Maurice Possley, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist at The Chicago Tribune, NYT Best selling author, and head researcher for The National Registry of Exonerations at The University of Michigan Law School.
Listen to Maurice Possley of the National Registry of Exonerations respond to hearing that Jesse’s counsel failed to investigate and present alibi witnesses. He called it “unconscionable” when Jesse’s whereabouts at the time was the central issue at trial. He asks, “Why wouldn’t you?” The truth is - it is inexplicable that a team of attorneys would not have taken the reasonable efforts to investigate their client’s alibi and witnesses - especially given the gravity of the criminal charges and magnitude of sentence facing their client.
JESSE BROOKS’ ATTORNEYS FAILED TO INVESTIGATE ALIBI AND PRESENT WITNESSES
When Jesse Brooks was charged in 2007, he knew he was innocent and he was eager to prove it. He provided his lawyers with his alibi and other witnesses to corroborate his innocence. The attorneys had more than 2-1/2 years to investigate, interview witnesses, gather cell tower records and collect evidence that would substantiate Jesse’s innocence. That is their job. Instead, they did nothing. They brought no proof of alibi, no corroborating witnesses or any other evidence of innocence. With no defense, Jesse was convicted. And to make matters worse, the lawyers also failed to bring alibi evidence forward during Jesse’s appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. That attempt to obtain justice failed spectacularly, too. Now, his hopes of freedom rests in the habeas hearing scheduled for June 20th.
THE STATE FAILED TO CONDUCT INVESTIGATION DESPITE REPEATED TRIPS TO LAS VEGAS
Astonishingly, police and prosecutors made repeated trips to Las Vegas, yet failed to investigate anything, whatsoever, concerning Jesse Brooks’ whereabouts for the highly critical June 16, 2005 bedroom conspiracy meeting. They had Jesse’s court record so they were fully aware that Jesse was in court in front of a judge at 9:00 a.m. – the very time that Joseph Vrooman claimed Jesse was with him in a conspiracy meeting. Police and prosecutors also failed to subpoena cell tower records to triangulate location data for the supposed meeting and never interviewed Jesse’s attorney (now District Attorney of Las Vegas) or his doctor. Interestingly, police boasted that their investigation involved interviewing more that 400+ people in a number of states yet they failed to question anyone concerning Jesse’s alibi after learning his court date coincided with star witness Joseph Vrooman’s bedroom meeting. Police did however spend a great deal of time in Las Vegas interviewing a stripper 2X and waitresses at a bar where they claimed Joseph Vrooman was a “regular.”
They never once investigated Jesse Brooks.
STATE’S ARGUMENT – THE JURY COULD HAVE CONCLUDED BASED ON THE TESTIMONY
A long-time, well-respected New Hampshire trial attorney gave an expert opinion confirming that Jesse was deprived of effective counsel, stating, “The testimony of Joseph Vrooman against the Petitioner was central to the State’s case against him. His highly damaging uncorroborated testimony describing a Las Vegas bedroom meeting with Jesse Brooks present was not effectively impeached, despite evidence available to the defense to demonstrate that Vrooman’s claims with respect to Jesse Brooks’ attendance at that meeting did not and could not have happened.”
The bedroom meeting encompassed every aspect of the State’s theory. They argued exhaustively to keep the bedroom meeting front and center while they withheld the exculpatory evidence during Jesse’s trial but now claim that the jury could have reasonably concluded guilt based on other overwhelming evidence. There was no other overwhelming evidence - just unsubstantiated hearsay provided by incentivized codefendant-informants which Jesse’s attorney’s failed to object to.
COURT’S CONFIDENCE IN CRIMINAL TRIAL IMPACTED BY EXCLUDING ALIBI EVIDENCE, NOT PRESENTING A SINGLE WITNESS OR EXPERT, A MULTITUDE OF HEARSAY STATEMENTS, WEALTH BIAS, AND MORE
The State’s case against Jesse Brooks was less than compelling. Had Jesse’s attorneys presented his alibi defense in a manner consistent with their obligations under the sixth amendment, it would have raised a reasonable doubt and undermined the court’s confidence in the outcome of the trial. This is not a case of a client being hypercritical in hindsight - these were egregious mistakes, by well-paid attorneys, that have cost Jesse Brooks his life.
The National Registry of Exonerations, founded in 2011, tracks all exonerations since 1989 and issues regular reports about statistics and trends. In its newest 2017 report, Registry researchers found that 60 percent of the wrongful convictions overturned that year involved official misconduct by police, prosecutors or other government officials. "But the most common misconduct documented in the cases in the Registry involves police or prosecutors (or both) concealing exculpatory evidence," according to the report.
Brandon Garret, law professor at the University of Virginia and author of the heralded Convicting the Innocent, was reported saying, “It’s remarkable how much official misconduct plays a role in these exonerations, and it’s remarkable when it comes to light, because it tends to stay concealed.”