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Baffling and Egregious Decision by New Calhoun County Prosecutor

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David Gilbert, Calhoun County Grand Rapids

"Unspeakable injustice" is how Michelle Jacobs of Proving Innocence described in her tweet the decision of the new prosecutor, David Gilbert, to appeal the judge's decision to give Lorinda Swain a new trial. Past county prosecutor, Susan K. Mladenoff, was often criticized for her relentless pursuit to maintain Lorinda Swain's conviction as a total misuse of public funds, a lack of any ability to ever admit the office had made a mistake, and a complete denial of common sense and justice. For a more complete background on the case, click here

Based on the testimony of Book, Lorinda's live-in-boyfriend at the time of the alledged crime, Judge Sindt ruled that the prosecution failed to pass on to the defense knowledge that Detective Pickett phoned Book and ended the phone call when Book stated he saw no evidence of any criminal behavior by Lorinda. The prosecution is appealing that decision, claiming there is no evidence (despite Book's testimony) that Pickett ever contacted Book and also claiming the defense could have called Book to testify at the time and did not, so Book's testimony is not "new evidence". As usual, the prosecution also stated that the original jury was in the best position to consider the evidence. It is interesting that so much emphasis is given to the original jury's decision, yet little is said about the fact that the original trial judge, Conrad Sindt, believes she deserves a new trial. 

There are many problems with this case, but one facet stands out as typical of wrongful convictions and another facet stands out that is a common excuse for prosecutions' failure to acknowledge that a mistake was made. Part of the original prosecution's case was the testimony of a "jail house snitch". It is utterly astounding that prosecutors and courts still give any credence to convicted felons who have everything to gain by testifying on behalf of the prosecution, and even much to lose if they do not cooperate. It is a known fact that some prisoners research cases in order to be able to falsely claim in detail another prisoner's "confession" to them while they shared a cell. The Justice Project published in 2007 Jailhouse Snitch Testimony: A Policy Review, made possible by The Pew Charitable Trust. It documented that of the known wrongful convictions in capital cases between 1973 and 2004, 46% included perjured testimony of jailhouse snitches. The report gives examples where jailhouse snitches were the deciding factor in wrongful convictions, and gave an overview of policy reforms, mainly having to do with informing the jury of the unreliability of such witnesses and if promises were made to the informants in exchange for their testimony. Some believe jailhouse snitches are so intrinsically unreliable that they should be banned all together.

The reason the prosecution is unwilling to admit they may have erred is that they have bought into the belief that recantations are unreliable without exception. Lorinda's adopted son, Ronney, recanted immediately upon realizing the seriousness of the punishment he would be inflicting upon his mother based on a lie. Any parent knows that children are more prone to lie at the time of or immediately after an incident, due to the pressure of the reward or punishment, and more likely to admit the truth later when the pressure is off. Additionally in this case, there is strong evidence this young child was influenced to make such false statements, an influence he is no longer subject to. Why do the prosecution and the courts believe contrary to what is common sense and promote it as gospel?

It is plain to see that the prosecutor's office does not wish to retry Lorinda because they have no case!!! All testimony from the original trial has either been recanted or discredited. We had hoped that the new prosecutor would be interested in justice. Instead, for reasons only he knows, he has chosen to defend the original infamous decision to try and convict this woman of a crime that never happened. No doubt that the decisions to prosecute most of Calhoun County's cases are sound, but if you are innocent and you are prosecuted for a crime you did not commit, you had better hope that it is not in Calhoun County Michigan.


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