Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Today, it was reported that DNA testing was done on hairs recovered from glasses that were almost certainly worn by the man who killed Harold and Thelma Swain at the Rising Daughter Baptist Church. That testing revealed a match, and it was not a match for Dennis Perry, the man convicted of their murders. Instead, it was a match for Erick Sparre. We observed the following about Sparre in Episode 7 of our Undisclosed series on the Dennis Perry case: "If there had been a checklist of the known attributes of the killer at Rising Daughter, the description of Erik Sparre would seem to tick off just about every box."
Given this terrific turn of events, I wanted to do another update on the status of all of the cases we've covered on Undisclosed.
Total cases covered: 20 cases.
Relief granted: 10 cases: 6 exonerations: (1) Shaurn Thomas; (2) Terrance Lewis; (3) Willie Veasy; (4) Chester Hollman III; (5) Charles Ray Finch; and (6) Theophalis Wilson. 2 stays of execution: (1) Marcellus Williams; and (2) William Montgomery. 1 commutation: Cyntoia Brown. 1 grant of parole: Cyrus Wilson.
DNA/Alternate Suspect: 1 case: Dennis Perry
Currently pending: 4 cases. (1) Ronnie Long's en banc hearing in the Fourth Circuit; (2) Joey Watkins's successor habeas petition recently authorized to move forward by the Supreme Court of Georgia; (3) Joseph Webster's CRU petition; and (4) Pedro Reynoso's CIU petition.
New appeals expected soon: 4 cases: (1) Adnan Syed; (2) Jamar Huggins; (3) Pam Lanier; and (4) Greg Lance.
Options being explored: 1 case: Rocky Myers
1. Adnan Syed
Adnan Syed was convicted of the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee (Undisclosed series). After the Circuit Court and the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland granted him a new trial, the Court of Appeals reversed in a 4-3 ruling. A new appeal is in the works, and I hope to have an update soon.
2. Joey Watkins
Joey Watkins was convicted of the 2000 murder of Isaac Dawkins (Undisclosed series). A few years ago, he filed a successor habeas petition, arguing for a new trial based on (1) a juror improperly doing a drive test during deliberations to see if she could make the cell tower pings work; and (2) the State violating Brady by failing to disclose evidence that a bullet recovered from Dawkins's dog was a different caliber than the bullet recovered from Dawkins. On March 13, 2020, the Supreme Court of Georgia found that both of these claims can move forward. If Joey wins on either of these claims, his conviction will be tossed.
3. Jamar Huggins
The one witness to implicate Jamar Huggins in a home invasion in Conway, South Carolina in 2014 has since recanted and named the actual person who committed the crime (Undisclosed series). The initial claim was that this was "new evidence" allowing for a new trial. But the Circuit Court found this recantation was known and not used by trial counsel. That decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals of South Carolina. This was all expected and sets up a pretty compelling argument for ineffective assistance of trial counsel. I'm currently working on that argument with Jamar's attorney.
4. Marcellus Williams
Marcellus Williams was convicted of the 1998 murder of Felicia Gayle. Governor Eric Greitens stayed Marcellus Williams's execution in August 2017 (Undisclosed special episode). He also appointed a Board of Inquiry to review his case. That Board has not yet issued its report.
5. Shaurn Thomas
6. Willie Veasy
Willie Veasy was convicted of the 1992 murder of John Lewis (Undisclosed series). On October 9, 2019, a judge vacated his conviction , and the State later dropped the charges against him due to compelling evidence of his innocence.
7. Terrance Lewis
8. Chester Hollman III
Chester Hollman III was convicted of the 1991 murder of Tae Jung Ho (Undisclosed series). On July 15, 2019, he was released based on a finding that Hollman was innocent, and all charges against him were subsequently dropped on July 30th.
9. Cyntoia Brown
Cyntoia Brown was convicted of the 2004 murder and robbery of Johnny Michael Allen (Undisclosed special episode). Govenor Bill Haslam granted Cyntoia Brown clemency, and she was released August 7, 2019.
10. Ronnie Long
Ronnie Long was convicted of the 1976 rape of Gray Bost (Undisclosed series). A three judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled against his Brady claims in a 2-1 opinion on January 8, 2020. Subsequently, the Fourth Circuit agreed to hear the case en banc, meaning that all of the judges on the Fourth Circuit will take part in the opinion, and a majority opinion in his favor would lead to Long's conviction being vacated. Oral arguments have been scheduled for May 7, 2020.
11. William Montgomery
William Montgomery was convicted of the 1986 murder of Debra Ogle (Undisclosed special addendum interview). Governor John Kasich commuted William's death sentence to a life without parole sentence in March 2018.
12. Pamela Lanier
Pam Lanier was convicted of the 1997 murder of her husband Dorian (Undisclosed series). In the near future, expect a motion for a new trial from the Wake Forest team based on new scientific evidence that Pam's husband died from arsenic poisoning based on ingesting turkey medication rather than being poisoned by her.
13. Dennis Perry
Dennis Perry was convicted of the 1985 murders of Harold and Thelma Swain (Undisclosed series). Today, it was reported that glasses likely left at the crime scene by the killer had hairs that returned a DNA match for alternate suspect Erik Sparre. This should lead to Perry being exonerated and released, but the State might dig in. We'll see.
14. Charles Ray Finch
Charles Ray Finch was convicted of the 1976 murder of Richard Holloman (Undisclosed special episode). The Fourth Circuit first found that Charles Ray Finch had proven his "actual innocence." Then, a federal district court granted his habeas petition and set him free in May 2019.
15. Rocky Myers
Rocky Myers was convicted of murdering Ludie Mae Tucker in 1991 and given a death sentence as a result of judicial override, despite the jury voting 9-3 for a life sentence. As a result, it is difficult to see a path toward exoneration in the courts. That said, we hope that his death sentence can be commuted to a life sentence due to the use of judicial override in his case, and we also hope that we can convince Governor Kay Ivey to stay execution if and when that execution is scheduled (Undisclosed series).
16. Joseph Webster
Joseph Webster was convicted of the 1998 murder of Leroy Owens (Undisclosed series). Webster's case is currently being reviewed the Davidson County District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit. We hope to have the final decision by the CRU in the near future.
17. Cyrus Wilson
18. Greg Lance
Greg Lance was convicted of the murders of Victor and Alla Kolesnikow in 1998 (Undisclosed series). Appellate options are currently being explored in his case.
19. Pedro Reynoso
Pedro Reynoso was convicted of the 1991 murders of Charles Rivera and Carlos Torres (Undisclosed special episode). In December, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons voted to hold his case under advisement to determine if they are allowed to consider actual innocence claims. His case is also being reviewing by Philadelphia's Conviction Integrity Unit.
20. Theophalis Wilson
Theophalis Wilson was convicted of the 1989 murders of Otis Reynolds, Gavin Anderson, and Kevin Anderson (Undisclosed special episode). On January 21, 2020, a judge declared him innocent of these murders and set him free.