Tonja Brown: Support bill to create court of inquiry
Assemblyman Munford and Assemblyman Moore’s Assembly Bill AB401 creating a courts of inquiry to review wrongful convictions is long overdue. Please support this bill.
I became an advocate for the innocent and the inmates because of what had happen to my innocent brother, Nolan Klein, who was wrongfully convicted of a 1988 sexual assault/armed robbery. He was sentenced to 40 years and two life sentences. On Sept. 20, 2009, Mr. Klein passed away still fighting to exonerate his name through his appeals.
Mr. Klein’s defense was based on a case of mistaken identity. Mr. Klein and his five alibi witnesses gave statements prior to Mr. Klein’s trial and testified at his trial he was at Jack’s Bar in Carson City at the time of the crime. The jury was deadlocked for hours. It asked Judge Charles McGee for two defense witnesses’ testimony to be read again. The judge denied the jury’s request. Mr. Klein was ultimately convicted of the Sparks Payless Shoe store crime.
In the most recent study that was conducted and presented to our Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice in 2014, it showed of those who have been exonerated through DNA testing eyewitness misidentification was a contributing factor in more than 72 percent of DNA exonerations. Studies indicate, 35 percent of eyewitnesses make identifications that are wrong. There’s a link to exhibits I placed on the record, including Mr. Klein’s photo lineup array. This array is no longer being used by law enforcement throughout the county and the hand written notes from the prosecutor defying a 1988 court order to turn over all of the evidence in Mr. Klein’s case. Here’s the link: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/78th2015/ExhibitDocument/OpenExhibitDocument/11963/o0325ab401_brot.pdf
Prosecutorial misconduct is another major factor to wrongful convictions when prosecutors withhold exculpatory evidence from the defense. This happened in Mr. Klein’s case as well. In 2009 Judge Brent Adams ordered Washoe County District Attorney Richard Gammick to turn over the DNA test results and the entire file in Mr. Klein’s 1988 case. The handwritten notes of ADA Ronald Rachow shows he intentionally defied Judge Peter Breen’s 1988 Court Order to turn over all of the evidence. There were more than 200 documents, mostly exculpatory that were discovered hidden from the defense and jury which would have exonerated Mr. Klein. Evidence the Sparks PD had a theory was another man was responsible, but all of that was hidden from the defense.
There was correspondence with the victim’s attorney regarding a lawsuit where they named another person and Rachow informed them the person you want was Mr. Klein. The state’s witness was paid for her testimony. She was a secret witness. Mr. Klein’s knife entered into trial was not the red and black knife used on the three victims from two different crimes that was hidden from the defense.
Please let your legislators know you support this bill and go to the Legislative website and give your opinion.
Tonja Brown lives in Carson City.