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Entries in Appeal (6)

Friday
Jan042013

Court Frees Rapist, Rules Only Married Women Protected by Law

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A California appeals court overturned the rape conviction of a man accused of pretending to be a woman's boyfriend when he snuck into her bedroom and had sex with her, concluding that the law doesn't protect unmarried women in such cases.

Citing an obscure state law from 1872, the panel ruled that an impersonator who tricks someone into having sex with him can only be found guilty of rape if he is pretending to be a married woman's husband.

"Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes," Judge Thomas L. Willhite Jr. wrote in the court's decision.

 

The court found that the woman consented, even though she was tricked. Had she been married the law defines such a deception as rape, but as an unmarried woman it does not.

The court ruled unanimously, if reluctantly, and sent the case back for retrial.

"We reluctantly hold that a person who accomplishes sexual intercourse by impersonating someone other than a married victim's spouse is not guilty of the crime of rape of an unconscious person," Willhite wrote.

Julio Morales was accused of raping an 18-year-old woman in February 2009, after the woman, Morales, and her boyfriend attended a party together where they were drinking. After coming home together Morales allegedly snuck into the woman's room while she was sleeping and had sex with her.

It was not until a beam of light from a window illuminated his face, that the woman realized she was not having sex with her boyfriend, but with Morales, according to prosecutors.

He was sentenced to three years in a state prison.

The three justices found that prosecutors advanced two theories at the time of trial. One was the impersonator theory, which the appeals court threw out. But prosecutors also suggested Morales raped a sleeping woman. When the case is retried, prosecutors will have to rely only on that theory, the court found.

The panel implied that their hands were tied given the law and implored California lawmakers to "correct the incongruity that exists when a man may commit rape … when impersonating a husband, but not when impersonating a boyfriend."

Justice Willhite said the California law had not been consistently applied. A similar law led to an acquittal in Iowa in 2010. That state's legislature amended the law to cover all women last year.

Reached by ABC News, Morales' lawyer Ed Schulman declined to comment.

Calls to the California Attorney General's Office were not immediately returned.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar072012

Convicted Hamptons Murderer Claims Wife Wanted 'Revenge'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Danny Pelosi, a New York electrician who was convicted of murdering the multimillionaire former husband of his deceased wife seven years ago, now claims he is ready to tell what really happened the night of the murder as he prepares his appeal.

Investment banker Ted Ammon, 52, was found bludgeoned to death in October 2001 in the East Hampton mansion he once shared with his estranged wife Generosa and their adopted twins.  At the time, Generosa Ammon was having an affair with Pelosi, whom she later married.  Pelosi, 41, was convicted of second-degree murder in 2004 and is currently serving a prison sentence of 25 years to life.

"The bottom line is, I did not kill Ted Ammon. ... Generosa did not kill Ted Ammon.  She had him killed," Pelosi told ABC News anchor Cynthia McFadden in an interview from prison.

Pelosi now says he plans to file an appeal soon, and told McFadden he was ready to tell all: who did it, how and why -- in detail.

Pelosi and Generosa were married in January 2002.  She died of cancer at age 47 in 2003.

"Generosa wanted revenge," he went on.  "She wanted revenge because of that baby. ... She went berserk, berserk, out of this world insane.  White hatred psycho-killer."

"That baby" refers to the baby Generosa believed Ted had secretly fathered with his girlfriend.

Generosa was jealous and wanted to make Ted pay, Pelosi said, and she wanted to make him reveal where he had hidden millions of dollars in secret assets, or so she believed.

Pelosi, an electrician from Long Island, now claims that before Ted was killed, Generosa came up to him and his crew while they were renovating her Manhattan townhouse and offered $50,000 to anyone who would beat up her husband.

Several men heard the offer and were interested, Pelosi said.

The man who took the offer was Chris Parrino, Pelosi claims.  Parrino is Pelosi's ex-employee who, under pressure from prosecutors, turned in state evidence two years after Pelosi's murder conviction.

Parrino confessed to driving with Pelosi to the East Hampton home the night of the murder and told prosecutors he saw Pelosi exit the house with blood on him and that Pelosi said he had a fight with Ted Ammon and "I think he's dead."

In a plea deal that could hurt Pelosi's appeal, Parrino pleaded guilty to hindering the prosecution and was sentenced to six months.

Parrino is the killer, Pelosi said.  Through his lawyer, Chris Parrino denies Pelosi's charges.

"You're coming here, Chris," Pelosi said, slamming his hand on the table during the prison interview with McFadden.  "I'm making sure you come here."

See the full story on a special edition of ABC's 20/20, Wednesday, March 7, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb062012

Amanda Knox Appeals Slander Conviction

Kevin Casey/AFP/Getty Images(PERUGIA, Italy) -- Amanda Knox is a free woman, but she still has one conviction clouding her life.

Knox's lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova, confirmed to ABC News that Knox's defense team filed an appeal of her slander conviction in Perugia, Italy, Monday.

Knox was acquitted four months ago of the 2007 murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher. But the appeals court upheld her conviction for falsely accusing her former boss, bar owner Patrick Lumumba, of being involved in the murder. The appeals court also increased her sentence for slander from two years in prison to three years. Knox was released, however, because she had already spent four years in prison.

During Knox's nearly 50-hour interrogation in November 2007, she was not allowed to make a phone call and claims that her Italian interrogators yelled at her and hit her head when they didn't like her answers.

Investigators also wanted to know why Knox texted Lumumba on the night of the murder the equivalent of "see you later" after Lumumba told Knox she did not need to come to work that night at his bar, Le Chic. They said the text indicated they were meeting up later that night.

At one point during the marathon grilling, Knox told police that Lumumba was at the scene of the crime.

Knox told police she had a "vision" that she and Lumumba were inside the cottage she shared with Kercher when Lumumba went into Kercher's room. Knox said she stayed in the kitchen where she heard screams and covered her ears.

Lumumba was arrested and jailed for two weeks, but he was freed after 11 alibis placed him at his bar that night.

Knox initially stated during her interrogation, and again after implicating Lumumba, that she was not present during the murder. She insisted she was with her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito at his apartment the night Kercher was killed. Knox later said she made the statement regarding Lumumba because she was under extreme stress and pressure.

"Amanda was confused, stressed and pressured," Dalla Vedova said.

The Supreme Court of Italy ruled Knox's statement placing Lumumba at the apartment was inadmissible.

Lumumba has received damages as a part of his case against Knox.

Dalla Vedova added that the appeals court stated their reasoning behind the decision to acquit Knox that "something went wrong" during Knox's interrogation.

"She has been acquitted of murder, and she should be acquitted of slander," Dalla Vedova said.

In a separate legal case, the Perugian police involved in Knox's interrogation also accuse her of slander. During her testimony in her 2009 trial, Knox stated she was hit in the head during her interrogation. A hearing is tentatively scheduled for July.

In addition, the prosecution in Knox's case has until Feb. 16 to appeal her acquittal for murder.

Rudy Guede, a local Perugia drifter, is the lone person convicted in Kercher's murder. He is serving a 16-year prison sentence.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct242011

Texas Death Row Inmate Wants Access to Untested DNA

David J. Sams/Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) -- A Texas death row inmate who was hours from execution in 2010, now finds himself with two new avenues of appeal to attempt to prove his innocence through DNA testing.

For years since his murder conviction, Henry “Hank” Skinner had unsuccessfully sought access to untested DNA evidence found at the scene of the crime.

Last year, hours before his scheduled execution, a final appeal to the Supreme Court went in Skinner’s favor.  The justices halted the execution and eventually ruled that he could go back to court and argue his case.

The ruling from the Supreme Court, coupled with a new DNA law passed in Texas last month, have given Skinner new hope that he might one day be found innocent of the death of his girlfriend and her two sons.

Skinner’s girlfriend, Twila Busby, was bludgeoned to death with an axe handle in 1993 and her sons were stabbed.  Skinner was found nearby with his clothes soaked in the victims’ blood.

Skinner claims that he could not have committed the crimes because he was incapacitated by alcohol and codeine.  At his trial, his lawyers chose not to ask for additional testing of knives found at the scene, the axe handle, vaginal swabs, fingernail clippings and additional hair samples.  Skinner was convicted and sentenced to death.

While the Supreme Court did not weigh in on his guilt or innocence it said he could go to federal court and attempt to sue state officials under federal civil rights law.

At the same time, Skinner’s lawyers are pursuing a separate appeal in state court.  Just last month, Texas revised its DNA law to ensure that procedural barriers do not prevent prisoners from testing biological evidence that hadn’t been tested.  Skinner’s lawyers have filed papers asking the court, pursuant to the new law, to compel the DNA testing.

But the State of Texas believes that Skinner is abusing the system. In court papers, Jonathan F. Mitchell, the Solicitor General of Texas, argues that at the time of his trial Skinner’s original attorneys made an “informed, tactical” decision to forego the testing because they feared it would further implicate their client.  Mitchell notes that Skinner was convicted on an “overwhelming evidence of guilt” tied to physical evidence as well as his own statements.

Mitchell argues that if the state allowed Skinner access to the materials he initially declined to test, it would set a dangerous precedent.

On Monday, the parties will appear in federal court to address the changes in Skinner’ case and the fact that a new date for his execution -- Nov. 9 -- is quickly approaching.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct042011

Death Row Inmate Says Lawyers from Elite Firm Abandoned Him

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday centering on a death row inmate’s claim that his lawyers from an elite law firm abandoned his case without notice, causing him to miss a critical deadline for appeal.

The case centers on Alabama death row inmate Cory Maples, who was convicted of murdering Stacy Alan Terry and Barry Dewayne Robinson II in 1995.

After his conviction Maples thought he had won the lottery when two out-of-state lawyers from an elite New York law firm offered to represent him in post-conviction proceedings. Maples hoped for a new trial based on claims that his trial lawyers had been ineffective for failing to present evidence of his history of mental health problems as well as his intoxication at the time of the crime.

After months of hearing nothing on his case Maples learned that he’d missed an important appeals deadline. Worse, he learned that the two lawyers he thought were representing him had left their top shelf firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, and failed to properly notify the court or their client.

Maples later learned that the clerk of the court had sent the lawyers a notice of the deadline, but the notices had come back unopened in the mail with the words “return to sender” and “left the firm” written on the envelope.

Upon learning that his lawyers had missed the deadline Maples scrambled to have the deadline extended, given the circumstances. But the courts rejected his request for an extension and reaffirmed their dismissal of his case.

Maples’ new attorney, former Solicitor General Gregory G. Garre, told the justices on Tuesday that his client’s case should not have been dismissed.

Garre said that the former lawyers actions rose “to the level of abandonment” and called the facts of the case “shocking” and “extraordinary.”

Garre pointed out that not only did the two lawyers abandon their client and fail to notify the court that they were no longer following the case, but when the Clerk of the Court received both notices back marked unopened he did nothing to follow up the issue.

Garre acknowledged that there was a local counsel assigned to the case, but he said that the lawyer was merely serving as a liaison to the New York lawyers as was then required by Alabama law. Garre said that the local attorney had no real role in the case and when he received notice of the appeals deadline he took no action because he believed the matter was being handled by the New York lawyers.

All the while Maples had no idea that his case had fallen through the cracks.

But in court, John C. Neiman Jr., the Solicitor General of Alabama, seized upon the fact that there was indeed a local lawyer involved who had been notified of the appeals deadline. He argued the lower courts had fulfilled their obligation to inform the counsel and that once the clerk of the court saw that the local counsel had received notice of the pending deadline, the clerk had no reason to pursue the fact that he had received the “return to sender” letters back in the mail.

Nieman’s suggestion seemed to irritate Justice Elena Kagan.

She asked Nieman if he had been involved in a similar case where a letter was sent off to the principal adversaries and was returned unopened he might not ask himself, “Huh, should I do anything now?”

Chief Justice John Roberts asked for evidence from Neiman that the local counsel had actually done anything pertinent to the case. “You still haven’t told me one thing he did,” Roberts said.

And Justice Samuel Alito asked why Alabama would not have consented to Maples’ attorneys filing an out-of-time appeal, given the circumstance of the case.

“The holding of the Alabama courts here,” Nieman said, “was that this would not be an appropriate circumstance for an out-of-time-appeal.”

Alito broke in: “Is that a discretionary matter or is that a flat rule, once you passed a certain time deadline, you are out of luck. There is no opportunity where there’s good cause for an extension?”

Justice Antonin Scalia was the only justice who seemed to speak up in support of Alabama. He attacked the notion that the local attorney had no responsibility to watch over the client. “You want us to believe that the local attorney,” Scalia asked, "has no responsibility for the case at all?”

In briefs filed with the Court Neiman acknowledged that “On the face of it, it is hard not to feel a little sorry" for Maples. But he reiterated the fact that Maples does not deny killing two people and that he received a “full determination of the merits of his claims" in state court.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul152011

Casey Anthony Appeals Lying Conviction

Red Huber-Pool/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Casey Anthony, acquitted of charges that she murdered her daughter Caylee, filed an appeal Friday of her conviction that she lied to law enforcement officers.

The appeal came days before Anthony, 25, is scheduled to leave jail. She was sentenced to four years on four counts of lying to investigators about Caylee's death. Since she has already served three years and is credited for good behavior, she will be released from the Orange County jail on Sunday.

The jury that acquitted her of murder agreed that she broke the law when she told police she worked at Universal Studios, that she left her daughter with a babysitter named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, when she claimed that Caylee was missing, and when she claimed that Caylee was still alive and she had spoken to her on the phone July 15, 2008. None of those statements were true.

Besides the jail time, Judge Belvin Perry fined Anthony $4,000.

Casey Anthony's father has joined a campaign to sign the Caylee's Law petition to create new laws that would have made it a crime for his daughter to not report Caylee's disappearance or death.

Caylee Anthony died in June 2008 and wasn't reported missing for 31 days. Casey Anthony claimed for three years that she was kidnapped by a babysitter. Her decomposed body was found six months later in a swampy area near the Anthony home.

At the beginning of her murder trial, Casey Anthony's lawyer said that Caylee actually drowned in the family pool.

When Casey Anthony leaves jail, she will have to deal with several lawsuits, including one filed by Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez who claims Anthony cost her a house, a job and subjected her to death threats when Anthony claimed that a babysitter of the same name stole Caylee.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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