[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----MICH., OHIO, TENN., ARK., KY.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Sep 14 17:07:21 CDT 2007
McCollum interview with police questioned----Expert calls conviction
'shocking'; Dunnings says analysis is biased
A police interview that led to Claude McCollum's murder conviction was
flawed, and even shows he could be innocent, an expert told the State
McCollum, 30, is serving a life prison sentence for the 2005 slaying of
Lansing Community College professor Carolyn Kronenberg. In an interview
Friday at the St Louis Correctional Facility in Gratiot County, McCollum
said he was wrongfully convicted.
On Jan. 25, 2005, two days after Kronenberg was found barely alive in her
classroom, detectives interviewed McCollum, a drifter with no fixed
address who was taking classes at the school and sometimes slept in campus
McCollum's statements were a major component of the case prosecutors
presented at trial.
In the interview, the detectives never asked McCollum directly if he
killed Kronenberg. Instead, they led him through a series of questions
about how he might have committed the crime.
"McCollum's statements are not a reliable indication that he is guilty.
They speak as much, if not more, to his innocence than they do his guilt,"
said Steven Drizin, legal director for the Center on Wrongful Convictions
at Northwestern University's law school, which has been instrumental in
freeing 11 death row inmates in Illinois.
"It's shocking to me that this was enough to charge, and ultimately
convict somebody," said Drizin, who reviewed transcripts of the 2-hour
LCC Police Chief John Imeson referred all questions to the Ingham County
Prosecutor's Office. The college's police department was the lead
Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III - who announced this week
that he has reopened the case based on new information - said Wednesday
there were correlations between what McCollum said and the physical
He said Drizin's analysis was biased because of his affiliation with a
group that looks for wrongful convictions.
Dunnings added: "I don't see how he can give an opinion about the value of
the statement without matching that statement to other evidence presented
More wrong than right
Experts say the purpose of most police interrogations is to elicit
incriminating statements and admissions from a suspect. Police are trained
to help suspects explain a lack of memory by raising the possibility they
blacked out or were sleepwalking.
"I've seen a lot of wrongful confessions, where police, in order to keep
the suspect talking, ask hypothetical questions about how a crime might
have happened," said Drizin, who co-authored a 2004 study of 125 proven
During McCollum's interview with police, he responds to questions about
how he could have killed Kronenberg and describes details that
occasionally match the actual crime scene.
Drizin said McCollum is wrong more often than right.
McCollum also can't describe what Kronenberg looked like, her age or what
she was wearing, facts Drizin said the killer would recall.
McCollum, who had no previous criminal record, told the State Journal he
has a low IQ and it takes him longer than most people to grasp concepts.
At one point, McCollum tells a detective that he only could have committed
the crime in his sleep. The detective then asks what he remembers. When
McCollum says he wouldn't remember anything, the detective begins asking
"And how would you have went to the room if you had done this in your
sleep?" the detective asks. That kind of questioning continues until
McCollum describes a scenario where he defends himself, pushes a woman,
and she hits her head on a desk. He later says it's possible he hit her in
the head with a telephone receiver. Investigators found a telephone
receiver on the classroom floor.
A forensic pathologist testified at trial that Kronenberg suffered a
broken jaw, fractured skull and injuries caused by "significant force" to
the front of her face. She died from a severed artery at the base of her
brain and strangulation.
"McCollum doesn't come anywhere near that description," Drizin said.P>
McCollum later guesses that Kronenberg was sexually assaulted, saying "You
guys are going to tell me anyway, but I get the indication that she was
possibly raped afterwards."
Kronenberg was sexually assaulted with a remote control. After prodding by
a detective, McCollum describes a paperweight, computer mouse and a rock,
but never mentions a remote control.
"The kind of information he gets right is information that could very
easily be guessed at - and guessed at correctly," Drizin said, adding that
it was possible police told him about the sexual assault during earlier
At trial, prosecutors often described McCollum's police interview as a
confession, said Peter Ellenson, the attorney handling McCollum's appeal.
"All of McCollum's answers were in the form of 'would have' or 'might
have,' " Ellenson said in a brief filed with the state Court of Appeals.
"It seems to me police had a preconceived theory," Drizin said. "They have
no motive, no reason for McCollum to have attacked her. This crime was
committed by someone with tremendous rage, who is a sexual predator and
possibly a sadist."
Homicide case at LCC reopened
- Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said this week that new
information led him to reopen the investigation into the 2005 slaying of
Excerpts from police interview
Excerpts from a Jan. 25, 2005 police interview with Claude McCollum:
- Claude McCollum: "... and I know when I was asked did I do it, you know,
I said, 'Well, the only way I could have done it was unconsciously, and
that would be happening in my sleep ... "
- McCollum (later in interview): "I see your point. If the doors were
unlocked, yeah, it's possible. I could have got in there and committed a
homicide, I guess."
- Detective Bruce Lankheet: "Well, how do you think it would have happened
if you committed it?"
- McCollum: "I'm thinking - that bothers me there. I can't even imagine
any type of physical aggression against a person."
- Lankheet: "So, she's the aggressor. You are trying to defend yourself.
And so how did ... how would it have happened after that? How - just kind
of go into how it might have happened."
- McCollum: "She may have - I'm not sure how it works, but if she fell,
then she could have got knocked unconscious. And I guess some people just
are different. They automatically - their body shuts down. They can't
- Lankheet: "Okay. How would she have been raped after?"
- McCollum: "I think, I guess, there was a accident - an actual incident
with a guy by the name of Ted Bundy."
- Lankheet: "Okay."
- McCollum: "And I've heard about it. I, I, I, may have seen the movie,
but I can't recall. I just know there was a movie and this actually
happened in real life. He would kill women and afterwards rape them. But I
guess I don't think that he was a sleepwalker while he did it. It was all
- Lankheet: "Right. That's a little different. If a person is sleepwalking
they have a little bit of an explanation for it. It is not intentional at
(source: Lansing State Journal)
Richey to leave death row
Death Row Scot Kenny Richey is set to be moved from his Death Row prison
for the first time in 20 years on Monday.
Edinburgh-born Richey, 43, will be moved to the low-security Putnam County
jail in Ohio ahead of a planned retrial of his case.
The move has been delayed after torrential floods hit the jail last month,
forcing him to be kept in Mansfield Correctional Unit.
Once there Richey will be allowed to have visitors for up to 30 minutes
Ken Parsigian, Richey's lawyer, is preparing fight to get his client freed
on bail to allow him prepare for his retrial.
Richey was found guilty of starting a house fire that killed 2-year-old
Cynthia Collins in 1986.
After his conviction was overturned on appeal earlier this year, Putnam
County prosecutor Gary Lammers decided to take the case back to court,
after being told he must release Richey or retry him.
(source: The Scotsman)
TENNESSEE----death sentence commuted
Bredesen Commutes Death Penalty For Boyd
Gov. Phil Bredesen on Friday commuted the death sentence of Michael Joe
Boyd (also known as Mika'eel Abdullah Abdus-Samad) to life imprisonment
without the possibility of parole citing "grossly inadequate legal
representation" received by Boyd during his post conviction hearing and
On March 10, 1988, Boyd was convicted of murder in the 1st degree in the
perpetration of a robbery and was sentenced to death for the conviction.
He had been scheduled to be put to death on Oct. 24.
Boyd was convicted in 1988 of the murder of William Price during a robbery
outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
(source: The Chattanoogan)
West Memphis Three on TV
While it's not exactly Law & Order's "ripped from the headlines" approach,
it looks like the CBS show Cold Case will be basing a future episode on
the 1993 West Memphis murders of 3 young boys.
Maureen Ryan, television critic for the Chicago Tribune notes the
resemblance between the Cold Case plot and the West Memphis case, which
resulted in the conviction of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason
Baldwin, also known as the West Memphis Three. The murders and subsequent
trials have been the subject of two documentaries and several books. The
West Memphis Three have become something of a cause celebre among
well-known musicians and many others who believe Echols, Misskelley, and
Baldwin were wrongly convicted.
The Cold Case episode, scheduled to air on September 23rd, is called
"Thrill Kill" and will follow the investigation of a 1994 case of 2
"seemingly nihilistic" teens who were convicted of murdering three
The episode will also feature 8 songs by Nirvana.
(source: Memphis Flyer)
Prosecutors Seek Rehearing In Baze Execution
Prosecutors are asking the Kentucky Supreme Court to reconsider its
decision to stop the execution of condemned killer Ralph Baze.
In filings with the high court, the Kentucky Attorney General's office
said the decision to halt the Sept. 25 lethal injection is flawed and
Baze's appeal was frivolous.
Justices issued a stay of execution on Wednesday, saying they want to hear
arguments about whether Baze's trial was improperly moved and 2 other
issues related to how lethal injection is administered.
Baze was sentenced to death for the 1992 slayings of Powell County Sheriff
Steve Bennett and Deputy Arthur Briscoe.
(source: The Associated Press)
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