The FAQ: The Murder of Anastasia WitbolsFeugen
What constitutes a wrongful conviction?
Was Byron Case wrongfully convicted?
A wrongful conviction (sometimes called a "miscarriage of justice") is primarily the criminal conviction and/or punishment of a person for a crime that he or she did not commit. It has always been the assertion of Anastasia's convicted killer Byron Case and his supporters that his is a wrongful conviction, but they have as of yet brought forward no convincing proof to back up their claims.Byron Case still claims to have been wrongfully convicted, but neither he nor his supporters can honestly nor accurately name the specific grounds on which to make that claim; their generalities break down when moved to specifics. Top of page
We do not dispute the fact that there are and have been many wrongful convictions in the United States, or that there are many in prison or jail today who do not deserve to be there. What we dispute is that this conviction would fall into that same category.
There are a few different types of Wrongful conviction, depending upon the cause.Critical evidence was not withheld during State v. Case, so this point does not bolster the claim.
- Most wrongful convictions are based upon mistaken identification by a witness, as when an eyewitness to a crime picks the wrong person out of a lineup, and are convinced they have the right one. These are the most common type of wrongful conviction for which reversals are made, usually when a witness changes their story or DNA is used as exculpatory evidence. This does not apply to the trial of State v. Case, as there was zero chance that the eyewitness could have mistaken another killer as being her then-boyfriend.
- Another common cause of wrongful conviction is the withholding or destruction of critical evidence by police or prosecution. Byron Case and his supporters have alleged that the fact that the time of Anastasia's death was not given at trial is such a factor, they have only been able to do so theoretically; their claim is that IF Anastasia's time of death were shown to have been outside of the defendant's window of opportunity, it would prove him innocent. Theoretically, that makes sense, but the fact is that the defense did not ask its own expert witness at trial to judge the time of death, and that the best information available actually does place the time of death within that window.1
Political pressure has been the cause of many wrongful convictions. Sacco and Vanzetti are the most famous of such miscarriages in American history, and Reuben "Hurricane" Carter is yet another.
In the situation of Byron Case, however, there was no political pressure to get a conviction. He and his supporters have insisted that the local prosecutor's office was "anxious" to close this particular case, ignoring the number of unsolved murder cases in Jackson County, Missouri (where this murder occured), as well as the number of unsolved murder cases older than this one at the time it was brought to trial. They have offered no reason why there would be a need to close the case, relying on vague generalities. It is apparent that the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office had Case arrested and brought to trial because they felt they had sufficient evidence to convict, NOT because of any political pressure.
Police incompetence is sometimes cited as a reason for a wrongful conviction, and there actually was a painful degree of police incompetence in the investigation into Anastasia's murder. However, the incompetence shown by the Jackson County Sheriff's Department in this case was entirely in Byron Case's favor, as they disclosed the name of a potential source of information to one of his acquaintances. That source immediately became the target of intimidation and harassment by his friends2
In addition, the officer in charge of the investigation spent an inordinate amount of time chasing after his theories of a "goth" connection in the murder, and his theory of murder-suicide. He seemingly steered away from Case or at least soft-pedaled any further investigation after complaints had been lodged by the family after the wrongful disclosure of the source's name.
Confessions given by informants are cited frequently when discussing Wrongful Convictions, and Case and his supporters have not been slow to equate Kelly Moffett's grant of immunity in exchange for her testimony with such actions. However, her action is not related to such evils as the "jailhouse snitch"; most snitches seek a reduction in their current sentence or immunity from prosecution for a crime in which the state already has evidence against them. She could have remained silent and never faced prosecution, so she had nothing to gain in that manner by coming forward. All she sought was to be able to "come clean" and help bring justice without being punished herself for coming forward. It was a fair trade, and does not fit the picture that Case's supporters try to paint. She did not come forward to "save her own ass" or any similar motive; she actually put herself up to a great deal of humiliation in having to admit before a jury the way she had lived the previous four years.
She has also been accused by Case's supporters of having come forward in order to collect the $10,000 reward offered in this case. No matter how many times it has been definitively shown that she specifically neither sought nor recieved any reward,3 his supporters still bring it up as if it were a fresh issue.
Perjury is the most often-mentioned cause that Case and his supporters mention in their claim of Wrongful Conviction; they believe that his accuser lied under oath in her testimony. What they do not take into account is that the very issues they cite are the same ones that the defendant's attorney hammered his accuser about during cross-examination,4 but that the jury did not accept defense argument, choosing to believe the witness' testimony.
The jury also already heard defense counsel attempt to impeach her testimony in several other ways, all of which Case and his supporters continue to argue as if it never came up at trial. During the sentencing on June 28, 2002, Judge Charles E. Atwell addressed that very issue:"I also believe from the testimony that was presented that there really was no motive that I think is believable that would give Kelly Moffett a reason to lie and to incriminate this Defendant.
"The evidence was that their relationship had long since severed well before she came forward; that the contact with each other was very insubstantial at the time she came forward; and I found no evidence that would suggest a real motive for her going from claiming innocence to putting herself in a trick bag for conspiracy to commit murder, and somehow putting in prison an innocent person who she had once had a relationship with.
"I just didn't find a motive that seemed reasonable to me. I suspect the jury may well have thought that also."5