innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Kirkwood gets new trial


Justin Kirkwood 1997

Yesterday a Lawrence County judge tossed out the robbery conviction and orderd a retrial of New Castle man, Justin Kirkwood, on the basis that Assistant District Attorney, Birgitta Tolvanen, misrepresented evidence to the jury, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The judge ordered Kirkwood's release yesterday from the State Correctional Institute at Laurel Highlands on $15,000 bail until his new trial begins. He was convicted of robbing the Family Craft Center in New Castle on August 14, 2002.

Tolvanen tried to discredit the testimony of Kirkwood's main alibi witness by waiving telephone records in the air that she alleged did not contain the phone call between the witness and Kirkwood that would have given Kirkwood's whereabouts at the time of the crime. However, she did not mention that because the call was local chances were it would not be listed on phone records, even if the call had been made.

The judge also noted the ineffectiveness of Kirkwood's attorney in his 24-page opinion. Kirkwood's attorney never objected to Tolvanen's actions nor did he ever examine the phone records.

The mistaken eyewitness identification and misconduct that occurred in Kirkwood's case was first brought to light by a series entitled "Sight Unseen" done by Bill Moushey who is the director of the Innocence Institute of Point Park University, as well a writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

A similar story was also written by the New Castle News.