Many innocent people who are in states prison who have been wrongly accused of a crime in which unsubstantial evidence have proven them innocent, but faulty counsel and prosecution have rendered them helpless in our Justice systems. Here is just one story of a fiend of mine.
Crash Kills Two and Leaves One Wrongfully Accused.
On October 12, 2000 at approximately 3 am in Port Huron Michigan, a truck had been reported stolen from the Muller Brass Co. located at 2199 Lapeer Ave. Two (2) employees of the company described seeing a “subject” in the parking lot trying to open doors on parked vehicles; the subject was described as a white male approximately 5’ 7” to 5’ 9” in height who appeared to be wearing a dark ball cap and carhartt jacket. One employee explained that this subject then got into the truck and proceeded to take off, while another employee went inside the company to locate the owner of the truck. Neither of these witnesses noticed if there was more than one person in the parking lot or inside the vehicle or if the subject seen was the actual one who drove off.
Soon after, the truck was spotted by local police and the situation escalated as the driver of the truck attempted to flee, while in pursuit of the vehicle the police lost visual of the stolen truck other than dust that had been blown around from the truck, later is was discovered that the truck had ran a stop sign and was involved in an automobile collision at 12th and Lapeer rd intersection crashing into a van belonging to Sarah Louis Graham and Kenneth Martin Graham both occupants were pronounced deceased at the scene, both were employees of the local newspaper The Times Herald.
After the collision, the truck then crashed into the front of a building located at the corner of 12th and Lapeer, the first person to respond to the scene was a man that lived in a home nearby when he heard the crash. When he showed up at the scene, his first thought was that everyone had fled the scene because at that time he did not see anyone; upon closer inspection he realized that the two (2) victims were lying on the ground outside of the van and that there was one person still in the cab of crashed truck on the passenger side. He also noticed that the truck was on fire and as he began to run back to his house to grab a fire extinguisher from his garage, a police unit arrived telling him to stand back; the officer took over the scene and called the fire department for assistance. Fire fighters responded and had to use the Jaws of Life to extract the pinned individual from the vehicle since he had been pinned on the passenger side of the truck.
That individual was I; my name is Earl Thomas Boughner, after this tragedy and sometime later in that day I awoke in a Port Huron Hospital bed with my mother sitting over me crying. I was extremely weary and did not know what had happened or why I was lying in the hospital. At that time my mother explained to me what the police had told her and that was “I had attempted to flee from them in a stolen truck and crashed into another vehicle, killing both occupants. I immediately felt broken inside and wanted to die, somehow though I could not believe what I was being told. I had a collapsed lung, head trauma as well as other minor lacerations and bruises. At the time of the incident I was under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol level 2 times the legal limit (.186). Due to the head trauma and alcohol my memory had lapsed causing a disassociated amnesia effect, but after being released 7 days later I was taken to the county jail with charges of “Felony Murder”. There was no trial, I was highly advised by hired counsel to take what is called a “Plea Bargain”, I pled No Contest due to no memory of what had happened that night and was quickly sentenced to 23-60 years on one (1) count of Second degree murder I had accepted responsibility and had trusted others of what I was told that I was the driver of the stolen vehicle. At the time I was 17 years old and was under extreme pressure as I was the only person being accused, I felt horrible and completely remorseful about everything and did not want to put the victim’s family through a long grueling process of a trial.
However, many things did not add up, before being sentenced I learned not only that I was pinned in the passenger side of the vehicle I was also unconscious, firefighters at the scene had to use the jaws of life to get me out of the crushed vehicle. I also had an abrasion across the right side of my chest which was consistent with that of the passenger side seat belt; Hospital records and photo evidence of this abrasion were taken at the Port Huron Hospital.
The back window of the pick-up truck had been busted out and there were no witnesses as to me being the driver, the police that had made contact with the vehicle before it had fled and crashed into the van did not know whether there was more than one occupant in the vehicle. I also learned that I had given a statement to an officer right after I had been admitted to the hospital; this officer had asked me if I knew who the driver was? I had told him Todd Black (a person I had grew up with and knew personally.) Despite many discrepancies however, my lawyer explained to my family and I, (after learning that my family could not afford to pay for a trial expenses) that the prosecutor Mary Roy Kelly had enough evidence to convict me on all charges and that I could go to prison for the rest of my life if I did not accept the plea bargain for lesser charges. Feeling as though this was my only choice we had accepted the plea, when in all reality the prosecution did not have enough substantial evidence to convict me of these charges. In fact the prosecution and counsel withheld exculpatory evidence and was only looking for a conviction, as she was running for position for Judge at this time.
I was sentenced on June 4th 2001, since this time mass amounts of new evidence has been discovered by myself, that was not raised by my defense attorney and shows the fact that I was indeed the passenger and “Not the driver”. The accident re-constructionist report stated that there was occupant contact to both driver and passenger sides of the vehicle, and that the driver of the pick-up truck would have moved forward and to the left side of the vehicle upon impact, the fact that I was found pinned in the passenger side was seemingly ignored. I was never informed by counsel or prosecution of this extremely important evidence and both counsel and prosecution with-held evidence regarding Blood, print and chemical evidence that had been collected from four (4) different areas of the truck, chemical analysis indicated that blood from two of the four collected matched my blood and one was that of an unknown substance, these swabs matched areas of the inside passenger door and rear view mirror which had been on the floorboard of the passenger side of the vehicle , the fourth swab on the steering was a negative match, this was submitted by The Department of State Police forensic science division in Sterling Heights Mi by a Det/Sgt Stephen A. Nowicki, state police specialist latent print unit.
After my conviction and being sentence to prison, new witnesses came forward that the actual driver (Todd Black) had confessed about what had happened and how he had got “away with murder”. In all I have been able to obtain affidavits from these witnesses; I have been denied all attempts to appeals despite all of this overwhelming evidence and a showing of actual innocence through DNA and Print evidence. Currently my case was being investigated by Thomas M. Cooley Law School Innocent Project who has informed me that DNA evidence had been destroyed in which I was not notified as to when this had happened. Right now Cardoze Law School Innocence project is still continuing to gather information. It is now my mission and goal to contact all Law schools, Innocence organizations, News and Media companies to help bring support and bring awareness to my innocence’s and unjust conviction; I will continue to try raising support and awareness to my innocence. I was not the driver in this tragic incidence and I have all the reports, documents, witness statements and blood & print evidence to be able to prove this, I was clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I was not the one who was behind the wheel and the person who is responsible should be held accountable. The fact that innocence people getting killed are no doubt devastating, but we cannot forget that being falsely accused is devastating too. It is the responsibility of all of us to join together as one to do whatever is necessary in our power to minimize such experiences.
When a person is accused, tried, and convicted of a crime they did not commit, two people are trapped on the dark side of justice, while the real perpetrator remains free and at large to continue committing other such crimes. Identifying people who have been wrongfully convicted and poorly served is not hard for those involved in Michigan’s Public Defense System each day, however for the policy makers, people in the media and general public it’s sometimes hard to relate to the issues of public defense reform. It is sad to have to hear about people who have been wrongfully convicted and the system which violates people’s state and federal constitutional rights, it is even sadder to be one of those victims.
Since DNA evidence has become available there have been numerous individuals exonerated whom have spent a numerous amount of time in prisons for crimes they did not commit. So why do so many refuse to acknowledge the fact that this is real and I am the innocent one? That’s the real question… there are approximately 4,250 Americans each year who are convicted wrongfully due to sincere, yet woefully inaccurate eye-witnesses identifications. Recent evidence includes that in case after case DNA testing has exonerated those convicted primarily on the basis of eye-witness identifications
In one Law & Human Behavior study, Vol 22, No. 6 . 1998 it lists the first forty cases in which DNA evidence exonerated persons wrongfully convicted of various crimes, of those forty thirty-six (36 or 90%) of those eye-witnesses identification was used to convict the innocent person, they were falsely identified and then wrongfully convicted. One person was identified by “five (5)” separate eye-witnesses. It’s important to note that these cases were not selected because it happen to have eye-witness identification as the primary evidence, instead they are simply the first forty cases in the United States in which DNA was used to help exonerate previously convicted persons. Hence, the kind of evidence that led to these wrongful convictions could have been anything. The fact that it happens to be eye-witness identification lends support to the argument that eyewitness identification evidence is among the most damaging and least reliable forms of evidence and yet very persuasive to courts as well as juries. It should also be noted that it was courts and juries who convict those as well. This alone proves that juries should hear testimony from experts testifying to the dangers of misidentification and inherent unreliability of this type of evidence, especially in cases where it is the “primary” evidence, such as the case at a bar. Such a warning is in order to prevent wrongful convictions. Not allowing or not requesting such an expert witness in a case such as this is comparable to the system pressing their thumbs on a scale of justice in favor of the prosecution to gain a conviction all costs. This is just one of the avoidable mistakes that are made in criminal cases through out Michigan and the United States day after day costing taxpayers huge sums of wasted money and time and those who have been wrongfully convicted their lives and freedom. It had been proven by the Michigan ACLU and Michigan Campaign for Justice through research and studies, that there has been nearly $ 13,000,000.00 in wasted taxpayers dollars and decades is wasted time in just thirteen people failed by Michigan’s county based public defense systems.
Their stories are hard to read, like mine many of these individuals were at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong group of people. In each case flawed public defense systems prevented them from obtaining the legal assistance they had not only needed but are constitutionally afforded, to refute the charges against them and to be able to prove their innocence. Instead, they are stories about getting it right. In a book called “Faces of Failing Public Defense Systems: Portraits of Michigan’s Constitutional Crisis” is doing an effective job of putting a face on the problems within this state and country.
Here are a few facts from the State Appellate Defender’s office (SADO) in Michigan; SADO Plea Unit identified sentencing errors in one-third of the plea appeals handled in 2007, costing Michigan taxpayers $855,000.00 in just that year alone. From 2003 – 2007 just three (3) SADO Plea Unit attorneys saved $3,657,000.00 in sentencing error corrections. Applying the same sentencing error corrections rate across the entire state’s court system in those years would have generated $69, 800, 00.00 in savings for Michigan’s taxpayers, that’s nearly $14,000,000.00 each year. No one likes to waste money, especially in times of financial crisis, yet day after day in Michigan and around the country avoidable mistakes are being made in the criminal justice system with these criminal cases. Those serious mistakes are costing taxpayers money and innocent people their lives. It is imperative that law makers act soon and act now because the situation is continuing to get worse. My rights to an effective assistance of counsel was left unprotected as well as violated, the prosecution with-held exculpatory evidence and was only seeking to make a conviction in order to secure a positive position as she was running to become judge that year. Several of my state and federal constitutional rights were violated in numerous instances, and all throughout my criminal appeals. It seems as if no one even cares that there is still a murderer who is running free the true person who ended up killing innocent victims on that tragic night and that our public is being deceived. Our constitution must be high on any priority list and priorities must be set, even in times of financial difficulty. How can I communicate these problems when no one will listen or even respond to letters and requests for help?
DNA evidence is only available in a fraction of cases and this is one of those cases; however incompetent defense by trial and appellate attorneys, a prosecutor who withheld evidence lead to a wrongful conviction of an innocent person. Two witnesses description of a young white male, wearing a dark ball cap and what appeared to be a carhartt coat, seen in a parking lot where the truck was stolen, was all the information used to convict me. There were no witnesses as to me being the driver only speculation, nor were there witnesses of another person. Palm prints taken from the steering wheel ruled me out as the driver as well as blood evidence that was collected from the inside of the truck, yet here I am still a convicted man of a crime I did not do.
I often wonder why more emphasis is not placed on the prosecutions role in a court room, On June 1st, 2011, in the Detroit Free press there was an article about Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca spending $215, 00.00 on railroading man who was obviously innocent of a crime and nearly destroying his life. This whole ordeal has turned my life upside down and obviously no one seems to care, when is this going to stop? I am a believer that people who commit crimes should be prosecuted, but I also feel that prosecutors should be sure the people they are prosecuting are actually guilty of the crimes committed. The issue here is defending the innocent not setting free those who commit the crimes. Our justice system should not be about wins and losses and prosecutors should not be judged based on the number of convictions they have, but rather on how they uphold the ideas on which our justice system was founded.
The Michigan Parole Board and the Governor are reluctant to use their commutation power to consider probable innocence in deciding whether to grant parole or a commutation, they think that an inmate must accept responsibility before release. What if that person is actually innocent? How can a person accept responsibility for a crime they did not commit without lying and telling these people what they want to hear and not what is really the truth. Another mitigating factor is remorse; I cannot show remorse for a crime that I am not guilty of doing when in all reality an injustice has occurred and must be corrected. A Governor is one who can do that yet some lack political courage but also have an unbridled faith in a criminal justice system that is broken.
I am living proof of yet another case of wrongful conviction due to the ineffectiveness of trial and appellate counsel, misconduct by prosecution, abuse of discretion by the judge and numerous constitutional violations that occurred when I was only seventeen years old. Since this has happened I have lost many loved ones to death with no proper good-byes and will lose many more. I’ve also learned of many new souls brought into this world by family members who don’t even know who I am. Who will step up to help prove my innocence and be resourceful enough to engage the interest of an organization to help me? More than anything I need someone with enough compassion to assist in proving that I am actually innocent of this crime. If you will just take the time to look at the case material you too will see that I was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 23-60 years of my life.
If you think there is anything you can possibly help me with or lead me in the right direction so I can have the chance to prove my innocence please let your voice be heard. For further information you can contact me at the following address. Thank you Earl Thomas Boughner