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John Street

Other Federal Exonerations with Perjury or False Accusation
On February 9, 1998, the body of 38-year-old Douglas Weil was found in the trunk of a car in a motel parking lot in Kansas City, Missouri. Weil, who was from Independence, Missouri, had been missing since January. He had been beaten, stabbed and shot.
 
The murder went unsolved until 2004 when a federal grand jury indicted John Street, a convicted methamphetamine dealer, on charges of arranging Weil’s murder because Street believed Weil was cooperating with authorities investigating Street’s drug operation. The prosecution sought the death penalty.
 
At the time of the murder indictment, Street was in federal prison, serving a 15-year prison term after pleading guilty in 2000 to manufacturing and selling methamphetamine.
 
Street went on trial in U.S. District Court in July 2006 on charges that he ordered another man, Darren Frank, to kill Weil as to protect the methamphetamine operation.
 
The prosecution presented evidence that Street began producing and distributing methamphetamine in 1996 in the Kansas City area. Weil, a friend of Street’s, had some involvement in Street’s methamphetamine business. In October 1997 Street asked Weil to pick up a stolen bulldozer, which Street had loaned to a friend. Weil was returning with the bulldozer when he was stopped by police. When police determined the bulldozer was stolen, they searched the vehicle and found several trash bags and coolers, associated with methamphetamine production, and a handgun. The prosecution contended that Street had Weil killed because he feared Weil might cooperate with the authorities and connect him to the stolen bulldozer to methamphetamine production.
 
Weil was last seen on January 19, 1998, driving a car owned by Street’s father. Weil’s wife reported him missing several days later. On February 5, 1998, an associate of Street’s saw the car in the parking lot of a local motel. The associate told Street, who came to the parking lot and looked at the car, but he did not try to enter it.
 
Street telephoned Weil’s wife and she then called the police, who examined the car from the outside and looked into the trunk through an empty speaker socket. They saw nothing suspicious. Four days later, police returned and found the car had been moved to a different location in the lot. They looked through the speaker hole and saw a human foot. When the trunk was pried open, police found Weil’s body. Street was questioned about Weil’s murder in March 1998 and denied any involvement and suggested that a man named Darren Frank had killed Weil.
 
Weil’s whereabouts and activities from the time he was last seen to the discovery of his body nearly three weeks later remained a mystery. His casino card had been used just two days before his body was discovered, and forensic evidence showed he had eaten a full meal and used methamphetamine just hours before his death.
 
No physical evidence linked Street to the murder and no murder weapon was ever recovered. The prosecution’s primary witnesses were Eva Long and Charlie Dunne. Long testified that Street had become angry upon learning of Weil’s arrest with the stolen bulldozer and offered to pay Darren Frank $5,000 to kill Weil. Dunne testified that Street had suggested during a conversation that he had killed Weil.
 
The prosecution also called four prison inmates: Daniel House, Dennis Pospisil, Ronald Harris, and Daniel Jennings—all of whom testified that Street had admitted his guilt in separate conversations with them. At one time or another Street had been a prison cellmate with House, Pospisil, and Harris. While testifying, Harris said Street told him he had taken a polygraph test and failed. The defense immediately asked for a mistrial, arguing that the testimony was improper. The motion was denied, although the judge instructed the jury to disregard the testimony.
 
The prosecution also introduced a cache of firearms belonging to Street, which had been found 16 months after Weil was killed, although none of the weapons was linked to the murder.
 
Kansas City Police Detective Steve Cook also testified for the prosecution as an expert on the “El Forasteros” motorcycle gang. The prosecution contended that Street was loosely affiliated with the gang through his association with actual members of the gang, including Darren Frank. Cook provided specific examples of El Forasteros gang members’ violent and lawless behavior including the murder of police informants or “snitches.”
 
Street took the stand in his own defense and vigorously denied any involvement in the murder. He said he was a close friend of Weil’s and that he was distressed about his murder. Street denied ever telling anyone in prison that he was involved in the crime. The defense called about 50 additional witnesses, some of whom testified they heard Frank admit he killed Weil because Weil was a child molester. One witness testified that Frank also admitted stealing a quantity of red phosphorus (a methamphetamine precursor) from Weil at the time of the murder.
 
Some witnesses suggested that Dunne killed Weil because Weil and Dunne were involved in a check-forging scheme and had a falling out. One witness testified that Dunne had admitted his guilt in Weil’s murder.
 
The defense argued that Weil was alive and was not a captive right up until the moment of his murder, and that if Street had been involved, he would not have called Weil’s wife to report seeing the car in the motel parking lot.
 
In August 2006, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict and a mistrial was declared. The prosecution then obtained a superseding indictment which also listed Darren Frank as an additional defendant. Street moved for a severance, and that motion was granted. Frank was tried separately and was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
 
On December 12, 2006, the jury acquitted Street of aiding and abetting the intentional killing of Weil while using or carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking offense and aiding and abetting the intentional killing of Weil, a potential federal witness. The jury convicted Street of aiding and abetting the intentional killing of Weil in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.
 
The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on the death penalty and imposed a sentence of life in prison without parole.
 
In February 2008, Street obtained an affidavit from a witness who said that Pospisil, one of the prison inmates, had admitted his trial testimony against Street was false. Based on the affidavit, Street sought an evidentiary hearing and a new trial, but the motion was denied.
 
In December 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed Street’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The court held that the testimony about Street failing a polygraph test had impermissibly tainted the trial and that the testimony about the motorcycle gang was unfairly prejudicial against Street.
 
“It is undisputed that Street was never a member of El Forasteros or any other motorcycle gang,” the court said. “Although the government produced no evidence indicating that Street subscribed to the gang's philosophy and practices, it nevertheless argued during its closing that Street’s casual associations with a few El Forasteros members was sufficient for the gang's anti-snitch code “to rub off on [him].”
 
The appeals court, however, upheld the trial judge’s decision to forbid the defense from cross-examining Eva Long about an incident in which she led police on an extended vehicle chase during which she told a companion to shoot the police.
 
Street went on trial a third time in the fall of 2009. He again denied involvement in the crime. The defense again presented dozens of witnesses in his behalf, including the witness who said Pospisil claimed he had lied about Street admitting involvement. On October 13, 2009, Street was acquitted. Street remained in prison serving his drug conviction sentence until his release in November 2012.
 
– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 8/24/2014
State:Fed-MO
County:(Western)
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1998
Convicted:2006
Exonerated:2009
Sentence:Life without parole
Race:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:36
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No