Posts Tagged ‘wrongful conviction’


WGLT, Bloomington-Normal’s public media, is partnering with the popular true crime podcast Suspect Convictions to explore the 1998 murder of a 3-year-old Bloomington girl, Christina McNeil.

Barton McNeil was convicted of killing his daughter, Christina, but has long maintained his innocence. He says his ex-girlfriend was the real killer—the same woman who 13 years later was convicted in a second McLean County murder. Now serving a life sentence in a southern Illinois prison, McNeil is pursuing exoneration with help from the Illinois Innocence Project.

Season 2 of Suspect Convictions will focus on the McNeil case. Each episode of Suspect Convictions will be broadcast during GLT’s Sound Ideas every Friday at noon and 6 p.m., starting Oct. 27. The podcast will also be available through popular apps like Apple iTunes and Stitcher. Every episode and additional materials will first be available at

Each episode of Suspect Convictions will be broadcast during GLT’s Sound Ideas every Friday at noon and 6 p.m., starting Oct. 27.

Suspect Convictions producer Scott Reeder will partner with GLT News Director Emeritus Willis Kern on Season 2. The show’s successful first season, chronicling a 1990 Quad Cities murder, was a joint production with WVIK Quad Cities 90.3 FM.

“Scott’s partnership with fellow public radio station WVIK in the Quad Cities for the show’s first season was a great success,” said GLT general manager R.C. McBride. “WGLT is the perfect home for this kind of in-depth journalism. I know our audience will look forward to hearing and reading the work, and I hope this platform provides an opportunity for the GLT news team’s work to find a new audience.”

Reeder is a veteran freelance journalist based in Springfield.

“After 30 years in the news business, I’m honored to work with a journalist of the caliber of Willis Kern. He is a man of integrity and skill,” Reeder said. “Together we will explore intricacies of the murder of Christina McNeil and provide our listeners with differing perspectives on the evidence. We hope to honor the memory of this precious, little girl and help ensure justice is done.”

GLT’s Sound Ideas, the station’s flagship newsmagazine show, airs at noon and 6 p.m. every weekday. It also streams at and is available on the NPR One app.

Suspect Convictions’ first season is available at SuspectConvictions.

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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

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.

The uninformed public gives the testimony of “eyewitnesses” far too much credibility. Do any research on the reliability of eyewitness testimony and you find that not only do people not remember correctly what they think or are certain that they saw, but you learn that all too often studies show that ideas and suggestions made after an incident happens or the desire of an individual to be “helpful” ends up tainting or rewriting peoples memories of events. The final memory that people believe is accurate is fragile and can bear little resemblence to the truth.

People should be a little more self-aware of how fleeting and susceptible their own memories are about events that happen around them and their own interactions with other individuals, and that we should know that our memories often cannot be relied upon. You would think that we would be very cautious in expressing certainty based upon our observations; particularly when the lives and well-being of others are affected by what we claim we saw or know.

Yet humans continue to bear witness to false memories and the consequences upon others, as in the two articles below, is disastrous. Jacques Rivera, served 21 years of an 80-year sentence before the appeals court accepted the recanted testimony of Orlando Lopez, the man who fingered Rivera for murder and who originally testified against him. Even now, Rivera is not free, but remains held without bond in Cook County jail, (a jail no one wants to be held in) waiting for the state to decide if it will still retry him for the 1988 murder. Inmate Jamie Snow, has not been so lucky. Even though his attorneys state that a former police officer who is now an inmate can discredit a prime witness’s claim that he saw Snow leave the scene of a murder, and despite that recantation of the testimony of other witnesses, Snow was still recently denied the chance for a new trial. He is just fighting to get his argument heard without any assurance that his life sentence will be overturned.

New trial for man convicted in ’88 murder after witness recants

Inmate appeals denial of new trial in 1991 killing

IL needs a law which prevents eyewitness testimony to either be used alone or in conjunction with just circumstantial evidence to convict anyone of a crime, particularly serious crimes. The consequences to those wrongfully convicted are too great and the error rate in eyewitness testimony is too high to justify such heavy reliance upon it in those cases. There are too many wrongfully convicted, particularly in IL, and too few resources to help them after they have been screwed. Thank goodness for the efforts of Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions and those individual attorneys who, in these tough times, still care enough to do the hard work and investigation required to prove the innocence of those convicted only by eyewitness testimony or circumstantial evidence.

Prosecutors are under pressure to obtain convictions at any cost; it does not seem to matter much to them whether or not a suspect is guilty. Once prosecutors charge an individual, police seldom continue to look for other suspects and the prosecutors push ahead to try to convict in court. Often evidence arises during or after trial indicating that the individual may be innocent. Although prosecutors are mandated by law to disclose all evidence to the defense which would exonerate the suspect; they seem to regard their responsibility as a technicality and seldom do. Consequently there are many wrongly convicted individuals serving prison terms for crimes they did not commit, and their ranks are swelling rapidly in some states as the emphasis on convictions continue.

The article below points out that the number of apparent wrongful convictions is now being recognized in progressive states which are recognizing the need to begin to remedy the problem.  These states are taking steps to ensure that two things are available to defendants:  physical evidence in criminal cases and greater access to biological evidence and DNA testing to give them the chance to prove their innocence, and states are establishing “innocence” commissions to investigate allegations of wrongful conviction and help free those who are unjustly imprisoned.

Illinois knows the extent of it’s problems with wrongful convictions. As the article points out, IL has established a “commission” to study state wrongful convictions and make recommendations lawmakers, police, and courts. This is not enough.

Illinois is one of the leading states for wrongful convictions and presently, there are only a couple of privately operated “innocence projects” in Illinois from which inmates can attempt to obtain help in investigating their cases and proving their innocence once convicted. These innocence projects are woefully underfunded and understaffed, with few resources to investigate the mountains of applications from inmates they receive yearly, in comparison to the resources available to States Attorneys to help them convict anyone.

Like North Carolina, Illinois desperately needs to establish a state-operated investigative innocence commission; lawmakers need to make legal post-conviction DNA testing a right, and prosecutors need to stop opposing reasonable efforts of individual prisoners to prove their innocence.

States look to right wrong convictions

ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) – A court of claims has awarded $3.5 million to the local man wrongfully convicted of a murder he didn’t commit.

Steven Barnes spent nearly 20 years in prison for the 1985 murder of Kimberly Simon.

Former State Court of Claims Judge Norman Siegel awarded Barnes the $3.5 million back in October, but the New York City law firm that represented Barnes in his claim only recently made public the settlement.

The money comes from New York State.

Barnes has been working for Oneida County Workforce development, helping released prisoners find work and housing.

In 2009, we asked Barnes, what made him choose the job.

“Guys run into these obstacles, I talk to them and they say ‘what do you know,'” Barnes said. “I say ‘I know. I’ve been in there.’ And to come out into the community and try to get out on the right foot sometimes…you need assistance and help.”

An Oneida County Judge vacated Barnes’ conviction and sentence in November 2008, citing a joint motion by the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office and The Innocence Project.

via Court of claims awards $3.5 million to Steven Barnes for wrongful conviction | NBC-WKTV News Channel 2 – Utica News, Weather, Sports – | Local News.

Cornelius Dupree Jr. served 30 years in prison before his conviction was overturned on Jan. 4, 2011, based on DNA evidence. Cory Session is the brother of Timothy Cole and the policy director for the Innocence Project of Texas.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the government taking away people’s freedoms, which both of us know about firsthand.

One of us, Cornelius Dupree, was arrested in 1979 for rape and aggravated robbery at the age of 19. Last week, after serving 30 years in prison, the courts finally admitted they had made a mistake after DNA testing proved this to be a wrongful conviction. And Cory Session had the unfortunate experience of seeing his brother branded the “Tech Rapist” and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Timothy Cole served 13 years before he died of an asthma attack in 1999 – in prison. After the real rapist confessed to Session’s mother, DNA testing proved Tim was innocent, and he was officially exonerated in 2009. Gov. Rick Perry pardoned Tim last year.

While both of us have every right to be angry with the government for the years that were stolen from us and our families, instead we’re focused on making sure that other people aren’t wrongfully convicted. Unfortunately, so far the state of Texas has done next to nothing to prevent wrongful convictions and improve the reliability of our justice system, despite the fact that it leads the nation in DNA exonerations. We are outraged that Texas has spent countless taxpayer dollars building prisons and incarcerating 155,000 people a year but has failed to adequately invest in essential procedures to protect the rights and safety of our citizens – or at least ensure that we only send guilty people to prison.

via Cornelius Dupree Jr. and Cory Session: Preventing miscarriages of justice | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Opinion: Viewpoints.

By IBTimes Reporter | January 7, 2011 12:47 PM EST

A Texas man has been exonerated by a Dallas County Judge when DNA evidence proved he was wrongly convicted in connection with a 1979 Dallas rape, robbery and abduction case.

On Tuesday, Judge Don Adams told Cornelius Dupree, Jr., 51, “You’re free to go” after DNA testing supported Dupree’s claim of innocence.

Dupree and another man, Anthony Massingill, 49, were convicted in connection with the December 1979 case in which a man and woman were abducted at gunpoint at a liquor store on Dolphin Road near Interstate 30. The woman was sexually assaulted by the two men who had hijacked their car.

Shortly thereafter, Dupree and Massingill, who were on their way to a party, were picked up by the police two miles from the abduction site because police thought they matched the description of a different rape and robbery that had occurred the previous day. At the time of arrest, Massingill was found in possession of a gun.

According to Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, a New York legal center that specializes in wrongful conviction cases and represented Dupree, both Dupree and Massingill were misidentified in a photo lineup by the victim. Her male companion, who also was robbed, did not pick out either man when showed the same photo lineup.

Scheck said both men were in the same lineup, which is now against best practices used by law enforcement.

via DNA test shows Texas man who served 30 years in rape and robbery case is innocent.