Merrida Coxwell teams up with the Miss. Innocence Project


The saga continues for Tammy Vance and Leigh Stubbs. They were wrongfully convicted over a decade ago based on specious forensic evidence that has now been held to be “hogwash,” to put it nicely. This part of the our success is due in large part to the report by the National Academy of Sciences which put the “Kapoow” on fraudulent, criminal forensic sciences. The other recipe to our success has been long hours, dedicated work, and genuine interest in the welfare of our clients. It is always my great pleasure to work with any of the Innocence Project groops. Several years ago I worked with the LA Innocence Project and we were successful in freeing a wrongfully convicted man who had been in prison for 18 years.

Today the Clarion Ledger had an on-line article about the Vance-Stubbs case and one of the experts who testified in the case against both women. The now infamous Dr. West, self-proclaimed bite mark expert extrodianaire, who by his own words has an error rate only slightly less than Jesus Christ, has finally run out of steam. My readers may remember that two (2) other men have already been freed from prison that was there in part due to Dr. West. One was in for life and the other was facing the death penalty. These two (2) men were actually innocent, which by the way is as innocent as it gets.

I expect to see more challenges to convictions brought about by Dr. West. I also expect to see challenges to other convictions by experts who have for years been considered the favorites of prosecutors. These issues are going to get much more contentious and litigated before it goes away. I predict 5-10 more years of litigation on these cases alone. I am in full accord with this litigation. No innocent person should be in jail-PERIOD. We have been in a phase in this county were we have rushed to convict and accepted second rate evidence. Yes, there are mistakes in the legal system. Occasionally a person is acquitted that the public things is guilty. When this happens as freedom-loving Americans we have to be vigilant not to allow a backlash toward our great system of criminal justice. I like to keep in mind the great phrase called Blackstone’s ratio: “It is far better than ten guilty people escape, than one innocent person suffer.” Something I would like to know from my readers is this: Do you truthfully, in your heart, believe in this principle? Let me hear from you.

Another legal issue that has been in the news, at least the news nationwide has been all the violations of discovery by prosecutors. If you don’t know what “discovery” means let me give you a quick explanation. When a person is charged with a crime certain Due Process rules are automatically invoked. There may also be Court Rules or Rules passed by State Legislatures that apply. These rules are called discovery by attorneys. The U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U. S. Supreme Court requires prosecutors to give to defense attorneys any exculpatory evidence relevant to guilt or sentencing. Exculpatory basically means favorable evidence. . Rule 9.04 of the Uniform Rules of Circuit & County Court Practice expands the list of evidence that must be given to the accused or his counsel. The idea is that no one should be surprised at trial by evidence and all relevant evidence should be provided to the accused.

This all sound nice but discovery is failing far too often all across the United States. Sometimes honest mistakes are made and evidence is not turned over to the accused. Other times prosecutors deliberately hide or refuse to turn over evidence that is favorable to the accused. In many other cases prosecutors are not turning over evidence because they “don’t believe it is exculpatory or favorable.” This is a major fault in the system, in that it allows the prosecutor to determine what they deem favorable, and they do so with rose-colored glasses. In federal court this is called “willful blindness.” That means you fail to see what is so obvious no one is would miss it.

I am handling a murder appeal right now where the prosecutor did not turn over evidence that potentially helped the accused. In open court the prosecutor stated he did not think the evidence was useful. Quite frankly, when I look at the evidence I don’t understand how anyone could not consider the evidence favorable to the accused. If you have any doubt about the problem in this area, just try a Google search of criminal discovery violations and see what pops up. I read about a discovery violation at least 1-4 times per week. Nationwide that is far too many. I believe that in order for people to respect the legal system, the legal system has to respect all of the legal rights afforded to them.

Merrida Coxwell is the managing partner for Coxwell & Associates, PLLC. Coxwell & Associates is a law firm that handles all types of criminal cases and appeals, and serious personal injury cases. The individual members are experienced attorneys who are 100% dedicated to the cases and causes of their clients. If you have any question of their dedication, just visit the clients’ recommendations/comments on our website.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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