I don't know anything about Desmond Coughlan or Roger Coleman, but I have been living in Virginia for the past 32 years, and I can testify from direct personal experience that the criminal justice system in Virginia is badly broken, and that it's very easy for innocent people to be convicted of serious crimes. I am convinced that somewhere between 1/10 and 1/3 of all people executed in Virginia in the past 20 years were innocent.
Keith F. Lynch - firstname.lastname@example.org - http://keithlynch.net/
I am glad to see that somebody else recognizes that there is a serious problem with the court system in Virginia.
Virginia rulings are so biased in favor of the prosecution that, if the prosecutor is determined to win a conviction, then anybody can be convicted of anything.
When I say anything, that means that YOU can be convicted of murder in Virginia even if you can prove conclusively that you have never even been to that Commonwealth.
For example, under the "grand jury" system in Virginia, a local police officer just appears and reads off the charges in all the cases brought before the grand jury on that day. The police officer will probably have no personal knowledge of any of the cases. He is just reading from a list. The accused has no right to appear and testify before the grand jury.
In my own case, because I was out and interested, I went to the grand jury area. The police officer, who I had never seen or met before (I think his name was Burnett), had about 70 cases to present that day and it took him about two hours to read through them. The grand jury confirmed "a true bill" in all of the cases.
In my own case, I am fairly certain that the grand jury was not told that the child who I had allegedly attempted to kidnap was my own daughter. I am certain that the grand jury was never told that the same child had in fact been kidnapped by Charles and Shelby Roberts, with the connivance of the prosecutor, Bill Petty, and the judge, Michael Gamble.
Every other state but Virginia allows the defendant to present his defenses to the grand jury and requires the grand jury to hear live testimony from witnesses.
In Virginia, there is really no pre-trial motion practice. The defendant is not allowed to know what he is accused of doing or what the evidence is against him until the day of the trial.
In my own case, the crux of the prosecution's case was that I have an alter-ego: Richard Bozulich. According to the Lynchburg Commonwealth Attorney, Richard Bozulich is not a real person but is simply another name for Sam Sloan. The prosecution introduced as evidence letters written by Richard Bozulich, an airplane ticket purchased by Richard Bozulich and a variety of other documents in the name of Richard Bozulich and claimed that the person who wrote or was referred to in all of those documents was really Sam Sloan.
Many people who know Richard Bozulich know that he is not a figment of the imagination, but is a real person. Had we known what the prosecution's theory of the case was going to be, we could have asked Richard Bozulich to fly over from Japan and prove that he is a real person. However, because the trial was short, it was impossible to do that.
Judge Gamble, who had brought the case against me, had ordered me arrested in San Francisco and held without bond. Judge Gamble made himself the complaining witness, the magistrate, the police and the prosecutor all at once, plus he was also the opposing attorney because Judge Gamble had sued me over this before he was appointed as a judge. No other state but Virginia would allow this and a judge who engaged in such flagrant violations of the canons of ethics would be disbarred from the practice of law and would probably be criminally convicted.
Because Judge Gamble ordered me held without bond, I could not get out of jail to obtain the documents proving that the child was my daughter and that I had legal custody of her in New York State.
Judge Gamble and Judge Janow also removed three different attorneys from defending me: James Hingeley, Steve Martin and James H. Massie. Instead, Judge Gamble appointed the weakest attorney in the Lynchburg area, David B. Bice, an attorney that no paying client would ever hire, to represent me. Bice himself asked to be removed as my attorney, but this was denied.
In Virginia, a defendant is not allowed to represent himself. The defendant has no say in his own defense. Every other state but Virginia allows the defendant to participate in his own defense and to fire his own attorney if he is not doing a good job. I was not allowed to fire David B. Bice, even though he was refusing to defend me and failed to make objections that even a ten-year-old child would think of and make.
To give just one example, David B. Bice was not allowed to and did not try to interview my own daughter, Shamema, who was the only real witness to the alleged offense. I told David Bice to subpoena my daughter and compel that she be produced to testify. Bice refused. My daughter was not available and was not called as a witness. Instead, the jury heard hearsay statements from Richard Groff and Shelby Roberts which my daughter supposedly made. The prosecution claimed that these hearsay statements were admissible under the "excited utterance exception". However, such statements are admissible under the "excited utterance exception" only if the person is either dead or for some reason cannot testify. My daughter was 11 years old at the time of the trial and was not dead. No state other than Virginia would allow such hearsay testimony.
The main reason I was convicted was that the jury was allowed to read in the jury room a 17 page decision by Judge Janow and a six page decision by Judge Gamble. The Gamble decision said that I had kidnapped my daughter. Allowing the jury to read this insured my conviction. Judgments in civil litigation are not admissible in a criminal trial because in a civil case the standard of proof is the preponderance of the evidence, whereas in a criminal trial the standard of proof is beyond reasonable doubt.
In short, none of the evidence used against me would be admissible in any state other than in Virginia. However, my case was even worse than that because Judge Gamble, Judge Janow and the prosecutor Bill Petty were all guilty of kidnapping my daughter. They wanted me convicted of the crime which they had actually committed. I demanded that all three of them disqualify themselves, but they refused.
At least the many innocent men who have died in the Virginia electric chair do not claim that the judge who convicted them was the person who actually shot and killed the crime victim.
Here are links: