Category Archives: Uncategorized

Court tosses convictions but won’t say couple is innocent

No matter how much evidence of innocence might exist, it is sometimes next to impossible to get the courts to fully admit error. That’s what happened yesterday, when Dan and Fran Keller, who were convicted on “satanic daycare abuse” charges in 1992, finally had their convictions overturned by Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. While the court ruled that the Kellers were wrongly convicted, the Austin American-Statesman reports here, it just couldn’t come around to admitting the Kellers, who were released in 2013, were actually innocent.  The Kellers plan to continue their fight.

1,600 U.S. Exonerations Highlight Unacceptable Error in Criminal Justice

The National Registry of Exonerations has announced a chilling milestone, the 1,600th known exoneration in the United States since 1989. The tally of persons known to have been convicted of crimes they did not commit has grown rapidly from the Registry’s launch three years ago. The 1600th exoneration, that of Michael McAlister, occurred last week.

Maurice Possley’s Registry report on Michael McAlister (here) provides the telling details — case unique and yet familiar — of a tragic miscarriage. Police and prosecutors would come to doubt McAlister’s guilt and subsequently joined a long effort to correct this stubborn error. Continue reading

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Breaking News: Amanda Knox Exonerated!!!!!!

Story here

Wrongful Conviction Humor at the Expense of Texas….

From the Onion:

Texas Now Regretting Wasting Doses Of Pancuronium Bromide On Innocent Guys Back In 1997, 2000, 2004

HUNTSVILLE, TX—Noting that their prison system’s supply of lethal injection drugs continues to dwindle as more manufacturers agree to halt sales, sources within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed Thursday that they now regret wasting doses of pancuronium bromide on innocent prisoners in 1997, 2000, and 2004. “Using up 100 milligrams of this stuff on a wrongfully convicted inmate wasn’t such a big deal back when we had a steady stream of these chemicals coming in, but now we’d give anything to have fatal amounts of that compound back,” said the department’s executive director, Brad Livingston, emphasizing that, had the agency known it would one day be scrambling to find and acquire suitable substitutes for the deadly cocktail, it would have shown a bit more patience and discretion when handing down death sentences in questionable cases. “In those days, pumping a bunch of this stuff into some guy who was in here due to incompetent public defenders, unreliable testimony, and an implausible timeline of events wasn’t the most economical use of our stockpile, but it just seemed like a drop in the bucket. Now that we’re down to our last few syringes, though, it’s hard not to think about all the paralysis-inducing solution we could’ve saved for actual murderers.” Livingston added that, even in light of recent shortages, he still had no reservations about executing the mentally retarded.

Monday Quick Clicks…

Another conviction reversed because of misleading PowerPoint images

Last month, this blog highlighted here a Marshall Project report on how prosecutors are winning convictions through the egregious misuse of PowerPoint presentations.

Now, the Marshall Project reports here the reversal of yet another conviction because of prosecutors’ use of inflammatory and misleading PowerPoint images during a trial. That brings the total of such reversals to 11, the Marshall Project says. There likely will be more.

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

  • How the Irish Innocence Project got justice for Harry Gleeson; here’s a video about their work
  • Exoneree Jeffrey Deskovic will share his story at the Sundance Film Festival
  • Bill filed in Alaska that would provide compensation for exonerees
  • Friendship Nine’ To Be Exonerated 54 Years After Bold Stand Against Segregated Lunch Counter in Rock Hill, SC
  • Brooklyn DA investigating allegations of NYPD officers planting guns on innocent people
  • Victims of two of Britain’s most worrying miscarriages of justice of modern times are to take the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, to court over changes to the law stopping them from receiving compensation for the 24 years they wrongly spent behind bars. Victor Nealon, who spent 17 years in prison for attempted rape before his conviction was quashed, has begun legal action after being left penniless, suffering from post-traumatic stress and unable to work as a result of his wrongful imprisonment. He has been joined by one of Britain’s youngest miscarriage of justice victims, Sam Hallam, who, aged 17, was convicted of murder after a trainee chef was stabbed during a fight in London.  Keep reading….
  • Annual report of the Wits Justice Project in South Africa
  • Chicago police videotaping photo lineups and live lineups under new law

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Fernando Bermudez Reaches $4.75 Million Settlement for Wrongful Imprisonment

Courtsey of Fernando Bermudez.

From the LA Times:

By Javier Panzar and Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Dec 23, 2014

A New York man who spent 18 years in prison for murder he did not commit will receive a $4.75-million settlement from the state, the largest award for a wrongful conviction in New York history.

Fernando Bermudez was arrested in a 1991 shooting and convicted the next year of second-degree murder, but a judge in 2009 declared him innocent after several witnesses recanted their testimony.  Continue reading

Exoneration in Australia?: Henry Keogh freed after 20 years.

Australia has seen another high-profile wrongful conviction hit the headlines this week with the release on bail of Henry Keogh after serving 19 years in prison for the apparent murder of his fiancee in 1994. Keogh had always maintained his innocence, claiming a litany of errors during the autopsy, resulting in the bizarre conclusion that he had drowned his fiancee in t5984014-3x2-340x227he bath by lifting her legs over her head. The motive was apparently financial, with his fiancee having several life insurance policies. The case has been back and forth to the South Australian courts and Governors over the years until the South Australian Court of Criminal Appeal finally ordered a retrial on Monday, permitted Keogh to be free until such time the DPP decides to bring another prosecution. Keogh, aged 59, was only permitted a further appeal to the courts after a change in South Australian legislation last year, allowing appeals on ‘new and fresh compelling evidence’. Read more on the news here….

Henry Keogh released on bail after 20 years in jail on Anna-Jane Cheney murder conviction

and a journalist who assisted with the case for years, Bob Mole, has a page dedicated to Henry Keogh’s case here….

Networked Knowledge: The Henry Keogh Homepage

 

 

China: Court reverses death penalty decision; police officer arrested.

Inner Mongolia’s High People’s Court has overturned the conviction of Huugjilt, an ethnic Mongolian, for the rape and murder of a woman in Hohot. Huugjilt had been put to death in 1996. The court officially apologised to the man’s family and the head of the court made a personal donation of 30 k yuan. The case has attracted much criticism and outrage. Media report here.

The police officer in charge of the case has just been arrested and charged with using torture to obtain a confession among others. Media report here.

Center for Prosecutor Integrity Surveys Rise of Conviction Integrity Units

Press release from Center for Prosecutorial Integrity….

WASHINGTON / December 4, 2014 — Since 2007, state and federal prosecutors have established 16 Conviction Integrity Units to assure the accuracy of convictions obtained by their offices, according to a White Paper released today by the Maryland-based Center for Prosecutor Integrity.

Prosecuting attorneys in districts from Santa Clara County, California to Washington, D.C. began establishing the units after DNA evidence led to a rising number of exonerations.

The White Paper, titled “Conviction Integrity Units: Vanguard of Criminal Justice Reform,” outlines the structure and administration of the 16 conviction integrity units now existing in the U.S. The report reveals that the nine units established by the end of 2013 accomplished nearly 7,000 case reviews, resulting in 61 exonerations.

Gina Lauterio, Program Director of the Center for Prosecutor Integrity, said the report is the first to reveal how the number and effectiveness of the units has grown in recent years. “I hope that all District Attorneys in the country will consider what’s being done in these 16 districts and adopt similar practices.”

Lauterio noted the nonprofit Center encourages scholarship on the causes of wrongful convictions and efforts to minimize them. “We commend the growing number of prosecutors who are now devoting resources to reexamine questionable cases.”

The report is available on the Center’s website:  http://www.prosecutorintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Conviction-Integrity-Units.pdf

Recent Rash of Exonerations Only the Surface: Many More Remain Wrongfully Imprisoned

By Jefferey Deskovic for The Huffington Post

Fernando Bermudez. Sami Leka. Jose Morales. Reuben Montalvo. Lazaro Burts. Kareen Bellamy. Anthony Ortiz. Frank Sterling. Roy Brown. Dennis Halstead. John Kogut. Eric Glisson. Jonathan Fleming.

Those are the names of 13 men that I personally knew and served time with who were exonerated either during my 16 years in prison or thereafter.

Last year there were 91 exonerations. This year there have been 90 thus far. To date there have been 1482 exonerations overall, only 321 of them being DNA related. Since taking office this past January, Brooklyn DA Thompson’s conviction integrity unit has exonerated 11 people.

Most experts estimate the percentage of wrongfully convicted prisoners to be 2 to 5% of the inmate population — that is 120,000 people. I deem the number to be closer to 15 to 20%.

In either case, what is causing the staggering number of wrongful convictions?

Rogue Law Enforcement. In Brooklyn, disgraced retired detective Scarcella was found to have used the same drug addict as the sole eyewitness in six different murder cases. Various news accounts say as many as 70 homicides he worked on are being reviewed.

Forensic Fraud. In Pennsylvania, forensic scientist, Annie Dhookhan, was sentenced to three to five years in prison and two years of probation after pleading guilty to 27 counts of misleading investigators, filing false reports, and tampering with evidence.

Additionally, forensic scientists are given financial incentives for giving prosecutorial favorable results that lead to conviction in North Carolina, Illinois, Alabama, New Mexico, Kentucky, New Jersey, Virginia, Arizona, California, Missouri, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

Prosecutorial Misconduct. Lying to judges and juries about the existence of benefits and in some cases coercion to informants was a regular practice over the span of the 23 year tenure of former Brooklyn DA Hynes, as was withholding of evidence of innocence.

Junk science. For 40 years, FBI experts have testified in court about “bullet lead analysis” a procedure in which bullets found at a crime scene are tested for arsenic, tin, silver, and other contaminants or additives, and the findings were compared to analysis of bullets found in the possession of suspects. These experts claimed to be able to link one bullet to others from the same production run. For at least 20 years, FBI officials knew that there were no scientific underpinnings to this junk science — that in fact, there were no studies shown to determine how significant a “match” was.

Disgraced dog scent expert Preston came into courtrooms in Texas and Florida for over 20 years, stating that he had trained dogs which would bark if, after being given items to smell from a crime, the dog recognized the scent from a suspect’s item. Preston claimed that his dogs could smell human traces years or months after a suspect walked over the ground, on heavily trafficked streets, underwater, and even after hurricanes. He is not the only “expert” in this “field.”

In 2013, it was revealed that in 27 death penalty cases, FBI forensic experts may have exaggerated the scientific conclusions that were drawn from a so-called “match” between hair found at a crime scene and hair from a defendant.

Tire tracks, footprints, and bite marks are also junk science.

I served 16 years in prison, from the ages of 17 to 32, wrongfully convicted of a murder and rape in New York, despite the fact that the DNA never matched. I lost all seven of my appeals, including two of which now US Supreme Court Judge Sotomayor denied on procedural grounds for having been four days late despite my substantive innocence argument. Ultimately I was exonerated because further DNA testing identified the actual perpetrator, who killed another victim 3.5 years later.

Using $1.5 million dollars of compensation I received, I started The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice to exonerate the wrongfully convicted in DNA and non-DNA cases, educate the public, elected officials, and criminal justice professionals on the causes of wrongful conviction and the reforms need to prevent them, and help the exonerated reintegrate. In two years time, we helped exonerate William Lopez, who had served 23.5 years, and helped 4 wrongfully convicted men reintegrate back into society by providing short-term housing, which enabled them to pursue further education, and in one case open a business.

This holiday season, while celebrating with friends and family, we hope you’ll take a brief moment to remember all those who remain wrongfully imprisoned.

To learn more about The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice and how you can help, please visit here.

Ireland: Inaugural International Wrongful Conviction Conference & Film Festival

The Irish Innocence Project, working since 2009 at Griffith College, has announced Ireland’s Inaugural International Wrongful Conviction Conference and Film Festival – to newlogo2be held 26th and 27th June 2015. They have also launched a crowd funding appeal: “Be the Key: Set an Innocent Free”, to help the college students to work on overturning wrongful convictions in Ireland.

300914 Wrongful Conviction CR Shutterstock_0_0

See more details of the  conference and film festival – with great speakers, and the crowd funding appeal here:

Inaugural International Wrongful Conviction Conference & Film Festival

Great day in UK for Innocence: Cardiff University Justice Project Overturns Wrongful Conviction

The news coming from the UK in recent months, if not years, has rarely been good. Today (9th December 2014) is different, for today, the Criminal Court of Appeal found the conviction of Dwaine George ‘unsafe’ and overturned his  _79607026_ico12-1conviction for murder. George, convicted of shooting dead a teenager in a gang related incident in 2001, served 12 years of his life sentence behind bars, and was released last year.

Professor Julie Price and Dr Dennis Eady, who run Cardiff’s Innocence Project, were joined at the Royal Courts of Justice by 30 Cardiff law students, past and present, to hear the result of the students’ investigative work. Dr Eady said: “It has taken nine years of hard work since the project was launched to get to this point, and based on our students’ efforts the Court of Appeal has decided that Mr George’s conviction is unsafe.We appreciate that today’s decision will be difficult for Daniel Dale’s family, but if the wrong person was jailed then the right outcome has today been achieved.”

Prof Price added: “For Cardiff Law School Innocence Project, and other university projects working on alleged wrongful conviction cases, this is a significant day. It demonstrates that universities are about more than research, and can show public impact from innovative teaching and learning. This result has been achieved by collaborative effort. A huge thanks to our many supporters and students past and present.”

Sir Brian Levenson said in his ruling: “In addition to expressing our gratitude to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, we pay tribute to the work of the Innocence Project and Pro Bono Unit at Cardiff Law School, which took up the appellant’s case and pursued it so diligently.”

With the recent turmoil amongst those working in universities across the UK and their Innocence Projects (mostly called Justice Projects today because they do not satisfy the criteria for the title ‘Innocence Project’) this is a great victory. Many staff work tirelessly for little or no recognition, with students facing ever greater hurdles to have their work and dedication praised. Cardiff University;s staff and students will continue to work tirelessly and have many other cases that are working their way, slowly, through the CCRC. One can only hope that this is the first success of many. But today is a also shot in the arm for all of those working on behalf of the innocent – sorely needed, and richly deserved.

Watch news item and interviews here:

Cardiff Uni students help Dwaine George win murder appeal

Read more here:

UK judge praises students for helping overturn murder conviction

Judge praises Cardiff University law students for helping overturn Dwaine George’s murder conviction

Ex-gang member Dwaine George cleared of 2002 murder on appeal

Leighton Hay Exoneration in Canada…

From the Canada Times:

The charges opposite Leighton Hay, a Toronto male convicted of an execution-style murder in 2002, were cold this morning and he walked out of probity a giveaway male after some-more than 12 years in prison.

The Crown said it is no longer in a open seductiveness to pursue a case.

Hay, 19 during a time, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the July 2002 murdering of 51-year-old Colin Moore. But he appealed based on debate contrast on hairs found in his apartment.

Hay’s case was taken on by a Association in Defence of a Wrongly Convicted in 2011, that called it “factual innocence.”

Leighton Hay

Leighton Hay was 19-years-old when he was convicted of a murder he did not commit. (CBC)

“Leighton has been by a calamity for all these years,” pronounced James Lockyer, a association’s comparison counsel, who pronounced before Hay was expelled that his “walk into leisure today” would be ”momentous for him.”

“This was a miscarriage of probity of a top order,” Lockyer added.

Hay’s lawyers have asked Justice John McMahon to apologize on interest of a probity system.

Hair Justification Pivotal To Case

On Jul 6, 2002, Moore was hosting an eventuality during a nightclub in a Toronto suburb of Etobicoke. At 1:13 a.m. ET, dual group armed with handguns stormed into a nightclub, and shot and killed Moore.

Police identified one of a gunmen as Gary Eunick.

Eunick had borrowed a automobile of Hay’s mom and was pushing it a night in question, according to police.

When military found a automobile during Hay’s home, they arrested both Eunick and Hay.

Witnesses from a nightclub described a second gunman as carrying “two in. picky dreads” — longer hair than what Hay had during a time.

Leighton Hay leaves court

Leighton Hay and his father Lasalle travel from a Superior Court on Friday morning. (Michelle Cheung/CBC)

The Crown argued during his strange hearing in 2004 that Hay returned home after a sharpened and had a haircut.

The military searched for justification of a haircut during Hay’s home, and found some really brief hairs in a journal in a rubbish bin and on an electric razor in his bedroom.

Hay’s lawyers presented justification during a interest — a second interest on a crime — that questioned either Hay indeed got a haircut.

Hay’s lawyers also highlighted one declare who identified Hay with “80 per cent” certainty as a gunman during a nightclub. Two weeks later, the same declare did not name Hay’s print in a lineup.

Breaking News: Man Released from Prison by Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office

It was reported today in Japan that a man who was sentenced to 12 years in prison had been released. He was accused and convicted of rape and indecent assault, but filed a motion for a retrial.

The Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office has decided that he was actually innocent and already submitted a statement to the Osaka District Court.

It is said that the testimony of the victim which was the main evidence of his guilt was found to be false.

More news will follow…

Red Inocente Conference 2014

The Red Inocente conference in Bogota, Colombia this past weekend was an incredible success.  We had over 800 participants attend, including Angelino Garzon, the former ex-president of Colombia.  Staff attended from international innocence projects in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Peru.  The conference was hosted by the Colombia Innocence Project at the Universidad Manuela Beltrán, which boasts 8 exonerations in the past 5 years.

EricOpening Table

Red Inocente is a legal education program that offers assistance to legal professionals in Latin America to create projects dedicated to the release of those wrongly convicted.  We also create and develop legislative reforms to reduce the number of wrongful convictions.  Red Inocente was based on more than a decade of success by the both the California Innocence Project and Proyecto ACCESO.

Martha ColombiaJustin from Above

Blacks must wait longer to be exonerated, study shows

From The Huffington Post:

By Michael McLaughlin

It took 18 years for DNA evidence to surface that cleared Derrick Williams of a rape and attempted kidnapping in Florida. Prosecutors had relied on the testimony of the victim, who identified Williams as her attacker in 1992. But he walked free at age 48 in 2011 because his DNA didn’t match that left on a gray T-shirt by the actual perpetrator.

The truth might have surfaced sooner if Williams were white or Latino instead of African-American.

There’s no way to know for sure, of course, but data about wrongful convictions show that blacks who are exonerated after a bogus conviction have served 12.68 years on average before the good news, according to Pamela Perez, professor of biostatistics at Loma Linda University. It takes just 9.4 years for whites and 7.87 for Latinos.

“Black Americans are exonerated at a substantially slower rate than any other race,” said a new report from Perez, shown exclusively to The Huffington Post.

There’s enough of a pattern that the differences between racial groups cannot be called random, Perez said. But there isn’t enough information to explain what caused the differences.

“All we can do is infer,” Perez told HuffPost. “You can’t prove a darn thing.”

She discovered the different timespans by examining 1,450 exonerations listed on theNational Registry of Exonerations through Oct. 20, 2014. Perez conducted the research for Safer-America.com, a consumer research group.

The findings are based on what is probably only a fraction of all exonerations. There are likely cases that didn’t make it onto the national registry, and there are almost certainly more wrongly convicted people still waiting to clear their names.

The registry didn’t collaborate with Perez, but one of its researchers reviewed Perez’s work at HuffPost’s request and approved of her methodology.

“I’m not surprised by the numbers,” said Sam Gross, the exoneration registry’s editor and a University of Michigan law professor. “The main thing we can say is that it’s very hard to know what it means.”

Perez, Gross and others cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the findings. Without further research, they said, no one knows if the results were caused by a biased criminal justice system or other factors.

The Innocence Project looked at a smaller set of 212 cases in which DNA proof freed their clients. (The national registry includes exonerations due to other contributing factors like false confessions and perjury.) The project found a similar racial disparity, with black inmates serving 14.3 years before being exonerated compared to 12.2 years for all other racial groups.

“These two numbers are statistically different, suggesting that the difference between them isn’t due to chance,” Innocence Project research analyst Vanessa Meterko told HuffPost. “It’s notable, but it’s hard to say what the difference is.”