Four-part Buzzfeed News piece explores Connecticut wrongful convictions
Part three in a four-part Buzzfeed News series on the wrongful convictions of two Connecticut men was published Thursday. The series explores in detail the murder of Eugenio DeLeon Vega, a New Haven bodega owner, for which Ronald Taylor and George Gould were each sentenced to 80 years.
The case hinged on witness testimony which was later discovered by private investigator and former police officer Jerry O’Donnell to have been coerced by police. O’Donnell’s investigation revealed that, shortly before his murder, DeLeon Vega discovered that his son was embezzling money from the bodega’s daily deposits. The son owned many guns, including one which matched the bullets found at the scene, but was never considered a suspect.
During O’Donnell’s investigation, two witnesses recanted their testimonies to him on tape, while the third made conflicting statements about what she saw. In light of the evidence gathered by O’Donnell, a judge overturned the convictions of Taylor and Gould in April of 2010.
State prosecutors immediately appealed, stating that Taylor and Gould hadn’t satisfied the legal standard to be set free. They were released but forced to wear GPS tracking bracelets. A little more than a year later, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that no “affirmative” proof of the men’s innocence had been presented and that they shouldn’t have been exonerated. They were ordered back to prison while they awaited a new hearing on their habeas petition.
Taylor, who was dying of colon cancer, was allowed to stay home. He died in October of 2011. There was a new hearing for Gould, during which a recording was played of a witness telling police that O’Donnell had given her things during his investigation. O’Donnell was then arrested and charged with bribery and witness tampering. He told Buzzfeed he only bought the witness a television set for her dismal room in the convalescent home where she lived, since the old one was broken.
O’Donnell was convicted of both charges and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
The coverage will continue in part four, with an interview with the star witness in the case, Doreen Stiles.
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