Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-07-08
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Longest-ever wrongfully incarcerated woman in U.S. history sues
Officers concocted homophobic theory
2016-08-22

facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


From a press release

RENO, NV — Attorneys for Cathy Woods, who according to the National Registry of Exonerations' database is the longest-ever wrongfully incarcerated woman in U.S. history, filed suit in federal court here today against four former Reno, NV and Shreveport, LA cops, a district attorney and a physician who knowingly caused her wrongful imprisonment.

The former police officers are accused of coercing false statements out of a mentally vulnerable person and falsely attributed statements to her for the 1976 murder of college student Michelle Mitchell. Despite multiple witness reports of a man fleeing the scene of the crime, the officers with no evidence concocted a homophobic theory that Ms. Woods is a lesbian, that her "mannish" appearance explained the witness reports, and that she murdered Ms. Mitchell for rejecting her sexual advances.

Ms. Woods, also known as Anita Carter, was exonerated after DNA testing conducted on evidence from the crime scene revealed that the actual killer was a serial rapist and murderer, a man named Rodney Halbower. Halbower is currently serving a prison sentence in Oregon.

Ms. Woods is represented by Elizabeth Wang and David B. Owens of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law and Edmund J. Gorman, Jr., Attorney at Law.

Loevy & Loevy is one of the largest civil rights law firms in the country and handles cases nationwide, with offices in Chicago and Boulder, Colorado. It has won more multi-million dollar jury verdicts than any other civil rights law firm in the entire country over the past decade.

Background

On the evening of February 24, 1976, Michelle Mitchell, a 19-year-old University of Nevada-Reno student, was murdered near the campus. With blanketing media coverage, there was immense public pressure to solve the murder and make the campus and its young charges safe. Ms. Woods was a Reno resident at the time and, like many other Reno residents, saw the many news reports.

In the days immediately after Ms. Mitchell's death, numerous witnesses who were near the campus on the night of the murder came forward to the police with information that they had seen a suspicious man near and running away from the scene of the crime at around the time that the crime was believed to have occurred. In fact, the police believed that Michelle's killer was probably a male serial killer, given similar killings of young women in the region.

One of the hottest "heater cases" on the Reno, NV police docket, it went unsolved for three years, without any arrests and no fresh leads, an embarrassment to the department.

In March 1979, after a lifelong history of severe mental illness and with only a sixth grade education, Ms. Woods had been involuntarily committed to receive psychiatric care in Shreveport, Louisiana. While she was floridly psychotic and hearing voices, Ms. Woods told a counselor at Louisiana State University ( LSU ) Medical Center a vague story about having killed a girl named Michelle in Reno several years earlier. The counselor contacted Shreveport police, who in turn contacted Reno police.

For the Reno police, this was their big break, their opportunity to solve the case and rehabilitate the department after their three-year long failure to solve the case.

Dr. Douglas Burks of LSU Medical Center violated his professional ethics by participating in the interrogation of Ms. Woods with Shreveport and Reno police when Ms. Woods clearly was not competent to answer questions, let alone truly consent to be interrogated and fully understand her rights. She had been involuntarily detained at the LSU Medical Center, was not free to leave, and was in an inherently coercive environment due to her severe mental illness.

In the days leading up to the interrogation, Ms. Woods had not responded to her psychiatric medication and her condition had gotten worse. It profoundly affected her ability to function properly as she experienced disorganized thoughts, an inability to think in a linear or logical fashion, and auditory hallucinations.

The suit notes:

— As a result of Ms. Woods' inability to communicate in a normal manner, as well as her below-average intelligence and limited education, it was immediately obvious to any person who questioned Ms. Woods … that she was suffering from cognitive difficulties and symptoms of mental illness, and that she had little to no education or understanding of the situation…. Rather than take steps to ensure that Ms. Woods was truly and freely agreeing to confess, these Defendants took advantage of her diminished capacity and mental vulnerabilities and continued their interrogations in a manner intended to force Ms. Woods to falsely confess….

— Ms. Woods' false confession during her interrogations was not memorialized or written down in any way. It was not audio recorded, even though the Defendants had the capacity to record statements. Nor did the Defendants ask Ms. Woods to write her confession down. Nor did they write her confession down for her and ask her to review or sign it.

To make her false confession believable, police improperly fed Woods details of the crime known only to themselves and the murderer.

After 35 years, Ms. Woods obtained freedom

In 2013, DNA testing was conducted on evidence from the Michelle Mitchell crime scene, including a cigarette butt found next to Michelle's body. The testing revealed that the DNA did not come from Ms. Woods.

Instead, it matches a male serial rapist and murder named Rodney Halbower, who has been linked through DNA evidence to the murders of three other young women in northern California. Those murders were committed at around the same time as Michelle Mitchell's murder.

In 2014, Ms. Woods' post-conviction attorneys moved for a new trial on the basis of this newly discovered evidence. On September 10, 2014, the trial court granted Ms. Woods's motion for a new trial and vacated her conviction. Charges remained pending against her for an additional six months. In March 2015, the State of Nevada filed a motion to dismiss the charges, and the charges against Ms. Woods were dismissed.

"While Ms. Woods' case is extraordinary for the extreme length of her wrongful incarceration, it was tragically common in other crucial respects," said Elizabeth Wang, attorney at Loevy & Loevy. "At the time of her wrongful arrest, Ms. Woods was a poorly educated young woman with diagnosed severe mental illness. The authorities charged with protecting her instead took advantage of her mental illness. In doing so they betrayed their professional ethics and intentionally framed her."

A copy of the suit, Cathy Woods ( a/k/a Anita Carter ), by and through her Personal Representative, Linda Wade, v. City of Reno, NV, et al., Case Number 3:16-cv-00494 is available here. A royalty-free, high resolution 1980 photo of Ms. Woods is available by sending an email to andy@loevy.com with the subject line, "Send Ms. Woods photo."


facebook twitter google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Illinois' neutral marker on birth certificates applauded on Int'l Non-Binary People's Day 2020-07-14 - A person born in Illinois is able to correct the gender marker on their birth certificate to a gender neutral designation, according to ...


Gay News

WORLD Conversion therapy, Thai measure, gay bars vandalized, Global Pride 2020-07-13 - The United Nations' Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity called for a global ban ...


Gay News

Activists fight against anti-LGBTQ+ zones and bias in Poland 2020-07-10 - There is a crisis happening in the LGBTQ+ community in Poland, as in many countries around the world. Poland's historically patriarchal and Christian ...


Gay News

Lambda Legal asks court to block Trump's HHS anti-LGBTQ health care rule 2020-07-09 - ( Washington, D.C., July 9, 2020 ) — Today, Lambda Legal asked a federal district court to prevent the recently published health care ...


Gay News

SCOTUS provides exemption for religious schools from bias lawsuits 2020-07-08 - On July 8, the U.S. Supreme Court ( SCOTUS ) ruled seven to two in favor of two California religious schools that argued ...


Gay News

United Nations call for a global ban on conversion therapy, Born Perfect comments 2020-07-08 - GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — Today, the United Nations' Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity called ...


Gay News

Supreme Court on religious employers, contraceptive coverage under ACA, NCLR responds 2020-07-08 - WASHINGTON, DC — The Supreme Court issued two important decisions today that significantly change the relationship between freedom of religion and anti-discrimination protections. ...


Gay News

Hyde Amendment included in House LHHS Appropriations Bill, NCLR responds 2020-07-08 - WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced the Labor, Health and Human Services ( LHHS ) Appropriations bill that includes ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Brayla Stone, anti-LGBTQ attacks, Virginia Values Act, Fire Island 2020-07-07 - Brayla Stone, a 17-year-old Black trans girl, was murdered in Sherwood, Arkansas, near Little Rock on June 25, a National Black Justice Coalition ...


Gay News

WORLD African country's pro-LGBT move, Pride marches, lesbian singer 2020-07-07 - In a landmark decision on July 6, the Senate of Gabon voted to decriminalize same-sex relations with 59 votes in favor, 17 against ...


 



Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.