the exoneration of ray rivera came on july 18, 2015. the new york state supreme court appellate division, fourth department overturned the manslaughter conviction of ray rivera in its decision. the court found that the prosecution had failed to disclose crucial evidence about the informant to the defense, and that the suppressed evidence would have cast a different light on ray rivera s testimony against luis rivera. in overturning the conviction, the court noted that ray rivera s testimony was the only evidence that directly connected luis rivera to the murder. the court also noted that the charges against ray rivera were dismissed after his testimony against luis rivera. the court said, the reasonable inference from the record in this case is that the dismissal of the manslaughter charge against rivera was in recognition of his testimony against defendant. the suppression of the identity of rivera as an informant, the court reasoned, was an intentional effort to hide the real nature of his activities. the court therefore concluded that the state violated its brady obligations and that the true facts relating to rivera s involvement in the murder could not have been developed in the absence of the undisclosed evidence. the court also held that the evidence suppressed by the prosecution was material because it would have undermined rivera s credibility as a witness and would have cast serious doubt on the truthfulness of his testimony that rivera was the shooter. (people v. rivera, 10 ny3d 734, 735 (2010)). the court also determined that the trial court had improperly permitted ray rivera to testify at a pre-trial proceeding. it had held that rivera was not a competent witness because he had a prior felony conviction for selling heroin. the court concluded that his prior conviction put him in a category of persons that were incompetent to testify in the case. (id. at 735).
in 1983, a jury in pennsylvania convicted a black man, robert givens, of murdering a white police officer. givens was convicted on the basis of the testimony of a white police officer who was a close friend of the victim, and of a psychiatrist who testified that the officer had a pre-existing motive to falsify the facts of the case. the prosecutor also presented evidence that givens had previously been convicted for possession of marijuana. the trial court admitted into evidence a certified copy of the conviction, as well as the original record. the pennsylvania supreme court overturned givens conviction because of the admission of the prior conviction. (see givens v. westmoreland county, 513 a.2d 954 (pa. 1986)).
in 1991, a louisiana jury convicted byron kline of the rape and murder of a white woman. kline was sentenced to death. while his case was on appeal, the state supreme court ruled that kline must stand trial again for the murder of a second woman. in the second trial, kline was convicted. the prosecution then sought the death penalty. the trial judge, though, ruled that evidence of klines guilt was too far removed in time from the crimes of which he was accused, and he therefore prohibited the introduction of evidence of a prior conviction. the supreme court of louisiana reversed kline conviction, holding that the trial judge had erred in excluding evidence of kline second conviction. the court held that a defendant must be permitted to prove his innocence when a prior conviction is used as evidence of guilt.
in 1995, two young boys were playing in a well in connersville, indiana. they fell into the well and drowned. investigators found a bloodied knife at the scene. the boys bodies were later recovered. at the time of the boys death, the defendant, tracy long, was 17 years old, and her boyfriend, kyle mcbride, was 20. longs father, robert long, was interviewed by police. he told police that on the day the boys died, tracy had a bloody knife, a bloody rag, and a pair of red shorts. in june 1996, long was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. in september 1996, a jury found long guilty. long had previously been convicted of child molesting and sodomy. longs conviction was overturned in october 2000, when the indiana supreme court found that the admission of longs father statement violated her right to confront witnesses against her. (long v. state, 734 n.e.2d 563 (ind. 2000)). the court found that the police had violated their own rules of investigation and had not informed the police department that the defendants father was a suspect in the case. this constituted a violation of the defendants right to remain silent, and led to the admission of the longs father statement. prosecutors later dismissed all charges against long. (see associated press, september 27, 2000).