So shocking that it cannot be imagined as possible:
Today, we see growing acceptance of gay marriage – something that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.
Full interview: Sheldon Thomas on being freed from prison 18 years after wrongful conviction
Back to menu IMPORTANT CONTENT
Sheldon Thomas was released from prison this month after he spent nearly two decades in prison for the 2004 murder of a 14-year-old boy in Brooklyn, New York. His conviction was vacated after a review found Thomas was “denied due process at every stage.” Lilia Luciano reports.
New York man wrongfully convicted of murder is freed after 20 years in prison
Back to menu IMPORTANT CONTENT
10 mrt 2023
A deceptive photo lineup helped imprison the wrong ‘Sheldon Thomas’ in a 2004 fatal shooting, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said.
A man who spent nearly two decades behind bars is finally free. Thursday, a judge vacated his murder conviction, and as CBS2’s Dick Brennan reports, prosecutors say there was a series of major mistakes since day one.
Thursday afternoon, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office vacated a wrongful murder conviction of a man who spent nearly two decades in prison. As CBS2’s Hannah Kliger tells us, the evidence in the case was found to be flawed.
American spent nearly 20 years wrongfully in jail because of wrong photo
A New York man who spent nearly 20 years in prison for a murder he did not commit has been released. The court ruled that the man, Sheldon Thomas, was “compromised from the beginning of the investigation by agents who still had a bone to pick with him”. In the United States, a growing number of cases in which people may have been wrongly convicted are being reviewed.
Sheldon Thomas has been acquitted after 19 years for a murder he did not commit. The now 35-year-old man was arrested in 2004 for shooting dead a 14-year-old boy. A new investigation shows that the detective did not act neutrally in the case at the time. Thomas was already being targeted by the police at the time. After all, he had once pointed an inoperable gun at officers after repeated harassment.
1 wrong photo, 19 years in jail
Thomas has always claimed he was not in New York at the time of the murder, yet he was convicted. In 2004, police showed a series of photos to a witness to the murder. Among those six photos was one of a black man also named Sheldon Thomas who lived near the arrested Thomas. The witness, under pressure from the police, chose the photo of the other Sheldon Thomas. That single identification of a person with the same skin colour, name and a nearby address led to the arrest of Sheldon Thomas.
At a pre-trial hearing, 1.5 years after the arrest, the detective admitted that he had not placed the photo of the arrested Thomas in the set of six. Thomas himself also explained that he was not the man in the picture. But this was not heeded. The judge ruled that the use of the wrong photo had no legal effect. According to him, the men looked alike. Thomas’ trial continued. He was eventually sentenced to 25 years in prison for manslaughter, attempted murder and assault.
In the reopened trial, the prosecution ruled that the police, prosecutors and judge of the original trial knew from the beginning that the photo in the sequence was not the Sheldon Thomas they arrested. Nevertheless, they went ahead. In addition, a group of 32 black law students examined the photo of Thomas. 27 students said, correctly, that the arrested Sheldon Thomas was not seen in the photos.
Growing number of reopened cases
The new investigation was conducted by a branch of the prosecutor’s office that is re-examining about 50 other convictions. There is a growing movement among prosecutors in the United States to re-examine cases in which people may have been wrongly convicted.
In September, New York’s Brooklyn district prosecutor’s office announced it was seeking to dismiss 378 convictions led by 13 former cops who had committed crimes themselves. In 2021, the Queens prosecutor’s office tried to dismiss 60 cases after the misconduct of 3 detectives. Bronx prosecutors want to dismiss 250 convictions made by an officer accused of lying.
“I’ve waited a long time for this,” Sheldon Thomas said before a packed courtroom. During the years he spent behind bars, he was able to forgive the detective, prosecutors and judge, Thomas said. The real perpetrator of the 14-year-old boy’s murder is still at large. Therefore, there are no real winners, the prosecutor said, “Sheldon Thomas spent 19 years in prison and a 14-year-old boy lost his life.”
A man wrongfully spent 18 years in prison because NYPD cops deceptively used a photo lineup of a different man with the same name to pin a murder on him, prosecutors said.
Sheldon Thomas, 35, will walk into a courtroom Thursday for a hearing after Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez moved to vacate his conviction.
An investigation by his Conviction Review Unit that found the case against Thomas was compromised from the start by “grave errors and lack of probable cause to arrest” him, Gonzalez said.
Detectives, prosecutors and a judge all knew that a photo used to identify Thomas as a suspect in a 2004 murder actually showed a different Sheldon Thomas, but they forged ahead with a case that ended with a conviction, the probe found.
“He was further deprived of his due process rights when the prosecution proceeded even after the erroneous identification came to light, making his conviction fundamentally unfair,” Gonzalez said of Thomas, in a statement.
A 63-page report by Gonzalez’s team on Thomas’ conviction details a cavalcade of errors and deceptions by NYPD detectives investigating the murder of Anderson Bercy, 14, in East Flatbush.
Police argued Thomas, another man and others who were not charged fired gunshots from a car at six people standing on a street corner on Dec. 24, 2004, documents show. Bercy was killed.
Detectives quickly zeroed in on Thomas, a suspected gang member who once pointed an “inoperable handgun” at police, but it quickly became clear they had no eyewitness identification or other credible evidence he was involved in the shooting, the report states.
Thomas told detectives he was in Queens playing video games during the time the fatal shooting unfolded, according to the report.
Gonzalez’s team wrote that it became “apparent that the police were intent on arresting defendant for this crime regardless of the lack of evidence pointing to defendant’s participation,” according to the report.
The chief accusation against the detectives centers around a photo lineup.
While a detective waited for a prior arrest photo of Thomas to be unsealed, they used a picture of another Sheldon Thomas to show a witness, the report states. Even though the witness identified the wrong Thomas, cops went to arrest the Sheldon Thomas they suspected, according to the report
A detective then lied on the stand about the photo array and about never knowing Thomas, the DA investigators found.
“Defendant was denied due process at every stage of this case such that his conviction was fundamentally unfair,” their report states.
“Understandably, the police quickly focused on defendant—a known gang member with a prior gun charge, who had previously pointed a loaded firearm at police officers—as a suspect. But almost immediately, case detectives began conducting an improper investigation and violated defendant’s constitutional rights to get the result they wanted, including influencing a photo array identification procedure, arresting the defendant with no probable cause, and then lying on the stand to conceal their wrongdoing.”
Man sits in jail for 34 years, now released due to ‘lack of evidence’
This week, a man was released from the Broward County Main Jail in US Fort Lauderdale where he had been incarcerated for 34 years because the judge ruled during a review of his case that the case against him was “deeply flawed”.
Sidney Holmes, now 57, was sentenced in 1989 to 400 years in prison for his part in an armed robbery, even though he had an alibi for why the armed robbery was committed by two people.
In 2020, he had his case reviewed. The judge now ruled that mistakes happened at the original trial and that there was a lack of evidence to support his conviction and released the man.
Man zit 34 jaar in cel, nu vrijgelaten door ‘gebrek aan bewijs’
Gepubliceerd op 8 jan. 2019
Gepubliceerd op 30 aug. 2015
The crime: child molestation.
The accused: a local school teacher.
Tonya Craft was later acquitted in a Catoosa County court. She has now written a book that looks back on her experience. It’s a book of mystery, it’s a book of intrigue. What you’ll read, will probably make you angry.
And it really happened.
Tonya Craft sat down with NewsChannel 9 to talk about her ordeal.
Seven years ago, Craft’s life was turned upside down. 22 charges of child molestation. She lost her children her job her home and her self confidence.
She could give up or fight. She says the choice was easy. “I wanted it to be that when I stand up for that verdict I wanted to know that I had done every single thing that I can do to prove that I was innocent,” she says.
It paid off. “Count number one not guilty” read the jury foreman. In fact not guilty on all 22 counts.
The accused: acquitted.
“Accused” is the title of a book Tonya Craft has written. She says she investigated her own case because she says prosecutors trying to put her in jail did not. “I cross-referenced I broke it down” she says. “I did things during this and learned things that the trained individuals should have done in the first place.”
When Craft was first charged her two children were taken from her. The next time she heard from them one was on the witness stand. She says she almost did not recognize her. “I feel like all the children were severely influenced by parental figures and they said that in their interviews” she says. “Every one of them.”
Craft says the way she was prosecuted left a bad taste. “I think it was handled poorly” she says. “I think there has been no responsibility taken and I’m very sad and disappointed for the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit.”
She says prosecutors should have taken better care to investigate her case. “Step back for just a minute and objectively look at this” Craft says “not on my behalf or on the other side’s behalf just the behalf of doing it correctly and seeing what’s really going on here.”
She writes about learning things that trained investigators should have learned. The book contains lots of information gleaned from her trial. Stacks of material condensed down into story form. “I feel that I can do things to help other people to help educate them on how this can happen” Craft says.
In the book, she speaks of the words of encouragement she received from relatives, her friends who held a prayer vigil for her, and from total strangers. “The support has been absolutely incredible” Craft says. “I could have never imagined it and I wish I could thank everybody and talk to everybody.”
You haven’t heard the last of Tonya Craft. Once “Accused” this former teacher is now on a mission. “I feel like I’m going to educate in a different way” she says “and I feel that this book can shed light not only how things can go horribly wrong very quickly but the ramifications.”
“Accused” goes on sale on Saturday September 5th at Barnes and Noble.
Right now Tonya Craft is going to law school she’s consulting on cases and she’s also interning in the Hamilton County D-A’s office.
Gepubliceerd op 27 aug. 2012
On Monday night, June 14 2010, Tonya Craft sat down on CNN’s “Larry King Live” television program alongside her husband David, and her lead attorney Demosthenes Lorandos.
The interview with King helped shine the national spotlight even brighter on a case that began in a small north Georgia community more than two years ago.
Craft, a former Chickamauga kindergarten teacher, faced 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated sexual bat-tery, and aggravated child molestation. On May 11 she was acquitted on all counts in Catoosa County Superior Court.
In the 34 days since she was found not guilty, Craft has made many appearances on talk shows across the country such as “Good Morning America” and “The Today Show,” all in an attempt to better-educated people and enlighten them to the reality they could be falsely accused.
When her doorbell rang in May 2008 with detectives waiting to present her with accusations of alleged child abuse, it is impossible for Craft to have imagined what would take place over the course of the next two years. The once-beloved kindergarten teacher would then embark on a journey that would see her lose friendships, her job, her home, her financial stability, and most importantly her relationship with her two young children.
Craft did not see her daughter, who was one of the alleged victims, for a span of more than 700 days, except for when the child appeared to testify during the trial on behalf of the prosecution and claimed that her mother had sexually abused her.
The emotion that filled the room during that portion of testimony was difficult to watch for almost everyone. Craft, who was seeing her daughter for the first time in nearly two years, had to be consoled by members of her defense team as the little girl testified.
Before Craft spoke about her story with Larry King at 9 p.m. on Monday, she was before Judge Marie Williams that morning in Hamilton County Circuit Court in Chattanooga, Tenn, as she continued her quest to regain custody of her children.
Shortly after the hearing began, it was revealed that Craft’s attorneys and her ex-husband Joal Henke’s attorney had reached a mutual agreement on a temporary visitation schedule that will be sufficient until July 22, at which time Craft’s attorneys can begin attempting to execute their plan in an attempt to help Craft regain the full custody that she lost when the allegations surfaced and the children were given to their father.
Although the hearing outcome wasn’t exactly what Craft may have wanted, it was still progress according to her attorneys. “We want to do what’s in the best interest of the children,” said attorney Clancy Covert of Chattanooga. “We want to respect the wishes of judge Williams, and that’s what we’re going to do right now as progress continues to be made on the situation.”
As Monday came to a close with Craft telling King and the rest of the country about her ordeal, she claimed to have done so in an attempt to not only get her story out there, but to also bring awareness to the issue of child abuse all over the world.
According to Craft, the children in this case were lead to believe something happened to them that didn’t and are just as much victims of the situation as she is.
For the time being, Craft will continue to fight to clear her name, raise awareness for child abuse, and also try to re-establish her relationship with daughter.
Craft has also filed a $25 million dollar lawsuit against those whose accused her and prosecuted the case.
Gepubliceerd op 23 aug. 2015
Seven years ago the life of one Catoosa County school teacher was turned upside down.
Tonya Craft was charged with twenty-two counts of child molestation. She proclaimed her innocence from the beginning.
She has now written a book that has many people reliving a trial that captivated the Tennessee Valley.
“Count number one. NOT GUILTY.”
Those words started a new life for Tonya Craft. She was free and found not guilty on twenty-two counts of child molestation. She has written a book about what happened. We shared part of the book with people in Catoosa County who followed the trial closely.
In the author’s note, Craft says she doesn’t want to shock anybody but quote “I hope the details of my story will push us all to work harder to seek the truth in our daily lives and to demand that truth come first in our legal system.”
Folks who followed the case agree. “I don’t think she is shocking anybody,” says Catoosa County resident Melissa Hill. “I think she just wants people to see the truth so maybe they’ll be prepared.”
“It’s basically ruined her life and any position to move forward,” says Jennifer Snyder.
Mark Teems agrees. “If those (are) truly false allegations you know that’s terrible to put somebody through that,” he said.
In one chapter Craft described a meeting with friends.
“No one seemed to question my innocence,” she writes. “I took some comfort in that. We talked, we cried, and we prayed.”
“I think that’s wonderful that the community came together and prayed with her because it isn’t our right to judge anybody,” Snyder says.
That passage also hit home with Melissa Hill. “Only God can give you that true peace and I think that’s what they were waiting to do for her,” she says.
In the book Craft describes about the agony of listening to her child testify against her during the trial. Several people we talked to have opinions about that as well.
“Especially if they took her child away,” Snyder says. “I don’t feel that’s fair to say that was one hundred percent truth coming from that child’s heart.”
Most of the people we talked to said they’ll buy the book, and that it was important for Craft to get her side of this ordeal out in the open.
“A lot of people hide behind the curtain after something like this happens,” Snyder said. “She’s reaching out that it could happen to anyone.”
The book is called “Accused.”
It will be released on Saturday, September 5th at Barnes and Noble at Hamilton Place.
Gepubliceerd op 6 aug. 2018
Gepubliceerd op 2 mrt. 2017
Illinois is home to the nation’s sixth-highest rate of wrongful convictions. The story of Aurora’s Rolando Cruz is one harrowing example.
In 1985, Cruz and his friend Alejandro Hernandez were tried, wrongfully convicted, and sent to death row for the murder of Jeanine Nicarico, a 10-year-old girl from Naperville, Illinois. Another co-defendant, Steve Buckley, was not convicted. Cruz and Hernandez each spent years fearing death for a crime they did not commit.
DNA evidence, recanted testimony from individuals in law enforcement and the implication of serial killer Brian Dugan lead to the release of Cruz and Hernandez in 1995. Dugan confessed to the murder and was convicted in 2009.
Sponsored by Aurora University and co-sponsored by the Illinois Policy Institute, “Questions of Justice: Nicarico murder case” invited Cruz and key lawyers in this landmark case to speak about their experiences and the implications for criminal justice today.
Lecturer in Law and Justice, Aurora University
Senior Fellow, Illinois Policy
Partner, Camic Johnson, Ltd.
Steve Buckley’s attorney
Partner at Camic Johnson, Ltd.
Brian Dugan’s lawyer
DeKalb County Public Defender
Criminal Justice Reform Activist
Wrongfully Convicted of Murder
Gepubliceerd op 6 mei 2012
11 apr. 2018
Producer: David Alrich
15 dec. 2019
23 mrt. 2011
Pedestrians are asked to hold tightly a zoo lion transport door but the trapped lion keeps banging on the door. A presentation of the Just For Laughs Gags. The funny hidden camera pranks show for the whole family. Juste pour rire les gags, l’émission de caméra caché la plus comique de la télé!