On April 19, 2006, after Timothy James Young was sentenced to death for the murder of five people during a robbery in Tulare County, he asked to give a statement.
Tim first addressed the families of the victims. Speaking without notes, he said his heart went out to them. He could feel their pain and their need for closure. He turned to the judge and acknowledged the desires of the prosecutors, the court, and the jury to close the book on the complicated case that had torn apart a community. However, Tim said, his conviction was not closure.
As the judge tried to interrupt, Tim noted that because an innocent man was just convicted, the families were going to experience the additional pain of returning to that courtroom. Quietly and firmly, Tim told everyone in the room that this was not over. He would be exonerated.
In the fourteen years since that conviction, Tim has repeatedly tried to get an appellate review of his case. With an alibi, contradictory witness descriptions, proof of evidence tampering ad witness coercion, and murder weapons bearing someone else’s fingerprints, there is substantial reasons to question the procedures and due process of his conviction. His hands are tied, however, as his appellate attorney, appointed by the California Supreme Court, has yet to file the record on appeal or an opening brief. Without the money to hire private counsel, and without a pro bono legal team, his case will not be heard.
Please read the details of Tim’s wrongful conviction below, written in collaboration with Tim. And join us in our fight to free Tim Young!
Witness description does not match
On July 18, 1995, Pato’s Place, a small bar in Tulare County, was robbed and five patrons were killed. The surviving witness, bar owner, Lupe Cantu, stated that the suspects were Hispanic. He also described two of the three suspects as shorter than 5’8 and skinny, and the third suspect as approximately 5’10, skinny/medium build. In stark contrast, Timothy James Young is an African American male and approximately 6’3 in height. At the time of the crime, Tim weighed over 320 pounds.
Tim’s medical records showed that on July 18, 1995, Tim had three different medical appointments in three different counties. He also had a medical appointment the following day for a bone scan. Tim’s work records revealed that on July 18, 1995, he had a meeting in Hanford, California with his management team at Pirelli Tires.
Fingerprint evidence does not match
Fingerprint and palm impressions were found on the murder weapons, but they do not belong to Tim, or anyone else who was charged with the crime. To date, the person who the prints actually belong to remain a mystery.
Police admitted under oath to falsifying records, tampering with evidence, and destroying exculpatory evidence. One of the evidence lab technicians who participated in these corrupt practices was later charged and convicted of drug and weapons possession, stealing from the evidence room, and human trafficking.
WITNESS CREDIBILITY AND COERCION
The star witness was not credible
The star witness for the prosecution was a man by the name of Anthony Wolfe. Anthony Wolfe is a known con artist and drug addict with prior felony convictions. His priors include: Lewd and lascivious acts with a child (whereas he was found guilty of molesting his little sister,) burglary, carrying a concealed weapon, possession of stolen property, vehicle theft, assault on a peace officer (two separate incidents,) possession of a weapon while incarcerated at Folsom Prison, escape from custody while incarcerated in Fresno County, and lastly, counterfeiting.
The story behind the star witness
Wolfe was arrested on counterfeiting charges, for which, if he was convicted, would be his “third strike” and carry a life sentence. While incarcerated, he contacted various law enforcement agencies in hopes of making a deal in turn for the dismissal of his case. Wolfe claimed to have knowledge of the Pato’s Place murders as well as other crimes that had been committed in the Central Valley. Although Tulare County had already arrested people for the Pato’s Place murders, and had “people of interest” in the case, at the bequest of neighboring Kings County, they eventually took Wolfe up on his offer.
Grooming the witness
Investigators agreed that all of Wolfe’s case knowledge seemed to stem from news reports. Nevertheless, they freed him and had him wear a wire to gather incriminating evidence. When that failed to bear fruit, investigators changed plans and began a two year grooming process. During that time, Wolfe was interviewed by his “handlers” on numerous occasions, each interrogation producing a different story. Finally, when investigators felt they had a viable story that could be corroborated (through witness intimidation and coercion,) they offered Wolfe an immunity agreement. (It should be noted that this grooming continued all the way up to jury selection, and even during the course of the trial.)
Terms of the testimony
As a culmination of Wolfe’s numerous interviews, these are the lies that were settled upon, and that Wolfe agreed to testify to : 1) That he and Young were together the entire day of July 18, 1995, and that Young was even in the car with him later that night when he was pulled over and arrested in Corcoran, California for speeding and running a stop sign. 2) That he and Young were drinking heavily all day while plotting and preparing to commit a crime. 3) That he and Young were in Corcoran most of the day drinking, and that they then traveled back to Hanford, California where Wolfe testified that he stopped at a parking lot and attempted to steal a car, but failed because his car stealing equipment broke off into the ignition. 4) That he and Young then traveled to the residence of an individual named Joseph Bonner, in Riverdale, California so that they could pick up weapons to commit a crime. 5) That he and Young then went to Tulare, California to case out a place to commit a crime. That they committed the crime that has been referred to as the Pato’s Place incident. That they then traveled to Hanford, California and stopped at an individual’s residence by the name of Nathan Sharp so that they could divide the money, and that Nathan Sharp was there to let them in. That they then traveled back to Corcoran, California where Wolfe was pulled over for a traffic stop and arrested.
All of this would’ve gone off without a hitch except for one thing. Subsequent to Wolfe signing the immunity agreement, Tim’s work records and medical records surfaced, and they completely contradicted the state’s case, as well as every lie that had been uttered by the state’s star witness.
It should be noted that law enforcement followed up on Wolfe’s claim of the attempted car theft and came up empty. They checked with surrounding business, and they checked with every locksmith and tow truck service in town and there were no records of an attempted car theft, or reports of anyone needing assistance with a car that was unable to start due to a screw being broke off in the ignition. It should also be noted that Nathan Sharp’s work records proved that he was at work on the night of the Pato’s Place murders, meaning that he could not have been at his residence to greet Wolfe at the door and let him inside. Lastly, and most importantly, it should be noted that Sergeant Ray Garcia of the Corcoran police department testified at trial that on the night of July 18, 1995, he conducted a felony traffic stop on Wolfe and arrested him for outstanding warrants. He further testified that neither Timothy Young or his brother Donald Young were in the vehicle at the time of Wolfe’s arrest. (RT. pg. 1149-1156)
The judge, jury and prosecutor turned a blind eye to the alibi evidence in the Young case, and Anthony Wolfe was allowed to lie his way to freedom.
The prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence, provided defense attorneys with a fake set of discovery, and engaged in unethical behavior.
Judge Ronn Couillard presided over the trial, and continually aided the prosecution. Couillard gave the prosecutor hand signals when he felt that she should object to statements by the defense, and/or, he would object on her behalf when she failed to do so. Couillard would go so far as to object on behalf of the prosecution, sustain the objection and then refuse to allow defense attorneys to thoroughly cross examine witnesses. (Vol.74, pg.3576) Judge Couillard acted as a surrogate prosecutor for the District Attorney’s office. He violated judicial canons, acted unethical, and failed to protect and uphold the interest of justice. Defendants sought to disqualify Judge Couillard on two separate occasions, both motions were denied.
Jury misconduct and bias
The jury did not include any African Americans, violating Tim’s right to a fair trial. It is also documented that one of the jurors lived next door to a relative of one of the victims, and that they had discussions about the case prior to the jury being sworn in. In the most blatant evidence of jury misconduct, prior to the rendering of the unjust verdict, one of the jurors was kicked off the jury for discussing the case outside the presence of the jury. The juror was a schoolteacher, and it was determined that she had been sharing her personal views and discussing the case with her students. In spite of this, the judge refused to grant a mistrial.
No change of venue
Defendants were denied a change of venue, and in return they did not receive a fair trial.
Third party culpability
The trial Judge prevented attorneys from putting on a third party defense, even though police reports and trial testimony indicated that others committed the crime.
Witnesses were threatened, intimidated and coerced by law enforcement officials. One witness testified that police officers came to his house, kicked his door in, put a gun to his head and threatened to kill him in front of his wife and kids. He was told that if he didn’t cooperate with the investigation and corroborate the story of Anthony Wolfe (the state’s star witness,) that he himself would be charged with the crime. The witness was taken to jail, placed in the “Hole,” and remained there until he agreed to corroborate the lies of Anthony Wolfe. These lies backfired at trial because Tim’s alibi and timeline proved their untruth.
Gary Coffman, the Tulare Police Department Evidence Technician whose perjured testimony helped the D.A. secure a wrongful conviction in the Young brothers’ murder case, is now a convicted felon. Learn more:
ABC News 30: Gary Coffman is arrested for evidence tampering, embezzlement, drug and weapons possession
The Cincinatti Enquirer: Gary Coffman is arrested for human trafficking (Operation Babyface)
Read about how the prosecutor’s star witness in Tim Young’s case was allowed to lie his way to freedom:
The Fresno Bee: Witness to be released
Read about the crucial information suppressed by the judge and the prosecution:
Declaration of Lisa Bennett, legal assistant to Attorney Richard Beshwate
Timothy James Young: They Get Doughnuts, We Get Condemned
- For appellate cases, the California Supreme Court, the court that rules on the first stage of an appeal, handpick and appoint the attorney who prepares the opening brief. The only way to get around this conflict of interest is to find pro bono representation for Tim, or to raise enough funds to hire private council. Statistics show that these two avenues produce the highest rate of exonerations.