innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

New Testing In Whitley Case

By: Bill Moushey

New DNA testing of five hairs found inside a hat worn by the killer of a night manager of a McDonalds near Kennywood Park in 1988 is part of a review to determine whether a man who has served 18 years for the crime should be released, re-tried or left to serve his life sentence.

The new tests were disclosed yesterday during a status conference in the appeal by Drew Whitley, 50, formerly of West Mifflin, who was convicted of second degree murder in the grisly slaying of 23-year-old Noreen Malloy and sentenced to life in prison while steadfastly maintaining his innocence.

A spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala said the new tests are part of the prosecution’s on-going review of the case that began earlier this month when six other hairs found in a nylon mask worn by Ms. Malloy’s killer did not match Mr. Whitley’s DNA.

During a status conference yesterday before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani, who recently took over the case from Judge Walter Little, prosecutors said the second DNA tests should be completed before a hearing on Mr. Whitley’s post-conviction appeal May 1, 2006. After the latest tests, 11 of the 39 hairs found on clothing presumably worn by the killer will have been examined.

Aside from the new DNA evidence, Mr. Zappala’s staff is reviewing testimony from witnesses who implicated Mr. Whitley in the killing. Among them are a convicted double-murderer who said Mr. Whitley confessed in prison to the crime and a two-day employee of McDonalds whose statements were riddled with inconsistencies.

DNA Clears Man of Rape

This Associated Press article originally ran in The Dallas News:

A man who spent 18 years behind bars for allegedly breaking into a woman's house and attacking her was released after modern DNA testing excluded him as a suspect.

Gregory Wallis was a 29-year-old Dallas County warehouse worker when he was convicted in 1988 of burglary with intent to commit sexual assault and sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Wallis maintained his innocence, but the case remained closed until his 2004 request for post-conviction DNA analysis led to tests that separated him from the crime scene.

"I don't know how to apologize. I don't know where to start, but I'll start with me and 'I'm sorry,'" District Judge John Creuzot said Monday as he released Wallis, now 47, on a personal recognizance bond.

Creuzot was not involved in the 1988 trial.

Wallis' attorneys said they will not pursue a legal process to have him officially declared innocent and pardoned.
The victim of the attack picked Wallis' photo out of a lineup after police received an anonymous tip that he was involved. The attacker had spent several hours in the house, and the victim described the rapist as having a tattoo similar to one Wallis had.

"I don't know how she picked me," said Wallis, who had previous robbery convictions at the time. "I was sitting at home, and they came and arrested me. The next thing I know, I'm standing trial."

Wallis' 1988 trial did not incorporate DNA testing, which was not as sensitive as current methods. An expert testified that authorities could not extract any DNA evidence to test, and the trial relied on the victim's testimony.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tankleff Denied New Trial

This article by Zachary R. Dowdy and Alfonso A. Castillo originally ran on March 18, 2006.

Calling some of Martin Tankleff's witnesses "nefarious scoundrels," a Suffolk County Court judge on Friday refused to overturn Tankleff's conviction for the brutal 1988 murders of his parents, crushing for now the former Belle Terre man's bid for a new trial.

"After thoroughly reviewing this matter, this court reaches the same conclusion that the jury reached ... and every state appellate court and federal court that has reviewed the case, and that is that Martin Tankleff is guilty of murdering his parents," Judge Stephen Braslow wrote.

It was the latest development in one of Long Island's most notorious murders. The bludgeoning and stabbing of Arlene and Seymour Tankleff early on Sept. 7, 1988 - and the legal battles that began that very day - have captivated both Long Islanders and legal experts nationwide for more than 17 years.

The strongly worded 19-page decision was met with equally forceful responses from Tankleff's attorneys, family and supporters. They said they weren't surprised, but nevertheless saddened that Braslow found the evidence wanting.

Tankleff's family - also the victims' family - have stood by him from the start. Ron Falbee, Martin Tankleff's cousin, said he was "disappointed" at Braslow's tone and finding."

The only people I know of who continue to believe Marty Tankleff is guilty appears to be the district attorney's office and Judge Braslow," Falbee said.

"There's no way in hell that he should have been convicted ... and there's no way in hell that he should not have been granted a new trial today," said Tankleff's original trial attorney, Robert Gottlieb of Commack.

"He has never gotten a fair shake in Suffolk."

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