My name is Leon Benson and I’m an innocent man, originally from Flint Michigan, in an Indiana prison. And I’m falling through the cracks of the U.S criminal justice system by the day, as I’m sincerely fighting to acquire immediate assistance to exoneration. I’ve been falsely imprisoned 8 years straight. But to give you a clearer understanding of why I stated I’m falling through the cracks of the system” I must present the following:
FACTS OF THE CRIME: On August 8th, 1998, a white middle-class male name Kasey Schoen was shot and killed as he sat in his truck in the near downtown area of Indianapolis, Indiana. Although I was a block away, in an apartment building during the time of the crime, I was arrested and charged with homicide on August 14th, 1998 due to a black male named Donald Brooks telling the Indianapolis police dept that I was involved in the shooting ( later, at two trials, Brooks claimed not to remember anything) an eyewitness to the shooting, Christy Schmitt, a white female newspaper delivery person then mysteriously picked me from a photo- lineup on August 14, 1998, after my arrest, although, my natural appearance of a 5’10” light-complexioned black male contradicted what she told police on the scene, August 8th, 1998: while loading an outside newspaper vending box, she observed the crime from 50 yards away at night with her van’s headlights illuminating the scene. And described the shooter as a dark-complexioned, black male 20’s, 5’8” skinny built, wearing an all black t-shirt, black shoes, and black jogging pants with stripes down each leg” noted in police reports.
However, on August 17th, 1998 another eyewitness, a black male Named Dakarai C. Fulton gave police a statement and positively identified another person as having committed the shooting. He described the shooter as wearing the exact clothing Schmitt described, but in addition he said he saw the shooter 2-3 hours earlier with a 380. Auto- handgun (the same gun type used to kill Kasey) in addition, on August 25th, 1998 according to Indiana’s crime stoppers records an anonymous caller claimed to know the shooter and that he used his girlfriends gun in the crime she reported stolen days before (police records confirm a report of a stolen 380. Auto-handgun). And on September 9th, 1998, a black male name Kenneth Brookings gave police a statement that his girlfriend Sheereta Smith told him who committed the shooting. (both these sources stated the same person as Fulton stated committed the crime) THE TRIALS: My trial lawyers never brought the witnesses forward to testify at either trial. And despite not presenting such exculpatory testimony, the first trial on May 24th-25th, 1999 ended in a hung jury: 6 not guilty, 5 guilty, 1 undecided. And this was largely due to Schmitt’s contradictory testimony; in both trials she stated I was a light complexioned black male sitting in court.
Unfortunately, on the July 6th-8th, 1999 re-trial I was found guilty, despite the testimonies of Shirley Gaskin testifying that I was in an apartment building with her during the crime; Carol Knight testifying she saw me wearing blue jeans and a blue t-shirt with an emblem on it the night of the crime and; Cheryl King testifying that Schmitt told her on the crime scene that she couldn’t identify the shooter. Needless to say, there were many trial errors due to prosecution misconduct and the incompetence of my trial lawyers. On September of 1999, I was sentenced to 60years in prison. APPEALS: while in prison I immediately hired another lawyer and appealed the conviction. But on February 15th, 2002 my direct appeal was denied by the Indiana Supreme court, largely due to the incompetence of my appellant lawyer not raising the issue of ineffectiveness of my trial lawyer for failing to locate exculpatory eyewitness for trial.
From that point on, I no longer had the financial means to hire a private lawyer. I was forced to file my post conviction relief appeal with the Indiana public defenders office January 24th, 2003. And my case was back logged. FREEDOM CAMPAIGN: even before my appeal was denied I started a personal letter writing campaign, so I continued my efforts. I posted my first online case adverts in 2002. I’ve contacted numerous innocent prisoner associations, ACLU, NAACP, ABA, law schools, pro-bono firms, news papers, news stations, talk shows churches, and the general public seeking immediate assistance. Only to be turned down or offered little help.
The irony, is that I’ve been turned down by all “innocent projects” due to my case not involving D.N.A or physical evidence, but instead cross-racial misidentification, the #1 documented cause of all false convictions of black males” when a white eyewitness identifies a black suspect, the identification has a 65% chance of being erroneous,” according to experts. Why are all innocent projects only dedicated to D.N.A evidence then?
This “no D.N.A evidence”-- “no help”- defacto -social policy” has trickled down into the perception of American citizens, which leaves me no where to turn to for assistance with a mis-identity case.
In addition, there are no programs in place for me such as the North Caroline Innocents Inquiry Commission, approved by Gov. Mike Easley in 2006, that considers mis-identity cases like mine where new evidence beyond D.N.A can be presented that wasn’t considered previously in court. Unfortunately, the NCIIC don’t take out of state cases, and no other state has such a practical program. PRESENT CASE STATUS: “I am falling through the cracks in the system by the minute!” because I couldn’t find the help to act on my behalf to locate the exonerating eyewitness Dakarai C. Fulton, as of August 3rd, 2006 he has been in a car accident- induced coma, Fulton remains in the long term care unit at St Elizabeth hospital in Lafayette, Indiana. It’s sad indeed, especially after I told all those so called innocence organizations out there that, if Fulton were located, it would guarantee my exoneration. Yet, no one took my case seriously, or they were apathetic to my case altogether especially the Indiana police defenders office who’ve been handling my case since 2003. However, what should we expect from the Indiana public defenders office when an American Bar Association study released in 2005, concluded that Indiana ranked 4th among 50 states as providing the worst public defenders representation to poor prisoners
And the Marion county court isn’t making it easier with my entire court file mysteriously missing and delayed trial transcripts. In addition, with three other witnesses not located and a trial lawyer’s unwillingness to be located, the public defender was forced to file a continuance from the scheduled PCR hearing date of 12/14/06 to September 19th, 2007. which has again been rescheduled for the 18/2/2009
My chances for exoneration is still extremely powerful, once those other witnesses are located to appear at the PCR hearing and Fulton’s out-of-court statement to police can now be admitted into evidence of the PCR hearing as an “exception of Indiana’s hearsay rule” due to his coma state preventing him being present to testify. Nonetheless, I’m still standing on thin ice because every stagnation to the progress of my case thus far seems subversive to say the least. And after four years of the Indiana Public Defenders Office doing nothing for my case, what should we expect in between now and the Febuary 18th, 2009? A CALL FOR UNIVERSAL SUPPORT: I’m calling you, the people that’s reading this for your immediate assistance in my freedom campaign. I absolutely had no involvement in Kasey Schoen’s homicide. I need your support now!
* All financial contributions will go toward hiring a good lawyer.
* publicize my case: blogs, pass around my info, and contact media outlets by phone or email
on my behalf.
Please hurry, I’m now falling through the cracks by the second, I’m holding on but I don’t know for how much longer. Thank you for your time.
For more information about my case, please go to:
(www.iippi.org/inmates/indiana/leonbenson.html) or (www.myspace.com/freeleonbenson),
Email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or write me directly.Leon Benson #995256
Westville Control Unit (WCU)
WESTVILLE INDIANA 46391-0557 U.S.A