ABC15 investigation may help free 'innocent' man sentenced to 26 years in prison for burglary

A man convicted of burglary without any physical evidence or eyewitness testimony was sentenced to 26 years in prison.

Tim Casner had never been in trouble with the law, never even got so much as a parking ticket, when he was arrested, convicted and sent to prison in 1998. 

For the past 13 years, Casner has been locked up at the state prison in Kingman, Arizona.

But the Prescott house painter has never stopped proclaiming his innocence. 

Now, thanks in part to an exclusive ABC15 investigation; he has one last chance to win his freedom.

Casner's final hope to go free is in the hands of four men and one woman who serve on the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency.

The board gave him an initial hearing after he filed a handwritten petition and provided board members with a copy of our story raising significant questions about the case against Casner.

From behind bars, just hours before his initial hearing, Casner spoke with the ABC15 Investigators.

He said, "I'm just hoping. That's all I can do right now is just hope."

The attorneys handling his appeals call what happened to him a perfect storm of small town injustice. 

Anders Rosenquist told ABC15, "I have grave concerns about not only what has taken place but about judicial and police misconduct."

He says police and prosecutors accused Casner of using his house painting business to steal from customers, and he was convicted of seven counts without any physical evidence or without any eyewitnesses. 

The ABC15 Investigators found that police never found any fingerprints.

Police investigators were never able to recover a single stolen item or link any stolen merchandise to Casner. 

No search warrants were ever served and the lead detective in the case never spoke with some of the victims or visited some of the crime scenes.

Casner's lawyers say the detective falsified police records by adding Casner's name to reports that had already been filed by other officers. 

We found that police and prosecutors relied almost entirely on one key witness to get a conviction against Tim Casner—his own uncle.

Gary Lewis was a drug addict facing a decade in prison on drug charges when he made a deal to testify against Casner. 

The ABC Investigators tracked Lewis down in Northern California, and in a startling confession, he admitted he lied on the stand under oath at Casner's trial.

We also found that Lewis was fed information by the lead detective before trial.

Video of an interrogation of Lewis reveals that when he was unable to give investigators any information linking Tim Casner to any burglaries—the lead detective provided Lewis with police reports and documents pertinent to the case. 

The videotape was never shown at Casner's trial.

"I read everything they had. They couldn't prove anything. I was their whole case," Lewis told ABC15. 

While the prosecutor in the case defended the detective's handling of the investigation, legal experts we contacted were critical of how an informant testifying to avoid jail time was "coached."

Federal Defender Doug Passon said, "The worst thing you do is spoon feed them information. When you are dealing with informants, you're playing with fire. They have the incentive to lie."

Tim Casner is out of appeals.

The only way he can win his freedom is if the clemency board believes he is innocent or commutes his sentence because they find 26 years to be excessive on a burglary conviction. 

Last month the clemency board voted unanimously to schedule a second and final hearing on Casner's case.

The ABC15 Investigators will be there on June 12 when the board takes up Casner's case and announces a final decision. 

Tim Casner will be allowed to testify via telephone and he knows the outcome will determine if he has to spend the next 13 years of his life in prison.

Read and watch our previous stories about Tim Casner's case.

Learn more about Tim Casner's case.

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