Category Archives: Uncategorized

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

  • AIDWYC wants audit for all “Mr. Big” convictions
  • The investigation of a wrongful conviction:  The Jonathan Fleming Case
  • Exoneree Jabbar Collins settles with State of New York for $16 million
  • In Australia, the Chamberlain family car to become a museum exhibit as a reminder of the miscarriage of justice that occurred in that case
  •  New York exoneree Dewey Bozella launches youth boxing program
  • Georgia House committee studies exonerate compensation

Prosecutorial Misconduct in Orange County

An Orange County (California) Superior Court judge ruled on Monday that prosecutors committed serious misconduct in a case involving Orange County’s deadliest mass shooting.  And although the judge denied defense motion to bar the death penalty and remove the DA’s Office from the case, he did find multiple examples of prosecutorial misconduct in this and other cases.  Today’s report in the Orange County Register details these allegations and others against both the prosecutors and jail staff including withholding evidence from the defense, misusing jailhouse informants, etc. The judge also said in his report that he believed many witnesses, including prosecutors and law enforcement officers were “credibility challenged” and said that “Some perhaps suffered from a failure of recollection; others undoubtedly lied.”

The full story is at http://www.ocregister.com/articles/dekraai-630582-judge-prosecutors.html

Is ‘Innocence’ work over in the UK?

For some time, the news emanating from the UK has been getting worse with regard to the potential for miscarriages of justice, with law reforms diminishing legal protections for suspects and the almost total withdrawal of legal aid for the vast majority (nevermind the current moral panic of historic child sexual abuse which is swelling the prison population). This also comes at a time when changes to the rules on who can receive compensation for miscarriages of justice have also been ‘tightened’ to the point where barely anyone will qualify. I have blogged about many of the bad news stories coming out of the UK – including forensic science mishaps and police corruption seemingly continuing unabated regardless of new regulators or complaints bodies.Justice statue

Despite what one could view as the growing IMPORTANCE therefore of ‘innocence’ work in the UK, it looks as if things may be heading in the opposite direction. Following years of expansion with Innocence Projects being set up in universities across the country, it appears that these are now being encouraged to close. There are a host of reasons why Innocence Projects in the UK may be under threat (not least their position within univerisities whose priorites narrow ever further every day toward simply profit-making and rising up league tables.) They do not operate as a mirror to those in the US and internationally, largely because of the existence of the Criminal Cases Review Commission. However, their work is still invaluable. When I was Director of the University of Leeds Innocence Project, we received hundreds of letters (which still arrive weekly if not daily), reviewed dozens of cases, and assisted many prisoners. It also educated many students in the causes of, and remedies for, miscarriages of justice.  It gave many law students a passion for criminal legal aid work – where there is no money to be made and certainly no glory.

So – to read the announcement on the INUK website is all the more shocking. (see here… INUK – New Beginnings ). Where innocence work in the UK needs innovation, inspiration and support, it is being told that the day has come to pack our bags and go home. My thoughts are not only with those of us (staff and students alike) who have worked many years to get innocence taken seriously again in the UK, but those prisoners now who will be back at square one, with nowhere to turn yet again. How an ‘innocence network’ can survive, nevermind have any impact, with only one member, will remain to be seen.

New survey shows a majority of Americans favor life without parole instead of the death penalty

This new survey marks an important and historic shift for all of us concerned about justice and wrongful convictions.  The death penalty alone can serve as a powerful incentive to plead guilty when confronted by strong circumstantial evidence, in the hope that one can at least live and hope that the truth will emerge, rather than being put to death.  And replacing the death penalty can help us avoid putting innocent persons to death, of course.

The growing public awareness of wrongful convictions, the highly publicized cases involving exonerations of those serving long terms in prison, the publicity surrounding the use of DNA, and the continuing efforts of innocence projects around the nation, as well as the Wrongful Convictions Blog, have all helped contribute to the changing public perceptions and opinions.

Here is a summary of the survey, along with a link to the full story:

A slight majority of Americans favor life imprisonment without parole over the death penalty for convicted murderers, a first in ABC News/Washington Post polls. Given a choice between the two options, 52 percent pick life in prison as the preferred punishment, while 42 percent favor the death penalty, the fewest in polls during the last 15 years. The result comes after a botched execution by lethal injection in Oklahoma in April.

Without an alternative offered, 61 percent continue to support the death penalty, matching 2007 as the lowest in polls back to the early 1980s. That’s down sharply from 80 percent in 1994, during the period of the highest crime totals reported nationally. Support for the death penalty is higher in the 32 states that have it, 64 percent, vs. 54 percent elsewhere. This survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, measures views on the death penalty in general. Previous polling has shown that attitudes on capital punishment can vary widely depending on the nature and circumstances of the crime.

SOURCE: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/06/new-low-in-preference-for-the-death-penalty/

New technique may be able to date fingerprints

A key factor in the dubious conviction of Texan Kerry Max Cook in a 1977 rape and murder case was testimony of a police officer that the age of Cook’s fingerprints at the victim’s apartment near Cook’s put him there at the time of the murder. The officer later admitted that he knew his testimony was not supported by science but that the prosecutor pressured to make the statement anyway.

Now the prosecutorial science fiction of the 1970s may be on thee verge of becoming a scientific fact. As Discovery News reports here, Dutch scientists say they have discovered how to accurately date fingerprints. If true, the discovery could let police place a suspect at the scene at the time a crime was committed or help defense investigators prove that the prints were left there well before or after the event.

Four decades later, Iceland confessions defy belief

“The methods of the Icelandic police weren’t unique. They convinced themselves that a group of petty criminals on the fringes of society were a gang of hardened killers. But they didn’t find the evidence to back up their hunch, they were left with just the confessions that were extracted after months of solitude and mental torture.”

That’s the conclusion of a remarkable BBC News multipedia presentation here about how six young people in Iceland confessed to two murders in the mid-’70s despite a total lack of evidence or memory of the crimes.

Discovery rules in U.S. remain ‘a tangled mess’

Exonerations in cases like that of Michael Morton of Texas — who was freed in 2011 after DNA testing on evidence previously hidden by the prosecution identified another man as the killer of Morton’s wife — have demonstrated discovery’s crucial role in wrongful convictions. Despite some reforms to the discovery process in a few states, though, laws in most of America remain a tangled mess, according to The Crime Report. For every successful reform, Kate Pastor reports here, bills in other states die aborning.