centurion
seeking freedom for the innocent in prison
winter 2020 issue seventeen
After Exoneration - The Next Chapter
by Jim Cousins
Centurion client Shawn Henning and his co-defendant Ralph
(“Ricky”) Birch were exonerated of the murder of Everett
Carr when the Connecticut Superior Court, on July 10, 2020
dismissed all charges against the two men. They had been
imprisoned since their teens and each had served 30 years
for a murder they did not commit.
After their emotional and heart-rending exonerations, both
Shawn and Ricky have conscientiously started the daunting
process of rebuilding their lives. Despite the deprivations
caused by years of imprisonment and the bewildering
changes occurring in the world during that time, both men
immediately found gainful employment, places to live and
girlfriends! Shawn obtained a driver’s license for the rst time
(continued on page 4)
Ralph Birch & Shawn Henning celebrate their exoneration.
centurion.org | 609-921-0334
Cover Story
By Jim Cousins
Centurion Advocates for
Change in the NJ Supreme
Court.
By Paul Casteleiro, Page 4
Plea Deals: The Unimag-
inable Choice for the
Innocent in Prison
By Kate Germond, Page 6
2
5MA
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11-20
21-30
31-40
41-50
61-70
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1 Exoneration!
1 Release!
64 FRED to date!
93 inquires
149 cases in development*
5 active cases in the courts**
3 exoneres suported
3 new board members
case inquiries
by state
highlights
2020
* 85 cases are pending nal assignment.
** 3 additional cases are in pre-litigation status.
as of November 2020
Dear Friends,
Thank you for taking the time to crack open this newsletter and catch up with us! We
are incredibly grateful for the encouragement you’ve given us this year. Knowing that
we have a community of supporters like you who are truly dedicated to justice
drives us forward, energizes us, and provides hope to the innocent men and
women we are ghting to free. I hope you are proud of the work highlighted in this
newsletter - your support helped make it happen.
As the realities of the pandemic started to sink in back in March, it was unclear if or
how we would be able to do our work. Our communication with our clients and people
seeking our help is done via mail, with hundreds of letters being sent and received
each month. How would we manage to coordinate and track such a critical aspect of
our work with our sta working remotely? How would we continue case development
without our volunteers being able to come to our oces? How would we advance
litigation and investigations if we were unable to travel around the country? And how
could we help keep our Centurion family safe and healthy during incredibly scary,
uncertain times?
My worries were quickly quelled as our team barely missed a beat and I was reminded
of Centurion’s core values. Centurion does not quit. Centurion nds a way. I’m proud
to say that over the past 10 months, our team found ways to keep all aspects of our
work moving forward and developed solutions to every obstacle that was put in front of
them. You can learn more about how we’ve navigated the limitations of the pandemic
throughout this newsletter.
Most importantly, our family of clients and exonerees are safe and healthy, as are
our dedicated volunteers and incredible sta, with one heartbreaking exception - we
lost beloved exoneree Richard LaPointe to COVID-19 over the summer. We keep in
contact with our 21 incarcerated clients and the men and women we’ve freed across
the country, updating them as we make progress, and assuring them that they are not
alone as we weather this crisis together.
None of this work is possible without you. With your support we will continue to
navigate whatever challenges are put in front of us so that innocent men and
women in prison can hope to someday win their ght for justice and freedom.
Thank you, and be well.
Donate online at:
centurion.org/donatenow
A letter from
Executive Director
Corey Waldron
in his life and he works in construction as
well as in a variety of capacities for a pizza
restaurant.
Ricky has employment with a company that
paints the markings on airport tarmacs and
parking lots. With regard to the advances
in technology, Shawn tells the amusing
story of being utterly baed by the self-
checkout counter at a Target store where
he rst went to purchase products for his
home. The remote car door opener was a
curiosity to him as well. But both men easily
mastered the use of cell phones, texting
and social media.
Shawn’s well-known empathy for others
has driven him to devote many hours a
week volunteering for local charities in the
New London area, including a food bank
and a rehabilitation facility.
Now living in coastal Connecticut, Shawn
has nally been able to realize his lifelong
dream of enjoying the pleasures of the
beach and kayaking in the ocean.
After Exoneration -
The Next Chapter
(continued from page 1)
Left: Tyler Spikes (L), Ricky Birch, Shawn Henning,
Lori Freedman. Above: Jim Cousins & Shawn Henning
in court
Last month, Centurion participated in
oral argument before the Supreme Court
of New Jersey as an amicus curiae,
a friend of the Court, in support of the
defendant Michele Lodzinski’s eorts to
overturn her conviction for the murder of
her ve year-old son. The death of the
child occurred in 1991, but Ms. Lodzinski
was not charged until 2014 after several
witnesses changed their statements
regarding the identication of a blanket
that was found with the body. At the trial,
the State was unable to produce any
evidence of a cause of death, i.e. that
it was a homicide, or any evidence of
conduct by Ms. Lodzinski that contributed
to the death. Nonetheless, the jury
convicted her of murder. Motions by the
defense, attacking the suciency of the
evidence, were denied and on appeal the
Appellate Division held that in determining
the suciency of the evidence to convict
that the Court would consider only the
evidence the State introduced and not
any of the “substantial” defense evidence
that “in many ways directly rebutted the
State’s proofs.” Centurion enlisted the pro
bono unit at Fox Rothchild LLP to submit
an amicus brief arguing that basic due
process required the court to consider all
evidence in determining the suciency of
the proofs to convict. The decision in the
case is pending.
Centurion Advocates for Change
in the NJ Supreme Court
by Paul Casteleiro
5
Centurion’s community of supporters is
truly outstanding and creative. Take Fizz
Ahmed for example: Fizz is a Google
Senior Strategist who cares deeply about
social and racial justice. Back in February,
Fizz interviewed exoneree Richard Miles
and Centurion’s Senior Investigator and
Advocate, Kate Germond, at our talk at
Google (if you haven’t seen the talk yet,
please visit our website).
After the murder of George Floyd in May,
Fizz felt compelled to act. He painted a
compelling piece called “I Can’t Breathe”
and created a GoFundMe campaign to
raise awareness and funds for social and
racial justice organizations, Centurion being
one of the beneciaries. Donors to the
campaign were entered into the rae to
win the painting and by chance, a generous
Centurion donor won! That individual was
kind enough to donate “I Can’t Breathe” to
Centurion.
But the painting wasn’t “home” quite yet.
After seeing the piece, Rob Connor, the
Vice President of our Board of Directors,
showed it to the students at the Christina
Seix Academy, an incredible school in
Trenton, NJ where he is the Head of
School. The Academy provides outstanding
holistic day and boarding school options for
some of the most underserved, intelligent
kids in the area, grades K-8. The painting
was a powerful complement to the
conversations they were having around the
ongoing demonstrations and demands for
justice reform. Everyone involved agreed -
“I Can’t Breathe” belonged with the young
people at Christina Seix Academy!
Many thanks to Fizz for his generosity
and creativity, and to the students who will
be the next generation of leaders to work
towards a more equitable, just world!
Rob Connor, the Vice President of Centurion’s Board of Directors and Head of School at Christina Seix Academy,
pictured with ve of CSA’s incredible students and Fizz’s compelling piece.
Art & Social Justice:
Making Connections Across Generations
6
Plea Deals are one of the many cynical
tools a prosecutor can use to maintain a
nger on the scale when presented with
an innocence case. No innocent person
wants to take a deal. However, wrongly
convicted people are too often presented
with a Gordian Knot that most of us never
have to solve.
Kevin DeSalle, a New Orleans man, was
convicted 24 years ago of a shooting in
New Orleans and sentenced to Life Without
Parole by a non-unanimous jury. When we
took on the case, we discovered, through
a Freedom of Information Act request,
a police report with the name of an eye-
witness who denitively identied to police
the man he saw shoot the victim. The
name given was known to police but they
never investigated him and he is currently
serving time for another shooting in
New Orleans.
After years of litigation over the withheld
police report, the Supreme Court of
Louisiana ordered an evidentiary hearing.
Then Covid-19 hit and Kevin was given
a conundrum: there was nally hope for
an exoneration but he knew it would take
years because, despite our clear petition
of actual innocence, the District Attorney
was digging in, which meant a long battle.
In July, while Angola Prison, where Kevin
was housed, admitted to 11 COVID-19
deaths. God only knows the toll now.
Needless to say, Kevin was worried about
his health and the health of his aging
parents. To stay put and risk death or get
out and help his parents, choices that few
of us anticipate.
In seeking to get Kevin home, despite
considerable evidence of a wrongful
conviction, the DA would adamantly only
consider a plea to a reduced sentence
combined with strict parole conditions.
Kevin took the deal. It meant he could go
home. But it also means that he cannot
receive compensation for what he endured,
and he will remain under the thumb of the
Corrections System for years to come.
We are hoping that New Orleans elects a
new District Attorney who is not unwilling
to address the realities of wrongful
convictions. If that happens, we will be rst
in line with Kevin’s case. He is an innocent
man. We will ght for his exoneration.
Plea Deals: The Unimaginable Choice
for the Innocent in Prison
by Kate Germond
Follow Centurion
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@CenturionFree
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Kevin is pictured outside his parents’ home where he
is living and enjoying his family.
Centurion’s team of stalwart volunteer
Case Developers weren’t going to let the
coronavirus pandemic slow their eorts
to continue working on the more than 70
claims of innocence they were developing
when COVID-19 disrupted operations
in March. Working with Centurion’s
Case Managers, Kim Weston and Gene
Truncellito, they found ways to contribute
their invaluable talents remotely.
Since the extent and length of “sheltering
at home” was unknown at the outset of the
pandemic, volunteers initially did their best
to stay connected to their cases, relying
on case information that was in digital
form and available via Centurion’s online
accounts.
However, as months passed without the
benet of full access to the physical les
and regular oce interaction, volunteer
case work began to reach its limits.
The demand for Centurion’s help was
unceasing however, so Centurion revisited
its long standing practice to maintain
case les strictly in the oce. And when
we asked our volunteers if they would be
willing to work on case les from home,
the response was a resounding “YES.”
It was a simple solution, but it broke
through the dam. Soon les were
prepared for transport and volunteers
began showing up “curbside” to bring
home not only cases already assigned,
but additional new cases for development
(as well as making the return trip at the
completion of case reviews). Kim and
Gene continue to monitor the cases and
be the go-betweens for scanning and
posting newly arrived case information for
home access as well as getting ongoing
correspondence out into the mail.
Molly Chrein, a former public defender
and a four-year Centurion volunteer
Case Developer, feels that the exibility
to work from home can actually help with
productivity. However, she misses the
camaraderie of coming to the oce and
working with people “dedicated to the
same cause.”
Volunteer Case Developer Jock McFarlane
similarly feels that ongoing in-person
connection serves to accentuate a sense
of Centurion’s mission, and that seeing the
“wall of exoneree portraits, a community
of dedicated sta and volunteers, and
a board with the names of those we’ve
committed to work for” at the oce are
constant positive reminders of why he has
been a Centurion volunteer since 2003,
after previously working on the technical
sta at RCA Laboratories and as a
systems analyst at Ciba-Geigy/Novartis.
We are optimistic that an upside of the
aftermath of the pandemic will be an even
more eective, ecient team of volunteer
Case Developers who will be able to
split their time between home and the
Centurion oce to better serve our clients
and the mission of freeing the innocent.
Advancing Case Development
in a Global Pandemic
The Newest Centurion
Centurion is thrilled to welcome the newest member of our family,
Miss Veera B. Mukherjee! Veera was welcomed into the world by our
Communications Associate, Priyanka Banerjee, and her husband
Sujoy in the early morning hours on July 22. We are so excited for
Priyanka and Sujoy, and can’t wait to meet little Veera!
1000 Herrontown Road
Princeton, NJ 08540-7716
centurion
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Have you gotten your copy?
They make a great gift!
Purchase online at www.penguinrandomhouse.com
Rob Mooney - Chairman
Rob Connor, PhD - Vice Chairman
Jozelyn Davis, PhD
Charles Crow, Esq.
Mary Catherine Cu, P.J.A.D.
John Grisham
Kenneth Javerbaum, Esq.
James McCloskey
Regina Noch
Edwin Pisani, CPA
Stephen Pollard, CFP
Kathy Vik
Board of Directors
Thank you to everyone who attended and supported our virtual
event on December 1!
We missed being in-person with you at our Annual Family
Gathering this year! Expect an invitation to our 2021 Family
Gathering scheduled to take place next September!