Innocent Despite Pleading Guilty?

By

Bonnie M. Wells

www.starlightinnerprizes.com

The following article came to me from one of the crime groups that I am a member of. All things considered, I thought it was well worth repeating.

PS: "Highlighting emphasis" mine:

DA Seeks To Keep Man In Prison

For Rape That Woman Now Denies:

By Holly Becka -

The Dallas Morning News:

Jan. 23, 2003

Ronnie Tuley could have been home for Christmas, but there he sat in a South Texas prison. A Dallas judge says Mr. Tuley was wrongly convicted of raping his former girlfriend's daughter in 1996, and the state's highest criminal appeals court agreed in a Dec. 18 ruling.

But Mr. Tuley remains behind bars as Dallas County prosecutors plan to ask the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to reconsider its opinion.

"I truly am innocent," Mr. Tuley said in a recent jail house interview. "I just want to go home. This has gone on long enough. I want to be with my family."

Mr. Tuley, 33, is caught in a legal quagmire. When he pleaded guilty, he waived many of his rights to appeal. But now he's claiming he's innocent. His has become a test case in Texas: Do people who have pleaded guilty have the right to appeal on the basis of innocence?

The appeals court ruled in Mr. Tuley's favor, saying his guilty plea did not hinder his claim of innocence. It also overturned his conviction, citing as new evidence statements from the young woman. Now 19, the woman says a crime never occurred and that she made up the story when she was 12 years old.

But prosecutors say Mr. Tuley should pursue clemency rather than an appeal. They say they worry that if the appeals court ruling stands, it would set a precedent that would clog the courts with frivolous appeals by defendants who have pleaded guilty. They also fear that such a ruling could lead some defendants to pressure rape victims to recant.

"If you plead guilty, the courts and the state should be able to rely on that ... and not have people commit perjury and come back later and say, 'Oh, well, I committed perjury. Let me go anyway,' " said prosecutor Laura Anne Coats.

Assistant public defender Michael Levine and Dallas lawyer James Lee Bright, who represent Mr. Tuley, say the state's argument ignores the fact that many innocent people plead guilty to crimes they didn't commit because they think they have no better alternative.

Prosecutors' "refusal to acknowledge the myriad reasons that people plead guilty, besides actual guilt, ignores the very reality of the system," Mr. Levine said. "A 'guilty plea of convenience' in certain cases, despite innocence, is not perjury. It is survival."

In 1996, Mr. Tuley had been living with a woman and her two daughters in Dallas for about 18 months before the couple's relationship disintegrated. Mr. Tuley said he and his girlfriend frequently had loud, drug-infused arguments that ended in shoving matches.

The 12-year-old who once told Dallas police that Mr. Tuley raped her now says the crime never occurred. Two of her friends also have given statements saying that the girl told them at that time that a rape never occurred. They say she worried at trial about whether she'd be able to convince jurors of her tale and was elated with her performance.

The young woman, who could not be found for comment, said in court documents that her hatred for Mr. Tuley drove her to invent the tale to get him out of her home and away from her mother. She cited Mr. Tuley's abuse of her mother, the couple's drug use and her own arguments with Mr. Tuley as reasons she lied.

"When I was about 12 or 13 years of age, I told a very dangerous lie which ended up going further than I had hoped," the young woman wrote in November 2000. "I made a lot of stupid decisions in my life, but at least I've gotten to this point, where there is still something that I can do to change it to be right. And apologize. I'M SORRY."

Mr. Tuley's lawyers say the young woman decided to tell the truth after a friend wrote to her while she was in a drug rehab center and told her Mr. Tuley had gone to prison. She has since written several letters and affidavits saying she lied.

Mr. Tuley said that when his July 1997 trial ended in a hung jury, he pleaded guilty to receive 10 years' probation because he was desperate, not because he was guilty.

Mr. Tuley, who had a previous criminal charge misdemeanor possession of marijuana when he was 17 was now facing up to life in prison. He had spent 10 months in jail awaiting trial because he couldn't raise bail money, and he and his family couldn't afford another lawyer.

He didn't want a court-appointed attorney because the lawyer assigned to defend him refused to believe he was innocent, he said. When his hired lawyer advised him that the plea deal was his best option, he reluctantly took it.

"It was the hardest decision I ever made," Mr. Tuley said. "I wish I could have it to do over again."

Records show that his jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of acquittal.

Mr. Tuley's probation required him to attend sex-offender treatment for men convicted of molesting children. He said he angered counselors when he refused to admit that he had molested the girl.

"I didn't do it, so I said, 'I'm not going to make up a story for something I didn't do,' " he said.

The group-counseling sessions for sex offenders turned his stomach, he said.

"I'm not a pervert. I'm not sick," Mr. Tuley said. "Those people are sick. I walked out twice. I couldn't handle it."

He admits that he began using drugs again as a way to cope. When he failed urinalysis tests, his probation was revoked in October 1999, and he received a 10-year prison term, which he's been serving since. Patti Boren, Mr. Tuley's mother, said her heart goes out to the girl who made the accusations against her son. She said she always knew that her son was innocent. The trial was devastating, she said, but she's clung to hope that her son's innocence would some day be proven.

"I feel sorry for [the girl]," Mrs. Boren said. "She was young, she was scared, and now she's got other problems in her life. She did what she thought she should do. But how do you hold a grudge against a child? You just can't. The things she did were caused by the way she was brought up."

Mr. Levine and Mr. Bright, Mr. Tuley's attorneys, said that when reading the trial transcript, they were flabbergasted that prosecutors didn't question the red flags they say were raised by the testimony.

The girl, for example, testified for the first time that she had kept a diary of the events. Defense lawyers asked her to bring the diary to court the next day. The girl and her mother told court officials the next day that someone had burglarized their house and that the diary was the only item stolen, testimony showed.

In addition, a relative of the girl testified that she found a bloody shirt under the girl's bed. But the relative said police refused to take it as possible DNA evidence. The only evidence against Mr. Tuley at trial was the testimony of the girl and her family. His attorneys now say the bloody sweatshirt was a lie.

Stephani Hudgins, the prosecutor who tried the case, now works as a defense lawyer. She did not return a call seeking comment.

Ms. Coats, the prosecutor handling the appeal, said the revised facts of the case don't prove Mr. Tuley's innocence.

"The state's position is that there's no way of knowing 100 percent," she said. "Unlike in DNA, where you can pretty much prove 100 percent, in this case you have a victim who swore one thing and now is swearing something else and a defendant who swore one thing and now is swearing something else. And both of them are coming forward saying, 'I swore to tell the truth last time, but I lied, and this time I'm really telling the truth.' "

Mr. Bright wants the state to do what he called the right thing and release his client. "Justice could have been and still can be served here, but we're now dealing with policy arguments and legal wrangling when we have an actual innocent human being who's affected," Mr. Bright said.

State District Judge Karen Greene, who presided over the trial, said Mr. Tuley had "entirely refuted the state's meager evidence of guilt" and recommended that the appeals court overturn his conviction.

Mr. Tuley said that because of his lawyers' hard work and his family's unwavering support, he's maintaining optimism that he'll soon be freed.

"I knew I'd eventually go home, but I wanted to do it as an innocent man, not a sex offender," he said.

End of Article:

What Would You Do?

Stop and think about this ... What if there had been "DNA evidence" against this man ... say the girl swiped a pair of her mother's panties and used them as evidence that Tuley had forced her to have sex with him. What if the prosecution wasn't interested in "the truth" of the matter, but just wanted to rack up another court win and saw an almost fool proof way to do it.

What if it was you? What would you do when the prosecutor looked you in the eye and informed you that he/she was certain they could convince a jury of your guilt - and "if" they were right, well, guess what .... they were going to ask for the death penalty! What would you do?

Worse yet, what would you do if you knew for a fact the "victim" could never, ever testify .... much less change her testimony and help you?

What would you do when that same prosecuting attorney informed you that if you plead guilty to the crime he would see to it that you got life with the possibility of parole ..... but if you forced him to take it to court .... and he won, you were dead meat ..... what would you do?

Me? Well, if I were a guy ... and innocent ... I'd probably refuse to go along with scheme for awhile. I'd try to get me a good lawyer, but if I didn't have any money then my chances would be pretty slim .... but I'd hold out as long as possible, and hope and pray .... and then, I'd probably sign on the dotted line. But you know, when it came to giving details of the crime, I'll bet I couldn't give them correctly. I'll bet my timing would be off; perhaps the exact placement would be a little off. And I'll bet if any decent attorney came along and took a good look at my case they could see for themselves that I didn't know enough about the crime to have committed it.

But have no fear, I'm not a guy and I can smell a snake and entrapment a mile away, and I would fight until hell froze over in any court room in this nation. And then I'd sue the hell out of whoever framed me because I'll tell you something here and now. I may not be an attorney {although I think I would have made a good one!} but I have enough understanding of the law to know that prosecuting attorney's are not allowed to intimidate, blackmail and coerce people into pleading guilty to crimes they did not commit. That goes far beyond their call of duty, and they have a legal as well as moral obligation to all the people to have their facts straight before they walk into a court room.

Just the other day I heard a defense attorney say that a prosecuting attorney could not be sued or held responsible for false prosecution unless there was "malice," involved.

So, lets take a look at the dictionary and see exactly what the word malice actually means:

Malice

1. active ill will; desire to harm another or to do mischief, spite / 2.Law - evil intent; state of mind shown by intention to do, or intentional doing of something unlawful. / 3. A deliberate intention and plan to do something unlawful:

It's pretty damed "harmful" and "spiteful" ..... not to mention "unlawful" to threaten to take an innocent person's life! Your not allowed to threaten and intimidate people into doing what you want them to do. That's the way the Mafia operated .... and we were all told it wasn't right to take a person's life if he didn't "pay" .... is that not what's happening all across this nation today? .... you either "pay" with a prison term, or we'll "have you killed!" Only it's no longer the Mafia. It's a pack of lawyers that are being paid by the people to represent the people. Instead they are running contests to see which state or county can gain the most court room wins. Too many times they are putting innocent people behind bars while the guilty continue to walk among us, and continue to drum up business for them! I say it's time it came to a screeching halt!

2007 Note:

Remember the Duke Lacrosse Players and prosecuting attorney Mike Nifong? He's but one of many.

June 2007: Nifong has now been removed from office, disbarred and may very well eventually face criminal and/or civil charges for his crimes against the Duke Lacrosse players. And well he should. In my opinion he should only be the beginning, not the end. His stunt has worked all across our nation, time and time again. This is a national disgrace, and every American should be ashamed of allowing this type of crime to continue.

Bonnie M. Wells

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Posted 3-12-2003 / updated: 10-18-03 / 5-22-04 / 3-14-07 / 6-07 // B.M.W.