6 Inconceivable Miscarriages of Justice in the United States

6 Inconceivable Miscarriages of Justice in the United States

Patrick Lynch - July 1, 2017

It is a sad fact that justice systems all around the world allow innocent people to receive punishment. The American justice system is no different as a study jointly conducted by the Northwestern University School of Law, and the University of Michigan Law School proved in 2012. It showed that in a 23-year period, approximately 2,000 people were falsely convicted of serious crimes in the U.S. and later exonerated.

Sadly, the data is quite limited, and the study only outlined a fraction of the real figure. As a result, I am looking at cases where people were wrongly convicted in the 1980s. The reasons for the convictions include wrongful identification, incompetent defense attorneys, and low-quality forensics. In this article, I look at 7 miscarriages of justices that cost the innocent party dearly.

6 Inconceivable Miscarriages of Justice in the United States
Bozella (left) on his pro boxing debut. TSM Interactive

1 – Dewey Bozella (Convicted in 1983)

Bozella was born in New York in 1959 and saying he had a rough upbringing is an understatement. When he was just 9 years old, he witnessed his father beat his pregnant mother to such a degree that she later died from her wounds. Bozella’s father ran away and did not return. Three of his brothers suffered terrible fates too; one died from AIDS, and two others were murdered. Despite facing all of this tragedy plus the fact he spent three years in prison for attempted robbery, Bozella ultimately earned a Bachelor’s Degree. He later earned a Master’s from the New York Theological Seminary.

If he believed that he was finally on the right path, he was sadly mistaken. In 1977, 92-year old Emma Crapser was brutally murdered at her home in Poughkeepsie. She walked in on a burglar after returning home from a night of church bingo, and the intruder tied her up and suffocated her before fleeing the scene. Police claimed that Bozella was the culprit and in 1983, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Bozella proclaimed his innocence throughout the hearing and during his lengthy spell in Sing Sing. He was convicted again in 1990 even though the evidence against him was sketchy at best. Bozella was denied parole on four occasions, and during his time in prison, he became the light-heavyweight boxing champion of Sing Sing. He never gave up hope, and when he contacted the Innocence Project, it agreed to take on the case. It found that there was no more DNA evidence to be tested, so it referred the case to a law firm named WilmerHale.

Its attorneys discovered that county police officers and attorneys withheld four important pieces of evidence from Bozella’s defense lawyers. It included a neighbor’s testimony which spoke about hearing rustling in an alleyway near a window where the police found a fingerprint. It belonged to someone named Donald Wise who had been convicted of killing an elderly person in a similar manner. Even though this information would have exonerated Bozella at the time since it shifted the blame to another individual, the county claimed it had legitimate reasons for not turning over the evidence. A judge later found out that the prosecution relied heavily on testimony from two men who altered their stories to get improved sentences for other crimes.

Bozella was finally released in 2009 after serving 26 years in prison. He sued Dutchess County for $25 million, and the case was settled for $7.5 million. Bozella spoke of his dream to have a professional fight and thanks to the help of boxing legend Bernard Hopkins, Bozella made his debut on the undercard of Hopkins’ fight against Chad Dawson on October 15, 2011. The 52-year old beat Larry Hopkins on points over four rounds.

6 Inconceivable Miscarriages of Justice in the United States
Darryl Hunt. Triad City Beat

2 – Darryl Hunt (Convicted in 1984)

Unfortunately, although the tale of Darryl Hunt involves an innocent man finally seeing daylight, it has a tragic end. In 1984, he was tried and convicted of the rape and murder of Deborah Sykes. Critics of the outcome pointed out that as an African-American man accused of the murder of a white woman. Since he was facing an all-white jury, he had no chance of acquittal. Certainly, there was no conclusive evidence to prove Hunt’s guilt and no physical evidence that connected him to the crime whatsoever. In fact, he was convicted on the strength of witness testimony and received a life sentence.

In 1987, Hunt was accused of murdering an African-American man named Arthur Wilson who had died in 1983. He was also convicted of the crime, but in 1989, both convictions were overturned. In 1990, an all-white jury acquitted him of the murder of Wilson, but the following year, Hunt was again convicted of the rape and murder of Sykes. In 1994, his defense team was able to test the DNA of the physical evidence in the Sykes case and found that Hunt couldn’t possibly have committed the rape.

Incredibly, a judge in Forsyth County refused to bring the case forward again because the DNA evidence did not prove Hunt was innocent of murder. Finally, in 2004, Hunt was released after a man named Willard E. Brown confessed to the murders. A review of the state’s DNA database discovered that Brown’s DNA matched what was found in the Sykes case, so there was no option but to release Hunt after he had served 19 years in prison.

Ultimately, Hunt received around $1.6 million in compensation, and instead of shying away from the spotlight, he founded the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice. It is an advocacy group for people who have been wrongfully convicted. However, Hunt was haunted by his experience and used ATMs every day as a means of creating a time stamp and image of his location to ensure he was never wrongfully convicted of anything again.

The last few years of Hunt’s life are a sad story. He divorced his wife April in 2014 and discovered he had prostate cancer. In 2016, Hunt returned to Winston-Salem, the scene of the Sykes crime, and found that his assets had been frozen. His truck was repossessed because he missed a payment and he found out that his cancer had progressed to Stage IV. Hunt had exhibited signs of depression after his release from prison, and in 2016, he was found dead in a car from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had escaped the death penalty due to the decision of one juror over 30 years previously, but in reality, Hunt did receive a death sentence. His dignity and humanity were stripped away piece by piece until he had nothing left.

6 Inconceivable Miscarriages of Justice in the United States
Lawyer-Kathleen-Zellner-leaving-the-Statesville-Correctional-Center-with-Omar-Saunders-on-the-left-and-Larry-Ollins-on-the-right. Chicago-Lawyer-Magazine

3 – The Roscetti Four (Convicted in 1987)

On October 18, 1986, the body of a medical student by the name of Lori Roscetti was found on Chicago’s West Side. She had also been raped in a crime that shocked and angered residents of the city. In January and February 1987, four men were arrested and charged with the rape and murder of Roscetti. Brothers Larry and Calvin Ollins (aged 16 & 14 respectively), Marcellius Bradford (aged 17) and Omar Saunders (aged 18) were the four men in question.

The teenagers were accused of hijacking Roscetti’s car as she returned from night studying at the Rush University Medical school. They took her out of the vehicle and forced her to cross to road to a railroad where she was raped and murdered. According to the police and prosecutors working on the case at the time, both Bradford and Calvin Ollins confessed to the crime. Apparently, they attacked the young woman for money to ensure 14-year old Ollins had the bus fare to get home. Bradford ultimately confessed and received a reduced 12-year sentence for testifying against Larry Ollins.

The other three boys received life sentences, and during the trial, the prosecution’s expert claimed that the DNA could have come from the Ollins brothers. However, an independent DNA expert examined the trial expert’s notes in 2001 and proved that none of the DNA samples at the scenes matched any of the Roscetti Four. Moreover, this information was known at the time of the trial. The four men were released after serving 15 years in prison. Bradford was still in prison due to other charges.

In 2004, Duane Roach and Eddie Harris pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of Roscetti and received sentences of 75 years in prison apiece. The DNA had linked them to the murder in 2002. As it transpired, Harris and Roach approached Roscetti’s vehicle when it was parked in an alley close to her home and abducted her at knifepoint. They drove her to West 15th Place and repeatedly raped her before hitting her head with a concrete block. Roach had three previous convictions for rape while Harris had two convictions for robbery.

6 Inconceivable Miscarriages of Justice in the United States
Jimmy Ray Bromgard. Billings Gazette

4 – Jimmy Ray Bromgard (Convicted in 1987)

DNA testing ultimately proved Jimmy Ray Bromgard’s innocence, but he had to wait 14 long years for it to happen. Linda Glantz was raped in her home in Billings, Montana by an intruder in 1987. He had broken into the house by smashing a window and left the scene of the crime with a jacket and purse. The police found semen on the victim’s underwear, and several hairs were also found on the bed sheets.

The police used the description given by the traumatized 8-year old to create a sketch. An officer knew 18-year old Bromgard and was convinced that the teenager was the culprit. Bromgard agreed to appear in a police line-up and also in videotaped questioning. In the live proceedings, the young girl picked Bromgard but admitted that she was no more than 65% sure. Despite this severe level of doubt, she was still allowed to pick Bromgard out as her assailant in court. Even Bromgard’s defense counsel did not object to the identification in court.

The prosecution’s case was mainly based on dubious testimony from the state’s forensics expert and the uncertain identification from Glantz. Even the forensic case against Bromgard boiled down to nothing more than the hairs found on Glantz’s bed sheets. According to the expert, there was a less than 0.01% chance that the hairs belonged to someone other than the defendant. It turned out that the expert was lying because there had never been a standard to match hairs via microscopic inspection.

Aside from fake forensics, Bromgard had to contend with a woefully inept defense counsel. Barring the so-called forensics and the shaky line-up identification, the only other piece of physical evidence was a checkbook from the stolen purse. It was found on the street where Bromgard lived. In summary, his defense counsel did not file to strike the identification from the evidence, hired no expert to counter the state’s forensic expert and did no investigation of any kind. Also, Bromgard’s attorney didn’t bother with an opening or closing statement nor did he file an appeal after the conviction. In other words, Bromgard would have been better off defending himself.

Bromgard said he was at home asleep at the time of the attack. His fingerprints were not found at the scene of the crime nor were they on the checkbook. Nonetheless, he was found guilty in December 1987 and sentenced to three 40-year jail terms to be served concurrently. In 2002, the Innocence Project called for a DNA test, and when it conclusively proved his innocence, Bromgard was released after serving over 14 and a half years in prison. He settled a civil suit against the state of Montana in 2008 and was awarded $3.5 million. In December 2015, Ronald Dwight Tipton was charged with the crime after his DNA matched what was found at the scene. 12 months previously, Tipton had to provide a sample of his DNA after being found guilty of marijuana possession. He has since pleaded not guilty to the charges.

6 Inconceivable Miscarriages of Justice in the United States
Michael Morton. KUT Austin Radio Station

5 – Michael Morton (Convicted in 1987)

On August 13, 1986, Christine Morton was found dead in her bed. She had been beaten to death by a wooden object, and a suitcase and wicker baskets were piled on top of her. She was lying on sheets stained with semen and her husband, Michael, was only at the very beginning of a nightmare that would last for a quarter of a century. The day after the discovery of the body, police discovered a bandana belonging to Christine stained with blood in a construction site just 100 yards from the Morton home.

Later that month, Christine’s mother claimed that the Morton’s son, Eric, had witnessed the murder. The 3-year old said the killer was a ‘monster,’ and while he described the scene in detail, he claimed his father was not at home. The Morton’s neighbors said they saw a green van parked in the street behind the Morton’s house on several occasions; a man appeared from the van and walked into a wooded area. Furthermore, the victim’s stolen Visa card turned up in a San Antonio jewelry store, and a police officer said he could identify the woman who used the card. When it came to the trial, later on, the prosecution failed to turn over any of the evidence to the defense.

As Michael Morton was the last person to see his wife alive, he became the prime suspect. He protested his innocence and claimed she was alive when he left for work early that morning. The trial in 1987 was marked by severe misconduct on behalf of the prosecution. When the defense learned that the prosecution was not calling Sergeant Don Wood (the lead investigator on the case) to the stand, they suspected that the prosecution was hiding exculpatory evidence. However, the prosecution falsely claimed that all favorable evidence was presented to the defense. This lie cost Michael Morton dearly.

The prosecution gave the judge a sealed file which contained all of Wood’s reports and notes; the file did not contain the visa card, the van, Eric’s account or a forged check that was found. Travis County’s medical examiner said Christine died no later than 1:15 am based on the contents of her stomach but admitted that it was not a scientific statement. The prosecution claimed that Michael beat his wife to death and masturbated on her corpse. As for motive, they suggested that he attacked his wife for not providing him with sex on his birthday. It was a theory based on nothing and Michael had no record of violent behavior and no previous arrests.

Michael was convicted on February 17, 1987, and sentenced to life in prison. He appealed the decision immediately, but it was denied. DNA testing on the bed sheet in 1990 found that the semen stain matched his DNA profile, but that was hardly a surprise since it was his bed. Once again, the Innocence Project got involved, and in 2011, DNA testing on the bandana found that it contained the DNA of Christine and an unidentified male. Eventually, it was discovered that the DNA matched a convicted felon named Mark Norwood. Further investigation showed that Norwood’s DNA was found at the scene of another murder in Travis County.

Michael Morton was released on October 4, 2011, after serving almost 25 years in prison. In March 2013, Norwood was found guilty of the murder of Christine Morton and received a life sentence. In April 2013, the Williamson County District Attorney who acted as the prosecution in the case, Ken Anderson, was charged with criminal contempt and evidence tampering. He was sentenced to 10 days in prison but was released after five.

6 Inconceivable Miscarriages of Justice in the United States
Joseph Burrows. Death Penalty Information Center

6 – Joseph Burrows (Convicted in 1989)

Burrows almost suffered the ultimate penalty for his alleged crime of murdering William Dulin. The body of the 88-year old retired farmer was found at his home near Kankakee, Illinois on November 8, 1988. Several hours after the murder, a man named Chuck Gullion was arrested in a car with Gayle Potter who was a cocaine addict. Gullion tried to cash a check worth over $4,000 in Dulin’s name at the Iroquois Farmer’s State Bank. Potter admitted to the crime of forging the check and said she was involved in the crime with Joseph Burrows and Ralph Frye. Potter then claimed that Burrows was Dulin’s killer.

Not only was Potter’s blood found on the scene after she suffered a gash during a struggle with Dulin, but she also owned the murder weapon. There was no physical evidence to link her two so-called accomplices to the crime, and there were four witnesses who said that Burrows was 60 miles away at the time of the murder. So why was Burrows convicted? First of all, Frye lied and agreed with Potter’s story and the two of them elected to testify against Burrows in exchange for lighter sentences. As it happened, Potter received 30 years in prison and Frye was given a 23-year sentence.

Although he forged the check, Gullion was never prosecuted. Meanwhile, Burrows’ first trial ended with a hung jury. In the second trial, he was convicted and sentenced to death. In 1992, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and death penalty, but Frye recanted his testimony to a reporter. Frye, who had an IQ of 75, claimed that the police coerced him into testifying against Burrows. The lawyers who represented Burrows found a letter from Potter to a friend where she asked the person to lie and testify that Burrows was in a blue pickup truck; this is the story Potter had told at the time.

When faced with the letter, Potter admitted that she falsely accused the other two men to save her own skin and wanted Burrows to take the fall because she mistakenly believed he had stolen goods from her trailer. She admitted to the murder of Dulin during a robbery. Burrows received a new trial and the prosecution’s attempts to appeal failed. On September 8, 1994, Burrows was released from prison. He later received $100,000 in a settled civil suit. In 2005, he was convicted of another crime and spent 3 years in prison. Burrows died on October 15, 2009; he was 56 years of age.