5 Horrifying Ways People Were Wrongfully Accused Of Crimes
The whole ideal behind the criminal justice system is that it's better to let a guilty person go free than to put an innocent person in jail. That's why juries have to be unanimous, and are told to never declare guilt unless they're sure "beyond reasonable doubt." And yet innocent people get put away all the time. As you read these objectively horrific stories, notice not just the way these people got railroaded, but the extraordinary machinations it took to get them out ... if they got out at all.
Police Got Six Different Innocent People To Confess To A Sexual Assault
In 1989, officers arrested Ada Taylor, saying she and her friend Joseph White had raped and murdered a 68-year-old widow. Taylor was a tad confused by this, because, well, she hadn't. But police told her that memory can be tricky, and if she reaaaaaally thought about it, she'd remember the truth. In time, Taylor, who suffered from mental illness, said she did recall White committing the rape in a white house, and then she smothered the victim as a mercy kill. Police accepted this, even though the victim died in an apartment (the white house from her memory was the site of Taylor's own childhood assault).
But this presented a problem for the police, since neither of these people fit the profile they'd established when the victim, Helen Wilson, had been found four years earlier. At the time, they'd decided that 1) The perp was surely gay, because Wilson had been sodomized (the investigators combed through the town's gay community like a cartoon's idea of what cops are supposed to do), and 2) the perp had type B blood. Neither White nor Taylor were type B. So they showed Taylor some photos and got her to point out a potential third collaborator: bisexual Tom Winslow, who saw the same psychiatrist as Taylor.
Police psychologists pulled the same trick on Tom, insisting that he had been involved but had probably repressed the memory. Eventually he too confessed, but he wasn't type B either. Undeterred, police looked into other friends of Taylor and White, found one with an intellectual disability, and got her to "recover" her "repressed memory" of her crime ... BUT SHE ALSO DIDN'T HAVE FUCKING TYPE B BLOOD. Determined to keep adding perps until they satisfied all of the criteria, they pushed her to recall a fifth collaborator if she slept on it. She slept and dreamed her husband's friend James had been with them. Arrest his ass!
Unsurprisingly, if you've been following along, police also got this fifth suspect to confess, and when he ALSO had the wrong fucking blood, they got him to sleep on it. And in dreams, he pictured another collaborator, Kathy Gonzalez. Police arrested her next, and with number six, they'd finally found blood that was type B. Five of these suspects pleaded guilty. Only White went to trial, and he didn't stand much of a chance, what with five of his alleged collaborators testifying that he'd done it. And yet every one of the "Beatrice Six" was completely innocent, each the victim of the utterly bullshit science of recovered memories.
In 2008, actual science (DNA testing) determined that a single person had committed the crime, and he wasn't any of the six. It was a neighbor of the victim who'd himself died 16 years ago. All six were released, and the courts awarded them a settlement so big that it was three times the county's annual budget. And honestly, that still seems a little cheap.
A Woman Had To Have A Sick Baby To Prove She Didn't Poison Her First One
When her baby Ryan showed weird symptoms, like throwing up a lot and occasionally failing to breathe, Patricia Stallings rushed him to the Children's Hospital in St. Louis. The doctors ran the child's blood through their machines and discovered traces of antifreeze. Best-case scenario, this meant the Stallings residence was a place where babies accidentally drink antifreeze and was fairly unsafe. Worst-case, Patricia had attempted to murder her own child.
Ryan was put in foster care, but Patricia was allowed to visit. And after one such visit, the symptoms returned. Police searched her home and discovered bottles of antifreeze piled in the basement, and this was enough to arrest Patricia. Then Ryan died, and Patricia was convicted of murder and given life without parole.
But Patricia was innocent. And when she was arrested, she was pregnant. So that meant she was losing a second child as well -- she, of course, couldn't have custody over the boy, so he too was put in foster care after birth. At least until this second baby, David, also started showing symptoms.
He had those same antifreeze traces, despite having no contact with Patricia and no chance to partake in some kind of depraved antifreeze buffet. Doctors kept running new tests on him until they found the cause: David had a rare genetic disorder called methylmalonic acidemia. His body produced a bunch of stuff that made it look like antifreeze was floating in his blood. And there was a strong chance Ryan had had the exact same disease.
The doctors had a good chuckle over the hilarious misunderstanding, and Patricia was released from prison. Then she promptly sued the fucking hospital and lab for several million dollars.
A Falsely Accused Priest Was Only Saved From Prison By The Actual Criminal Coming Forward
Let's start by admitting one thing: We don't know whether Father Bernard T. Pagano really had a secret lover. But when a polite middle-aged man dubbed "the Gentleman Bandit" robbed nine stores in Delaware and Pennsylvania in 1979, a woman who claimed to be Father Pagano's secret lover told police he looked exactly like the sketch they released. So they paid the priest a visit. He saw no reason not to cooperate, and he even submitted to three polygraph tests ... and he failed all three.
Was he lying, or does the polygraph historically suck at determining anything? You can guess which option the police went with. They put him in a lineup, whereupon eight different witnesses to robberies picked him out as the culprit. Pagano didn't think the lineups were very fair -- everyone else there was under 40, so of course he was the one who most resembled a middle-aged man. Whoa, it almost seems like the police have tons of ways to pin a crime on somebody.
Things weren't looking too good for Pagano as the trial began. But then, without warning and to the prosecution's complete surprise, a man who looked a lot like Pagano marched into the courtroom. His name was Ronald Clouser, and he said that he was the real Gentleman Bandit! He couldn't let a priest be convicted for his crimes, so he'd come to turn himself in! Clouser pleaded guilty to all the robberies, and Pagano was set free. There should be, like, nine Brian De Palma films about this by now.
But really, it needn't have come to the real culprit showing up in court in person. Because you see, Clouser had gone on committing robberies after Pagano had been arrested, and he'd even phoned the police anonymously to let them know the real bandit was still at large. But it made no difference. In fact, when Pagano died decades later, after years of advocating for the wrongly accused, there were cops from the case who still swore that maybe Clouser and Pagano were both bandits. Yeah, that sounds legit.
A Woman's Rapist Framed Her For Three Separate Robberies
Seemona Sumasar didn't understand what police meant when they handcuffed her and said, "You know you did it. Just admit it." But once she was charged and in jail, she correctly guessed who was behind it all: fucking Jerry. Jerry Ramrattan had been her boyfriend for a couple years (if you count the year when she kept telling him to move out but he refused). He sexually assaulted her in March 2009, and she was pressing charges. So out on bail, Jerry plotted to get rid of her.
In September 2009, an immigrant from Trinidad was found handcuffed to a pole and said that an Indian woman disguised as a police officer had robbed him. Six months later, a second victim was found in the same position, and he described the same attacker, and also gave a partial license plate number. Three months after that, a third victim caught the full license plate. It was Seemona's, and it seemed THE MAD HANDCUFFER (their cool nickname for her, not one I just made up two seconds ago) was caught.
Seemona told police Jerry had set her up. This seemed completely ridiculous to them -- there was NO WAY someone had faked three separate robberies in a year, and also roped in three different unrelated victims to join in the charade. And yet that's exactly what had happened. Jerry had experience as a private investigator and was a big fan of Law & Order, so he figured out a plan that could totally fool the authorities. He nearly succeeded, too. Seemona spent seven months in prison, unable to afford her $1 million bail. She lost the restaurant she managed. Her house was foreclosed on.
Then someone tipped the police off about a secret cellphone Jerry had. Call records revealed that he'd spoken to each of the "witnesses" multiple times. And when they were confronted with this information, the witnesses admitted they'd lied, as Jerry had promised them $30,000. Jerry ended up being found guilty and was sentenced to seven years for the plot and 25 years for the rape charge, which he was unable to dodge in the end. And now THAT idiot is THE MAD HANDCUFFER. Got 'em.
The Feds Wrongfully Convicted Four People, Knowing The Real Killer Worked For Them
Borrowing money from the mob rarely ends well. If you're lucky, you'll manage to repay the loan but will get charged massive interest. If you're less lucky, you might end up with a couple broken legs. Back in the early 1960s, Joe Salvati borrowed $400 from mobster Joseph "The Animal" Barboza and delayed repaying, despite probably knowing Barboza's nickname. Barboza retaliated by testifying in court that he saw Salvati help commit murder.
Barboza said he saw six people collaborate to kill Teddy Deegan, a minor thug. Two of them really were involved, while four were completely innocent, with one of them having an alibi that put him in another state. The jury believed Barboza anyway because he was an established police informant who'd already ratted on multiple Mafia bosses. Salvati was found guilty and sentenced to life. The three others were sentenced to death (Barboza had called Salvati the getaway driver), but escaped execution because Massachusetts got rid of the death penalty a few years later. Two of them died in prison anyway.
The feds absolutely loved Barboza. He'd confessed to seven murders and privately bragged of committing several more, but they valued the info he gave them too much to prosecute, and probably just liked his cool stories as well. He was the first participant in the FBI's witness protection program, and under his new identity, he went on to commit another murder, but the FBI covered it up. Now, if you're wondering whether Barboza was the actual person who killed Deegan, that's a pretty good guess. I'd guess that, honestly.
Actually, he was involved with the killing, but the man who pulled the trigger was another FBI informant, Vincent "Jimmy the Bear" Flemmi. That's according to memos the FBI wrote at the time. That's right, even while Salvati and the three others were on trial, the FBI knew they were innocent, but they let the prosecution go on. In fact, they'd known the murder was going to happen in advance thanks to a wiretap. Barboza's FBI handler bragged about how they successfully set these four up and let their own informants go free. We know all this thanks to an FBI corruption probe ... which happened decades after Salvati went to jail.
Salvati was finally released in 2001, after over 30 years in prison. The two surviving innocent convicted men and the families of the two dead ones were given a settlement of $101.7 million, plus interest. Flemmi and Barboza were never held accountable, long dead by this time. Flemmi died of a drug overdose while in prison for an unrelated murder. Barboza was gunned down by the Mafia in 1976, the witness protection program failing to live up to its name. According to his own lawyer, his death was no great loss.
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