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admin | Getting An Ex Back | 26.11.2015
IF THEREa€™S ONE THING we all should have learned from the string of wrongful convictions recently come to light, ita€™s that you cana€™t always believe someone elsea€™s eyes.
The group has taken as its guide previous reports by the US Department of Justice in 2001 and by the states of New Jersey, North Carolina, and Illinois, according to task-force member James Doyle, an attorney with the Boston law firm Carney & Bassil and author of several studies on eyewitness identification. The working groupa€™s charge is to make recommendations like these to improve the reliability of eyewitness identification.
But clearly, Suffolk County needs a second group to study old eyewitness-based convictions.
On November 16, 1999, Charles Taylor was shot six times, in broad daylight, on a Roxbury street corner. Sprinkle, just 5a€™3" and 120 pounds, was an unemployed high-school dropout living with his grandmother at the time of his arrest. Initially, Amporo-Taylor insisted to detectives that Sprinkle was in the house with her when she heard the gunshots a€” she recalled Sprinkle going outside and asking a girl in the courtyard what had happened. Finally, just before Amporo-Taylor testified for the grand jury, the detectives threatened her with felony perjury, and she changed her story to implicate Sprinkle.
The detectives later threatened to charge him as an accessory to the murder if he didna€™t identify Sprinkle as one of the two men.
Another trial witness, Angel Suazo, first came to the attention of detectives six months after the Taylor shooting; by then, the grand jury had already indicted Sprinkle in March 2000. Another eyewitness, who had been waiting for a bus directly across the street from the shooting, refused to change his claim that the killers were light-skinned Hispanics.
Other witnesses supported Amporo-Taylora€™s original story, that Sprinkle was in his house when the shots were fired, and that he came out and asked a girl in the courtyard a€” Lillian Robinson, who was then 13 years old a€” what had happened. Marion Jones, an elderly woman who lived across the street from Sprinkle, testified that she was on the phone with Sprinkle when she and others heard the gunshots. The prosecutor, Josh Wall, concedes that there was no physical evidence linking Fulks to the crime, according to Procopio. The first to tell that story was Vendell Mason, after he was picked up by Boston police on May 29, allegedly in possession of marijuana.
Over the next two weeks, Detective Daniel Keeler brought in three other men whom Mason claimed were in the car. According to Procopio, only one of the four was offered any inducement for his story a€” Andrew Kornegay, who was given a plea agreement on a drug charge. None of the eyewitnesses who spoke with police at the crime scene ever corroborated the Fulks identification. In early August 2000, 22-year-old Jovan Burts was living with his parents on Appleton Street, in the South End, about to enter his senior year of college.
Burtsa€™s previous legal trouble, like Sprinklea€™s, was limited to a single marijuana-possession charge, which was ultimately dismissed. McDuffiea€™s identification of Burts was the entire case; no physical evidence connected Burts to the crime.
In obtaining the ID from McDuffie, Sergeant Detective Robert Harrington used the exact methods that James Doyle calls outmoded. Ellison questions how Harrington could even have narrowed his suspicion to Burts prior to McDuffiea€™s ID.
But the APB, Ellison points out, described the stabber as wearing braids, and Burts had an afro. The trail to Burts seems so faint, Ellison says, that he questions whether the photo-array ID was actually done on August 8. Burtsa€™s mother, Mary Cox, recalls detectives coming to the house and asking for Jovan on August 15, the day they obtained an arrest warrant. Questionable or flat-out-wrong eyewitness-identification testimony led to Anthony Powella€™s 1992 conviction for rape, and the murder convictions of Shawn Drumgold in 1989, Donnell Johnson in 1996, and Marlon Passley in 1995.
A jury found Stephan Cowans, freed this January, guilty of a 1997 police-officer shooting largely on the basis of an erroneous fingerprint match. After Powell, whoa€™d been identified by the victim from a photo array, was exonerated by DNA evidence and freed in March, Conley and new Boston Police Department (BPD) commissioner Kathleen Oa€™Toole announced the establishment of an eyewitness-identification working group. Doyle, who also served on the working group that issued the Justice Departmenta€™s report, says that the BPD uses outmoded techniques for eyewitness identification.
In too many instances, questionable eyewitness testimony has resulted in guilty verdicts for people who may well be innocent. Keyon Sprinkle, who was then 17 years old, told police that he was in his house three blocks away when he heard the gunshots.
His only previous legal trouble was a marijuana-possession charge that was never prosecuted. Two had been threatened on tape with accomplice charges, and the other admitted in court that a detective on the case testified in his behalf at a sentencing hearing for his prior crimes a€” a fact that even the prosecutor did not know until the trial began, says David Procopio, spokesperson for the Suffolk County District Attorneya€™s Office. She was in Sprinklea€™s house at the time of the murder, and had previously had an affair with Sprinklea€™s cousin Clarence Williams. She repeated this story no less than 13 times in at least three separate interviews with detectives James Wyse, John Martell, and Michael Primm, according to transcripts of those interrogations.
At the grand jury and again at Sprinklea€™s trial, Amporo-Taylor testified that she saw Sprinkle tuck something into his waistband and go out; then, later, Sprinkle claimed to hear the gunshots, but she did not.
Spencer Redding, a friend of Williamsa€™s, was parked in his car down the street when he heard the shots and looked up, catching a brief glimpse of two men at the scene.
In late May, Suazo was arrested for probation violations, and his probation officer recommended an 18-month sentence.
Prosecutor Pat Hagan argued in court that those witnesses were unreliable, because they were motivated to protect their friend and neighbor.
On a recent evening, sitting on a plastic chair in her living room, she repeated her story. Someone shot into the crowd, killing 20-year-old Shanna Miller, who was four months pregnant. He was also allegedly mixed up with gang members in the Grove Hall area, according to police reports on the case.
They said in separate interviews that they were driving down Warren Street when Fulks recognized someone on the street suspected of murdering someone he knew. He was never charged with any crime; three days later, he made a taped statement blaming Fulks for Millera€™s murder. Each one initially denied knowing anything about the murder, but eventually switched their stories to conform with Masona€™s.
Rudser points out, however, that none of them was charged as an accomplice a€” including the driver, and even including Andre Clarke, who had the gun police say was the murder weapon. In fact, one witness, Debbie Grayson, had previously made a positive ID, from a photo array, of a different suspect, named Shaheed Edwards. According to what Burts told his parents and his attorney, on the night of Friday, August 4, he had drinks with some friends and ended up crashing with one of them, Kenneth Whigham, in an apartment at 267 Centre Street, in the Bromley-Heath projects. Harrington, who led the investigation, visited McDuffie four days after the murder on August 8 in his mothera€™s Egleston Square apartment. Harrington says, according to Procopio, that Burts was the first and only suspect he intended to ask McDuffie to identify. All have been released a€” with apologies from Suffolk County district attorney Dan Conley in the first two cases and former Suffolk County DA Ralph Martin in the others a€” in the last five years. The group includes three defense attorneys, a prosecutor, a BPD superintendent, and an academic researcher specializing in witness IDs.
Such convictions are not hard to find; just ask criminal-defense attorneys if they have any cases that still gnaw at them. But eyewitnesses told a different story during his trial, and on March 27, 2002, Sprinkle was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He has a daughter with his girlfriend Jayda, and wanted to put together a life with them, says his cousin Loreen Jones, a Boston Public School teacher living in Randolph. According to prosecutors, Williams asked Sprinkle to kill Taylor, who was hanging out on a nearby street corner, and Sprinkle, who was playing video games with his friends and little brother, walked to the corner, put six bullets into Taylor, and calmly returned to his game. Redding, who called 911, initially told police that he couldna€™t see much from his car, with his poor eyesight. Suazo, who knew Williams and was an acquaintance of Sprinklea€™s, asked Martell and Primm for help in exchange for information about Sprinkle.
As she spoke, she could see the front door of Sprinklea€™s former home through her front door, which she keeps open in nice weather.
For two months, detectives made little progress on the case; they suspected that the shooting stemmed from a fight earlier in the evening involving a man on the street whom they believed to be the intended victim.
He had two juvenile arrests a€” one for assault and battery, one for trespassing a€” but no convictions, according to a police report filed with the case docket at the McCormack Courthouse.
He said that he and the others in the car were all friends a€” although in the transcript of his statement, Mason says that he is with the Magnolia Street gang, and that the others, including Fulks, are with the Intervale Street gang. Only these final parts of their interviews were recorded, leaving open the possibility that Keeler may have threatened them with charges or coached them in what to say, Rudser says. Another witness, shown a photograph of Fulks by Rudsera€™s investigator, said he was not the shooter. Cedric Ennis, 15 years old, called out asking if they were with Academy Homes, the name of both a project and gang. A graduate of Lincoln-Sudbury High School through the METCO program, he was majoring in English at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, and wanted to be a writer. The eight photographs were laid out as an array, rather than shown one at a time, and Harrington knew which of the photographs was the suspect. An hour or so after the stabbing, police spotted two men, standing in front of the Jackson Square MBTA station, who generally fit the descriptions sent out in an all-points bulletin (APB) shortly after the murder. Ellison says he suspects that when detectives knocked on Burtsa€™s door on August 15 a€” the first time anyone had attempted to contact Burts since interviewing him the morning after the murder a€” they were doing routine follow-up, and became suspicious only when they found out from his mother that Burts had left for Virginia a day after the murder. In conversations with more than a dozen attorneys who defend homicide suspects in Boston, the Phoenix found three cases that continue to haunt not only the lawyers, but also the families and friends of the young men who are in prison because of eyewitness identifications. Why, she asks, would she lie to keep a cold-blooded killer living directly across the courtyard? Wall offered a plea bargain of eight years; Fulks had already served almost three years awaiting trial.
When Fulks emerged as the suspect and Keeler requested that the crime lab specifically check Clarkea€™s gun against the Miller bullets, the same system called it a match. Several witnesses told police, both at the scene and in taped statements, that the killer got out of a maroon sedan, either a Taurus or an Intrepid; Mason and the others said they were in a silver or beige Toyota 4Runner, an SUV.
To be closer to the doctor treating his sickle-cell anemia, he was transferring from Hampton to UMass Boston for his final year, and was planning to move to St.
And McDuffie actually refused to testify at the trial, until the prosecutor sent an arrest warrant to compel him. According to Anthony Ellison, Burtsa€™s attorney, Harrington conducted the array when 15-year-old McDuffiea€™s mother briefly left the room to get something from the kitchen, a detail that Procopio confirms.
Cardozo School of Law that takes on prisoner appeals in which DNA or other scientific tests can prove innocence, says that more than 80 percent of prisoners exonerated by DNA evidence since 1992 were originally convicted on mistaken eyewitness testimony. Facing the possibility of a life sentence versus another five years in prison, Fulks took the deal, ensuring his freedom at age 25. The taped statements of the four witnesses contradict each other on a number of basic details, such as where they had been before the murder and where they went later, according to both Rudser and Procopio, although they offer different interpretations. The next morning, police went door-to-door in that building and took down the names of at least 15 people, including Burts and Whigham.
Ellison suggested at trial that the detectives interpreted Burtsa€™s trip as a flight from the law, and only after they obtained the arrest warrant did they set up the photo array with McDuffie.
A University of Michigan study released Monday found that almost 90 percent of wrongful rape convictions and half of wrongful homicide convictions since 1989 included at least one eyewitness misidentification. When that assertion was easily disproved, he then claimed that he had undergone ankle surgery in October and spent months immobilized in rehabilitation; he even brought in forged hospital documents to back up the claim.
According to Procopio, Burts stood out as a suspect because he did not actually live at 267 Centre Street, and because in the initial conversation the morning after the murder, Burts gave a changing description of where he was and what he did the night before. Burts later showed police documentation that proved he had planned the trip months earlier to retrieve his belongings from Hampton. The results of the study suggest that thousands of those incarcerated today may, in fact, be innocent. All three young men named below are in prison today; their sentences range from eight years to life. Only after these attempts failed, Suazo admitted under cross-examination, did he approach Martell and Primm with his story about Sprinkle.) On June 27, Martell testified in Suazoa€™s behalf at his final surrender hearing, where a judge determined Suazoa€™s sentencing.




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