Today, the Irish Court of Criminal Appeal declared that the 1972 conviction of Martin Conmey for manslaughter was a miscarriage of justice. Conmey had been acquitted in 2010 but has served three years in jail. Read more about this case in the Irish Times’ write-up here. The Irish Times reports that the Court’s miscarriage of justice decision was based on the fact that Conmey had been convicted for his involvement in a joint enterprise, but there was no incriminating evidence against him about this. It found that three original statements of other parties “were suppressed by a person unknown, but connected with the prosecution”. Conmey’s lawyers will be lodging a claim for compensation.
A new research study shows that prosecutors in Manhattan’s DA office treat blacks and Latinos more harshly than they do whites or Asians. Read more here.
Research documents are found here.
The research summary states on p. 3 (here):
“1. Blacks and Latinos charged with misdemeanor drug offenses were more likely to have their cases dismissed.
2. Blacks and Latinos charged with misdemeanor person offenses or misdemeanor drug offenses were more likely to be detained at arraignment.
3. Blacks and Latinos charged with drug offenses were more likely to receive more punitive plea offers and custodial sentences.
4. Asian defendants had the most favorable outcomes across all discretionary points, as they were less likely to be detained, receive custodial offers, and be incarcerated. Asian defendants received particularly favorable outcomes for misdemeanor property offenses (such as larceny and criminal trespass).”
New study by Todd Warner of University of Virginia highlights the risk of false confessions by juveniles during police interrogations and the need for police to be trained in adolescent development to prevent this. Read more about the study here. Read also Lauren Kirchner’s write-up about this here.
” Gerry Conlon, who spent 15 years in jail for a crime he did not commit, has died in Belfast at the age of 60. Mr Conlon was jailed in 1975 for the bombing of two pubs in Guildford on October 5th, 1974. He had emigrated to London in 1974 and was arrested six weeks after the bombing. Mr Conlon was jailed along with his father Giuseppe Conlon, seven members of the Maguire Seven along with three of his friends Paul Hill, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson. Their jailing was one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history along with the Birmingham Six.” Read more of The Irish Times’ report here.
Victor Nealon’s conviction was overturned by the British Court of Appeal last year, but his compensation claim for 17 years of imprisonment has been turned down by the British Ministry of Justice.
The Guardian reports that the “MoJ told Nealon’s lawyers that the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, had reviewed the information and ‘concluded that your client has not suffered a miscarriage of justice as defined by section 133 of the 1988 Act’.” (read the full Guardian piece here)
“[...] in turning down Mr Nealon’s claim for compensation, the MoJ said the owner of the DNA could not be identified, and added it could not be established that it ‘undoubtedly belonged to the attacker’.” (read the BBC report here)
This case was previously blogged about on this blog here and here.
For an interesting student write-up on the National University of Singapore’s student-run Innocence Project see here. Way to go!
The Singapore High Court recently considered the right of an accused to counsel in the case of James Raj s/o Aroliasamy v PP  SGHC 10 (available here). Article 9 (3) of the Singapore Constitution recognises the right of an arrested person to consult counsel, but does not expressly state the point of time at which the person can do so. Singapore Courts have consistently held that an accused does not have an immediate right to consult counsel. Rather the right to counsel is to be exercised within “reasonable time”. Case law has interpreted such “reasonable time” to include the time needed for police investigations, which would otherwise be hampered by permitting the accused access to counsel.
What is interesting about the High Court’s judgement in James Raj s/o Aroliasamy v PP is that the Judge voiced some doubt about how previous case law had narrowly interpreted the right to counsel. The Judge nevertheless stated that he was bound to follow precedent. Even so, the Judge affirmed that the Prosecution bore the burden of showing why permitting access to counsel would jeopardise investigations in a particular case. It was not enough for the Prosecution to point to, inter alia, the complex or cross-border nature of the case. Rather, the Prosecution had to specifically explain why permitting access to counsel would jeopardise investigations in that case.
The High Court’s judgement reflects the increased willingness of Singapore Courts to closely supervise the work of the Prosecution and other criminal justice agencies. However, it is perhaps time for the Court of Appeal to reconsider its interpretation of the constitutional right to counsel in light of the High Court’s assessment of previous case law in James Raj s/o Aroliasamy v PP.