Once-exonerated convict dies during Conn. appeal

AP News
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Posted: Oct 26, 2011 5:04 PM
Once-exonerated convict dies during Conn. appeal

A man whose murder conviction was overturned but later reinstated has died of colon cancer while awaiting a new appeal trial, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Ronald Taylor, 53, died Tuesday at his home in Cheshire after a two-year fight with cancer, said attorney Peter Tsimbidaros, who was with him when he died. Several relatives and friends also were there.

"It was heartbreaking for sure," Tsimbidaros told The Associated Press. "The last thing he expressed to me was he wanted me to continue the fight to clear his name. I have every intention to do that. In fact, I'm even more inspired to do so."

Taylor and co-defendant George Gould were convicted of shooting New Haven grocery shop owner Eugenio Deleon Vega to death in 1993 and sentenced to 80 years in prison. Both were freed in April 2010 after serving 16 years behind bars, when a state Superior Court judge ruled they were victims of "manifest injustice" and declared them "actually innocent." The ruling came after a key witness recanted her trial testimony.

But in July, the state Supreme Court reinstated the murder convictions, saying Judge Stanley Fuger was wrong to overturn them because Gould and Taylor hadn't proven their innocence. The high court ordered a new appeal trial for the two men.

Judge Elliot Solomon ordered Gould back to prison in August but allowed Taylor to remain free while fighting cancer.

The new appeal trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 23. Taylor's death doesn't make his case moot, Tsimbidaros said.

"It's such a unique case and the facts are so extraordinary that Ron's case should continue," he said.

Prosecutors say they still believe Gould and Taylor committed the crime and that witness Doreen Stiles told the truth at the original trial.

Stiles testified that she saw Gould enter the store and heard him arguing with the shopkeeper about opening his safe, then heard a gunshot and saw Gould and Taylor leaving the store.

But Stiles testified before Fuger in 2009 that she lied during the trial and wasn't at the murder scene. She said that she was "dopesick" when police interrogated her after the killing and that a detective told her he would help her buy heroin if she told authorities what happened.

Stiles said she identified Taylor and Gould in photos and afterward two detectives gave her $60 and drove her to a street where she bought heroin. Police have denied that.

Gould's lawyer, Joseph Visone, has argued that the state's theory that Gould and Taylor killed the owner in a robbery makes no sense. He said the owner was found with $1,800 stuffed in his pockets and there was $100 in the cash register, money that should have been taken if the motive was robbery.