Category Archives: Western Europe

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Amanda Knox – The Period at the End of the Sentence.

Italy’s Court of Cassation has issued a final, formal opinion on the resolution of the Amanda Knox case.

It is a resounding exoneration of Knox and Sollecito, and a scathing indictment of a sloppy, inadequate, hastily contrived prosecution case.

See the ABC News story here.

Special Report (Wrongful Convictions): Time to shine a light on the innocent

From the Irish Examiner:

Anne Driscoll, Innocence Project

I know a man named Angel who spent 21 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. During his incarceration, both his mother and the mother of his children died and he exhausted all his appeals. He was fated to die in prison without any chance of parole.

He was fortunate enough, however, to be freed this spring after a 10-year investigation by the Justice Brandeis Law Project of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University convinced a judge in Massachusetts to throw out his conviction.

If only this was an isolated story of injustice.

Back in the Second World War era in New Inn, Co Tipperary, Harry Gleeson was a fiddler, a farmhand, and a greyhound handler, a quiet but well-liked man. He was hanged in 1941 for the murder of a neighbor, Moll McCarthy, all of which was both scandalous and newsworthy at the time.

And when news of Harry’s exoneration of that murder broke earlier this year, it also garnered enormous press coverage. However, behind the headlines, what many people in smartphone-era Ireland don’t understand is that what happened to Harry — being convicted of a crime he didn’t commit — can happen to anyone, anywhere, still today.

What happened to Harry — being convicted of a crime he didn’t commit — can happen to anyone, anywhere, still today.

Prior to the late 80s, it was assumed that if someone was convicted, they were most likely guilty. However, with the introduction of DNA evidence in courts in the UK in 1987 and in the US in 1988, this forensic tool demonstrated unequivocally that the justice system doesn’t always work and thus the birth of the innocence movement occurred.

That began in 1992 as the Innocence Project in New York City has now grown internationally to include 68 separate innocence projects under the aegis of the Innocence Network, including the Irish Innocence Project, founded by Griffith College dean of law David Langwallner in 2009.

Research over the past two decades since has revealed that about 2.3% to 5% of all convictions are wrong and that eyewitness misidentifications, faulty science, police or prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective counsel, false confessions, or snitch evidence are the most common contributing factors.

The toll such a miscarriage of justice takes is nearly incalculable.

And any wrongful conviction is always a double miscarriage of justice, as an innocent person has been convicted and the guilty person has not been held accountable, often free to commit more crimes.

Since 2009, the Irish Innocence Project — the only innocence project in Ireland and providing all its services for free — has trained nearly 100 student caseworkers from Griffith College, Trinity College, and DCU, working under the supervision of pro bono lawyers, to investigate cases believed to be wrongful convictions and uncover new evidence — the basis of establishing a Miscarriages of Justice claim in the Irish courts.

And their work has paid powerful dividends.

  • This year, Minister of Justice Frances Fitzgerald expressed regret and sympathy for the wrongful hanging of Harry Gleeson. This is our first exoneration and the first time in Irish history for such a posthumous presidential pardon has been made;
  • A High Court decision defined the mechanism for post-conviction access to DNA testing — something every state in the US provides for;
  • We are, this month, offering submissions in a case before the Greek Supreme Court;
  • We hosted the Irish Innocence Project International Wrongful Conviction Conference and Film Festival on 26-27 June 2015 at Griffith College Dublin featuring addresses by Dr Mary McAleese, Guildford Four defence lawyer Gareth Peirce, Innocence Project co-founders Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, and In the Name of the Father director Jim Sheridan and drew 200 delegates from 15 countries, including the attorney general of Thailand;
  • The Irish Innocence Project and the Italy Innocence Project now co-direct the European Innocence Network, which will vet and validate new and developing innocence projects as the movement expands.
    English jurist William Blackstone recognised the dire consequences of a wrongful conviction when he said: “It is better that 10 guilty people escape than that one innocent person suffer.”

We are attempting to better balance those scales of justice. It is an aim that none other than Sean McBride dedicated his life to. McBride was Harry Gleeson’s junior counsel and it is believed that his experience representing an innocent, but ultimately doomed man, was the genesis of his later role in the founding of Amnesty International.

That aim continues in the founding of the nnocence Network and its expansion beyond the US with the European Innocence Network, where the Irish Innocence Project has taken a lead and dedicated itself to investigate injustices, right them whenever possible and prevent other Harry Gleeson cases from happening.

The Irish Innocence Project is a Revenue-approved charity that provides all its services for free and relies on donations to do the work it does. For more information or to donate, please visit

Anne Driscoll is the Journalist Project Manager of the Irish Innocence Project, a 2013-2014 US Fulbright Scholar and the senior reporter of the Justice Brandeis Law Project at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University in Massachusetts.

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

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…