Wrongfully Convicted.  Wrongfully Incarcerated.

Kris Helton's federal habeas petition

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Posted by on May 27, 2014 Full Size|

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Reply Kris Fargo
2:53 PM on December 20, 2014 
In Kris Helton's case, though, no less than five (5) judges, state and federal, have found that the stomach or gastric contents evidence is "inviolable" and "persuasive" proof of his innocence because it proves he was in Key West when the crime was committed by Marcella Gunderson on Little Torch Key shortly after 6:30 p.m., when she tried to feed the victim just a little bit of chicken, rice, and strawberry yogurt (it's UNDISPUTED that Kris didn?t even return home until much, much later, sometime after 9:30 p.m.). See Helton v. Singletary, 85 F. Supp. 2d 1323, 1325-34 (S.D. Fla. 1999), aff'd sub nom. Helton v. Sec'y for Dep't of Corrs., 233 F.3d 1322, 1326-27 (11th Cir. 2000); see also Helton v. State, 641 So. 2d 146, 154-56 (Fla. 3d DCA 1994) (Nesbitt, J., dissenting).
Reply Kris Fargo
2:52 PM on December 20, 2014 
Likewise, in Brown v. Head, 272 F.3d 1308 (11th Cir. 2001), the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 which James Willie Brown ("Brown") filed to challenge his conviction and death sentence for the murder of Brenda Watson after they were alleged to have went on a date to the Mark Inn Lounge in Stone Mountain, Georgia, eating a steak and potato dinner and spending several hours drinking and dancing:

Brown testified that on the night Watson was killed, he did not go with her to the Mark
Inn Lounge, but went there alone, left alone, and was home by 12:30 a.m., which the
defense argued was the earliest time that Watson could have been killed. Brown's
wife was going to tell the jury that Brown was home with her at 12:30 a.m., but on the
day she was supposed to testify, she invoked the spousal privilege. Since Brown
was not aware of any other witnesses who could testify that he was home at that
time, his testimony, and defense, went uncorroborated.

The lack of corroboration hurt Brown's chances of convincing the jury he was home
at 12:30 a.m., but whether or not he was home then was not crucial to the
prosecution's case or to the jury's verdict, either at the guilt stage or the sentence
stage. As the district court explained, the exculpatory value of the note was limited
because the time of death was never pinned down at trial. We review this finding of
fact for clear error and find none. There was no evidence that definitively established
the time of Watson's death. The closest thing was the testimony of Dr. James
Howard, a Forensic scientist with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who told the
jury that based on the gastric contents and the rigor of the body when it was found,
Watson died approximately two to two and a half hours after she ate her last meal.

When Watson ate her meal was never established with any certainty at trial. There
was evidence that Brown and Watson arrived at the Mark Inn Lounge around 9:00
p.m., bringing with them at least some of their dinner in styrofoam containers. There
is no evidence about how much of their dinner was in those containers, or when they
first began eating that night. (Recall that Brown denied going there with Watson that
night.) It is entirely consistent with all of the evidence that Watson could have
finished her dinner by 9:30 p.m. and Brown could have killed her by 11:30 p.m. There
is no evidence at all that it would have taken Brown more than an hour to get from
the murder scene to his home.

Id. at 1316.
Reply Kris Fargo
2:50 PM on December 20, 2014 
Stomach or gastric contents evidence can "overwhelmingly rebut" and "overcome" a FALSE claim of innocence. For example, in James v. State, 741 So. 2d 546 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999), the Fourth District Court of Appeal of Florida affirmed the convictions and sentences of Paul Anthony James ("James") for both first and second degree murder of a mother and her child, explaining, in relevant part, that:

[James] claims that the trial court erred in denying his motion for judgment of
acquittal because insufficient circumstantial evidence was presented to rebut his
reasonable hypothesis of innocence that someone else perpetrated the crimes. This
case took over one month to try and consisted of the testimony of over thirty
witnesses. There were no eyewitnesses to the crime, and the evidence was entirely
circumstantial. Without going into all of the facts, timing was a critical issue in the
case, with [James] claiming that the victims were alive when he left for work around
3:30 in the morning but were dead when he returned home three hours later.

* * *

The scientific evidence presented in this case overwhelmingly rebutted and
overcame [James'] theory of innocence. [James] conceded that he was in the
apartment until 3:30 a.m. The medical examiner's thorough testimony regarding
lividity [skin color], rigidity of the bodies, body temperature, and stomach contents
placed the victims' deaths sometime well before 3:30 a.m. Furthermore, his testimony
describing the consistency and dryness of the blood evidence refuted [James'] theory
that the murders had taken place shortly before his return from work at 6:30 in the
morning. Because of the medical evidence, the cases cited by [James] are all
distinguishable. The state's evidence was inconsistent with the [his] version of
events, and the trial court correctly denied the motion for judgment of acquittal.

Id. at 548-49.

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