Entries in False Imprisonment (3)


Troy Davis to be Put to Death after Losing Appeal

David J. Sams/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Troy Davis has run out of appeals.

Davis was denied clemency Tuesday by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only authority in the state that can commute a death sentence, and is set to be executed Wednesday night at the state prison in Jackson.

"The board has considered the totality of the information presented in this case, and thoroughly deliberated on it," said board spokesman Steve Hayes in a statement. "After which the decision was to deny clemency."

Davis was convicted in 1989 for the shooting death of off-duty officer Mark Allen McPhail. McPhail was working as a night security guard in Savannah when he ran to help a homeless man who was the victim of an assault. In the chaos that followed, McPhail was shot three times.

Police never found the murder weapon, and seven of the nine witnesses who said Davis was the shooter have since changed their story.

In 2007, one of those seven witnesses told ABC News that she initially pointed the finger at Davis because of police coercion, and that she believed the real killer was one of the other witnesses. She said she feared he would come after her if she told the truth. She did not want to be identified at the time.

Another woman told the parole board Monday that she too believed the real killer went free. Quiana Glover said that she overheard Slyvester "Redd" Coles say that he was actually the shooter. Coles had been drinking heavily, she said. They were both at a party.

Coles, it turns out, was the first to implicate Davis, and at trial he testified that he left the scene before the shots were fired.

The officer's family said after the decision was announced that they simply want justice.

She points out that this is Davis's fourth execution date, in a case that at one point went before the U.S. Supreme Court. McPhail's family has never had any doubt that Troy Davis was the shooter. They believe he was properly convicted.

The NAACP, Amnesty International, and other groups have all decried the parole board's decision, all suggesting that life in prison would have been a more just decision.

At time of McPhail's murder in 1989, the shooting divided Savannah along racial and socio-economic lines.

The police were under tremendous pressure to solve the case, and put the killer away.

Davis is scheduled to die at 7 p.m. Wednesday night.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Police Lineups Faulty, Researchers Say

Comstock/Thinkstock(AMES, Iowa) -- Researchers say that the traditional police lineup could use an overhaul.

“Mistaken eyewitness identification is the primary cause of the conviction of innocent people,” said Dr. Gary Wells of Iowa State University.  “If you look at, for example, DNA exoneration cases where DNA came along and was used to test claims of innocence…three out of every four of those exonerations are cases of mistaken identification.”

Wells, an eyewitness identification expert and the lead researcher behind a new study by the American Judicature Society, says that police forces should update the way they conduct lineups.

“One of the things we observed over and over again is that witnesses tend to compare one person to another, decide who looks most like the perpetrator and then their propensity is to pick that person.  That’s OK if the real perpetrator is in there, but if the real perpetrator is not in there, there’s still someone that looks more like the perpetrator than the others,” Wells said.

The standard lineup seen on TV and in movies has witnesses looking at groups of people either standing in front of them or in a grouping of photos.  Researchers call this a simultaneous lineup.  Wells and his team said their research shows that a sequential lineup is more effective.

In a sequential lineup, a witness looks at each person individually and says whether he or she is the suspect before moving onto the next person.  Wells said that when a witness looks at each person individually in a lineup, they are less likely to mistakenly pick one of the “filler” people added to fill out the lineup.

Wells and his team worked with the police departments from Austin, Texas, Tucson, Ariz., San Diego, and Charlotte, N.C., testing the two methods of lineups. Each detective conducting the different lineups was also blind as to which person in the lineup was the suspect and which were just fillers. Researchers say that this also helps more effective identification.

The statistical analysis of the study revealed that the two procedures yielded similar numbers in identifying the suspect.  However, the sequential method yielded fewer misidentifications. Only 12.2 percent of the time did the witness misidentify the suspect in the latter method. The more traditional simultaneous method yielded the mistaken identification of a filler person 18.1 percent of the time.

Along with producing fewer mistaken identifications, the sequential method also showed that witnesses were more confident, producing fewer “not sure” responses.

Wells said that some police departments have already changed the way they do lineups over the last few years.

“A number of jurisdictions- New Jersey, North Carolina, places like Boston, Denver, Dallas…but there are still so many jurisdictions that sort of have resisted this switch,” Wells said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Washington State Proposes Compensation for Wrongly Convicted

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- The day Alan Northrop's rape conviction was overturned -- the day an innocent man walked out of prison after serving 17 years for a crime he didn't commit -- is the day the state of Washington considered its debt to him paid.

"I got no apology, no nothing, no offer of any kind of financial aid," Northrop said.

With no job, no training, and no work experience but the time he spent working in the prison kitchen for $55 a month, Northrop was released with only a few dollars to his name. He owed more than $100,000 in back child support he had been unable to pay while incarcerated, and had to move in with his brother because he could not afford a place of his own.

It is Northrop's case, along with those of three other men recently exonerated in the state, which inspired Washington State Senator Jim Hargrove to co-sponsor legislation that would compensate the wrongly convicted.

Hargrove's bill would pay those found to be innocent up to $20,000 per year for each year they spent behind bars, including time spent waiting for trial. Washington is one of 23 states that do not currently provide such compensation, according to the National Innocence Project. Most of the other 27 states and the District of Columbia pay a set amount per year served to those later found to be innocent.

Northrop was convicted of rape in 1993 after a woman picked him and another man out of a police line-up as the two who had attacked her while she was working as a housekeeper. Northrop was sentenced to more than 23 years in prison, of which he served 17 before being cleared by DNA evidence. The other man convicted in the case was also found to be innocent.

Hargrove's bill is scheduled for a hearing in the state Senate committee he chairs on Feb. 1. Northrop plans to testify in favor of the legislation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio