Free Lacresha Murray

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Lacresha Is Free!

Lacresha finally came home on Wednesday, April 21, 1999
after 3 long years of confinement for a crime she did not commit.
On August 13, 2001 all charges were dismissed.

Dear Friends and Supporters,

The charges against La Cresha Murray, now 17, have been dismissed with prejudice, which means for all time. They cannot reprosecute. They will also not prosecute the real perpetrators despite the fact that there is and was evidence available in 1996 establishing the time of Jayla Belton’s injuries and clearing the Murrays; but lawyers never admit wrong, especially district attorneys and prosecutors and corrupt judges.

Nevertheless, on August 13, 2001, in the typical cloak and dagger style of the D.A., the charges were dismissed – one day before La Cresha started school. On Tuesday, August 14th, on behalf of People of the Heart, I held our last press conference. La Cresha and I were flown to New York City on Wednesday, August 15th to tape a segment on a talk show, “The Ananda Lewis Show,” entitled “Rush to Justice” about innocents convicted of crimes they did not commit, which is supposed to air on September 10, 2001 on CBS.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated – through emails, cards, letters, gifts to La Cresha, phone calls, prayers or picketing. Every single person made a difference in this five year saga, begun in 1996, that took us from our original “effort” at a website to the awesome production donated by Image Data Corporation. From Washington D.C. to Tennessee to Australia, from the local Michael Lofton Talk Show to Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes, from the biased and corrupt Austin American Statesman articles to Bob Herbert’s six story-breaking articles in the New York Times, this became an international scandal and an international mission to Free Lacresha. The push was on, the pressure sustained up to and including the very last day – August 13, 2001.

La Cresha is very happy that it is over and we are continuing in our efforts to help her get beyond it. As to Jayla Belton, the deceased child, I am begging each and every person who suspects or is exposed to a child being abused to intervene, to report it, to take action to protect the child. Over 93% of child homicides are perpetrated by one or the other parent or the “friend” of the parent. It is not enough to say, “I didn’t know.”

Jayla Belton died with over 30-some bruises and abrasions, weighing less than 20 pounds at two and a half years, four broken ribs and a torn liver. Her injuries did not occur in a moment. Her injuries did not occur at the hands of strangers. There were people who knew of the abuse, including starvation, and did nothing. Similarly, no one among all the departments and personnel handling the “protective” custody, interrogation, arrest and indictment of La Cresha Murray acted to protect her.

One person with integrity and courage operating in that system of hundreds could have prevented the abuse of this child and directed the system towards the real perpetrators. Instead, they are free! We must become more vigilant in preventing child abuse, including abuse by the justice system. It will make for a safer world for our children and a safer world for everyone as healthy, happy children grow up to become responsible citizens.

Again, thank you!

Barbara A. Taft
People of the Heart

If you are unfamiliar with Lacresha Murray’s case, please read on:

Lacresha Murray is an 11-year-old serving a 25 year prison term for a crime she did not commit.

New!Video clips about Lacresha’s case are now available. Be sure to visit  our Latest News page.

She was charged in the death of Jayla Belton with capital murder, found guilty of negligent homicide and injury to a child, and sentenced to 25 years–with no evidence, witnesses, opportunity, motive, nor history of aggression.

Months before her trial, against juvenile law and State Bar rules, D.A. Ronnie Earle announced her identity and pronounced her guilty in a televised news conference.The media, without any investigation, headlined her as guilty as charged for two months, obliterating any possibility of a fair trial.

Hidden from her family for four days, without a break, Lacresha was lied to, threatened, tricked and brainwashed during a three-hour interrogation by the Austin Police Department (APD). Not only did they deny her an attorney or parent present during this deceptively and illegally arranged interrogation, they threateningly coerced a false statement out of her, and  failed to

  • read her all of her rights
  • ensure she understood them,
  • ascertain whether Lacresha could read the statement they typed up, which she could not.

By all accounts, this interrogation was immoral, illegal and inadmissible as evidence, and yet it was used as the only evidence against her. With no evidence, witnesses, motive, opportunity or history of aggressive behavior, Lacresha was found guilty — twice.

In the first trial, she was denied a defense.

In the second trial, she was provided a rigged defense. During the second trial, the prosecution based it’s case on the assertion there was a match between the shoes they alleged Lacresha was wearing and the injuries on Jayla Belton’s body; however, these shoes were not Lacresha’s. They were boy’s tennis shoes, 3 sizes too large. Her family did not recognize them, and everyone who saw her that day, including hospital personnel and police, saw her barefoot.

The State’s two “experts” who testified there was indeed a match, admitted on the stand they had not actually measured or tested the shoes in comparison to Jayla Belton’s injuries. In fact, one of the “experts” did not see the shoes until minutes before he testified there was a match. The only scientific, forensic testing of the shoes was done by the police department’s crime lab, which sent a report to prosecutors stating there was not a match. The only qualified expert evidence the prosecution had completely undermined their case. The jury had the right to see this report, but the prosecutors and judge suppressed it.

The judge, D.A., APD, Travis County Medical Examiner and the prosecutors in this matter failed to obey Texas law, designed to protect innocent children, and colluded with each other to imprison this innocent child for purely political reasons. By framing and imprisoning this innocent child, D.A. Ronnie Earle got national attention and right-before-election proof he was indeed tough on crime. Judge Dietz, Earle’s former campaign manager and friend, got to provide a self-serving favor for Earle. The police got to close another case without much effort or cost. The prosecutors got both an easy win for their resumes and a chance to exercise the eagerly-awaited Determinate Sentencing Act, enabling them to imprison juveniles convicted of violent crimes for lengthy sentences.

Lacresha Murray got 25 years.

Please help us free Lacresha and bring justice for Jayla Belton. We need new laws and stronger enforcement of existing laws to protect innocent children. Please write or call your community leaders, your local representatives, your president and demand that Lacresha be freed. Please call us if you want to join us in freeing this innocent girl. Or, send us a contribution so that we can continue the demand to free Lacresha. Lacresha needs your help now!

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Our justice system is specifically designed to protect citizens from

  • arrest and conviction based on expedience, prejudice and political motivations by insisting upon the rights of the accused,
  • fair and impartial investigation,
  • the presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt with clear and convincing factual evidence.

Obviously, the goals of our justice system are not always met, but did you know that the legal safeguards we so highly value and trust are increasingly being violated in juvenile cases? For those with children, the travesty of the case against Lacresha Murray literally means that the police can arrest and accuse your children of a horrendous crime, secret them away from you, deliberately and illegally deny them an attorney and/or parent during interrogation, subject them to lies, trickery, threats and bullying during an interrogation, deny them full notification of the charge against them and its consequences, completely slander their reputation, as well as that of the entire family, and put them away for 25 to 40 years, or more — without evidence.

By any other name, this is child abuse by our justice system. Although this is not supposed to happen in America, it did and it could happen to your child.

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