innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

An Unthinkable Crime--An Innocent Man?

David Gladden, a mentally retarded petty criminal, was convicted of the horrific rape and murder of Geneva Long in 1994, despite the fact that the case was entirely circumstantial and police had another suspect—serial killer Andrew Dillon.

In a three part series that ran in Harrisburgh's The Patriot News Pete Shellum investigated the complex series of events that may have put an innocent man in prison.
Dillon confessed to four unimaginable crimes against elderly women, in which they were raped and stomped to death. Long’s murder fit this gruesome pattern, and Dillon lived in her neighborhood.

Initially, Dillon was a suspect in the crime, until a convicted child molester pointed authorities in the direction of Gladden and another man, James A. Carson, in hopes of getting a reduced sentence for two separate rape charges involving two separate children.

Carson confessed to the murder after police questioned him for 10 hours using different tactics to illicit an incriminating statement, including having Carson’s terminally ill mother call and beg him to confess.

Justin McShane, the attorney who has taken Carson’s case said, “People—more than we as a society would like to think—unfortunately plead guilty to crimes every day across the entire U.S. to minimize the consequences or get it over with.”

The jury never heard about Mr. Dillon, the coercion involved in Carson’s statement, or the unseemly motives of the only other witness linking David Gladden to the crime.

Monday, December 19, 2005

DNA Evidence: Man seeks DNA test to clear him in killing

Second of a Three Part Series

By Bill Moushey

The 1981 trial of John Dolenc, accused of killing his wife Patricia, was rife with factual controversies.

But his lawyer told the jury one thing was certain: Since Mr. Dolenc and his wife had the same blood type, there was no way to tie blood splatters found near her body to the former South Hills man.

"Well, I can stand here and say I want you to infer it's John because he had a cut on his finger," countered Kim Riester, the Allegheny County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Mr. Dolenc. "And then you decide if it was Patty's (blood), was it John's or somebody else's."
Mr. Dolenc was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Twenty-four years later, the same prosecutor's office under different leadership has fought Mr. Dolenc's request to conduct DNA tests on as many as 79 blood-stained specimens found at the crime scene.

DNA tests were not available in 1981, but now they could determine whether "it was Patty's (blood), was it John's or somebody else's."

To read the rest of this article follow this link.

DNA Evidence: Convicts find DNA tests to be tough sell to judges

First of a Series

By Bill Moushey

From the time he was implicated in the 1988 murder of Noreen Malloy at a McDonald's restaurant near Kennywood Park, Drew Whitley has professed his innocence. Now, he says, modern-day DNA analysis of hair found at the scene would prove it.
John Dolenc claims he didn't kill his estranged wife near her Mt. Lebanon apartment in 1977. DNA tests of blood splatters found near her body could exonerate him, too, he says.
The Allegheny County district attorney's office recently agreed to DNA tests in Mr. Whitley's case after a protracted legal battle, but it continues to fight Mr. Dolenc's request, which is now before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
These two cases are among 15 filed in Allegheny County under a 2002 law aimed at making it easier for people sentenced to life in prison or death to test their DNA against physical evidence, using techniques not available when their cases were tried. The law says all they have to do is to show a judge that DNA tests could prove their "actual innocence."
But even though the law has produced one celebrated exoneration in Allegheny County and DNA tests have freed more than 160 wrongly convicted people across the country, these two cases show how difficult it remains for inmates to persuade prosecutors and judges to conduct DNA tests on past crimes in Pennsylvania. The difficulty hinges on whether a DNA test definitely "would" or just "could" prove innocence.
Read the rest of this article by following this link.