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Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom
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Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom

Author: Jason Flom | reVolver Podcasts

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Based on the files of the lawyers who freed them, Wrongful Conviction features interviews with men and women who have spent decades in prison for crimes they did not commit – some of them had even been sentenced to death. These are their stories.


105 Episodes
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In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the US found itself wrapped up in the “Satanic Panic” - a general state of fear revolving around Satanism and satanic ritual, real or imagined. On May 5th, 1993, three 8 year old boys - Steven Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers - were reported missing. Their lifeless bodies were found the following day in a Robin Hood Hills creek, naked and hogtied. Christopher Byers had suffered lacerations, and his genitals had been mutilated. Details of the bizarre and brutal scene in Robin Hood Hills brought Satanic Panic to a fever pitch in the largely conservative Christian city of West Memphis, Arkansas. Coming off their first film success with “Brother’s Keeper,” documentarians Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky were tapped by HBO documentaries to head down to get the story. Joe Berlinger sits with Jason and recalls his experience of the case, the moments that inspired his fight for criminal justice reform, and the films and events that have helped shape public opinion of wrongful convictions. 
On December 5th, 1997, 2 armed and disguised men robbed a beauty salon and its patrons in Norfolk, Virginia. On December 19th, Messiah Johnson was misidentified as the culprit and arrested. In the absence of any physical evidence and in spite of his corroborated alibi, Messiah Johnson was convicted on 26 counts of armed robbery, abduction, and related gun charges. He was sentenced to 132 years in prison. On this episode of Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom, Messiah Johnson tells Jason about how his life unraveled and his subsequent fight for freedom.Messiah is a graphic designer and still lives in Virginia, as he continues to fight to clear his name. You can find him on Instagram @messiahaladar johnson. If you’d like to show him support, please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/rc8d4-welcome-home-messiah-johnson
On December 9th, 1981, Stephen DeSantis and Gary Masse, disguised as telephone repair men, gained entry to the suburban home of Sacramento coin collector Ed Davies. They hogtied Ed and his wife Grace, ransacked the house, and came up with 6 suitcases full of silver before murdering the older couple. There had been a string of robberies connected to area coin shops, and Ed Davies was a customer at the coin store where law student Gloria Killian had worked. When an anonymous tip sent police in search of DeSantis and Masse, Joanne Masse named Killian as the mastermind to her husband’s crimes, an assertion that was repeated through the anonymous tip line. However, without sufficient evidence the charges against Killian were dropped. Upon being convicted Gary Masse offered his testimony, naming Killian as the mastermind of his criminal enterprise, in exchange for sentencing leniency and other perks. This deal was concealed from the defense and the jury. In absence of corroborating evidence, Gloria Killian was sentenced to 32 years to life solely upon Masse’s incentivized testimony. Killian spent 17 years in prison until evidence surfaced, exposing the prosecution’s machinations and Masse’s false testimony. In this episode of ​Wrongful Conviction​, Gloria tells Jason her story alongside Innocence Project Senior Staff Attorney Nina Morrison. Gloria Killian was released in August of 2002 and currently advocates for women in prison.You can support Gloria Killian’s efforts by visiting the Action Committee for Women in Prison at acwip.net.Also, check us and Jason out on instagram @wrongfulconviction and @itsjasonflom for pics and video from this and every episode of Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom.
On October 22, 1991, when 17 year old Chedell Williams and a friend went to Fern Rock subway station in North Philadelphia, 2 men approached them and demanded Chedell’s earrings. She refused and ran. One of the men chased her to nearby 10th Street and Nedro Avenue, where he snatched the earrings and shot her in the throat. Her friend was left unharmed. The 2 men joined a 3rd man who was waiting in a 1978 Chevy Malibu. Chedell died at a hospital less than an hour later. The pressure was on the police and prosecutors to solve the crime, when some local “stick-up boys” named 21 year old, burgeoning R&B vocalist Jimmy Dennis as a potential culprit. Hearing of this, Mr. Dennis went to the police to confront the rumors, maintaining that he was on a bus miles away at the time of the murder with eye witnesses to corroborate his claim.Neither the gun nor earrings were ever recovered. No forensic evidence tying Dennis to the crime was ever developed, and evidence and eyewitness accounts that proved his innocence were suppressed. In this emotional interview, we hear the story of a promising musical career curtailed and a 25 year long battle with a wrongful conviction from death row. 
On March 18, 2001, Jamie Penich—an American exchange student in South Korea—was brutally murdered in her motel room after a night of partying with friends from the program. Her bloodied nude body was found on the floor. She was stomped to death. Her face was covered with a black fleece jacket.Kenzi Snider, a 19 year-old student from Marshall University, in West Virginia, was one of the friends Jamie was with. About a half dozen exchange students had traveled from campus into the city, where they celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in a bar filled with locals and US soldiers. Korean police and army investigators were unable to solve this horrific crime.One year later, in February 2002, FBI agents contacted Kenzi out of the blue. She was back in school in West Virginia. They wanted to talk—alone. She met with three agents on three consecutive days for several hours. The sessions were grueling. When it was done, Kenzi had confessed. She murdered her friend, she said, in the context of a drunken sexual encounter.Kenzi was promptly arrested, incarcerated in a local jail for ten months, and extradited to Korea to stand trial. There, she then spent another six months in jail. Then a panel of judges found her not guilty. The prosecutor appealed the verdict but months later an appeals court confirmed: Not guilty. In 2006, five years after the crime, in response to yet another appeal, the Supreme Court of Korea once again affirmed: NOT GUILTY.This was eighteen years ago. Today we know a whole lot more than we did then about false confessions. Kenzi Snider has been fully acquitted in court. Yet her confession haunts her—and leads some people still to question her actual innocence.Jason Flom is joined by Kenzi Snider, renowned psychologist Saul Kassin best known for his groundbreaking work on false confessions, and his student Patty Sanchez. Sanchez is currently studying the effect of podcasts and media influence on the outcome of legal cases. 
Harold“House”Moore was on top the world–he was one of the stars on the Fox award-winning series“Atlanta”and had just played Dr. Dre in the 2Pac bio-pic“AllEyes on Me.’ Moore’s career was blossoming, but all of that changed when he was railroaded, maliciously and falsely accused and convicted of child molestation. He was sentenced to 6 to 12 years but was released after 2 years and granted a motion for a new trial, after a failed judicial process and intentionally suppressed evidence that would have proved his innocence threatened to surface. He is paving his way now as a fighter for judicial equality and criminal justice reform.In his first interview since his release, Moore is sharing his story with the hope that his journey will help inspire others to fight on behalf of the wrongfully convicted. Connect with Harold“House”Moore:InstagramFacebookConnect with Jason Flom:InstagramTwitterFollow Wrongful Conviction:InstagramTwitter
Matthew Charles’ life has seen some extraordinary turns recently. After spending 21 years in prison on a 35-year sentence, he was released in 2016. He walked out of prison with nothing, but soon created a full life for himself. It turned out, though, that his release was a mistake, and in May of 2018, he was sent back to serve out the rest of his sentence—more than a decade left to go. But on January 3 of this year, Matthew became one of the very first people to benefit from the First Step Act and was released again. On a visit to Washington, D.C., he got a chance to thank many of the lawmakers and people in the White House administration who supported the bill’s passage, including senators, Vice President Pence, Ivanka Trump, and Jared Kushner. And through it all, Matthew has stayed remarkably grounded.Childhood was rough for Matthew Charles and his brothers and sisters. His family lived in cramped public housing in North Carolina, and his father was violent with Matthew and his brothers. Matthew got out of the chaos as soon as he could, joining the Army at age 18.When he was discharged, though, it seemed he hadn’t really left any of that dysfunction and hopelessness behind him, and he started dealing drugs. What followed was nearly a decade during which he was, in his own words, a “dangerous criminal.” He spent about five years in prison.At age 30, he was arrested for selling 216 grams of crack cocaine to an informant and illegally possessing a gun. He was given a 35-year sentence. At his sentencing in 1996, the judge described him as “a danger to society who should simply be off the streets.”There would be few people who would disagree. But then something happened.In prison Matthew could easily have crawled deeper into his shell of anger. But he didn’t. In fact, for the next two decades, Matthew didn’t receive a single disciplinary infraction. His prison life was directed at what the judge who resentenced him all those years later called “exemplary rehabilitation.” He immersed himself in Bible studies. He became a regular at the law library — but not just to work on his own case. He helped illiterate prisoners understand the letters they received from the courts, and he drafted filings for them. He took college courses and became a law clerk. And most important, Matthew became “genuinely repentant of his life before encountering the Grace of Christ, not offering empty excuses about his past, but taking ownership,” as a pastor would later describe him.In 2013, Matthew applied for a sentence modification because the Sentencing Commission had retroactively lowered guideline ranges for drug offenses. At his resentencing hearing, Judge Kevin Sharp commended his rehabilitation and reduced Matthew’s sentence.Matthew left prison in 2016. He didn’t have much to call his own at that point, but the positive outlook that he’d honed over decades behind bars helped him gain traction. He moved to Nashville, got a job as a driver, reconnected with his family, volunteered weekly at a food pantry called the Little Pantry That Could, and became deeply involved in his church. His boss praised his work as “meticulous,” and at the food pantry, the director said that Matthew was “one of the most amiable and friendly participants we have ever had.”But after a year and half of freedom, the court reversed the reduction in sentence, citing an error in his release. Remarkably, Matthew was sent back to prison. He was determined to keep bitterness at bay, but going back to prison was incredibly difficult for Matthew—and many people felt the same way. A local reporter told his sad story, and celebrities and advocacy groups threw their support to his cause, hoping he might receive executive clemency.In the end, though, it was the First Step Act that saved Matthew from decades more behind bars. Signed into law by President Trump December 21, 2018, the bill includes a provision to apply the Fair Sentencing Act retroactively, which the government agreed would allow for Matthew’s immediate release.On January 3, 2019, he left prison. A man of few words, he noneth ction. Would you like to join them and help FAMM work for reform that will impact people still serving absurdly long sentences? Click here to become a FAMM Advocate today and support the amazing work they do every day. *This episode was produced and edited by Conor Hall
Darnell Phillips served 28 years for a crime he did not commit. In this compelling interview, Phillips shares the devastating story of his conviction and his hopes for his future as a free man. They are also joined by Lisa Spees, Director of Virginians for Judicial Reform.From University of Virginia, School of Law: September 26, 2018Eric WilliamsonIn a light rain, Darnell Phillips raised his hands to the heavens on Tuesday. The man who was sentenced to 100 years in prison for the 1990 rape of a child in Virginia Beach was paroled earlier in the day, about three years after new evidence was uncovered in the case by the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law.He was free.Clinic Directors Jennifer Givens and Deirdre Enright ’92, and students met with their client at around noon at a Virginia Beach probation and parole office, following his morning release from the Greensville Correctional Center. They joined Phillips’ mother, sisters and fiancé to welcome him home. Some wore rain jackets, but Phillips didn’t mind feeling the weather. He was all smiles as he gave and received hugs.The jubilant mood, however, was colored by the fact that Phillips was at the office to register as a sex offender. He has not been officially cleared of the crime.Phillips’ brow was furrowed as he spoke to press about his ordeal.  Prior to the decision by the Virginia Parole Board to release him, made six months ago, the clinic uncovered DNA evidence and received a sworn affidavit from the victim, both of which support Phillips’ long-standing claim of innocence.In 2015, the clinic found the physical evidence that set them down the path to DNA testing. They discovered that a rape kit and garments from the original investigation had been in storage at a Virginia Beach courthouse evidence room but had never been tested. After two labs failed to come up with anything conclusive from the time-denigrated samples, a third lab in California found evidence during the summer of 2017 that at least two men had touched the garments, and neither man was Phillips.In her affidavit, the victim said police told her that Phillips had assaulted other children, that his alibi did not check out and that her blood was found on his underwear at his home.“None of these statements was true,” said Enright, the clinic’s director of investigation.Givens, the clinic’s legal director, said Phillips was a model prisoner.“He had been in prison 28 years, and he didn’t have an infraction,” she said. “He’s been an exceptional inmate.”Phillips completed the required re-entry classes prior to his release.“He will be in supervised parole unless he receives a pardon or relief in the court,” Givens added.The clinic filed a petition for writ of actual innocence with the Virginia Supreme Court in 2017.Dennis Barrett ’09, an attorney with Schaner & Lubitz who was a member of the original Innocence Project Clinic and the first student to work on Phillips’ case, was among the additional well-wishers, which included current members. Students in the yearlong clinic investigate and litigate wrongful convictions of inmates throughout Virginia.“Dennis has monitored the progress in Darnell’s case ever since he graduated, and drove from Washington, D.C., to be present for his release,” Enright said.*This episode was edited by Conor Hall. 
In this compelling interview, Vincent Atchity and Kelly Grimes join Jason Flom for a candid discussion about the criminal justice system and how it fails to support Americans with mental health challenges. Vincent Atchity has served as Executive Director of The Equitas Project since 2015. Vincent is an advocate for public health and health equity, a population health management strategist, and a builder of communications bridges connecting communities and community partners with better health outcomes and more efficiently managed costs.Kelly Grimes is a graduate of the Manhattan Mental Health Court, where CASES provides case management services, including treatment, planning and reporting on clients’ progress to the court. Kelly is now a certified peer specialist with CASES, as the peer specialist for the Manhattan Mental Health Court team. She has moved from being a client of the court to serving clients of the court. The Equitas Project, an initiative of the David and Laura Merage Foundation, envisions an America rededicated to liberty and justice for all, where there is a commonly held expectation that jails and prisons should not continue to serve as the nation’s warehouses for people with unmet mental health needs. Equitas is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization which promotes mental health awareness, and champions laws, policies, and practices that prioritize improved population health outcomes, sensible use of resources, and the decriminalization of mental illness. We are committed to disentangling mental health and criminal justice. To learn more about our work and mission, please visit www.equitasproject.org, and follow us on Twitter @EquitasProject and Instagram.*This episode was edited by Conor Hall. 
Update: Since this episode was recorded Fred Clay was awarded a $1 million settlement from the state, the highest amount allowed under Massachusetts state law.The settlement with the Massachusetts Attorney General was finalized Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court, the same courthouse where Clay’s conviction was vacated in 2017 and his freedom granted at age 53.In 1981, at only 16-years-old, Frederick Claywas arrested, charged as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder. In August 2017, a Suffolk Superior Court judge exonerated Clay based on new evidence that revealed he had been misidentified. The New England Center for Investigative Reporting(NECIR)and WGBH co-published a four-part seriesfor radio by Chris Burrell about Clay, who spent 38 years in prison for a crime he did not commitThe four-part series largely focuses on Clay’s life post-exoneration, which has been met with many challenges. Without any support from the state, Clay has struggled with emotional trauma and finding a good-paying job and affordable housing. As Burrell writes, Clay’s newly-won freedom has become“astruggle for basic survival.”Read/listen to parts 1 and 2 of the series hereand parts 3 and 4 of the series here.Research in these cases from The Brennan Center for Justice and New York University Law School and the Innocence Project.
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Comments (25)

erika renee

Every Monday I check for a new episode, every Monday I am let down! I love this podcast please come back soon!!!!

Jul 19th
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erika renee

Archie Smith it's torture!🤣

Aug 10th
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Archie Smith

erika renee Oh, I totally understand your feeling!!!

Jul 19th
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Cynthia J Berry

is 36:15 the entire episode of S1E6? It seems to stop right in the middle of the story.

May 27th
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Maribel Mercado

wow, im glad he got his life together.

Apr 18th
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A bree

this is a powerful series.. keep up the great work..

Feb 27th
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MikeMalonXD

Man, I was sitting here saying to myself, "Why do I know the dialogue in this story so well?" Oh yeah, that's because this is from way back in season 1. hahaha

Feb 27th
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Ryan Wagoner

I like how the producer or final edit team tries to edit in "So you know I'm getting the chills now thinking about this" in so many episodes. Are you messing with Jason or us, the listener? Funny either way. The falsely accused deserve to get paid back their unearned salaries, plus interest, plus attorney's fees, and then a ruined life bonus. As much of that as possible should come from the sorry DA's salaries or gathered wealth as well! If I'm wrong, explain, please.

Feb 19th
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kristen quigg

Aw

Feb 15th
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Kim Tann

I absolutely love this podcast. I’m addicted. I listen to others and this by far is the best! Great job Jason.

Jan 16th
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Beauregard Throckmorton

Thank you for the very important work you do.

Jan 16th
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Renee Llewellyn

dose anyone rember who Nelson really was his wife Winney was a big fan of necklaceing her opponents and nelson mandela belonged to the anc which is nothing more then a group of terrorist who rape pillage and murder there farmer's so i dont know if this is the man to be praised

Nov 22nd
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Daniel Brinkley

remarkable

Aug 29th
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Daniel Brinkley

I used to listen to Meek Mill back when he first came out and wonder why he never put out constant material now I know why. I really enjoy yall's podcast. I've listened to at least half of them in the past two three weeks. great work, I wish I wasn't lower class and could help contribute

Aug 13th
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Daniel Brinkley

Daniel Brinkley I also have been wrongfully convicted a few times and actually have a warrant for some s*** that I didn't do now, but it's in the next County over and I duck it till I die. had $100,000 bond on a typical $5,000 Bond charge and I had to wear a damn ankle monitor for 3 months. still paying on that 10 grand four and a half years later

Aug 13th
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Kym Carter

unbelievable

Jul 7th
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WatchDawg

antione day has made me stop listening for a while

May 1st
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WatchDawg

Jason Flom has a great personality for this.

Apr 29th
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Travis Narlock

flat out one of the most entertaining podcasts to listen to

Apr 14th
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Demonseed

Very cool podcast. Interesting and educational. Glad to see these people get their freedom and receive a platform in which to communicate with 1000's of others.

Mar 21st
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Demonseed

Demonseed Thanks Melissa. Just showing my support. Any good podcast suggestions?

Mar 31st
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StKinzi

Fantastic podcast! I've learned and been inspired, thank you

Feb 28th
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Agnieszka Siem

Awesome podcast. Very inspirational people to have gone throught what they went throught and come out so full of hope..

Feb 14th
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Colman Sheehan

brilliant just brilliant and moving story

Nov 29th
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