A private detective named Gerald O'Donnell is now on trial for allegedly bribing a witness into changing her testimony, and the outcome of his case could well help decide the fate of a man now in prison for a 20-year-old New Haven murder.
O'Donnell is accused of tampering with a witness in order to overturn the murder convictions that sent George Gould and Ron Taylor to prison.
The original case concerned the shooting death of New Haven bodega owner Eugenio Deleone Vega. Gould and Taylor were convicted of the killing largely on the testimony of two women, both prostitutes and drug addicts.
Both women later recanted their testimony, and a state Superior Court judge in 2010 said a "manifest injustice" had been done to Taylor and Gould and ordered their release.
Taylor died of colon cancer after his release but a state Supreme Court ruling and a later court hearing sent Gould back to prison. He is now appealing that decision once again, and his fate could be determined by the outcome of the O'Donnell trial.
O'Donnell is a former investigator for the New Haven State's Attorney's office. He is accused of giving Doreen Stiles (one of the women who recanted her testimony) a television and other gifts and harassing her into changing her story.
Stiles was considered the key witness in the original trial. When she initially changed her story, Stiles said she'd been pressured by New Haven cops into lying. Then she told police that O'Donnell had pressured her into changing her story a second time. But Stiles refused to testify in Gould's last retrial hearing, invoking her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.
David Cameron, a Yale University professor anda member of the state's Eyewitness Identification Task Force, has called Stiles "completely unreliable" as a witness.
If O'Donnell is found guilty of witness tampering, that could well strike a fatal blow at Gould's final appeal to have his conviction overturned. It could be used by prosecutors to argue that Stiles' original testimony was actually true, despite her later recantation episode.