Ray Krone

Last Friday, a Phoenix School of Law lecture hall was the site for a panel presentation including Ray Krone, famously convicted twice and delivered to death row for murder—until DNA testing proved his innocence.

If there is one thing the panel illustrated, though, it’s that the previous sentence is a huge understatement. Ultimately, DNA freed Krone. But an amazing amount of commitment and shoe leather went into his exoneration.

The event came almost exactly 10 years after Krone’s exneration, he and others told the tale of missteps and worse that led to his plight.

Featured at the Arizona Justice Project event were: 

  • Ray Krone: death-row exonoree and spokesman for Witness to Innocence
  • Chris Plourd: Krone’s defense attorney in second trial (now a California state court judge)
  • Alan Simpson: Krone’s attorney in post-conviction and civil suit against the state
  • Bill Culbertson: Former deputy county attorney
  • Don “Joe” Hedgecock: Juror in first trial in 1992
  • Kelcey Reed: DNA analyst with Phoenix Police Department Crime Lab
  • Kim Kobojek: DNA analyst with Phoenix Police Department Crime Lab
  • Steve Junkin: Witness at Krone’s trial; colleague from U.S. Air Force

Moderated by former Channel 12 news reporter Rich Robertson, the panel walked viewers through the investigation and trials.

L to R: Bill Culbertson, Kelcey Reed, Kim Kobojek, Christopher Plourd, Alan Simpson

Krone displayed his reputation for remaining upbeat (as well as quite a bit of charm) when he offered listeners his greatly abbreviated bio: “I’m Ray Krone, and I didn’t do it.”

That is a statement from which Krone never wavered, said Chris Plourd. In fact, when Plourd first visited his new client on death row, a prison guard told the lawyer, “I hope you can help this guy. He doesn’t seem to belong here.”

Plourd added, “It was hard for Ray to breathe prison air when he knew the killer was breathing his free air.”

Former prosecutor Bill Culbertson finally said that he participated in the panel for two reasons: “to honor a man who has the courage not to be angry, and to try to ensure this never happens again.”

An excellent goal, and yet not three days later we see news out of Colorado that a man imprisoned for 16 years for a murder has been exonerated by DNA. Clearly, there is more work to be done.

Here is another story on Ray Krone and the panel at Phoenix School of Law. More photos are available on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

Hon. Ron Reinstein (ret.) speaks at ASU Law School, Nov. 16, 2010

Yesterday, a program at ASU Law School turned a light on what may be one of the most important issues in law today.

“The White House Subcommittee on Forensic Science: Policies and Issues” was the title, and it covered developments—or the lack of them—that have followed on the nearly two years since the National Academy of Sciences issued a compelling report about the state of forensic science today.

(We covered the report’s release in Arizona Attorney in April 2009. You can read it here.)

The speaker was Ron Reinstein, former Maricopa County Superior Court Judge who now works at the Administrative Office of the Courts. His experience in the area is broad and deep, and he currently chairs the state’s Forensic Science Advisory Committee.

ASU’s Law & Science Student Association was the host, and it gave Reinstein 50 minutes to explain “what’s happening in the world of forensic science.” He did quite a job in his allotted time.

He admitted, though, that the White House Subcommittee is pretty stringent on what can and cannot be said about the group’s workings, at least until it issues its report. As he landed on his last slide, he said, “We’re only allowed to do that PowerPoint.”

Of course, he was able to explain far more than that about the world outside the subcommittee.

The takeaway message was that much work had been accomplished over the past year at the federal, state and local level. Unfortunately, that work has translated very little into changes in approach and operations in forensic labs. “To be honest,” he said, “I am not that encouraged about state government responses around the country.”

Even in terms of education, Reinstein admitted that few judges have read the NAS report, and many others are even unaware that it exists. A survey of Texas judges showed that only 22 percent knew anything about it. “That’s kind of scary,” Reinstein said.

Much that was proposed in the NAS Report is unlikely to come to pass, he said. That includes an effort to require that all forensic labs be independent of law enforcement agencies. “That was dead on arrival,” he said.

(For insight into why that is important, read an article in the November issue of the ABA Journal, titled “CSI Breakdown.” As it says, “Some police and prosecutors tend to view government-employed forensic scientists, including medical examiners, not as independent experts but as members of the prosecution’s ‘team.’” The article is here.)

Courts, too, have not taken a leadership position on forcing changes in the forensic science regimen. “Judges don’t feel comfortable taking the lead on this,” he explained, adding that there have been few challenges by defense counsel based on the NAS findings that would allow judges to rule on admissibility. (One exception he mentioned is Nancy Gertner, a federal judge for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. You can read more about her here.)

The speaker showed some silver lining in terms of education. He’s been pleased at the focus on the topic at Arizona Judicial Council conferences, and at the State Bar Convention. He said that people interested in the topic are watching to see what if anything the state’s new Attorney General, Tom Horne, and the Legislature adopt in regard to forensic science. And he is confident that “The Supreme Court wants to see change occur”; he mentioned Justices Hurwitz and Bales, and former Justice Ryan, as three who have indicated a strong desire to see positive change happen soon.

In the same vein, his Forensic Science Advisory Committee has developed a six-month course that will educate prosecutors and defense attorneys—25 of each—on all aspects of forensic science. It will meet weekly from January through May.

Look for more coverage in Arizona Attorney in 2011.

Here are more photos from the event.

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