriff’s Office (MSO), and the MSO’s denial of that neglection to the press (IPF Press Release).  The following is a round-up of the press conference held on July 27, 2010 in regards to this development:

DNA test on evidence could overturn 1993 rape conviction of Palmetto man (Herald Tribune)

DNA used to contest Palmetto man’s conviction in 1992 rape (The Tampa Tribune)

Attorneys:  DNA evidence exonerates inmate (MyFOX Tampa Bay)

Innocence Project demands release of Palmetto convict (Bradenton Herald)

Innocence Project says man convicted of rape should be freed (ABC Action News)

Innocence Project out to free Manatee man (BayNews 9)

Is convicted rapist innocent?  Attorneys say DNA proves it (WTSP 10 News)

Will new evidence set Manatee County man free? (ABC 7)

Group says DNA proves Palmetto man didn’t rape woman in 1992 (Tampa Bay Online)

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