Ernie's second chance
A federal judge has granted Ernie Simmons a new trial, citing evidence uncovered by the Innocence Institute. Simmons has been on death row for over a decade, convicted of brutally murdering and robbing an elderly Johnstown woman. The judge cited widespread police and prosecutorial misconduct -- and the institute's investigation -- in ordering a new trial.
I investigated the case with an undergrad, Jamie Keaney. Our big find was from an interview with the prosecution's key witness, Margaret Cobaugh. She admitted to us that she lied on the stand -- she was never able to identify Simmons and did so only because a Johnstown detective told her that he needed an eyewitness.
Check out the story on the decision that Bill Moushey and I wrote for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, as well as the Johnstown paper's take on the case and the AP version.