Based on the files of the lawyers who freed them, Wrongful Conviction features interviews with men and women who have spent decades in prison for crimes they did not commit – some of them had even been sentenced to death. These are their stories.
Blaise Lobato was twice convicted of the gruesome murder of a 44-year-old homeless man named Duran Bailey, whose body was found behind a dumpster off the Las Vegas Strip just after 10 p.m. on July 8, 2001, covered in a thin layer of trash. Bailey’s teeth had been knocked out and his eyes were bloodied and swollen shut; his carotid artery had been slashed, his rectum stabbed, and his penis amputated. It was found among the trash nearby. Despite a crime scene rich with potential evidence, Las Vegas detectives Thomas Thowsen and James LaRochelle ignored obvious leads and instead focused their investigation on 18-year-old Blaise Lobato, based solely on a third-hand rumor. Ms. Lobato became a suspect because of an attack she fended off in Las Vegas in May 2001. A man attempted to rape her, and she fought him off with a knife, slashing him in the groin area before escaping in her car. In July, police drove up to the small town of Panaca to interview Ms. Lobato about the incident. On the day of the crime, she was at home with her parents in Panaca, which was nearly three hours northeast of Las Vegas near the Utah state line. She was forthcoming with police and described an incident entirely different from Bailey’s murder. When the police told her that the man had died, she mistakenly believed it was the same man that had attacked her, and she expressed remorse, which the police took to be a confession. Even though there was not a shred of physical evidence linking Blaise Lobato to the crime scene, on May 18, 2002, she was convicted of first degree murder and sexual penetration of a dead body and sentenced to 40 to 100 years. The state’s theory of the crime fell apart in October 2017, when Vanessa Potkin, Director of Post-Conviction Litigation at the Innocence Project, and a team of attorneys presented nearly a week’s worth of testimony from several renowned entomologists and a medical examiner, each of whom demonstrated why the state’s narrative never made any scientific sense. On December 19, 2017, the judge vacated Ms. Lobato’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The grounds were inadequate legal defense for failing to call an expert to challenge the time of death, given that it was such a pivotal issue. Ten days later, the prosecution dropped all charges, and Blaise Lobato was freed after serving almost 16 years on prison. In this episode she is joined by two of her Innocence Project attorneys, Jane Putcher & Adnan Salter.
Please link to Blaise's gofundme: https://www.gofundme.com/kirstinlobatolibertyfund