...for a murder I did not commit

In the year 2000, a man whose family I had not seen in eight years hired a private investigator to find me. He was given old addresses where I had lived while attending college. I transferred to another university and had a new apartment. He found I had moved and eventually killed my wife.

He met with me and tried to kill me as well; I defended myself, and he died by his own knife.

While awaiting trial for his death, I was housed in a two-man unit with Tom Huff, who had been sentenced to serve 14 months for fraud, and was waiting to be transferred to prison.

Huff was around me for about 11 days total. The case was highly publicized and during those 11 days. Huff read the newspaper articles and watched the TV news reports. Once Huff transferred to prison, he wrote a letter to the prosecutor stating he would testify against me in exchange for his release. Huff claimed I told him about the murders. The prosecutor used Huff as a "witness." Though nothing at trial supported Huff’s story, I was convicted of a murder I did NOT commit.

There is much evidence implicating the guy who hired the investigator. He paid for the investigator with his son’s credit card; he told one of his sons he was looking for me; he had stayed in a hotel near where the body was found; my wife was in phone contact with him—and more.

Huff admitted for the record that he asked to be released in exchange for testimony. Aside from his name and that we were in the county jail together, nothing Huff said was correct and, again, Huff’s story was unsupported by any evidence at trial.

I was convicted because I was the easy target. No one wanted to believe the dead guy was the killer and people are prone to believe a husband is the killer when a wife is found dead, regardless of the evidence. This view was compounded by my not having family or friends to support me.

I have not been a saint in life but I certainly do not deserve to serve the rest of my life in prison for a murder I did NOT commit.

I am currently challenging the conviction in three courts.

I have no support, no access to the law of the state where the conviction occurred and I have no financial assistance.

I have written hundreds of letters to agencies, firms and organizations; the few responses I received generally state they cannot help, mostly because there is no DNA in my case, but also due to lack of resources or for being outside their area.

If you would like to read a copy of the brief I have in support of the claims I have in court, please write; It will cost about $6.50 for postage and copy costs and as I don’t have funds it may take awhile but I will find a way to eventually get a copy to you.

If you are able to set up a free web page or be of other help, or have comments, please write, I would be grateful.

On a bigger note though, the problem is larger than my case or a handful of other cases alone. In the United States, on average, only 8 percent of criminal cases go to trial because prosecutors stack charges and threaten defendants with decades of prison time upon conviction if they insist on going to trial. This allows the prosecutor to coerce guilty pleas on weak cases before trial that equal convictions without being forced to provide evidence against defendants. If 16 percent of cases went to trial, the court system could not handle it and prosecutors would be forced to go forward with only those cases strong enough to suggest that the defendant is the actual perpetrator.

This would not ensure that innocent people would not be convicted, but would better safeguard innocents and would bolster the integrity of the system. The government, then, would not be able to prosecute cases resting on fictionalized storylines authored by desperate county jail inmates selfishly manipulating the system to obtain their own releases at the expense of others’ incarceration.

D. Michael Salerno

Toledo, Ohio

Note: Correspondence to Salerno may be sent c/o The Idaho Observer.