Saturday, October 17, 2009

When Kentucky prosecutor charged Edwin Chandler, had no second thoughts. Now innocent man is exonerated after 9-year jail term

His conviction for manslaughter and robbery in Whitfield's death was vacated just hours after a Jefferson County grand jury indicted 45-year-old repeat offender Percy Phillips for her death. Phillips is already serving a 20-year sentence for assault.

October 13, 2009
Man's conviction set aside in 1993 shooting death
Courier-Journal Louisville, Kentucky
By Jessie Halladay
and Jason Riley

For 16 years, Edwin Chandler faithfully believed the day would come when everyone would know he wasn't the man who shot Brenda Whitfield in the head during a 1993 robbery at the Chevron station where she worked.

That day finally arrived Tuesday, when Jefferson Circuit Judge Fred Cowan vacated the manslaughter and robbery charges against Chandler after prosecutors and police announced they had convicted the wrong man...

When Steve Schroering prosecuted Chandler in 1995, he said he had no doubt that the right man went to prison.

[Maura Larkins comment: Prosecutors never have any second thoughts, do they?]

“It was never a case I had second thoughts about until this morning” when Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel called to tell him the conviction was being set aside.

After all, a store video camera captured the crime and an eyewitness tentatively identified Chandler. Fingerprints, a knit cap and sunglasses were found at the scene. And Chandler made a taped confession to detectives, admitting to the robbery and saying the shooting was accidental.

But the fingerprints didn't match Chandler's, the owner of the cap and sunglasses was uncertain, and Chandler said he falsely confessed, coerced by police scare tactics and coaching.

Chandler said then-Detective Mark Handy told Chandler he believed he was lying and threatened to charge his sister and girlfriend with harboring a fugitive if he didn't tell the truth.

Chandler said he was a few blocks away, watching a movie with his girlfriend. He remembers seeing a swarm of police cars but didn't know what had happened.

Police focused on Chandler after a witness identified him near the scene, and he already was wanted on a jail-escape charge...

But Chandler's jurors never heard some of the information that could have helped acquit him.

They never heard from John Gray, who was pumping gasoline when the shooting occurred. Gray left his name with a county officer at the scene, but it was never passed on to the city officers investigating the case..

In 1996, Gray was serving time in prison with Chandler and told him he saw the shooter and his name was Percy...

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