Breaking New Video Evidence Proves Paul Cortez is Innocent

by Wrongful Conviction Defense Fund, Inc.

Breaking New Video Evidence Proves Paul Cortez is Innocent

by Wrongful Conviction Defense Fund, Inc.
Wrongful Conviction Defense Fund, Inc.
We are a group of freedom fighters from across the United States who were outraged by an innocent man enduring his life in an 8' X 6' cage. None of us knew Paul Cortez prior to his conviction.
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Wrongful Conviction Defense Fund, Inc.
We are a group of freedom fighters from across the United States who were outraged by an innocent man enduring his life in an 8' X 6' cage. None of us knew Paul Cortez prior to his conviction.
Pledge now

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NY Times begins to expose wrongful conviction

Dec. 8, 2017

AT LAST!

    The New York Times begins to expose the wrongful conviction of Paul Cortez!

    Fingerprint experts, video tape evidence, Timeline proof,  cell phone records ALL PROVE Paul Cortez DID NOT commit murder yet a corrupt system & individuals continue to keep an INNOCENT MAN locked away....

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/07/nyregion/hearing-denied-paul-cortez-c...

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Who We Are and What We're Fighting For

     We are a group of freedom fighters from across the United States who have fought for over a decade to gain justice for an innocent man enduring a 25 years to life sentence for a crime he did not commit. Paul Cortez has suffered a terrible injustice and we have the proof to show it!  We are raising money to fund this legal fight for Paul's freedom. It's been a long and complex road, but with your help, we believe we can get Paul out of jail.


 How You Can Help

     If convicted of a murder in the United States, the battle to prove your innocence is a long, exhausting legal battle that costs an enormous amounts of money. The courts in America are less interested in the proof of innocence vs. following proper legal procedures, etc. Your life, freedom, and exposing the truth comes down whether you can afford to PAY. 

     Through the generous help of caring people and donations, Paul can continue this fight for his freedom. Every dollar allows Paul to prove his innocence and live his life as an innocent free man. Every day that goes by that this injustice is not corrected is another day Paul is suffering in an 8’x 6’ cage for a crime he did not commit. WE NEED YOUR HELP! 


The Crime

     On November 27, 2005, Catherine Woods was found murdered in her NYC apartment. Paul was wrongfully and tragically convicted of this crime and has spent over a decade fighting along side numerous supporters to prove his innocence!

     At the time of the murder, Catherine was seeing several different men, but the two who received the most focus were her live-in, ex-boyfriend, David Haughn, and Paul Cortez. 

     We have uncovered new video evidence proving Paul Cortez did not commit this crime and identifies the true perpetrator!!! Your help will allow Paul to file a writ of habeas corpus in federal court which gives Paul the ability to prove his innocence and be released from prison. Your donations will go directly to the forensic experts and attorneys fighting tirelessly for Paul’s release.


David Haughn

     David Haughn grew up in foster homes, and was a high school dropout and aspiring rapper who moved into Catherine's apartment. Weeks before the murder, Catherine asked David to move out. Knowing of David's financial struggles, erratic behaviors and drug use, Catherine eventually relented and allowed him to stay and sleep on the sofa. 


Paul Cortez

     From the time Paul Cortez was a child, he worked tirelessly on his academics, athletics and artistic pursuits hoping one day to be able to support his family and move his them out of the Bronx. His early life was filled with family, friendships, mentors, academics, music, sports, theatre and art. Paul has always been known as a gentle, nurturing, loving soul who excelled in the many schools he gained academic & artistic scholarships to. At the time of Catherine’s murder, Paul was auditioning on Broadway, performing in musical bands, supporting himself as a fitness trainer and enjoying his time with friends and family. 


Paul & Catherine’s Relationship

     Soon after meeting in 2004, Paul and Catherine spoke on the phone every day and saw each several times each week. Six weeks into their friendship, Paul and Catherine’s relationship changed and they became romantically involved. 


The Media Circus

  In the days immediately following the murder, the police leaked erroneous information to the media relating to this murder investigation. The stories littered the front pages of NY newspapers, as well as television news programs. The stories cited anonymous police sources with reports of Paul’s confession letter and the existence of a surveillance video capturing Paul leaving the scene of the crime  - all of which were lies. The media villainized and convicted Paul Cortez long before he ever set foot in the courtroom.


The Police Investigation

     No one witnessed the crime. The murder weapon was never found. No surveillance video placed Paul at the scene of the crime. No one interviewed by the police saw Paul at the location. A clutch of hair with roots still attached was found entwined in Catherine's bloody fingers - that hair did not match Paul's hair. At least three of the hairs were light in color. Although David had light hair that was similar, no tests were ever conducted to compare them. 

     The police initially believed David to be the main suspect. Not surprisingly, David immediately blamed Paul. It was only when a latent print the police matched to Paul was found at the scene that the case focus shifted to him. Paul’s appellate attorneys had this print examined and 4 different experts have affirmatively stated that the print was on the wall for some time before any blood may have splattered on it. In other words, Paul left the print on the wall during one of his many visits to Catherine’s apartment and NOT at the time of the murder.  


Paul's Trial Attorneys - Dawn Florio & Laura Miranda

     Following his arrest, Paul was locked in Ryker’s Island prison for 18 months. He was forced to rely on his unschooled family to find and retain an attorney with their limited finances. Paul naively assumed that if he told the truth, our legal system would eventually grant him his freedom.

     Paul’s family pooled together all of their life savings and hired Dawn Florio and Laura Miranda to represent him. It was later learned that Florio had an extremely checkered past with multiple arrests. Also, while she was representing Paul, she was under indictment by the same prosecutor’s office for smuggling drugs into a client at Ryker’s Island. 

     Throughout the time he was confined at Ryker's Island, Paul only spoke to Florio and Miranda a few minutes each week. Just as shocking, neither of Paul's trial attorneys showed up for the first three days of trial. In fact, Miranda was held in contempt of court and fined $1,000 for not showing up. When Florio and Miranda finally did come to court, it was painfully clear they had not properly prepared the case and were not ready for trial. Among the many fatal errors made by Florio and Miranda in representing Paul:

  • They did not hire an investigator - something unheard of in a murder case. The Court even granted Paul funds to pay for investigators and experts that were inexplicably not drawn upon; 
  • They did not have any of the DNA at the scene of the crime tested. Again, government funds were made available for such testing;
  • They failed to follow up on a fingerprint expert's opinion that additional forensic testing was needed to determine the timing of when the "fingerprint" was made. Testing has now been performed and it shows the print was made before the time of the murder - not at the time of the murder. Had the jury heard this evidence, they would have returned a verdict of not guilty!!!


The Appeal and Post-Trial Motions

     In 2007 Paul filed his appeal. The direct appeal process only allows one to argue based on the trial transcript. You cannot introduce newly discovered evidence, including expert opinions that were not presented at trial. On June 21, 2014, the appeal was denied. Despite the fact that the Court of Appeals found that the pending criminal charges against Florio created a conflict of interest, they deemed the errors harmless.


The Recently Discovered Video Recording (aka the Smoking Gun) & Other New Evidence

     As the next step in the seemingly endless and expensive legal process, Paul filed a 440 motion to expand the original trial record to include new evidence and forensic findings. In this motion, Paul's attorneys presented two new significant developments:

(1) Video evidence shows David (not Paul) leaving the apartment minutes after the time of the murder. This powerful, uncontroverted, time stamped piece of evidence contradicts David's trial testimony as to his whereabouts that evening and squarely places David in the apartment during the time of the murder. As further evidence of his trial attorneys ineffective representation, although this video was in their case files, they did not present it at trial. Did Paul's trial attorneys and/or the prosecutor ever watch this video?; and 

(2) Expert testimony that the critical print relied on by the prosecution at trial to link Paul to the murder was left at a time before the murder.

The full motion is available at http://freepaulcortez.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/440-Motion.pdf


Where the Case Stands Now

     On August 3, 2017, Paul’s 440 motion was denied. The judge’s opinion misstates and confuses the facts as she explained that the “smoking gun” video of David leaving the crime scene after the murder had little value because it was not time stamped and could have been from a time before the murder. This statement is especially disturbing since the video was indisputably time stamped - the prosecutor even conceded it was David in the video and that it was time stamped!!

     So, with a 440 decision rife with confusion and errors, Paul is now forced to move on to filing a federal writ of habeas corpus as a last chance for justice - again an incredibly expensive and time consuming process. 

NY Times begins to expose wrongful conviction

Dec. 8, 2017

AT LAST!

    The New York Times begins to expose the wrongful conviction of Paul Cortez!

    Fingerprint experts, video tape evidence, Timeline proof,  cell phone records ALL PROVE Paul Cortez DID NOT commit murder yet a corrupt system & individuals continue to keep an INNOCENT MAN locked away....

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/07/nyregion/hearing-denied-paul-cortez-catherine-woods.html

New Exonerating Evidence Detailed in 440 Motion

Dec. 7, 2017

Paul filed a 440 motion to expand the original trial record to include new evidence and forensic findings. In this motion, Paul's attorneys presented many new finding, the most significant: 

(1) Video evidence shows David (not Paul) leaving the apartment minutes after the time of the murder. This powerful, uncontroverted, time stamped piece of evidence contradicts David's trial testimony as to his whereabouts that evening and squarely places David in the apartment during the time of the murder. As further evidence of his trial attorneys ineffective representation, although this video was in their case files, they did not present it at trial. Did Paul's trial attorneys and/or the prosecutor ever watch this video?; and 

(2) Expert testimony that the critical print relied on by the prosecution at trial to link Paul to the murder was left at a time before the murder.

The full motion is available at http://freepaulcortez.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/440-Motion.pdf

Paul Meets Cardinal Dolan

Dec. 6, 2017

Last week, Cardinal Dolan visited the Chapel of Saint Paul in the Green Haven Correctional Facility to celebrate the church’s 50 year anniversary. It was so meaningful for Paul to meet with Cardinal Dolan and partake in the celebratory mass. After the mass, the Poughkeepsie Journal interviewed Paul - you can watch that interview in the link below.

For people who do not know Paul, their image of him has been shaped by the sensationalized and distorted versions created by the media. The headlines screamed he was a "Hispanic Lothario" prone to violence with an inability to respect any values other than the ones that surrounded him in the violent Bronx neighborhood where he was raised. He was presented as a hulking weight lifting, immoral predator who was void of faith or worship with little regard for others, especially women. We were shocked and saddened by this outlandish depiction as Paul has always been known by his soft spoken gentle and caring nature. 

During these many years of incarceration, Paul has faced unbelievable challenges and hardships. We have all seen the true strength and goodness of Paul Cortez. Paul’s strong religious beliefs guided him and sustained him throughout his this wrongful conviction. Throughout the past 11 years of Paul’s wrongful incarceration his incredible decency, kindness and his respect for others has been on full display. Paul has spent the past decade of his life trying to to make life better for all those around him.
Statistics confirm prison hardens people and finds them making compromises for survival. But, throughout this horrific ordeal, Paul continues to remain the same incredibly decent, caring person with strong religious values. 

We pray that Paul will have support of all fair minded people who will support efforts for him to have the ability to prove in a fair court of law what we are certain without doubt. Paul Cortez is innocent and the victim of a wrongful conviction.


https://uw-media.poughkeepsiejournal.com/video/embed/107877736?placement=embed

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