HARTFORD, Conn. – A month after the Connecticut Supreme Court reinstated murder convictions against two men who had been exonerated, a judge on Monday ordered one of them back to prison but allowed the other to remain free while fighting cancer.
George Gould was sent back to prison while Ronald Taylor, whose lawyer says he has terminal colon cancer, was allowed to remain out on bail. Both men await a new appeal trial connected to their murder convictions in the 1993 fatal shooting of New Haven grocery shop owner Eugenio Deleon Vega.
Gould and Taylor were both sentenced to 80 years in prison for the killing. They filed habeas corpus appeals, challenges to imprisonment that typically come after other appeals fail.
They were freed in April 2010 after 16 years behind bars when Superior Court Judge Stanley Fuger ruled they were victims of "manifest injustice" and declared them "actually innocent." Fuger's ruling came after a key prosecution witness recanted her trial testimony. He ordered both men released.
Prosecutors appealed to the state Supreme Court, which issued a unanimous decision last month saying that Fuger was wrong to overturn the convictions because Gould and Taylor hadn't proven their innocence. The high court ordered a new habeas corpus trial for the two men.
The Supreme Court recently refused a request by Gould and Taylor's lawyers to reconsider its ruling.
Taylor's attorney, Peter Tsimbidaros, said Monday that he and Gould's lawyer, Joseph Visone, are still considering whether to appeal the Supreme Court decision to the federal courts. He said he looked forward to another habeas corpus trial, which is expected to begin within the next three months, but was discouraged by the prosecution's insistence that Gould and Taylor were the killers.
"There seems to be nothing we can do ... to convince the state's attorney's office otherwise," Tsimbidaros said. "It would appear even if the real murderer were caught on tape with a smoking gun, the state's attorney's office would still not be satisfied with that."
State prosecutor Michael O'Hare said he still believes that Gould and Taylor committed the crime and that the witness who recanted told the truth at the original trial. O'Hare also said that although he had sought Taylor's return to prison, he understood that it was in the judge's discretion to consider Taylor's health.
Visone didn't return a phone message Monday.
The main issue in the two men's appeals has been the testimony of the prosecution's main witness, Doreen Stiles. She testified at the original trial that she saw Gould enter Deleon's store and heard him arguing with the shopkeeper about opening his safe, then heard a gunshot and saw Gould and Taylor leaving the store.
But Stiles testified before Fuger in 2009 that she lied during the trial and wasn't at the murder scene. She said that she was "dopesick" when police interrogated her after the killing and that a detective told her he would help her buy heroin if she told authorities what happened.
Stiles said she fingered Taylor and Gould in photos and afterward two detectives gave her $60 and drove her to a street where she bought heroin. Police have denied her allegations.
Visone has argued that the state's theory that Gould and Taylor killed Deleon in a robbery makes no sense. He said Deleon was found with $1,800 stuffed in his pockets and there was $100 in the cash register, money that should have been taken if the motive was robbery.