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Sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit.
Convicted of first degree murder
The Arizona Justice Project did not represent Ray Krone in post-conviction proceedings. However, the Arizona Justice Project was involved in a post-mortem analysis of Ray Krone's case to determine what went wrong. The Arizona Justice Project uses post-mortem analysis to educate law students and lawyers about the causes of wrongful conviction.
I. The Story
An Ordinary Man Whose Life Was Turned Upside Down
This is the story of a man named Ray Milton Krone - an ordinary man whose life was turned upside down when he was wrongfully convicted of a murder that took place in Phoenix in 1991. Despite his innocence, and despite a lack of evidence tying him to the crime, Krone was twice convicted by juries of his peers right here in Phoenix, Arizona. Krone spent more than two years on death row, and more than ten years behind bars before he was finally exonerated by DNA testing of biological evidence gathered from the crime scene.
Ray Krone was something of an ordinary guy - no record of violence, no criminal past … not the sort of person you would expect to end up on death row. He was an above-average student, honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force, and employee of the U.S. Postal Service, had no criminal history, and no history of violence.
One thing out-of-the-ordinary about Ray Krone was that he was a regular patron of a bar that was the scene of a chilling murder shortly after Christmas day in 1991. The CBS Lounge was a casual bar and restaurant located between a shoe store and a video store in a Phoenix strip mall at 16th Avenue and Camelback Road.
The Day That Changed His Life
On the morning of December 29th 1991, the owner of the CBS Lounge arrived to find the front door unlocked. Inside, he discovered a grisly scene. A pool of blood seeped under the men's room door. Inside the men's room, Kim Ancona, a manager at the bar, was found lifeless and naked, with a row of stab wounds like a necklace across her neck. She had been sexually assaulted and there were bite marks on her left breast. The night before, Kim had worked her first shift as bar manager, and was in charge of closing the bar- including cleaning the floors and restrooms - after the bar's last customers had left for the night around 2 a.m.
The murder scene was full of evidence. The murder weapon- a knife from the bar's kitchen - was found underneath a plastic bag in the men's room trash can. There were fingerprints all over the scene, including prints on the condom machine and on the inside of the men's room door. Police lifted 50 prints, and gathered seventeen hairs from Kim's body. The newly cleaned floors also left a clear trail of footprints leading into the kitchen and into the men's room. There was a mix of various body fluids at the scene - blood on Kim's clothes, saliva on Kim's tank top, cheek, and pubic area, a small amount of semen. And, of course, the now-famous bite mark evidence.
Kim had left her purse on the counter of the bar. It was apparently undisturbed by the murderer. Inside was Kim's address book and note pad, listing Ray Krone's name and phone number. A colleague told police that a man named Ray was going to help Kim close the bar that night. Police quickly focused on Ray Krone as a potential suspect.
Police searched Krone's house and car. They seized shoes and clothes from his laundry room dryer. Detective Gregory noticed Krone's crooked teeth - which had been caused by an auto accident some years earlier -- and asked Ray to bite into a Styrofoam plate to make a bite-mark impression. A dental examiner, Dr. Piakis, found Krone's teeth "consistent with" the bite mark on Ancona's breast. Krone denied being in a relationship with Ancona, a statement seemingly contradicted by statements from some of Kim's colleagues. Police believed they had their man.
The Day Of Ray’s arrestRay Krone was arrested on December 31st 1991 and was charged with rape, kidnapping and murder. He began serving what would turn out to be more than a decade behind bars. Because of his unique dental structure, and the apparent connection between his teeth and the bite marks on the victim's body, Ray Krone would come to be known as the 'Snaggletoothed Killer'.
Krone's first trial started on July 27th 1992. It lasted only 8 days. Prosecutors focused on the apparent relationship between Kim and Krone, a number of scientific coincidences and the Bite Mark Evidence. A friend of Kim's testified that Krone had given Kim a ride home after Kim helped close the bar a few days before the murder. The two apparently shared a brief kiss under the missletoe at a Christmas party.
Another woman testified that Kim told her someone named 'Ray' was going to help her close on the night of the murder. In fact, Ray had gone to bed early that night, and his roommate testified to that, but police and prosecutors sought to debunk the alibi by pointing out that Krone could have left in the middle of the night, committed the murder, and then returned without the roommate knowing.
Police interpretation of Ray’s Statemen
Krone never denied that he knew Kim Ancona. He did, however, deny having "been with" her - a reference that he thought had a sexual connotation. Police and prosecutors, however, interpreted this statement as a denial of any association with Kim. They characterized this, along with Krone's apparent nervousness when he was first interviewed, as the outward signs of a guilty conscience. Krone testified that he and Kim had never dated, but admitted that he had seen her on several occasions outside of the bar, including at the Christmas party.
Forensic Evidence from the crime scene was largely inconclusive. Krone and Kim had similar hair, so he could not be excluded as a possible source of hairs that were analyzed by the police crime lab. DNA tests were inconclusive, using the technology then available. Fingerprint evidence was found to be inconclusive. Krone and Kim had the same blood type, type O. Investigators concluded that no other person's blood could be isolated from the large amount of Kim's blood at the scene.
It would be surprising, from all the evidence of a brutal struggle at the murder scene, if the murderer had not also been injured during the killing. A photo of Kim's underwear shows a droplet of what was later found to have been the murderer's blood. This evidence was not tested before trial.
State’s Bite Mark Evidence
The centerpiece of the State's case against Krone was the bite-mark evidence. The prosecution argued that bite marks were like fingerprints. A cast made of Krone's teeth was compared to the teeth impressions on Kim's breast. The strength of this evidence was bolstered by Krone's unique dental structure, which the State's expert concluded was a match to the bite marks left on Kim Ancona.
The prosecution's star witness was Dr. Raymond Rawson, a Nevada state Senator, college professor and deputy coroner, who had a persuasive demeanor. He presented a video comparison of Krone's dental mold to the victim, which seemed to show beyond a doubt the "perfect match" between Krone's teeth and the bite marks left by the killer. The defense denied that the bite-mark on Kim was made by Ray Krone. Their expert, however, was a mere dentist, without the credentials of Dr. Rawson.
The most damning evidence was Dr. Rawson's video, which allowed members of the jury to see with their own eyes the seemingly perfect match resulting from overlaying Krone's teeth mold onto the photographic evidence of the bite mark. This video was first made available to the defense on the eve of trial. Jeffrey Jones, Krone's lawyer, requested a continuance and sought to exclude Dr. Rawson's video based on its late disclosure. Both motions were denied.
Lack Of Any Corroborating Evidence
The most remarkable thing about Ray Krone's conviction was the lack of any corroborating evidence tying Krone to the crime. It was a circumstantial case based on a few coincidences, a seemingly innocent choice of words, and little else - except for the bite-mark evidence. Nonetheless, the jury found Krone guilty of kidnapping and murder. Krone was sentenced to death based on the judge's finding that the bite mark-- inflicted near to or after the time of death - demonstrated that the murder was especially cruel, heinous or depraved.
On direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court, Krone's conviction was overturned because of the late disclosure of Dr. Rawson's video. As Justice Martone noted, the bite-mark evidence had been critical to the State's case, and the late disclosure of their critical video could not be written off as harmless.
The State Re-Tried Krone
Still convinced of his guilt, the State re-tried Krone in 1996. This time, thanks to financial assistance from his family, Krone was able to hire private counsel. His lawyer, Chris Plourd, conducted a meticulous investigation, uncovering much evidence that brought renewed hopes for a judgment of acquittal. The second trial lasted seven weeks. But ultimately, the trial focused on three categories of physical evidence: Bite Mark Evidence, Shoeprint Evidence, and DNA Evidence.
Other than these issues, much of the case amounted to little more than Prosecutorial Spin - making much out of seemingly innocuous facts, such as Ray Krone's having done his laundry in the days after the murder, his failure to cover his car on the night of the murder, and the discovery of shuffleboard wax beads from the CBS Lounge in Krone's car. And again, the State's most persuasive evidence came from its bite-mark experts. The State's experts, Dr. Rawson and Dr. Piakis, testified once more, this time contending there were two bite marks on Kim's breast which, after intensive analysis, matched the unique dentition of Ray Krone.
Questioning The Methodology Of The State
This time, four defense experts questioned the methodology, the experience, and the conclusions of the State's witnesses. They accused the State's experts of making up a second bite to cover up their inability to create a match between Krone's teeth and the single bite they saw reflected in the marks on Kim's breast. They also attacked the credibility of the State's experts in other ways. Dr. Piakis had falsely claimed to be a board-certified forensic odontologist at the first trial. He had also been warned early on by a mentor, Dr. Steven Sperber, that Krone's teeth did not match the bite wound on Kim. And Dr. Rawson was a maverick with controversial theories and methodologies. His persuasive video presentation had been created on his home computer, through manipulation of images, including the shrinking of Krone's teeth to obtain an overlay match. Defense Expert Dr. Vale disputed whether bite mark analysis under the circumstances could ever be conclusive. Yet the State's bite-mark evidence once again proved compelling to the jury. Members of the jury, in fact, are reported to have done their own experiment in the jury room, matching up Krone's dental mold to a mold of the bite wounds on Kim's breast.
Police also seized four pairs of shoes from Krone's house. They were all either a size 11 or a size 11 ½. The handling of the shoeprint evidence by police investigators raised a number of questions. Detective Olsen, who was in charge of collecting shoeprint evidence at the crime scene, reported Converse shoe prints in a size 9 ½ to 10. But the numbers were just a guess - he used no measuring device. Police were able to eliminate other possible sources of the shoeprints - the cooks at the CBS Lounge, the owner, a repairman, police investigators. Although none of Krone's shoes seized by police matched the crime scene footprints, that fact was far from conclusive of his innocence. The State downplayed the shoeprint evidence at trial, insisting that there was no way to be sure whether the footprints at the CBS Lounge were even related to the murder. They stated that no photographs at trial showed the proximity of the shoe prints to the crime scene. But as Krone's lawyers would later demonstrate through enhanced photographic analysis, there was clear evidence connecting the Converse shoe prints to the murder. And, as it turns out, Ray Krone's feet would not have fit - or at least not fit comfortably-- in the shoes that left those prints at the murder scene.
On the subject of DNA evidence, the State was left to argue simply that a biological mixture from the murder scene was consistent with a mix of Krone and Kim's DNA. The Defense attacked the credentials, the statistical techniques, and the conclusions of the State's expert, but at the time did not have any smoking gun evidence of innocence. During cross-examination, the State's expert admitted that his tests had found that the DNA on Kim's jeans and tank top, as well as the sperm evidence, could not have come from Krone. In addition, DNA on Kim's jeans was identified as male DNA from a single unknown donor, and some DNA from Kim's bra positively excluded Krone as the source. Yet the State was able to explain away these findings by arguments that Kim was found in a public restroom, had been tending bar earlier, and may have gotten bits of DNA on her from a customer's spittle during conversation, from the crime scene floor, or from an empty beer bottle earlier in the evening.
Also during the second trial, evidence came to light pointing to a possible unknown suspect, an American Indian man. Various bits of evidence lent credence to this theory that police had the wrong guy. The State, of course, successfully downplayed the significance of this evidence. And so a jury of his peers once again found Krone guilty of murder.
Sentenced To Life In Prison
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James McDougall, in view of his own residual doubts about Krone's guilt, sentenced Krone to life in prison rather than death. The decision weighed heavily on Judge McDougall, who remarked that "This is one of those cases that will haunt me for the rest of my life - whether I did the right thing."
As Krone went off to serve a life sentence, his lawyers and his family did not give up. His parents took out a mortgage on their home to pay for Ray's private legal fees. A Phoenix lawyer named Alan Simpson joined Krone's legal team after the second trial. In 2001, Simpson filed an application for DNA testing of biological evidence that had been preserved from the murder scene, and had been found on Kim's clothes, a beer bottle and glass, and a substance on the men's room floor. A year later, Simpson received the results of the DNA tests from the Phoenix Police Department's Crime Lab. The DNA results all excluded Ray Krone. And when the results were run through the FBI's DNA database, they were found to match the DNA profile of a man named Kenneth Phillips, an American Indian who was already incarcerated for an unrelated crime of sexual assault. At the time of Kim's murder, Kenneth Phillips had been living just a couple of blocks away from the CBS Lounge.
On Friday, April 5, 2002, based on the overwhelming weight of newfound evidence of his innocence, Ray Krone's defense team asked for his release. The request was denied. But on the following Monday, the State independently moved for Ray Krone's release. That day, Ray Krone walked out of a Yuma prison, but was still subject to his conviction.
More tests were run on the remaining evidence. Blood from Kim's jeans pocket and underwear was found to have come from Kenneth Phillips. Fingerprints found at the murder scene, previously ruled by police to be irrelevant to the crime, were found to match Kenneth Phillips, who had evidently leaned against the condom machine and inside of the men's room door while attacking and killing Kim. On April 29th 2004, Ray Krone's conviction was thrown out and the case against him dismissed.
II. What Went Wrong: A Post-Mortem
The goal of a post-mortem analysis is to try to learn and pass on the lessons of such a tragic case. We have identified several areas for further investigation that we will discuss here briefly. In reviewing these facts that, in retrospect, could have led police more quickly to the actual killer, we reflect on some of the many missed clues and dropped leads, and try to better understand why they occurred.
critical lead was dropped by police
A common theme in this case is what has been called target fixation - investigators who begin to focus on a particular suspect tend to view the emerging evidence in light of that suspicion. Seemingly innocent facts come to take on a sinister light, while potentially exculpatory facts are discounted as irrelevant, or are too quickly explained away.
For example, a critical lead was dropped by police. The day of Kim's murder, police were stationed outside to protect the crime scene. That night Officer Kurtenbach was on duty to guard the area. As he stood guard, an unknown white male, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, approached the crime scene near the adjacent shoe store. As he neared, the man stopped, attracted the attention of Officer Kurtenbach, dropped an envelope on the ground, and ran away from the scene. Kurtenbach did not touch the envelope; he immediately contacted his superior at the scene, Sgt. Givens, who opened the note. Sgt. Givens then passed the note to Detective Gregory. The note gave police a description of the murder who had been lurking behind the bar the night of the murder.
A Hair never Tested By Police
Now, undoubtedly police receive a lot of false leads from notes such as this. But the circumstances of the delivery of this note were such that most of you would probably agree it should have been taken very seriously. At the least, police might have canvassed the area to search for the author. Had they searched the area, investigators would have discovered this: The back door of the CBS Lounge is visible from only a handful of apartments directly behind the bar. Had they checked those apartments, they might have found the author of the mysterious note, Robert Fredrickson, who lived right there. Had they interviewed Mr. Fredrickson, police presumably would have learned that what Mr. Fredrickson saw that night that was so important for him to risk his own arrest in coming forward to notify police, was a murderer stalking his prey at or near the time of the killing. Had they followed up on leads to a possible American Indian suspect, they would have found potentially significant the following facts: a report that, on the night that she was killed, Kim Ancona had cut off a Native American customer who left intoxicated, a report that another bar customer saw an Indian male at the CBS Lounge at the time of closing, a hair found at the crime scene was American Indian in origin and that the police crime lab viewed as irrelevant and did not analyze.
Yet it appears that this note played no significant role in the police investigation of Kim's murder. It was put in a desk drawer and not impounded into evidence until weeks later. Perhaps police believed they already had their man - and would not allow themselves to be led astray by evidence pointing to a different suspect.
Additionally, seventeen 'single' hairs were found on Kim Ancona's body. They were labeled A through Q. Dr. Scott Piette, the state criminologist, observed that the head and pubic hairs of Kim and Krone appeared indistinguishable. Thus, Ray Krone could not be eliminated as a donor of these hairs. However, two hairs, N and O, were later discovered to be dissimilar to both Krone's and Kim's hair, and therefore signaled the presence of someone else at the crime scene. Hair Q was never tested and it was finally revealed as being American Indian in origin. The most striking thing about this hair Q - was its location. All the other hairs found on Kim were found on her back and torso, making it possible that the hairs were picked up off the restroom floor. Hair Q, however, was discovered among the mass of congealed blood in Ancona's left buttock crease. You would be hard pressed to find an expert at any price who would conclude that a hair in such a position could be unrelated to the murder. And yet, either because of inexperience, poor supervision, and bad-luck coincidence -- or because this hair obviously did not "fit" the emerging evidence pointing falsely to Ray Krone's guilt - the Phoenix police lab simply failed to analyze this hair. Again, the evidence pointing to the real killer was available from the start.
Finally, the most obvious errors in this case came from reliance on what you might call "junk science" - the controversial field of forensic odontology or bite-mark science. This case makes clear that juries place tremendous - and sometimes unwarranted - weight on so-called scientific evidence. There is no substitute for a persuasive expert, and there is no substitute for the critical role that judges must play as the gatekeepers to preclude junk science from getting to the jury. To this day, bite-mark science has still not been subjected to the sort of rigorous peer review and testing that is expected of other forensic sciences. We could all use a healthy dose of skepticism when relying on so-called science as the basis of proof beyond a reasonable doubt - especially in a case of life and death.
The Ray Krone case is a reminder to us all just how much hangs in the balance of our criminal justice system, and just how easily so many well-meaning people can simply get it wrong. In a sense, Krone was lucky - there was enough DNA evidence remaining from the crime scene that he eventually could be exonerated thanks to advances in DNA technology. Who knows how many other innocent men and women still remain behind bars because they are not equally fortunate in their ability to prove their innocence. In another sense, of course, Ray Krone is an American tragedy, a man who lost over ten years of his life to jail and prison. Those of us who care about the criminal justice system owe it to people like Ray Krone to study, learn and disseminate the lessons of his wrongful conviction in the hopes that this will never happen again.
Twice Wrongly Convicted of Murder - Ray Krone Is Set Free After 10 Years
By Hans Sherrer
Justice Denied Magazine, Vol. 2, Issue 9
Ray Krone was walking a free man in the bright Arizona sun on the afternoon of Monday, April 8th. That was remarkable because that morning, as every morning for the previous 10-1/2 years, he'd awakened in a prison cell after being convicted twice of 36-year-old Kim Ancona's brutal December 1991 murder in a Phoenix lounge.
Ray with his lawyer immediately after his release from prison
Ray's conviction in 1992 was primarily based on "expert" testimony that his teeth matched bite marks on Ms. Ancona's breast and throat. After spending four years on Arizona's death row, Ray's conviction was thrown out by the Arizona Supreme Court. The reversal of his conviction was based on the prosecution's concealment from Ray's lawyers of a videotape about the bite mark evidence until just before the trial began. The Court did not rule on the issue in Ray's appeal that the prosecution had also concealed exculpatory test results of a prosecution forensic odontologist that concluded Ray's bite mark wasn't consistent with those found on Ms. Ancona.
Although DNA tests introduced at his second trial proved that blood found on Ms. Ancona didn't belong to either her or Ray, he was again convicted on the basis of "expert" testimony linking his teeth to the bite marks on Ms. Ancona. The prosecution had no other physical "evidence" that it claimed linked Ray to Kim's murder.
After his second conviction in 1996, Ray told The Arizona Republic he was innocent. "I was not there that night. "[This] pretty much rules out any faith I have in truth and justice." The trial judge, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James McDougall, expressed doubt about the outcome of the trial when he wrote, "The court is left with a residual or lingering doubt about the clear identity of the killer." Judge McDougall also wrote after sentencing Ray to life in prison, "This is one of those cases that will haunt me for the rest of my life, wondering whether I have done the right thing."
Ray Krone, an Air Force veteran with no criminal record, was a postal worker and regularly played darts at the CBS Lounge in Phoenix where Kim Ancona worked. They casually knew each other, and Ray had even given Kim a ride to a Christmas party in his prized 1970 Corvette a week before her brutal murder. Ray's roommate corroborated Ray's statement to the police that he went to bed at 10 p.m. on the night of her murder.
Proclaiming his innocence since the time he first came under suspicion, the April 4th DNA test results of saliva and blood found on Ms. Ancona's clothes and body proved Ray Krone had been telling the truth. Not only did the tests exclude Ray, but they also implicated a man, Kenneth Phillips, currently imprisoned in Arizona for sexually assaulting and choking a 7-year-old girl. At the time of Kim Ancona's murder Kenneth Phillips lived 600 yards from the CBS Lounge and was on probation for breaking into a neighboring woman's apartment and choking her while threatening to kill her. Twenty days after Ms. Ancona's murder Mr. Phillips was accused of assaulting the 7-year-old.
After the DNA test results were obtained on April 4th, Ray's lawyer, Alan Simpson, said: "This proves with certainty that Ray Krone is an innocent man. Every day from this point forward that Ray spends in jail is a day the county acts at their own peril." Four days later Ray was a free man.
Ray Krone, right, leaves prison with lawyer Christopher Plourd. (photo by Charles Whitehouse, AP)
Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley defended his prosecution of Ray Krone by saying there was "strong circumstantial evidence" of his guilt. In response to the conclusive proof that an innocent Ray Krone spent 10-1/2 years in prison, four of which was spent on Arizona's death row, Prosecutor Romley said, "we will try to do better." He neglected to mention that the prosecution's concealment of the odontologist's report that cast doubt on Ray's guilt prior to his first trial indicates they may have knowingly prosecuted an innocent man.
The prosecution's primary witness, Nevada forensic dentist Dr. Raymond Rawson defended his testimony. In an April 8, 2002 article The Arizona Republic quoted Dr. Rawson as saying, "The bite marks were just one piece of evidence with whatever else the jury considered, that is what convicted him." The callousness of Dr. Rawson towards the horrific wrong he was instrumental in inflicting on Ray Krone is indicated by the fact that the jury in both of Ray Krone's trials stated their guilty verdict was based on the bite mark testimony, not on "whatever else the jury considered."
Dr. Rawson's defense of helping to put an innocent Ray Krone on Arizona's death row is all the more feeble when viewed from the latest research about the unreliability of bite mark analysis. The coauthor of a book on forensic evidence, Arizona State University Law School Professor Michael J. Saks describes bite mark testimony as "classic junk science." The Los Angeles Times reported on April 10, 2002 that 63.5% of bite mark investigations resulted in "false positives" and another 22% resulted in "false negatives," according to a study by the American Board of Forensic Odontologists. Put another way, bite mark testimony may be no more likely to accurately identify the perpetrator of a crime than if the prosecution enlisted an astrologer to link a suspect to a victim by working out their respective astrological charts and plotting a convergence point at the time of the crime. Yet, the prosecution's reliance on "junk" bite mark evidence, and the jury's false belief it was scientific, put Ray Krone on track to have a one way trip to Arizona's death chamber. Professor Saks was quoted in the LA Times' article as saying, "At an absolute minimum, jurors should be informed of the relative accuracy or inaccuracy of these tests so they don't think there is more to them than there is."
Although Ray was twice convicted of the brutal stabbing murder of an attractive woman, his family's unwavering belief in his innocence led them to spend over $300,000 fighting for his exoneration and freedom. A key person was Jim Rix, a cousin Ray had not met before his conviction. After visiting Ray in prison, Mr. Rix, a Lake Tahoe businessman, organized the efforts that culminated in Ray's release. As Ray said the day of his release, "Justice has finally come." He got strength from knowing he was innocent, and "there was the strength I got from my friends and family. They never doubted I was innocent. They did everything they could to help me not get down."
Standing outside the prison in Yuma from which he had just been released, Ray said in an interview with Phoenix's KPNX-TV, "For 10 years I felt less than human. This is certainly a strange feeling, and I think it'll take a while for it to set in." Kim Ancona's mother was quoted in The Arizona Republic as saying after learning of the DNA test results, "My God, I hope he becomes a millionaire, because I can't give him those 10-1/2 years back."
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Ray Krone is the 100th innocent man in the past 29 years released from prison after spending time on death row waiting to be led to a State's death chamber. Before his prosecution, Ray believed in the death penalty because he thought it was reserved for vicious criminals and mass murders. He knows better now. The ArizonaRepublic on April 9th quoted him as saying, "They would have executed me. Could I have any faith in it anymore? Absolutely not. I can't be the only one. ... People need to address this issue."
The New York Times echoed those sentiments in an April 10th editorial about Ray Krone's exoneration titled Death is Different. That editorial read in part:
" Given the way death-penalty crimes are prosecuted, as the wrongful-conviction scandals in Illinois a few years back showed, a certain number of mistaken convictions are essentially built into the process." A sad reality of the criminal justice system is that in all too many cases, defendants are convicted of serious crimes on the flimsiest of evidence. Juries often hang guilty verdicts on the word of a single witness, despite numerous academic studies showing that witnesses are frequently unreliable.
Courts admit evidence of dubious quality at trial, and send defendants to prison -- or to death -- on the basis of it. The case against Mr. Krone was largely circumstantial, including expert but apparently inaccurate, testimony that his teeth matched bite marks on the victim.
In the face of this powerful evidence that the system is broken, the courts should be chastened -- and they should be working hard to build in protections against executing the wrongfully convicted. Sadly, however, the Supreme Court appeared unconcerned about the fairness of the death penalty in its ruling in a case two weeks ago involving effective assistance of counsel."
In the case referred to in the Times' editorial, Mickens v. Taylor, Warden, No. 009285 (March 27, 2002), the Supreme Court ruled that it was not fundamentally violative of due process for an accused murderer to be appointed a lawyer that unbeknownst to him was the victim's lawyer at the time he was killed, which was the business day preceding his appointment as the defendant's attorney. In other words, one day the attorney represented the victim and the next business day he was appointed to represent his client's accused killer: all the while concealing that fact from his "new" client who was convicted and sentenced to death for killing the lawyer's previous client. In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens noted: "A rule that allows the State to foist a murder victim's lawyer onto his accused is not only capricious; it poisons the integrity of our adversary system of justice." Justice Breyer, with whom Justice Ginsburg joined in dissenting, was more direct in assessing the meaning of the Court's action: "This kind of breakdown in the criminal justice system creates, at a minimum, the appearance that the proceeding will not reliably serve its function as a vehicle for determination of guilt or innocence, and the resulting criminal punishment will not be regarded as fundamentally fair."
Every Court in the country takes its cues from the attitudes expressed by the Supreme Court, and as the New York Times noted in its editorial, the highest court in the land is no longer concerned with whether it even appears a defendant is accorded a fair trial. In the absence of a court acting in a manner that creates the appearance a defendant received a fair trial, it is unlikely he or she received one. That lack of concern by the nation's courts with a defendant's possible innocence nearly condemned Ray Krone to a life in hell, even though he is as innocent of Kim Ancona's murder as you, or any other readers of this report, are. That emphasizes the most troubling aspect of Ray's case and the lesson it has for us to again be reminded of: There are a disturbing number of “Ray Krones,” reliably estimated to number over a hundred thousand people, who have been left to twist in the wind by the Courts of this country to serve a prison sentence for a crime the person didn't commit.
It is heartening that Ray Krone had a happy ending to his gruesome 10-1/2 year saga. Now 45, he has the opportunity to begin life anew on the outside. Without restraint he can drive his Corvette and spend time with the people who cared enough to support him while he was imprisoned.
On the other hand, it is sobering to realize that Ray was blessed in two crucial ways: he had caring relatives with the money to hire a competent lawyer to fight for his freedom; and DNA tests capable of excluding him as Kim Ancona's murderer were developed after his conviction. Otherwise, he would have spent the rest of his natural life imprisoned in the nightmarish hell of Arizona's prison system due to the inability of this country's judicial process to reliably distinguish the guilty from the innocent.
Sources: "DNA good new for convict: Convicted twice in slaying," Beth DeFalco (staff writer), The Arizona Republic, March 23, 2002.
"DNA may free Arizonan: Inmate convicted twice in murder," Beth DeFalco (staff writer), The Arizona Republic, April 5, 2002.
"Doubts plagued trial in '91 killing," Beth DeFalco (staff writer), The Arizona Republic, April 8, 2002.
"DNA frees Arizona inmate after 10 years in prison: 10 years included time on death row," Dennis Wagner, Beth DeFalco, and Patricia Biggs, The Arizona Republic, April 9, 2002.
"DNA Leads to Release of Ariz. Convict," Foster Klug (AP), Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 8, 2002.
"Death Penalty Foes Mark a Milestone: Crime: Arizona convict freed on DNA tests is said to be the 100th known condemned U.S. prisoner to be exonerated since executions resumed," Henry Weinstein (staff writer), Los Angeles Times, April 10, 2002.
“Death is Different,” Editorial Staff, The New York Times, April 10, 2002.
Cbs Restaurant & Lounge
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