Boston Man Released After 27 Years of Incarceration

Boston Man Released After 27 Years of Incarceration

Boston College Innocence Program Boston College Innocence Program client Ronnie Qualls was released yesterday on bail after almost 27 years’ incarceration for a 1992 double murder that he did not commit. Ronnie’s murder convictions were vacated based on DNA evidence indicating that multiple small droplets of one of the victim’s blood was on the original suspect’s sweatshirt shortly after the shooting.  The victim unequivocally named that same suspect as the shooter to three different police officers moments before he died.  However, that suspect told police that Ronnie was the shooter and three eyewitnesses later identified Ronnie as the shooter.  The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office joined the BCIP in asking for Ronnie’s convictions to be vacated and they are currently awaiting the charges to be dismissed.  Learn...
Florida Man Spent 29 Years on Death Row Before His Murder Conviction Was Overturned by New DNA Evidence

Florida Man Spent 29 Years on Death Row Before His Murder Conviction Was Overturned by New DNA Evidence

Innocence Project  Paul Hildwin, 60, was released on from Hernando County jail on March 9 after spending 35 years in prison and over 29 of those years on death row. In 2014, while Hildwin was represented by Fort Lauderdale attorney Martin McClain and the Innocence Project, the Florida Supreme Court reversed Hildwin’s capital murder conviction and death sentence on the 1986 murder of a Hernando County woman. The Court’s ruling was based on DNA testing and a court-ordered search of the national DNA database which proved that critical evidence originally used to tie Hildwin to the crime actually belonged to the victim’s estranged boyfriend, whom Hildwin had always contended was the likely true killer.   While in jail, Hildwin not only survived the State’s efforts to execute him, but also three separate bouts of cancer.  He suffered a fourth recurrence in March 2019, while awaiting retrial, but prosecutors still refused to drop the case. His cancer is now in remission.  In 2003, DNA testing excluded Hildwin as the source of semen and saliva found on the two pieces of crime scene evidence. For the next seven years, the Innocence Project fought prosecutors to submit the DNA profile into the CODIS DNA database to determine the source of the DNA. In 2010, the Florida Supreme Court finally ordered a DNA database search on the DNA profile, which was identified to the victim’s estranged boyfriend — an alternate suspect in the crime, who was convicted of 16 counts of sexual battery of a minor.  Hildwin was represented at his 1986 trial by Daniel Lewan, a court-appointed lawyer with less than three years’...
Georgia Man Freed After Almost 18 Years in Prison For A Rape He Did Not Commit

Georgia Man Freed After Almost 18 Years in Prison For A Rape He Did Not Commit

Georgia Innocence Project  Kerry Robinson, 44, of Moultrie, Georgia, was exonerated and released today from Coffee Correctional Facility, into the arms of family, friends and a team of legal supporters, after being wrongly convicted of rape almost 18 years ago. Southern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Brad Shealy joined in Robinson’s motion to vacate his sentence. The move followed litigation initiated by Atlanta-based Georgia Innocence Project and co-counsel Rodney Zell based upon new, exonerating DNA results obtained by DNA scientist Dr. Greg Hampikian.  At Robinson’s 2002 rape trial, the jury heard testimony from a state crime lab analyst that suggested that Robinson’s DNA was likely included in a DNA mixture from the sexual assault kit performed on the victim. But new DNA analysis proves just the opposite: the same evidence the GBI said was inclusionary at trial is now proven to be exclusionary.  “We are thrilled to see this unjust conviction finally corrected,” said Georgia Innocence Project Executive Director Clare Gilbert. “The factors that led to Kerry Robinson’s conviction – flawed forensics and false testimony from an incentivized cooperator – are present in so many wrongful conviction cases. Our fight continues on behalf of the many innocent men and women who remain imprisoned in Georgia.”  “Modern DNA technology has further confirmed what we’ve known for a long time: Kerry Robinson is an innocent man,” said Rodney Zell, co-counsel in Robinson’s case. “I am so grateful that new technology is finally able to meet the incredibly high thresholds for righting wrongful convictions in Georgia. It’s been a long fight and we wish Kerry’s mother were here to see this day. We...
Demetrius Johnson Exonerated, Exoneration Project

Demetrius Johnson Exonerated, Exoneration Project

Exoneration Project  Demetrius Johnson smiled broadly as he walked out of the county’s main criminal courthouse Friday and headed home for a celebratory bubble bath. It was a pivotal day for Johnson. The 44-year-old, who went to prison for 12 years as a teenager for murder, became the 20th person to be exonerated based on allegations he was framed by retired Chicago Police Detective Reynaldo Guevara. Earlier this year, it came to light that an eyewitness account implicating another person in the fatal 1991 Wicker Park shooting had been concealed from prosecutors and defense attorneys. A Cook County judge vacated Johnson’s conviction in November, leaving it up to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to retry the case — although Johnson had served his sentence and couldn’t be sent back to prison — or drop the case altogether. A prosecutor with the state’s attorney’s office Friday informed Judge Dennis J. Porter that the state’s attorney’s office had decided to drop all charges. “It’s an out-of-body experience,” Johnson said after the hearing. “I felt like I had a gorilla on my back.”  Read More   ...
Commonwealth Drops Case Against Gary Cifzzari

Commonwealth Drops Case Against Gary Cifzzari

New England Innocence Project  Worcester, MA [December 10, 2019] – The Worcester County District Attorney dropped its case against Gary Cifizzari of Taunton, Mass., who was wrongfully convicted of a 1979 murder and spent 35 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. “Exonerations are always bittersweet,” said Radha Natarajan, co-counsel for Cifizzari and Executive Director of the New England Innocence Project.  “During 35 years of wrongful imprisonment, Gary Cifizzari endured so much and lost so much.  But today, he finally receives the justice he deserves and can celebrate the freedom he has again.  Whenever there is a wrongful conviction, it exposes errors in our criminal legal system, and we hope that this case — and lessons from it — can prevent future injustices.” “We are thrilled that Mr Cifizzari was rightly exonerated today. No one should spend decades behind bars for a crime they did not commit,” said Ropes & Gray litigation and enforcement partner Kirsten Mayer. “We commend the Worcester District Attorney for assenting to our motion for a new trial and concluding that the charges against Mr. Cifizzari should be dropped in the interest of justice.” On May 31, 2019, the New England Innocence Project and a pro bono Ropes & Gray litigation team filed a motion for a new trial in Worcester Superior Court on behalf of Mr. Cifizzari. Along with his brother, Mr. Cifizzari was wrongfully convicted of the 1979 murder of his great aunt, 75-year-old Concetta Schiappa. The May 31 motion exposed newly discovered and tested DNA evidence developed from the semen and saliva on the victim’s nightgown that exonerated Mr....
Wrongfully Convicted Oregonian Freed With Help From the Oregon Innocence Project

Wrongfully Convicted Oregonian Freed With Help From the Oregon Innocence Project

Oregon Innocence Project  Statement to be attributed to Steve Wax, Legal Director, Oregon Innocence Project. “We are delighted that Nick McGuffin is being freed now that his conviction for manslaughter has been overturned and that there will be no appeal from the State or retrial. Staff and volunteers of the Oregon Innocence Project worked for five years on Nick’s case, including Janis Puracal prior to her creating the Forensic Justice Project. Nick is also represented by Ryan O’Connor of O’Connor Weber. Nick’s case was one of the first brought to us when we opened our doors in 2014. In particular, our researcher John Comery has shown outstanding commitment to helping Nick and has worked on the case since we took it on. Nick’s release follows thousands of hours of labor by our staff and volunteers. As in so many innocence cases, it is only with dedication and tremendous effort by many people that justice will eventually be done. We wish Nick every future happiness as he is reunited with his family and friends.” Read...