Imagine the prospect of being released from prison after spending 36 years behind bars for a crime you did not commit. Sixty-nine-year-old Michael Hanline might get to find out what that feels like next week.
According to news reports like this one, the Ventura (Calif.) County District Attorney’s office announced Tuesday that new evidence had resulted in a judge overturning the conviction — highlighted in the California Innocence Project video above — that had sent Hanline to prison in 1980 after he was found guilty of first-degree murder in J.T. McGarry’s 1978 death.
In this article (below), CIP offers more details of events related to Hanline’s case:
On October 22, 2010, after a lengthy evidentiary hearing and complete review of all of the evidence in the case, United States District Court Magistrate Judge Andrew Wistrich issued a report in Michael’s case, recommending that his conviction be overturned. Judge Wistrich emphasized how the prosecution, investigators, and Robertson had colluded to violate Michael’s constitutional right to have exculpatory information turned over to the defense. Judge Wistrich wrote, “The prosecution was so successful in violating the trial court’s orders and its constitutional obligation that by the time the exculpatory evidence came to light – nearly three decades later – many of the important witnesses had died or disappeared . . . Permitting the prosecutor to engage in this sort of gamesmanship with impunity signals that the constitutional rules established in Brady and its progeny are merely ‘pretend rules’ that need not be taken seriously.”
Collusion between investigators and prosecution attorneys? Violating a defendant’s Constitutional rights? The wrongs alleged to have taken place during Hanline’s case appear strikingly similar to those that took place during the court-martial of Army Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart during three days in August 2009.
Once an elite Green Beret and highly-decorated combat veteran, Stewart sees no light at the end of his tunnel and finds himself living under a cloud today, branded as a sex offender for life after being convicted on sexual assault-related charges and sentenced to eight years behind bars at the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He lives under a cloud as the result of being falsely accused by a then-28-year-old German woman who, according to testimony given by her friends during a post-trial hearing, lied several times while on the witness stand during Stewart’s court-martial.
Ultimately, there is no denying that being falsely accused of a crime can be a harrowing and life-changing experience. With this in mind, if you suspect that you have been wrongly charged with a crime, it is vital that you spend some time looking for an attorney that has experience dealing with cases similar to your own. There are some fantastic legal experts out there nowadays that can help you to clear your name, and therefore doing as much research as possible before compiling your counterclaim is vital.
To learn more about Stewart and why this man who served his country with honor should have never been prosecuted or convicted, order and read Three Days In August.
To provide financial assistance to Stewart and his family, click on the “DONATE” button at SaveThisSoldier.com, a website built and managed by Stewart’s dad, himself retired after more than 30 years of service in Air Force Special Operations.