Category Archives: Western Europe

Lawyers blame ‘groupthink’ for Sweden’s worst​​ miscarriage of justice

imagesA case that I have highlighted previously here… has been examined by some of the best legal minds in Sweden and they have concluded that there were no ‘systemic’ failures that led to a mental health patient being wrongly convicted of over 30 murders. Instead, they blame a culture of ‘trust’ which meant that critical questions were not asked of investigators and psychiatric personnel involved. There was insufficient scepticism of supposed confessions and no care was taken over the possibility of false memories. While the report seeks to ensure that mistakes are not repeated, ultimately the report leaves all involved individually blameless so no-one has been held to account. This may result in the case rumbling on for some time yet in the Swedish media. Read more here (including a link to the full report)…

Lawyers blame groupthink in Sweden’s worst​​ miscarriage of justice

Another Success For Knoops Innocence Project in the Netherlands…

From website:

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands decided on Tuesday (26 May 2015) to reopen the case against Martien Hunnik and referred the case to the Court of Appeals for a new trial. Martien Hunnik was convicted in 1984 for killing the Hilversum record label boss, Bart van de Laar, in 1981.

Hunnik was convicted for manslaughter and sentenced to two years imprisonment and “TBR”, a closed treatment facility for mentally ill offenders with diminished criminal responsibility. In the Netherlands, there is a gradual system of accruing criminal responsibility to mentally ill offenders; therefore it is possible to impose both a prison sentence and to order treatment in a mental facility.

Hunnik, who is represented by Mr. Knoops and Ms. Vosman of the Knoops’ Innocence Project, was convicted on the basis of false confessions he made in January 1983 and which he retracted in April of that year. Behavioral research demonstrated that Mr. Hunnik, at the time of his false confessions, had the tendency to confabulate and to distort the facts. Mr. Hunnik himself says he was mentally ill at that time and in search of attention.

Amanda Knox Devotes Herself to the Cause of Wrongful Convictions

After her 7 1/2 year nightmare of being wrongfully convicted, and finally being declared innocent, Amanda Knox has announced she will dedicate her efforts to giving a voice to those who have been wrongfully convicted.

See the Seattle Times story 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

Bloodsworth film gets funding boost, Raffaele Sollecito doesn’t

Producers of a movie about Kirk Bloodsworth, the first person freed from death row by DNA, successfully launched a fund-raising effort for post-production funding today. The producers of “Bloodsworth – An Innocent Man,” previously raised over $25,000 from 331 backers for filming in 2011, and current crowd-funding effort looks like it will be equally successful. You can read about the campaign here.

Sadly, not all possibly innocent people caught up in the sometimes crazy criminal-justice world are having the same kind of luck. As Luca Cheli explains here, Raffaele Sollecito, Amanda Knox’s co-defendant in the controversial Italian murder case concerning the murder of Briton Meredith Kercher, is one of them. Cheli reports that Sollecito’s account on the crowd-funding site GoFundMe has suddenly been closed. Sollecito had successfully raised defense funds on the site before, and now his supporters around the world are being denied the opportunity to help him again. Sollecito is having problems setting up an account on other crowd-funding sites, and his chance of presenting a robust defense is now in jeopardy.

Cheli attributes Sollecito’s fund-raising woes to the often-vociferous haters of Knox and Sollecito. But the issue is bigger than that.

”This is a threat going well beyond the context of a specific murder case: it is certainly a threat to anyone working against any wrongful conviction, but it is also a potential threat to any advocate of whatever cause,” Cheli writes.

“Today it is Knox and Sollecito, who or what will it be tomorrow?”

In prison since 2003, yet authorities knew man wrongfully convicted in 2007

Shocking news coming from Spain, where it has become clear that a Dutch citizen, Romano van der Dussen, convicted in 2005 of a series of sexual assaults, REMAINS in prison, despite DNA proving his innocence in 2007.

Spanish authorities have had van der Dussen in prison since the rapes took place in 2003. He was found guilty on – now definitively erroneous – eyewitness identifications (with no other links between the suspect and the crimes) in 2005. 1410717812_066741_1410798646_sumario_normal

ven der Dussen, the photofit, and Mark Dixie

However, in 2007, INTERPOL were informed by British police, that convicted murderer Mark Dixie – serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of 17 year old model Sally Ann Bowman in the UK – had previously lived in Malaga in 2002-2003. Spanish authorities uploaded the DNA obtained from the sexual assaults, and subsequently received a report in March 2007 that the DNA from the scenes matched British murdered and serial offender Mark Dixie.

One might expect that in 2007, Spanish authorities – horrified that they were keeping an innocent man behind bars, would move swiftly to ensure his release. Instead, the case has bounced around the legal system, delayed by legal technicalities. His solicitor is now awaiting fingerprints and DNA of Dixie from British authorities to proceed further with securing the release of van der Dussen. ELEVEN years since his imprisonment, and SEVEN years since the authorities discovered his innocence. What can the Spanish possibly be doing?

Read more here:
Dutchman in Spanish jail waits for DNA justice

Fuengirola court reopens sexual assault case

Spanish authorities reopen Dutchman’s rape case

There are more detailed reports in Spanish and Dutch e.g.:
En la cárcel pese a las pruebas de ADN

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

  • The Exonerated (the play) in ebook format
  • From the AP:  The Texas state fire marshal has volunteered to turn over more than a decade of his office’s casework to advocates so they can examine them for wrongful convictions.  Fire Marshal Chris Connealy has been working with the Innocence Project of Texas for more than a year to review old cases.  But now he’s sent 24 cases from 2002 to 2004 to the Innocence Project so the Lubbock-based group can vet his office’s work, with a pledge to turn over all of his more recent case files. He says it’s an important step for the public “to have confidence in the criminal justice system.” Several high-profile arson cases have come under scrutiny in Texas, including that of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed for the fire deaths of his three daughters.
  • Oscar nominated director to direct The Brian Banks Story
  • Two new books about wrongful conviction by Morrison Bonpasse
  • Summary of Amanda Knox appeal
  • The latest from the Innocence Project of Singapore

Irish Court of Criminal Appeal declares that Martin Conmey’s conviction was miscarriage of justice

Today, the Irish Court of Criminal Appeal declared that the 1972 conviction of Martin Conmey for manslaughter was a miscarriage of justice. Conmey had been acquitted in 2010 but has served three years in jail. Read more about this case in the Irish Times’ write-up here. The Irish Times reports that the Court’s miscarriage of justice decision was based on the fact that Conmey had been convicted for his involvement in a joint enterprise, but there was no incriminating evidence against him about this. It found that three original statements of other parties “were suppressed by a person unknown, but connected with the prosecution”. Conmey’s lawyers will be lodging a claim for compensation.

In Netherlands, New Evidence in the Deventer Murder Case

From the Knoops Innocence Project in the Netherlands:

Further research into Deventer Murder Case

On Monday July 7, 2014, Attorney General D.J.C. Aben of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands granted a request for further research in the Deventer Murder case. The request was submitted by Mr. G.G.J. Knoops and P.B.A. Acda of the Knoops’ Innocence Project on March 21, 2013.

Under a new law, which was enacted in the Netherlands on October 1, 2012, it is possible to request the Attorney General to conduct further research into a case, if there are “indications” that a novum exists. A novum is necessary to successfully reopen a criminal case before the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. It is a new “finding” that was not known to the judge, and this finding must be of such a nature, that if the judge was aware thereof, it would have most likely resulted in a different verdict.

A request for further research on the basis of “indications that a novum exists” must be directed at the Attorney General, who has the authority to initiate a new investigation if he beliefs that there are sufficient indications of a novum.

The defense team of Ernest Louwes in the Deventer Murder case established sufficient indications, upon which the Attorney General decided to have the case re-investigated. The new research will focus on three aspects: the blouse of the victim, telephone data between the victim and Mr. Louwes and the time of death estimation.

The blouse of the victim

Small traces of touch DNA were recovered from the blouse of the victim, which traces turned out to match with Mr. Louwes. Louwes, who worked as a tax consultant of the victim, had visited her on the morning of the murder.

The defense team convincingly argued, on the basis of new forensic reports prepared by two DNA experts from the United States, that Louwes’ DNA on the victim’s blouse was the result of a peaceful (instead of a violent) encounter between the two. The defense could only do so after a lawsuit against the State because the Dutch Forensic Institute was initially unwilling to provide the underlying forensic data.

The Attorney General has requested the Dutch Forensic Institute to comment on the new DNA reports. If the Dutch Forensic Institute agrees with the “peaceful contact claim” the reports will be submitted to a third independent DNA expert for further examination.

Telephone data

The defense, backed by forensic experts, demonstrated in its request for further investigation that the telephone data used to convict Mr. Louwes, were wrongly interpreted. Louwes’ mobile telephone communicated with a base station near the crime scene. This “evidence” was used to convict Mr. Louwes. The judges did not know, however, that the “evidence” was presented without an accurate report on the weather conditions at that time, which may explain why a mobile phone does not communicate with the nearest base station.

Mr. Louwes has always claimed that he was in a traffic jam at the “alleged” time of the murder. This was, according to the Prosecutor and appellate judges, an indication of his “deceptiveness”, as it did not correspond with the telephone data. Yet, as it turns out now, the precise location of Mr. Louwes at that time could have caused a mobile phone to communicate with a base station further away than the one expected (i.e. the nearest station). The fact that there was a traffic jam had not been on the news, so this de facto supported the story of Mr. Louwes, as it was insider information.

The Attorney General has now decided to (re)investigate the impact of the weather conditions and the geographical position of Mr. Louwes at that time on the likelihood of communicating with a base station further away than expected in the case of Mr. Louwes.

Time of Death Estimation

According to Dutch forensic experts, certain marks on the victim’s body signaled that the initially accepted time of death estimation was incorrect. The time of death was supposedly later than the time of death assumed by the appellate court. The Attorney General will appoint a team to investigate to what extent different experts diverge or correspond in their professional opinions in this regard.

The Knoops’ Innocence Project has been investigating the Deventer Murder case since 2003. Mr. Louwes was acquitted by the lower court in 2000, the Court of Appeals in Arnhem convicted him in 2001. In 2003, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands granted a request for review on the basis of wrongfully conducted dog scent line ups. Yet, the Court of Appeals in Den Bosch, who was appointed to retry the case, convicted him again. In 2007, a new request for review was submitted to the Supreme Court; this request was rejected in 2008. This is the first request for further investigation in this case under the new law.

Knoops’ Innocence Project

G.G.J. Knoops, Counsel
P.B.A. Acda, Counsel

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

In Netherlands, New Evidence Shows Innocence in Hilversum Showbiz Murder case

Submitted by the Knoops Innocence Project, Professor dr. G.G.J. Knoops, lead counsel, Carry Knoops-Hamburger, co-counsel, Lizette Vosman, co-counsel, Trix Vahl, paralegal:

On Tuesday July 8, 2014, the defense team of Martien Hunnik, as well as the attorney general of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, filed a request for review of his criminal case. Hunnik has been convicted in 1984 for second degree murder on Bart van der Laar, a then famous music producer, in 1981 in Hilversum. Both requests are based on the results of a new criminal investigation into the case, which was initiated after the Knoops’ Innocence Project had filed a request thereto on March 19, 2013. The Knoops’ Innocence Project has been investigating the case of Mr. Hunnik since 2011.

On the basis of Article 461 of the Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure the defense may request the attorney general to conduct further research into a case, if there are indications that a novum exists. A criminal case can be reopened in the Netherlands on the basis of a novum, which is a new “finding” that was not known to the judge, and this finding must be of such a nature, that if the judge was aware thereof, it would have most likely resulted in a different verdict. Thus, under the new Article 461 of the Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure, which is operative since October 1, 2012, the defense may request for further research if there are indications that a novum exists, which may eventually lead to a request for review on the basis of a novum and consequently to the reopening of a criminal case.

The defense request for further research of March 19, 2013, was based on several indications that demonstrated that Mr. Hunnik could not have committed the crime in 1981. The Board of Procurators General, the highest authority in the Dutch Public Prosecution Service, supported this defense request with its own request for further investigation, because the Board also doubted the guilt of Mr. Hunnik.

Under the leadership of Attorney General D.J.C. Aben of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, a new criminal investigation has been conducted from September 2013 till May 2014. As part of this investigation, many witnesses were heard and new tactical-technical research has been conducted. This led the Public Prosecutor to believe that Mr. Hunnik could not have committed the crime, but that others have done so.

On July 2, 2014, the results of the new criminal investigation have been revealed to the defense and Mr. Hunnik, which led the defense to submit a request for review to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands.

The request for review is based on three nova, which imply that Mr. Hunnik would not have been convicted if the judge was aware of these nova. Particularly the fact that a scenario arose with a different perpetrators, while excluding Mr. Hunnik as the perpetrator, was decisive. This scenario was already known to the Public Prosecutor in 2004, but only revealed to Mr. Hunnik and his defense team in 2012, when the Knoops’ Innocence Project was investigating the case.

Mr. Hunnik was very relieved when he was informed of the results of the new investigation, and the fact that also the Attorney General petitioned to reopen his case. Mr. Hunnik has been fighting for justice for over 30 years. He recanted his initial (false!) confession of January 18, 1983 already in April 1983; yet, the judges did not accept this. He has maintained his innocence since then. Unfortunately, he was not believed by the judges and was convicted primarily on the basisof his false confession. The new criminal investigation into the case demonstrated that virtually all elements of his confession, were already publicly known due to outlets in the media.

This request for review is unique, not only because it is the oldest review case in the Netherlands (33 years), but also because the new investigation case identified other perpetrators; yet, the court no longer has jurisdiction over the crime, due to the Statute of Limitations (since 1999).

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.

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

  • Man exonerated of rape charges in Sweden after 10 years in prison; now Sweden’s long-serving exoneree
  • In China, a long road to justice in recent double exoneration case
  • Rob Warden writes that the death April 20 of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, middleweight prizefighter, heavyweight champion of the wrongfully convicted, is a vivid reminder of a plague that has long corrupted the criminal justice system — perjury by prosecution witnesses who have ulterior motives to lie.  Article….
  • Alaska Innocence Project gearing up for May hearing in the Fairbanks Four case
  • Article on how bad science leads to wrongful convictions
  • New judges’ training program in Bangladesh warns new judges to be vigilante against wrongful convictions
  • More strange twists and turns in the Montana case of Cody Marble

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Knoops Innocence Project Exonerees Compensated by Government

High Court of Justice of the Dutch Antilles agrees to pay USD 1.97 million compensation to Nozai Thomas and Andy Melaan (Spelonk case)

On 11 April 2014, the High Court of Justice ofAruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and of Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba (Dutch Antilles) rendered a judgment granting compensation to two exonerees for a miscarriage of justice which took place in 2005.

In 2006, the High Court of Justice at Bonaire affirmed a conviction of the District Court in 2005 against Nozai Thomas and Andy Melaan for murdering two brothers and sentenced them to respectively 8 and 24 years imprisonment.

The wrongful conviction came to light as a result of an initiative of drs. Lucio Ricardo, a psychologist working at the Dutch Antilles, who believed in the innocence of the two men. In 2009-2010 the former Dutch police detective Mr. Gosewehr and the criminologist dr. Timmerman, concluded that the two men were wrongfully convicted. The case was subsequently submitted by them to the Knoops’ Innocence Project (director Carry Knoops-Hamburger).

The Knoops’ Innocence Project has been working pro bono on the case since 2011 and initiated new research, in order to establish a “new fact”, which is necessary to have a case reopened in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Research by the Netherlands Forensic Research Bureau [Nederlands Forensisch Onderzoeksbureau, NFOB] and Digital Investigations revealed that Thomas’ was working at his computer during the night of the murders in 2005. New research also revealed that Thomas had confessed under extreme police pressure and that his confession was most likely to be false. Telecom research furthermore revealed that Melaan could not have been at the crime scene during the night of the murders.

On 1 July 2013 the High Court of Justice ordered a new trial and on 14 November 2013 both men were officially exonerated. Mr. Thomas spent 4.5 years in prison and Mr. Melaan 8 years.

On 11 April 2014 the High Court of Justice granted the following amounts of compensation:

–        Nozai Thomas: USD 677.430

–        Andy Melaan: USD 1.292.687

The High Court of Justice multiplied the standard amount of financial compensation for wrongfully convicted persons with factor five, while taking the following aspects into consideration:

–        Knoops’ advocaten tried to obtain compensation through the Prosecutor General, which would have prevented the two men to go to court for compensation and which would have allowed them to gain swift rehabilitation;

–        The fact that the prosecution did not prove to be willing to settle the compensation claim, while the prosecution – in light of the experience the Kingdom of the Netherlands has with wrongful convictions – should have been aware of the impact on the exonerees of such a miscarriage of justice. The fact that the prosecution proved to be unwilling to settle the claim, impacted upon the exonerees who still felt that they had to proof their innocence towards society;

–        Both exonerees proved to be extremely traumatized and showed signs of PTSS;

–        The uniqueness of the case demanded a higher compensation than the standard amount.

–        Other factors that contributed to a higher amount of compensation were:

o   Extensive media coverage;

o   The fact that the accused suffered from stigmatization in the Bonairean community;

o   Impact of the wrongful conviction on the lives of Melaan and Thomas (both exonerees suffer from PTSS);

o   The young age of Melaan and Thomas during their detention;

o   Severe psychological damage, which will have a lasting impact on their lives;

o   Police pressure during the interrogations (which had resulted in a false confession by Thomas)

Importantly, the judges of the High Court of Justice granted compensation that is commensurate with the standard of living in “the Netherlands”; if they would have applied the Dutch Antilles standard, the amount would have been lower.

Andy Melaan and Nozai Thomas perceive the compensation as a form of rehabilitation and reparation for the suffering inflicted upon them. The compensation will be deposited in a fund, which will be managed by third parties and used for their – and their family and children’s – future. Melaan and Thomas are committed to helping other wrongfully convicted persons on the Dutch Antilles and beyond.

Knoops’ Innocence Project

Prof. G.G.J. Knoops
Mrs. C.J. Knoops-Hamburger (director Knoops’ Innocence Project)
Ms. M. van Woudenberg
Ms. Pascalle Dingemanse (local counsel)

Breaking Chains in France

ImageFrom  NY exoneree, Fernando Bermudez:

 
        There’s a little known fact about the Statue of Liberty: broken chains around the statue’s ankle symbolize the historical fact that America broke free from British oppression and the tyranny of the king to establish a democratic republic.
 
        For me, my recent lecture in France symbolizes broken chains upon my exoneration in 2009 after over 18 years in 7 maximum security prisons in New York state. Like my lectures throughout Italy, Germany, Japan and America, I expose the consequences of wrongful convictions to help prevent their harm. Besides lending my life passion and purpose this also eases — stage fright, be damned! — my symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, like anxiety and sadness, that affect me as if still incarcerated.  Yet within my professional standards to deliver original lectures each time, my difficulty in crash-coursing French was admittedly learning which letters not to pronounce. Thus accomplished, my wife Crystal and I joined Project Innocence France, led by prominent criminal defense attorney, Sylvain Cormier, to advance newly discovered evidence standards via congressional support in France.
 
        As I stood before a crowded, nationally televised auditorium at the Lyon III School of Law, my presentation compared Alexander Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo to my very real experience with prosecutorial misconduct in America. According to the National Registry of Exoneration, prosecutorial misconduct is responsible for about 21% of 1,100 registered wrongful convictions in America during 1989-2012. This includes my 1991 arrest where my pro bono legal team and I proved a prosecutor’s knowing use of perjured testimony with coercion and threats against teenage witnesses, resulting in my case becoming the first Latin-American man proven “actually innocent” in NY state legal history without DNA-evidence.
 
        To encourage current and future Project Innocence France law student interns to fight all causes of wrongful convictions, however, I discussed that in 1787 the Charity Judiciary Association became the first French association of lawyers, nobility and business folk devoted to fighting wrongful convictions, prompting King Louis the 16th to voice support. Smiling, Charity Judiciary members present also agreed that Alexis de Tocqueville’s take in “Democracy In America” that solitary confinement harms prisoner health is still empirically supported after he visited Sing Sing prison in 1836, the same prison that released me in 2009. Refocusing, I concluded with how the Statue of Liberty’s symbolism has grown to include freedom and democracy as well as the international friendship between France and America and other countries to secure human rights around the world, and why law students should help stop wrongful convictions.
 
        Then came fun beyond shaking hands and my private encouragement to law students wherever their fight against wrongful convictions occurs. As the culinary capital of the world, France offered gastronomical delights from fresh rum crepes and foie gras to fine quality blue cheeses and buttery snails, one splashing a restaurant window from over-squeezed snail tongs launching it. Moreover, beyond the Rhone and Saone Rivers lay the Gallo-Roman Museum where an ancient Roman amphitheater overlooking Lyon’s cobbled streets teemed with shoppers, beautiful accordion music and occasional beggars dressed like goats clacking and bleating for money. Paris, too, was equally impressive by speeding train two hours away with its Arc de Triomphe, Avenue des Champs-Élysées and Notre-Dame Cathedral that Crystal and I explored while kissing by pedaled taxi. Our trip concluded by visiting Zurich, Switzerland where subway police allowed public drinking and drunkenness with stern, watchful looks that seemed to limit Swiss nightlife fun to just that.
 
        Was this trip worth it before my own drunk-with-sleep, jet-lagged return to America? Yes! For me, lecturing throughout the world with cultural explorations lends additional meaning, purpose and joy amid my broken chains and the losses and pain that I still feel after my wrongful incarceration. I believe, as my first pro bono attorney, MaryAnn DiBari, has always encouraged, that innocent men and women who are wrongfully convicted must step out of Lady Liberty’s broken chain and look to God for the light of love and liberty that exonerates them and helps heal  our wounds. While I lost over 6,700 days of freedom in prison as an innocent man, I have more reasons to make the most of whatever days I have left. 
 
        For encouragement, I keep the poet Emma Lazarus’ sonnet “The New Colossus (1883) in mind. Engraved on bronze plaque on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, it says: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” to which I add: And your innocent in prison who deserve liberty, justice and equality!
 
        This, as the French would say, is my “raison d’ etre, or reason for existence, everyday, every journey, to scatter more apple seeds for justice to help stop wrongful convictions.
 

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….