Friday, October 19, 2007

UPDATE: Dallas judge approves vacating Clay Chabot’s sentence, sets bail hearing for Oct. 26

Borrowed from the Innocence Project website:

(DALLAS, TX; October 19, 2007) – At a hearing this morning in Dallas, Judge Lana Myers set another hearing for next Friday (October 26) to determine bail for Clay Chabot. The Innocence Project, which represents Chabot, and the Dallas County District Attorney’s office agree that Chabot’s 1986 murder conviction should be vacated because of DNA test results pointing to the actual perpetrator. At today’s hearing, Judge Myers approved vacating Chabot’s conviction (which now goes to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which is the entity with the authority to vacate convictions in Texas). Details of the case are available here, in a press release on the case issued yesterday. At this morning’s hearing, the Dallas County District Attorney’s office indicated that it may attempt to retry Chabot for the crime, despite the clear DNA evidence.

Following is a statement from Innocence Project Staff Attorney Vanessa Potkin, who argued on behalf of Chabot this morning and will appear in court at next Friday’s hearing:

“If the District Attorney’s office intends to retry Clay Chabot, it’s going to be an extremely short trial because there is not one shred of evidence connecting him to this crime. Clay Chabot was convicted based on Jerry Pabst’s testimony, and the DNA results don’t just prove that Pabst lied to hide his own guilt – the DNA also shows that Chabot did not commit this crime.”

Some DAs just don't know when to give up.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Clay Chabot’s 1986 Dallas Murder Conviction Is Expected to Be Vacated at Hearing Friday Morning Based on DNA Results

We'll post the results of the hearing, but for now, this is the part of the awful scenario that I want to call your attention to -- in my opinion, these dirty deals are a major contributing factor in wrongful convictions. When will prosecutors wise up and stop giving get-out-of-jail-free cards to murderers?

Chabot was a friend of the victim’s husband, and Pabst was Chabot’s brother-in-law. Chabot, a Navy veteran with no criminal record, always maintained that he was asleep with his wife and infant son at the time of the crime. Pabst was arrested three days after the murder. His car matched a description of an unfamiliar car seen in the victim’s driveway on the morning of the crime, and he had pawn tickets for the victim’s stolen radio and her husband’s stolen pocketknife in is possession. Despite the evidence against Pabst, prosecutors tried Chabot for the crime – and presented Pabst as the centerpiece of the case against him. Pabst claimed that, under duress, he went to the victim’s home with Chabot to collect on a bad drug bet. Prosecutors alleged that Chabot was angry about the poor quality of $450 drugs he had bought from the victim’s husband. At the trial, the victim’s husband said that, in fact, he had offered to buy the drugs back from Chabot, but Chabot declined. But Pabst’s testimony at the trial convinced the jury of Chabot’s guilt, and he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Within days, Pabst was free. Prosecutors dismissed the pending murder indictment against him and allowed him to plead to theft of the victim’s radio, with a sentence of 30 days in jail, time served. This victim’s family was not told that charges against Pabst were dropped. Janice Warder, who prosecuted Chabot, later said in federal testimony that she had told Pabst and his attorney, “You testify, and I’ll do the fair and just thing,” which Chabot’s attorneys argued reflected an agreement to dismiss the murder charge. Warder told the judge and jury that Pabst did not receive a deal in exchange for testifying. Recently, she was quoted in news accounts saying she had been “duped” by Pabst and said, “Looking back, I certainly wish we had the benefit of what we have now.”

The 78-page motion filed for tomorrow’s hearing reflects the recent agreement between the office of D.A. Craig Watkins and Chabot’s attorneys that, at the very least, the new DNA evidence shows that Pabst lied on the stand and that Chabot was denied a fair trial as a result. The motion also says that documents disclosed by the state years after trial show that prosecutors violated the law by making an explicit deal with Pabst in exchange for his testimony – now proven false – against Chabot. The motion also details the lack of any other credible evidence linking Chabot to the crime, and says that no jury would convict him today.

The evidence is plain that Jerry Pabst, not Clay Chabot, committed this crime. There is no basis for retrying Clay for this crime, since there is no credible reason to believe that he had anything to do with it. We hope the nightmare he and his family have endured for 21 years will come to an end soon,” said Bruce Anton of Sorrels, Udashen & Anton in Dallas, which is co-counsel with the Innocence Project.

Michigan man freed amid doubts about his guilt

Borrowed from the Innocence Project website:

Posted: October 17, 2007 12:23 pm

Claude McCollum, who had been incarcerated since 2005 for a murder he says he didn’t commit, walked out of a Lansing, Michigan, jail yesterday after prosecutors asked a judge to throw out the conviction due to new evidence in the case. McCollum was arrested in 2005 and convicted in 2006 for allegedly killing a professor on the campus of Lansing Community College. The judge decided this week McCollum could wear an electronic monitoring device instead of being held on bond. State Police officials told reporters yesterday that the new evidence is a confession from another man, who is also facing charges in at least five other murders.

McCollum, 30, was convicted based partially on statements he allegedly made to police about how he could have committed the crime while sleepwalking. DNA evidence from the crime scene was shown at trial to exclude McCollum and come from an unknown male. Officials have not disclosed whether this biological evidence has been compared to the profile of the new suspect.

After his release Tuesday, McCollum, 30, told reporters: "It was one of the greatest feelings in the world. There was a time when I had doubts, but something told me things were going to work out, and that I'll finally see this day."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

California Governor vetoes judicial reforms

California governor vetoes justice reforms Posted: October 16, 2007 3:15 pm For the second year in a row, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday vetoed three bills passed by the state legislature to reduce the number of wrongful convictions in the state. The bills would have required law enforcement agencies to record interrogations in certain crimes, required jailhouse informant testimony to be corroborated and created a task force to develop guidelines on increasing the accuracy of eyewitness identifications.

The chairman of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice said in a statement yesterday that “Schwarzenegger has taken California out of the front lines of criminal justice reform.”

The vacuum of leadership in the Governor’s mansion will not make the causes of wrongful convictions disappear. We cannot insert our heads in the sand as the parade of innocents who have been wrongfully convicted continues to grow.

Read the full statement here. (PDF)

Schwarzenegger, in his veto messages, said new state policies would “would place unnecessary restrictions on police.”

Read the governor’s veto statements here.

Source: Innocence Project blog

A new book on Scott Peterson

A new book will soon be out in which the author claims to have a confession from Scott Peterson. This is last night's media announcement:

SOURCE: Digi-Tall Media Oct 16, 2007 19:32 ET

The End to the Laci Peterson Mystery
Scott Peterson Finally Confesses

The End to the Laci Peterson Mystery DALLAS, TX and DENVER, CO--(Marketwire - October 16, 2007) - Unique, inspiring, and dramatic, "'I'm Sorry I Lied to You,' the Confession of Scott Peterson," by Donna Thomas, is a literary sojourn into the dark and disturbing world of Scott Peterson's life on California's Death Row. Based on the infamous brutal murder of Laci Peterson and her unborn son, Conner, "'I'm Sorry I Lied to You,' the Confession of Scott Peterson," reexamines the evidence, the speculation, and the major players of one of America's most heinous murders. Publication date is set for December 15, 2007; wherein, Thomas, a well-known anti-death penalty advocate, details her personal visits to Scott Peterson on San Quentin's death row and describes that fateful day when Scott confessed to her.

Although many books have been written about the Peterson case, this author's work is unique in that it examines the detailed workings of the mind of Scott Peterson firsthand. Vilified by the press, the family of the victim, and various other literary entrepreneurs, Scott Peterson is seen by Thomas as an individual who although convicted of the capital offense of murder is still a human being.

Donna Thomas exposes certain aspects of the events, characters, and circumstances that were not highly published during the investigation, arrest, and trial. She also questions the motivation and competence of some of the participants. These ideas alone are a source of necessary checks and balances in an already overtaxed criminal justice system. Also, questions are raised in this true crime literary piece as to whether Scott Peterson did or did not receive a fair trial.

One question that Donna Thomas does not raise is the matter of Scott Peterson's innocence. Although in the beginning she believed Peterson was innocent, it is the brutal and graphic confession while visiting Scott in San Quentin that changed the course of her investigation, Donna's relationship with Peterson, and altered her emotional and spiritual essence forever. The passages detailing this aspect are brutally shocking and without remorse.

"'I'm Sorry I Lied to You,' the Confession of Scott Peterson" will take you to a literary dimension seldom experienced within the realm of modern reading. Donna Thomas' legal expertise and humanistic endeavors create an atmosphere of suspense unequaled in any previous writing on the subject. Her visits to San Quentin are accentuated with sights and sounds of a world seldom seen and contain some well-known death row inmates of equal or greater infamy. Inside this secret insight into the mind of a man still being talked about today, you will also find photographs never before published.

Ms. Thomas continues to work on cases of people wrongly accused all over the country, she maintains residences in several cities.

"'I'm Sorry I Lied to You,' the Confession of Scott Peterson": Author: Donna Thomas ISBN: 0-9785728-8-2 -- $27.00 Digi-Tall Media; P.O. Box 868024; Plano, TX 75086-8024 - Fax: 866-223-7289
EDITORS: For review copies or interview requests, contact: Digi-Tall Media Fax: 866-223-7289
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