S7E15: Dusty Turner: A Navy Seal Behind Bars For 22 Years For A Murder Even Though The Actual Killer Confessed
Dusty Turner was a 20-year-old Navy SEAL trainee when he was arrested for the murder and abduction of Jennifer Evans. On June 19th, 1995, Dusty Turner was out at a bar with some friends in Virginia Beach, VA including his roommate and training partner, Billy Brown. Dusty Turner and Jennifer Evans were sitting in his car waiting for Evans’s friends to join them when an extremely intoxicated Billy Brown forced his way into the back seat and began insulting Evans and pulling her hair. When she tried to defend herself, Brown suddenly attacked her, wrapped his arms around her neck in a forceful choke hold, and killed her instantly. All the while Dusty Turner had been prying and clawing Brown’s hand off of Evans, pleading with him to stop. Finally realizing that she was dead, Dusty Turner panicked and reacted to his intensive SEAL training that demanded“alwaysprotect your swim buddy” regardless of the cost. Mr. Turner’s instinct for survival and misplaced loyalty to Brown took over as he drove out of the parking lot and helped Brown hide the victim’s body in a nearby wooded area. Eight days later, Mr. Turner confessed the entire story to his commanding officer and agreed to take the police to the body after being assured that he would only be used as a witness during the trial. During Billy Brown’s trial in 1996, Brown testified against Mr. Turner to receive a lesser sentence of 72 years in prison. Three months later, with an outraged community and media frenzy surrounding the case, Dusty Turner was convicted of first degree murder and abduction, and sentenced to 82 years in prison. In 2002, Billy Brown confessed to Jennifer Evans’ murder and said that Dusty Turner played no part in it. The testimony he gave matches the story Mr. Turner told his commanding officer and also matches the physical evidence that the police had at the time of the crime. Dusty Turner petitioned for a“writof actual innocence” and his conviction was overturned by a three-judge panel of the Virginia State Court of Appeals. However, the State Attorney General’s Office quickly appealed this decision and the original Court of Appeals ruling was overturned. Since he first told his story to his commanding officer, Mr. Turner has steadfastly maintained his innocence, acknowledging that he was guilty only of being an accessory-after-the-fact, which is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 12 months in jail. To date, Dusty Turner has served nearly 22 years in prison, over half of his life. Link to watch the documentary for free online:
S7E14: Love is Better Than Revenge: The Wrongful Conviction of Sunny Jacobs
We are going to announce the premiere of our new season very soon, but until then we are revisiting some of the show's greatest episodes. In 1976, Sonia 'Sunny' Jacobs was sentenced to death for the murders of Florida Highway Patrol officer Phillip Black and Donald Irwin, a visiting Canadian constable. The officers were killed during a traffic stop where Sunny was traveling with her boyfriend, Jesse Tafero, and her two children, Eric, nine, and Christina, 10 months, in a car driven by Walter Rhodes. After officers approached the vehicle, Rhodes fired shots at them, a gun battle ensued, and chaos erupted. Sunny and Jesse were arrested, and both of their children were taken away by the state. Rhodes negotiated a plea bargain with the state, claiming Jesse and Sunny had pulled the triggers, in exchange for a life sentence. In 1990, Jesse was executed by the state of Florida in horrific circumstances. Sunny spent five years in isolation on Floridas Death Row and a total of 17 years in a maximum-security prison before her conviction was overturned. Sunny was freed in 1992 when she was 45 years old. In this episode, Jason talks with Sunny, her current husband, exoneree Peter Pringle, and her daughter Christina who as a child was also a victim of this tragic injustice. After her exoneration Sunny married and Peter Pringle, they were each sentenced to death for crimes of which they were innocent. Jacobs spent 17 years in prison in the United States, and Pringle spent 15 years in prison in Ireland. Both were exonerated after their convictions were overturned. Today they are dedicated to the healing of those that have been wrongfully incarcerated. Together they started The Sunny Center with this mission in mind in Ireland. The Sunny Center is a sanctuary, providing exonerees with immediate, spiritual, emotional and physical support, with the goal of assisting them with overcoming the trauma, isolation, and disconnection resulting from wrongful incarceration.
S7E13: How Crystal Weimer Won An 11 Year Fight For Freedom [Rebroadcast]
Wrongful Conviction returns with new episodes on January 21, 2019 , but until then we are revisiting some of the show’s greatest episodes. In this devastating interview, Crystal Weimer shares the unbelievable story of how she ended up serving more than a decade behind bars for the murder of Curtis Haith–a crime she did not commit. Her story is emblematic of the problems with the public defense system across the state of Philadelphia. This report from WHYY revisits Ms. Weimer’s case and looks at how little has changed since she was first arrested in the state. Curtis Haith was beaten to death and shot outside of his home in western Pennsylvania. Police determined that the evening before Haith had attended a party in Uniontown, PA. Crystal Weimer, whose sisters hosted the party, and her cousin had driven Haith home and returned directly to the party. Ms. Weimer became the focus of the investigation after an ex-boyfriend told authorities she confessed. The charges were dropped when he recanted, but police re-filed the charges in 2004 with the use of statements given by Joseph Stenger, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy of homicide oh Haith while he was serving time for unrelated robbery charges. Stenger testified that Ms. Weimer had an earlier physical altercation with Haith and she enlisted Stenger and two unidentified black men to return to Haith’s house after where she lured him outside and they beat him to death and shot him in the face. At her trial in 2006, the only physical evidence that directly tied Ms. Weimer to the crime scene was an alleged bite mark on the victim’s arm. Expert odonatologist Dr. Constantine Karazulas told the jury that a mark on the victim’s hand was a bite mark made minutes before he died and that Ms. Weimer is the one who bit him. During closing argument, the prosecution told the jury that the jailhouse informants who testified against her at the trial had not asked for any leniency on their own cases in return for their testimony. Crystal Weimer was convicted of third-degree murder and conspiracy to commit homicide and sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison. She continued to fight for her innocence, acting as her own lawyer and filing motions for post-conviction relief, but all were denied until a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus was filed on her behalf. In December 2014, Joseph Stenger ultimately recanted all of his statements and admitted that prosecutors dropped more serious charges against him in exchange for his testimony against Ms. Weimer. In early 2015, Dr. Constantine Karazulas, that same expert declared his own trial testimony "junk science" and "invalid." In February 2015, Ms. Weimer, represented pro bono by the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and the firm of Jones Day, filed a motion for a new trial based on the discredited bite mark evidence and the recantations of key witnesses. Her lawyers had also discovered that the prosecution had failed to disclose to Ms. Weimer’s trial counsel that the jailhouse informants had written letters to the prosecution requesting favorable treatment, which showed that the informants had testified falsely at trial when they denied they sought deals for their testimony. A new trial was ordered on October 1st, 2015, and Crystal Weimer was released the same day on bond after serving 11 years in prison. She was forced to wear an electronic ankle bracelet for another nine months until the judge dismissed the charges with prejudice and she was finally exonerated in June 2016. Ms. Weimer is joined by one of her attorneys from the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, Nilaam Sanghvi, in this episode.
S7E12: Grateful Dead Fan Timothy Tyler Granted Clemency After 22 Years In Prison for a Non-Violent Crime
Tim Tyler was sentenced to a mandatory life sentence in federal prison for selling LSD while traveling around the country following the Grateful Dead. He was 25 years old when he was sentenced and has spent nearly half of his life behind bars. Tim grew up in Connecticut with his mother, but moved to Florida to live with his father when he was a teenager. After graduating from high school, Tim traveled around the country following the Grateful Dead, and became a heavy user of LSD. Unfortunately, he developed mental health problems and was hospitalized multiple times as a teenager and young adult. He also became entangled in the criminal justice system. In 1991, Tim was arrested twice for selling LSD and received probation both times. Then, in May 1992, Tim sold marijuana and LSD to a confidential informant. Over the next two months, Tim mailed packages containing LSD to the informant. He was arrested in August and charged along with three codefendants, including his father. Tim pled guilty to possession with intent to deliver LSD and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute LSD. In March 1994, 25-year-old Tim was sentenced to mandatory life without parole in federal prison. Tim’s codefendants received five and 10 year sentences. Timothy’s father died in prison while serving his 10-year prison term. Read Rolling Stone ‘s“
S7E11: Ndaba Mandela: Carrying the Torch of Social Justice Inherited from His Grandfather, Nelson Mandela
Following in the footsteps of his beloved and iconic grandfather, Ndaba Mandela has taken the torch and run with it. Today, Nelson Mandela’s legacy continues as Ndaba keeps its beacon of hope bright, fueling his message that one person can make a difference. Ndaba is a man passionate about Africa, its people and concerned about its future. In this candid interview, Ndaba discusses his passion for criminal justice reform and his commitment to a new generation of young Africans that he hopes will be at the forefront of Africa’s development. Connect with Ndaba Mandela: