Author Archives: justinobrooks

A Push to Aid American Couple Held in Child’s Death in Qatar

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/05/12/world/middleeast/a-push-to-aid-couple-held-in-childs-death-in-qatar.html?referrer=

http://bit.ly/1mSlVTv

Follow me on Twitter:  @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu

www.redinocente.org
www.californiainnocenceproject.org

OVERCROWDING AND VIOLENCE CONTINUE TO BE CHRONIC PROBLEMS IN LATIN AMERICAN PRISONS

Overcrowding, inadequate physical conditions, and inmate violence are the main problems in Latin American prisons according to the latest report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international non-governmental organization dedicated to protecting the human rights of the people around the world.

In its report HRW highlighted the following as the most chronic problems in Latin American prisons: (i) prisons and jails are severely overcrowded; (ii) prison guards are insufficient and poorly trained (iii) security in the prisons is weak and the infrastructures are deteriorating; (iv) inmates are confined in police lock ups not designed or equipped to hold detainees for long periods; (v) inmates are tortured by prison guards; (vi) armed gangs control prisons; (vii) inhumane prison conditions facilitate the spread of diseases and prisoners’ access to medical care remains inadequate; and (viii) hundreds of violent prison deaths occur every year.

 To partially solve the overcrowding problem, Chile, for example, has promulgated laws that allow voluntary return of non-Chilean inmates to their countries of origin.  They also provide six alternatives to prison for low risk offenders, including community service and the use of electronic bracelets. These are good reforms, but they are hardly a remedy for the massive challenges facing the Latin American prison systems.

Follow me on Twitter:  @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu

www.redinocente.org
www.californiainnocenceproject.org

For more information, please see: http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2013/about

COMPENSATION ORDERED IN WRONGFUL CONVICTION CASE LINKED TO PABLO ESCOBAR IN COLOMBIA

The Colombian Administrative Supreme Court (Consejo de Estado) has granted Pablo Enrique Zamora and his family 1,000 million pesos for the pain and suffering caused by his wrongful conviction and subsequent ten-year incarceration.

Pablo-EscobarEnrique was thought to be involved in the murder of the well-known journalist Guillermo Cano Isaza, head of the daily newspaper El Espectador. His tragic death took place in 1986, the murder allegedly ordered by the leader of the Medellin Cartel, Pablo Escobar, in response to the newspaper’s strong position against his drug trafficking criminal activities.

After nine years of investigation, in a procedure fraught with irregularities, Enrique, and two others, were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and subsequently sentenced to sixteen years in prison. However, after Enrique served ten years in prison, the Supreme Court of Colombia exonerated and released him, concluding that he had been wrongfully convicted.

In its ruling the Colombian Administrative Supreme Court (Consejo de Estado) recognized that, at the time, the judicial authorities were moved by the intense pressure of the media that surrounded the case and that the evidence was not probative. The court also ordered the Judicial Branch to implement judicial training to try to prevent wrongful convictions in Colombia.

Follow me on Twitter:  @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu

For more information, please see:

http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/asesinato-de-guillermo-cano-el-condenado-inocente-recibira-1000-millones/377849-3

http://www.freemedia.at/awards/guillermo-cano.html

http://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/ARTICULO-WEB-NEW_NOTA_INTERIOR-13624035.html

http://www.globaljournalist.org/stories/2000/07/01/guillermo-cano-colombia/

http://www.vanguardia.com/actualidad/colombia/247858-indemnizaran-a-condenado-injustamente-por-la-muerte-de-guillermo-cano-isa

http://www.elcolombiano.com/BancoConocimiento/E/el_crimen_de_guillermo_cano_de_lesa_humanidad/el_crimen_de_guillermo_cano_de_lesa_humanidad.asp

http://www.noticiasrcn.com/nacional-justicia/condenan-nacion-equivocacion-caso-guillermo-cano

http://www.caracol.com.co/noticias/judiciales/8203ordenan-indemnizar-a-hombre-condenado-por-homicidio-de-guillermo-cano/20140220/nota/2090555.aspx

DNA Proves A Man Innocent Too Late To Release Him From Prison

Based on an exculpatory DNA test report, the Criminal Section of the Supreme Court of Spain has posthumously exonerated Antonio Guile Martínez, who was wrongfully convicted of robbery and sentenced to two years and eight months in prison.

Guile was convicted April 2011 of robbery and mayhem by the Criminal Trial Court in Seville, Spain. The victim identified Martínez as the person who broke her car window to steal her purse and with whom she struggled to stop the theft.  She positively identified him three times: in a photo array, a live line-up, and finally, during trial.

Martínez was exonerated March 21, 2014, after it was discovered that a blood sample obtained from the window of the victim’s car belonged to another person. Sadly, this crucial information was discovered a year and a half after Guile’s conviction and after Guile died in the prison.

Once again, misidentification proves to be a global problem leading to wrongful convictions.

Follow me on Twitter:  @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu

For more information, please see:  http://www.otrosi.net/article/el-supremo-absuelve-un-preso-que-falleci%C3%B3-en-prisi%C3%B3n-mientras-cumpl%C3%ADa-condena-por-un-robo-qu

Chilean Innocence Project Exonerates Wrongfully Convicted Man When Eyewitness Observes the Real Criminal Commit Another Crime!

On January 14, 2014, the Supreme Court of Chile granted the appeal of Julio C. Robles Vergara, ordering his immediate release. In June, 2012, Mr. Robles was convicted of robbery at a minimarket and was sentenced to prison for five years and one day based on the victim’s eyewitness misidentification.

Mr. Robles was identified in a photo array, but after his conviction the victim realized his mistake when he saw his real assailant stealing in another store.  Based on this information, Proyecto Inocente de la Defensoría Penal Pública de Chile was able to present the case to the Chilean Supreme Court and end Robles’ four hundred and fifty nine days of wrongful incarceration.

Cases like this demonstrate that faulty eyewitness identification is a global problem.  Courts should consider the many studies illustrating the problems with these types of identifications before convicting based on this evidence.  Mr. Robles was incredibly lucky that the actual perpetrator committed the crime again in the presence of the witness in his case.  We cannot allow cases to only be remedied when there is such a random happenstance.  How many other people sit in prison who will never be able to prove that the identification in their case was faulty?

Congratulations to Proyecto Inocente de la Defensoría Penal Pública de Chile for exonerating Mr. Robles and bringing the problems with identifications to the public’s attention in Chile.

Follow me on Twitter:  @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu

For more information regarding Mr. Robles’s case, please see: http://www.proyectoinocentes.cl/sala_prensa/noticias_detalle/74/caso-robles-algunas-reflexiones-a-partir-de-un-recurso-de-revision-acogido

For more information abourt Innocence Project in Chile, please see: http://www.proyectoinocentes.cl/

For more information about Red Inocente, please see: http://www.redinocente.org/

Tragedy in the Middle East

Photo credit: Osama Faisal/AP

Photo credit: Osama Faisal/AP

The California Innocence Project represents the Huangs with the David House Agency.

Today, the Qatari criminal justice system continued its absurd disregard for due process, equity, and common sense in the case of Matthew and Grace Huang, two Americans whose 6 year-old adopted daughter Gloria tragically died of complications relating to her early upbringing in impoverished Ghana. Qatari prosecutors accused the Huangs of murder, based on a theory of starvation in order to harvest and sell her organs, and were seeking the death penalty for Gloria’s death. They were sentenced to three years in prison, convicted of—actually, nobody knows what they were convicted of, because the judges never said.

Matthew and Grace Huang are United States citizens who moved to Qatar with their children, Gloria, Josiah, and Emmanuel in 2012. Matthew had been relocated by an American company which had won a contract to complete infrastructure projects for the Qatari government in preparation for the 2022 World Cup. Matthew and Grace are Asian-American; their children, all adopted, are from Africa. Gloria was the youngest of their three children, adopted as a young child from Ghana, in West Africa. Her experience as a child born into extreme poverty in Ghana was emotionally and psychologically traumatic for her, and she suffered from a number of medical issues, including a severe vitamin deficiency, digestive problems, and a pronounced eating disorder which occasionally caused her to refuse food for days at a time. But children are resilient, and Matthew and Grace are unbelievably patient parents. Despite her upbringing, Gloria began to get better after living with Matthew and Grace, putting on weight and suffering from fewer and fewer episodes of disorder.

Unfortunately, Gloria died in 2013 of causes that will likely never be fully known or understood, but were clearly connected to her upbringing and health care in Ghana prior to her being adopted by the Huangs. Qatari authorities thought otherwise. They believed Matthew and Grace were guilty of murder. They alleged the parents adopted Gloria, raised her for two years in their family, and traveled with her and their other children to Qatar—all so that they could eventually perform medical experiments on her, starve her to death, harvest her organs, and sell them on the black market.

In support of this outlandish theory, the prosecution relied on “secret” evidence, undisclosed to the family or their legal team, which the prosecution said showed the Huangs were guilty. Police officers testified under oath to things which were patently and demonstrably untrue—that Gloria had no access to running water, that she had no bed in her bedroom, and that the Huangs shackled or restrained Gloria in her room as punishment or discipline. Pictures of Gloria’s bedroom and the officers’ own police reports show how unrelated the officers’ testimony was to reality, but they did not change their stories. A Qatari medical examiner testified he knew, based on his autopsy and from the samples he took, that the cause of death must have been starvation; a second autopsy by an American examiner showed no samples were ever taken from the body, and the cause of death could not have been starvation.

This ordeal has been an unbelievable nightmare for the Huang family. They lost their child. They spent eleven months in jail awaiting trial for murder. They faced down a possible death sentence. They have now been wrongfully sentenced to three years in prison for a crime they did not commit. One of the strangest parts of the Huangs’ story is that the judges who sentenced them today did not state they were guilty of any crime. This decision should be immediately reversed and they should be allowed to return to the United States to be with their other children, who have been without their parents for more than a year. This tragedy cannot stand.

Follow me on Twitter: @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu

 

Mexican Exoneree Sets Himself on Fire

On March 8, 2014, José Guadalupe Macías Maldonado died.  Macías, a 59 year old exoneree, set himself on fire as a protest for the lack of economic support the Government of the State had allegedly promised him when he was exonerated and released.

The tragic episode took place on March 7 in the Civic Center Plaza of Mexicali, Baja California (Mexico).  Mr. Macías shouted that the Government of the State had lied to him by promising him economic support.  He soaked himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze. Police officers were able to extinguish the fire, but not before it caused fatal injuries

Mr. Macías had been convicted of murder in 2002, despite his continuous claims of innocence.  In January 2013, the Superior Court of the State exonerated him on the basis that there had been mistakes in the investigation conducted by prosecution (Procuraduría General de Justicia).

Several days before Mr. Macías’ suicide he filed a complaint against the Government of the State claiming 10 million pesos for the pain and suffering caused by his nearly 11 years of wrongful incarceration.

This is an absolutely tragic example of how injustice can end in the worst possible way.  

Follow me on Twitter:  @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu

For more information, please see:  http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=366842