Friday, October 03, 2008

Death row inmate claiming innocence will get new trial thanks to prosecutorial misconduct

This has been quite a month for death penalty cases in Texas, or at least for screwing them up.

In September, Texans witnessed a death row inmate exonerated by DNA evidence proving he didn't commit the crime, and another case where the DA and judge appear to have carried on a romantic relationship during the defendant's trial then covered it up. Now we discover another instance where a death row inmate was convicted after prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence discrediting the sole witnesses against him, revelations which most likely will earn him a new trial.

That's an impressive hat trick of official incompetence and corruption cropping up in a single month, don't you think?

In this latest example, Michael Toney was convicted in 1999 of placing a bomb on the steps of a trailer home that killed three people in 1985. No physical evidence connected him to the crime and now it turns out the prosecution failed to disclose information in their possession about discrepancies in witness' stories and information that corroborated Toney's testimony. The only other evidence against Toney was a jailhouse snitch. Reported the Dallas News ("Tarrant DA admits evidence was withheld in 1985 murder case," Oct. 3):

Police never established a motive for the bombing and finally came to believe it was meant for someone else.

The crime remained unsolved for 12 years. Then Mr. Toney, in jail on an unrelated charge, told another inmate about it. The inmate informed authorities. Mr. Toney later said he was only engaging in a ruse to help the other inmate get out of jail.

No physical evidence connected Mr. Toney to the crime. But his ex-wife and his former best friend testified they had seen Mr. Toney with a briefcase near the mobile home park on the night of the bombing.

The best friend, Chris Meeks, has since recanted – and reaffirmed – his testimony. The ex-wife, Kim Toney, has stuck to her story but has admitted to memory loss caused by exposure to toxic chemicals during military service in the Persian Gulf War.

Defense attorneys say the documents the district attorney failed to produce show that prosecutors were aware of inconsistencies in the stories of Ms. Toney and Mr. Meeks.

"And those were the only two witnesses tying Michael to the crime," said Jared Tyler, a lawyer for the Texas Innocence Network.

Mr. Tyler and Ms. Windsor jointly filed "agreed proposed findings of fact" with State District Judge Everett Young on Thursday.

"The State failed to turn over to the defense no less than 14 documents containing exculpatory or impeaching evidence," the proposed findings said. "Those documents included evidence of prior inconsistent statements of trial witnesses ... and evidence corroborating Mr. Toney's testimony at trial."

The suppression of this evidence favorable to Mr. Toney, the district attorney now acknowledges, "violated his due process rights."

The lead prosecutor in the original case, Mike Parrish, has retired from the district attorney's office. Efforts to reach him for comment Thursday were unsuccessful.

Just as with innocence cases where old prosecutions were disproven by DNA, Toney's case provides a window into how errors get made in such high-stakes cases: Prosecutorial misconduct and a jailhouse snitch combined to convict Toney without giving him a fair trial, a fact even the Tarrant DA now admits.

I've never heard of the Texas state bar disciplining a prosecutor for Brady violations (failing to turn over exculpatory evidence), but surely at this point it's time for them to start. This happens way too often with too few consequences for attorneys who engage in such behavior.


Anonymous said...

Oh! Please.........

The Bar Association takes care of the Lawyers, they're not going to do anything.

Prosecutors can sleep well at night knowing their Bar Associatin is on the job!

Anonymous said...

Pathetic .. I wonder when the call will go out for a review of all cases held over the last 30 or so years.

People wonder why Countries outside of the US will not send people back if it involves the Death Penalty. I guess they knew bad things all along...

Soronel Haetir said...

Hrmm, that whole help the other guy out of jail really makes me wonder.

Did the snitch somehow put this guy up to it thinking that the dupe would get off because he obviously was innocent, yet because of the help the snitch would still go free?

Something doesn't make sense with that story.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Toney has maintained his innocence from day one. This is another horrifying example of how inept our judicial system actually is. Allegations of judges and da's having affairs, and now with holding exculpatory evidence. Shame on Texas for allowing and especially Tarrant County for allowing this tragedy.

Not one person should ever take away from the victims and what they and their families have suffered, however Texas has once again created an entire new set of victims with their total incompetence


Anonymous said...

No physical evidence connected Mr. Toney to the crime. But his ex-wife and his former best friend testified they had seen Mr. Toney with a briefcase near the mobile home park on the night of the bombing.

I wonder if these two should be investigated to see if the former friend was playing hide the pipe-bomb with the ex-wife at that time...

Anonymous said...

Where does it say that he WILL get a new trial?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Michael -

The prosecutor agreed to it.

Anonymous said...

In theory, the death penalty may make sense for the most heinous of crimes. But, if we are going to use the death penalty, it should only be for very rare cases, and real safeguards should be in place to ensure that the person really did do the crime, "beyond reasonable doubt." In reality, that standard is rarely, if ever met. We are talking about a right to life issue here. Old Salty

Anonymous said...

trust me, toney was involved in drugs, and had no soul of who he hurt or what he did, he would of sold his own mother, grandmother aunt, child (which of whom he never took responsibility for)he was a very selfish individual,nearly every woman he dated was beat to the point they thought they were gonna die, he would have done anything for five hundred dollars, not an honest days work, but anything illegal, he had no value for another human beging but himself, all that crap about his upbringing pleaseeeee how many individuals had hardships growing up but made the right choices as adults, and as far as telling the jailhouse snitch, ha, proven fact that someone who commits a murder and isnt caught will eventually tell on himself cause he believes it has been so long and hasnt been caught that noone will believe him,,,,,cant be too smart or he would of never confessed to anything like that, knowing there would be an investigation, so in other words he sealed his own fate......and the tonga guys he knew were not 14 years old, they ran convenient stores selling beer etc, no 14 year old can do that,,,,,,,come on michael for once stop the manipulation and be a real man, something i doubt you will ever be,

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Trust" anonymous blog commenters with personal vendettas, 1:56? As a general rule that's unwise. Perhaps it would be easier if you provided any evidence of what you say, preferably from the court record.

Anonymous said...

SORONEL:"Michael told Ferris:"you may tell it's me, It doesn't matter because I didn't do it."
The prosecutor agreed...but he recused himself! And what about the Att. General???TX never admits its errors,all the more reasons for its CRIMES.
Remember: PARRISH is "retired"!!!!

Anonymous said...

The newspapers say:14 exculpatory documents. But that means 492 pages!
Comment about "Trust me"...It is exacly PARRISH arguing!What about the Blounts in there?
"He would have done anything for $500". That is exactly what Kim ex-Toney added later during an interview. The FACT is SHE got $25000 to send Michael to death row!and, cherry on the cake, she lied about it. But we KNOW!
Sorry to be anonymous but I am a beginner and I cann't manage otherwise, it's too difficult for me.

Anonymous said...

There is an interesting letter from John, of Colleville, on'book.Look backwards,it is dated July 27, 2007. This John was an ex-police officer, ex-prosecutor, ex-victims rights lawyer, and followed Michael Toney's drama.

Anonymous said...

The so-called "recused" Tarrant County District Attorney (I read the motion for the appointment of an Attorney pro tem)has contacted the Office of the Attorney General of TX, which has agreed to have the Deputy Att. General for Criminal Justice Eric J.R. Nichols."
Signed: Tim CURRY
Is not that"washing dirty clothes in Family"? Now, what about Parrish's help?

Anonymous said...

If you read the trial transcript on, you will see that Parrish himself said that Michael Toney helped several other prisoners to get out of different jails (through the front door, without blood).A certain lieutenant promised Ferris to leave him go if he could give any information...he had none, so the 2 guys concocted a story...and Ferris was released. But 10 years later, Michael is in the county jail. One of Mike's lawyer shouted to PARRISH in 1999:"I should not send a man to death because he is more clever than me!" (was Judge Young deaf?)

Anonymous said...

May 28 will be the 63th birthday of Michael PARRISH.
And the 10th birthday of Michael TONEY's sentence to death, but he is no more!He is no more a "prisoner", he is only locked in Tarrant County Jail with his allergy to soja but without any diet (= starving!) and without medical care.Without anything to do or to read.

Anonymous said...

Michael's case was dismissed on last Wednesday evening.And Mike walked out. The prosecution (or the judge?) had ordered to get an apartment and somebody to live with him.
To-night, the Attorney General's services are in Mike's apartment ordering him to leave Fort Worth immediatly!This time, they don't care if he has an apartment...
What does that mean? only criminals ("retired" or not) are allowed to stay at Fort Worth?

Anonymous said...

Michael TONEY died on October 3 in a pick up crash. A friend of his takes now responsability for the site, to update it.
I know some will say "good riddance" and I understand it! BUT he endured 10 years in death row, TEN YEARS,while he was INNOCENT of the BLOUNTS crime.
WE did not know him BEFORE. But since 2000 we got acquainted with an exceptional man. We feel so frustrated, and so sorry for his Californian lawyers who fought for him like for a son!Michael must come to celebrate his freedom with us!
There will be no flight!