With great enthuse, excitement, pleasure and humility I greet you all in the Hebrew word of peace – Shalom. My name is: Damu Ira Umoja formerly known as Ira Alston. I am 36 years old. I am a black male incarcerated in the state provided on my profile. I have been incarcerated for 19 years for a crime that I did not commit.
I come forward to the world to tell my story in hopes of obtaining help, assistance and partnership in raising public awareness of a youth to an adult male plight and fight to put an end to the continual “Travesty of Justice” perpetuated in his criminal case and hopefully this would shine some light upon the unfairness within the criminal justice system as a whole.
By way of background, let me explain what happened. At the age of 16 years old, in December of 1999, I was arrested and charged in the city of New Haven, Connecticut with the crime of murder and carrying a pistol or revolver without a permit. (Note: no pistol or revolver was ever recovered by the police in connection with my case or possessed by me or found on my person). In court, I plead not guilty to the charges and elected to have a jury trial.
I had a number of private practice attorneys appointed by the court as “special public defenders” to represent me during the criminal prosecution.
On June 25, 2002, jury trial in my case began before Superior Court judge J. L, Jr. The prosecutor was assistant States Attorney J. W. and the special public defender representing me at trial was Attorney R. S. who the court appointed to represent me on March 20, 2002. My attorney did not have a complete copy of the prosecution case file until June 5, 2002.
The prosecution case centered on statements and testimony provided by two (2) individuals, B. B. III and S. E. both of New Haven, Connecticut.
The one was a known crack cocaine addict from the neighborhood and was a paid informant. The prosecutor did not disclose their known crack cocaine addiction or that they were a paid informant to my attorney. I did tell my attorney that they were addicted to crack cocaine. My attorney made no use of that information during my trial. (Note: after my trial I learned that my attorney was also a crack cocaine addict when the New Haven newspaper published an article regarding my attorney’s 2003 arrest for possession of six (6) bags of crack cocaine).
To my knowledge, the prosecutor did not inform my attorney that S. E. was a paid informant who was paid money for their involvement in my case If such information was disclosed to my attorney he made no use of the information.
Not surprisingly the information S. E. provided to the New Haven police and prosecutor sharply contradicted well established facts in my case.
S. E. never provided information directly implicating me in the murder of pistol offenses, but did claim on the day of the victims death that they observed the victim at the scene of the crime. This was critical as well as crucial to the State’s case. S. E. claimed on the day of the victim’s death that they heard what appeared to them to be a truck backfiring. They claimed to then had looked out the bathroom window and saw two (2) men running across the street, that one man had a beige jacket and the other man had on a red and black jacket.
According to S. E. the man with the red and black jacket was holding his side as he ran across the street and then collapsed by a parked black car on the street. (Note: this individual was later found by members of the New Haven Police Department to have suffered a single gunshot entry wound to the upper front side of his chest that caused his death). Afterwards, S. E. claimed they then went to their sons room to tell them to get down and at that time they looked out the sons bedroom window and allegedly saw me run into my apartment building hallway. When asked by my attorney whether or not they saw a gun in my hands? They replied: They weren’t looking at my hands. Despite the fact that in their prior in court testimony when asked that very same question they replied “no”, at trial, before the jury, S. E. found it necessary to change that portion of their testimony.
Furthermore, S. E.’s description of the victims clothing provided to the police did not and do not match the description and photographs of the victims clothing provided by the New Haven police officers. The police officers photos and reports reveal that the victim had on a tan and green jacket the day that he was shot and killed not the red and black jacket identified by S. E. The prosecutor or my attorney did not question S. E. regarding their description of the victims clothing provided to the police. The photos and police reports created by the New Haven police officers was made available to my attorney but my attorney made no use of that evidence at trial. There are numerous contradictions between the information S. E. provided to the police officers and their in court testimony. My city made no use of S. E.’s contradictory statements during my trial.
B. B. is the only person (out of the 16 witnesses the prosecutor called to testify at my trial) that directly implicated me in the shooting on the day the victim was shot and killed. B. B. out of corpse statements and in court testimony is ripe with glaring inconsistencies, falsehoods, contradictions and discrepancies in and of themselves and as compared to well established physical facts. For example, according to the Connecticut Medical examiner autopsy report, the victim suffered a single gunshot entry wound located on the upper right side of his chest 14 1/2 inches to the right of his midline. Although B. B. testified that they did not see me shoot the victim (who they admittedly said they could not identify if they were to see him again) or know anybody was shot. B. B. did not testify that they saw me firing a gun at the two (2) persons running down the street 100 to 200 feet away as their backs were turned towards me. This testimony would suggest that's the victim should have suffered a gunshot entry wound in his back not the upper right side of his chest 14 1/2 inches to the right of his midline as revealed by the autopsy report. Under B. B.’s version of events it would be geometrically impossible or implausible for the crime to have occurred that way.
Again, my attorney, R. S. was aware of B. B.’s version of events and how it did not conform to the Medical Examiner's autopsy report. My attorney did not bring this obvious impossibility to the court or jury's attention.
My case is ripe with police and prosecution coercion and corruption. The police detective leading the homicide investigation, J. V., when he applied for a warrant for my arrest repeatedly lied in his affidavit to obtain the warrant for my arrest. For example, B. B. admitted that they cannot identify the victim, not even what the victim was wearing. J. V. in the affidavit for my arrest, swore under oath, that B. B. identified the victim when B. B. in fact, did not.
In the out of court statement dated 12-11-99 provided to detective J. V., B. B. admitted that they did not know the difference between a semi-automatic handgun and a revolver handgun. And that they cannot describe the handgun used in the crime. At trial, B. B. changed that testimony and described what would lead one to believe is a revolver type handgun as the type of weapon used in the shooting and testified that at that time of the trial testimony they now know the difference between a semi-automatic handgun and a revolver. When asked by my attorney how it is that when they first gave their out of court statement they didn't know the difference but almost 3 years later all of a sudden knows the difference between the two guns. B. B. replied: “Oh, no, because we had talked about it”! There was no follow-up questions to this admission by my attorney.
My jury pool was contaminated because of a potentially bias juror. During the second day of trial on June 26, 2002, a juror named K. R. altered the courts clerk that they were friends with the victim's sister: L. J. who was present throughout the trial. Besides asking the court to make a record of what the juror told the court clerk, my attorney did nothing with that information. When I asked my attorney to remove them from the jury pool he replied: “It doesn't matter, their black!”
My trial lasted from June 25, 2002 to July 3, 2002. The jury deliberation lasted from July 1, 2002 to July 3rd, 2002. on July 3rd, 2002, I was acquitted of the murder offense, but convicted of a lesser included offense of manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm and carrying a pistol or revolver without a permit. Under Federal and Connecticut law, no defendant, in a criminal case, shall be convicted of a crime for which he/she had no notice of. The prosecution charging documents that set out the murder offense failed to notify me that a conviction on any lesser included offense could be possible. See State v. Greene, 274 Conn. 134 at page 157 (2005). Under prevailing law, no defendant could be convicted of a lesser included offense if the defendant or the prosecution did not submit a written request to the court to instruct the jury to consider a lesser included offense. See State v Whistnant, 179 Conn. 576, 588 (1980). The prosecution or me at trial did not submit any request to the court to instruct the jury to consider any lesser included offense.
The trial judge, J. L., Jr. on his own accord instructed the jury to consider a lesser included offense of manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm. During that instruction the judge told the jury twice that I did, in fact, killed the victim. I testified in my own defense and vehemently denied any involvement in the crime. These issues we're not raised in my appellant brief in my direct appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court. On direct appeal I was appointed yet another Special Public defender who did not even challenge on appeal my conviction for carrying a pistol or revolver without a permit. On January 11, 2005, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of conviction.
On November 1, 2002, the trial judge sentenced me to 35 years imprisonment on the manslaughter conviction and 3 years imprisonment to run concurrent with the manslaughter sentence on the pistol conviction.
I am currently challenging both convictions via petition. I now appeal to the great people of this world for your love, care, support, assistance, help, and partnership in launching an online social media campaign to bring public awareness to my fight for my freedom. If your interested and wish to support justice in my case, contact me at the institution address with your advice, thoughts, feelings and comments.
I look forward to hearing from you all!!