Three wrongful convictions in the news. These men served between 13 and 36 years in prisons for crimes they did not commit.
I hope that we will continue to investigate these murders. Someone else was responsible in all these cases.
These victims should not become forgotten files in an archive.
Kaj Linna, Sweden (single person testimony)
The Swedish court of appeals just exonerated Kaj Linna. Linna was convicted for the 2004 murder and robbery of Roger Lindberg in Kalamark (Sweden). Lindberg’s brother, Sune, was also attacked but survived. They were attacked on a farm. He served 13 years in prison.
The Swedish court of appeals ruled that the evidence presented at trial was “insufficient,” as the conviction hinged on the now questionable testimony of just one man, identified only as “Nils.” There was no hard evidence to connect Linna to the crime scene and there were no eye witnesses.
Linna’s case is unique. It is the first time that a true-crime podcast from two journalists named Anton Berg and Martin Johnson resulted in the exoneration of a wrongfully convicted man in Sweden. Never underestimate the influence citizens can have on crime investigations.
John Floyd, Louisiana (false confession/police brutality)
John Floyd spent 36 years in prison. US District Judge Sarah Vance will now throw out his murder conviction and life sentence. Floyd was accused of the William Hines’ 1982 stabbing death in New Orléans (Louisiana). Hines was a Times-Picayune copy editor.
Judge Vance ruled in September 2016 that no reasonable juror would find Floyd guilty of murder based on the evidence. Floyd confessed that he killed Hines (and another man) however, Judge Vance said new evidence supports Floyd’s claim that police beat him to coerce a confession.
Judge Vance said that physical evidence at the scene of contradicted the murder method Floyd mentioned in his confession. In fact, the evidence pointed to a killer of a different race and blood type. Aside from that, Floyd cannot read (so how did he know what he signed?) and has an IQ of 59.
Shaurn Thomas, Pennsylvania (single witness testimony/recanted)
Shaurn Thomas is now exonerated of murder. He spent 24 years in prison. He was sixteen when the crime happened. At nineteen, Thomas was convicted to life for participating in the 1990 shooting of a Puerto Rica business person in Philadelphia (PA). The evidence against him was the testimony by one single witness who linked him to the scene. That witness later recanted. Thomas was lucky. At his side were lawyers James Figorski and Marissa Bluestine of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.
This case is the first major action by the Conviction Review Unit of the District Attorney’s Office. It is also the first time their investigators discovered evidence that helped overturn wrongful convictions. The unit created standardized application guidelines for prisoners who believe they have evidence to prove innocence. Annual reporting about the Unit’s work in wrongful convictions is expected.
The Conviction Review Unit will only work on actual innocence claims. This means they will only check in cases where prisoners or their attorneys can offer compelling evidence of wrongful convictions. They do not work on cases of ineffective assistance of counsel or other legal issues that hurt the prisoners’ defense. The Post Conviction Relief Act unit handles those cases.