Archive for the ‘Terrible Wrongs – Other Cases’ Category


http://wglt.org/…/suspect-convictions-episode-4-true-crime-…

Suspect Convictions Episode 4: True-Crime Experts Give Case Fresh Look

  6 HOURS AGO

The alternative suspect in this case, Misook Wang, has a post-conviction petition in court herself alleging innocence for a murder she allegedly confessed to police about at the time. She’ll be in court in Bloomington, IL next week on Monday, November 20, 2017. There is sure to be a lot of court watchers present on behalf of Barton McNeil and others. You can read police interviews with Misook on freebart.org. Aphrodite Jones is correct in this episode. Misook by action and in interview comes across as very intense and unaware that her behavior and words are strange and off-balance.

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http://wglt.org/post/suspect-convictions-episode-3-does-modern-forensics-undercut-sex-assault-motive (Click here)

Scott Reeder and Willis Kern get caught up in this episode discussing the emotionally charged allegation that Christina McNeil was sexually abused before death. The sensationalism of his allegation would certainly have swayed anyone towards convicting Barton McNeil. Yet there was no DNA, no penetration; just a little redness, swelling, and slight blood found in connection with her body. Remember too that police initially regarded Christina’s death as natural. Was her body injured when examined or samples were taken? Body orifices swell after death & Chrisina‘s was nearing rigor mortis.

Prosecutors didn’t charge Barton McNeil with sexual assault, so it’s likely they knew the evidence wasn’t strong enough to support them doing so, but the allegation was used at his trial. Yet, no one, especially Christina’s conscientious mother Tita saw any signs of abuse. We think it’s most likely that Christina was not sexually abused before she died. Reeder and Willis should have discussed how prosecutors were even able to raise this claim or suggest it at trial and how the court allowed it. We think this claim has little credibility. It’s credible to believe that Christina was killed by someone; an intruder, or possibly Misook Knowlin. Suffocating her quietly is possible. It really stretches credibility to believe that the person who killed her also sexually abused her at the same time. Attention is focused on her parents, and we seriously doubt either had a motive to do so.  Hopefully Reeder and Willis will spend time discussing the latitude prosecutors have in raising at trial inflammatory issues like this and using them to convict on slim or no evidence.

More critical is what Reeder mentions happened to Christina’s body: that it was cremated before a defense pathologist could examine it & that the court and Barton’s lawyer both agreed to this.If Barton’s lawyer was a party to this, that supports Barton McNeil’s claim that his attorney failed to represent him properly. Basically, by not opposing immediate cremation and ensuring the pathologist inspected the body, Barton’s attorney allowed the “spoliation” (or destruction) of critical and potentially exculpatory evidence against Barton McNeil.


This is the 2nd episode of Scott Reeder’s Suspect Convictions Podcast detailing the 1998 Bloomington, IL murder case of 3-yr old Christina McNeil. Her father was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison. He is fighting for his exoneration with the help of the IL Innocence Project.

Suspect Convictions Episode 2 (Click on this link)

  NOV 3, 2017

GLT is partnering with the true crime podcast Suspect Convictions to explore the 1998 murder of 3-year-old Bloomington girl Christina McNeil.

Her father was convicted of the crime but has long maintained his innocence, claiming that an ex-girlfriend was the real killer—the same woman later convicted in a separate murder. New episodes air Fridays on GLT’s Sound Ideas. You can also subscribe to the podcast.

A simple window screen and some spider webs may be the clues that exonerate a convicted murderer.

Christina McNeil, 3, who was found dead in her father’s apartment.

Christina McNeil’s lifeless body was found in her father Barton’s Bloomington apartment on June 16, 1998. Barton McNeil argued that cuts in the window screen were proof that someone broke in, killed Christina and snuck out. A judge convicted him anyway, and Barton is now in prison for the crime.

McNeil’s conviction is the focus of Season 2 of Suspect Convictions, a joint reporting project between GLT and investigative journalist Scott Reeder. McNeil maintains his innocence and claims his ex-girlfriend is the real killer. McLean County prosecutors say the right man is behind bars.

The Illinois Innocence Project (IIP) has taken up McNeil’s case and is expected to file motions this fall in hopes of winning him a new trial. John Hanlon, IIP’s executive and legal director, said they’ll introduce new evidence that disproves the prosecution’s claim that Christina was sexually assaulted prior to her death, by showing that “artifacts” found on her body were not indicators of assault.

“This case is a priority for us for one reason, because we’re absolutely certain that Bart McNeil is innocent of this crime,” Hanlon said. “At the end of the day, a judge is going to be hard-pressed to say anything, but this was not a sexual assault situation.”

Episode 2 of Suspect Convictions, which debuted Nov. 3 on GLT, closely examines the window in the bedroom where 3-year-old Christina was killed.

McNeil told police the day of the murder he suspected his ex-girlfriend, Misook (Wang) Nowlin, snuck into his apartment and killed Christina. That theory has taken on new resonance after Nowlin was convicted in 2012 of killing her mother-in-law. Nowlin is currently serving a 55-year prison sentence. She could not be reached for comment.

Barton McNeil is serving his prison sentence at Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois.
CREDIT ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

Prosecutors claimed spider webs found on the window prove an intruder couldn’t have used that as an entrance, as that would’ve disrupted the webs. McLean County State’s Attorney Jason Chambers’ office has reviewed the case and come to the same conclusion as his predecessor did: McNeil is guilty.

“As I read through it with an open mind and objectively, I became convinced that the conviction was correct,” said Mary Koll, an assistant state’s attorney in Chambers’ office. “I just think (the spider web) is one piece of the puzzle, and it’s one more thing that goes to the common-sense argument that what (McNeil is) suggesting happened here simply could not have.”

The existence of spider webs on the window when police investigated the crime scene doesn’t mean someone didn’t break in, said Todd Blackledge, a biology professor at the University of Akron who’s studied spider webs.

Certain spiders can spin webs relatively quickly, in as little as a half-hour, he said. Others take days.

“There’s a lot of ambiguity. I would not feel comfortable saying a spider web precludes the possibility that window screen was opened that night. I’d need more information,” Blackledge said.


“…The DeKalb County judge formally declared 77-year-old Jack McCullough innocent during a court hearing today. The certificate will allow McCullough to sue Illinois for damages for his wrongful conviction in Maria Ridulph’s killing.

A prosecutor concluded last year that evidence backed McCullough’s alibi that he had been 40 miles away when Maria disappeared. A judge agreed, ordering McCullough’s release after he had served four years of a life sentence.

McCullough said at a hearing last week that he wants justice. He says he’s been portrayed “as a monster” and that people still think he’s one…”

http://www.rrstar.com/news/20170412/judge-grants-innocence-certificate-in-1957-illinois-killing

McCullough is correct; even if he is able to collect damages from the State, a lot of people will still regard him as a monster.


Anybody who looks at the performance of private prisons can see that they end up costing us more, harm more people, fail to rehabilitate, and should not be used.

“…Sally Yates, then the deputy attorney general, said in a memo that research had found private prisons “simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources” and “do not save substantially on costs” either. Essential government education and training programs for prisoners “have proved difficult to replicate and outsource” in the private sector, she said…”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/23/trump-revives-private-prison-program-doj-obama-administration-end


An AP article was just posted about a defendant in Atlanta, GA who has been sitting in jail and waiting to go to trial for the past 10 years:

“Kharon Davis has spent nearly 10 years in jail. He’s had four sets of attorneys, with two judges on the bench. His co-defendants’ cases have wrapped up. Davis has appeared in court for several hearings, and a new prosecutor is assigned.

But Davis has had no trial. There’s been no jury, no verdict, no conviction. Police say he killed a man in a drug deal gone wrong, but he hasn’t had his day in court. He’s charged with capital murder and could face the death penalty. Trial dates have come and gone, and it’s now scheduled for September. By then, 10 years and three months will have passed since the crime.

The Constitution guarantees suspects “the right to a speedy trial.” Capital cases often take a year or longer to get to trial, but 10 years is rare – experts call it shocking and say it could be unconstitutional. Prisoner advocates and court-watchers say such delays take an exhaustive toll on suspects stuck behind bars and on victims’ families, who are robbed of closure that can come from trials…”

Read the full article at: http://www.waff.com/story/34537151/10-years-in-jail-and-still-no-trial-for-murder-suspect

 And, locally, the Richard Wanke case

Since yesterday, when it was announced that jury selection for Richard Wanke’s trial for the murder of Greg Clark has just started, some persons have been expressing surprise on social media that it has taken so long for this trial to start and wondering how and why this can happen. Wanke’s case isn’t taking 10 years to come to trial like Kharon Davis’s case, but it is now over 9 years since the Clark murder occurred in 2008, and the effect in Davis’s and Richard’s cases are the same; they have both spent literally years behind bars without their guilt or innocence being heard at trial. This amazes people because it’s hard for them to imagine just sitting in jail so long without trial or the right to one. We all generally believe that justice works faster and that people are protected from such harm until trial.

Yet both been Kharon Davis and Richard Wanke have been stuck in this legal quandary for years unable to do anything about it. 

The way each was put into legal limbo differs, but they’ve have no remedy. The Davis article discusses the constitutional right of defendants to a “Speedy Trial”, which, if exercised by a defendant can ensure that the defendant is brought to trial within a relatively short time span; sometimes that of a year and-a-half. This is important because serious cases virtually ensure that defendants are held jailed and held without bond the entire time they await trial.

What the Davis article fails to clarify is that currently the right to a speedy trial is interpreted to apply only to ensure that the State must not delay and if the speedy trial right is invoked by a defendant, then the State is forced to act and take you to trial quickly or the courts can throw a case out or dismiss it even without trial due to overlong delay. The Davis article does not say if Davis or his attorneys ever submitted a speedy trial request. Richard Wanke did so on his own the first time he appeared in Winnebago County court on the murder charge. If Davis’s attorneys did not protect his right, then they were ineffective at the time and may have cost him the opportunity to properly challenge the State.

The problem is that the Right to a Speedy Trial is not regarded as enforceable when the defendant’s own attorney or defense delays trial, and this has been the predicament facing both Davis and Richard Wanke  for the past several years. 

The Davis article explains how Davis has been harmed by repeated delays by his attorneys. His first attorney, Benjamin Meredith, should have immediately known to step off the case because his son was involved in it’s investigation. His second attorney, Derek Yarbrough, apparently took his sweet time or did nothing on the case till Davis yelled and had him removed. His third attorney had a conflict-of-interest and it appropriately only took him a few weeks to withdraw. His 4th, and most important attorney who will probably be stuck doing the job and representing Davis properly, has only been on the case since June 2016, and will now have a very hard time coming up to speed on it and doing the basic work on the case which probably hasn’t been done. Now, after all this time that county court although it wouldn’t comment on the handling of Davis’s case, it is probably aware of it and might now monitor it carefully to bring it to trial relatively quickly. Of course, there’s also a new prosecutor on the case so if Davis files his Speedy request now, it might now just apply.

In Richard Wanke’s situation, the State completely investigated his case and still waited years past 2008 to charge him with the murder, gambling on the small probability that it would uncover new, definitive evidence of his guilt. That says more about the weakness of the State’s case against Richard Wanke than anything else. Six years later in 2014, when it did charge him, the State was fully prepared and the defense was non-existant. From then to now, the trial delay has been caused by the defense taking time to learn the case and defend it. Richard hasn’t been able to do anything about that delay except sit waiting in jail.

The Davis article mentions how exhausting and stressful the wait for trial is. Just the example of the machinations in Davis’s defense team above illustrate the rise and fall of stress a defendant can face while waiting to learn his fate. It also mentions a likelihood that defendants will be physically (or psychologically too) damaged by the long wait in jail in close confinement, even in isolation, and away from those they love.  Davis’ mother says her son’s health is “suffering”. He was age 22 when first arrested. Since arrested in 2008, Richard Wanke’s health, aged 49 too has suffered from imprisonment and, he will appear at trial using court head-phones to hear, because he’s lost 50% of his hearing by an assault behind bars.

While both Davis and Wanke might have a legal claim on the unconstitutionality of the time and process they have endured to get to trial, the reader can bet they’d have a difficult time finding an attorney to aggressively fight the issue for them. This is just one of the ways in which defendants regularly lose out in the criminal justice system.


 

No one should have to die just because one is sent away to prison.  Yet, the story below is not new. Not everyone can withstand the mental and physical pressures of imprisonment especially when they are treated little better than warehoused cattle. We routinely see PETA and other animal rights group advertisements in print and on media about the abuse of animals in puppy mills, etc., and we cringe. But we ignore the terrible physical conditions, sensory deprivation and human misery prisoners suffer under in our state and federal prisons and even many of our county jails.

As in this story, the institutional response is most often complete indifference and non-acknowledgement of responsibility. Prisons and jails are run for cost and often operated at the lowest common-demoninator cost. Staffing is often minimal and operations are cheap. Human welfare and concern are not even on the menu.

Read Article: Losing a son in NY prisons

From article:

“…Lonnie Hamilton III entered the state prison system on January 2, 2015, after spending nineteen months in a city jail. He was assigned to a prison in central New York, two hundred and fifty miles from the Bronx, known as Marcy Correctional Facility. By then he was twenty-one. At the beginning of his imprisonment, he called his father often, but as the months passed he became more secluded. By the spring of 2016, Ham had not heard from him in several months. In early May, he began putting together a care package to mail to Lonnie: clothes for the upcoming warm weather, underwear, sneakers, some of his favorite junk food, like Oreos.

Ham went to the prison system’s Web site to find his son’s inmate number. He typed his son’s name into the inmate-lookup section; next to “Latest Release Date,” he saw “03/18/16 deceased.” “I’m, like, that must be wrong,” he recalled. “So I go and start the whole process all over, and it’s coming up ‘deceased.’ My head is swivelling a thousand miles an hour. What the hell is going on? So I call up there, and I’m trying to get answers.” That’s how he found out that “deceased” was not a mistake: Lonnie was dead.

Getting more information proved nearly impossible. “As I’m talking, these people are hot-potatoing the phone to the next person, to the next person,” he told me. He reached a male officer: “He F.U.-ed me, told me to have a nice day, and hung the phone up on me.” At that moment, Ham was riding in his brother’s car. “This threw me into such a rage, I damn near jumped out the car,” he said. His brother told him about an app that records telephone calls, and he started using it as he called around the prison.

Eventually, he reached Deputy Superintendent Mark Kinderman. “We did everything we could to try to get some kind of response, to try to track someone down,” Kinderman told him. “We tried a lot of different family members. . . . Every number we had was called, was called multiple times.” The father acknowledged the difficulty of tracking people down by cell phone—“a lot of people’s numbers tend to change”—but he asked why, if nobody could reach him on the phone, he had not received a letter notifying him of his son’s death…”


ROCKFORD — “It’s breathtaking. Oh my goodness,” a Rockford man said after emerging from the Winnebago County Jail into the sunshine this afternoon after more than 23 years behind bars for a murder he and his supporters maintain he didn’t commit.John Horton Jr., 40, was convicted of the 1993 murder of Arthur Castaneda in Rockford. Horton was 17 years old when Castaneda was fatally shot during a robbery at a McDonald’s restaurant, located at that time at 2715 Charles St. He was sentenced

Source: John Horton of Rockford free after more than 2 decades in prison


https://www.aclu.org/issues/mass-incarceration/privatization-criminal-justice/private-prisons


If he is any bit a humanitarian, State’s Attorney, Joe Bruscato should not waste a moment in reviewing and dismissing the prosecution of John Horton, and ending the 23 years of suffering which this man has endured.

 

http://www.rrstar.com/news/20161012/illinois-appellate-court-says-rockford-man-convicted-of-murder-entitled-to-new-trial