Tag: DNA evidence

District of Columbia Agrees to $16.65M Settlement with Donald Gates, Wrongly Imprisoned for 27 Years

Donald Gates (Photo Source: nnomcenceprorject.org)
Donald Gates (Photo Source: innocenceprorject.org)

The District of Columbia agreed Thursday to pay $16.65 million to a man who spent 27 years in prison for a rape and murder he didn’t commit.

The amount is about $617,000 for every year Donald Eugene Gates spent in prison. Gates was freed in 2009 after DNA evidence cleared him in the 1981 rape and murder of 21-year-old Georgetown University student Catherine Schilling. A federal jury on Wednesday found that two city police officers fabricated and withheld evidence in the case, and city officials agreed to a settlement Thursday as the jury was getting ready to decide damages in the case.

According to court records, former homicide detectives Ronald S. Taylor and Norman Brooks, both now retired, fed information to an unreliable informant. The informant claimed Gates confessed to him while in jail and that he was tied to DNA evidence. This led to a D.C. Superior court finding Gates guilty and he was sentenced to life in prison. During this time, Gates maintained his innocence and suffered until 2009. It was then that he was cleared based on DNA evidence and the real culprit was identified. Because of the conduct of the officers and his wrongful imprisonment, Gates was earlier awarded $1.4 million under a law that gives $50K per year of imprisonment of innocent people who waive their rights to sue the US government.

In response to the jury verdict, Gates is quoted as saying, “It feels like the God of the King James Bible is real, and he answered my prayers.” Gates, who lives in Knoxville, Tenn., added as he left the courtroom, “Justice is on the way to being fulfilled. . . . It’s one of the happiest days of my life.”

article via fox5dc.com and rollingout.com

After 30 Years in Prison, Brothers Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown are Exonerated after Fresh DNA Evidence Emerges

New DNA evidence exonerated death row inmate Henry Lee McCollum, 50, and his half-brother Leon Brown, 46, of a 1983 murder

Two half-brothers wrongly incarcerated for 30 years have been released and have had their convictions overturned after fresh DNA evidence vindicated them.  Henry Lee McCollum, 50, who was on death row, and Leon Brown, 46, serving life, were arrested as teenagers in 1983 for the rape and murder of 11-year-old girl Sabrina Buie.

The innocent North Caroliners, who are diagnosed with mental disabilities, were released after new evidence linked the killing to another man who lived just feet from the soybean field that the girl’s body was found in and who was around the same time imprisoned himself for raping and killing an 18-year-old woman.

As the decision was announced by Superior Court Judge Douglas B Sasser yesterday, the men’s family erupted into applause and tears.

According to the New York Times, the brothers, who were 19 [McCollum] and 15 [Brown] at the time, had no physical evidence linking them to the crime.

Geraldine Brown, sister of Leon Brown, celebrates outside a Robeson County courtroom yesterdayGeraldine Brown, sister of Leon Brown, celebrates outside a Robeson County courtroom yesterday.  However, Mr McCollum was considered suspicious by some in the town after recently moving there from New Jersey, and after five hours of questioning without a lawyer present he gave a story of how he and three others had killed the girl.

“I had never been under this much pressure, with a person hollering at me and threatening me,” Mr McCollum told The News & Observer in an interview.

“I just made up a story and gave it to them so they would let me go home.”

He wasn’t allowed home, however, and was allegedly coerced into signing a confession – there is no recording of the interrogation.

During his incarceration, Mr. McCollum was held up as an example of someone who ‘deserved to die’.

In 1994, a Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was arguing for the death penalty in an unrelated case when he referred to that of Mr McCollum’s, and said that a quiet lethal injection would be “enviable” than that inflicted on the murdered young girl, reports Huffington Post.

“Today, truth has prevailed, but it comes 30 years too late for Sabrina Buie and her family, and for Leon, Henry, and their families.

“Their sadness, grief, and loss will remain with them forever.”

Mr McCollum was North Carolina’s longest-serving death row inmate and in later years, changes were made to the justice system to prevent minors and those with mental disabilities from being given the death sentence.

According to the Guardian, the police force in Red Springs is also accused of hiding crucial bits of crime scene evidence from 1984 until last month, that had not even been revealed to the defence teams or prosecutors.

article by Natasha Culzac via independent.co.uk

DNA Testing in Rape Case Exonerates Louisiana Man Nathan Brown After 17 Years in Prison

Nathan Brown and family
Nathan Brown, who had been incarcerated for nearly seventeen years, talks with his daughter Celene Brady, and his grandson Kenard Southern, 1, after being released from seventeen years in prison in New Orleans, Wednesday. / AP

Nathan Brown, 40, who was convicted of the attempted aggravated rape of a 40-year-old woman in 1997 solely based on her identification, was released from a state prison yesterday after serving 17 years of a 25-year sentence.  DNA testing has proved what Brown has claimed all along: He was not the man who attacked the woman as she returned to the Metairie apartment complex where they both lived, his attorneys say.

“I sincerely ask for you to have mercy upon me when the time for sentencing comes,” Brown wrote in December 1997 to then-Judge Walter Rothschild, the month after a Jefferson Parish jury convicted him. “I understand what I’ve been accused of, but I’m not the man who did this (horrendous) crime. I live a clean and honest life, providing for my daughter and helping my family out.”

Attorney Vanessa Potkin of the Innocence Project in New York, filed papers in the 24th judicial District Court in Gretna on Tuesday, saying DNA testing clears Brown. She asked Judge Ray Steib to vacate the sentence and order his release. Brown was at least the 15th person exonerated by DNA evidence in Louisiana since 1999.

The Jefferson Parish district attorney’s office declined to comment, too. But according to court records, District Attorney Paul Connick Jr. did not oppose the Innocence Project’s request to test evidence for DNA.

Brown’s attorneys asked for the DNA testing last year. Prosecutors did not oppose the testing, and Steib ordered it to be done on Dec. 16, court records show.  The company that performed the testing, Orchid Cellmark, excluded Brown “as the source of the male biological material that was testing,” Potkin wrote.

“Additional testing has identified the source of the biological material as a specific known individual other than Nathan Brown,” she wrote. “Because Nathan Brown is not the source of the male biological material that was tested, he was established by clear and convincing evidence that he is factually innocent of the attempted aggravated rape for which he was convicted.”

Continue reading “DNA Testing in Rape Case Exonerates Louisiana Man Nathan Brown After 17 Years in Prison”

Federal Grant To Aid Effort By Inmates To Prove Innocence Using DNA Evidence

gavel 16x9

The NYPD, the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and The Innocence Project recently received a$1.25 million grant from the National Institute of Justice to aid the claims of incarcerated individuals in New York City who are seeking to prove their innocence with the help of DNA evidence. Continue reading “Federal Grant To Aid Effort By Inmates To Prove Innocence Using DNA Evidence”