Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Questionable Court, Questionable Outcomes

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Convicted Man Goes Public
April 27, 2005 By DIANE STRUZZI, Hartford Courant Staff Writer

Supporters of a New Fairfield man convicted of shaking and injuring his girlfriend's child in 2002 are taking an unconventional step by bringing his claim of innocence directly to the public at a press conference today at the Legislative Office Building.

They hope to win financial support for his cause and publicize the errors they allege occurred in the case.

Jason Gebhardt, 28, was convicted of first-degree assault and risk of injury, and is serving a 12-year prison sentence, according to judicial officials. Gebhardt was not successful in an appeal to the state Appellate Court.

The lawyer representing him now, Richard E. Cohen of Hartford, said some attention needs to be paid to Gebhardt's case.

"What we're going on is that somebody else was involved in injuring the child and Jason took the fall for it basically," Cohen said this week.

"We feel that an injustice has been done, that mitigating and exculpatory evidence need to be brought forward and there needs to be a new trial."

Cohen has not filed any papers in court, but said there are two possible legal avenues. One is a habeas corpus petition alleging Gebhardt's trial lawyer was ineffective; and another is requesting a new trial.

A 16-page preliminary report was written by Andy Thibault and Jim Brewer, who say they are private investigators looking into the case. Among other issues, the report contends police focused solely on Gebhardt as a suspect when there were others to be investigated; there was inconsistent testimony about the child's injuries; and Gebhardt's confession was coerced. The report also contends the questioning of potential jurors during Gebhardt's trial was never recorded.

But a spokeswoman for the judicial branch said audiotapes of the jury selection process are available.

"Our information from the court reporter in Danbury is that there are two full tapes, and a portion of a third, from jury selection in the case of state of Connecticut vs. Jason Gebhardt," said judicial branch spokeswoman Rhonda Stearley-Hebert.

"In addition, Judge Gary White was present in court throughout the ... process," Stearley-Hebert said.

Thibault said Brewer was told the tapes do not exist. State police referred all questions to the prosecuting attorney in Superior Court in Danbury.

After reading a copy of the report, David Shannon, the assistant state's attorney who prosecuted the case, said the evidence against Gebhardt was overwhelming.

"He made admissions," Shannon said.

"The jury credited the expert testimony from Yale-New Haven Hospital. The jury deliberated less than three hours. He received a fair trial."

State Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, who co-chairs the legislature's judiciary committee, said he agreed to secure a room for Gebhardt's supporters, but is not endorsing their position.

"If everything in that report is 100 percent true, it certainly raises a number of questions," Lawlor said.

"I have no reason to know whether or not it's true. In general, the phenomenon of false confessions is a real one. ... I agreed to host the press conference so I could listen to what they have to say. I'm supporting their right to bring it to the people's attention."

Gebhardt's parents, who are scheduled to be at the press conference, want to pursue their son's innocence claim, said Michael London of the public relations firm Michael J. London & Associates, which is helping to publicize the case.

London said Gebhardt's girlfriend, Teresa Allen, 23, of New Fairfield, the child's mother, supports Gebhardt. Allen was convicted of risk of injury in connection with the 2002 incident and was sentenced to 18 months in prison, according to judicial and court officials. Brewer said Allen does not have custody of the child, a boy, who is in foster care. He was 6 months old at the time of the injuries, according to the Appellate Court opinion.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was denied basic human rights! A shamful example of CT "Justice"
We don't call it "Corrtoticit" for nothing.

Monday, May 16, 2005 6:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay--well here's what i think--since not only did i date him--but he's my best friends cousin. i've known jason since we were like 14 or 15 and i know that the man thats in prison is innocent. i have nothing to gain from this other than i've defended a dear friend. he would never ever shake a child. he's been around little ones a good portion of his life and never a hostile word or action has ever been. he's not a mean or malicious person in any way. very subdued. i think the conn. justice system needs to re-investigate. god forbid anyone looks into anyone else that had been near that child. even after his arrest-i saw him at his uncle's home--and he pled his case...and i believe him. he adores that child and the childs mother. he cried-and begged for me to believe him. and i do. so shame on the justice system and FREE JASON GEBHARDT!!!!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006 3:42:00 PM  

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