A 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge dissented from his colleagues’ affirmation of an Evansville police officer’s murder and arson convictions, believing the evidence presented by the state doesn’t support that the man started the fire at his ex-lover’s house.
Patrick Bradford had an affair with Tamara Lohr. When his wife found out, he broke it off with Lohr, who was not happy about it. While on patrol on the overnight shift, he reported seeing a fire at Lohr’s house. She was found inside on her bed, her body burned and with 21 stab wounds. Her poodle was found stabbed outside her bedroom door.
Bradford was convicted in the murder of Lohr and for arson, but he disputes that he had enough time to set the fire. He was caught on a bank surveillance camera two blocks away from Lohr’s house 65 seconds before he called for help from her home after seeing the fire.
His convictions have been upheld on direct appeal and after seeking post-conviction relief. He filed a petition for habeas corpus in federal court, but Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson denied review last November. Bradford is currently serving an 80-year sentence for the crimes.
Circuit Judges Richard Posner and Michael Kanne affirmed Magnus-Stinson’s ruling, finding Bradford had his chance and failed to present reliable evidence that would establish his innocence. The majority also rejected his claim that his trial counsel was ineffective in deciding to retain a certain fire expert.
Judge David Hamilton dissented, believing testimony of Bradford’s expert witness at the post-conviction proceedings that the majority relied on to affirm the denial of Bradford’s petition seems sound and it would exonerate Bradford. Carpenter testified that the fire must have burned for at least 30 minutes before it was extinguished, which he based on an inspection of burned and unburned wood and materials, and the level of carboxyhemoglobin in the poodle’s blood. The poodle was still alive when the fire began based on the amount of COHb in its bloodstream.
Hamilton noted most of the majority’s critiques of Carpenter’s testimony weren’t even raised during the cross-examination of him at the post-conviction hearing.
“Given the state court’s conclusion that the analysis Carpenter provided was available at the time of the original trial, I would treat the failure to seek and find such critical expert evidence as ineffective assistance of counsel,” Hamilton wrote. “In the alternative, I would treat this case as appropriate for an actual innocence grant of habeas corpus,” in which Bradford is either released or retried.
The case is Glenn Patrick Bradford v. Richard Brown, superintendent, 15-3706.