Friday, October 22, 2010

For every false conviction, a guilty perpetrator goes free

A reminder out of Dallas that for every innocent person falsely convicted, a guilty person goes free to victimize others. From AP:
A convicted child molester linked to the crime that sent an innocent deaf man to prison in Texas was indicted Thursday in two similar cases involving sexual assaults on children.
A Dallas County grand jury indicted Robert Warterfield, 42, on two unsolved 1989 cases involving Dallas children who were 7 and 9 at the time they were attacked.  ...
The cases shouldn't have taken two decades to crack. Evidence of Warterfield's likely involvement had been sitting untouched and ignored for more than 16 years in Dallas County files but was recently discovered by Watkins' Conviction Integrity Unit, which examines possible innocence cases. ...
As it turned out, Warterfield had actually confessed to the rape that Stephen Brodie was ultimately convicted for as part of a plea bargain in a separate case, plus fingerprint evidence at the scene matched Warterfield but not Brodie.
In his 1994 plea bargain agreement, Warterfield essentially presented a road map of his crimes. Attached to his pleas bargain is a supplement that lists 13 sex assaults. The deal he reached was that if prosecutors charged him in any of those 13 cases, they could not use his guilty plea against him in pursuing convictions.

Two of the cases listed in the plea agreement are the ones for which Warterfield was indicted Thursday.

Another case listed in the plea bargain was the one that led to the 1993 wrongful conviction of Stephen Brodie, who was exonerated last month after spending 10 years behind bars. 
Indeed, police ignored physical evidence pointing to Warterfield instead of Brodie and relied on the deaf man's confession instead, which was secured after he was "questioned for hours by Richardson police without an interpreter, according to court documents."
In Brodie's case, a 5-year-old Richardson girl was assaulted by an unknown man who entered her room at night and led her outside to a nearby yard. Brodie was eventually convicted, despite a lack of physical evidence tying him to the crime. Brodie, who has been deaf since childhood and communicates by sign language, was questioned for hours by Richardson police without an interpreter, according to court documents. 
A year after Brodie's conviction, Richardson police learned that a fingerprint at the crime scene belonged to Warterfield, who around the same time pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in 1994. Warterfield also was suspected by Dallas police in the other unsolved sexual assaults and attempted assaults of young girls in the area.

But Richardson police never charged him, believing they had arrested the right man in Brodie, according to court documents.

Watkins' office reopened the Brodie case and supported his release. In doing so, the unit asked the county forensics lab to conduct DNA tests on the other "North Dallas Rapist" cases from two decades ago listed in the plea bargain documents.

The testing confirmed matches between Warterfield and the 1989 cases. Watkins declined to say whether DNA tests are pending on the other cases.
Bully for Craig Watkins' Conviction Integrity Unit for finally springing Mr. Brodie and bringing the right guy to justice. With 20/20 hindsight it's easy to see this false conviction could have been prevented or at least rectified much earlier. The question now is whether Texas will have the foresight to implement reforms to prevent more false convictions in the future?

21 comments:

Hook Em Horns said...

# 1 in DNA exonerations. Others released based on re-canted testimony. With estimates that thousands may be imprisoned in Texas who are innocent, it's no wonder crime is still high. WE'VE LOCKED UP THE WRONG PEOPLE!

Tough On Crime = Stupid On Crime but we keep right on buying it.

Atticus said...

I think this would help, because "Texas" is never going to get around to significant "reforms", and I'm not sure they even should.

The reforms that have already been authorized have to have teeth, first.

How are you going to do that?

stikelawyer.wordpress.com

Anonymous said...

Anytime a prisoner is found innocent, the DA prosecuting should have to serve the same amount of time as the innocent/victim of Texas justice served. This would insure DAs are fair with evidence and proper prosecutions; and not just there for publicity and career enhansement.

Anonymous said...

What can someone in Texas do if they feel they have been wrongfully convicted or treated poorly or coerced? Can you make a referral for lawyers in Texas that will take on these types of cases.

yvette99 said...

DAs should be prosecuted in cases like this, when there is no consequences for locking up the wrong people these corrupt officials won't stop...I agree with anonymous these prosecutors should be given jail time themselves, I'm fairly sure it would stop the majority of these immoral DAs. Why should these DAs get away with ruining the lives of innocent people plus leaving the community at risk by leaving the guilty free to carry on offending! Jail them!

DEWEY said...

"The question now is whether Texas will have the foresight to implement reforms to prevent more false convictions in the future? "
In a word, no. Too many redneck prosecutors.

Angee said...

I think the Dallas DA that screwed up so many cases is dead. Many roadblocks are thrown up to prevent the Innocence project from doing their jobs. If a DA knows he faces prosecution could he decide to destroy all evidence once someone is convicted?
Sure, there should be a very steep price for wrongful convictions and executions but we have this TX mentality of "Lock'em all up and let God sort them out". The thought does not extend to the guilty are still free. That high conviction rate is all that matters.
As long as we have a public that has their thirst for vengeance satisfied nothing will change. It doesn't matter whose blood we feed on.

rodsmith said...

what i found interesting is this!

"In his 1994 plea bargain agreement, Warterfield essentially presented a road map of his crimes. Attached to his pleas bargain is a supplement that lists 13 sex assaults. The deal he reached was that if prosecutors charged him in any of those 13 cases, they could not use his guilty plea against him in pursuing convictions.

Two of the cases listed in the plea agreement are the ones for which Warterfield was indicted Thursday."

So basically what they are doing is charging him all over again on two crimes he's ALREADY PLEAD OUT ON and has a CONTRACT with the STATE that covers them!

Typical lieing crooked govt texas has there!

I agree with the others though that anyone one in law enforcment that was involved with brodie's false conviction should be tried as co-conspiritors with this guy for any crimes that came AFTER that conviction.

Anonymous said...

As if we were concerned when the guilty perpetrator goes free.

Hook Em Horns said...

yvette99 said...

DAs should be prosecuted in cases like this, when there is no consequences for locking up the wrong people these corrupt officials won't stop.
-----------------------------------
Exactly. DA's in Texas, cops in Texas and in some cases judges in Texas have a carte blanch license to lie and cheat on order to prosecute. The system is weighed heavily in favor of anyone who touts LAW AND ORDER and we have plenty of idiots in Texas who believe there own BS.

Anonymous said...

I've been doing some research for an article I'm writing on prosecutorial immunity. This isn't just a Texas problem. I've found its much more widespread than you'd think.

Nationally, prosecutors have absolute immunity for actions that are within the prosecutorial function. (Judges have this same type of immunity). However, there are two recent cases that may single the courts are ready to scale back that immunity somewhat. In Pottawattamie County v. McGhee the 8th Circuit said that prosecutors could be held liable for actions taken while assisting police in an investigation, before formal charges were filed. This case went to the Supreme Court and oral arguments were held but the case was settled (fror $12 million, I think) before the court made a decision.

The other case is Connick v Thompson (or Thompson v Connick, I don't remember which way it is now) where a jury awarded $14 million to the plaintiffs for failure to train prosecutors on Brady. This case has been argued before the Supreme Court but they haven't made a decision yet.

Its really time to do away with absolute immunity. All of the arguments advance for it can be applied to police officers and other government officials who only have qualified immunity. Qualified immunity would be sufficient for prosecutors.

If the court were to roll back prosecutorial immunity, don't you know it would scare the sh-- out of some of them, like Matt Bingham in Smith County.

Darrell said...

Dear Grits for breakfast,

We are calling on you today with an important message to give a voice to the voiceless and build a modern “Underground Railroad.” The “Obama Answer This” Project is the initiative of an incarcerated father and if he can reach the people out there then we hope we can count on you to spread the word because with 2.3 million behind bars we can no longer afford to turn a blind eye.
www.obamaanswerthis.com or you can upload the video at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F34p0YiSp8g&feature=player_embedded
This is also the link to The Music Movement:http://obamaanswerthis.com/do-something/
It is time to push something real out. Lets go hard for our people behind the wall, lets go hard for our kids out there that may face what is coming back their way, lets go hard together collectively because for the bottom there is no “agenda” and he has to answer to what is happening on our inner city streets and behind barbed wires. S
Sincerely,

The team

Anonymous said...

There's another umbilical cord to sever. Wow!

zeety said...

Business as usual. How many jobs are created for every falsely imprisoned person?

That's what I want to know.

Hook Em Horns said...

Atticus said...

I think this would help, because "Texas" is never going to get around to significant "reforms", and I'm not sure they even should.

The reforms that have already been authorized have to have teeth, first.

How are you going to do that?
-----------------------------------
Your not Atticus. It's easier to pay off "a few exonerees" than to dismantle the worlds biggest prison system and admit we have been "stupid on crime."

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your article. Hopefully someday soon, employees of our criminal justice system will have integrity to do their job right or will have incentives put in place by our legislatures to do right by the public!

Anonymous said...

A reminder out of Dallas that for every innocent person falsely convicted, a guilty person goes free to victimize others.

AND let us also not forget that sometimes the guilty person that goes free to victimize others is the false accuser!! Best examples of this can be found on http://falserapesociety.blogspot.com/

Mike Howard said...

I've never understood the anti-innocence project/exonerations people. I hear from people all the time that either won't let themselves believe that exonerations are legitimate or that think that wanting to look into possibly wrongful convictions are being soft on crime or soft on the "bad guys." By ignoring a possible wrongful conviction you're also allowing for the possibility that the real "bad guy" is still out there on the streets. I don't see why we don't allow DNA testing and non-DNA review on pretty much any case. I'm sure it carries a hefty price tag, but knowing the right person is behind bars has to be worth it.

Anonymous said...

That anti-innocence project shows up at election time in the form of other DA's and DA wannabe's who suggest that Craig Watkins job is to put people in jail and not get innocent people out of prison. They suggest that cases like Brodie are a waste of county money. It's sad to see.

Anonymous said...

In the wrongful conviction of Todd Willingham, there was no guilty perpetrator that went free. There was just a falsely convicted person killed by the government of Texas.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Good point, 4:43. For accidents prosecuted as crimes (and I suppose, also, for victimless crimes), the headline isn't true.