ROCHESTER, NY – Gary Thibodeau’s request to have his conviction overturned and receive a new trial was heard this morning (Feb. 27) in an Appeals Court.
Thibodeau was convicted in 1995 of kidnapping Heidi Allen from the convenience store she was working at on Easter Sunday morning in 1994.
Two years ago he attempted to have his conviction overturned. His defense team argued that the original jury didn’t see evidence that might have changed its decision.
Acting Oswego County Judge Daniel King issued a 64-page decision rejecting Thibodeau’s request for a new trial.
Thibodeau was reportedly too ill to attend today’s hearing.
His defense team, led by Federal Public Defender Lisa Peebles, told the panel of judges today that there was no evidence linking her client to the crime and he has maintained his innocence over the last two decades.
Peebles claims that Michael Bohrer was involved in the 1994 Allen kidnapping with two other men, James Steen and Roger Breckenridge.
Thibodeau’s conviction was based on erroneous facts and a faulty legal conclusion, she said.
She also pointed out that witnesses, over the years, have changed their testimony. One believed authorities had the right man for years, until he saw someone else’s photo in the media and started having doubts, she added.
Two years ago, the court rejected that and other “evidence” introduced by the defense.
The lower court made errors that perpetuated this miscarriage of justice, Peebles told the judges.
Oswego County District Attorney Greg Oakes believes Judge King handed down the proper decision.
The jury’s verdict wouldn’t have changed, even if some new evidence was presented, he said.
Judge King ruled correctly, he said, adding what the defense presented was speculative.
As for the defense’s claim that a new suspect had bragged in a bar about committing the crime, the DA said, it was just a guy, in a bar, drinking. You can find that any Friday night in any bar in Oswego County.
He was bragging, offering theories; the court correctly analyzed his testimony and made its decision that it wasn’t credible, he added.
The DA also noted the transcripts of the previous hearings don’t show the “Ums” and “Ahs” and all the times certain witnesses had to pause and think of an answer.
Thibodeau said he wasn’t at the store.
Witnesses said he was seen there, as was his van. Also, they noted that the van moved closer to the store while he was in the store, indicating a second person was present.
One witness said that van zoomed up behind her on Route 104 and was all over the road. The witness also gave a description of a man in the van that matched how Thibodeau looked that day, the DA said.
The defendant hasn’t established his innocence. He was overwhelmingly guilty. The lower court (not this bench) ruled correctly, Oakes said.
This new evidence would not change the outcome of the trial, he added.