Danny Willoughby's News Forum
Case No: CR91-10184, ICA-CR 02-0092
Date of the Crime: February 23, 1991
Date of Conviction: 1992 (first trial)/ January 15, 2002 (second trial)
Sentence: Consecutive Sentences of 25 Years to Life for First Degree Murder and Conspiracy to Murder
Willoughby was initially sentenced to death. After a second trial in 1999, he received consecutive sentences of 25 years to Life, for the two counts.
Danny Hayden Willoughby
possibly innocent in Arizona
IntroductionIn February, 1991, the Willoughby family was on vacation in Rocky Point, Mexico, a tourist town on the Gulf of California popular with Arizonans. The family had rented a house in a small enclave of vacation homes a short distance from Puerto Penasco itself. The family decided to have an outing into town to visit a small museum. At the last minute Dan's wife Trish decided she would rather take a nap, leaving Dan to take the three children into town. They visited the museum and, having heard that a whale had washed up on the beach, took a detour to view it. They were gone less than two hours. Returning to the rented house they were stunned to find Trish's battered body lying on the bed in the master bedroom. The local Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy, finding that her skull had been badly fractured and listed the cause of death as multiple stab wounds. Three table knives, one still lodged in Trish's skull, were recovered from the scene.
Trish had been in business with her mother, Thera Huish, operating a successful mail order vitamin company. Unbeknownst to Dan, Trish and Thera had recently executed a sizable insurance policy on each other's lives as a buy-sell agreement on the business. Despite Dan's lack of knowledge of this policy, it soon became the lynch pin of the State's theory that Dan had killed his wife.
Unfortunately, Dan had been having an affair with a Mexican National, Yesenia Patino. Yesenia was a flamboyant and beguiling young woman who, it was later revealed, had been born a hermaphrodite. As an adult, Yesenia had surgically removed her vestigal male genitalia. This fact, misunderstood by the press as a "sex change" operation, caused a sensation and forever altered the perception of the case and of Dan himself.
Seeking evidence that Dan had drugged Trish to render her vulnerable to attack by Yesenia, the police had Trish's body exhumed and another autopsy performed, this time in Phoenix, on June 3rd, 1991. No drugs were found in Trish's system. However, when the casket had been opened for the exhumation, the police did discover a farewell love letter from Dan to Trish which he had privately placed in her hands just before burial. The police did not preserve the letter, nor even mention in their reports having found it; such a loving gesture by Dan would contradict the case they were trying to build against him.
The police continued to pressure Yesenia for a statement they could use against Dan. They first charged her brother with the murder, then dismissed the charge in exchange for his testimony against Dan. Finally, on December 7th, 1991 she caved in to the pressure and gave the prosecution a statement which blamed Dan for the actual killing and claimed that she only entered the house after Trish's death, and only to steal jewelry and money to give the appearance of a robbery. Dan was arrested the next day, charged with murder and held without bond. Dan's worst problem was still to happen though. That problem was his defense attorney, David Ochoa. Mr Ochoa was a former County Judge and Dan readily accepted his assurances of victory without question. While Mr Ochoa had tips for Dan on how to graciously accept the not guilty verdict when delivered by the jury, he had little to say about what was being done to prepare for trial. Nor did he mention that the prosecution had effectively hobbled what little preparation he had undertaken by threatening him with obstruction of justice.
The trial was a disaster. In his opening statement, Ochoa offered a theory in which Yesenia had gone to the house, with Dan's knowledge, to extort money from Trish and things had gotten out of hand. Not only was this a fabrication by Ochoa but, as the trial judge pointed out to him at a bench conference, if true, would make Dan guilty of felony murder. Mr Ochoa made few objections during the trial and did even less cross examination. Thera Huish's "assumption" that Dan had known of the insurance policy came in without objection or question. He did not call as a witness the agents who had written the policy and could testify that Dan had known nothing about it.
When Yesenia took the stand and testified to a new version of events, in which she was the actual killer, Mr Ochoa neither impeached her with her first statement, nor the even more exculpatory taped statement Yesenia had given him and he had in his briefcase. Needless to say, the prosecutor was unruffled that his key witness had changed her story so much; it was still enough to get a conviction, regardless of its accuracy. Dan's conviction was virtually inevitable and he was sentenced to death on the strength Ms Huish's assumption; the Judge found that the murder had been committed for pecuniary gain. Dan's conviction and death sentance were affirmed on appeal, again because Mr Ochoa's performance at trial left vitually no issues preserved for appeal.
The only thing standing between Dan and the gas chamber was a petition for post conviction relief which allowed him to raise ineffective assistance of counsel. Dan's luck changed for the better at this point. His friends, stunned by his conviction and death sentance, rallied to his aid, raising money and performing hours of necessary but often tedious work. One major accomplishment was arranging for the video deposition of Yesenia Patino, who was serving a 35 year sentance for the murder in a Mexican prison. Yesenia had made no secret of her distain for the prosecution who, she felt, had bullied and deceived her at every turn. Her testimony was devastating to their case. She told of how the State had openly threatened to prosecute her brother if she did not implicate Dan, their promises of leniency with her Mexican sentance, even of having given her drugs in the courtroom hallway to "calm her down" as she waited to testify.
The state prosecutor and his chief investigator (Kay Lines), told Yesenia that if she did not agree to their lie that Danny was involved, they would bring her to Arizona, and give her the death penalty. However, under Mexican law, its citizens cannot be given the death penalty which is constitutionally prohibited. Yesenia did not know this.
Dan's new attorneys filed a meticulously researched brief, alleging both ineffective assistance of counsel and presecutorial misconduct. The brief was filed October 19th, 1997, Dan had been in custody for nearly six years. The evidentiary hearing continued, off and on, for over two years. Finally, on November 17, 1999, the trial judge reversed Dan's conviction for ineffective assistance of counsel. By ruling on that ground, the judge was able to avoid addressing the misconduct issues which Dan's lawyers had raised.
To grant a new trial due to ineffective assistance of counsel, the trial court had to find both that counsel's performance had been deficient and, but for the deficient performance, the result of the trial would have been different. In other words, that Dan would likely have been found not guilty.
How you can helpMr. Willoughby's letter to you:
Yesenia Patino was extradited from Mexico to testify at my 2001 trial, all the while vehemently and repeatedly denouncing the state's prosecution and investigators for their false promises, chicanery, coercion and subterfuge.
It was reported that days before Ms. Patino's trial testimony, a clandestine meeting was conducted between Ms. Patino and state officers of the court. Consequently, when she testified on direct examination by the prosecution, she reverted back to her rehearsed 1992 testimony, involving me in this crime. It's quite clear her testimony was suborned.
However, under cross-examination by the defense, Yesenia Patino explained in vivid detail how she committed this crime, and her motive for doing so. She even begged the trial judge to allow her to stop with her exhaustive testimony. Ms. Patino, physically and emotionally drained from this confession, had to be helped from the witness stand by a prison guard and a female attorney from the Attorney General's office.
The jury, backed into a Thanksgiving day vacation deadline to end this trial, rendered a guilty verdict. This verdict shocked my defense attorneys, as well as many legal pundits who followed this trial. When jurors were asked after the trial why they returned a guilty verdict, some stated that they were confused on some jury instructions and, in particular, "accomplice liability" and "reasonable doubt". It was blatantly obvious that there was an abundance of reasonable doubt. Further investigation, and in judge's chambers, discussion with some jury members revealed a clear presence of some jury misconduct and coercion.
The state, seeing their case before the trial start to unravel, elected to drop the death penalty. I was found guilty and sentenced to 25 to life sentences.
I have enclosed a sampling of some of the abundance of material that reinforce my innocence. I have available a plethora of documents, personal interviews, reports, letters etc., many in Yesenia Patino's own taped words and writings, that give support to my innocence. The video deposition is particularly revealing and poignant.
As you can see from these enclosures, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter personally endorsed his belief in my innocence. In addition, Mr. Carter's renowned organization, AIDWYC (Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted) unanimously chose to support my case. The Board members at AIDWYC are some of the most prestigeous legal minds in Canada and America.
This case was never a "slam dunk". There are copious amounts of evidence to demonstrate my innocence. "Smoke and mirrors", perjury, subornation of perjury, withholding exculpatory evidence and gross deception has made a mockery of my case and trials.
I thank you for enduring this verbose, yet vitally informative synopsis. I felt it necessary to give you enough facts with which to evaluate your decision of whether to help cure the injustices I have endured, and be a remedy in granting an innocent man his freedom.
If you wish, I can make available to you the names of investigators, attorneys and professional people who could give you further insight. I need "visibility" and legal assistance especially in the Habeas Appeal Process. Should anyone wish to contribute any legal expertise, or funding to procure competent counsel and investigators, please feel free to do so. My defense fund supervisor is Dr. Pomeroy at email@example.com. For legal assistance, you may contact my attorney Mr. Dew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to your reply at your earliest convenience.
DocumentsYesina Patino's letter to Judge J. D. Howe (pdf)
September 22, 1995
Court Order (pdf)
October 10, 1995
Yesina Patino's letter to Kay Lines, the Attorney General's chief investigator (pdf)
September 25, 1995
Yesina Patino's letter to a mutual friend of hers and Danny Willoughby's (pdf)
October 21, 1995
Yesina Patino's letter addressed to Danny Willoughby but mailed to his attorney (pdf)
October 22, 1995
Deposition of Yesenia Patino Gonzalez (pdf, 21 (82) pages)
February 24, 1997
Interview of Yesenia Patino (pdf, 5 pages)
May 23, 2000
Guaymas Penitentiary, Guaymas, Mexico
Excerpt of Transcript of Proceedings (pdf, 31 pages)
November 1, 2001
Sentencing (pdf, 2 pages)
Brenda Pomeroy's notarized Affidavit (pdf)
January 25, 2004
Dan Willoughby's notarized Affidavit (pdf, 13 pages)
October 24, 2005
Reply to Response to Petition for Post-Conviction Relief (pdf, 14 pages)
October 27, 2005
Letter from Character Witness Dr. Gary M. Cushing (pdf)
Lawrence S. Matthew's notarized Affidavit (pdf)
August 30, 2005
Letter from AIDWYC (pdf)
Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted
January 18, 2001
Letter from Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (pdf)
Newspaper Articles (pdf, 5 pages)
Private Investigator Benny Lucero's statement (pdf)
Two BooksThe book titled "Damaged Goods" - be advised that this author, Jim Henderson, is being sued. This "pulp fiction" booklet was paid for by friends of the prosecution with the sole intent of giving a one-sided "story" - not facts - about my case.
In fact, Mr. Henderson only took information supplied by the prosecutor's office, and victim's family - my in-laws. Not one defense attorney, defense witness, defense investigator, not the convicted murderer Yesenia Patino, and not even I was consulted for unbiased information to give the entire picture, and not some fictional salacious account that never happened.
This book was so inaccurate, that the prosecution never called any of the principle people mentioned in the book, to the witness stand except Thera Huish. Huish handed out copies of this booklet to jurors which naturally was illegal, and created bias. When only one side of a story, or case is written about, it is a false presentation of facts not in evidence, and only theories and suppositions. See enclosed a letter or affidavit from Brenda Pomeroy demonstrating the jury misconduct done by Thera Huish passing out this felonious account to prejudice the jury. And the jury was indeed prejudiced by reading this "pulp fiction".
There is a book titled "Rocky Point", a true story of murder by Mark Siegel. Mark was an attorney and author, and a very honest man. He wrote a true account of this case, and even drove to Mexico to view the crime scene and talk to the police and others who investigated this crime. He sought out both sides of the story from the Defense and Prosecution sides. Mark passed away from a heart attack, but his book should still be around some place. I suggest, if you want an honest and unbiased account of this crime, read Siegel's book. Siegel talked to Jim Henderson about his book of Damaged Goods, and Henderson said it was 90% fiction and only from the prosecutorial approach.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Gilbert, Arizona, USA
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Maricopa County, Arizona, USA
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Puerto Peñasco aka "Rocky Point", Mexico
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