Listen to Mark Godsey Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati. He was an award-winning federal prosecutor in New York City before becoming a cofounder of The Ohio Innocence Project which has freed from prison 25 innocent people who have collectively served more than 470 years for crimes they did not commit. Professor Godsey explains the resistance and venom of prosecutors when challenging a wrongful conviction. Jesse Brooks knows this all too well.
In a devastating blow to Jesse’s quest for justice, Judge McNamara yesterday denied Jesse’s Motion to Reconsider his Ineffective Counsel claim. The summary of his review of a 16-page Motion to Reconsider filed by Jesse’s attorney was simply this:
“The Motion sets forth no facts or points of law the Court has overlooked, but constitutes reargument of claims the Court has rejected.”
It’s perhaps even more astonishing that the judge denied Jesse an evidentiary hearing to prove that his trial lawyers failed him miserably. The judge and the prosecutor for this motion both admitted that prosecutors Janice Rundles and Michael Lewis broke the NH Rules of Evidence throughout Jesse’s trial by admitting numerous unsubstantiated hearsay statements from incentivized witnesses and his lawyers sat by without objection.
Despite the clear misconduct of prosecutors, the judge absolved them of any responsibility by claiming they were “harmless errors” that could have been handled differently - but weren’t. In other words, he has dismissed the many damaging hearsay statements used to convict Jesse and instead claims that there was so much “other overwhelming evidence” that it simply doesn’t matter.
The judge also dismissed another unfathomable prosecutorial error on the opening day of Jesse’s trial when prosecutor Michael Lewis falsely altered Andrew Carter’s grand jury testimony into an incriminating statement. The judge claimed it was a “slight misstatement” but the State had argued this hearsay claiming the event was the inception of the alleged conspiracy – again, he said it didn’t matter because of the “other overwhelming evidence”
It’s ironic because during the Jan. 13, 2017 hearing the judge stated that he had reviewed everything including the 2013 Habeas filing which summarized documentary alibi exhibits, that were withheld at trial, proving there was never a “bedroom conspiracy meeting and discussion of a call to Mike Benton.” This meeting was the State’s central issue at trial and Joseph Vrooman’s graphic and pointed testimony of a meeting that never happened – helped to convict Jesse Brooks.
Along with the irrefutable alibi evidence there were exhibits to prove that Jesse never wired money to Mike Benton, never withdrew funds to pay Benton or Vrooman and phone records which completely contradict the State’s case. So despite reviewing positive proof that there was no evidence whatsoever linking Jesse Brooks to any of this and knowing that each and every witness that testified against Jesse was threatened with prosecution – the judge decided after two years that Jesse is not entitled to a hearing.
Keep in mind too that the judge was also made aware of the recorded jail calls of Michael Benton and Joseph Vrooman, the two who physically killed Jack Reid. Benton didn’t realize he was being recorded when his mother said, “take Jesse down because it must have been Jesse that got you involved,” he replied, “No it wasn’t.” Vrooman stated in a recorded call that, “the state doesn’t give a f**k about the truth.” Vrooman initially told police that Jesse had nothing to do with it but blatantly admitted at trial that he discussed using Jesse as leverage to a lighter sentence. He also showed his willingness to cooperate when he said, ”I know that Mike Benton has made a deal and if he said that was the plan, then that’s what the plan was” which completely contradicts his prior statement that Jack Reid was killed when Benton “went crazy.” Benton admitted that he was “jonesing,” irrational and threatened Vrooman, Robin Knight and Jay Brooks that if they went to the police he’d kill them too. Shockingly, Jesse lawyers again failed to present this exculpatory evidence.
There is no doubt that there was clear and convincing evidence that Jesse’s trial was a miscarriage of justice. No reasonable juror would have found Jesse guilty if the State had not broken the rules and his lawyers did the job they are ethically bound to do – and were paid to do - presenting evidence, witnesses, experts and objections to the repeated unsubstantiated statements, objecting to altered testimony by the prosecutor, objections to overwhelming wealth bias and disparities, revealing the threats against witnesses and objecting to an egregious closing argument. Their cavalier attitude and flagrant conflict of interests could not possibly have been a strategic decision unless they were intent on a conviction.
The law recognizes the simple reality that any witness—prosecution or defense—whose testimony was secured with something of value has been bribed and thus untrustworthy.
WITNESS OVERT ACT THREAT DEAL
Michael Benton Capital Murder Death Penalty or Life 33 years - he was
told 22 years with
Joseph Vrooman Capital Murder Death Penalty or Life 17-1/2 - he was
told 11.8 years with
Andrew Carter Capital Murder Death Penalty or Life No Charges
Chamberlain Felony Theft 7-1/2 - 15 years No Charges
Michael Connors Hindering 3-1/2 - 7 years No Charges
Mike Small Unknown Unknown
Jesse’s attorney’s failed to
investigate Mike Small’s
change in testimony before
trial - after UNRECORDED
meeting with police and
prosecutor Janice Rundles.
Laura Eori Guns on table during
Jesse’s case relied solely on the testimony of witnesses who had significant credibility issues.
There was no confession or forensic evidence linking Jesse Brooks to this case and the only evidence against him was comprised of testimony from biased and incentivized witnesses - whose stories changed during multiple UNRECORDED meetings with police and prosecutors.
All of the State’s witnesses gave testimony that conflicted with each other and conflicted with their own prior statements.