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Illicit affair of Kentucky prosecutor leads to murder conviction being thrown out

Illicit affair of Kentucky prosecutor leads to murder conviction being thrown out

A Kentucky murder conviction has unraveled amid allegations that the elected prosecutor was having an affair with the lead detective on the case. The prosecutor’s office is also being accused of failing to disclose critical evidence to the defense.

David Wayne Dooley was convicted of the 2012 murder of Michelle Mockbee and sentenced to life in prison. The two were coworkers at the Thermo Scientific facility in Florence and Dooley was convicted even though prosecutors didn’t have any physical evidence that proved Dooley’s guilt.

Prosecutors said Dooley was the killer because he wouldn’t admit to having found her body, and because Mockbee’s husband, who also worked at Thermo Scientific, said he’d had issues with Dooley in the past.

But Dooley’s 2014 conviction was thrown out in May after Boone Circuit Court Judge James R. Schrand ruled that evidence that could have aided his defense was kept from his defense attorneys.

The withheld evidence involved a man visible on security cameras at Thermo Fisher Electric walking up to an outside door and attempting to enter about 10 hours before Mockbee was found beaten to death outside of the building.

The video of the unknown man was not handed over to defense attorneys before trial.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear asked for the hearing that led to the conviction being thrown out. Beshear’s office did not support a new trial for Dooley, but said the hearing was necessary to make sure proper procedure was followed.

Beshear’s office took over the case after questionable conduct by Kentucky Commonwealth Attorney Linda Tally Smith, and will be responsible for retrying Dooley. After Dooley was convicted it came out that Tally Smith, who is married to a district court judge, was having an affair with then-Boone County Sheriff’s investigator Bruce McVay, the lead detective on the case.

Tally Smith and McVay contradicted each other at the postconviction hearing with McVay claiming he told Tally Smith about the video of the unknown man before the trial began and Tally Smith claiming she knew nothing about the video until after the trial was over.

Tally Smith has said the affair began after the Dooley trial concluded and lasted for six months. She has refused to resign as Commonwealth Attorney for Boone and Gallatin counties and will face a challenger when she runs for reelection in 2018.

More disturbing is a long letter Tally Smith wrote to McVay but says she never sent. Portions of that letter were published by the Northern Kentucky Tribunethat said “Even if I was aware that you had lied here or there on cases, I wouldn’t have wavered in that loyalty to you and ‘having your back.’”

A special prosecutor has been appointed to look into Tally Smith’s actions.

Fake subpoena issue continues to haunt New Orleans District Attorney

Orleans Criminal District Court

Fake subpoena issue continues to haunt New Orleans District Attorney

Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro announced in April that his office would no longer send out fake subpoenas to witnesses after he was roundly denounced for the practice.

But the issue hasn’t gone away, and now one of those fake subpoenas could put a high-profile conviction in danger. According to the New Orleans Times Picayune and The Lens,Cardell Hayes, convicted of manslaughter in the death of New Orleans Saints football player Will Smith, is citing the fake subpoenas in an effort to get a new trial.

Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro

The mother of Hayes’ son, Tiffany LaCroix, got one of the fake subpoenas before Hayes went on trial in 2016, court documents said. The documents had the word “subpoena” on them but were not signed by a judge, meaning that the law didn’t require the person to comply with the document

A lawyer for LaCroix later showed up in court to quash the subpoena. Cannizzaro’s office then sought to issue a real subpoena that had been signed by a judge. But LaCroix never testified at the trial.

The fake subpoena is one of 13 issues that defense lawyers are raising in appealing Hayes’s conviction.

A judge has ordered Cannizzaro to reveal the names of all prosecutors in his office who issued fake subpoenas. But Cannizzaro is appealing that ruling, saying it would be too time consuming.

Cannizzaro’s office stopped using the fake subpoenas after the issue was publicized while insisting there was nothing wrong with the practice. Protesters called for Cannizzaro to be removed from office.

The issue got attention after Cannizzaro’s office threatened to jail a domestic violence victim after she didn’t respond to a fake subpoena.

Thanks to Josie Duffy Rice.

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Oklahoma sheriff indicted for jail death

Oklahoma sheriff indicted for jail death

Anthony Huff tragically died in the Garfield County Jail in Oklahoma last year, after staff restrained him in a chair and failed to hydrate and feed him for two days, according to court documents unsealed and released to the public on July 25. But in a rare move, prosecutors in the state decided to hold the sheriff who oversees the jail and five other employees accountable for Huff’s death. At the urging of Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, a district attorney presented evidence to a grand jury in March to determine if a criminal case should proceed.

Last week, the jurors decided to charge all six defendants with second-degree manslaughter.

Details of the defendants’ involvement haven’t been revealed, but a separate civil lawsuit filed by Huff’s family outlines the events that led up to Huff’s death on June 8 of last year. Four days earlier, police had arrested the 58-year-old for public intoxication and brought him to the jail run by Sheriff Jerry Niles. Huff had previously been locked up at the facility, so staff allegedly knew he had various health problems— including heart disease, hypertension, depression, alcoholism— that required medication. But according to the suit, Huff didn’t receive a medical evaluation upon his arrival, and was restrained in a chair two days later. Routine checks weren’t conducted, cameras weren’t turned on to monitor him, and defendants “failed to ensure that Mr. Huff received sufficient food or water” for several days. The autopsy allegedly shows that very little medication was in Huff’s system when he died, indicating that staff also neglected to give him his prescriptions.

Huff perished “due to conditions related to his withdrawal from alcohol, and the effects it had on his body and system,” the suit says. Moreover, “lack of food and water from June 6, 2016, through June 8, 2016, exacerbated the conditions…and further caused or contributed to the death of Mr. Huff.”

Sheriff Niles is named as a defendant in both the civil and criminal cases. Last week, a grand jury made up of residents from all over Oklahoma decided that there’s enough evidence to proceed with a criminal case against him and five others, including his daughter-in-law.

Months before the grand jury convened, Attorney General Hunter tapped District Attorney Chris Boring to investigate Huff’s death. The Garfield County District Attorney had recused himself due to his relationship to the sheriff. Boring did what so many prosecutors are unwilling or unable to do: convince jurors that members of the law enforcement should stand trial for their behavior.

Approximately 1,000 people die in jail each year — many from sheer neglect or violence committed by correctional staff. But prosecutors are generally reluctant to charge anyone involved — or present strong cases to grand juries — for the same reasons they’re reluctant to charge police officers who kill. They have a cozy relationship with the rest of the law enforcement community — including the sheriffs running county jails — and hold them to a different legal standard than the rest of the public. They also hesitate to prosecute cases they think they’ll lose. Notably, neither Sheriff David Clarke nor lower-ranked staff have been charged for four deaths that occurred in the Milwaukee County Jail last year — even though a grand jury recommended charges be brought against seven people for cutting off a man’s water supply and letting him die of thirst.

Prison deaths are handled no differently than jail deaths. In Florida’s Dade Correctional Institute, Darren Rainey was forced into a scolding hot shower by four guards who then ignored his pleas for help. The 53-year-old, who suffered from schizophrenia, was found dead in the shower two hours later. Nobody was charged.

Last week’s grand jury indictment in Garfield County gives Huff’s relatives a rare chance to get justice. If convicted, Niles and the five other defendants involved could spend up to four years in prison.

Thanks to Josie Duffy Rice.

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