Prosecutors Have All the Power

Mara Leveritt is a journalist and author who wrote the book Devil’s Knot, which was subsequently made into an award winning movie.  The book chronicles the case of the West Memphis Three, in which three young men were wrongfully convicted of the gruesome 1993 multiple murder of three eight year old boys.  See previous WCB posts on the West Memphis Three here and here and here.

In 2007, DNA and hair evidence recovered from the crime scene excluded all three of them.  A deal was struck with the prosecutor whereby the three were released from prison in 2011 (after 18+ years), but only after entering an Alford plea.  In an Alford plea, the defendant maintains his/her innocence, but concedes that the prosecution’s evidence would likely be enough to convince a judge or jury of guilt.  (Editorial Note:  In this editor’s opinion, the Alford plea is nothing more than a gimmick built into the justice system system that gives prosecutors an avenue to back out of a case while saving face.  It does nothing to change the facts of the case.  Just my opinion.)

Ms. Leveritt has recently taken on the responsibility of Director of the Center for Prosecutor Integrity‘s Wrongful Convictions Academy, which is brand new, and is just spinning up.  She is an Arkansas native, and has also authored a recent article about prosecutorial misconduct and the attendant lack of accountability and sanctions in Arkansas –  Prosecutors Have All the Power.  In the article she states, “Despite documented misconduct, especially Brady violations, no prosecutor in this state has been sanctioned in the past 25 years.”  While this article is Arkansas-specific, it can be applied to the situation nationwide in general.

New Scholarship Spotlight: Reducing Guilty Pleas Through Exoneree Compensations

Professors Murat Mungan and Jonathan Klick have posted the above-titled article on SSRN.  Download here.  The abstract states:

A great concern with plea-bargains is that they may induce innocent individuals to plead guilty to crimes they have not committed. In this article, we identify schemes that reduce the number of innocent-pleas without affecting guilty individuals’ plea-bargain incentives. Large compensations for exonerees reduce expected costs associated with wrongful determinations of guilt in trial and thereby reduce the number of innocent-pleas. Any distortions in guilty individuals’ incentives to take plea bargains caused by these compensations can be off-set by a small increase in the discounts offered for pleading guilty. Although there are many statutory reform proposals for increasing exoneration compensations, no one has yet noted this desirable separating effect of exoneree compensations. We argue that such reforms are likely to achieve this result without causing deterrence losses.

In prison since 2003, yet authorities knew man wrongfully convicted in 2007

Shocking news coming from Spain, where it has become clear that a Dutch citizen, Romano van der Dussen, convicted in 2005 of a series of sexual assaults, REMAINS in prison, despite DNA proving his innocence in 2007.

Spanish authorities have had van der Dussen in prison since the rapes took place in 2003. He was found guilty on – now definitively erroneous – eyewitness identifications (with no other links between the suspect and the crimes) in 2005. 1410717812_066741_1410798646_sumario_normal

ven der Dussen, the photofit, and Mark Dixie

However, in 2007, INTERPOL were informed by British police, that convicted murderer Mark Dixie – serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of 17 year old model Sally Ann Bowman in the UK – had previously lived in Malaga in 2002-2003. Spanish authorities uploaded the DNA obtained from the sexual assaults, and subsequently received a report in March 2007 that the DNA from the scenes matched British murdered and serial offender Mark Dixie.

One might expect that in 2007, Spanish authorities – horrified that they were keeping an innocent man behind bars, would move swiftly to ensure his release. Instead, the case has bounced around the legal system, delayed by legal technicalities. His solicitor is now awaiting fingerprints and DNA of Dixie from British authorities to proceed further with securing the release of van der Dussen. ELEVEN years since his imprisonment, and SEVEN years since the authorities discovered his innocence. What can the Spanish possibly be doing?

Read more here:
Dutchman in Spanish jail waits for DNA justice

Fuengirola court reopens sexual assault case

Spanish authorities reopen Dutchman’s rape case

There are more detailed reports in Spanish and Dutch e.g.:
En la cárcel pese a las pruebas de ADN

Judge Says State Missed Chance to Respond to Wrongful Conviction Claim

In NY, a judge just issued an order denying the state a chance to respond to the motion by Gary Thibodeau that he should get a new trial, because of new evidence of innocence, in his rape case 20 years ago because the state missed its deadline.

I put this in its own story, rather than Quick Clicks, because I find it so unusual.  Most doing post-conviction innocence work are used to being held to strict deadlines, while seeing the prosecution get extension after extension (while our clients sit in prison with substantial evidence of innocence).  In my cases, when the State has missed a deadline, they simply file late and their error is ignored.

It’s nice to see a judge taking these claims seriously and holding the state to the same rules to which convicted inmates are held.

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Friday’s Quick Clicks…