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 McCartneyReader in Law, Faculty of Business and Law, Northumbria University Email
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: Police conduct (good and bad)
It was just a year ago that we posted about dog scent lineups. At the time, we called it “one of the junkiest of the junk sciences.” This opinion is echoed in a law suit filed just this week by a Texas woman, Megan Winfrey. Ms. Winfrey spent 6 years in prison before her murder conviction, based on a dog scent lineup, was overturned. Her suit calls dog scent lineups “the worst of junk science.”
Interestingly, the primary defendant in Winfrey’s suit is former Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Deputy Keith Pickett. Pickett was identified in our earlier post as being the most infamous and notorious dog handler performing bogus dog scent lineups. Four other officers, including the San Jacinto County Sheriff, are also named in the suit as being complicit in her wrongful conviction.
You can read the NBC News story about the Winfrey suit here, which contains a link to the actual law suit.
Adrian Thomas was convicted of murdering his 4-month old son Matthew. The conviction relied in part on a confession that Adrian Thomas made during a 9-hour interrogation during which he was lied to and coercively threatened by police investigators. Despite the fact that other evidence may indicate guilt, there is no ethical, moral, or logical excuse for these police tactics.
This is a significant decision relative to false confessions.
The story from the Albany, NY Times Union follows:
Court of Appeals reverses Adrian Thomas murder conviction
In a potentially landmark ruling, the state’s highest court on Thursday unanimously overturned the murder conviction of Adrian Thomas, who was convicted in 2009 of killing his 4-month-old son in Troy, and blocked his statements from any retrial.
Thomas is serving 25 years to life in Auburn Correctional Facility for second-degree murder.
Thursday’s 7-0 decision followed arguments before the Court of Appeals on Jan. 14 during which attorneys for Thomas, 31, questioned the extent that police lied to the defendant while questioning him about the condition of his son. Thomas was interviewed by Troy police for more than nine hours in what his attorney, Jerome K. Frost, said was a cruel hoax.
Police are allowed to lie to suspects, but not to the extent that a confession is given involuntarily. To secure Thomas’ confession, a Troy police sergeant told Thomas his confession was needed to save the life of his son, Matthew, whose death was a certainty.
On Thursday, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman wrote that evidence was sufficient to convict Thomas, but that the case must be sent back for retrial because “we conclude that defendant’s inculpating statements were not demonstrably voluntary.”
On Jan. 14, Frost told Court of Appeals that police falsely told his client 67 separate times that they knew the baby’s injuries were accidental — and 140 times that he would not be charged. A key part of Thomas’ appeal was his lawyers’ argument that the trial judge should have allowed an expert on false confessions and police interrogation techniques to testify on his client’s behalf. The judge rejected it.
“The rule is you don’t threaten a person’s vital interests, such as the freedom of his spouse, taking away his children,” Frost had argued.
The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court upheld Thomas’ conviction in 2012
“The media has won deserved credit for its role in exposing wrongful convictions,” The Crime Report says. “But there are many examples of compliant coverage of prosecutors and law enforcement authorities who rush to convict the innocent on flimsy or phony evidence.”
To prove its point, the web site has published a study by crime journalist David J. Krajicek that focuses on three examples — the 1949 case of Florida’s “Groveland Four”; the conviction of Kirk Bloodsworth in the 1985 rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl near Baltimore; and the conviction of Walter McMillian for the 1986 murder of a clerk in Monroeville, Ala.
All three cases are good examples of how the news media frequently follow — and sometimes lead — police and prosecutors down the rabbit hole of bias and tunnel vision. You can read the excellent study here.
Brooklyn (NY) Supreme Court Justice Raymond Guzman vacated the murder convictions of Antonio Yarbough, 39, and Sharrif Wilson, 37, Thursday after the two had served 21 years in prison for a 1992 triple murder—that of Mr. Yarbough’s mother, his twelve-year-old sister, and her friend. The two men, who were 15 and 18 at the time of the murders, have long claimed they did not commit them. Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson dismissed the cases against the men.
No physical evidence had connected the two men to the crime. The post-conviction breakthrough came last year when DNA testing of evidence found under the fingernails of Mr. Yarbough’s mother matched DNA from a subsequent rape and murder that occurred in 1999 when Yarbough and Wilson were in prison. Family members cheered as the decision was announced in court. Continue reading
This one is mind boggling.
A mentally ill Lansing, Michigan man, Kosgar Lado, under interrogation by police, momentarily confessed to shooting a man. Even though he subsequently withdrew that statement later in the interrogation, he was charged with the murder. After further investigation, the police determined that Lado was not the shooter, and the murder charges were dropped. But now the prosecutor has charged Lado with felony lying to the police!
Read the LSJ.com story here.
And here’s something else about this story. The police chief commented to the media that officers went “above and beyond” in confirming that Lado was not the shooter. B-A-L-O-N-E-Y! The police have an official duty and an ethical obligation to pursue the facts to determine if their suspects are actually innocent. I would say they were just doing their job. The police are normally all too willing to determine if a suspect “might be” guilty, and then turn it over to the prosecutor; and false confessions are one of the major ways they do this. It’s well known that the mentally ill and the mentally deficient are at high risk of making false confessions.
Thanks to WCB follower Jeremy Praay for forwarding this story.
Anthony Graves, Exonerated Death Row Inmate, to File Grievance Against Former Texas Prosecutor Charles Sebesta
Yet another case of egregious prosecutorial misconduct.
Anthony Graves was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for a gruesome multiple homicide that occurred in Somerville, TX in August of 1992. He was ultimately exonerated and released from prison in 2010.
The prosecutor in the case, Charles Sebesta, under intense public pressure for a conviction of Graves with a death sentence, ignored all evidence pointing to his innocence, pressed ahead, and, as the special prosecutor appointed to handle Graves’ retrial said, “Sebesta manufactured evidence, misled jurors and elicited false testimony.” The special prosecutor laid the blame for Graves’ wrongful conviction squarely at the feet of Sebesta.
Anthony Graves and the Houston law firm of Bob Bennett & Associates will file a grievance with the Texas Bar’s Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel seeking sanctions against Sebesta for his central role in Graves’ wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
Read the case statement of facts here - Statement-of-Facts.
You can see the full press packet here.
And read the Texas Monthly story here.
Editorial PS: I think it’s tragic that Mr. Graves has to pursue redress through the Bar Association. He should have remedy available through the courts.
With the help of the New Orleans Innocence Project, Jerome Morgan, who has spent 19 years in prison for a murder termed the “sweet 16 birthday shooting,”
has been granted a new trial.
The prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence in the case, and in Judge Darryl Derbigny’s order he states, ”the evidence presented before this court is wrought with deception, manipulation, and coercion by the New Orleans Police Department,” and that “such newly discovered evidence undermines the confidence of the verdict and is fit for a new jury’s judgment.”
Additionally, two prosecution witnesses have recanted, and it was also determined that Jerome had ineffective assistance of counsel.
Read the New Orleans Times-Picayune story here.
Breaking: This morning Cook County (IL) prosecutors reversed themselves and set aside the murder conviction and life sentence of Deon Patrick, 42, who has served more than half his life in prison following his conviction in a double murder case. The accuracy of the convictions of Patrick and others was clouded by questionable confessions.
Patrick was one of eight persons charged with the 1992 murders of Jeffrey Lassiter and Sharon Haugabook. Five were convicted after all made confessions that cross-implicated one another. Continue reading
- The 2013 holiday season meant a great deal to Brandon Olebar, who, after 10 years of wrongful incarceration, got to enjoy the festivities with his family for the first time in over a decade. Olebar’s release comes thanks to the efforts of the Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW). More….
- In NY, Robert Jones, who has been imprisoned for 19 years for a murder he says he didn’t commit, hopes to be released after State’s key witness says she was pressured to identify him as the perp.
- In Massachusetts, doctors believe Brian Peixoto was wrongfully convicted of child murder in an alleged junk medical science case.
- In Wisconsin, the governor says he’ll issue no “innocence pardons” because it is too hard to pick and choose who deserves attention and who doesn’t
- Why is a Texas prosecutor still practicing law after having been found to have committed egregious misconduct to wrongfully convict Anthony Graves?
- Philly police to implement sweeping interrogation reforms January 1, 2014
- Virginia man Jonathan Montgomery says exoneration is “best Christmas present ever.“
- Details about the Little Rascals Daycare case in North Carolina, another of the alleged daycare hysteria wrongful conviction cases
- Nora Wall, wrongfully convicted Irish nun, in talks with Irish government about compensation
- Connecticut federal judge finds that Scott Lewis was wrongfully convicted as a result of Brady violations
Breaking update: According to The National Registry of Exonerations (here), the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges against Stanley Wrice today, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. Wrice is the most recent of 1,260 exonerations since 1989 now documented on the Registry.
Cook County Judge Richard Walsh has ordered a new trial for Stanley Wrice, 59, who was released from prison on Wednesday after serving 30 years for a 1982 sexual assault he has always claimed he did not commit. He is one of many inmates, mostly black, who said that they were tortured by Chicago police working under former Lt. Jon Burge.
According to an AP report filed by Don Babwin and M. Spencer Green (here), Wrice, who was sentenced to 100 years in prison, claimed officers beat him in the groin and face with a flashlight and a 20-inch piece of rubber to force his Continue reading
Sundhe Moses, 37, was granted parole on October 31, 2013, without meeting the usual requirements. Moses didn’t acknowledge guilt, take responsibility, or express regret for the crime for which he was convicted and imprisoned for the past 18 years. Instead, he said he was innocent. While it’s very unusual for a claim of innocence to be an effective parole argument, the evidence supporting his claim was convincing enough for the parole board to grant Moses’ release. Continue reading
Russell Covey has posted the above-titled article on SSRN. Download copy here.
The abstract states:
This study gathers data from two mass exonerations resulting from major police scandals, one involving the Rampart division of the L.A.P.D., and the other occurring in Tulia, Texas. To date, these cases have received little systematic attention by wrongful convictions scholars. Study of these cases, however, reveals important differences among subgroups of wrongful convictions. Whereas eyewitness misidentification, faulty forensic evidence, jailhouse informants, and false confessions have been identified as the main contributing factors leading to many wrongful convictions, the Rampart and Tulia exonerees were wrongfully convicted almost exclusively as a result of police perjury. In addition, unlike other exonerated persons, actually innocent individuals charged as a result of police wrongdoing in Rampart or Tulia only rarely contested their guilt at trial. As is the case in the justice system generally, the great majority pleaded guilty. Accordingly, these cases stand in sharp contrast to the conventional wrongful conviction story. Study of these groups of wrongful convictions sheds new light on the mechanisms that lead to the conviction of actually innocent individuals.
By Spencer S. Hsu, Monday, December 2, 6:57 PM
The Washington Post
The nation’s police chiefs will call Tuesday for changes in the way they conduct investigations as a way to prevent wrongful convictions, including modifying eyewitness identification.
In a joint effort with the Justice Department and the Innocence Project, an advocacy group for prisoners seeking exoneration through DNA testing, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) will urge police departments nationwide to adopt new guidelines for conducting photo lineups, videotaping witness interviews and corroborating information from jailhouse informants, among 30 recommendations.
The group also calls for new tools to identify investigations at high risk of producing a wrongful arrest, as well as formalizing the way flawed cases are reviewed and the way assertions of innocence are investigated.
“At the end of the day, the goal is to reduce the number of persons who are wrongfully convicted,” said Walter A. McNeil, the police chief in Quincy, Fla., and past president of the chiefs association, which convened a national policy summit on wrongful convictions.
“What we are trying to say in this report is, it’s worth it for all of us, particularly law enforcement, to continue to evaluate, slow down, and get the right person,” McNeil said.
Legal experts said the findings, which were funded by the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs, mark a milestone in the deepening engagement by police and prosecutors in correcting breakdowns in the criminal justice system. Those errors have been exposed in recent years by advances in DNA profiling.
The findings also reflect a new emphasis by police on preventing mistakes from occurring, as well as a growing willingness to investigate past errors by adopting what the IACP called a “culture of openness” in rethinking how police analyze evidence and tackle problems such as investigative bias.
“We may appear to some to be strange bedfellows, but in fact we all support these reforms because they protect the innocent and enhance the ability of law enforcement to catch the guilty,” said Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project.
Criminal prosecutions are handled overwhelmingly at the state and local level, and the IACP said its summit was the first national-level symposium on the subject to be led by law enforcement.
With 17,000 of its 22,000 members in the United States, the IACP brings an influential voice of police professionals to active debates over how police should ask eyewitnesses to identify suspects, for example, and how law enforcement should address past convictions that may have relied on flawed forensic or other evidence.
Despite their strong impact on juries, witness recollections are wrong about one-third of the time, researchers have found. Eyewitness misidentifications played a role in the majority of more than 300 DNA exonerations since 1989.
Many police agencies have moved to reduce potential sources of errors or bias, such as by conducting blind lineups in which the police officer shows a witness photographs but does not know who the suspect is.
In addition, research indicates that showing photographs of possible suspects one at a time, or “sequentially,” rather than in a group, reduces misidentifications. But some police agencies have balked, worrying that in practice it may confuse witnesses or create investigative problems.
The IACP acknowledged both viewpoints, calling for more research even as it urged agencies not to wait to adopt blind and sequential lineups.
Nearly 10 states have implemented such policies, as have police departments serving large cities, including Dallas and Baltimore.
More than 20 states record interrogations statewide, and another 850 law enforcement agencies voluntarily do so.
With several states and the FBI grappling with how to address convictions that may have relied on flawed forensic evidence, the IACP said it and the Justice Department should provide tools to help agencies investigate claims of innocence and resolve wrongful convictions.
“Any time new information comes forward that could indicate the need for redirection, justice system officials across the continuum must welcome and carefully examine that information,” the IACP said in its report.
Mexican prisons are suffering from severe overcrowding due to preventative detentions and the lack of sentencing alternatives. Mexico Evaluates, a Center of Analysis and Public Policy, has referred to the country’s prison system as a ticking time bomb.
The overcrowding in Mexico’s penitentiaries is obvious when you look at the capacities and current populations. There is at least one prison operating at 400% capacity and six are operating between 176-274% capacity. Currently, there are 242,000 inmates incarcerated in 420 prisons designed to house 195,000. As in the United States, Felipe Calderon, President from 2006 to 2012, focused on building more cells. This did not cure the problem, which lies in the overuse of preventative detention and the lack of alternative sentencing
Statistics from this past year reveal that 41.3% of prisoners had not yet been convicted. There were three Mexican prisons where more than 60% of inmates had not been convicted, four where more than 76% of inmates had not been convicted, and in the prison in Tabasco, 94.5% of inmates had yet to be convicted.
The second major issue is that jail-time is viewed as the only logical solution to crimes. In 2011, 96.4% of sentences called for incarcerations. Only 3.6% of crimes were punished with other sanctions such as fines. This is evidence that minor or common crimes are being treated the same as serious and violent crimes. For example, the penal code establishes a similar sentence for a nonviolent robbery and a homicide without aggravating factors. Approximately 72,000 inmates are currently incarcerated for theft.
The Mexican penal system must be altered and not simply used for preventative detention. Alternative sanctions should also be explored so that the punishments better fit the crimes. Overcrowded prisons become violent and ineffective at any form of rehabilitation. Former President Felipe Calderon admitted the country’s prisons only serve a retributive purpose. The new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has promised to envision new solutions. Hopefully those will be coming soon.
Follow me on Twitter: @JustinoBrooks
For more information please see: <http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=355719>
According to government figures, Brazilian police kill more suspects than any other country in the world. In 2011, police in the city of Sao Paulo killed one suspect for every 229 they arrested, in comparison to the United States, where it is one per every 31,575.
An incident last November illustrated this problem. A suspected car thief, Paulo Nascimento, was caught hiding in his home in a poor outskirt of Sao Paulo. He emerged pleading for his life: one officer slapped him, another kicked him in the rear, and a third shot him. The officers attempted to drive Nascimento to the hospital, but he died en route. Police have now been prohibited from transporting wounded suspects to hospitals, as this is often a cover-up for executions. In 2012, 360 of the 379 people transported to the hospital by police ultimately died.
What drew attention to the incident was that an anonymous neighbor got cell phone footage of the confrontation and Nascimento’s final moments. As a result of the video, the officers involved in the death of Nascimento are facing criminal charges; trial began in August of 2013.
Killings of suspects in custody or at the hands of police death squads have become the norm. However, the public is not demanding these officers be convicted. In a poll taken weeks after Nascimento was killed, 53% of Sao Paulo residents said an officer who kills criminals should not be imprisoned. The citizens are fed up with the high levels of robbery-homicides and largely unsympathetic to the fate of those who die in police custody.
Follow me on Twitter: @JustinoBrooks
For more information please see: <http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323836504578553643435119434>
Luciano Peralta was the father of three children. He earned his living as a gardener. He had recently separated from his wife, Esther Cerrudo, but the two were on very amicable terms. On Sunday, October 27, 2013, Esther asked Luciano to watch the kids while she took care of some personal matters.
Argentinian police officers allege that a neighbor called to report a robbery at Esther’s residence. When they arrived, the officers arrested Luciano in front of his children. They proceeded to seize his motorcycle and the bicycle that belonged to Luciano’s young son.
Luciano was imprisoned in La Plata, a province in the capital city. When his ex-wife and mother arrived at the prison, Esther explained that she had asked him to be there and the children at the house were Luciano’s children. Nonetheless, they were told he would be spending the night in jail.
The following day, a public defender assured Luciano he would be free. She noted that he seemed lost and confused. Prior to his being released, Luciano began to suffer a panic attack. He started trembling and convulsing. His mother was at the prison, but she was not allowed to see him. The officers did not call a doctor nor did they call an ambulance. Luciano received no medical attention. Ultimately, he died in his cell.
We may never know the true motivations for the arrest or what really happened to Luciano at the jail. This case is another example of tragedies that can result from wrongful arrests and the need for reform within the Argentinian police.
Follow me on Twitter: @JustinoBrooks
For more information please see:
Ruling marks historic week in Brooklyn D.A.’s Office: Discredited detective’s files to be reviewed by judge
As reported (here) in the New York Daily News, New York Supreme Court Justice Desmond Green yesterday denied a motion by the Brooklyn District Attorney to suppress a subpoena, submitted by lawyers for inmate Shabaka Shakur, to obtain the files of former police Detective Louis Scarcella. The retired detective is implicated in possible tampering in nearly 40 cases that may have resulted in wrongful convictions. In addition to the denied motion, the judge ordered the Brooklyn D.A. to provide the files of all the identified cases, two at a time, to the judge himself for review.
District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes had called for the review of Scarcella’s cases, after his Convictions Integrity Unit had cleared the conviction of David Ranta. Mr. Ranta had spent 23 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Continue reading
- Diary of a UK Innocence Project part 5: Catch 22 of Pursuing Justice
- In the UK, an exoneree sadly commits suicide as a result of false allegations
- Irish Innocence Project helps Irish woman fight for her husband’s freedom in Greece
- Ten points that led to Ryan Ferguson’s freedom
- Brooklyn DA must release files in cases of bad cop Louis Scarcella