Saturday, November 22, 2008

NY liable for wrongful conviction

A judge has ruled that New York state is liable for wrongly convicting Roy Brown. Brown was recently released from prison after DNA cleared him of murdering Sabina Kulikowsky.

He had served 15 years behind bars for the Cayuga County murder. A trial is scheduled to begin next month to determine how much money Brown will receive from the state for his wrongful conviction.

Original report here

Background from 2006:

A convicted murderer proved his innocence by investigating his own case from has asked his sentencing judge for a pardon after 16 years in jail for a crime he had proved conclusively that he did not commit.

Brown had always protested his innocence, denying that he stabbed and strangled a female social worker to death at a farmhouse in upstate New York in 1991, and he managed to investigate and solve the crime from his prison cell. Five days after he wrote a letter to the local fireman he had identified as the real murderer, the man killed himself by lying in front of an oncoming train.

Roy Brown always denied killing a social worker. His request for copies of his trial records unearthed unseen statements that implicated Barry Bench. Then DNA backed him up. "Witnesses can commit perjury, judges can be fooled and juries can make mistakes," wrote Brown. "When it comes to DNA testing, there's no mistakes. DNA is God's creation and God makes no mistakes."

He petitioned the judge for his freedom after DNA taken from bite marks on the victim's night shirt confirmed his theory of the crime.

The judge, Peter Corning, who presided over the original trial and retires on December 31, delayed a decision until a full hearing on January 22.

Lawyers from the Innocence Project, a university-based law centre that argued his case, were pushing for his immediate release. He is suffering from a liver disease and awaiting a transplant. "Roy wrote to us, like thousands do every year," said Eric Ferrero, of the Innocence Project, which has overturned 188 convictions with DNA evidence. "What is unusual is somebody sitting in his prison cell solving the case. This is the first time we have seen that."

The naked body of Sabina Kulakowski was found across the road from her home in the town of Aurelius in the early hours of May 23, 1991, when firemen responded to an arson blaze at the farmhouse. The wounds - including bite marks on her red nightshirt found nearby - suggested that Ms Kulakowski, 49, had put up a struggle. The murder appeared highly personal because there was no evidence of rape or burglary.

Two days later Brown, who made a living selling magazine subscriptions in Syracuse, 30 miles away, was charged with her murder. He had been released from prison six days before the crime after serving an eight-month sentence for making threatening calls to a social worker, whose agency he blamed for ordering his daughter, aged 17, into foster care.

He was convicted of the killing on the basis of expert testimony linking him to bite marks on Ms Kulakowski's body, even though they showed indentations from six upper teeth and Brown had only four.

Sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in jail, it took Brown 13 years and three failed appeals to uncover evidence pointing to the true murderer - and then only because of another fire. When his trial records were destroyed at a blaze at his stepfather's house in 2003, he filed a freedom of information request for copies.

Among the documents were statements that he had not seen before, implicating a local volunteer fireman, Barry Bench. Unlike Brown, Bench knew Kulakowski well because his older brother, Ronald, had dated her for 17 years. He and Kulakowski had lived together at the farmhouse and relatives said that Barry Bench resented that she stayed there after the couple separated in 1991.

More here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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