Tag Archives: false conviction

Innocent Man Framed For Murder by LVMPD Detectives and Las Vegas Prosecutors Freed After 22 Years in Prison

Demarlo Berry Released From Prison Innocence ProjectLast week, Demarlo Berry was released from a Nevada prison after serving 22 years for a murder he didn’t commit. He had been sentenced to life without parole in prison for a 1994 robbery at a Las Vegas Carl’s Jr. and the murder of Charles Burkes, the manager.

Based on media reports of his release, you would think that the Clark County District Attorney’s Office had supported and even played a significant role in his exoneration. That’s far from the truth, though.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:

For years, Berry’s legal team has asserted that incredible trial testimony, as well as a written confession from another man in 2013, proves their client was wrongly convicted.

A Clark County judge on Wednesday signed the order of dismissal that secures the release. The Clark County district attorney’s office had agreed to dismiss the case Tuesday, following a monthslong (sic) investigation by members of the office’s newly formed conviction review unit.

Prosecutors for years had fought Berry’s claims of innocence with assertions of his guilt, but on Thursday they hailed the case as the first release resulting from the review unit established in October.

“They’ve finally done what we think they should have done all along,” (lawyer Craig) Coburn said.

For years, Coburn along with the Rocky Mountain Innocence Project had been fighting to prove he had been falsely convicted. However, Las Vegas prosecutors had fought just as hard against his release. That includes even after the real killer confessed all the way back in 2013.

Steven Jackson, who has been in prison in California for a separate murder since 1996, had voluntarily confessed and in the process provided details only the person who had committed the crime could possibly know. In addition, a woman provided an independent statement that Jackson had confessed to her shortly after the murder occurred.

In fact, the reality is that district attorneys, along with police officers from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, manufactured witness testimony against Berry to ensure his conviction. As can be heard in the audio file embedded below (at approx. 6:30), that witness later recanted his claim that Berry had made a jailhouse confession.

In the process, Richard Iden also stated that detectives from the LVMPD coached him on what to say and provided him with details of the crime to bolster his testimony. As reward for that false testimony, Iden was given a favorable plea deal. He was also paid off with free plane tickets home to Ohio to visit his family, a free hotel room during the trial, and cash “per diem” payments.

Of course, while District Attorney Steve Wolfson is busy patting himself on the back for “causing the release of Demarlo Berry from prison after 22 years,” there’s been no mention whatsoever of any sort of accountability for the prosecutors and detectives who illegally manufactured evidence in order to put him there. Nor is there any mention of why it took four years after the real killer had admitted his own guilt before they finally decided to stop fighting that release.

And BTW, Nevada is one of eighteen states in the country that don’t provide any sort of compensation to people who have been exonerated after false convictions. So, unlike the guy the prosecutors paid off to provide false testimony at his trial, Berry will get nothing from the State of Nevada for the decades he was wrongfully imprisoned.

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Denver Police Sued by Man Coerced Into Murder Confession at Age of Fourteen

When he was just fourteen years old Lawrence Lorenzo Montoya, was arrested on suspicion of having committed a murder. Initially, he continually insisted that he was innocent and other evidence also indicated that was the case.

In spite of that, Denver detectives concealed the evidence that would exonerate him and eventually bullied and coerced him into a confession. Montoya subsequently was convicted based on that false confession and ended up spending thirteen years in prison before his innocence was proven by DNA evidence and he was released.

Now he’s filed a $30 million dollar lawsuit against the Denver Police Department, as well as the city and county of Denver over the life sentence he received for the wrongful conviction in the murder of Emily Johnson, a Denver teacher, on New Years Day 2000.

Via Fox 31 Denver:

Denver homicide detectives grilled Montoya for 2 1/2 hours, most of the time without even a parent present.

Attorney Lisa Polansky said they were, “Yelling and screaming in his face, making up evidence, banging on the table and cornering him against the wall. Telling him he’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison and should say goodbye to his mother.”

Lawrence Lorenzo Montoya Denver DetectiveThe police interrogation tape shows detectives lying to Montoya about the evidence and statement from other teens. Montoya told police that he was joy-riding in the stolen car the next day but did not commit the crime, wasn’t there when it happened and did not know anything about it.

According to the lawsuit, at least 65 times Montoya told police he did not have anything to do with the death. Finally, sobbing, he told police what they wanted to hear.

“I without a doubt believe he was coerced,” Polansky said.

“He ends up being convicted of a crime because the police coerced him to confess,” attorney David Fisher said.

According to the lawsuit, the interrogation tape shows detectives coaching Montoya through the false confession. It accuses police of ignoring or lying about other evidence that cleared Montoya.

Montoya was charged as an adult, convicted and sentenced to life in prison.  He spent 13 years, seven months and 13 days behind bars until a judge vacated the conviction in 2014 after new DNA testing exonerated him.

Lawrence Lorenzo Montoya Denver False ConvictionFisher said it’s hard to understand why an innocent person would confess, but points out 44 percent of juveniles exonerated by DNA were coerced into false confessions.

“To me there’s nothing worse than a kid who at 14 years old went into an adult prison facility.  It could be avoided and it needs to be avoided,” he said.

Added Polansky: “The district attorneys need to admit their mistake and I think it’s more than a mistake. Their intentional conduct in fabricating and continuing this injustice.”

Not surprisingly, Montoya’s lawyer says that he is having a hard time readjusting to society after those Heroes from the Denver PD purposely cost him roughly half of his life up to this point, in spite of the fact they knew he wasn’t guilty of the murder and had evidence to show that.

And of course, regardless of what amount the taxpayers will be forced to pay Montoya once the lawsuit settles, they will not be punished in any way whatsoever for their intentional acts.

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Cop’s Lies Sent 14 Year Old to Prison for 9 Years, Even Though Real Killer Confessed Weeks After Sentencing

Davontae Sanford James Tolbert Detroit
On Tuesday, a Detroit man who had been in prison since the age of fourteen, due to false testimony by a Detroit police deputy, had his conviction overturned.

Davontae Sanford had received a sentence of 37 to 90 years in prison after being advised by the attorney that originally represented him to plead guilty to four counts of second degree murder for a quadruple homicide in 2007.

Just two weeks after Sanford was sentenced for the murders, the real killer confessed to those murders, along with eight others. In spite of that confession, Sanford remained in prison until his current age of 23. Vincent Smothers, a professional hitman, also signed an affidavit detailing his confession and stating that Sanford was in no way involved in the crime.

Now that his innocence has finally been established, the (unnamed) lawyer who advised him to plead guilty has been suspended from practicing law.

Also, Detroit Police Deputy Chief James Tolbert, whose false testimony was largely responsible for Sanford being charged in the case, was fired. Prior to that, he had been hired as the police chief in Flint, Michigan.

Via USA Today:

Davontae SanfordThe announcement of Sanford’s release comes after Michigan State Police launched an investigation into the killings last year and submitted their findings to (Prosecutor Kym) Worthy’s office last month.

That report included a recorded interview with Detroit Police Deputy Chief James Tolbert in which the cop contradicted testimony that Sanford had drawn a detailed diagram of the crime scene, including location of the victims’ bodies, when the boy was questioned by police in 2007, according to the prosecutor’s office.

“This called into question Tolbert’s credibility in the case,” the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.

Tolbert, who went to serve as the Flint, Mich., police department chief in 2013, was fired from that position earlier this year.

Sanford — who was assisted in his legal battle by Dykema Gossett, the Michigan Innocence Clinic, the Northwestern Center for the Wrongful Convictions of Youth, and Michigan’s State Appellate Defender’s Office — could be released from prison as early as Wednesday.

James TolbertIncidentally, Tolbert was a subject of controversy almost immediately after he was hired as the police chief in Flint in 2013. At the time, he was being sued by a Detroit detective who claimed he had blocked his efforts to investigate the killing of a stripper.

The stripper, Tamara Greene, was supposedly murdered to help cover up a scandal involving a party at former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s home. The lawsuit claimed that Tolbert and other Detroit police officials prevented Odell Godbold from doing a full investigation of the murder in order to protect Kilpatrick.

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