injusticebusters logo

Peter Rose

Wrongly convicted of rape,
man files claim against city of Lodi

Peter Rose

A former Lodi man whose conviction was tossed out of court after he served 10 years in prison for a crime DNA later showed he did not commit, has filed a claim against the city of Lodi.

Peter Rose was convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl in 1994 after the alleged victim named him as the man who grabbed her from behind and dragged her into an alley. In 2004, the girl later admitted she had no idea who raped her, and DNA evidence later cleared Rose of the crime.

He was released from Mule Creek State Prison in Ione after a San Joaquin County judge tossed his conviction in October 2004.

Rose's three children have also filed claims against the city.

In his claim, usually a precursor to a lawsuit, Rose alleges that members of the police department used interview techniques that "were so coercive and abusive" to the alleged victim that the interviewers should have known "the techniques would and did yield false information," including the identification of Rose as the perpetrator.

Rose, now 37, also alleges members of the police department "deliberately concealed evidence" they should have known would clear Rose's name and "pressured and coerced" others involved in the investigation to "alter and suppress exonerative evidence," according to the claim.

Transcripts from a portion of a police interview with the alleged victim, now 24, indicate the girl adamantly denied knowing who had attacked her. The News-Sentinel is not naming her since she was sexually assaulted.

"I'm telling you I don't know who it was," the girl told police detectives Matt Foster and Ernie Nies, according to the transcript.

Both Foster and Nies are named in Rose's claim.

It also states Rose was unable to have normal interactions with his children, family and friends and missed out on family events and business opportunities as result of the wrongful conviction and subsequent jail time.

Rose seeks from the city damages in excess of $25,000. The date of loss is listed as Feb. 18, the date the order of exoneration was entered.

Peter Rose

Peter Rose is hugged by his son, Pete Jr., as daughter Brittney rushes to greet him after Rose's release from Mule Creek State Prison in Ione. Also celebrating is Rose's mother, Annie Van Arnhem. Sacramento Bee/Brain Baer

The city, however, did not receive the claim until April 28.

Claims filed by Rose's children each seek damages in excess of $25,000 because the children were denied the right to associate with their father as result of the wrongful conviction.

All four claims are scheduled to go before the Lodi City Council at its meeting Wednesday. City staff has recommended the council deny the claims, which is a routine action.

Neither City Attorney Steve Schwabauer nor Rose's attorney, Mark E. Merin, could be reached for comment late Friday.

Activists help clear innocent
Law students seek freedom for the wrongly convicted

Peter Rose

Peter Rose bolted through an emergency exit to shake the reporters and camera crews, fed up with their demands to tell his story, over and over.

How did it feel, they asked, to be wrongly convicted of the lowest of crimes? Would he carry a grudge for the 10 years he'd been branded a child rapist? What would he do with the rest of his life?

He "just knew it was all going to work out," Rose said into the microphones. He had no time for grudges. He would go fishing.

Then he jumped a rope barrier and was out the door to join his family, muttering about the silence that had met his claims of innocence for almost a decade from the press, the police, even his court-appointed lawyer.

"I believe lunch was more important to him than my trial," Rose said.

Once the Northern California Innocence Project took up his case, though, Rose was being believed by the most persistent of advocates a succession of law students working under a pair of seasoned defense lawyers.

After two years of work, they were able to upset his conviction and get him freed from prison. Then they cleared his name.

Innocence projects began opening prison doors for those wrongly convicted about the same time that Rose began serving his 27-year sentence.

The first was founded in New York in 1992 to tap the potential of DNA for proving people innocent. Today, 30 or so projects are operating out of law schools and journalism schools around the country. Most aren't confined to DNA work but consider any conviction that can be upended by new evidence.

It can be cut and dried, as in one Los Angeles robbery case. A surveillance tape showed the 6-foot-6 robber walking past a ruler that had been painted on the frame of the Office Depot entry door. The man convicted of the crime, Jason Kindle, was a head shorter.

Or the evidence can involve a web of false confessions, coerced accusations, eyewitness mistakes and laboratory blunders that can take years to unravel.

Two California projects have won the release of Kindle and six other men since 2000. Dozens of cases are under investigation at the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law in San Diego and the Northern California Innocence Project, based at Santa Clara University with a new satellite office at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

The Rose victory was the first for Golden Gate.

Relatively crude tests performed on rape evidence in 1995 did not exclude Rose as the possible rapist. Attempts to DNA-type the semen sample had failed then. But after many advances in technology, a successful test became possible.

Former Golden Gate student Marilyn Underwood "pushed and pushed and pushed," she said, until the state DNA lab confirmed it still had the evidence and, yes, there was enough to do a DNA test.

Two other students with two supervising lawyers wrote the petition that persuaded the judge to order testing. The results showed the evidence hadn't come from Rose and led to his release on Oct. 29.

After the victim's recantation, followed by more DNA results in January, another student team helped prepare a motion to have Rose declared "factually innocent." Granted a month ago, it led to the clearing of his criminal record.

The judge, a former county prosecutor, called the experience "an education for me."

One student, George Derieg, who worked on the final phase of the case, called it "exhilarating." Rose called the Innocence Project "the best thing that's ever happened to the justice system."

But Janice Brickley, the lawyer who supervised the project's work, asked in the court hearing for "a day of reflection" on convicting an innocent man, a father whose youngest child hadn't been born when he went to prison, a son who couldn't support his mother when she went through cancer treatments, a grandson whose grandfather spent his life savings on a defense and died before seeing the exoneration.

Brickley told the judge that she had received an e-mail from a correctional officer, saying he felt "just terrible" that he didn't believe Rose when he said he was innocent.

Innocence projects have been contributing to public acceptance of the idea that the wrong people really do get convicted, said Kathleen Ridolfi, the Northern California Innocence Project's executive director. There may be a growing consensus, too, that prosecutors as well as defense lawyers have a duty to find and free them.

"We have great respect for (the innocence projects)," said Karyn Sinunu, assistant district attorney in Santa Clara County. "Our philosophy is, we all have the same interest. If an innocent person is incarcerated or convicted, it means the real culprit is free. We don't want that."

"Doing justice doesn't mean just winning cases," said San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. "Our mission in our office includes vigorously prosecuting those that commit crimes but not at the expense of those who are innocent."

In San Diego, Ken Marsh was freed last summer after 21 years in prison for the death of his girlfriend's toddler. When the Cal Western Innocence Project produced medical evidence pointing to an accidental death, Dumanis stipulated to Marsh's release and asked the court to dismiss the charges.

In the nation, thousands of criminals have been caught with the help of DNA technology, and more than 150 innocent people have been released from prison.

Few so far have been freed in California.

Under state law, DNA testing can be ordered after a conviction when it could change the case outcome.

According to Rockne Harmon, an Alameda County DNA expert who chairs the Forensic Evidence Committee of the California District Attorneys Association, judges have granted testing in about one case a year an indication, he said, that while many California inmates say they're innocent, few really are. He said prosecutors have other priorities than to look for "needles in haystacks."

Try telling that to John Stoll of Bakersfield.

In 1985, Stoll, a carpenter and gas plant supervisor who had never been in trouble before, was sentenced to 40 years. He was among those caught up in a frenzy over alleged sex rings targeting youngsters in Kern County.

No physical evidence showed the children had been abused. The prosecutions ended when the children's stories escalated wildly. Most of the 40 or so convicted defendants were freed.

Yet Stoll remained in prison. Abandoned by family and community, he thought he'd been forgotten until an exonerated defendant persuaded his lawyer to do something for Stoll.

The lawyer contacted the Innocence Project. Cal Western and Santa Clara students and lawyers worked on the case.

Soon, Stoll said, "people started to visit. I started thinking of them as friends."

Two law students of the dozen who worked for Stoll, along with seven lawyers and an investigator - stayed with the case through their summer vacations and a year past their project courses.

The defense team tracked down Stoll's now-grown accusers. Ridolfi personally paid to fly in witnesses for hearings.

Four of the six men recanted. They said they never had believed their accusations but had been coerced by law enforcement and social workers. The fifth said he had no memory of the time. Only Stoll's sixth accuser his son stuck to his original story, though he could offer no details.

Stoll was released last spring, nearly penniless. Ridolfi and her partner, Innocence Project legal director Linda Starr, invited him to stay in their guest cottage for a year to get his bearings.

He lives there today, surrounded by photos of friends but none of his son, his wife or his former Bakersfield home.

On a balmy winter day, an investigator drops off a used motorcycle for him. His new neighbors wave. He smiles back, showing a set of teeth donated by a team of local dentists who saw him on television.

The interviewer had asked Stoll what he wanted most. His first choice was his son, the 5-year-old who ran to him in his dreams when he was in prison. His second choice was being able to smile.

"I didn't know there was that much kindness in the world," Stoll said of his fortune.

He does landscaping in the San Jose neighborhood, but his search for steady work hasn't panned out. Determined not to overstay his welcome in the guest house, Stoll, 61, worries about the future.

"When they turn you loose, there's nothing there for you," he said, not even a letter to potential employers explaining the 20-year gap in his job history.

Stoll has applied for state compensation that's available to innocent people who have lost money through wrongful imprisonment. It can amount of $100 for each day of loss, but it's rarely granted and never yet to someone exonerated through the Innocence Project.

Peter Rose, who now lives on the north coast, also will apply. With his judge's finding that he's "factually innocent," his case may be stronger than Stoll's.

He's stronger in other ways.

At 37, he walked out of prison and into the arms of an extended family that never doubted him. He went to work as a tender on sea urchin boats operated by cousins in Point Arena and Bodega Bay.

He hopes to own his own boat some day.

DNA test frees man convictedin '94 Lodi rape

STOCKTON - A Lodi man sentenced to 27 years in prison walked out a free man Friday after DNA evidence failed to link him to the 1994 rape of a 13-year-old girl.

A San Joaquin County judge overturned Peter J. Rose's 8-year-old conviction based on the new DNA evidence.

Over the objections of prosecutors, San Joaquin Superior Court Judge Stephen Demetras ordered Rose, 36, immediately released from Mule Creek State Prison in Ione.

A sweats-clad Rose was taken to the prison's administrative center around 3 p.m., where he was immediately swarmed by his four children. Tears flowed as he hugged each of the 16 friends, relatives and advocates who traveled to Ione to greet him.

"Thank you! Thank you!" Rose said to the two attorneys and four law students who worked for his freedom.

A prison van then carried Rose to the facility's front gates, where he became a free man for the first time since his arrest 10 years ago.

The New York City-based Innocence Project said 152 people nationwide have been exonerated like Rose since 1989 - six from California - by testing DNA evidence that may not have been considered during the original trial.

The California attorney general's office does not track convicted felons exonerated by DNA, said Hallye Jordan, a spokeswoman for the office.

The New York Innocence Project's Web site said the most recent Californian to be exonerated before Rose is a 44-year-old Los Angeles man serving a life sentence for killing three people. David Allen Jones was released in March after nine years in prison.

In the last decade, as the biological profile in DNA found in blood, semen or saliva helped convict the guilty, those convicted sought to resort to the same evidence to prove their innocence. But inmates often faced lengthy legal battles and resistance from prosecutors.

After the work of groups like the Innocence Project, a nonprofit law clinic that focused exclusively on post-conviction DNA cases, more states passed laws to guarantee an inmate's right to scientific technology that might not have been available during trial.

California passed its law in 2000 that ensured inmates the opportunity to have DNA evidence tested if a positive result would affect the original verdict.

Earlier this year, Congress proposed a law that would grant federal convicts post-conviction testing, which is awaiting President Bush's signature.

For Rose, advanced tests - unavailable to investigators at his 1996 trial - conducted this summer revealed that DNA found on the victim's clothing did not match the Lodi man's.

"We're just pretty much stunned," said Tanya Austin, the mother of Rose's teenage daughter, Ashley Rose. "He thought this was going to happen before and got his hopes up."

San Joaquin County District Attorney John Phillips has until January to decide whether to refile charges against Rose. Deputy District Attorney Brian Short said that "there were problems with the case" and that his office has lost contact with the victim.

In 1994, a middle school student told police that Rose, then an unemployed beekeeper, grabbed her off a Lodi street and raped her in an alley. Rose's attorneys said he was an acquaintance of the girl's family.

Evidence on the girl's clothing proved too scant for investigators to glean a DNA profile with the techniques available at the time, court documents said. Other tests showed blood on the clothing matched the victim but not Rose - information the jury never heard.

The prosecution instead pointed to a PGM marker, a sort of genetic fingerprint, found in blood.

The marker matched the teen and Rose, along with 30 percent of the population.

The victim named Rose as her attacker three weeks after the rape. She had not identified him in a lineup and initially said that her assailant was a stranger, court documents said.

A jury found Rose guilty of four counts related to the rape.

As Rose sobbed and proclaimed his innocence, a judge sentenced him to the maximum sentence of 27 years behind bars.

He filed appeal after appeal with state and federal courts.

Most were rejected. Then, his attorney called the Northern California Innocence Project, a nonprofit program by Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

"The more I heard about the case, the more I was convinced he was innocent," said Janice Brickley, an attorney with project.

Golden Gate law students, who earn academic credit for work on the program, tracked down evidence that authorities originally said was destroyed years ago.

Project attorneys petitioned the court for modern DNA testing on the victim's clothing, which cleared Rose as a source.

The lawyers asked the state attorney general's office and the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office to assist them in overturning the conviction. The district attorney's office balked, arguing that stains may have been the result of consensual sex with someone else, a scenario the judge apparently rejected.

Rose probably will spend some time with his mother and brother, who live in the coastal community of Point Arena, Brickley said, and he probably will file a claim with the state to seek some sort of compensation.

Friday, the jubilant family gathered at an Ione restaurant, where Rose sat at a table and looked in wonder at the empty place mat.

Today's lunch, he said, would not come on a prison tray.

About the writer: Bee staff writer M.S. Enkoji contributed to this report.

Inmate free after DNA test
Jury had convicted man in '95 rape of Lodi girl

STOCKTON — Consistently, for nearly 10 years, Peter Joseph Rose has maintained his innocence. He has said he did not kidnap and rape the 13-year-old Lodi girl who identified him in court as her attacker.

On Friday, he was vindicated and freed. His six convictions relating to the crime were reversed. His 27-year sentence was halted. New DNA evidence had ruled him out as a match for the semen found on the victim's underwear immediately after the 1995 attack.

Rose, 36, walked out of Mule Creek State Prison into the arms of family members. His is the first San Joaquin County case to be overturned on DNA evidence, according to prosecutors in the district attorney's office.

San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Stephen Demetras signed an order early Friday for Rose's release, granting a petition submitted by the Northern California Innocence Project at San Francisco's Golden Gate University.

In doing so, Demetras did not declare Rose's innocence but said that had attorneys had the DNA findings in 1996, the jury would have been presented a very different case. Demetras ruled that the outcome very likely would have been different.

The Innocence Project, however, was more dramatic, saying the DNA testing had proved Rose right and calling the convictions the result of "suggestive and coercive" police interviews of a young girl.

The victim, who is about 23 now, was not notified Friday of Rose's release. Deputy District Attorney Brian Short said he has tried several times to reach her, even asking the Lodi Police Department for help. He expressed concern that she might read of the overturned convictions in the newspaper. If she does, he said, he would like her to contact him.

That's because Short, who did not originally try the case, is now charged with reinvestigating the crime.

"I think we have a strong obligation to do that," Short said. "We're in the situation now of trying to do the right thing ... 10 years later."

Rose was an acquaintance of the victim's aunt in April 1995, when the girl was grabbed and dragged into an alley while walking to Woodbridge Middle School. She didn't get a good look at her assailant, a man with a mustache who raped her and forced her to perform oral sex.

She initially said she did not know who had attacked her. She failed to pick Rose out of a lineup, even though he closely matched police sketches of the attacker, Short said.

Three weeks later, after what Short called "pressure" from law enforcement, the girl named Rose as her rapist.

Blood-type tests used at the time to match Rose to semen were inconclusive but did not rule him out.

A jury convicted Rose of kidnapping a child, kidnapping with the intent to rape, kidnapping for a lewd and lascivious act, rape and forcible copulation.

Rose sobbed at his sentencing and called the crime "sick; that's not me," according to newspaper accounts.

Rose had tried unsuccessfully over the past eight years to appeal his conviction.

In January 2002, the Innocence Project took on his case.

Marilyn Underwood, a Golden Gate University law student, was the first on the case. Silky Sahnan, another student there, argued a motion to allow DNA testing of the evidence.

That more-advanced testing showed definitively that the semen found was not Rose's.

Short said that knowledge would have entered into the case. He said jurors probably then would have been told that the victim was sexually active — that she had had intercourse two days before the attack with her boyfriend, who allegedly wore a condom.

The exoneration is the first for Golden Gate's clinical program, said Susan Rutberg, its director. A sister program at the University of Santa Clara has helped free three people from prison, Rutberg said,

"I'm so excited right now," Rose said briefly Friday evening while having dinner at a Mexican restaurant with his family, which includes four school-age children, and with attorneys who worked on his case.

He said he probably would move to Point Arena, where his mother lives, and work with his cousin, who is a fisherman.

Beyond that, Rose hadn't done much thinking — not about the renewed investigation into the crime or about the nearly 10 years he lost behind bars.

"I haven't even really thought about that," he said. "I'm just happy to be with my family right now."