4 Cases Where Juries Got It All Wrong

4 Cases Juries Got it All Wrong
By Ben Hartwig
27 February, 2019

The nation’s legal system is largely built on checks and balances between judges, courts, and juries, and the trial court system is typically efficient in giving defendants a fair shake at proving their innocence. Unfortunately, there are sometimes biases within juries, false testimonies and bad science that can lead to misinformation making it to the deliberation room and effectively convicting innocent men and women. Here’s a list of four of them:

  1. Timothy Bridges

Timothy was charged with rape and burglary in 1989 and served 25 years after a jury convicted him of the crimes. He was exonerated in 2016 after it was shown that a hair analyst provided erroneous testimony that linked him to two hairs found at the crime scene. Bridges were released in 2015 after his convictions were vacated by prosecutors.

It was discovered by Bridges’ legal team that police had failed to turn over evidence before trial, and threatened and paid informants that provided information leading to the conviction. DNA testing also excluded Bridges after his conviction.

In 1989, an elderly woman was assaulted and died 13 months later without providing a reliable description of her attacker. She denied having been raped, but doctors noted she had bruising consistent with rape upon examination. After several months, three informants said that Bridges had confessed to them, bringing a suspect to light.

A hair analyst testified there was a strong possibility that a hair found at the crime scene belonged to Bridges. Additionally, a bloody palm print found at the scene that did not match Bridges apparently didn’t hold much water for the jury to consider.

  1. William Barnhouse

William became the 350th person to be exonerated through DNA testing in May of 2017. He served 25 years for a sexual assault he didn’t commit, and the jury sentenced him to 80 years. In 1992, a woman was raped behind a building in Indiana and Barnhouse was remanded by police because he fit the description she gave of her attacker and he was in the area. He was 35 years old at the time.

Police took him back to the scene and the victim identified him as her attacker. A blood analyst testified at trial that Barnhouse couldn’t be eliminated as the source of evidence found in the rape kit. He also said that Barnhouse matched a hair that was found. Since then, this fact has been proven as a gross overstatement.

Barnhouse suffered from mental illness his entire life. The jury found him guilty but mentally ill of rape and criminal deviant conduct.

The FBI later determined the statement about Barnhouse being a “match” for the hair evidence was scientifically invalid. DNA testing of the vaginal swabs from the rape kit was conducted in 2016, which excluded Barnhouse as a suspect. He was released from prison on March 8, 2017, and the charges were dismissed just two days later.

  1. Andre Hatchett

 

Innocent people

Hatchett served a 25-year sentence for a second-degree murder conviction that brought a sentence of 25 years to life. He was wrongly convicted mostly due to unreliable testimony, inadequate defense and exculpatory evidence that was not disclosed to the defense. His conviction was reversed in 2016 after serving 25 years.

The murder victim, Neda Mae Carter, was found beaten to death on February 18, 1991, in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Hatchett had been with her earlier in the evening but cooperated with police. He has special needs and was in a cast with crutches at the time.

A witness surfaced who was arrested for a burglary, and told police he witnessed a man in the park with Carter the night of the murder. He identified Hatchett in a lineup, but the DA did not disclose information to defense attorneys that the witness identified a different man when speaking with the police.

  1. Michael Morton

Morton served 24 years in prison for the murder of his own wife before being exonerated by DNA evidence in 2011. His wife was murdered in their bed in 1986, beaten to death with a wooden weapon. Semen was also found at the scene.

Days later, a bloody bandana was discovered about 100 yards from the Morton home. Their 3-year-old son was home when the murder occurred, and the boy told his grandmother that it was not his father who murdered his mother.

Prosecutors presented no physical evidence against Morton or witnesses, but simply hypothesized that he killed his wife because she refused to be intimate with him on his birthday. He was convicted in 1987.

DNA testing was ordered in 2005 and 2011, and evidence from an unknown male was found on items from the scene. It was later matched to a man who was also connected to two other similar murders in the area.

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