- Two co-defendant exonerees in China awarded state compensation
- Clarence Harrison was arrested in Decatur, Georgia on rape charges and spent 18 years in prison before DNA evidence freed him. Two musicians want to record an album that tells his story and helps the Georgia Innocence Project.
- May newsletter of the National Registry of Exonerations
- In Maryland, John Norman Huffington gets new trial based on flawed hair evidence
- Nice profile on the Northern California Innocence Project
The California Innocence Project’s 660 mile Innocence March from San Diego to Sacramento to ask for clemency for the “California 12″ is reaching the halfway point. Today the team marched through Santa Barbara County toward Pismo Beach where they will rest at the home of Exoneree John Stoll. Here is an article and video about one of the cases–Kimberly Long http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/05/20/innocence-project-kimberly-longs-in-prison-while-killer-walks-free
Washington & Lee Professor James E. Moliterno has posted the above-titled article on SSRN. Download here. The abstract states:
Awareness is increasing that the U.S. criminal justice system produces convictions of the innocent. Currently, except in two states (Alaska and Massachusetts), lawyer confidentiality law prevents a lawyer from revealing client information to rectify the wrongful conviction of an innocent. An interpretation of the standard future harms exception, especially with the Restatement illustration gloss, may yield permission to reveal the client’s information and rectify the wrongful conviction. But that result is far from certain and is weighted down with significant factor-weighing to determine if the wrongly convicted is suffering “substantial bodily harm.” Despite a broader view that would dictate revelation of such information, the individual defense lawyers and prosecutors involved are likely to resist results of factor-weighing that favor revelation. The Alaska and Massachusetts approach is cleaner but still requires what may be unpalatable to some: Inflicting harm on one’s own client to aid an innocent-other. As confidence in the justice system’s ability to convict only the guilty wanes, policy-makers should consider adopting a clearer path to revelation of client information when necessary to rectify the conviction of an innocent who is currently incarcerated.
What can you do to reduce the wrongful conviction of the innocent? “You don’t have to make a movie. You don’t have to write a book.” Actor/Director Tony Goldwyn urges everyone to get engaged, to use social media to tell the story.
It’s an important two-minute message that, if widely implemented, will change public policy, will accelerate the implementation of best practices in criminal justice, and will raise the quality and integrity of justice.
(Graphic: The Veritas Initiative, link)
Let me begin this post with an apology to all the prosecutors out there who are personally committed to upholding the highest standards of ethics and the law. That being said, you know what they say about “a few bad apples.”
Prosecutorial misconduct. Well folks, this one is a hot button of mine. Ask the average citizen, and they are totally unaware that such a thing ever happens. After all, prosecutors are honorable people who are committed to ethics, justice, upholding the law, and to helping protect the public by ensuring that the ”bad guys” are sternly dealt with, and if necessary, isolated from society, or even put to death. At least this is what they tell us in their campaign speeches when they’re running for election or re-election. But prosecutorial misconduct and misdeeds happen, and they happen more frequently than any normal citizen would imagine. Let’s look at some data. The National Registry of Exonerations has compiled detailed data for 873 exonerations (wrongful convictions) for the period 1989-2012. You can see the full report here – exonerations_us_1989_2012_full_report. Here is Table 13 from that report showing frequency of causes contributing to wrongful convictions:
The red box highlights the cause of “official misconduct.” (Note that the percentages for each type of case total to more than 100%. This is because any wrongful conviction can have more than one contributing cause.) The average for all 873 cases in which “official misconduct” was a contributing factor is 42%. This figure includes both police misconduct and prosecutorial misconduct, and the table does not separate the data for the two. However, if we assume a 50/50 split, this yields an occurrence of prosecutorial misconduct in 21% of wrongful convictions. And keep in mind, this data set includes only data for known wrongful convictions. Who knows how many more times this happens, and it doesn’t “get caught?” I think we can safely say that prosecutorial misconduct is not an “ignoreably rare” phenomenon.
Sunday’s New York Times
hits the nail on the head in an editorial here
in which it laments that violations of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 50-year-old Brady rule, which requires prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense, remain ”widespread.” The Times
might be overly optimistic, however, in its belief that open-files reforms like those adopted in North Carolina and Ohio that require full disclosure of law enforcement’s investigative files in a case will necessarily solve the problem.
Such rules will work only if prosecutors and law enforcement agencies follow them, and that’s far from guaranteed. In an Ohio case I am currently investigating, for example, information about the identification of an uncharged suspect was disclosed only after we learned from a witness that she had picked the man out of a photo lineup. The identity of a second suspect, which a co-defendant says she gave to both a detective and the prosecutor before she pleaded guilty, has still not been disclosed, nor has a summary of her statement that the only other person charged in the crime was not involved.
Defense attorneys and investigators should remain skeptical that prosecutors will always follow open-discovery rules any more than they always follow the Brady rule.
They should also be aware that another reform — the use of blindly administered sequential photo lineups — can still lead to misidentifications in the era of social media. In this same case, a witness admitted that she and others looked up the defendant’s photo on Facebook once they learned his name, which made picking out his photo later fairly easy. She now admits she was wrong.
Texas Senate Bill 1611, known as the Michael Morton Act, has been passed by the Texas legislature, signed by the governor, and will become law on September 1. It requires that prosecutors give defense attorneys any evidence that is relevant to the defense’s case.
This advance is a fitting legacy for Michael Morton, wrongfully convicted of killing his wife, and wrongfully incarcerated for 25 years before DNA exonerated Continue reading