Alice Leong and Leomia Myers have something in common. They both have suffered the pain of watching their sons wrongful convictions. For one of them, the suffering is over. Her son, Brian Banks, is now an NFL linebacker. The other still suffers everyday with her sons wrongful incarceration http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/05/14/california-innocence-project-marches-for-mothers-of-wrongfully-convicted
Professor Samuel Gross has posted the above-titled article on SSRN. Download here. The abstract states:
The most common question about false convictions is also the simplest: How many are there? The answer, unfortunately, is almost always the same and always disappointing: We don’t know. Recently, however, we have learned enough to be able to qualify our ignorance in two important respects. We can put a lower bound on the frequency of false convictions among death sentences in the United States since 1973, and we have some early indications of the rate of false convictions for rape in Virginia in the 1970s and early 1980s. These new sources of information suggest – tentatively – that the rate of false convictions for serious violent felonies in the United States may be somewhere in the range from 1% to 5%. Beyond that – for less serious crimes and for other countries – our ignorance is untouched.
One of the 8,000 graduating students at Ohio State University to whom President Barack Obama gave the commencement address yesterday had a lot longer journey than most to get to that point. Virginia LeFever’s plans to get a bachelor’s degree in nursing were interrupted in 1990 when she was convicted of killing her husband, greatly because of the novel theory of an expert who lied about his credentials. When LeFever’s conviction was overturned in 2011 and she was released from prison, she started looking for a job and applied to continue her studies at OSU.
Getting into college proved to be easier than getting a job. Although LeFever’s criminal record had been ordered sealed, it still came up in background reports until the source was identified and the records were removed from its database. LeFever also had to overcome difficulties getting her nursing license fully reinstated. Now that she has her degree and a license, LeFever hopes to get a nursing job and start graduate work so she can become a nurse practioner. But it’s taken a two-year struggle and the help of her dedicated attorneys to get to the point that she hopes to be able to get a decent-paying job.
LeFever is not alone. As The New York Times reports here, “sealing or clearing a criminal record after a wrongful conviction is a tangled and expensive process” that many exonerees have difficulty getting through.
Seattle Weekly tells how the controversial case of Seattle native Amanda Knox opened the eyes of many people for the first time to how justice can go awry. Some of those who rallied to Knox’s defense have moved on to other interests. But others have expanded their advocacy to other cases, such as those highlighted at http://www.injustice-anywhere.org. You can read the story here.
- Statute of limitations issues may haunt prosecution of former prosecutor now judge Ken Anderson, charged with criminal offenses for his conduct leading to the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton.
- After 24 years in prison, Wyoming man gets retrial, taste of freedom, and a cookie
- Georgia needs a method to compensate the wrongfully convicted.
Yesterday, the Texas House voted on HB 166, a bill that would create the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission. This so-called innocence commission would investigate past exoneration cases to find out why the wrongful conviction happened in the first place. The group would not intervene in pending cases or open cases without an exoneration.
A Vancouver man suing for compensation for 27 years in prison for sex assaults he didn’t commit has won a preliminary round in court against the provincial government. The government opposed Ivan Henry’s application in B.C. Supreme Court to change his legal claim that would spell out the circumstances where the province can be held liable for breaching his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The government claimed the rule of prosecutorial immunity only allows claims for charter breaches to succeed if they arose from malicious conduct by the prosecutor. But Justice Richard Goepel ruled in Henry’s favour, finding “that a claim lies against the province for charter damages if the plaintiff can establish that Crown counsel acted in a marked and unacceptable departure from the reasonable standards expected of Crown counsel.”
- Nice profile of Donna McKneelen of the Innocence Project at Cooley
From Fernando Bermudez:
Exoneree Fernando Bermudez is now touring around Germany, giving lectures about his experience and the innocence movement in the United States. The cities he will be visiting are: Bochum, Greifswald, Berlin, Passau, Tübingen, Wiesbaden, and Freiburg. Read the news here (in German).
Fernando Bermudez served over 18 years in New York prisons, following his wrongful conviction for murder, until proven innocent in 2009. Continue reading
The documentary by Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns about the wrongful convictions of ”The Central Park Five” received high praise today from what some might consider an unlikely source — conservative columnist George F. Will.
As a critic of the overreach of government, though, Will has expressed concern in the past about the abuse of power by police, prosecutors and the courts. And he says what happened to the five innocent young men in the media-fueled hysteria created in the aftermath of a horrific rape and assault of a young woman in 1989 is a cautionary tale of government excess that should give conservatives pause.
”A society’s justice system can improve as a result of lurches into officially administered injustice,” Will writes. ”The dialectic of injustice, then revulsion, then reform often requires the presentation of sympathetic victims to a large audience, which ‘The Central Park Five’ does.”
Will goes on to say that ”this recounting of a multifaceted but, fortunately, not fatal failure of the criminal justice system buttresses the conservative case against the death penalty: Its finality leaves no room for rectifying mistakes, but it is a government program, so . . .”
You can read Will’s eloquent column here.
The NY Times article follows:
By: Marc Santora Published: April 11, 2013
Karen Smith was 8 when she was raped, beaten, stabbed and left for dead in the stairwell of a Bronx apartment house in 1975. Even in a city that was rife with crime and inured to violence, it was a horrific scene — the body of the little girl was found wearing only socks and underwear, a Nestle’s candy bar by her side and blood spattered four feet high on the wall.
Within a day, the police announced that they had apprehended a suspect, an 18-year-old neighbor named David Bryant who had a previous history of trouble with the law, including two arrests for sexual misconduct.
Mr. Bryant confessed to the murder, was convicted, and the case was largely forgotten.
But on Thursday, nearly 40 years later, a Bronx judge vacated the conviction and ordered Mr. Bryant released after finding that his lawyer at the time had provided a poor defense.
Congratulations to Jeramie R. Davis and to the Innocence Project Northwest!
From Spokane, Washington (The Spokesman-Review):
A man who spent nearly six years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit had one request today after a judge set him free: a double cheeseburger from Zips.
Jeramie R. Davis, 42, also looked forward to bonding with his 5-year-old son, Elijah, who was born shortly after his arrest in 2007.
“He really doesn’t know who I am,” Davis said of his son. “I want to get to know him.
Today’s release ended years of investigations, a conviction, DNA tests, a second trial that convicted a different man and scores of legal arguments stemming from the June 17, 2007, bludgeoning death of 74-year-old porn shop owner John G. “Jack” Allen.
“I’m grateful,” Davis said of years of legal battles by defense attorneys Anna Tolin, Kevin Curtis and others who labored on his behalf. Continue reading
The Brian Banks case has been reported on this blog a number of times. See posts here, here, and here. He was a sure-to-be NFL star when he was convicted of a rape he did not commit. He was eventually exonerated with the help of the California Innocence Project, and has had his heart set on getting back into football ever since.
He has recently signed with the Atlanta Falcons, and now has a chance to resume his career.
Read the SportingNews story here.
Louis Taylor has spent 43 years in prison for a crime he did not commit – setting a hotel on fire, resulting in the deaths of 29 people.
He was convicted based upon arson junk science and the false testimony of jailhouse snitches.
Two review committees determined that there is no longer enough evidence available to tell whether or not arson was in play. They said that the experts in the original trial “used methods no longer valid in the science of today.”
The Arizona Justice Project played a key role in bringing the case to resolution. Unfortunately, Louis Taylor will have to plead “no contest,” receive credit for time served, and be released on that basis.
You can read the CNN story here. Watch 60 Minutes segment here.
Numerous times on this blog we have bemoaned the inappropriateness of “trial by media.” The press/media cannot possibly have an intimate understanding of all the evidence, facts, affidavits, and testimony in a criminal trial. But to gain readership, they piece together whatever bits of information they can gather, and publish stories that tend to appeal to the sensationalistic interest of the general public. This is no surprise. That’s what they do. It’s unfortunate, however, because this stuff can and does have an influence, both during and, perhaps even more so, after trial.
But nowadays, there is a new internet-age version of trial by media. I call it “trial by website.” This happens when someone becomes personally dedicated to the guilt or innocence of a particular defendant, and sets up a website to proffer their one-sided views. There are both innocence-based websites and guilt-based websites. However, my observation is that the guilt-based websites are much more vitriolic, and generally based upon much unsubstantiated, or downright false, information.
There’s been much recent discussion due to the overturning of the Amanda Knox acquittal, and the websites run by people who have dedicated themselves to her guilt are going great guns. Two of these are the Perugia Murder File (PMF) and True Justice for Meredith Kercher (TJMK).
Nina Burleigh is a journalist who actually went to Perugia, and studied all aspects of the case for over a month. She has recently published an article in TIME in which she talks about these “Knox Hater” websites. And in opining about what the outcome of any new trial will be she states, “In my opinion, the new panel will agree with the last one that the case against the students is fatally flawed.”
You can read Nina Burleigh’s article here.
David Ranta, released from prison last Thursday after serving 23 years in prison in a high-profile wrongful murder conviction, suffered a heart attack Friday night. According to this CNN report (here), as of Sunday night, Ranta’s conditioned was stabilized. He is being treated in cardiac intensive care unit at a New York hospital. Continue reading
The Brian Banks case has been reported on multiple times on this blog. See the post covering his exoneration here.
Brian Banks’ inspiring story will be featured on this week’s episode of CBS’ 60 Minutes show (Sunday, March 24th, 7 pm PT/ET). From the 60 Minutes website: “Blindsided” – Brian Banks may yet play in the NFL, but he knows it’s a longshot after spending five years in prison on a rape charge for which he was later exonerated. James Brown reports.” Brown speaks with Banks, his family, and California Innocence Project director Justin Brooks about the case and what is says about our justice system.
This is, sadly, all too typical. False eyewitness identification, bogus lineup, jailhouse snitch, police tunnel vision.
Read the full CNN story here. Below are some excerpts:
Since Ranta’s trial, another man’s widow has identified her now-dead husband as the killer; a onetime jail inmate has said he made up statements about Ranta to boost his own fortunes; and the man who, as a boy, picked him out of a lineup has come forward to say he was coached by a detective.
Menachem Lieberman was 13 years old when he identified Ranta in a lineup. In 2011, he told investigators that he identified Ranta after being told by a detective to “Pick the guy with the big nose.”
Ranta’s attorney: “The detective work that was done on this case was at best shoddy and at worst criminal. And I don’t use that word lightly,” he told CNN. “But when a closer examination is done of the detective work … It becomes clear that there were so many leads that weren’t followed, there were so many notes that weren’t taken and just a general lack of attention to an investigation that required nothing but close scrutiny of the scene, of witnesses and so forth. That didn’t happen.”
New York (CNN) — A New York man has been freed after serving more than two decades in prison for the killing of a rabbi during a botched diamond heist, with a judge calling his conviction a miscarriage of justice.
Interestingly, the police are “standing by” the arrest, and deny any claims that there was any “witness coaching.”
Read the full story here.
Daniel Larson spent 13 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He was a victim of California’s “three strikes” law, and was sentenced to 27 years to life.
A federal judge has declared him “actually innocent”, and he is free on bail while the prosecutor’s appeal in underway.
Read the full story here.
The Houston Chronicle reported yesterday (here) that in opening statements in the trial of Mark Alan Norwood, on trial for the 1986 bludgeoning death of Christine Morton, prosecutor Lisa Tanner told jurors that the state will present new evidence connecting Norwood to the crime. Tanner, representing the Texas Attorney General’s Office, said that a .45 Colt pistol that was missing from the Morton home after the murder was located by prosecutors. Norwood allegedly sold the gun, registered to Christine’s husband Michael Morton, to a man who had hired Norwood to work on a home remodeling project. Continue reading
The Los Angeles Times editorial of August 24, 2012, (here) called Daniel Larsen a “victim of a continuing injustice.” According to The Daily Transcript (San Diego) report (here), “U.S. Magistrate Judge Suzanne H. Segal is expected to grant Larsen’s immediate release (from prison) at 2 p.m.” today. This will not fully end his injustice, but it will at least provide Larsen his freedom while the appeals process continues. Continue reading
According to a report in the Coloradoan (here), on Saturday Lt. Jim Broderick, 56, resigned from the Fort Collins (Colorado) Police Services where he had worked for 33 years. His career had a dramatic reversal when he was indicted on charges of felony perjury in June 2010 in connection with the grand jury indictment and trial of Tim Masters. Masters, who was fifteen at the time of the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick, was convicted and spent ten years in prison before DNA testing of crime scene evidence prompted the vacation of his murder conviction. Broderick had been the investigator in the case. Continue reading