Skip navigation

Articles about Wrongful Convictions

Florida DA Reopens Cold Murder Case, Exonerates Wrongly Imprisoned Man, Finds Real Killers – and Gets Axed by Governor

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 ...

Minnesota Man Out of Prison After Being Exonerated of Murder

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 ...

Third Circuit Upholds Federal False Liens Conviction and 48-Month Sentence

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. ...

Paroled New Yorker Wrongfully Confined; Awarded $3,250

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 ...

Utah Supreme Court Reinstates Lawsuit Over Man Held 17 Days Without Hearing or Formal Charges

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 ...

Man Held in Jail Almost Three Months for Possession of ... Honey

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 ...

Texas Counties Waste Millions by Jailing Defendants Charged with Citation-Eligible Misdemeanors

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 ...

New York Prisoner Wins Claim for Excessive Confinement

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 ...

$10 Million Award for Wrongly Jailed Philadelphia Man

Philadelphia jury awarded Khanefah Boozer $10 million in a state court lawsuit that alleged police officer Ryan Waltman had falsely accused Boozer of firing shots at him.

Boozer was the designated driver during a January 22, 2011 night out with friends. After an evening at a bar, Boozer’s friends ...

Texas Couple Wrongly Convicted in “Satanic Panic” Receive $3.4 Million

by Matt Clarke

An Austin, Texas couple wrongly convicted of sexually abusing a child at the day-care center they ran in the 1990s has been declared innocent and received over $3.4 million in compensation from the state.

Starting in the 1980s, the United States experienced an episode of mass hysteria now known as “Satanic Panic,” during which it was widely believed that Satanists had infiltrated the child-care industry and were sexually abusing children, brainwashing them and using them in satanic rituals. The first large-scale prosecution of alleged day care Satanists was the McMartin Preschool case in California. One of the last was that of Austin, Texas couple Dan and Frances “Fran” Keller, who both spent 21 years in prison.

The Kellers were convicted of sexually assaulting a three-year-old girl in 1992 and sentenced to 48 years. In 2015, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned their convictions because the physician who gave the only scientific evidence against them at trial realized he was mistaken.

During a 2013 hearing, emergency room doctor Michael Mouw testified he was wrong when he testified at the Kellers’ trial that tears he found in the girl’s hymen indicated sexual abuse. Years later, he attended a ...