This is part one of a two part series.
Tony Reid – a seasoned defense attorney and private detective turned author – says the former Tulare County District Attorney knowingly framed an innocent man for the murder of 13-year-old girl in 1975 to save his political career.
Innocent Man Framed?
Reid’s new book, 12/26/75, details in minute detail the murder of 13-year-old Donna Jo Richmond in Exeter the day after Chrismas in 1975 and the eventual arrest and conviction of Oscar Clifton. That conviction, Reid says, was based on trumped up charges made to stick using false evidence and the intentional withholding of evidence that would have cleared Clifton’s name.
Strikingly, Reid said Tulare County’s current district attorney, Tim Ward, is still intentionally withholding evidence that proves Clifton was innocent. A second article in this series intended for publication in early January will explore the ongoing effort to clear Clifton’s name and Ward’s apparent attempt to stall it.
Clifton died in 2013 while incarcerated at the California Men’s Colony, a state prison located in San Luis Obispo.
Reid’s interest in the case began in 2016, catching his attention as he was researching a similar unsolved killing in Visalia that also happened in the mid-1970s. He soon gave his entire attention to the Richmond murder and what he said was an effort by Tulare County District Attorney Jay Powell to frame Clifton and assure his reelection by getting a conviction. He was aided in this alleged misdeed, Reid said, by Tulare County Sheriff Detective Robert Byrd.
Gathering the extensive background material Reid used to recreate the events of nearly half a century ago was a Herculean task, and Reid said the resulting book proves unequivocally that Clifton could not have killed Richmond.
“It took six years, so I hope it all makes sense,” he said.
Six Decades of Tragedy
While Clifton wasn’t convicted for Richmond’s murder until 1976, the events that would lead to him spending the rest of his life in prison began years earlier. Reid said Clifton originally clashed with the TCSO’s Byrd when Byrd was working as a union-buster for local ranchers and Clifton was operating a trucking company that sided with workers.
Clifton was convicted of an apparent rape that also may not have happened because of Byrd’s need for revenge, Reid said. The detective’s grudge against Clifton eventually caused Clifton to move his family out of the area for a decade. When he returned, Byrd picked up where he left off, eventually, according to Reid, fabricating the case against Clifton.
But Byrd didn’t work alone to put Clifton behind bars. Reid said he had the complete and willing support of Powell and his office to hide the bad investigation. Powell’s office even worked to substantiate the meritless case, Reid said, and he was able to put the story together in part because of Clifton’s own unceasing work to exonerate himself.
“After reading all of Oscar’s writings on this, the question became how was he convicted,” Reid said.
The answer was intentional prosecutorial misconduct by Powell, he said.
“He was trying to make a name for himself,” Reid said. “He was elected in the wake of the Watergate reaction. He was trying to be a hawk.”
Although Clifton died in prison in 2013, his family still hopes to have his name cleared. Reid, too, would like to see that happen, and he volunteered to aid the attorney general’s office in investigating the case. Instead, the AG ordered the Tulare County DA to produce a conviction integrity review (CIR) to reaffirm proper conduct by the DA’s office during Clifton’s prosecution.
A CIR, according to Reid, is intended to review cases where the possibility of a false conviction exists. The CIR performed by the Ward’s office in the Clifton case is woefully inadequate, Reid said.
“A CIR should involve the defense counsel. That’s what was truly 100 percent missing from this report,” he said.
Importantly, a CIR is an official proceeding of the court, and Reid believes the CIR, if performed correctly, would clear Clifton of any wrongdoing.
“They’re still bound by the burden of proof,” Reid said. “The burden is beyond a reasonable doubt. There’s obviously reasonable doubt.”
Ward, Reid said, is aware the CIR is inadequate and is supporting it anyway.
“In terms of the law, we’re talking about a knowing misrepresentation. ‘I know this isn’t true, but I’m going to say it anyway,'” Reid said. “I don’t know why the DA’s office is making these statements when they know they are not true.”
12/26/75 is available for sale at the Exeter Book Garden, 189 E. Pine Street, or online at 12-26-75.com.
6 thoughts on “New book claims former DA framed Visalia man for murder in 1975”
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2nd story in as many days alleging that Tim Ward is crooked?
Mr. Reid, please report your findings regarding District Attorney Tim Ward to the State Bar of California. They have recently announced that they are expediting ethics complaints and holding prosecutors accountable.
Reid said Tulare County’s current district attorney, Tim Ward, is still intentionally withholding evidence that proves Clifton was innocent. Not a shock after reading that last article about Wards conduct in the Benvzeebi prosecution. I’d imagine there’s lots more here regarding Ward that we don’t know. This sounds like a real threat to integrity of justice. Do our local police support this type of prosecution office? How much longer is this man in office as DA? Very concerning! I hope he holds a press conference so the public can ask questions. Reid should be there too to inquire re status of turning over more documents on the conviction integrity review.
Sounds like Mr. Reed wants to sell books. May I remind him that if his allegations are true and if he has substancial proof then he could prove his good intenttions by presenting thiss information to the state AG for starters.
There isn’t a convict in prison who doesn’t claim that they are innocent of their specific crimes. Not one!
Meanwhile, enjoy your fifteen minutes of fame at the expense of the effected families.
As a young person I remember reading the case. I don’t if he was guilty or not but the Golden State killer started in Visalia who was a former Exeter cop and it took 40yrs for them to catch him. That’s a stain on Law enforcement in Tulare Co because it shouldn’t taken that long to catch him. Solving murders should be top priority for law enforcement not wasting time going to a prayer meeting. There should be no unsolved murders in Tulare Co.
PS I read where the one ex Visalia cop said they told Sacramento they thought there murders were related to the murder in Visalia but They dismissed it. Well that didn’t mean Visalia cops couldn’t stop looking in Sacramento. Back then Visalia was small and Exeter was really small. I lived in Visalia like 40rs and they only had the sketch of the maybe 2 or 3 times in the paper and it should’ve been everyday.
Et tu Dave M? Et tu?