Fact based reporting
By Rob Roman
The State of Arizona is suing the U.S. Government The U.S. Government is suing the State of Arizona Juan Martinez is accusing Maricopa police of hiding evidence Judges are suing Maricopa County and Sheriff Joe Sheriff Joe is indicting County officials County Officials are suing Maricopa County The U.S. Government is suing Sheriff Joe The ACLU is suing Sheriff Joe Prisoners are suing Maricopa County Juan Martinez is accusing the police of obstruction of justice Juan Martinez is fighting with Judge Janet Barton
What’s going on in Arizona, MaricopaCounty?
In order to fully understand the Jodi Arias trial, we must look at the context in which the trial is taking place. Arizona has long been a very conservative “red” state. The conservatives hold sway over Maricopa county and they want to show the rest of America how justice is served. They want to show they can keep the cost of government low and the services effective.
They want to show they can bring criminals to justice and lock them away from the public while staying on a tight budget. Politics are fierce as the leaders fight against the U.S. Justice Department in such areas as law enforcement and immigration. There is tremendous pressure under this system for those in high offices to produce results and advance the conservative causes of their political leaders.
This is especially true in law enforcement. Certain crimes fit a political agenda. Certain crimes get a lot of play in the media. Law enforcement is pressured to solve the case and make an arrest. The Maricopa Attorney’s Office is then pressured to bring the case to trial and get a conviction.
This works splendidly until there comes a case where there isn’t enough solid evidence to get a conviction. Then the pressure is directed downward, from the CountyD.A. to the prosecutors involved to the detectives, to the forensic technicians, to the cop on the beat. There is an agenda driven push in high profile cases to make an arrest quickly. Once the arrest is made, there is a concerted effort to get a conviction and make it stick.
Of course, these occurrences are not particular to Arizona or conservative states. There are many reasons why suspects can be wrongly convicted. But for the County prosecutors, pressure from above or even self-imposed pressure to get the arrest and the conviction seems to be a primary cause of faulty prosecutions.
Most people have heard of “the Innocence Project” and other agencies like this. They investigate questionable convictions and pursue justice for the wrongfully convicted. In many cases, DNA evidence is re-examined. This can only be a small percentage of cases. There are many more convicts serving time who were wrongly convicted with no DNA involved. It is generally agreed there are many more prisoners who are not guilty of the crime(s) charged.
Organizations like The Justice Project were created to provide assistance and resources to clients who might not be able to afford or have access to such services. The Justice Project has been operating in Arizona since 1998 to help overturn wrongful convictions. The Justice Project “examines claims of innocence and manifest injustice, and provides legal representation for inmates believed to have been failed by the criminal justice system.”
“Nearly all of the exoneration cases in the registry’s report came about because of public attention or the efforts of innocence projects. The states with the most exonerations – California, Texas, Illinois and New York each has more than 100 cases.”
University of Michigan Law Professor Samuel Gross said the courts should be more willing to reverse course and overturn previous rulings. “We need to be more ready to acknowledge mistakes were made,” Gross said. “Change in attitude is more important than any policy.” “We don’t think we’ve scratched the surface in wrongful convictions,” Gross said. “This is a tiny number.”
In the span of 25 years, eight death row convicts have been exonerated in Arizona. These are only the 1st degree murder convictions resulting in death sentences. This is a problem because it is especially the death row convictions which should be beyond a reasonable doubt. Below are some of the recent Arizona exonerations:
James Robison **** Aquitted
Convicted: 1977 **** Exonerated: 1993**** (16 years in prison)
“ArizonaRepublic reporter Don Bolles was fatally injured on June 2, 1976 when a six-stick dynamite bomb attached to the vehicle was detonated by remote control.
John Harvey Adamson, confessed to planting the bomb in Bolles’ car. Adamson pleaded guilty and implicated his friend, James Robison, as the one who pushed the button on the remote control device. The sole evidence was Adamson’s word. Robison was acquitted by a jury after three trials.
Here a guilty party implicated his friend because he wanted to make a deal with the prosecutors or because he wanted to limit his culpability in the crime. There was no other evidence to substantiate his claim.
Robert Charles Cruz **** Acquitted
Convicted: 1981 **** Exonerated: 1995 **** (14 years in prison)
In this case, there seems to be a concerted effort to convict Cruz on the top charge, even though it appears evident that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to get or sustain a conviction. Cruz had mafia connections, which were improperly admitted into evidence and were prejudicial to the jury. At his fourth trial on the same charges, the Supreme Court found a violation because four Hispanic jurors were excluded solely due to their race. A special prosecutor assigned to Cruz’s fifth trial was caught bribing two inmates to testify against Cruz. The jury acquitted Cruz and stated they did not believe the prosecutor’s new “star witness”.
David Wayne Grannis **** Acquitted
Convicted 1991 **** Exonerated 1996 **** (5 years in prison)
The defendant admitted he was at the scene but claimed he fled before the murder. Here again, a defendant facing the death penalty feels the pressure and implicates another in order to make a deal and reduce his own culpability. Evidence having no connection to the crime was improperly admitted and was prejudicial to the defendant. There was no physical evidence whatever to corroborate the other defendant’s claim. http://www.victimsofthestate.org /AZ/
Christopher McCrimmon **** Acquitted
Convicted 1993 **** Exonerated 1997 **** (4 years in prison)
In this case, there seems to have not been enough evidence to convict. A”witness” is found among convicts willing to give information to prevent a 25 year jail term. A police investigator committed perjury and a judge even coerced a reluctant juror to find the defendant guilty.
Ray Krone **** Charges Dismissed
Convicted 1992 **** Exonerated 2002 **** (10 years in prison)
Defense attorneys for the defendant claimed Maricopa County “obtained the conviction and death sentence… by prosecutorial misconduct, the use of altered and manufactured evidence, expert shopping, a refusal to adequately investigate… through the concealment and destruction of evidence, through perjured documents and statements, and through the unfairly prejudicial inflammation of public opinion.”
“Among other deficient acts, the crime lab failed to test and/or analyze “hair, blood and fingerprints” that when examined years after Krone’s second conviction, excluded him and implicated another person in Ancona’s murder.”
In this case, again, there seems to be not enough evidence to convict. The public was inflamed against the defendant. The investigation was predicated on saving money and time. Tremendous media and political pressure came to bear on the prosecution. There was an inadequate investigation and evidence manipulation. Perjured documents and statements were also used in the attempt to get this conviction.
“Expert shopping” means that there were a number of witnesses the prosecution hired who found fault with the prosecution’s theory of the crime. The prosecution continued seeking experts until they found the one who would say what they wanted.
Convicted 1999 **** Exonerated 2003 **** (4 years in prison)
According to the Supreme Court, “There was no physical evidence identifying Prion as the killer,” and the trial court abused its discretion in not allowing the defense to submit evidence that a third party, John Mazure, was the actual killer.
Prion’s conviction was based largely on the testimony of Troy Olson, who identified Prion as the man who was with Vicari on the night of her murder. However, when police first showed Olson photographs of Prion, Olson could not identify Prion. This information was not admitted into evidence.
In this case there seems to be an effort by both the prosecutor and the judge to allow a man to testify as an eye witness even though they knew there was a serious problem with the testimony of this witness.
Debra Jean Milke **** Charges dismissed or reduced to time served ?
Year convicted 1990 **** Year exonerated ? **** (23 years in prison)
Debra Jean Milke is a German immigrant convicted of the murder of her 4 year-old son Christopher Conan Milke in 1990. On March 14, 2013, Milke’s conviction was overturned on March 14, 2013 by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
“The Court handed down a biting critique of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for its failure to disclose evidence that the lead detective in Milke’s case had a long and sordid history of misconduct, including lying under oath and accepting sexual favors for leniency.”
Milke’s alleged confession to Armondo Saldate, was the only direct evidence linking Milke to the crime. The only evidence was Saldate’s word. Saldate had been implicated in the past for lying under oath and other serious violations The prosecution withheld this evidence from the defense.
“Milke’s roommate, Jim Styers, had Milke’s permission to take Christopher to allegedly see Santa Claus at a shopping mall. Styers and an accomplice took Chrisopher out to the desert and shot him. Styers and an accomplice have both been convicted of the murder and are currently on death row in Arizona. Nether has testified against Milke.
There is a significantly higher amount of faulty convictions when there is a higher amount of media attention, political pressure, or a focus on a particular case because of a political agenda. In these cases, more than one tactic is usually applied to get and hold onto a conviction. Different offices will coordinate and cooperate to achieve the conviction.
The reasons for these faulty convictions fall under the following categories:
Other Defendants and Suspects
-Forced or manufactured confessions (Milke)
-Defendants implicating others
to lessen their culpability and / or make a deal (Robison, Milke, Granis)
-Inadequate investigation of other suspects
Improperly admitting evidence more prejudicial to the client than probative (Cruz, Granis) Alltered and / or manufactured evidence (Krone) Concealment and destruction of evidence (Krone) Failure to collect or test crime scene evidence (Krone) Not allowing exculpatory evidence to be admitted into trial (Milke, Prion)
Misconduct by Witnesses and Prosecutors
Lying by the prosecutor (Arias – Alleged) Perjury by prosecution witnesses (Milke, McCrimmon, Arias – alleged) Manufactured “witnesses” (McCrimmon) Shopping for experts (Krone) Witness intimidation (Arias – alleged)
Improper Police investigators and technical evidence
Perjured documents and statements (Krone, Arias – alleged) Incomplete testing (Krone, Arias – alleged)
Faulty testing and investigation (Krone)
Incomplete investigation (Arias – alleged)
Problems with Judges and juries
Judge makes a bad ruling Judge fails to make a ruling (Arias – alleged) Judge uses coercion (McCrimmon) Jury problem at selection (Cruz) Jury problem during the trial (Arias – alleged) Media bias affects jury (Krone, Arias – alleged)
The current District Attorney is pressured to hold onto the conviction and death sentence of Debra Milke even though there is no credible evidence of her guilt. The D.A. wanted to limit embarrassment and the liability of his office by insisting on retrying a case that is unlikely to be winnable. Refusing to take responsibility for past wrongs in this case shows a clear conflict of interest. The continued prosecution of Debra Milke is clearly politically motivated and not in the interest of justice.
Prosecutors, in order to secure a quick arrest and trial will also deliver false or incomplete testimony to a Grand Jury. They will make an arrest without probable cause. The prosecution will depend on wresting the needed evidence out of the defendant after they are under arrest. This is especially true in Arizona when an upstanding Mormon or a child is the victim of a violent crime.
There are other ways of gaining an advantage used by prosecutors over defense attorneys. This includes withholding evidence, offering a mile-long list of witnesses, most of whom will never be called, and delivering witness lists to the defense just days before the trial. The prosecution also uses last minute surprises, evidence dumps and massive paperwork dumps to overwhelm the defense attorneys prior to trial.
In a harsh political climate such as Arizona, all these factors pushing towards faulty convictions are attenuated. In Arizona, they fight amongst themselves. Prosecutors fight against judges, the County, the legislature, and law enforcement. We only need to look at the latest headlines in Maricopa County to see the political outfighting, infighting and constant scandals to see this is fertile ground for the misapplication of justice.
Please see What’s going on in Arizona, Maricopa County (Part 2)
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