Belynda Goff- Arkansas- Convicted in 1996 Jul 1, 2016 19:12:21 GMT -5
Post by Scumhunter on Jul 1, 2016 19:12:21 GMT -5
(Above: Belynda and her daughter Bridgette Photo Credit: freebelyndagoff.com)
An Arkansas woman has been in prison for 20 years after being convicted of killing her husband. However, the Innocence Project claims that a bizarre murder-for-hire plot not in Arkansas but in Flint, Michigan that did not involve her but did involve her husband may really be to blame. Below is an article that helps explain the case:
FLINT, MI -- Lawyers for an Arkansas woman convicted of murdering her husband are fighting for her release because they believe the actual killer was part of a Flint-based arson-for-hire scheme.
The New York-based Innocence Project has launched a campaign asking for Democratic Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe to grant clemency to Belynda Goff over claims she did not kill her husband, Stephen Goff.
Stephen Goff was found beaten to death June 12, 1994, inside the couple's Green Forest, Ark., apartment. Belynda Goff was convicted of first-degree murder in 1996 and sentenced to life in prison.
Karen Thompson, an Innocence Project staff attorney, says she believes Goff has been wrongly convicted and the people actually responsible were involved in an arson-for-hire scheme with Stephen Goff.
Belynda Goff, now 53, claimed she and her husband were at their apartment June 11, 1994, when her husband received a phone call around 9 p.m., according to a clemency petition to Beebe on behalf of Goff by the Innocence Project.
Stephen Goff talked briefly on the phone before telling his wife he needed to leave the home to purchase cigarettes, according to the petition. Belynda Goff claims she told her husband the store closed at 9 p.m. but he still left the apartment.
"When she saw him next he was dead," Thompson said.
Belynda Goff watched TV in the living room before going to bed around 10-10:30 p.m. Her alarm clock went off around 4:30 a.m., the petition claims. Belynda Goff claimed she walked into the apartment's living room and discovered her bloodied husband on the floor.
A paramedic was dispatched to the apartment after Belynda Goff called for help and her husband was pronounced dead. A medical examiner concluded he died from blunt-force trauma to the head.
Police identified Belynda Goff as a suspect after concluding the evidence showed the killer must still be in the home. She was eventually charged with the killing despite no physical evidence linking her to the crime, according to Thompson.
Prosecutors claimed Belynda Goff had motive for the killing because her husband was cheating on her. Thompson said an acquaintance testified during trial that Belynda Goff claimed about a year prior she would "bash his head in" if she caught him cheating.
But, Thompson claims accusations made by Belynda Goff's brother in a statement he sent to the governor shortly after trial points the finger at the actual culprits.
In the statement to the governor as well as testimony in his sister's appeal, Chris Lindley, claims Stephen Goff recruited him to help commit arson in Flint.
Her attorney during her initial trial never called Lindley to testify, but his testimony eventually came out when Belynda Goff appealed her conviction.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office could not be reached for comment on the request.
Lindley, a Marine who claims to have extensive training in munitions, testified during Belynda Goff's appeal hearing that Stephen Goff tried to hire him to assist in the fire, according to court transcripts.
Lindley said he believed the target building was some sort of warehouse and Stephen Goff made plans to travel to Flint just days before he was killed.
Stephen Goff allegedly begged Lindley to help with the plan and Lindley initially agreed. But, Lindley testified he eventually called Stephen Goff about a week before his death to back out of the scheme.
Lindley testified that Stephen Goff told him he already accepted the money for the job and the men threatened to kill him.
A couple days later, Stephen Goff was dead.
Lindley testified he received a phone call not long after Goff was killed.
"Two days after he was found dead, that's when I got my phone call," Lindley testified. "And that was consisting of a life-threatening phone call. Told me I'd be -- if I opened my mouth -- I'd be killed, my family would be killed and they weren't playing any games."
A little more than a year after Stephen Goff's death, Belynda Goff and her family were victims of an unsolved arson that destroyed their home, according to Thompson.
The appeals court ordered a new trial following Lindley's testimony. However, the Arkansas Supreme Court shot down the new trial, claiming the decision to not have Lindley testify originally was attorney strategy and not grounds for a new trial.
Jurors never heard about the arson plot.
The Innocence Project has issued an action alert asking people to write letters on behalf of Goff. Thompson said the organization is asking for the state's parole board to review Goff's clemency application and refer it to Bebee for action before the holidays.
Thompson said the organization is also paying for DNA testing on evidence they believe will prove Goff's innocence.
Goff is currently imprisoned at the McPherson Unit women's prison in Newport, Ark.
Other relevant links with more detail:
Thoughts? The way I feel about it is there is no way Belynda Goff is not at the very least deserving of a new trial based on Lindley's testimony- which the Arkansas Supreme Court said was attorney strategy in denying her that new trial.
I am confused as to when the murder-for-hire plot was first revealed but in either scenario she would be entitled to a new trial.
-If Lindley's claims came out AFTER conviction, then it is grounds for a new trial based on new evidence that could exonerate her. How can a plot not known be attorney strategy?
-If Lindley's claims were known before Belynda Goff was convicted, then it is grounds for a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel. This is definitely something that could have swayed the jury towards a much different decision, and if the original lawyers did absolutely nothing about it, they are incompetent.
It also troubles me that an arson happened at the Goffs' home an entire year after Stephen Goff was found murdered.
Also troubling to me is that according to the Huffington Post article, a neighbor reported seeing men with baseball bats the night before Stephen's murder.
The Innocence Project says they are collecting DNA evidence that they hope will exonerate Belynda Goff. So it seems like those findings will be the next update in this case. Although I'm sure Beylnda's family are hoping those results come much sooner rather than later.