Milwaukee’s Troubling Track Record: Lawrence Paine’s Story Adds to Growing List of Potentially Framed Black Men

Milwaukee, Wisconsin – The case of Lawrence Paine, currently serving two life sentences for the murders of Janari Saddler and Aaron Harrington in 2004, has been brought to the forefront by The Frank Report’s investigation. 

It figured in the dismissal of murder charges against Larnell Washington, accused of a 1990 murder.

Behind Closed Doors: 

FR’s investigation uncovered evidence of professional misconduct by retired Milwaukee Police Detectives Gilberto Hernandez and Catherine Hein Spano. The two were partners on the force for nearly two decades.

Milwaukee Police Department detectives Gilbert Hernandez, left, and Katherine Hein-Spano. 

The alleged misconduct attributed comprises:

  •  Tampering with or fabricating evidence.
  • Concealing exonerating evidence.
  • Claiming defendants confessed to crimes during unrecorded interrogations, despite the defendants refuting these claims.
  • Coercing false testimonies from jailhouse witnesses to incriminate others in unrecorded interrogations.
  • Orchestrating efforts to secure convictions, regardless of evidence pointing to a different perpetrator.
  • Providing false testimony in court.

The Double Homicide

Lawrence Paine from a photo taken in prison with a background of trees and hills he has not seen in 19 years.

In 2004, Paine was arrested based on evidence provided by two witnesses, who said Paine murdered Saddler and Harrington over a minor dispute about where a car should be parked when visiting the home.

The murder house.

None of the 29 items subjected to DNA testing matched Paine’s DNA. However, the DNA of both accusers was found at the scene.

Paine’s defense centered around his alibi: he was at Club Paradise, a strip club, with Anthony Mendez ‘Skin’ Blackman the night of the murders.

Detectives Hernandez and Spano claimed they couldn’t locate Blackman, and that the club’s surveillance didn’t capture Paine’s presence. They charged Paine with the murders.

Approximately six months after the double murder incident, as Paine awaited trial, Milwaukee police arrested Ronald Q. Terry in an unrelated drug matter. The firearm found in his possession was a match to the weapon used in the double homicide.

Furthermore, Terry’s DNA was discovered at the crime scene, linking him to this heinous act.

Hernandez and Spano chose not to investigate Terry.

Shortly before Paine’s trial, Sherika Ray, a neighbor, told Detective Hernandez that she heard one of the slain men’s desperate pleas from her apartment below. This revelation unveiled that the motive behind the double homicide was robbery, rather than a dispute over parking.

Ray provided evidence linking Terry, George Donald, Eric Howard, and another member of their gang, L.Z. Jolly, to the crime, as she witnessed them fleeing the scene on the night of the murders.

L. Z.Jolly

Ray further revealed Terry, Donald, and Jolly had menacingly warned her against testifying regarding their involvement in the killings.

Hernandez decided against investigating this information. The state did not call Ray to testify.

The prosecution relied solely on the testimonies of Donald and Howard, with no mention of Ray’s claims or Terry’s involvement.

Detective Katherine Hein Spano.

During the trial, Detective Spano testified there was no evidence to corroborate Paine’s alibi that he was at Club Paradise. The prosecution inferred Blackman was a made-up character.

Paine was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in 2005.

The latest in a series of appeals by Paine’s defense team brings to light surveillance footage from Club Paradise. Astonishingly, this footage, which has been in police custody for nearly two decades, was never made available to Paine or his trial defense. 

The original, unedited 2004 Club Paradise videotape, uncovered 18 years later, shows Paine and Blackman at the club on the night in question.

A System of Doubt

Following the Paine case, The Frank Report uncovering other dubious cases where Detectives Hernandez and Spano played a role.

William Avery

William Avery: Avery was accused of Maryette Griffin’s 1998 murder. Detective Hernandez claimed Avery confessed in an unrecorded interview. Avery denied it. The jury believed Hernandez.

DNA evidence in 2010 cleared Avery, linking the crime to Walter Ellis, a known serial killer. After several years of legal battles, a jury awarded Avery almost $2 million in damages. He died a few months afterward.

Michael Miller: Hernandez played a pivotal role in Miller’s 2004 conviction, based on an unrecorded and potentially false confession. Miller, sentenced for a 2003 homicide, has now called for post-conviction relief, citing concerns about Hernandez’s credibility.

Larnell Washington: Washington was accused of the 1990 murder of Annette Love – some 33 years later. While DNA found in 2009 pointed to Washington and others, the age of the case, questionable DNA reliability, and Detectives Hernandez and Spano’s histories of alleged misconduct raised concerns about the viability of the prosecution. Much like he did in other cases where it was alleged he coerced false testimony, Hernandez chose not to record 22 of the 25 witnesses he interviewed. 

After reviewing the Paine case, as revealed by the Frank Report, and others cited above, the prosecution dropped the case against Washington.  He said he plans to sue Milwaukee.

 Chante Ott was convicted for the 1995 rape-murder of Jessica Payne. Detectives Spano and Hernandez were involved in the case. Ott served 13 years in prison before DNA evidence proved he didn’t commit the crime. There were allegations that Milwaukee detectives coerced a man named Sammy Hadaway into providing false testimony implicating Ott in the rape-murder case. This, along with the new DNA evidence, led to Ott’s exoneration. Ott filed a lawsuit against the City of Milwaukee, and settled for $6.5 million for 13 years of his life.

Lawrence Paine was a young man when he was first arrested.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin continues to fight the release of Lawrence Paine, now in his 19th years of prison, despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence. Paine’s motion for a new trial awaits a decision by Judge Jeffrey Wagner.


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Frank Parlato

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Jen Turley
Jen Turley
1 month ago

Are there any updates on this case?

Also, would it help if Mr Paine hired a lawyer to press for justice, and if so, could someone start a GoFundMe on Mr Paine’s behalf, to pay for a lawyer?

Janine Morrison
1 month ago
Reply to  Jen Turley

Paine is currently in the process of filing for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. The state is (of course) opposing it. He is represented by Jason Luczak and Nicole Masnica at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP. More than anything, he needs media attention. The authorities need to know that we are watching! Please share his story far and wide.

Did drug runners in 2004 frame Lawrence Paine?
Did drug runners in 2004 frame Lawrence Paine?
1 month ago

Who covers for drug runners? Which drug runners cover for drug dealers?

Did those who cover for the drug runners, drug runners and/or drug dealers in Milwaukee frame Lawrence Paine?

“ … The charges could hardly be worse. A widely read newspaper series leads many Americans to believe CIA is guilty of at least complicity, if not conspiracy, in the outbreak of crack cocaine in America’s cities. In more extreme versions of the story circulating on talk radio and the internet, the Agency was the instrument of a consistent strategy by the US Government to destroy the black community and keep black Americans from advancing. Denunciations of CIA–reminiscent of the 1970s–abound. Investigations are demanded and initiated. The Congress gets involved …”

Who ran drugs into Milwaukee in 2020?

“… In Milwaukee County, 544 people died of a drug overdose in 2020 …

To find the cure, look for the cause.
To find the cure, look for the cause.
1 month ago

“… Webb’s troubles began in August 1996, when his employer, the San Jose Mercury News, published a groundbreaking, three-part investigation he had worked on for more than a year. Carrying the full title “Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion,” Webb’s series reported that in addition to waging a proxy war for the U.S. government against Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandinista government in the 1980s, elements of the CIA-backed Contra rebels were also involved in trafficking cocaine to the U.S. in order to fund their counter-revolutionary campaign. The secret flow of drugs and money, Webb reported, had a direct link to the subsequent explosion of crack cocaine abuse that had devastated California’s most vulnerable African American neighborhoods. …”
1 month ago

Frank you are handing authorities a packaged case with all they need.

Please help Free Paine!

1 month ago

How can we help?

1 month ago

What is it that needs to happen to free Paine?
What is the process?
Since it’s been so long, and many culpable are gone, why won’t they release him?

Bernice Paine
Bernice Paine
1 month ago
Reply to  Anonymous

That’s one of my questions! Who is running this show? Why are the innocent still being held even with evidence for them to be exonerated ?There is more behind this wrongfully convicting people & throwing the key away!!! I have began to wonder are the Supreme Court Justices behind making it harder for innocent people to be exonerated? It’s time to deep a little deeper as to what it really going on in the Justice Systems! And something is not right! This serious !

1 month ago

Evidence is clear. You’ve handed them case for exoneration.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

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Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083


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