Belynda Goff

More awareness is being brought to this case daily. I hope that you will take the time to read this post. A woman is fighting for justice. She is fighting a state and system that is trying to keep their doings hidden while keeping her cries silent. The best way to move forward is with awareness and being proactive. We are all starting to see more wrongful convictions surface in the media. These convictions were made so that prosecutors and police can make a name for themselves at a mighty expense… the life of an innocent person. This is part of Belynda Goff’s story.

Wrongly Convicted Group Website

In 1994 Belynda, then 32 years old, lived in Green Forest, Arkansas and worked at the local Tyson plant. She was a mother of three – Stephen Lee, 3 years old, Mark, 7, and Bridgette, 15.

On the night of June 11, 1994 she was home with her husband, Stephen, and their son, Stephen Lee. Around 9:00 pm Stephen received a phone call and told Belynda he was going out for cigarettes even though, as Belynda told him, the store was closed. She headed to bed around 10:00 or 10:30 pm. Stephen was still not home. During the night Stephen Lee crawled into bed with her.

At about 2:00 am her upstairs neighbors heard a knock on the Goffs’ door, and then shortly later, what sounded like banging on the ceiling.

Between 4:00 and 4:30 am Belynda’s alarm went off. She went into the bathroom, then the living room. It…

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Arkansas Democrat Gazette Column

‘Wrong for years’

By Mike Masterson

This article was published May 13, 2017 at 2:03 a.m.

The shameful case of Belynda Goff, the Green Forest mother who many, including me, believe was wrongfully convicted of murdering her husband Stephen in their home 23 years ago, finally is drawing the national attention it richly deserves.

Writing for the liberal Huffington Post website, contributor Hannah Riley, director of communications for the New England Innocence Project, published her latest compelling overview of the Goff travesty. Riley laid out some of many oversights, deceptions, misassumptions and missing evidence that have plagued this sad case since Stephen Goff was murdered on June 11, 1994.

Since her conviction and life sentence without parole, Goff has maintained her innocence, just as she did at trial when she refused a plea bargain because she would not plead guilty to a crime she didn’t commit.

After 46 years in this business and in the process investigating three different Arkansas men convicted of heinous crimes in separate cases being freed when fresh facts were later revealed, I can say to readers without equivocation that I believe Ms. Goff, a prisoner in the McPherson Women’s Unit at Newport, did not murder her husband.

At 54, she’s now spent more than 20 years behind bars, and many feel largely it’s because those in the criminal justice system in Carroll County all those years ago wouldn’t want to admit they were wrong. That sort of thing could be downright humiliating. But then, the truth matters greatly, and as the poet William Cullen Bryant once reminded: “Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again.”

And now Riley has brushed a bit more earth off the truths of this case with her story headlined “Arkansas has gotten it wrong for years.”

“For years, Ms. Goff has fought the many injustices heaped on her, both alone and with her family,” Riley quoted Goff’s attorney, Karen Thompson of the Innocence Project, saying.

Riley’s article then reviewed basic facts, many previously reported since 2014 in this column: On June 11, 1994, at 9 p.m. Belynda and Stephen were spending Saturday evening at home in Green Forest.

Stephen received a phone call. After a brief conversation, he said he was heading to a convenience store for cigarettes. Belynda eventually nodded off in front of the television. She roused herself around 10:30 and went to bed alone.

Belynda awoke about seven hours later. Entering the living room, she initially could see Stephen’s feet “barely visible from behind a low wall. As she moved closer, she saw blood splatter on the wall and door-frame behind his body. She shook his foot in an attempt to rouse him, and then began to scream.”

Riley wrote that EMTs and Green Forest police arrived not long after she called, and police drew up a knee-jerk hypothesis: Belynda had killed Stephen.

Such a rushed theory, Riley continued, triggered tunnel vision, “a very human (and very dangerous) condition, one that ensnared the entirety of the case, and, ultimately, the next 22 years of the Goff family’s life.”

Tunnel vision, Riley wrote, caused authorities to ask Belynda where she “hid the gun” and what prompted them to test her hands for gun residue even though Stephen had been bludgeoned, not shot. It also caused them not to dust for fingerprints on either side of the doorknob. Riley reported that one detective at trial said, “I did not try to find prints at any particular point in the apartment … I had already made up my mind that it was not necessary.”

There also was an abundance of relevant evidence the jury never heard, Riley wrote. For instance, Stephen Goff had become involved in an arson scheme in Flint, Mich. Belynda’s brother Chris Lindley wasn’t called to testify at her first trial, but testified at her appeal that Stephen had repeatedly tried to solicit his involvement.

“Chris initially agreed to participate in the arson,” Riley wrote, “but changed his mind and backed out soon after. Stephen was terrified when Chris relayed his change of heart, telling Chris that he had already spent the money and would surely be killed if they didn’t both go through with the crime.”

A few days later, Stephen was found dead. Two days after that, Chris received a phone call threatening his life. In a panic, Chris moved his family. About a year after Stephen’s murder, the Goff family home was burned in a still-unsolved arson, Riley wrote.

“On June 11th, before Stephen’s death, a neighbor of the Goffs called the police to report two suspicious men skulking around the apartment complex, often returning to their car, which had two baseball bats visible in the backseat. She initially reported the men out of fear for her children’s safety, but called police again to reiterate what she had seen after hearing the news of Stephen’s death. Other neighbors corroborated seeing the strange men,” Riley reported.

Another man came forward, telling police “that in the early hours of the 12th, he and a friend heard a group of men discussing a ‘blood bath’ in Green Forest, saying that someone had been badly beaten with a baseball bat. One of the men, they reported, had been carrying a baseball bat.”

There’s so much more to this shameful case. Read Riley’s complete story at tinyurl.com/huff-goff.

————v————

Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Editorial on 05/13/2017

Print Headline: ‘Wrong for years’

http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2017/may/13/wrong-for-years-20170513/

www.innocenceproject.org

 

A Mother’s Day Letter from Daughter to Mom in Arkansas Prison

Read original post here.

mothers-day-bridgett-jones

By Bridgette Jones

Bridgette Jones is the daughter of our client Belynda Goff who was convicted of murdering her husband in 1997. Goff, who steadfastly maintains her innocence, has been in prison for more than 20 years and has to spend yet another Mother’s Day in prison without her loved ones.


Dear Mom,

I want to wish you a happy Mother’s Day. Every time this holiday comes around I cannot help but think of you and how much you mean to me, to all of us. My brothers and I are who we are today because of you.

You have been a pillar of strength for us during this nightmare. This tragic injustice has affected us all. Every holiday ripped away, every moment we long to share with you we cannot because you were wrongfully stolen from our lives and forced to endure a punishment for a crime you did not commit.

Hold your head high this Mother’s Day and know that you are loved.

Though we cannot always be physically close, I depend on our frequent phone calls to hear you laugh, to guide me, and just so I can tell you we are all here for you! We are working and striving toward the day when you will be freed. When it is publicly acknowledged that there is absolutely no evidence tying you to this crime. That your trial was a travesty from the get-go. That the DNA evidence that could have led to your freedom suspiciously disappeared while in the custody of the police.

Matriarch

Your integrity has never wavered. You are a woman of character and strength that I admire in every possible way. I realize this holiday is difficult for you but know that we are celebrating you! My hope is that other mothers who may be facing similar circumstances have the strength to persevere, to fight the good fight, and know there are virtuous people out there that are taking a stand against wrongful convictions.

Hold your head high this Mother’s Day and know that you are loved. Know that you are not alone. Know that I will spend my last breath fighting until you are free.

Forever yours,

Bridgette

Related: Arkansas Has Gotten it Wrong for Years

 

 

Huffington Post Article by Hannah Riley

Arkansas Has Gotten it Wrong for Years

04/21/2017 09:00 am ET | Updated Apr 21, 2017
Belynda Goff.

It has not been a good week for the state of Arkansas. Their grotesque plan to speedily execute 8 men in 11 days hasn’t gone as smoothly as anticipated, with multiple last-minute appeals and stays. One man, Ledell Lee, was executed last night, before the DNA in his case could be tested. He had long maintained his innocence of the crime.

This is not the first time the state of Arkansas has gotten it wrong. The proof? Belynda Goff. “For years, Ms. Goff has fought the many injustices heaped on her, both alone and with her family,” says her attorney Karen Thompson, of the Innocence Project. “Her case should command the same amounts of outrage that the men on death row have received this week.”

At around 9 PM on June 11th, 1994, Belynda Goff saw her husband, Stephen Goff, alive for the last time. Belynda and Stephen were spending a quiet Saturday evening at home. It was a typically warm summer night in Green Forest, Arkansas, a small city of less than 3,000 in the Northwestern tip of the state. At a few minutes past 9, Stephen received a phone call. After a brief conversation, he told Belynda that he was headed to the nearby convenience store for cigarettes, and left the family’s apartment. Belynda stayed on the couch in the living room, eventually nodding off in front of the television. She roused herself around 10:30, turned off the TV, and went to bed alone in the master bedroom.

Sunday, June 12th, would have been a typical work day for Stephen. No less than 7 hours had passed when Belynda was awoken – with still no sign of her husband — by the early morning alarm. After snoozing the alarm for several minutes, she got out of bed. When she entered the living room, it was Stephen’s lifeless feet that she saw first, barely visible from behind a low wall. As she moved closer, she saw blood splatter on the wall and door-frame behind his body. She shook his foot in an attempt to rouse him, and then began to scream.

Belynda placed a call to the operator immediately, and pleaded for help. The EMTs and the Green Forest police officer arrived not long after. After spending just a few minutes at the scene of the crime, the police drew up a hypothesis: Belynda had killed her husband. This rushed theory sparked a very human (and very dangerous) condition, one that ensnared the entirety of the case, and, ultimately, the next 22 years of the Goff family’s life. Tunnel vision.

Tunnel vision is what caused the police to ask Belynda, as she was sitting on the front step, attempting to compose herself just after finding her husband’s body, where she “hid the gun”. Tunnel vision is what caused the police to test Belynda’s hands for gun residue, when Stephen hadn’t even been shot – he had been bludgeoned. Tunnel vision is what caused police not to dust for fingerprints on either side of the doorknob. (At trial, when asked why he neglected to look for fingerprints, the detective replied, “I did not try to find prints at any particular point in the apartment…I had already made up my mind that it was not necessary.”) Tunnel vision is a widely acknowledged investigative bias that has had a corrosive effect on the cases of hundreds – if not thousands—of innocent people. It prompts an intense focus on a theory of events, and, like putting blinders on a horse, cuts off the import of any evidence that might contradict the initial theory. It is not a phenomenon exclusive to police; prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, and jurors alike are all susceptible. But it’s the most destructive at the level of initial investigation, since all of the ensuing processes will feed off the first clues and theories culled by police.

The initial, unfounded suspicion of Belynda’s guilt led investigators – and eventually prosecutors, jurors, and a judge – down a rabbit hole of erroneous interpretations and outright fabricated evidence. She was arrested, tried, and, in 1996, convicted of first-degree murder. But perhaps, if the proverbial blinders had been taken off from the outset, the police would have been able to properly investigate the crime. If they had, here’s what they would have found.

In the year leading up to his murder, Stephen Goff was becoming precipitously involved in an arson scheme in Flint, Michigan. Though he was not called upon to testify at her first trial, Belynda’s brother, Chris Lindley, eventually testified at her appeal that Stephen had repeatedly tried to solicit Chris’ involvement in the arson of a building in Flint, which would purportedly conclude with a reward of a large sum of money (to the tune of $10,000). Chris initially agreed to participate in the arson, but changed his mind and backed out soon after. Stephen was terrified when Chris relayed his change of heart, telling Chris that he had already spent the money and would surely be killed if they didn’t both go through with the crime.

A few short days later, Stephen was found dead. Two days after his murder, Chris received a phone call threatening his own life; he was told that if he spoke out about the arson plans, he would find himself…”… laying [sic] right next to Steve. You will be dead; your family will be dead.” Panicked, Chris changed his number and moved his family. He’s now completely off the grid; his home has fallen into foreclosure and he hasn’t been heard from in over 5 years. The fear for his safety coupled with the burden of having a sister sentenced to life in prison for a crime she did not commit has effectively robbed him of his own life, too. And his fears were not unfounded: a little over a year after Stephen’s murder, the Goff family home was burned to the ground in a yet-to-be-solved arson.

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The jury at Belynda’s trial heard none of this.

On June 11th, before Stephen’s death, a neighbor of the Goff’s called the police to report two suspicious men skulking around the apartment complex, often returning to their car, which had two baseball bats visible in the backseat. She initially reported the men out of fear for her children’s safety, but called police again to reiterate what she had seen after hearing the news of Stephen’s death. Other neighbors corroborated seeing the strange men.

Another man came forward to police, telling them that in the early hours of the 12th, he and a friend heard a group of men discussing a “blood bath” in Green Forest, saying that someone had been badly beaten with a baseball bat. One of the men, they reported, had been carrying a baseball bat.

The jury at Belynda’s trial heard none of this.

Perhaps what is more shocking than what was not revealed to the jury, however, were the flat out lies that they were told.

The prosecution claimed that no one could possibly have left the apartment after the murder, because of the positioning of Stephen’s body by the front door. But people did enter and exit the home – the EMTs, the police, and Belynda and her son after the authorities arrived.

Once police latched onto the theory of the murderer remaining in the apartment, they had to find a murder weapon. The prosecution posited that a hammer found in the Goff’s home must have been the weapon, even though extensive testing revealed no evidence of blood. At trial, the jury was told that the hammer from the Goff’s home was unequivocally the murder weapon. The defense raised no objection.

A thorough search of the Goff’s apartment also found no blood – not in the laundry, not in the bathroom, not in the bedroom, not on any clothing. A minute DNA sample pulled from the bathtub drain was found to be consistent with Stephen Goff, but the presence of a man’s DNA in his own bathtub is hardly a smoking gun. Despite the sample being infinitesimally small, the jury was told that the lead investigator discovered enough of Stephen’s blood in the shower drain to “run down his hands.” Undeterred by the dearth of real biological evidence implicating Belynda, the prosecution posited that she must have cut up her bloodied clothes and flushed them down the toilet. During the investigation, police were so desperate to find any evidence pointing to Belynda’s guilt that they sent a team to the local sewage facility to search for the (non-existent) bloodied clothes, despite the fact that the theory had been concocted out of thin air. The multiple reports of strange men around the Goff’s building in the days preceding the murder were not once followed up on.

For Belynda, it’s not yet too late. It’s been twenty two long years, but it’s not too late. In 2014, her attorneys at the Innocence Project were granted DNA testing rights to the remaining biological evidence collected at the scene. While some hairs found on Stephen’s body were tested – and turned out to be his own – the remaining evidence, which included Stephen’s fingernail scrapings and more hair found on the body, has mysteriously gone missing after being picked up from the Arkansas State Crime Lab by a police officer in 2000. “I am thrilled that she continues to fight on,” said Karen Thompson, “and only wish that the important evidence that ‘went missing’ in her case (last accounted for in the hands of a Carroll County police officer), will be found so that we can conduct DNA testing.”

During the early years of her incarceration, Belynda tried to call her three children every morning so that she could still be the person waking them up for school. When her eldest son got married, the wedding was held on her birthday, and a seat saved in her honor. Her daughter named her first daughter – Belle – in honor of Belynda, and her second daughter – Liberty – in honor of the fight for Belynda’s freedom. To say that Belynda is fiercely dedicated to her family would be an understatement – yet she refused to plead guilty in exchange for a 10-year sentence, steadfastly maintaining her innocence even while facing the possibility of life in prison. Her children remain her most passionate defenders. “My mother has never given up nor denied her own innocence, though she would have been released years ago with a plea bargain, if she had,” her daughter Bridgette told me. “Her children haven’t given up either.”

Magic T-Shirt

First off, forgive the pause in postings. It wasn’t an oversight. We’ve been asked to keep a low profile while people are working behind the scenes. But we’re now officially back!

The other day I witnessed someone bust their lip open. The amount of blood was unbelievable and it trailed him as he ran.

It brought this case to mind, and for obvious reasons… How does one bludgeon a person to death and not get a drop of blood on themselves or the floor? Why, a magic T-shirt of course!

But don’t take my word for it. See for it for yourself. In closing arguments, the prosecutor (Kenny Elser) throws in a bit of new evidence that wasn’t discussed at all during the trial. He reasons to the jury that because there was no blood found on ANY of her clothing she wore a t-shirt while committing the crime. But this was no ordinary shirt. This magic shirt was capable of absorbing all of the blood as to not get it on her person or leave a single drop as Belynda scurried about to supposedly clean up a crime scene.

If that’s not magic I don’t know what is.

picture_20170206_102301162

Yes… How easy would it be to absorb an astronomical amount of blood with a t-shirt and tear it into tiny pieces with your fingers (of course no scissors or any other cutting/shredding device was found) and not get any blood on anything including yourself? Hmm… My guess is not easy at all. In fact, I’d say impossible but just to be sure, did they test the plunger to see if it had blood on it? NO…

But let us talk about the bathmat for a minute that the prosecutor mentions. It was there in the courtroom as an exhibit. Wow… How is it possible that after she cleaned up she placed the bathmat outside when they are so certain that Stephen Goff’s body was blocking the door?

Are you starting to see the red flags yet?

Another Great Article

Belynda Goff: Innocent and incarcerated on another Mother’s Day

 

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Belynda and her daughter, Bridgette

Today marks Belynda Goff’s nineteenth Mother’s Day as an incarcerated mother, serving a life sentence for a murder she did not commit.

In 1994 Belynda, then 32 years old, lived in Green Forest, Arkansas and worked at the local Tyson plant. She was a mother of three – Stephen Lee, 3 years old, Mark, 7, and Bridgette, 15. “I was a mom, that’s what I did,” Belynda told me. “I was a little league, cheerleading mom.” On the night of June 11, 1994 she was home with her husband, Stephen, and their son, Stephen Lee. Around 9:00 pm Stephen received a phone call and told Belynda he was going out for cigarettes even though, as Belynda told him, the store was closed. She headed to bed around 10:00 or 10:30 pm. Stephen was still not home. During the night Stephen Lee crawled into bed with her.

At about 2:00 am her upstairs neighbors heard a knock on the Goffs’ door, and then shortly later, what sounded like banging on the ceiling. Between 4:00 and 4:30 am Belynda’s alarm went off. She went into the bathroom, then the living room. It was there that she saw Stephen, in the corner of their doorway, bloodied. His blood spattered keys lay nearby. She became hysterical and dialed the Operator for help. The paramedics and police arrived shortly thereafter.

The police theory of the crime – developed almost immediately – was, as the prosecutor would tell jurors: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Stephen had been unfaithful in the past and so, the State argued, Belynda must have killed him in a rage when he came home that night. On the morning her trial was to begin, Belynda, facing the prospect of a life sentence, was offered a plea deal of 10 years. She rejected it.“The only thing I said in response to my attorneys was, ‘But I didn’t do it’,” she told me.

Belynda and I first met over letters about seven years ago when I worked on her case at the Innocence Project as a Case Analyst. I would grow to know her and her daughter, exchanging cards and phone calls, photos of our children, news of death, births and illness. On the day I taught her case in my wrongful convictions class at Rutgers University I wore the scarf she had made me.

 

“I have thought over the years in moments of sadness and pain if I had just took that, I’d be home,” she told me of the plea deal. “But my other voice says: yeah, but you’d be home, called a murderer and you would have represented a falsehood.”

The police could not find bloody weapons or clothing in Belynda’s home so they surmised she must have cut up the clothing and flushed it down the toilet. While the police failed to find evidence to corroborate their theory, evidence that someone else had killed Stephen began to emerge.

The evening before Belynda found her husband’s body, a neighbor had seen men with baseball bats parked in front of Belynda’s apartment. Fearing for her children’s safety, the neighbor reported the sighting to the police that day and again after the murder.

According to Chris Lindley, Belynda’s brother, Stephen had asked Chris to join him in an arson scheme. They were to burn down a building in Flint, Michigan for $10,000. When Chris told Stephen he wanted to back out, according to Chris, Stephen became panicked, begged him to reconsider and told him that he (Stephen) had already spent the money and would be killed. About a week later Stephen was found dead.

Two days after the murder Chris received an anonymous call stating he would be killed next if he opened his mouth. Belynda’s home was burned down before trial in a still unsolved arson.

The State sought to have Chris’ allegations excluded from the trial arguing that it was – as tunnel vision dictates – “irrelevant.”

Tunnel vision is the scientific method, inverted. As Wisconsin Innocence Project Director Keith Findley wrote in his exhaustive analysis of tunnel vision: “Evidence inconsistent with the chosen theory is easily overlooked or dismissed as irrelevant, incredible, or unreliable.”

On August 5, 1996, Belynda was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

“Prior to the trial I told Mark that they could say guilty and they could say not guilty,” Belynda told me. “I can remember him asking me, we were in the dining room at the house there, what if they say guilty? And all I could say was sweetheart we have to pray that they don’t. I remember very clearly when they said guilty I can remember just hearing my son just crying behind me and that just broke me.”

May 11, 1997 would be her first Mother’s Day behind bars.

“Prison itself is not torment I don’t think, not for me any way,” Belynda told me. “My torment is being away from my family and children.”

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Belynda with Mark and Stephen Lee shortly after she entered prison

Despite the physical separation, Belynda says, she was determined to remain a loving presence in her children’s lives.

 

“I just rarely let a day go by that I didn’t somehow communicate with them that I loved them,” said Belynda. “It was important to me that they knew that I was still here, I was still there for them.”

She called them every day before school to be sure they were ready for the bus. They mailed pictures to each other, drawings from their childhood she calls her “treasures.” She and Bridgette would watch the television show Alias and then call each other to discuss it afterwards.

“The first Christmas, oh that was so hard, the very first Christmas, I can remember, I can laugh now without crying I think but boy oh boy,” Belynda told me. “It was Christmas Eve. I was just talking to my youngest son, Stephen. I said, ‘Oh my goodness! You know what I just saw – and of course I’m seeing nothing but a brick wall but – I know I just saw a sleigh ride by. I think Santa’s on the way. You better go to bed and make sure you’re asleep because if he’s passing here he must be on the way.’”

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Belynda with Stephen Lee and Mark

As her children grew older they found ways to include her in their milestones. Mark chose to get married on Belynda’s birthday and saved her a seat at the wedding. When Bridgette became pregnant with her second child she sent the ultrasound results to Belynda so her mother could tell her the baby’s gender; Belynda sent Bridgette a pink ribbon in response.

Belynda, now 54 and a grandmother, remains hopeful that, one day, she will be exonerated.

“I don’t know when this battle is going to be over,” she told me. “Letting go of hope – I still can’t seem to do it. You let go of hope you let go of life.”

 

Arkansas Woman Convicted of Husband’s Murder Seeks DNA Testing and Release For the Holidays

Dare to Think

A recent article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette called Belynda Goff’s imprisonment “appalling”.  Goff is currently seeking clemency from outgoing Governor Mike Beebe or incoming Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson.  Goff was convicted of murdering her husband, Stephen, in their home in 1996.  She has always maintained her innocence.  There is evidence that Stephen was killed by people he may have stolen money from, who were involved with an “arson for hire” scheme.

The Innocence Project is currently conducting DNA testing of crime scene evidence that could prove Belynda’s innocence, but because pieces of crucial evidence have gone missing, testing may not be enough.  If Governor Mike Beebe does not act on her case before his term expires then the clemency request will move to Governor-elect Hutchinson.

Democrat-Gazette columnist Mike Masterson writes that officials should “take a careful look and do the right thing”.

It all began on June 11, 1994 at 9…

View original post 626 more words

Journalist Mike Masterson’s Take

MIKE MASTERSON: Justice impersonated

Goff denied

Posted: February 16, 2016 at 2:24 a.m.

Our state’s had plenty of cases impersonating as justice. There’s the Janie Ward disgrace where the teenage girl from Marshall died of a separated spinal column during a party; for more than 20 years her violent death has remained unresolved.

Lately, we’ve endured a different form of travesty caused by our state’s Department of Environmental Quality (cough) quickly, quietly and accommodatingly allowing a hog factory of some 6,500 swine to operate in the ecologically fragile watershed of our Buffalo National River, the country’s first so designated.

Now I see yet another. Karen Thompson, attorney for the Innocence Project in New York, says the petition for clemency submitted to Gov. Asa Hutchinson on behalf of inmate Belynda Goff of Green Forest has been denied.

Belynda has served 20 years of a life-without-parole sentence based on her 1996 conviction despite inexplicably missing DNA evidence, excluded records and witness testimony, as well as no hard evidence to justify her conviction, much less such an extreme sentence.

I say that because anyone with common sense, including lawyers and law professors who examine what happened to this mother following the beating death of her husband, can’t help but be startled by what they learn. Every Arkansan would benefit from visiting the family’s informative website, Free Belynda Goff. Draw your own conclusions.

Belynda remains imprisoned because she declined a plea bargain of 10 years in exchange for her guilty plea. She’s proclaimed innocence from the night of her husband Stephen’s 1994 murder, vowing she’d never plead guilty to a crime she didn’t commit. Would you?

In researching what I know of this deeply troubling case spearheaded at the time by Carroll County investigator Archie Rousey (now retired), it seems most likely that her husband was bludgeoned to death in the predawn just inside the Goffs’ front door, possibly because of Stephen Goff’s reported involvement with an arson ring.

Belynda’s trial has long struck me as anything but justice. Her daughter, Bridgette Jones, said the single drop of purported blood found in the Goffs’ bathroom turned out not to be blood, according to a state Crime Lab finding the family received that was revised from the finding presented to the jury. The jury also never heard from Jodi Morganson, who said men with bats reportedly were inquiring about the Goffs’ residence on the day of Stephen’s murder. The list of obvious flaws in Belynda’s case are too numerous to detail here.

Like many others I’m disillusioned with our state’s refusal to approve this mother’s justifiable plea for clemency.

Thompson of the Innocence Project said, “She’s given a life sentence by a jury that didn’t hear at trial any evidence supporting her innocence, and the original prosecutor offered her 10 years. She’s been in for nearly 20 and is being punished with life in prison simply for maintaining her innocence. They had no viable evidence to prove her guilt. None. Their theory of guilt was nonsensical.

“They [Carroll County Sheriff’s Department] ‘lost’ critical evidence–the most critical evidence–in this case, although they managed to keep every other single piece of evidence collected at the crime scene,” she continued. “I asked for a hearing to find out what happened to that evidence from the last officer who touched it. His response was insane. This is a travesty of justice.”

In November, Thompson questioned former Carroll County deputy Greg Lester under oath about his signature documenting that he’d indeed picked up potentially crucial DNA trace evidence from the state Crime Lab. That evidence vanished without explanation. With Rousey present in the courtroom during Thompson’s questioning, Lester testified that he didn’t recall anything about his trip to Little Rock for the evidence, or what became of it.

Shawna Day was released from the women’s prison in December and formed a prisoner advocacy group called Echoes. She knew Belynda well in prison, as do so many inmates Belynda helps without bitterness.

“Belynda was an inspiration while I was incarcerated,” said Day. “She challenged me to rise above my circumstances, as she does every day as an innocent woman locked away. She’s truly a woman out of place in that environment. Yet she uses her tragedy to help better those around her by being an example of class, dignity and clarity.

“As director of Echoes I cannot explain how disheartening this decision is,” Day continued. “If the governor’s office will not consider those who are innocent for clemency, how do the guilty who’ve reformed themselves inside have any hope?”

————v————

Mike Masterson’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Editorial on 02/16/2016

 

Let’s Play a Game…

Let’s play a game. It’s called you be the judge. I am going to post two pages from a trial transcript.  In a highlighted area you will see comments from Judge Tom Keith, Prosecutor Kenny Elser, and Officer Archy Rousey. Next I am going to show you the  actual crime lab report pertaining to the testimony given by Rousey.

You be the judge, tell me if you see anything wrong here.

541 rust 001

Homicide investigator, Archy Rousey, testifies that he took a photo of a blood spot on a bath rail. Think reader… If you’re in a court room and the pictures are facing a jury, why would the prosecutor ask that one “circle the area where the blood spot is in the photograph”? Surely he can see it. This is clearly for the dramatic play on the jury. He wants to ensure that they can see the damning evidence. Rust 2

The evidence is so damning that Judge Keith himself says the identified blood speaks for itself.

The only problem is that the judge, prosecuting attorney, and Rousey know that what is being circled in that photograph isn’t blood. However, it is red, it will make a mark on the jury, and they run with it. The issue is what the crime lab had to say.

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Due to a lack of DNA recovered from the bathtub rail no genetic comparisons could be conducted… Reader, you can get DNA reading from something as small as the head of a pin, even evidence that is more minute – microscopic. Why couldn’t they get a reading from something so large it could be photographed and testified to as being blood splatter?

Because it wasn’t blood. Perhaps it was rust?

Twenty years later Belynda Goff is behind bars today because of this testimony from Archy Rousey and the comments made by judge Tom Keith.

You be the judge. You have a voice? Use it.

 

http://governor.arkansas.gov/contact-info

https://www.facebook.com/asaforarkansas/?fref=ts

http://www.4029tv.com/

http://abcnews.go.com/Site/page?id=3068843

 

 

Police Officer Has Sudden Bout of Amnesia on Stand

On November 9th of 2015 a hearing was held in the Circuit Court of Carroll County, Arkansas. This hearing was a deposition to question former police officer Greg Lester. Through research the Innocence Project of New York came across a document showing that Lester picked up integral DNA evidence from the state crime lab in Little Rock, Arkansas. He is the last person known to have the physical evidence.

It’s important to remember how this hearing even came about. The evidence that Lester had went MISSING. The Innocence Project was granted the right to test this evidence for DNA by a judge. When the attorney went to Carroll County to collect the evidence it was gone… Not just the DNA evidence but all of the paperwork pertaining to it. If this raises questions in your mind, please know we’re just scratching the surface here. This hearing was to ask Lester exactly what happened to the evidence but as the title of this post explains, instead of providing this information under oath, Lester seemed to have a sudden bout of amnesia and proclaimed himself unable to remember much of anything about his life during the time period in question.

During this recent hearing Lester was directly asked who his supervisor was during his employment at the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. His exact answer was “I don’t recall”. The funny thing is that his former supervisor, Archy Rousey, was sitting in the front row, directly in front of him during this hearing. It is also worth noting that these two men maintained near-constant eye contact throughout the entire hearing.

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Archy Rousey has long since been retired. This hearing was not announced in the papers or radio. What exactly is he doing here and as one legal professional said, “what is his perverse obsession with this case about”? Majority of his retirement speech in the local paper was about Belynda Goff. This is strange. It is his retirement and all he can think to talk about is a 20 year old crime? It’s especially strange that he would choose to talk about this one subject considering all of the experience he boasts about having. You can read the article here. What may be even more strange is the reaction of local prosecutor, Tony Rogers, when Rousey’s name was brought up during the hearing.

Per spectators, “Rogers became upset at the mention of Rousey’s name and started raising his voice.” Another says, “I’ve never seen anything like it, when they mentioned Archy Rousey he just lost it.” Many people stated that it was clear that Lester was coached on what to say and not say on the stand. He denied being at the crime scene and denied interviewing Goff that morning… That is until the attorney was able to show Lester the transcript of his interview he stated never happened.

The prosecutor was seen being “buddy buddy” with Rousey at the time of the hearing, performing questionable actions like escorting Rousey out and to the back the building, talking in hushed tones. And let’s not forget the witnesses who heard the prosecutor yelling outside the courthouse that he was “sick and tired of this case” (so professional, right?). Well quite a few of us are sick and tired of this case as well, Mr. Rogers. As more and more people learn of this injustice Belynda Goff’s supporters grow in numbers. You should know that this case is not going away and you should start preparing for much much more of it.