Coincidence? 
As mentioned at the beginning of this special report, there were two cases in the same town that involved murders that took place just weeks apart. There are uncanny similarities in both cases that boggle the mind. The other case involved Christopher Porco, another college student, who was convicted of murdering his father and assaulting his mother.

A series of news articles about the Porco case and trial can be found at the website of CrimeAndJustice.us

There was much more media attention given to the Porco case; mainly because the victim was a law clerk for a New York State Appellate Court Judge. The news coverage gained national status and appeared on the CBS News program, “48 Hours”.

Here are some of the Interesting aspects about the Westervelt and Porco cases.

1. They occurred in the same township.
2. They occurred 5 weeks apart.
3. The same police agency and detectives investigated the crimes.
4. The same prosecutor’s office and same Assistant DA tried the case.
5. Lawyers from the same law firm represented the accused in each case.
6. Both cases were based upon circumstantial evidence.
7. No DNA or direct physical evidence was found in either case.
8. Both men were 23 year old college seniors.
9. Both murders occurred at night with no witnesses.
10. The accused were the only suspects in each case.
11. The juries disregarded the alibis and mother’s testimony in each case.
12. Both are serving life sentences at Clinton Correctional Facility, Dannemora, NY.

There were definite differences between the two cases though. The most significant being that Westervelt did have an alibi supported by three family members. They stated that he was at home with them watching TV. Whereas, Porco didn’t have an alibi that was supported by anyone. He maintained that he was in his college dormitory, yet no other students confirmed that they had seen him.

In spite of the differences, Westervelt’s alibi was never verified or disproven by the police and the prosecutor convinced the jury that it was not valid. Porco's alibi was not corroborated by the police and the prosecutor maintained that it was not valid either.

There was never any indication that Westervelt and Porco had any connection with each other. Porco lived in the town where both crimes were committed and Westervelt lived in an adjoining town. They had gone to different schools while growing up and attended different colleges.

Nevertheless, there was much speculation that the cases were connected because the news media reported that a hatchet was used in the Westervelt case and an axe was used in the Porco case. As it turned out, there was no hatchet involved in the first one, but there was an axe found at the scene of the other. It was determined that the victims in both cases had suffered from blunt force trauma to the head.


The following is a scathing assessment of each case as it appears on the website of TruthInJustice.org.

Christopher Porco

When police were summoned to the Bethlehem, NY home of Joan and Peter Porco in the early hours of November 14, 2004, they found Peter hacked to death and Joan terribly wounded. Det. Chris Bowdish felt he knew as soon as he walked into the house that one of the two Porco sons, Jonathan or Christopher, had to have been responsible. He asked Joan if Jonathan had done it, and she shook her head "no." Then he asked if Christopher did it, and he says she nodded "yes." There was never any turning back after that; no other suspects were ever considered, and the state built a single-minded case to convict Christopher -- despite Joan's strong support of Christopher's innocence and the irrelevance of a "head nod" as evidence of anything at all.

Erick Westervelt

Funny thing about Bethlehem, NY. In a span of 5 weeks during the fall of 2004, and within a radius of less than 3 miles, two college seniors with no connection to one another hacked people to death. That is the bill of goods sold to juries, first in Erick Westervelt's case, then in Christopher Porco's case. Det. Chris Bowdish and his partner, Det. Charles Rudolph, used classic Reid techniques over a 2-day period to extract what they said was Erick Westervelt's confession to the bludgeoning murder of Timothy Gray. No physical evidence connected Westervelt to Gray's killing, and Westervelt had a solid alibi.

Instead of patting each other's backs, these crack detectives and prosecutors from Albany County, NY should be looking over their shoulders for a serial killer.



In Conclusion:
Were these crimes committed by the same person(s)? There are still a lot of people that feel neither case was proven beyond a reasonable doubt and they question the veracity of the police and prosecution in both of these cases.






  |  related link
Food for thought. 
Our society has a tendency to be complacent about certain aspects concerning truth and justice. There are people who read and watch the news daily. There are people who are, or become, involved in cases within the criminal justice system such as workers, jurors, witnesses, etc. Then there are others that could care less because the crime or case didn’t affect them. Whatever category it may be, there is always a general attitude that people just don’t care about what goes on; much like in politics. It is easy to see how the media can whip the population into a frenzy concerning a particular gruesome crime. Sensationalism in reporting equates to revenue. However, it is very seldom that an investigative reporter devotes a lot of time to help an individual that might be innocent of a crime by seeking out the truth. That costs too much and generates very little interest or revenue. In other words, it is not cost effective because overall, the public isn’t interested. That brings us to the media aspects of the Erick Westervelt case.

In the first instance, the media broadcast the alleged details of a horrible murder committed by a hatchet wielding, jealous ex-lover, who had eluded the police for two days before being captured. These stories got the public’s attention and made money for the publications and television stations. However, they couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Then they all quickly faded away and latched on to the much higher profile murder case that occurred a few weeks later in the same town involving Christopher Porco. He was another local college student who was arrested and convicted of murdering his father and maiming his mother with an axe. This might have been one of the reasons why Westervelt's case drew very little attention or interest. The media was not investigating or reporting it. Apparently, no one recognized or questioned the hypothesis of this case. If they did, nothing was done to draw attention to it.

If the NCJ analysis of facts in this case is correct, there is someone who does know what took place involving the actual commission of this crime. There is someone who was involved with the criminal justice portion of this crime who does know about the questionable aspects of this case. There is someone who does know something that could blow this whole case wide open and possibly initiate a new investigation.

Please note that the victim in this case succumbed to “multiple skull fractures and brain injuries due to blunt force trauma”, not a sharp instrument like a hatchet, as was released by the police and reported by the media. There were also reports of a replica souvenir wooden tomahawk, or something like it, being used. The actual murder weapon was never found. This crime was extremely violent and our investigation indicates that it is quite possible there was more than one person that inflicted the numerous injuries. Also, as far as eluding the police for two days, Westervelt was easily located going through his normal routine of attending classes at SUNY Albany.

Again, if the NCJ analysis is correct, the real murderer(s) is(are) obviously still among the population and most likely will commit another violent crime; it may have happened already.

Does anyone out there know or care about the truth or justice in this case? There is much more information that needs to see the light of day. Eventually, the whole truth will surface; it usually does, sooner or later. Maybe then, a judge or jury might realize the actual circumstances involved. For Erick Westervelt and others in similar situations, hopefully it will be as soon as possible.






  |  related link
A picture is worth a thousand words! 
This picture of Erick was taken during happier times in 2004 along side of his aunt at a family reunion.








  |  related link
Miscarriage of justice? 
“A miscarriage of justice is primarily the conviction and punishment of a person for a crime that he or she did not commit.”

There probably isn’t any human emotional situation that can compare with the despair of being wrongly accused. From early childhood, most every person can recall an instance when they were chastised for, or accused of, something that they did not do. Was it something at school or home when you were blamed for something that another student or sibling did? Think back and capture that feeling. Then fast forward to adulthood and try to imagine being accused of committing a crime that you did not do. Well, you didn’t commit the crime and are innocent; right? You help the police try to figure things out and are cooperative. They relate a story that is “no big deal” and that the crime is minimal and they tell you that you have been accused of doing it. You figure if you just tell the truth, everything will be all right and they will find out who really committed the crime.

In the first instance this is a typical scenario. The police will check your story out, compare it with other stories, the actual truth will surface and that will be the end of it. The problem is that it does not always happen this way when someone changes the rules. The police want more and they are persistent. After many stressful hours, they want a statement from you and they manipulate you into writing some things that aren’t true. Well, as soon as you give them what they want, then they will let you go home. After all, it is just a minor altercation and “no big deal”; WRONG. This is what Erick Westervelt claims happened to him.

Try to imagine the feeling when he realized that the “no big deal” turned into being accused and arrested for the particularly heinous crimes of first degree assault and second degree attempted murder. All along, he was led to believe that they were accusing him of supposedly just being in a fight with the victim. This is the scenario that unfolded in the video tapes during the many hours that Westervelt was being interviewed by the police. He claims to have gone into shock and was totally overwhelmed with despair when they finally stopped lying to him and told him what the actual circumstances were. Not until then had he been aware that the victim had been on life support all along. There were more than 76 inaudible responses from him in the video following this revelation. Would the actual perpetrator be so noticeably overwhelmed and confused knowing the condition that he had left the victim in? The police tactics may have been legal but, did it produce the actual truth of the crime?

What went wrong? Sometimes a little known phenomenon takes place that Psychologists refer to as confirmation bias.

Wikipedia defines confirmation bias as a tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions and avoids information and interpretations which contradict prior beliefs.

This type of bias is more commonly referred to as “tunnel vision” and applies to anyone who has horse “blinders” on so that they cannot see what is happening around them. It may sound a bit crude, but that is what takes place if there are not any reality checks and balances within an investigative agency.

Any one of the following causes may produce a miscarriage of justice.

1. Plea bargains which offer incentives for the innocent to plead guilty
2. Confirmation bias on the part of investigators and/or prosecutors
3. Inadequate or improper crime scene investigation
4. Mishandling of evidence
5. Contamination of evidence
6. Fabrication of evidence
7. Withholding of evidence
8. Destruction of evidence
9. Biased editing or manipulation of evidence
10. Faulty forensic tests
11. Poor identification by witnesses and/or victims
12. False confessions due to police pressure or psychological weakness
13. Overestimation or underestimation of the evidential value of expert testimony
14. Misdirection of a jury by a judge during trial
15. Misleading reports and testimony by the police
16. Perjured or tainted reports and testimony by police or forensic personnel
17. Perjured statements and testimony by the real guilty party or their accomplices
18. Perjured statements and testimony by the victims or friends.

Our analysis concludes that there are 15 of the above causes that pose a high probability of involvement in this case. If we are correct, that is an astonishing figure when only one of them might produce a miscarriage of justice.





  |  related link
A young man’s life on the line. 
An account of the Westervelt trial

On June 20, 2008 we posted the first blog entry about the Erick Westervelt case. There is a link attached that connects to the Truth In Justice website. The link is a copy of a news article in a local Albany, NY, area publication; The Altamont Enterprise. This publication continually produced honest and responsible accounts of this case. We feel that their report entitled “A Young Man’s Life On The Line”, is a concise and accurate review of the Westervelt trial. The editor and staff were very objective in their reporting and reflect a true concern regarding justice in their community.

This news article is fairly short, whereas the actual trial transcript consists of three large volumes containing more than 1130 pages. After thorough evaluation, one conclusion has revealed the “spin” that the police and prosecutors developed for their theory and also utilized in their statements to the media. It makes for sensationalism that is not backed by actual facts.

The news report is an excellent brief for anyone with an interest in the case. We have attached another link of the same article below. We want to ensure that readers see it and gain a better understanding of some of the details in this case. Bear in mind that although we feel their reporting is accurate, there is much more to be learned when the whole transcript is evaluated. It all has to do with the amount of information that is provided about each testimony. A reader must have all of the available information to understand the whole picture in order to draw more accurate conclusions.

http://www.northcountryjustice.com/west1.html






  |  related link
Déjà Vu! 
It was absolutely destined to happen again. A confession in a major high profile murder case in Albany County again was not recorded. A young man was convicted of firing a hand gun in the direction of some youths and killed a young girl nearby. The entire case revolved around the suspect’s confession. Another tragic death and the Albany Police Department are still not equipped with audio and video recording equipment. An Albany detective testified at the Westervelt trial in 2004 that they had a "monitor" for viewing a person taking a polygraph test but it was not working when Erick was being tested. He was taken to another room where the police testified he wrote the confession that his whole case centered on.

He said he stopped the test because of entrapment; they said he was trying to defeat it.

He said he told them he wanted to leave; they said he didn’t ask to leave.

He said he kept asking for a lawyer; they said they “didn’t recall” him asking for a lawyer.

They claimed he said “OK, I did it”; He claimed he never said that.

They said his statement was voluntary; he said it was orchestrated and coerced.

In other words, there is completely opposing testimony between the detectives and Westervelt --- WHO is telling the truth?

If this “confession session” had been recorded, this case quite possibly would never have gone to trial. The same scenario may have been true for the most recent case. It was another unrecorded, “he said- they said” situation.

So what do you think happens next? Who is the jury going to believe? The police or the accused? Need we say anymore?

This kind of testimony is devastating to the defense of a possibly innocent person.

NOW the District Attorney is determined to take action.

Read the transcript:
http://capitalnews9.com/Default.aspx?ArID=131754





  |  related link
The new year . . . . . 
. . . . . is usually greeted with hope and great optimism in relation to the past. Since we began focusing on the Erick Westervelt case, we made a decision not to post or discuss very specific information about the victim that he was convicted of murdering. Doing so would not be an appropriate reminder for all of the relatives and friends that have been devastated by the loss of their loved one. As strongly as they feel that the right person was sent to prison for committing this crime, there is another side of this devastation that is just as compelling. The Westervelt family and friends have also suffered a loss of a loved one albeit he is still alive. The people close to his family are just as convinced of his innocence as the others are convinced of his guilt. It would take an extremely strong, objective individual to open his or her mind to this innocence possibility. Sometimes we just want to post all of the details that we see in this case. However, that would be irresponsible because it would create an unnecessary fire-storm and be counterproductive for the Westervelt’s to proceed forward in proving what they believe is the truth.

It would be absolutely unbelievable if someone from the crime victim’s side came forward to substantiate and support Erick’s plight. Sometimes strange things happen when an amount of time passes. Even uninvolved people have been known to come forward and offer vital information that might shed some light on what really happened.

There are so many unanswered questions and unsubstantiated facts in this case that we remain optimistic about someone out there knowing the real truth. We could make an appeal on behalf of Erick for that “someone” to come forward and place the pieces where they belong in this puzzle. Whatever the motivation would be for that individual to do so would not be for us here at NCJ to criticize or judge. In situations like this, it is always about the truth. Any information would be kept in extreme confidence and handled in accordance with our mission statement.

In keeping with these thoughts, we welcome the New Year and hope that someone can produce something meaningful for this young man.

Happy New Year Erick!





  |  related link
What if the jury got it wrong! 
It would not be the first time and certainly not the last that problematic information was presented to a jury. The present criminal justice system in New York State is just now reacting to the extremely high wrongful conviction rate, which is currently the third highest in the country. There obviously needs to be much more stringent protocol for what is acceptable practices of prosecutors. They control what is presented to a grand jury. The main requirement is integrity and truth. Depending upon the political atmosphere within a jurisdiction, there could possibly be a lot of room for abuse of the actual facts going unchecked. Defense attorneys have always been at a disadvantage in defending the rights of the accused in the very first instance. An indictment by a grand jury is nothing more than reason to believe a crime has been committed and to move toward arguing the facts of a case at trial. The public assumes that the information provided to a secluded grand jury is indeed bonafide and accurate.

Unfortunately, an indictment has the stigma of an individual being guilty of something and then the news media has the opportunity to manipulate the available facts in such a way that locks in the stigma. So, if an arrest is made with minimal factual evidence and the prosecution does not thoroughly scrutinize the evidence, the snowball begins the journey downhill out of control. Even though the jury selection is carefully screened by both sides, people are exposed to enormous amounts of media reports. Obviously, the defense is looking for an intelligent recluse with no access to any media who be can be open minded and objective; wishful thinking. Even though there are safeguards in place regarding the integrity of a jury, there is always the problem of jurors being influenced by the personalities of the court room cast and overlooking what is factual.

If the individual arrested for committing a crime happens to be innocent, then another old cliché of being “guilty until proven innocent” kicks in. Then there becomes another case associated with, but separate from the original.

Erick Westervelt bears many scars of what can possibly go wrong in the New York State Criminal Justice system. There is strong reasoning to indicate that he has become another victim of a wrongful conviction due to these flaws in the system.

When is a jury going to hear his case? He has been incarcerated for four years and eleven weeks today.

Merry Christmas Erick!







  |  related link
Back to the beginning; again and again!  
Our posting on October 7, 2008 was about starting at the beginning. Oddly enough, as the case history is reviewed over and over, we all keep going back to the haunting fact of Westervelt’s alibi. It was his only defense, simple as that. There is nothing else that confirms his whereabouts at the time of the crime other than the trial testimony of his mother and father. His brother, who was fifteen at the time, also maintains that Erick was at home watching the first baseball playoff game with him and his father. However, Erick’s brother did not testify in the trial. Was this whole family lying to protect Erick? Did the mother and father perjure themselves to protect their oldest son? A recent interview with the three of them by NCJ members revealed that their recollection of the day’s events on October 5, 2004 with regards to Erick’s presence is extremely vivid and convincing.

Then why didn’t the jury consider this testimony important? There are many subtle inferences that sway a jury. One being the fact that since the accused is sitting at the defense table, there are jurors that will think he must have done something wrong to get there in the first place. Another is, the police must have a good reason not to believe his alibi. Actually, in this case, according to Erick and his family, the police did absolutely nothing to investigate or verify the strength of his alibi. Could it be because it would have totally destroyed their theory and their case against him? The prosecutor then successfully neutralized Westervelt's only hope when he demeaned Erick's mother and father on the witness stand, thus discrediting the value of their testimony.

Think for a moment. What if they weren’t and are not lying now to protect Erick - where does that leave the rest of the case? Obviously, there would not have been a case against Erick Westervelt. There was nothing presented at trial to positively, beyond a reasonable doubt, place him or the supposed murder weapon at the crime scene. The prosecution’s case was a theory supported by their interpretation of several circumstantial events that took place prior to the crime. We feel that these events should have been interpreted more logically. We will address these specific events in a subsequent posting.

The big question now is - who is really telling the truth. If the family is being truthful, that means that someone else committed the crime. It also means that there has been perjured and or misleading testimony by members of law enforcement presented to the juries and the suppression hearing judge. As we pointed out earlier, after thoroughly scrutinizing this testimony, we found many instances of evasive, manipulative and questionable testimony. If this was the case, the actual facts appear to have been overshadowed by a dubious confession.





  |  related link
Confession Is Good For The Soul. 
Not under certain circumstances.

Charles J. Ogletree, a Harvard law professor wrote a review in 1987 that expressed his views about the relationship of confessions and Miranda warnings. The Harvard law review was entitled:

Are Confessions Really Good For the Soul?: A Proposal To Mirandize Miranda:

Some excerpts from this paper are contained within an article in the Justice:Denied magazine in 2005.

One of the examples highlighted by the author and quoted here, mirrors the exact circumstance that Erick Westervelt found himself in. According to numerous instances throughout his entire contact with the police, he was read and signed off on his Miranda rights.

When a suspect is confronted by the police, whether on the street, at the police station, or at home, there appears to be an almost irresistible impulse to respond to the accusations, notwithstanding the Miranda warnings. In these settings, police may be accusatory, or appear to empathize with the suspect, or imply that cooperation is in the suspect’s best interest, or simply lie about the strength of the evidence against the suspect. Suspects generally hope that by responding they will in some way improve their position. Suspects, generally unprepared for the trickery or outright deceit the police may use, are often coerced into confessing or incriminating themselves once they have waived their rights and agreed to talk. Even those who initially invoke their right to silence and request the assistance of counsel face pressure to waive those rights.

The full article is here:

http://www.justicedenied.org/issue/issu ... ilure.html

An associated article is here:

http://www.justicedenied.org/issue/issu ... alive.html





  |  related link

Back Next