Mark GodseyDaniel P. & Judith L. Carmichael Professor of Law, University of Cincinnati College of Law; Director, Center for the Global Study of Wrongful Conviction; Director, Rosenthal Institute for Justice/Ohio Innocence Project | Email | Profile
Justin BrooksProfessor, California Western School of Law; Director, California Innocence Project | Email
Cheah Wui LingAssistant Professor, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore Email | Profile
Daniel EhighaluaNigerian Barrister; Project Director, Innocence Project Nigeria Email
C Ronald HuffProfessor of Criminology, Law & Society and Sociology, University of California-Irvine Email | Profile
Phil LockeScience and Technology Advisor, Ohio Innocence Project and Duke Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic Email
Dr. Carole McCartneySenior Lecturer, School of Law, University of Leeds; Founder, University of Leeds Innocence Project | Email | Profile
Nancy PetroAuthor and Advocate
Kana SasakuraAssociate Professor, Faculty of Law, Konan University; Visiting Scholar, University of Washington School of Law; Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW)
Dr. Robert SchehrProfessor, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Northern Arizona University; Executive Director, Arizona Innocence Project Email | Profile
Shiyuan HuangAssociate Professor, Shandong University Law School; Visiting Scholar, University of Cincinnati College of Law Email | Profile
Ulf StridbeckProfessor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo, Norway
Martin YantAuthor and Private Investigator Email | Profile
Category Archives: Freedom’s Heroes
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.
From the Innocence Blog:
The Innocence Network honored two innovative police chiefs last week at the annual Innocence Network Conference held in Charlotte, North Carolina, for their work to reform the criminal justice system to prevent wrongful convictions: William G. Brooks, III, Chief of the Norwood, Massachusetts Police Department, and Darrel Stephens, former Chief of the Charlotte Police Department.
The Innocence Network presented Chief Brooks with the 2012 “Champion of Justice” award. The award is given to public servants who go above and beyond in their efforts to free the wrongly convicted or reform the criminal justice system to prevent wrongful convictions. Previous honorees include Jim Petro, former Ohio Attorney General, and Jim Trainum, retired detective with the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
During his acceptance speech, Chief Brooks reflected on the openness of most of the law enforcement officers towards reforms to prevent wrongful convictions:
“Not a single police officer has approached me following our presentations [on eyewitness identification] to say that he disagrees with what we have said. Without exception, we hear police officers tell us that they favor these reforms.”
Chief Brooks has been a police academy instructor for over 25 years and an educator on police lineup reforms for five years. In that time, he has partnered with Innocence Network members to train law enforcement personnel about scientifically supported best practices and to instruct thousands of officers nationwide about the importance of implementing criminal justice reforms to prevent wrongful convictions. Chief Brooks’ work in Connecticut and Michigan contributed to statewide adoption of eyewitness identification best practices in both states. In his home state, he sits on the Supreme Judicial Court’s Police Practice Committee, which is set to issue recommendations in the coming months. Chief Brooks concluded his remarks by saying, “I am honored to receive this award, and you have humbled me with it.”
The Innocence Network also selected Darrel Stephens, former Police Chief of the Charlotte Police Department, to deliver the keynote address. As police chief, Stephens implemented reforms that are proven to decrease mistaken eyewitness identifications. He also helped implement these reforms statewide, putting North Carolina at the forefront of a national trend in reforms to eyewitness identification procedures to prevent wrongful convictions. Stephens currently serves as the Executive Director of the Major City Chiefs Association and a Board Member of the Innocence Project.
During his keynote, Stephens spoke about police agencies across the country implementing reforms to help prevent wrongful convictions:
“There are hundreds of police departments that have or are taking the steps…to minimize the potential for wrongful convictions. New York City announced last year that it would begin videotaping interrogations. Laws in 18 states and the District of Columbia require it. More police agencies are adopting best practices in eyewitness identification and improvements are being made in forensics. And both police and prosecutors are increasing their participation in wrongful conviction cases.”
The Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC) at Northwestern Law has been instrumental in exonerating four persons in a category that represents less than seven percent of the more than 1,000 persons who have been exonerated in the United States: Women. Today, the Center will launch its new Women’s Project, the first Innocence Project dedicated to the special needs and circumstances of women who have been wrongfully convicted.
A press conference at 10:00 a.m. in Northwestern Law’s Bluhm Legal Clinic will be followed by an event and reception at the law school at 6:00 p.m. tonight in Lincoln Hall. CWC Lawyer Karen Daniels, one of the leaders of the project, and exonerees Audrey Edmunds, Gloria Killian, Joyce Ann Brown, and Julie Rea, as well as others who have been instrumental in establishing the Center, will discuss its work and goals.
“Women fighting wrongful convictions face special challenges,” said Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions. Continue reading
From the Chicago SunTimes:
During slavery, young black mothers had to watch their children being sold off to distant plantations never to be heard from again.
Today, too many young black mothers are seeing their sons get killed in the street, while others are watching black youth get locked away for the rest of their lives for pulling the trigger.
But there’s another group of black mothers who are seldom heard from.
They are the mothers who have watched their sons go to prisons for crimes they did not commit.
Their voices are dismissed like noise, especially in the aftermath of a heinous crime.
These mothers are left alone to tend to the wounds of a family caught up in the ruthless assault of the criminal justice system.
Carleane Swift, 53, is the mother of Terrill Swift, one of the so-called “Englewood 4.” Swift, along with Harold Richardson, Michael Saunders and Vincent Thames, spent most of his youth locked in Illinois prisons for the 1994 rape and murder of Nina Glover.
Glover’s body was found in a dumpster in the Englewood neighborhood. The four teens were picked up and were allegedly coerced and intimidated into giving false confessions.
DNA evidence exonerated the men after they had spent more than a dozen years Continue reading
When the University of Michigan Law and Northwestern Law School announced their joint project—the National Registry of Exonerations (here)—earlier this year on May 21, the initial tally of exonerations in the United States since 1989 was 891. Today, five months later, the number of exonerated in the registry is 1,000. No one knows how high the number will go. The only certainty is that this milestone will soon be surpassed. Continue reading
From CBSDFW.COM : DALLAS – James Woodard’s name resonates with any exoneree in North Texas. He was one, and spent the last several years helping others.
Woodard, 60, was the 17th Dallas County Inmate freed by DNA testing.
He was serving a life sentence for the murder of Beverly Jones.
After serving 27 years behind bars for the murder conviction he walked out of court a free man in April of 2008.
“It’s a good day! April 29th, 2008, I never forget it,” he said walking out of a Dallas courtroom that day.
Woodard was back in jail in late August after being arrested.
After responding to a traffic accident, Carrollton police arrested him for several outstanding warrants.
Investigators say after searching him they found cocaine.
Over the past weekend Woodard, who suffered from seizures, was rushed from the Dallas County Jail to Parkland Hospital, where he died.
Those close to him want to know what happened. “It’s a loss that we can’t get Continue reading
George Whitmore Jr. “never saw himself as a race activist. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, from prison and on the streets, he watched the civil rights movement and the Black Power Movement at a wary distance. He did not judge people by the their skin color. He knew he had been the victim of a grave injustice, but he did not assume that the detectives who framed him, or his slow torture at the hands of a rigged system, were motivated by racial prejudice.” Thus writes, T.J. English in his New York Times piece (here), “Who Will Mourn George Whitmore?”
According to English—who befriended Whitmore and has written The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge about Whitmore and his times—in April, 1964, Whitmore, at 19 years old, was picked up by New York City detectives and interrogated for 22-hours before signing a confession to Continue reading
According to Rob Warden, of 70 wrongful convictions in Cook County, Illinois, between 1986 and 2011, a false confession was involved in more than half, including both those who falsely confessed to a crime they did not commit and those implicated by another person’s false confession. Warden should know. Co-founder and executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law, he’s an award-winning legal affairs journalist, whose efforts to expose official misconduct—physical abuse in interrogations in Illinois—resulted in a more complete understanding of the phenomenon of false confession.
Warden’s 11-minute TEDx video (here) is a primer on why false confessions occur and how the criminal justice system can reduce them.
Warden notes that physical torture does not account for the majority of false confessions today. Most are the result of psychological pressures that could prompt many reading this article to confess to a crime not committed. Continue reading
Ohio inmate Al Cleveland, convicted of murder in 1996, has been a client of Jennifer Bergeron of the Ohio Innocence Project for many years. His case has also been investigated at various points in time by the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University and private investigator Martin Yant.
Today, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the evidence compiled over the years is sufficient to meet the “actual innocence” Shlup exception, and overturned the lower court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The fantastic opinion is here. All the details of the case are contained in the opinion. News report here and in WSJ here…
This the type of victory that reflects determination and persistence. Bergeron worked against great odds for years to get to this point. It is a sweet victory for Al, and a sweet victory for Jennifer.
Below is a painting that Al created in prison, entitled Flood of Lies, which reflects his feelings about his plight. About the painting, Al wrote:
I don’t have many words to describe this piece, but it represents the end of the artistic confines to which I have been bound for years, and marks the beginning of an inward journey of truth-telling in art and the expression of such by all means despite the look. No beauty right now, just a soul under pressure and an able hand in need, coming to grips with a few dreams it must let go. Upon further thought, this represents the feeling of many of us wrongfully incarcerated, serving Life sentences.
- A 5-part video interview with Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck
- New York State has established ethical rules for prosecutors in post-conviction innocence scenarios
- Exoneree Darryl Burton speaks of his wrongful conviction ordeal in Kansas (video news story)
- An interview with former Rocky Mountain Innocence Center director Katie Monroe as she takes her policy position back in D.C.
- The continuing hunt for the wrongfully convicted in Virginia
- Exoneree compensation bill to be introduced in Colorado
“Another day, another wrongful conviction uncovered,” begins The Buffalo News editorial chastising the New York Senate for failing to follow the Assembly in passing a bill earlier this year that would have required best practices in criminal justice procedures. It comes in the wake of evidence of another wrongful conviction—as reported by The New York Times here and here and this blog Continue reading
Oprah’s “Our America” episode “Innocent Behind Bars” features Ohio Innocence Project Director Mark Godsey, editor of this blog and international expert on the topic, in this video clip published yesterday. Godsey is speaking here about the execution of Thomas Arthur, scheduled soon in Alabama. Arthur was convicted of the 1982 murder of Troy Wicker. On death row for more than 20 years, he’s always claimed innocence. Godsey freely admits that he doesn’t know if Arthur is guilty or not. He’s not alone in that stance, which is why he’s Continue reading
- RIP wrongful conviction and death penalty scholar and activist Hugo Adam Bedau
- Read Lake County, Illinois State’s Attorney (prosecutor) candidate Chris Kennedy’s plan for ending wrongful convictions
- Supreme Court of Michigan holds that impeachment evidence can be sufficient alone for the granting of a new trial
- New Zealand government faces 5 compensation suits for wrongful conviction
- A Colorado state senator is researching wrongful conviction compensation statutes with an eye toward introducing a bill for Colorado next year
- Former bite mark expert, who convicted dozens, now says this “science” is unreliable
- Minnesota Innocence Project looking into cases after St. Paul police announce problems with crime lab
- Recent exoneree Sedrick Courtney ready to rebuild life
- Wisconsin Innocence Project exoneree Jarrett Adams has just received the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Marovitz Public Interest Scholarship
- Lawyers for two of five people now believed to have been wrongfully convicted in the 1995 murder of a livery-cab driver in the Bronx asked a state court on Friday to vacate their convictions and dismiss the charges against them
- Funeral for Connie Tindall of the Wilmington 10 held
- New trial sought in Mississippi shaken baby syndrome case
- A California prosecutor placed on administrative leave in May after she admitted illegally recording a privileged conversation between a murder defendant and a defense-hired expert has been given her job back
“What we would like to see is change in the culture in the way government officials respond to wrongful convictions,” says Katie Monroe. “We’d like it to grow to a place where government officials realize that correcting mistakes is good for all of us and not just the person in prison.” Monroe, longtime leader of the Rocky Mountain Innocence Project (RMIP), is leaving her RMIP post, as reported here, to become the Innocence Project’s first person in Washington, D.C. dedicated to working with prosecutor and police groups to shape policy that can reduce wrongful conviction.
She takes helpful experience to the challenge. The RMIC authored with the Utah Attorney General’s office Utah’s 2008 non-DNA factual innocence statute, which Continue reading
The vast majority of criminal cases—some estimate up to 90 percent—do not have DNA evidence to help settle claims of wrongful conviction. Yet, there is no reason to believe that wrongful conviction is less frequent in non-DNA cases. Criminal defense attorney Glenn Garber was introduced to a wrongful conviction and helped win an exoneration. He became concerned about innocence claims in cases without DNA evidence and decided to dedicate himself to assisting in these challenging cases. In 2009 he founded the Exoneration Initiative, a free legal assistance program dedicated to exonerating the wrongfully convicted, the actually innocent. It’s good news that this Continue reading
It has long been known that people with mental disabilities are more vulnerable to giving a false confession. As reported in the Durango Herald (Colorado) here, a 2008 study revealed “53 cases of serious felonies to which people with intellectual disabilities confessed and were later legally exonerated.” DNA and other proof of innocence sometimes came after years of imprisonment.
One example: a man with an IQ of 56 confessed to the murders of six women and served 22 years before DNA excluded him as the perpetrator.
The article explains, “People with intellectual Continue reading
Among the many misconceptions about the criminal justice system revealed through DNA exonerations is the myth that conviction errors will get corrected on appeal. The Innocence Project now lists 292 DNA-proven wrongful convictions. Many of these unfortunate people had exhausted a lengthy appeals process before DNA finally proved their innocence. Former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Virginia Long, who has committed to working for the wrongfully convicted, recently provided insights into why the courts do not Continue reading
I blogged recently about the plight of Patrick Okoroafor, in detention awaiting the executioner. That was on the 20th of April, 2012. Thanks in large part to the advocacy by Amnesty International, young Patrick Okoroafor has regained his freedom and been spared the hangman’s noose. He has since rejoined his family and remain thankful to the tens of thousands of people who campaigned tirelessly for his release. It is the right thing to do. It is worth reiterating my bewilderment, at the prospect of having a young man’s life snuffed out just like that, given the circumstances leading to his arraignment; his trial as a minor and the subsequent injustice, suffering and humiliation he endured whilst awaiting execution. And now clemency!. Read further here…
The legal details surrounding Patrick’s release are still foggy. It would appear that the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha exercised his prerogative power of mercy, as I canvassed in my earlier blog; as one way of bringing this unfortunate travesty of justice to a close. In a sense therefore, he is truly the hero, given that most Governors would prefer to remain obstinate about exercising such powers. This, of course, is not taking anything away from Amnesty International who internationalised this case. Will it be asking too much, for Patrick and his legal team to be demanding for compensation? That again, is the right thing to do.