Corey and Charles Turner, who were convicted of the 1995 murder of Richard Woods in Hartford, are seeking to have their convictions, murder and accessory to murder, respectively, vacated, arguing that false evidence was presented at their trial – primarily conflicting witness testimony and suppression of a tape recording that may have provided Corey an alibi.
The Turners are petitioning for the State’s Attorney in Hartford Sharmese L. Wolcott to correct “material falsehoods” presented during their trial, which could have swayed a reasonable jury to have found them innocent of the murder charges. Joan K. Alexander, who was recently confirmed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, was the prosecuting attorney during the 1997 trial.
“This Office should immediately move to Vacate the criminal convictions in the above captioned matters and dismiss the charges against Corey and Charles Turner, respectively,” says the memorandum of law supporting their petition that was submitted in July by the Turner brothers, both of whom have maintained their innocence.
Among those material falsehoods, according to a memorandum, is witness testimony from Kendrick Hampton, the state’s primary witness, who testified that it was Corey Tuner who killed Woods that evening.
However, according to all the witnesses at the scene, including Hampton, the shooter was wearing a mask, making positive identification questionable at best. Hampton told police only that a black man with a similar physique to Turner pulled the trigger. However, during the trial, Hampton positively identified Tuner as the shooter.
Hampton also gave conflicting accounts of what time he saw the Turner brothers drive by the house where the murder occurred – initially giving a sworn statement that he saw them drive by at 8:30 pm, roughly three hours before the murder. However, during the trial, Hampton told the jury they were spotted only five minutes before the shooting, something reiterated by Alexander during the trial.
The Turner brothers also argue the state did not allow the full audio recording of a conversation between Corey Turner and his girlfriend, Fonda Williams – his alibi, who said she was with him at the time of the shooting – to be presented in court, which would have allowed the jury to hear the full context of the conversation.
The prosecution objected to allowing the jury to hear the audio recording but still referenced the recording to insist that Corey Turner was fabricating an alibi with Williams, including offering to pay her for her testimony.
However, the full context of the recording would have shown otherwise, according to the memorandum, with Corey encouraging Williams to tell the truth and offering to make up for the time she missed out on work to come testify at the trial when he gets released.
“Because the jury never learned the truth about Hampton’s testimony and the State’s Attorney’s false claim of a recently fabricated alibi, this Office should move to correct these material falsehoods and in doing so, immediately moved to vacate the convictions of Corey and Charles Turner,” the memorandum says.
Corey and Charles Turner, serving 60- and 50-year sentences, respectively, have long been attempting to clear their name through the judicial system with no success. Part of the problem is that none of the evidence is new, but rather was unheard by the jury, particularly the tape of Turner’s conversation with Williams.
A full reporting of the Turners’ case, including the recording, is available here.
Alexander’s prosecution of the Turners came up during a Judicial Committee hearing to confirm Alexander’s nomination to the Connecticut Supreme Court. Turner’s family and his attorney, Alex Taubes, testified that Alexander deceived the jury by making false claims against Turner during the trial.
“At the same time, she [Alexander] was objecting to the jury hearing that tape, she was implying something else about what the content of that tape actually contained,” Taubes said to the Judiciary Committee. “And that is worse than simply objecting to the tape being heard by the jury, that is misrepresenting the circumstances in a capital case for which an individual is serving a life sentence.”
Under questioning from Judiciary Committee co-chairs Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, and Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, Alexander defended the conviction and said the jury was given all the evidence.
“Mr. Turner’s conviction has been subject to repeated and thorough claims and reviews of his claims of error, no court has found any of these to have merit,” Alexander said. “I respectfully submit to you that the evidence in his trial, including the evidence he presents to you today, has been repeatedly scrutinized for error and no courts have found any.”
Alexander was confirmed to the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Corey Turner recently came before the Board of Pardons and Paroles to have his sentence commuted; however, he was denied in large part because he continued to maintain his innocence and board members pointed to legal filings such as this memorandum to make their point.