A horrible injustice...
Here's another horrible case where a man has been railroaded on absolutely no evidence.
June 6th: Clarence's mother-in-law Judy Johnson is at home babysitting Brooke. She falls asleep on the couch; Brooke is in the bedroom. In the wee hours, a man savagely rapes and bludgeons Judy to death. In the dark bedroom, he also beats and rapes the 51-pound child.
When Brooke recovers consciousness, the stunned child phones a neighbor to report "grandma is dead." Then she walks to the nearby house of her best friend and tells Tonia Brasiel, the friend's mother, "Uncle Clarence killed Grandma."
On the same day, Brooke admits uncertainty to a friend of her grandmother and explains why she identified her uncle, "I think it sounded like him."
The woman's testimony later carries no weight in court because Brooke repeats to the police, to psychologists and her parents what she believes they want to hear: "Uncle Clarence killed Grandma."
At a crime scene where the murder victim fought strenuously and two rapes occurred, the police cannot find a hair, a fingerprint or a drop of blood to implicate Elkins who has no felony record. Moreover, his wife provides an alibi that is largely supported by witnesses.
Nevertheless on June 4, 1999, Elkins receives a stiff sentence with the earliest possible parole date being 2054. People, including the jury, wish to believe Brooke and to punish someone for the unspeakable crime.
Clarence's wife Melinda and his two sons are absolutely convinced of his innocence. For the next seven years, she works without pause to exonerate him and to provide justice for her mother. In the process, she loses her home, is hospitalized for exhaustion, breaks with family members, and steals irreplaceable time from her children.
On Nov. 10, 2001, her crusade leads Melinda to the door of the sister with whom she used to be best friends but with whom she has not spoken for years: Brooke's mother. At her side is Martin Yant, a private investigator specializing in wrongful convictions whose work has already exonerated 10 prisoners. (In his book "Presumed Guilty," Yant states his belief that 10,000 people in America are wrongfully convicted every year.)
The Dayton Daily News reports, "Yant can tick off a laundry list of other problems with the [Elkins] case: sloppy police work, haphazard investigation, authorities rushing to judgment, incomplete forensics.
The bloody print left on the doorjamb at Judy Johnson's house was destroyed when police tried to lift it. Other items collected as evidence were never tested for latent prints. Judy Johnson fought for her life, but it doesn't look as if anybody bothered to test her fingernail scrapings."
As the sisters reconcile, Yant is allowed to gently question Brooke.
When he asks whether she still believes Elkins is guilty, she immediately replies, "I've always had doubts."
Again, Brooke's statement precipitates a chain of events. Other family members become convinced of Elkins' innocence. In May 2002, Brooke recants her testimony but the court rejects her recantation as being caused by family pressure.
Meanwhile, on April 28, 2002, a story in the Akron Beacon Journal catches Melinda's eye. It opens, "Earl Eugene Mann…to stand trial, facing a possible life prison sentence for raping three little girls."
Mann, the boyfriend of Tonia Brasiel, has a long history of violent crime but the police had dismissed him as a suspect when they focused in on Elkins.
The path to exoneration that ensues is circuitous enough to be a Law and Order episode. With the assistance of the Ohio Innocence Project and fighting an intransigent prosecutor, Melinda arranges DNA testing that excludes her husband from the crime scene. Nevertheless, on July 14, 2005, Elkins is denied a new trial.
Finally, a state attorney who is pursuing the Republican nomination for governor takes an interest and brings both political pressure and media attention to bear on the case. Only when Mann confesses to the crime does the State of Ohio admit its mistake.
Many morals can be drawn from this case. For example, accusations should not be immediately believed, especially if they are inconsistent or contradicted by evidence.