Same Name Crimes

Defendants Convicted Because Their
Names Matched Those Associated
With Alleged Assailants
16 Cases

 Dade County, FL

Thomas James

Jan 17, 1990

Thomas Raynard James was convicted of shooting to death Francis McKinnion during a home invasion. Evidence points to a Thomas James as the killer, but a different Thomas James. Police apparently knew that Thomas Raynard James was not the real killer, so they waited 6 months to charge him, at which time he could not establish where he was or who he was with on the evening of the murder.  (JD)  [9/05]

 Orange County, FL

Malenne Joseph

Dec 2007 (Conway)

A home contractor hired a black woman with an accent to paint a home in Conway, an unincorporated suburb of Orlando, FL. When the contractor failed to pay her, she reacted by going through the house and splashing it with paint, causing thousands of dollars in damage. The contractor later told Orlando police Detective Jose Varela that he knew the woman as “Marlene,” and he gave him her cell phone number. Varela dialed it and got a woman who answered to “Marlene” and who confessed to the crime but would not come down to the police station.

Varela found out from the woman who owned the damaged house that she had seen a black man driving a truck slowly in the neighborhood. This behavior raised her suspicions enough to write down the tag number. Varela traced the tag number to a man with a last name of Joseph. He then went fishing through the motor vehicle records for a black woman named “Marlene,” who might be a relative of the truck owner. He came up with a Malenne Joseph. He got a photocopy of her driver's license picture and showed it to the owner of the house and her sister. Both identified Malenne as the painter who worked at the house.

Malenne, a Haitian woman, had an accent like that ascribed to the painter. She was brought to trial in June 2010. Although she said she was not a painter and had never met any of the people who accused her, she was identified in court as the perpetrator. Over defense objections, Detective Varela testified that she confessed to the crime over the phone. Malenne was convicted of felony criminal mischief and sent to jail.

When new lawyers took over her case they found out the cell phone number Varela had dialed belonged to a woman named “Merline” whose last name was not Joseph. Like their client, the woman was Haitian and shared some facial similarities with her. The lawyers also found work records which showed Malenne was working elsewhere on two of the days she supposedly was painting. When they informed the contractor that their client was 5'2" tall, he said he knew she could not be the painter as he was 5'6" and remembered the painter as being slightly taller than himself, about 5'7". He signed an affidavit reversing his trial identification. Malenne was released from jail after being incarcerated for 77 days. A motion was filed to overturn her conviction. Prosecutors decided not to charge the other “Marlene” with the crime as the statute of limitations for it had run out.  (Orlando Sentinel) (TIJ)  [12/10]

Wayne County, MI 

Dominique Brim

Apr 15, 2002 (Lincoln Park)

A security guard at the Sears store in Lincoln Park stopped a woman leaving the store on April 15, 2002 with $1,300 in unpaid merchandise. In an attempt to get away, the woman severely bit the guard. After being arrested, the woman was taken to a police station where she told police her address, her phone number, that she was 15-years-old, and that her name was Dominique Brim. She was allowed to leave without being booked.

Two weeks later, 15-year-old Dominique Brim was charged with retail fraud and felony assault. She claimed she had not been at the store on April 15 and that she had not been arrested. In court, several Sears employees, including the security guard, identified her as the person who was apprehended and who bit the guard. The judge did not believe Brim's mistaken identity defense and convicted her on both counts.

However, Brim's vehement claim that she was the wrong person did impress Sears officials enough to review their store videotape of the April 15 incident. They discovered that Brim was not the person who was involved in the incident. After the prosecutor and Brim's lawyer were contacted, the judge vacated her conviction before she was sentenced. The woman on the tape was later identified as Chalaunda Latham. She was not 15-years-old, she was 25. Latham was able to pass herself off as Brim because she was a friend of Brim's sister. Prosecutors decided not to charge Latham because the Sears employees had already given sworn testimony that Brim was responsible for the theft and security guard assault.  (Justice: Denied)  [3/07]

St. Louis County, MO 

Johnny Briscoe

Oct 21, 1982

Johnny Briscoe was convicted of rape and burglary after the assailant told the victim his name was John Briscoe. The assailant, who apparently was an acquaintance of Briscoe named Larry Smith, also called the victim several times following the attack, while police were still present, identifying himself as John Briscoe. The calls were traced to a payphone near Briscoe's apartment. The victim identified Briscoe as her assailant in a photo lineup and in a live lineup. A search of the physical evidence by Centurion Ministries turned up a cigarette butt smoked by the assailant, which was found to contain Smith's DNA. Briscoe was released in 2006. Smith is serving a life sentence for a separate sexual assault at the same apartment complex involved in Briscoe's case.  (IP) (KSDK 5) (CM)  [12/06]

Union County, NJ 

David Shephard

Dec 24, 1983

David Shephard was convicted of rape and robbery in 1984. The victim was abducted by two men from a shopping mall and later raped. One of the assailants called the other “Dave.” The assailants subsequently parked the victim's car near a building at Newark Airport in which Shephard worked. The victim identified Shephard as one of her assailants. DNA tests exonerated him in 1994.  (IP) (ABA) (CBJ)  [6/08]

Johnston County, NC 

Terence Garner

Aug 25, 1997

Terence Garner, a juvenile, was convicted of robbery and attempted murder (shooting a woman, Alice Wise, in the face). Garner was arrested after an accomplice to the crime informed police that the shooter was named Terrance. Garner did not look like the real perpetrator, but was identified anyway by Wise and her boss. Two accomplices with plea deals testified that Garner was the shooter. Later a third accomplice testified that they did not even know Garner. Garner was cleared in 2002.  (NCAFJ) (Frontline) (American Justice) [5/05]

Cuyahoga County, OH

Anthony Michael Green

May 29, 1988

Anthony Michael Green was convicted of raping a terminally ill nurse who was receiving treatments for liver cancer. The crime occurred at the Cleveland Clinic Center Hotel. The perpetrator had told the victim his name was Tony. Green had worked at the hotel for a short time, but was fired in March 1988 for getting into a fight with another employee. Green's clinic ID badge was among a group of badges shown the victim. The victim identified him at trial. The trial also featured faulty and falsified forensics. DNA tests exonerated Green in 2001.

Following Green's release, the Plain Dealer newspaper wrote an article series about Green's ordeal. The real perpetrator, Rodney Rhines, who had become a Christian and was living at the City Mission, happened to read the series. He had not known that anyone had been convicted for his crime. After reading the series, Rhines, feeling remorse, confessed to mission personnel that he had done the crime and wanted to turn himself in. The Rev. Brent Reynolds told him, “You won't be coming back out once you walk into that police station.” “Yes, I know,” said Rhines. Rhines had once worked for the Cleveland Clinic in the hotel kitchen. Even though the victim identified Green, Green does not resemble Rhines. Rhines's skin and eyes are darker and his face wider. Green was awarded $2.6 million in 2004 for 13 years of wrongful imprisonment.  (Plain Dealer) (IP)  [5/08]

Allegheny County, PA

Toth, Sabol, & Rusnok

Jan 1, 1891  (Braddock)

Andrew Toth, Michael Sabol, and George Rusnok, all Hungarian immigrants, were sentenced to death for the beating murder of Michael Quinn. The murder occurred during a labor riot at Andrew Carnegie's Edgar Thomson Steel Works. At trial, one witness, Peter Mullin, testified he saw Toth savagely beat Quinn at Furnace C, while two other witnesses testified that they saw Sabol and Rusnok savagely beat Quinn at Furnace A. The defendants' sentences were commuted to life imprisonment in 1892 because it was felt that the Hungarians, who spoke little English, had not received as impartial a trial as three Americans would have received. Sabol was pardoned in 1895 and Rusnok in 1897. It is not clear why Sabol was pardoned, but in granting Rusnok's pardon, the PA Board of Pardons felt that he had been mistaken for another man and that his alibi of not having been at the riot was correct. Toth was denied a pardon because of the direct testimony against him by witness Mullin.

Mullin's testimony became questionable when evidence surfaced that Furnace C, at which Mullin saw the beating, was 500 feet away from Furnace A where the other witnesses saw the beating. At trial it was presumed the furnaces were much closer to one another. Since Quinn was found, still alive, at Furnace A, he presumably was beaten there, and the witnesses' testimony indicated he was uninjured before being beaten, discounting two separate beatings. Thus, it seems probable that Mullin's testimony was fabricated. In addition, Mullin initially identified a man named Steve Toth rather than Andrew Toth as the man he saw beating Quinn. Andrew Toth and Steve Toth were unrelated. Steve Toth fled to Hungary, but confessed to the murder in Dec. 1910 shortly before his death. Pennsylvania Governor Tener granted Andrew Toth a full pardon in March 1911.  (CWC) (CTI)  [1/06]

 Dallas County, TX

Joyce Ann Brown

May 6, 1980

Joyce Ann Brown was sentenced to life in prison for the robbery and murder of Rubin Danziger, a Dallas fur-store owner. The crime occurred in Danziger's store, Fine Furs By Rubin, in Preston Center on Northwest Highway. After the getaway car used by the two female robbers was discovered, police found a car rental agreement in it signed by a Joyce Ann Brown. However, the car had been rented to a different Joyce Ann Brown. Police and prosecutors discovered the error before trial, but proceeded with the prosecution anyway. The victim's wife, Ala, had identified Rene Michelle Taylor, as the robber who shot her husband, and Brown as her accomplice. Taylor later revealed that another woman, Lorraine Germany, was her accomplice. Germany reportedly has a startling resemblance to Brown. Investigation also showed that a jailhouse witness, Martha Jean Bruce, had lied to convict Brown. Brown was featured on a 60 Minutes episode and was freed in Nov. 1989.  (CM) (CWC) (Archives)  [5/08]

 Dallas County, TX

James Curtis Giles

Aug 1, 1982

James Curtis Giles was convicted of participating in a gang rape with two other men. Police knew before Giles' trial that the real perpetrator was a teenager with an almost identical name, James Earl Giles. He lived across the street from the rape victim. Police withheld two sworn statements identifying him. James Earl Giles died of cancer in 2000. James Curtis Giles was released in 1993 and is on parole until 2013. He must register as a sex offender. In early 2007, prosecutors are joining with defense attorneys to get the wrong James Giles cleared.  (IP)  [3/07]

 Harris County, TX

Pedro Torres

Apr 17, 1983

Pedro Torres was arrested for drinking beer in a Dallas convenience store. A computer check showed that he was wanted for the murder of a Houston man. He then was tried for that murder and convicted, reportedly because of eyewitness testimony. However, Torres's arrest warrant was actually issued for a different Pedro Torres. Torres's work records and and the other Pedro Torres's roommate helped to overturn his conviction. Torres was released in 1986 after 8 months of imprisonment.  [4/08]

 Harris County, TX

George Rodriguez

Feb 24, 1987

George Rodriguez was convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl largely because his name was George. The victim had told police that one of the perpetrators called the other George, but she did not think it was his real name because they had discussed using fake names. Rodriguez's co-defendant identified a man named Yanez as his partner, but Yanez was not charged presumably because Rodriguez was in custody while Yanez was not. A prosecutor told Rodriguez's jury that blood type matching eliminated Yanez as a suspect. Later tests showed a blood type consistent with Yanez. DNA tests exonerated Rodriguez in 2005. Because of the statute of limitations, Yanez cannot be charged with the 1987 crime.  (IP) (TruthInJustice) (HC)  [12/05]

 Harris County, TX

Gilbert Amezquita

Feb 6, 1998 (Houston)

Gilbert Amezquita was convicted of aggravated assault after Kathy Bingham was severely beaten at the Houston plumbing company where he worked and which her family owned. Shortly after coming out of a 10-day coma, the still-hospitalized Bingham whispered to police that it was “Gilbert” who had assaulted her. Amezquita was a U.S. Army reservist with no prior criminal record. His appellate attorney, Roland Moore, found that prosecutors had failed to consider that a second Gilbert - Alonzo Gilbert Guerrero - also worked at the plumbing company. Moore discovered that Bingham and Guerrero had argued a few days before the attack and that Guerrero had Bingham's cell phone after the beating. Guerrero, who is now serving a seven-year prison sentence for burglary, did not have a good explanation for how he came to possess Bingham's phone.

In 2007, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended a pardon based on innocence for Amezquita. News of the Board's action did not please Bingham, who maintains that Amezquita attacked her. Governor Perry subsequently pardoned him.  (HC)  [6/07]

Mercer County, WV 

Payne Boyd

May 30, 1918 (Modoc)

In 1918, a black coal miner named Cleveland Boyd was convicted on vagrancy complaints. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $25. The judge who convicted him, Squire H. E. Cook, and a deputy sheriff, A. M. Godfrey, then prepared to take him to the jail at Matoaka. Boyd, however, pleaded to stop at his home about 100 yards away where he could exchange his new shoes for older, more comfortable ones. On stopping at his home, Boyd retrieved a revolver and shot the judge twice, mortally wounding him. The deputy sheriff fled for his life. Boyd fled into the hills and escaped capture.
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Milwaukee County, WI 

David Sanders

Convicted 2008 (Milwaukee)

David Sanders, a Franciscan Brother and schoolteacher, was convicted in 2008 of molesting an altar boy more than 20 years earlier. The victim who knew his molester as “Brother David,” picked Sanders out of a photo array and remembered him as the man who taught him First Communion rites at St. Vincent's parish. The victim also said he visited his molester in Delaware. Sanders 1980s address was in the address book of the victim's family. At trial Sanders' defense argued that Sanders had never administered the victim's First Communion nor, as far as anyone could prove, had ever been to Delaware. Sanders had worked at a number of Milwaukee area parishes as a music teacher, but never at St. Vincent's.

Following Sanders' conviction, the victim's grandmother found a letter written by a different “Brother David,” named David Nickerson, which implicated that man in the assault. When confronted, Nickerson admitted he molested the victim. Sanders was subsequently exonerated after 5 months of imprisonment. Authorities were debating whether to charge Nickerson, in part, because the victim is far from an ideal witness. In 2008 the victim was 30 years old and was himself in prison for molesting a child.  (WIP) (MJS)  [11/08]

 France

Omar Raddad

June 23, 1991

Omar Raddad was convicted of the murder of Ghislaine Marchal. Marchal, 65, was a wealthy widow who lived alone in the affluent village of Mougins, near Cannes on the French Riviera. One morning when Marchal was relaxing by her pool, her neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Koster, called over the fence and invited her to lunch at 1 p.m. Marchal readily accepted. She later telephoned a friend at 11:48 a.m. At 1:30 p.m., when Marchal had not shown up at the Kosters for lunch, Mrs. Koster telephoned Marchal, but there was no answer.
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