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Richard Paul Dziubak

Other Minnesota Exonerations
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On February 25, 1987, 34-year-old Richard Paul Dziubak called police in St. Paul, Minnesota after he said he found his 65-year-old mother, May Speiser, dead in her home.

 
A Ramsey County medical examiner performed an autopsy and concluded that the death was a homicide caused by a blow to the head with a blunt object. The examiner found that the woman’s injuries were consistent with a fall down a flight of stairs.
 
Dziubak was charged with the woman’s murder after the medical examiner found a note tucked in the woman’s underwear that said, “Dick killed me—threw me down the basement.”
 
The autopsy also showed an elevated level of anti-depressants in the woman’s blood, but after a defense expert concluded that the levels were not sufficiently high enough to have contributed to the woman’s death, Dziubak accepted an offer from the prosecution to plead guilty.
 
On April 28, 1987, Dziubak pled guilty to manslaughter and he was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison.
Dziubak subsequently retained a new lawyer, Earl Gray, who filed a petition in Ramsey County District Court claiming that the defense expert had misread the autopsy report. In fact, the petition said, another expert, Dakota County coroner Dr. John Plunkett, re-examined the autopsy and toxicology reports and saw that Speiser had approximately 100 times the recommended dosage of Amitriptyline, an anti-depressant, in her blood. Speiser died, Plunkett concluded, of a massive drug overdose.
 
In 1988, the motion for a new trial was granted and Dziubak was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea. He was released on bond in October 1988.
 
 
In 1989, he went to trial in Ramsey County District Court on a charge of murder.
 
Police testified that at the time Dziubak found his mother’s body, he was staying in the home. He said he went to check on her after she fell down the basement stairs during an argument.
 
 
A medical examiner testified for the prosecution that Speiser died of blunt force trauma to the head. A defense expert, however, testified that the massive amount of Amitriptyline was the result of an intentional overdose.
 
Two of Dziubak’s siblings testified that their mother was a vindictive woman who abused them and often threatened to commit suicide. Dziubak’s sister testified that her grandmother (Speiser’s mother) on her deathbed said she “couldn’t figure out from the time she was a little girl why she was so vindictive and mean.”
 
Gray argued that based on the medical testimony, a woman who had suffered a fatal head injury would not have been able to write the note that was found. Instead, Gray argued to the jury that Speiser wrote the note, tucked it into her underwear and then took a lethal dose of Amitriptyline.
 
On July 18, 1989, the jury acquitted Dziubak.
 
Dziubak sued the assistant public defenders who represented him at the time of his guilty plea. Dziubak lost that lawsuit as a result of a 1993 ruling that extended absolute immunity to public defenders in Minnesota.
 
In February 2015, Dziubak, who had subsequently changed his name to Rick Paul Nelson, died.
 
The previous year, the Minnesota legislature enacted the Minnesota Imprisonment and Exoneration Remedies Act, which granted the right to seek compensation for wrongful imprisonment.
 
Nelson’s widow, Anna Nelson, filed a lawsuit seeking compensation under the act, but in August 2016, the lawsuit was dismissed. In May 2015, the Minnesota Court of Appeals held that the right to seek compensation under the act expires when an individual dies—unless the individual had a claim pending at the time of death.
 
 
– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
State:Minnesota
County:Ramsey
Most Serious Crime:Manslaughter
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1987
Convicted:1987
Exonerated:1989
Sentence:6 years and 9 months
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:34
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No