‘Eyewitnesses,’ informants examined
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Kevin Green got to tell his story to a new audience Monday night — how he left his pregnant wife at their Tustin, Calif., apartment while he went to a nearby Taco Bell, then came home to find her near death after a brutal rape and bludgeoning.
His wife was 9 1/2 months pregnant — their unborn daughter died, and Green’s wife suffered severe brain damage in the attack.
Eventually, Green, a U.S. Marine, was charged — and convicted — of the 1979 attack.
“I spent 16 years and three months in maximum security prisons in
California, for a murder I did not commit,” he told the Missouri Senate’s Judiciary Committee Monday night. “Sixteen years ago, I was exonerated because of DNA.
“They actually found the real killer, and he’s now sitting on death row in San Quentin.”
During her rehabilitation, someone suggested to Diane Green that Kevin had attacked her, he said, and it was his wife’s “eyewitness” testimony that helped convict him because “there weren’t any safeguards in the system at the time to be able to evaluate, properly, the eyewitness testimony.”
Green said his case helped change California law — and he thinks Missouri should do the same by passing a bill Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, has introduced.
“It deals with procedures, with eyewitness identification — basically, that police departments must adopt a written set of procedures by Jan. 1, 2014, and have them approved by Public Safety,” Keaveny told the committee.
The bill also requires prosecutors to follow certain procedures for using testimony from jailhouse informants.
Green told the lawmakers he could “tell you some long stories about jailhouse informants.” And Jefferson City defense lawyer Dan Dodson said, “That area of law is ripe for abuse — and all this does is set out some provisions to make sure that someone is not wrongfully convicted, based on jailhouse informant testimony.”
State Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, worried the bill proposes “removing, to some degree, the jury’s view” of the reliability of a jail inmate’s testimony.
Dodson said Keaveny’s proposal “just puts in place criteria (and) guidelines, for making sure that there’s proper disclosure of the reasons that a jailhouse informant might testify, and their incentives, and the different things to make sure that a jury gets the full information.”
The bill also would modify current law, allowing someone sentenced to death row to have DNA evidence testing to prove innocence of an “aggravating factor” used to impose the death penalty, even if the person can’t claim innocence of the murder.
More importantly for Green, the bill would allow someone convicted of a crime to see new DNA testing of evidence — even if that evidence already had been tested.
Green noted that, in his case, no DNA testing was available in 1979, but a similar law to the one Keaveny has proposed might have helped Green win his freedom earlier.
After all, it was DNA testing in another, unsolved case that eventually led to Diane Green’s attacker being found and convicted of several brutal murders and rapes in the Greens’ neighborhood.
Keaveny told colleagues his bill still is a work in progress, and that the DNA testing part really was the only area where he and law enforcement representatives had found some common ground — what he called “a work in progress. Everything else is unacceptable to law enforcement, (including) the Highway Patrol, Public Safety, the sheriffs and the state troopers.”
The Missouri Catholic Conference, the state public defenders and another private practice defense lawyer testified for the bill.
No one appeared against it.