Category Archives: Project Spotlights

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

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  • Innocence Project of South Africa now officially a member of the Innocence Network
  • In the UK, new law could limit compensation to exonerees who can conclusively prove innocence
  • Nearly 350 years after his execution, a french jew is exonerated and declared a martyr
  • Almost 70 years after a 14-year-old African American was executed in South Carolina following the slaying of two young white girls, family members asked a local judge on Tuesday to order a retrial and correct what they called a long-ago miscarriage of justice.  Continue reading….

Wrongfully Convicted Man Released After 10 Years in Washington State

Congratulations to Brandon Olebar and to the Innocence Project Northwest!

From the Seattle Times:

December 23, 2013 at 11:28 AM

Wrongly convicted King County man released after 10 years in prison

Posted by Mike Carter

A man who spent 10 years in prison for robbery and burglary has been released after the Innocence Project Northwest persuaded King County prosecutors to re-examine the man’s conviction, which was based solely on eyewitness testimony.

The case of Brandon Olebar came to the attention of the Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW),  based out of the clinical law program at the University of Washington Law School, in 2011. The project said two students “developed a body of evidence” that showed Olebar was not among the assailants who in February 2003 broke into the home of Olebar’s sister’s boyfriend, pistol-whipped and beat him unconscious and then stuffed him in a closet. The victim said as many as eight attackers beat him for more than 10 minutes, during which time he recognized Olebar’s sister as one of them. He told police the attackers had “feather” facial tattoos.

Two days after the beating, the victim identified Brandon Olebar from a photograph montage. Despite the fact that he does not have a facial tattoo and that he had an alibi, Olebar was charged with burglary and robbery, convicted by a King County jury solely on the basis of eyewitness testimony, and sentenced to 16 1/2 years in prison.

IPNW Director Jacqueline McMurtrie said two law students, Nikki Carsley and Kathleen Klineall, tracked down and interviewed three of the assailants, who signed sworn statements admitting their involvement and denying that Brandon Olebar was present. Working with IPN attorney Fernanda Torres, they presented the new evidence to Mark Larson, the chief criminal deputy prosecutor to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. Continue reading

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

  • Innocence Project New Orleans is hosting a fundraiser featuring David Simon and the cast of HBO’s Treme, which shined light on flawed criminal justice system
  • The Minnesota Innocence Project and a Twin Cities law firm are digging for legal flaws that could free five men convicted of killing a co-worker in Green Bay 21 years ago. The five were convicted of killing Tom Monfils in 1992 at what was then the James River paper mill.  Monday night, almost four dozen people took part in an annual walk and rally for the defendants. Denis Gullickson told them that two attorneys from Minnesota are examining the case for free – as is the St. Paul-based equivalent of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, which has succeeded in freeing a number of high-profile inmates who were wrongly convicted.  More details
  • Diary of a UK Innocence Project Part 3:  Students, students everywhere and not a stop to think
  • Illinois hopes to stem wrongful convictions with new interrogation law

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

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Friday’s Quick Clicks…

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  • Texas moves one step closer to establishing an exoneration review commission
  • Kevin Curtis, the Elvis impersonator falsely accused of mailing letters laced with ricin to Barack Obama and U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, was released Tuesday night and gave an exclusive, and bizarre, interview to CNN’s Piers Morgan.
  • In Canada, man wrongfully convicted of rape sues government 43 years later
  • California Innocence Project supporters soon to begin their 600 mile walk for justice
  • Great DNA access decision by Kentucky Supreme Court
  • Spotlight on new West Virginia Innocence Project
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has refused to hear en banc a 2012 decision affirming a grant of habeas corpus where the panel referenced scientific literature submitted by amicus curiae, The Innocence Project, on ways in which in-court identifications can be tainted by the facts of the crime, prior identification procedures and other factors.

Jeramie R. Davis Freed After Nearly 6 Years in Prison

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

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

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Friday’s Quick Clicks…

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Innocence Project Northwest Fights for the Compensation Bill in Washington

From Seattle Weekly:

The Innocence Project Tries Again with Wrongly Convicted Compensation Bill

 By Matt Driscoll Wed., Feb. 6 2013 at 8:00 AM

As the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

 Thwarted during the last two legislative sessions in an ongoing attempt to push a bill through that provides financial compensation for the wrongly convicted, the Innocence Project – with help from its local, University of Washington-affiliated chapter and sponsor Rep. Tina Orwall (D – Des Moines) – have gotten back on the horse, championing HB 1341. If passed the legislation would require the state to dole out payments to those who were unjustly convicted of a crime they didn’t commit.

The bill is scheduled for a House Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, with advocates planning a rally at the Capital Building in Olympia to coincide with the event. But much like was the case in 2011 and 2012, the bill’s ultimate fate is likely tied to something far more straightforward than public support and rallies – how much it will cost. Continue reading

A Day in the Life of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project

From source:

While a 1L, Susan Friedman learned of a critical National Academy of Sciences report on the strengths and weaknesses of forensic science in the courtroom. Susan, who came to law school with two science degrees (a Bachelor’s in Biochemistry and a Master’s in Biomedical Sciences) and a passion for public interest law, was in the market for something that would combine her science background with her interest in service. She wasted no time; at the beginning of her 2L year, she contacted the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and ended up interning there throughout the rest of her time at law school. After law school, Susan was awarded an Equal Justice Works Fellowship to continue her work with forensic science reform and wrongful convictions at the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project.  

5:30 a.m. On days that I have to visit a client at the prison I wake up early. While some of the prisons I go to can be within an hour of my office, the one I drive to most often is two and a half hours away.

7:00 a.m. I’m out the door, buy a cup of coffee, and hit the road to make a 10 a.m. meeting with a client. Prisons are very particular about visiting hours, and I want to make sure I have enough time to meet with everyone I set up an appointment to see.

8:00 a.m. On non-visit days, I get to sleep in a little! But I try to leave the house by this time at the latest since the commute to my office takes about an hour.

9:00 a.m. On non-visit days, I arrive at the office and prepare for a case meeting with our legal staff and case investigator. During case meetings, we discuss issues we are dealing with in the cases we’re investigating, and provide updates to each other on our own cases. The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project serves Maryland, DC and Virginia, and I focus on the Maryland cases; regular communication is essential since we handle so many cases.

10:00 a.m. On visit days, I meet with my client at the prison. I update him on the status of his case: how the investigation is going, the documents we need and witnesses we’re looking for, what I’m working on and what to expect next. Because innocence cases take so many years to sort out, it’s common for lawyers working on these types of cases to develop a close relationship with the client’s family, and often I will communicate with the family before and after the client visit as well.

Because the prison is so far away, I try to schedule meetings with three or four indivduals in the same day, if I have time. Sometimes I need to interview a witness there for another case I’m working on or talk to a defendant whose case the Project is considering accepting. When I interview a witness, I’ll bring legal interns from the Project along with me, not just because it’s a great learning experience for them, but also because it’s a good idea for me to have my own witness to my interview with the case witness.

12:30 p.m. Multitask while eating lunch—check my e-mails, return phone calls. On non-visit days, case meetings usually go until lunchtime. If the investigator is in the office that day, he and I may also meet during this time. He might give me an update on a witness he’s spoken with, and I might request him to see a certain witness or track down some documents for me.

1:00 p.m. On visit days, I always leave by this time because the prison follows its own tight schedule for inmates. If I’m by myself, I’ll grab a quick lunch before beginning the long drive back. If I’m with interns, we’ll go out to lunch together and debrief. I’ll answer any questions they may have, ask what their impressions were and if they have any ideas or strategies for dealing with the case.

2:00 p.m. Spend time writing a petition for a Writ of Actual Innocence for a client or work on my judicial forensic science training manual. I do a lot of writing when I’m in the office. As part of my fellowship, I’m writing a manual that is primarily for judges, but I anticipate it to be useful for all stakeholders on how forensic science and the law interact in the criminal justice system. A big part of my fellowship is litigating cases where there has been a misuse of forensic science. My cases involve non-DNA evidence such as microscopic hair analysis, firearm mark analysis and gunshot residue. While forensic science is a valuable tool, it has gone unchallenged for a long time, and not been held to the same standards as other scientific disciplines. My manual is designed to make science a little less scary for judges and stakeholders and to encourage them to really analyze the science and expert testimony, challenge it if necessary, and hold it to rigorous evidentiary standards.

When I’m not writing, I often hold conference calls with experts and co-counsel in my cases. The Project co-counsels on most cases with law firms in the area, so I often have calls with other attorneys who work on cases with me. After I’m done with phone calls, I take the afternoon to look into any cases that I was assigned during case meeting. Usually, the case has forensic science issues, so I focus on the expert testimony, look at the facts, and try to determine if the forensic science testimony is credible or if the case needs further investigation.

4:00 p.m. On visit days, I get back to the office. I like to record the events of the day while the details are fresh in my mind. Afterwards, I want to see what I’ve missed being out of the office all day, and hope that documents from police departments or crime labs arrived.

7:00 p.m. Head home for the night. Whether I spent most of my time in the office or out, it’s the end to a long, rewarding day! My clients are incredibly strong, inspiring people who motivate me to work hard every day.

 

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

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Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

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Launch of Israeli Wrongful Convictions Clinic…

Audience at conference

Audience at conference


On Monday, October 12, 2012 (The International Human Rights Day), a conference took place at the Hebrew University School of Law, which launched the new (and first of its kind in Israel) wrongful convictions clinic, that was recently opened at the Hebrew University School of Law, in collaboration with the Israeli Public Defender’s Office.

The conference, organized by Dr. Anat Horovitz, Deputy Head of the National Public Defender’s Office, and Dr. Einat Albin, Head of the Center for Clinical Education at the Hebrew University School of Law, began with greetings by Dr. Guy Rotkopf, Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Justice, Prof. Yuval Shany, Dean of the Hebrew University School of Law, and Dr. Yoav Sapir, Head of the National Public Defender’s Office. The greetings were followed by an exceptional keynote speech delivered by Prof. Larry Marshall of Stanford Law School.  During the second session of the conference, the well-known documentary filmmaker, Ms. Ofra Bikel, talked about her work and part of her film the “Confessions” was viewed by the audience.

Keynote speaker:  Larry Marshall

Keynote speaker: Larry Marshall

At the final session of the conference, a panel which included former Supreme Court Justice E. Goldberg, Prof. M. Kremnitzer (Vice President of the Israel Democracy  Institute), Ms. E. Fink (Head of the Re-Trial Department at the National Public Defender’s Office) and Mr. S. Lemberger (Deputy Israel State Attorney), engaged in a lively discussion regarding procedures for addressing wrongful convictions in Israel, moderated by Dr. Anat Horovitz. The conference was open to the public and attended by  many criminal law professionals (including judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys) as well as a large number of law students.

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

  • clickThe new West Virginia Innocence Project helps an exoneree clear his name from the sex offender registry
  • Irish barrister shadows Duke Innocence Project
  • Story on the documentary West of Memphis
  • Don’t let the Florida Innocence Commission die

Update with the Wits Justice Project in South Africa…

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I am cutting and pasting below an email from the Wits Justice Project in South Africa.  I had the pleasure of visiting these folks about 2 years ago.  They are a first-class organization.

The Wits Justice Project team – Nooshin, Carolyn, Gift, Grethe, Robyn, Ruth and Tshepang – would like to thank you for your support and encouragement in 2012 and wish you a restful and safe holiday and festive season and a very successful 2013.

We have had a tremendously exciting year and would like to share some of the highlights with you:

a. Journalism

  • WJP won the Webber Wentzel Legal Journalist of the Year award for the second year in a row. Senior journalist, Ruth Hopkins, won first prize and our other senior journalist, Carolyn Raphaely, was first runner-up for her articles on torture. Carolyn won this prestigious award last year, in 2011.

The articles for which Ruth won her award were in two categories. The first looks at the scourge of TB in our prisons and how it has affected both the inmates and their families.

1. “Sisters probe TB scourge in prison” http://mg.co.za/article/2012-04-13-sisters-probe-tb-scourge-in-prisonwhich appeared in the Mail & Guardian and

2. “SA prisons: hotbed for spread of TB inside and outside” http://www.journalism.co.za/index.php/wjpnews/5064-sa-prisons-hotbed-for-tb-inside-and-outside.html which appeared in the Saturday Star.

The second category was the systemic failures which cause unreasonable delays in finalizing cases.

1. “Incarcerated since 2007 – but trial hasn’t progressed” http://www.iol.co.za/the-star/incarcerated-since-2007-but-trial-hasn-t-progressed-1.1255807 which appeared in The Star, show the consequences of court delays,

2. “Who is watching the lawyers?” (with Grethe Koen) http://www.iol.co.za/saturday-star/who-is-watching-the-lawyers-1.1328182 which appeared in the Saturday Star.

b. Advocacy

  • WJP project coordinator, Nooshin, was asked to speak at various conferences on issues affecting remand detainees and other matters affecting the criminal justice system . This included the “Helen Suzman Foundation Quarterly Roundtable on Remand Continue reading

Spotlight on Oklahoma Innocence Project

From Kosu.org:

A law clinic operating out of Oklahoma City University is on a mission to balance the scales for the state’s wrongfully convicted. The Oklahoma City Innocence Project is new to the state but they are just one cog in an older nationwide wheel meant to curb the mistakes of the justice system. But what does it take to prove someone innocent and how do they end up in prison?

“It is stressful at times because you realize that a person’s life is in your hands. That is truly daunting.”

How do you have that conviction to keep on being on call?

“Because I know what its like watching someone spend their life in prison for something they didn’t do. And it continues to happen.”

Professor Tiffany Murphy is head of the Oklahoma Innocence Project that just opened in August of last year. She’s on call 24 hours a day through the entire year mostly because her staff is just her and…

“…a staff attorney, a legal assistant, and along with clinical students from the law school.”

Right now that’s three students from OCU and the legal team tackles as many cases as they can handle.

“The project has had over 500 cases come through its doors. At any given time we have about 80 to 100 cases waiting in line to be reviewed and 12 -16 cases being actively worked up.”

500 cases? Can all of these people be innocent? Probably not, but Tiffany doesn’t take clients at just their word. Her team only focuses on a case if innocence can be proved.

“The cases that I’m working on are certainly very valid cases to be reviewed.”

Dan Grothaus is a private investigator Tiffany uses on occasion. He’s worked innocence cases before and has no illusions about a 100% accurate justice system.

“I think every community should make sure, if they’ve got someone locked up in prison for the rest of their life. They really should want to make sure they’ve got Continue reading

California Innocence Project to March from San Diego to Sacramento…

From examiner.com:

On April 27, 2013, the California Innocence Project and their supporters will march from San Diego to Sacramento to deliver something very important: clemency petitions for their clients that are innocent but remain incarcerated. The petition on Change.org started today and has already reached almost 9,000 signatures. They are hoping to get at least 120,000 signatures before the march in April. This is the amount they were able to get for Daniel Larson several months ago.

The 12 individuals they are marching for are called the California 12; 12 individuals that have been found innocent but yet remain in prison.

The walk will take almost two months, with planned stops along the way. The daily walks range between 7.5 miles and 23.6 miles. There are also Rally Days planned along the way. The public is invited to walk with CIP, specifically for 3 different days: April 27, 2013 from the San Diego Courthouse to Ocean Beach, May 7, 2013 from Manhattan Beach to Santa Monica, and Jun 14, 2013 from Berkeley to Walnut Creek. The petitions will be delivered to Governor Jerry Brown’s mansion on June 20, 2013.

The California 12 are:

To show support for the CIP and for the California 12, please consider purchasing CIP productsdonating $12 in 2012, and by signing the petition.

To learn more about how wrongful convictions happen, please see the review of False Justice.

 

 

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Launch of Philippines Innocence Project

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The Innocence Project Philippines has been recently launched by a high-energy group of people who I have had the pleasure of working with over the past few months (prior coverage here).  They sent this email out Friday announcing ways that others can help them get their feet on the ground.  They tell me that even $10 U.S. goes a long way in the Philippines, so they’re hoping readers of the blog will donate that amount to help them get going:

Dear Friends and Supporters of Give Up Tomorrow,

Now that you’ve watched Give Up Tomorrow (prior coverage here), and have seen how wrongful convictions affect lives, families and our society, many of you have asked:
What can we do about it? How can we help?

Here is an easy way to help:

Donate to the Innocence Project Philippines, and Forward this email to those that also want to help.

You can donate easily and safely online with your Credit Card at http://www.facebook.com/InnocenceProjectPhilippines

The Innocence Project [sic:  Innocence Network] is an international network of Law Schools that work with Law Students and their Professors that utilize DNA technology and provide pro bono legal and investigative services to wrongfully convicted persons, many of whom are impoverished and cannot afford the costs to defend themselves. It is a powerful force in establishing judicial reforms that redress the causes of wrongful convictions. To date, they have succeeded in exonerating over 321 people imprisoned for crimes they did not commit, and have been instrumental in establishing great improvements in judicial systems all over the world.

There is one launching TODAY here in the Philippines, and we need your help!

TODAY Saturday Dec.8, the University of the Philippines, Ateneo De Davao, De La Salle and FLAG are holding the first training camp for our volunteer law students at the DNA Analysis Laboratory, at Miranda Hall, University of the Philippines, from 8am to 5pm.

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TOMORROW Sunday Dec. 9, we are entering the New Bilibid Prison from 9am to 12 noon, and the Correctional Institute of Women from 2pm to 5pm,to launch our Innocence Project Philippines 2012 Campaign.

Up until now, the startup of our project has been largely funded by the students themselves, their professors, the universities’ Legal Clinics, and a few concerned individuals. We really need your help, because a fully-functioning Innocence Project has high ongoing costs that involve both legal work and DNA lab work. Each DNA test alone can cost P30,000. The startup of the project alone will cost us P300,000 (USD$7,500). Contingents as far as Davao, Cebu and Baguio are attending today.

You can donate safely online with a credit card, or send a cheque.

Here’s how:

Visit us on facebook and follow our link to donate.
We are using Paypal as our SAFE Credit Card donation provider…you do NOT need a Paypal account to use your Credit Card.

http://www.facebook.com/InnocenceProjectPhilippines

The Innocence Project is an international, proven and sustainable institution that is making great changes NOW, in our lifetimes, through DNA technology. Our Philippine contingency really needs your help to get started properly.

We also request that you please forward this email to those you believe will want to help make rapid and fundamental improvements in our Philippine Judicial System.

On behalf of Cora, Rowie, Chel, Jojo, Minerva, Cookie, Manny, Rene, Darwin, Jaime and all of us here at the Innocence Project of the Philippines, we thank you.

Innocence Project Philippines Network, Inc.
DNA Analysis Laboratory
Natural Sciences Research Institute, Miranda Hall
University of the Philippines
Diliman, 1101 Quezon City
UpDnaLab@innocenceprojectphilippines.org
Tel. 632-925-2965; 63918-913-6284

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…