New Report: Innocents Who Plead Guilty

Of more than 1,700 known exonerations in the U.S. since 1989, persons innocent of the crime pleaded guilty in 261 or 15 percent of the cases. The November 2015 newsletter of The National Registry of Exonerations (NRE) sheds light on the non-intuitive decision to plead guilty when innocent, the systemic pressures that prompt it, and why an unknown number of wrongful convictions based on false guilty pleas may never be identified or corrected.


About 95 percent of criminal felony and misdemeanor convictions in the United States now come by way of a guilty plea. The trend of case resolution by plea negotiation has diminished the percentage of cases that are resolved by jury or bench trial. As the report points out, guilty pleas usually result in lighter sentences — Continue reading

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

A Special Thanksgiving Message…

…from the Ohio Innocence Project (Originally posted on Facebook):

Today the Ohio Innocence Project is thankful for YOU, our followers! A year ago, our page had less than 2,000 likes and now we have nearly 5,000 because you all have taken the time to support us and share our message. Your support is essential to our efforts. By liking and sharing our posts and photos, you are bringing attention to a problem that many still don’t realize exists: wrongful conviction. Your efforts have made ours more effective, and for that we are immensely grateful.

To show our thanks, we’d like to share with you some messages from the individuals you have enabled us to help…

CE Thanks

-Clarence Elkins (exonerated in 2005 after spending 7.5 years in prison)DG thanks

-Dean Gillispie (released in 2012 after spending 20 years in prison)

RJ Thanks

-Ricky Jackson (exonerated in 2014 after spending 39 years in prison)

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Politics and Justice – A Very Bad Combination

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, and again, and again. The justice system has been putrified by politics. I’ve stressed this point numerous times in the past with regard to the pernicious effect politics has on the actions of prosecutors. And of course, it’s not limited to just prosecutors. Elected judges are effected by politics as well. See Judicial Independence – How Do We Get There?

The fact that judges are influenced by politics, particularly big money politics, is supported and amplified by this recent article in The Atlantic: Big Money Propping Up Harsh Sentences.

And by the way, state attorneys general, sheriffs, and coroners are also powerful players in the justice system who are elected political officials.

Update: Henry Keogh retrial dropped. South Australian DPP not to pursue case.

Further to my post here…. Exoneration in Australia?: Henry Keogh freed after 20 years. The South Australian DPP has now dropped murder charges against Henry Keogh, and his planned retrial in March will now not go ahead. This is apparently because of the illness of a witness – however, it seems likely that the pathologist at the original trial – who subsequently changed his opinion dramatically, will not now testify given his later opinion. Keogh served 21 years for the murder of his fiancee, accused of drowning her in the bath. He was released from prison last year after winning an appeal.

read more here: Murder charge against Henry Keogh, accused of drowning fiancee in bath, dropped by SA DPP

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

West Virginia Supreme Court Rules that Brady Requirement Applies to Plea Negotiations

From the West Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling released Tuesday, November 10, 2015:

“This Court is presented with a situation in which a defendant repeatedly requested the results of DNA testing; was incorrectly informed that such testing was not yet complete; and was presented with a time-limited plea offer that he accepted upon advice of counsel. We find that the DNA results were favorable, suppressed, and material to the defense. Thus, the Petitioner’s due process rights, as enunciated in Brady, were violated by the State’s suppression of that exculpatory evidence.”

Further, “…This Court…remands this matter for an order granting habeas relief and permitting the Petitioner to withdraw his guilty plea.”

The West Virginia Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Buffey v. Ballard, reversing the June 3, 2014, order of the Circuit Court of Harrison County, enables Joseph A. Buffey to withdraw his 2002 guilty plea in the case of the rape of an 83-year-old woman and requires the prosecutor to either retry the case or Continue reading

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

Tuesdays Quick Clicks…

Dead Bodies and Live Minds: How Investigating a Real Murder Can Inspire Curiosity in the High School Classroom

By Seán Arthurs’

Recently published in Social Education

There are lots of reasons why adolescents are drawn to television shows about crime, forensics, and the intersection of the two. The Hollywood characters and intriguing crime-related plot lines, the drama and suspense around motive and planning, the surprises and accountability of forensic science, and the satisfaction in seeing a wrongdoer brought to justice are certainly among those reasons. However, I hypothesize that there is something more fundamental that draws a youth audience to these shows: people like to solve mysteries. Humans, and particularly adolescents, are naturally curious. We like looking at different pieces of a puzzle and figuring out how those pieces fit together. We like using clues, testing assumptions, and coming up with our own hypotheses around motive, execution, and escape in order to move from suspects to perpetrator. continue reading

Exoneree Sugiyama Dies at 69

A sad news: Takao Sugiyama died on October 27. He was exonerated in 2011 from a robbery-murder case (Fukawa Case) in 1967.  For more on Fukawa Case, read here.

From The Japan Times:

Man Acquitted in Retrial of ’67 Fukawa Incident Robbery-Murder is Dead at 69

From Jiji: 

A man sentenced to life in a high-profile 1967 robbery-murder known as the Fukawa incident, and acquitted in a later retrial, died on Oct. 27 at the age of 69, lawyers who fought for him in the case revealed Sunday.

Takao Sugiyama had been hospitalized after his health deteriorated around summer, according to the lawyers. Continue reading

Preparing for the Launch of a Network to Support the Wrongfully Convicted in Japan

In May of this year, scholars and attorneys concerned about wrongful convictions in Japan gathered in Kyoto and started to prepare for the launch of an Innocence Project in Japan. We are planning to launch the project in April 2016. Here’s an article about our project.

From the Japan Times:

New technologies, improved practices may boost number of criminal retrials

Kyodo, Nov. 2, 2015

The recent release of a couple from prison after a court ordered a 1995 arson-murder case reopened may allow more people convicted of serious crimes to get a second shot at proving their innocence.

Technical innovations in DNA forensic science modeled on practices in the United States, as well as introduction of the lay judge system, are creating a framework that could provide lawyers and those who may have been wrongly convicted with access to various experts to help bolster their cases.

But many hurdles remain on the road to change.

Keiko Aoki and Tatsuhiro Boku, who had been serving life sentences for lighting a fire that killed Aoki’s 11-year-old daughter, were freed late last month after 20 years behind bars.

The Osaka High Court concluded that a retrial was appropriate as the fire could have been accidental, citing the results of an experiment conducted by the couple’s lawyers to simulate the actual blaze.

Moreover, doubt was cast on confession by Boku, Aoki’s de facto husband, as the simulation demonstrated the fire could have been accidental.

In 1990, Toshikazu Sugaya was arrested and later sentenced to life by a Tochigi Prefecture high court for the murder of a 4-year-old girl. Key in the murder conviction was DNA evidence found on the victim’s clothing that prosecutors said matched Sugaya’s.

But with the primitive forensic technology at the time, more than eight out of every 1,000 people would have also drawn an identical DNA match.

After spending 17½ years in prison, a further DNA test in 2009 conclusively showed that Sugaya was innocent, and he was acquitted and awarded about ¥80 million in government compensation.

Perhaps even more sensational due to the international attention it garnered was the case of Govinda Prasad Mainali, a Nepalese man who was wrongly jailed for 15 years while serving a life sentence for the 1997 murder of a female Tokyo Electric Power Co. worker who reportedly had moonlighted as a prostitute.

The Tokyo High Court ordered a retrial after sets of exculpatory DNA evidence were linked to an unidentified man who had sexual contact with the victim just hours before her death. Mainali was released and deported back to his native Nepal after he was exonerated in November 2012.

Swabs of semen recovered from the woman’s body that the prosecution deemed too small of a sample to analyze using the existing technologies at the time were tested in 2011 and determined not to be from Mainali.

Mainali was later awarded ¥68 million in compensation for his wrongful imprisonment.

Former professional boxer Iwao Hakamada, who had been sentenced to death over the 1966 murder of four members of a family, was released after nearly 48 years behind bars when test results indicated that the DNA type from bloodstains detected on five items of clothing believed to have been worn by the culprit differed from Hakamada’s.

The blood was thought to be that of the attacker and determined unlikely to be from any of the victims.

Although Hakamada initially admitted to the charges, he changed his plea to innocent when the trial opened.

Prosecutors in Japan have a staggering 99 percent conviction rate. Confessions are in most cases considered the strongest evidence and acquittals are anathema to ambitious prosecutors and judges alike, experts argue.

Although it may appear that retrials are on the rise, many observers point out that without “convincing and fresh” evidence the courts remain reluctant to order retrials. And even with fresh evidence — unless it can conclusively prove a person’s innocence — requests for retrials have historically been denied.

Inspired by the U.S.-based Innocence Project, researchers in Japan aim to launch a support network next spring for people believed to have been wrongly convicted.

Mitsuyuki Inaba, a professor at the College of Policy Science and Graduate School of Policy Science at Ritsumeikan University, is spearheading the project. He has criticized the lack of remorse expressed by investigators in wrongful conviction cases and says more must be done to determine the root causes and prevent them.

“In the world of engineering, when an airplane accident occurs, a thorough investigation is conducted,” Inaba said. “But what on earth are the people involved in laws doing when serious human error is committed in the cases of wrongful convictions?”

The Innocence Project, which was founded in 1992 at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York City, is a nonprofit organization.

In questionable cases, scholars, journalists and lawyers work together to gather new evidence in response to convicts who claim innocence. New technology such as DNA testing, as well as researching cases from fresh perspectives, have resulted in retrials and acquittals of some death-row inmates.

Similar activities have spread to countries such as France, Australia and Taiwan, creating a more global network.

Kana Sasakura, an associate professor of the Konan University Faculty of Law in Kobe, said Japanese courts will not allow retrials unless fresh evidence is strong enough to overturn the original judgment, but collecting such proof remains extremely difficult.

“Unlike in ordinary criminal trials, there is no system for court-appointed defense lawyers, who are publicly financed, at retrials,” said Sasakura. “It is very difficult for convicts held in prisons and detention houses to collect new evidence by themselves that could overturn their convictions.”

Sasakura remains hopeful that eventually the Japanese university project will gain nonprofit status.

“In the future, it would be desirable for the Japanese project to be operated like an NPO, raising donations from the public,” Sasakura said. “For the time being, however, it will probably be operated more stably by having the head office at a university, which will be useful for education if students are interested in joining.”

Can’t Complain: How Post-Conviction Procedure Rules Inhibit Truth Finding


JURIST Guest Columnist Daniel J. Wright of the Law Offices of Daniel Wright discusses how post-conviction procedure rules hinder the ability to seek truth in faulty sentences… old criminal law court

Those accused of a serious crime are entitled by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution to representation by an attorney. This right extends in most states not only to the initial trial, but also to at least one level of direct review. In many states, more than half of the criminal docket is handled by public defenders or attorneys appointed by the court to defend the indigent.

Following a conviction and appeal, there may or may not be further review of the judgment by way of a permissive appeal to the state’s highest court. Review is normally discretionary, and the highest courts emphasize that they are not merely courts of “error correction.”

But some kinds of errors escape this form of review, and are only correctable later by way of post-conviction proceedings. These would include allegations that the defendant did not receive effective assistance of counsel, for example, either at trial or on direct review. In some states, post-conviction representation is offered through the public defender’s office to prisoners, just as at trial. For example, Maryland offers post-conviction counsel to defendants through the public defender’s office.

Typically, post-conviction cases involve the most serious crimes—murder, armed robbery, burglary, and so on—and prisoners with the longest sentences. This is because prisoners with shorter sentences parole out of the system before their post-conviction cases can be heard by the courts. Non-violent criminals in Maryland are generally eligible for parole after serving 25 percent of their sentence. Even defendants convicted of a crime of violence are parole eligible after serving half their sentences. However, the most serious crimes can result in life sentences, life without parole (LWOP), or a term of years stretching past the life expectancy of the defendant (death-in-prison, or DIP). A defendant convicted of murder in Maryland typically receives a life sentence, plus another twenty years consecutive if a handgun was used in the crime. A second-degree murder or carjacking defendant may receive a sentence of more than a hundred years.

LWOP and DIP sentences are disproportionately [PDF] applied to minorities.The defendants typically are between the ages of 18 and 30 and normally lack a strong educational background. They seldom come from families able to afford private legal representation.

Overworked public defenders often meet with their clients only a few times before trial. This leads to a hands-off approach by many defendants. They allow the attorney to do his job and are not actively involved in their defense. Likewise, when a direct appeal is taken from a trial court’s judgment, it is not unusual for the appellate attorney to develop the arguments and draft the brief without substantial input from the defendant, who may be locked up in a prison hundreds of miles away from his attorney. Communication can be difficult in both directions. Post-conviction proceedings can be equally as difficult.

When all the appeals are exhausted, and the initial post-conviction proceeding is completed, the defendant for the first time is faced with the reality that he alone is now responsible for any efforts to overturn his conviction and win his freedom. At this point, the defendant’s attorney may for the first time hand over the file. A freedom of information request for police files may take a year or more and may be prohibitively expensive.

Legally, however, the situation is most difficult. The defendant has already been convicted and finished a post-conviction proceeding. Any further review is discretionary at best. Judges are often very reluctant to grant post-conviction relief. In states where judges are elected, public opinion often supports a tough-on-crime approach that is anything but defense-friendly.

Nevertheless, when the defendants review their transcripts and court papers, sometimes years after the trial, errors often are revealed. Sometimes this is because the prisoner—with time on his hands—spends months or even years educating himself on the law and reviewing the details of his case. The prisoners sometimes form study groups to help each other learn. Maximum-security prisoners are not always let out of their cell every day, and often have limited access to a law library. For them to learn the applicable law of their case can take years. And yet, even under the horrific circumstances of America’s prisons, many do just that.

Jarmal Johnson was incarcerated for more than 16 years when he discovered that he had been convicted of a crime for which he had not been indicted by the grand jury. He was indicted for Attempted Murder, but convicted of Assault with Intent to Murder, a different crime with different elements. Maryland’s highest court ultimately vacated the conviction. His prior attorneys had simply not noticed the discrepancy.

Edwin Pile faced three trials. One trial resulted in a hung jury, the second judgment was overturned on appeal, and the third resulted in a conviction. He had different lawyers. After 20 years of incarceration, his personal review of his docket records revealed that a judgment of acquittal had been entered in the first trial to his crime of conviction in the third—a clear Double Jeopardy violation. This only came to light, however, because his attorney died and the firm sent him his file. He reviewed all the papers from his trial for the first time almost two decades after his conviction.

The case of John Artis involved faulty jury instructions concerning the definition of reasonable doubt. Mr. Artis fought for more than 20 years against the trial judge’s instructions to the jury concerning reasonable doubt. The court has now conceded that the instructions were erroneous, yet at every turn in the road over the course of more than a decade of appeals the defendant faced resistance, disbelief and stonewalling over his claims of error, from both the prosecutors, the courts, and even his own court-appointed attorney.

Some prisoners benefit from a change in the law. Prior to 1981, courts in Maryland routinely informed jurors that the judge’s instructions were merely advisory and not binding. The jurors were free to disregard the instructions of the judge. This situation was overturned in the early 1980s and made retroactive about 30 years after that. State prosecutors tried to argue, for example, that Jarmal Johnson had waived his right to object to being convicted of a crime for which he wasn’t indicted.

Similarly, prosecutors sometimes try to raise high evidentiary bars to post conviction defendants. Rules may require defendants to produce transcripts of trials when files have long since been discarded. The file of Edwin Pile was missing from the clerk’s office, yet state officials tried to have the case dismissed because a transcript was not compiled.

Federal rules require an inmate to bring a post-conviction challenge to a state court conviction within 12 months. This is an unrealistic time frame given the delays in state courts and the reality that prisoners rarely will have their paperwork available to them in that time, yet such a challenge can normally only be made by a prisoner on his own.

Joseph Miller was convicted of armed robbery in 1988 and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole under Maryland’s repeat offender statute. A review of his case, however, showed that his court appointed attorney had not made an opening statement, not made a closing statement and failed to ask a single question of any witness. The situation came to light more than 25 years after the initial trial. Maryland rules, however, impose higher legal standards on attempts to reopen post conviction proceedings and prevent them altogether if an inmate hasn’t filed within the first ten years.

The legal system cannot be faulted for giving priority to defendants facing trial for the first time. However, post-conviction procedures impose an array of rules that, however well intended, prevent a court from seeking the truth. The reality is that often an inmate’s own efforts years after the fact will uncover errors at his trial. For a variety of reasons these efforts are not likely to occur soon after the initial trial. Concepts such as waiver and time limits on filing petitions (such as 12 months at the federal level) fail to reflect the grim reality that errors are made at trial, often significant errors, and they cannot necessarily be brought to light in the same time frame as a small claims case or landlord-tenant matter. These rules are in derogation of the truth seeking function of the court, yet are imposed on inmates who are often seeking review of life-without-parole or death-in-prison sentences.

Daniel Wright is an attorney in the State of Maryland. He has been practicing law for 35 years and concentrates on trial work, including criminal trials and post conviction. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Click Here For the Original Article

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

“Automatic” Justice? Is Technology Eliminating the Presumption of Innocence?

A recent legal research paper from the School of Law at Queen Mary University of London has raised the issue of technology’s impact upon the criminal justice system, and how its effect may be replacing presumption of innocence with presumption of guilt. A truly frightening prospect. You can download the paper here: Automatic justice? Technology, Crime and Social Control.

The nature of evidence in the justice system has steadily been evolving to be ever more founded in technology, be it legitimate and proven technology … or not. And the tendency is for the prosecution (and police) to say, “We have ‘scientific’ evidence of your guilt; therefore, you are guilty.”

And here’s the problem: much of this “technology” has not been verified and statistically validated. It just gets presented in court as “science,” and judges, lawyers, and juries don’t have a clue as to whether or not it’s actually accurate or relevant. How do you know the latest “computer app” is actually true and accurate? You don’t. We’ve seen frequent examples of so-called forensic “science” being proven wrong. Just three of these would be compositional analysis of bullet lead (CABL), microscopic hair comparison, and bite marks. There are currently thousands of cases under re-investigation as a result of scientifically flawed FBI hair comparison work and testimony. There are some infamous cases of fingerprint identifications being wrong; one of these being the case of Brandon Mayfield. Most people, (including lawyers) don’t understand that there is huge margin for error in locating a cell phone through cell towers.

The agents of the justice system – lawyers, judges, police, and especially juries – have been notoriously ignorant regarding the scientific, technological, and mathematical issues of evidence. This is why so much of the justice system depends upon so-called  “experts” to try to understand and explain what all the technology means; but, these experts, often self-styled, may be legitimate — or they may not be. Unfortunately the lawyers, judges, and juries have no way to tell. Defense attorneys will most commonly not technically question (cross examine) prosecution “experts.” This is too bad, because, in my opinion, a technically knowledgable and logically-penetrating defense attorney could just “take apart” many prosecution “experts” – even medical doctors. The typical legal defense strategy is to present “your own” expert, which puts the poor jury in the position of having to decide which of the dueling experts to believe. All this, unfortunately, leaves the justice system, and the defendant, at the mercy of “experts,” and there is no scientific way built into the justice system to sort through which “science” is true and correct, and which is junk – and which experts are truly expert, and which are charlatans.

From the conclusion of the paper: “Our deepest concern is the emergence of a potentially unfettered move towards a technologically driven process of ‘automatic criminal justice.’”

We – all of us – have a problem. The justice system was never conceived or designed to comprehend the explosion of technology. And the lawyers and judges are not trained or prepared to deal with it. It’s a problem.


Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

“I’ll fight ‘til my knuckles bleed for others on death row”: The remarkable story of a man once sentenced to die

From: by Sean Dunne and Jack Shuler

Wrongfully accused & sentenced to die, now Derrick Jamison is free — and fighting back

Derrick Jamison dresses keenly. Tonight he’s wearing black slacks and polished black loafers with a Cincinnati Reds jersey over a long-sleeve black t-shirt, a large silver cross dangling from a chain around his neck. A brand new flat-brimmed Reds ball cap presses down a large shock of hair that just peaks out from beneath. Derrick is black, six foot four, and almost always grinning. He stands out in most places, but he really stands out in this section of the baseball stadium of mostly white males.

“I’m looking forward to this! It’s been a long time,” Derrick says as we all sit down in the Great American Ballpark, just behind the Mets dugout. “There sure are a lot of Mets fans here. You think they travel with the team?” he says aloud, and then taps a guy in front of him on the shoulder who’s wearing a Tom Seaver jersey. “Are y’all following the Mets around the country?” he asks sincerely.

The Mets fan barks dismissively, “No. I live here,” and turns back around, quickly working into the conversation he’s having with another fan that he was at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series between the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox. While he was at that game in 1986, Derrick Jamison was on Ohio’s death row.

Since 1977, there have been 155 death row exonerations. Derrick is number 119. In all, he spent twenty years inside, seventeen of them on death row. He had six stays of execution, one of which came just 90 minutes before death. He had already had his last meal and made arrangements for his body.

And yet, here he is now at a Reds game on a cool September evening, on the same day that Pope Francis addressed Congress and called for the abolition of the death penalty. A month from now, on October 25, it will be the ten-year anniversary of his release from prison.

For Derrick though, celebrating that release is a mixed bag. He’s living proof of what’s at stake when we talk about the problems of the death penalty. Derrick was accused of the brutal murder of a Cincinnati bartender named Gary Mitchell,who was killed during a robbery in 1984. Two months later, Derrick was arrested for robbing a Gold Star Chili restaurant, and was wearing Pony shoes, as had been Mitchell’s killer. When a man named Charles Howell was arrested for being an accomplice to the murder, he claimed that Derrick was the killer. Howell got a reduced sentence for his testimony.

Derrick was sentenced to death on October 25, 1985, becoming one of 26 people sentenced to death in Hamilton County, Ohio, between 1981 and 1992. For context, this one county sentenced more people to death than 18 of the 38 states that enforced capital punishment during this time period.

But witness descriptions of the suspects didn’t match Jamison’s actual appearance. When one eyewitness to the robbery and murder was shown photos he identified two men—neither was Derrick Jamison. This evidence was suppressed by the police department. In 2000, Derrick was granted a new trial and a Federal judge said that the prosecutor working on the case, Mark Peipmeier, withheld evidence. The charges were dismissed in 2005.

According to the Innocence Project, over one-third of death row exonerees haven’t been adequately compensated. When Derrick was released, the prison gates were opened, and that’s about it. He received no restitution, no support. Despite enduring six stays of executions, eating what he was told was his last meal each time, and being 90 minutes away from his execution, Derrick received no compensation, because Ohio could claim he would have been incarcerated anyway for robbing the Gold Star Chili restaurant.

A few years later, Derrick was walking across the street from the justice center in Cincinnati and he passed Piepmier. He looked over and it was clear that he recognized him.

“He knew he was wrong, but I don’t hold in anger. How you gonna enjoy life like that? I saw those prison guards and their anger,” he pauses. “They killing people and then going home and kissing their kids goodnight.” Derrick says his faith got him through. And, perhaps, his kindness, his gentle demeanor. While in prison, he helped organize care packages for other inmates who did not have support from the outside. On the way into the ballpark, despite his limited resources, he stopped to talk to a homeless man and then gave him a dollar.

Derrick has a lot that he could be angry about. While on death row, his mother and father passed away—he blames their early deaths on the stress of his situation. “The death penalty not only kills inmates,” he says, “it kills families.” In some strange ways, though, he has a new family—that of death row exonerees, a group that forms a singular tribe of the once-incarcerated. They meditate daily not only on their newfound freedom, but on the fact that they were almost killed.

“Just to be clear, you know, I’m not just an exoneree, I’m an abolitionist. I got friends who are still inside.” After spending 20 years of his life in the system, Derrick spends his time trying to change it. He has spoken in every death penalty state and has travelled to other countries to fight against the U.S. death penalty. “I’ll fight ‘til my knuckles bleed for others on death row,” he says, “but I can’t go back to visit them. I can’t have that door close behind me again.”

Tonight provides Derrick with a temporary break in this fight. Tonight he’s most concerned with his Cincinnati Reds. It’s been a rough season. They’ve traded away starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake. And it shows. They’re at the bottom of the National League Central and the Mets are at the top of the East.

After the Reds got one back to tie the game in the sixth, one of the Mets tossed a ball to our section that was caught by the Mets fan wearing the Tom Seaver jersey. Derrick is delighted to be so close, and after the fan shows it off to one of his friends, he shoves the ball into the side pocket of his cargo shorts. Derrick asks him if he can see it. “No!” he yells back to Derrick, barely turning to look at him.

“There are some rude people in this world,” Derrick mutters under his breath.

Throughout the game, Derrick talks openly about his experience in prison among this crew of Mets fans. He tells a story of his basketball team, the one made of death row inmates who could beat the guards when the general population couldn’t.

At the end of the 7th inning, as the Mets jog off the field to their dugout, second basemen Danny Murphy tosses a ball several rows behind Derrick, there’s a mad scramble, and Derrick, along with Jack and Sean, the authors of this article, turn to their right to see who would catch it. Almost immediately after turning to follow the ball’s path, Sean sees that the ball has been knocked forward by fans competing to catch it and sticks his left hand out to catch it.

Derrick asks, “Where did the ball go?”

“Right here,” Sean says, handing the ball to Derrick. “Now you have your own.”

Derrick is ecstatic.

Soon after, a man who was sitting in our row a few seats down from us approaches Derrick after watching us take photos with the ball.

“Didn’t you talk at our church on Martin Luther King Day?”

“Yes, I did,” he replies.

“I recognized you. It’s good to see you. Congratulations!”

Derrick Jamison’s presence is testimony—an argument for abolishing the death penalty. Exonerees like Derrick give people a name and a face, a story to attach to the numbers and often vague pronouncements about capital punishment.

But since 2005, Derrick’s life has been rough at times. He struggles financially and psychologically, mostly with the personal trauma of being so close to death, and so often.

In the soft glow of the lights in the 8th inning, thumbing the caught ball in his hands, none of that matters. And it doesn’t matter that the Reds are losing. It’s just a game. There will be more chances, more games.

Sean Dunne is assistant professor of Sociology at Shawnee State University. He has published articles in The Irish Times, The Irish Independent, Z Magazine, and elsewhere.

Jack Shuler is author of three books including “The Thirteenth Turn: A History of the Noose” (PublicAffairs, 2014). His writing has appeared in Salon, The Atlantic, Los Angeles Times, Truthout, among others. He teaches at Denison University.

Click here to read the original publication.