It's taken almost 10 months, but Syracuse, NY prosecutors have finally agreed not to pursue further charges against Daniel Gristwood in the brutal attack of Gristwood's wife, Christina. On January 12, 1996, a lone assailant entered the Gristwood home and beat Mrs. Gristwood about the head and the face with a clawhammer. Daniel Gristwood came home from work and found his wife laying in a pool of blood. Police focused on Daniel from the get- go and interrogated him relentlessly for at least 14 hours until they obtained a confession from him. In September 1996, Gristwood was convicted and sentenced to 12.5 to 25 years. After serving nine years in prison, Gristwood was freed in October, after a second man, Mastho Davis, came forward and confessed that he, and not Gristwood, was the assailant. Because Davis' confession was rich in detail -- precisely the kind of details that only the true perpetrator could have known - Supreme Court Justice John Brunetti vacated Gristwood's conviction in September.
Why would Gristwood confess to beating his wife to within an inch of her life, a beating so vicious that it left her confined to a wheel chair, her left side paralyzed, and with permanent brain damage? According to Gristwood, the 14 plus hour interrogation left him so confused that he actually came to believe that he must have attacked his wife, a belief which was fleeting, but which led nonetheless left him vulnerable to falsely confessing:
"I kept asking for a lawyer and they didn't give me one. They had me so upset I was crying. They kept telling me that noone else could have done this. I asked six times for a lawyer but once they got it in their mind that they pointed a finger they weren't going to hear anything else. [By the end], they had me believing I did something I didn't do. As soon as I got into the fresh air, I said I didn't do this but they said "Well you already confessed. It doesn't matter anymore."
In agreeing to dismiss pending charges against Gristwood "in the interests of justice", Senior District Attorney Robert Duncanson was careful to say that the dismissal was "not because of a belief Daniel Gristwood is 'innocent'" but because he doesn't have sufficient evidence to convict Gristwood at a trial scheduled for July 31. Two factors no doubt contributed to the delay. First, Christina Gristwood' mother remains convinced that Gristwood was her attacker and that he and Davis cooked up a scheme for Davis to take the blame while they served time in county jail. Second, the statute of limitations prevented the DA's office from proceeding against Davis, who remains locked up for another crime.