A year after their murder convictions were tossed and they were freed from an Illinois prison where they’d spent 26 years, a pair of brothers got a certificate of innocence from a state court on May 31, 2023. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Erica Reddick also offered an apology to Juan Hernandez, 46, and his brother Rosendo, 44, for their time spent wrongfully imprisoned.
The pair walked out of Dixon Correctional Center on July 15, 2022, after prosecutors agreed to drop all charges against them. Why? Because they had been brought by now-retired Chicago Police Department (CPD) Det. Reynaldo Guevera at the behest of his partner, Joseph Miedzianowski, who suspected the brothers of interfering in a drug operation he was running.
Miedzianowksi was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to life without parole in 2001. Guevara took his CPD pension and retired to Texas in 2005. After fellow CPD cop Bill Dorsch blew the whistle on Guevera and Miedzianowski’s extortion—shaking down innocent suspects with threats of prosecution—the convictions they obtained started falling like dominoes. [See: PLN, Dec. 2019, p.26.] So far, prosecutors have dropped charges in 30 cases, including eight people freed in a mass exoneration in 2022. The city ...
On May 12, 2023, the federal court for the District of Oregon dismissed the murder indictment against Frank Gable, who was wrongfully imprisoned nearly 30 years for the 1989 slaying of the state Department of Corrections (DOC) director at the time, Michael Francke.
As PLN has reported, Gable was released from prison in 2019, after U.S. Magistrate Judge John V. Acosta declared that he was “probably” innocent and ordered the state to fully free or re-try him in 90 days. [See: PLN, Nov. 2021, p.1.]
After Francke’s killing, Marion County detectives conducted what the Statesman Journal called “the most expensive homicide investigation in Oregon history.” However, instead of tracking down DOC officials whose feathers were ruffled by Francke’s reforms, detectives instead focused on a motley crew of low-level drug dealers and excons.
One, Johnny Lee Crouse, first said he witnessed five unknown assailants kill Francke. Then he said he did it himself, accepting a $1,500 downpayment on a $300,000 contract fee from someone named “Juan.” Then he changed his story again, saying he committed the murder when he was surprised during a car burglary by the victim, realizing only later that it was Francke. Days later he recanted that confession, ...
by David M. Reutter
On August 4, 2022, nearly 40 years after the brutal 1983 murder of 19-year-old Barbara Grams in Tampa, the indictments of two men for the crime were announced by Hillsborough County District Attorney (DA) Andrew Warren. The news highlighted the grave injustice done to 56-year-old Robert Duboise, who spent 34 years on death row for Grams’ killing before DNA evidence exonerated him and he was released in August 2020. [See: PLN, Nov. 2021, p.10.]
The same day that indictments were handed down against the two suspects Warren identified, Amos Robinson, 59, and Abron Scott, 57, the elected DA was summarily dismissed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). The governor, who is widely seen as a potential candidate for the GOP Presidential nomination in 2024, accused Warren of dodging his duties by promising not to prosecute women who seek an abortion or their doctors, nor parents who seek gender-affirming care for their transgender children.
However, the governor failed to mention that both promises referred to potential laws not yet passed – in other words, that he was firing the prosecutor for failing to enforce non-existent laws. Also left unsaid was that by identifying the botched case against ...
by Ed Lyon
Javon Davis, aka James Lamar Davis, was talking to his girlfriend on the phone during the wee hours of April 12, 2014 as two men were gunned down while leaving their workplace at Target Field.
During what Hennepin County cops called an investigation, a statement was coerced from one of the victims, with whom Davis had a prior problem, stating Davis was the shooter. Prosecutors proceeded to trial and won a conviction with an accompanying 28-year prison term. This, despite the sole witness recanting his coerced statement on the witness stand, testifying he was certain Davis was “not at the scene of the crime” and that he “did not want to send an innocent man to prison.”
Once in prison, Davis reached out to the Innocence Project of Minnesota·(IPMN) for help. So impressed with their initial interview of Davis and the facts of the case, IPMN assembled a team of attorneys composed of director Julie Jonas, James Mayer and Jon Hopeman. Third-year law students Rachel Melby and Maria de Sam Lazaro joined the team as investigators and general assistants, contributing hundreds of hours.
On March 2 2020, the IPMN team and prosecutors appeared before District Judge ...
by Mark Wilson
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed a Pennsylvania man’s federal false liens convictions. The court concluded that 18 USC § 1521 is not unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, and the evidence was sufficient to convict him.
Clarence Hoffert is serving a 15- to 32-year prison term on Pennsylvania child sex crimes. Hoffert asked prison officials to produce a copy of his sentencing order with a “seal stamped upon it.” His request was denied, because the records “do not currently exist.”
Hoffert administratively appealed but the request was again denied, stating “no responsive records exist within the Department’s possession, custody or control.” Hoffert was told he could appeal to a Pennsylvania court if he disagreed.
Hoffert filed a federal civil rights action instead. He sought $3,500 per day in damages for his “initial and continued illegally held confinement” and demanded his “unbiased and immediate release.” The suit was dismissed and a panel of the Third Circuit affirmed. See: Hoffert v. Pennsylvania, USDC No. 13-162, 2014 WL 4262166 (WD Pa 2014), ajf’d_ Fed Appx _ (3rd Cir. 2015).
Hoffert then filed a federal tort claim with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Division. ...
Clarence Delaney, Jr. was granted $40 per day for 88 days of unlawful confinement by the State of New York, receiving a total payment of $3,250. He also was able to recover his 42 USC § 1983 filing fee, in a state Court of Claims ruling on ...
by Matt Clarke
On June 3, 2019, the Supreme Court of Utah held that a district court erred when it applied an incorrect standard in dismissing a man’s lawsuit alleging his state constitutional rights were violated when he was held in a county jail for 17 days without being brought before a judge.
Robert Kuchcinski was driving a tractor-trailer when a Utah highway patrolman pulled him over, cited him for failure to stay in his lane and asked him to take a breath test.
When the Breathalyzer showed no alcohol, the trooper muttered something like, “Well, that can’t be right,” then had Kuchcinski perform a complete field sobriety test. He passed all parts of the test except for the balance portion. Despite his explanation that he was being treated for an inner ear infection that affected his balance, the trooper arrested him for DUI and had him booked into the Box Elder County jail.
The next day, without Kuchcinski being present, the Box Elder County Justice Court entered a finding of probable cause based solely on the trooper’s statement – authorizing the warrantless arrest and continued detention – and set bond at $1,350. Kuchcinski was allegedly not informed of the ...
by Dale Chappell
A man sat in jail for nearly three months while the police tried twice at different labs to prove that jars of honey he had in his possession contained liquid methamphetamine. And even when they discovered it was in fact honey, they wouldn’t let him go.
Leon Haughton, 46, a legal green-card holder from Jamaica who has lived in Maryland for nearly a decade, was arrested at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport on December 29, 2018 after his annual visit back home. U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained him after a drug-dog sniff alerted to possible drugs in his bag. Agents found bottles labeled “honey,” a field test falsely indicated it was meth and he was arrested.
Nineteen days later, the Maryland State Police lab confirmed what the label on the bottles stated: It was honey. Yet prosecutors didn’t drop the three felony drug charges for another sixdays.
Haughton then faced just a remaining misdemeanor charge, which wouldn’t have kept him in jail. He could have been released on his own recognizance.
Yet he remained in custody because the felony charges triggered an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer, which meant he would be deported if he had ...
by Matt Clarke
In April 2019, social justice advocacy nonprofit Texas Appleseed released an analysis of jail bookings in a dozen of the most populous counties throughout Texas. The study examined the most serious charge that people faced when booked into jail, to determine the percentage of misdemeanor bookings. In all but one county, there were overwhelmingly more misdemeanor bookings than felony bookings. Further, thousands of people were jailed on fine-only charges eligible for citations – that is, ticketing offenses.
Texas has three classes of misdemeanors. Class A carries up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Class B charges have a maximum of 180 days in jail and a fine of $2,000. Class C is fine-only, with a maximum of $500. All Class C misdemeanors, some Class B – such as possession of marijuana and petty theft – and a few Class A are subject to citations. That means booking into a jail is not required, but at the arresting officer’s discretion.
“Jail stays, even short ones, can cause sustained damage to people’s lives,” according to the analysis. “When people are booked into jail they may lose their employment, damaging their families’ economic stability. They may also ...
by Ed Lyon
While Terrell Hales was imprisoned at the Cayuga Correctional Facility (CCF) of New York’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DCCS), he was charged with drug misuse.
On April 15, 2013, he filed a Freedom of Information Law request to DCCS’s commissioner for a copy of the operations manual to the drug testing machine. The request was denied on April 29, 2013, but Hales was given the manufacturer’s address so he could write and request a copy.
The manufacturer would not comply with a copy request.
Hales’ wife found the manual on the internet. She downloaded a copy and mailed it to Hales. The mailroom allowed him to receive the copy.
A later search of Hales’ property by guards found the manual, and Hales was charged with possession of contraband, convicted and sentenced to 90 days in a Special Housing Unit (SHU).
An administrative appeal overturned this finding and sentence on November 28, 2014, but Hales was not returned to CCF until December 12, 2014.
A New York Court of Claims entertained Hales’ challenge to the disciplinary process and 14 days spent in the SHU after the administrative reversal.
The court held the disciplinary procedures were “quasi-judicial ...