Mark GodseyDaniel P. & Judith L. Carmichael Professor of Law, University of Cincinnati College of Law; Director, Center for the Global Study of Wrongful Conviction; Director, Rosenthal Institute for Justice/Ohio Innocence Project | Email | Profile
Justin BrooksProfessor, California Western School of Law; Director, California Innocence Project | Email
Cheah Wui LingAssistant Professor, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore Email | Profile
Daniel EhighaluaNigerian Barrister; Project Director, Innocence Project Nigeria Email
C Ronald HuffProfessor of Criminology, Law & Society and Sociology, University of California-Irvine Email | Profile
Phil LockeScience and Technology Advisor, Ohio Innocence Project and Duke Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic Email
Dr. Carole McCartneySenior Lecturer, School of Law, University of Leeds; Founder, University of Leeds Innocence Project | Email | Profile
Nancy PetroAuthor and Advocate
Kana SasakuraAssociate Professor, Faculty of Law, Konan University; Visiting Scholar, University of Washington School of Law; Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW)
Dr. Robert SchehrProfessor, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Northern Arizona University; Executive Director, Arizona Innocence Project Email | Profile
Shiyuan HuangAssociate Professor, Shandong University Law School; Visiting Scholar, University of Cincinnati College of Law Email | Profile
Ulf StridbeckProfessor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo, Norway
Martin YantAuthor and Private Investigator Email | Profile
Category Archives: Western Europe
From Fernando Bermudez:
Exoneree Fernando Bermudez is now touring around Germany, giving lectures about his experience and the innocence movement in the United States. The cities he will be visiting are: Bochum, Greifswald, Berlin, Passau, Tübingen, Wiesbaden, and Freiburg. Read the news here (in German).
Fernando Bermudez served over 18 years in New York prisons, following his wrongful conviction for murder, until proven innocent in 2009. Continue reading
With recent posts on this blog detailing further great news from Europe on developing Innocence Projects (see here… on France, see here… on Belgium, here… on Netherlands), it certainly feels like the ambition of those in the US to spread the word of innocence internationally is proving fruitful. South Australia is celebrating (finally) getting a body to investigate miscarriages of justice – the first in Australia. There have been notorious miscarriages of justice in that State, and many others waiting to see the light of day. They may now have a chance – let’s hope it’s not too long before the other States and Territories follow suit:
Meanwhile, just in the last few weeks I have read the following news items from around the world – perhaps the media is starting to get with the programme?
In China, authorities have apologised ‘deeply’ for wrongly convicting 2 men of rape and murder (including a death sentence that was commuted). They have ordered inquiries into the investigation and conviction of the men. DNA testing led to another man who was executed in 2005 for another killing. Read here:
There are hopes that the revelation of wrongful convictions – including the execution of innocence individuals – in China will lead to the cessation of the death penalty
In Israel, an interesting and detailed article looks at the re-opening of the notorious murder of a child at school (the Zadorov case). It re-caps on previous high-profile miscarriages of justice in Israel and their causes:
In New Zealand, calls are being made by political party leaders for a pardon in an infamous case where a 17 year old was questioned by police for five days without a lawyer. Teina Pora has spent 20 years in prison for murder – a murder where another man was convicted (on DNA evidence) of raping, but not killing, the victim. The case has always attracted accusations of racism in the treatment of Pora.
One can only hope that the spread of media interest in, and political motivation to tackle wrongful convictions, continues.
Knoops’ lawyers request re-opening in the case of the “Hilversum showbiz murder”
A Knoops’ lawyers defense team acting on behalf of Martien Meijer-Hunnik requested the Supreme Court to open the case of the “Hilversum showbiz murder.”
Mr. Hunnik was convicted by the Court of Appeal in Amsterdam for manslaughter on Bart van de Laar, a producer from Hilversum, the Netherlands, on November 10, 1981.
The conviction was mainly based on the “confession” of Mr. Hunnik on November 17, 1983. At that time, there was no other direct evidence linking Mr. Hunnik to the crime. Mr. Hunnik withdrew his confession on April 14, 1983, but the judicial authorities did not give credibility to his withdrawal. A clear motive for the manslaughter was lacking. From 2002 onwards, after he had been detained from 1983 to 1990, Mr. Hunnik tried to obtain his case file, however, to no avail. In 2011 he requested Knoops’ lawyers to investigate his case regarding a revision procedure.
A specialized team of Knoops’ lawyers conducted their own research into the case (2011-2013). Early 2013 the team took notice of “new” material. It turned out that this material was already known to the public prosecution service since 2002 and had resulted in a 2004-police analysis that exculpated Mr. Hunnik.
All these new facts justify the conclusion that Mr. Hunnik was wrongfully convicted in 1984 for the murder on producer Bart van de Laar. The new material shows that Mr. Hunnik is factually innocent to the manslaughter he was convicted for. Also, a not previously known police analysis concludes that it is unlikely that Mr. Hunnik shot Mr. Van de Laar on Tuesday November 10, 1981.
The request to review this case is based on six new facts that are outlined in new pieces of evidence proving that Mr. Hunnik cannot have committed the crime in question. The new material includes a convincing alibi, a new time reconstruction of the events, evidence indicating that his confession was false and a new witness statement.
The defense has urged the Attorney-General of the Dutch Supreme Court to decide speedily on the review request, since the prosecution – as has been shown – was already in the possession of the exculpatory material since 2002.
Mr. Hunnik prays that his conviction will be overturned and that he will be rehabilitated, since he is severely damaged, both mentally and physically, through his conviction by the Court of Appeal in Amsterdam. It had and continues to have a great impact on his personal and family life.
The defense and Mr. Hunnik are – despite the fact that (new) exculpatory material was already known to the judicial authorities since 2002 – very grateful for the efforts made by Mr. Van Straelen, the chief Attorney General of the Court of Appeal in Amsterdam, to reconstruct the course of events and to establish the truth in this case.
Defense counsel: Mr. Geert-Jan Knoops, Ms. Lizette Vosman, Ms. Carry Knoops-Hamburger
Numerous times on this blog we have bemoaned the inappropriateness of “trial by media.” The press/media cannot possibly have an intimate understanding of all the evidence, facts, affidavits, and testimony in a criminal trial. But to gain readership, they piece together whatever bits of information they can gather, and publish stories that tend to appeal to the sensationalistic interest of the general public. This is no surprise. That’s what they do. It’s unfortunate, however, because this stuff can and does have an influence, both during and, perhaps even more so, after trial.
But nowadays, there is a new internet-age version of trial by media. I call it “trial by website.” This happens when someone becomes personally dedicated to the guilt or innocence of a particular defendant, and sets up a website to proffer their one-sided views. There are both innocence-based websites and guilt-based websites. However, my observation is that the guilt-based websites are much more vitriolic, and generally based upon much unsubstantiated, or downright false, information.
There’s been much recent discussion due to the overturning of the Amanda Knox acquittal, and the websites run by people who have dedicated themselves to her guilt are going great guns. Two of these are the Perugia Murder File (PMF) and True Justice for Meredith Kercher (TJMK).
Nina Burleigh is a journalist who actually went to Perugia, and studied all aspects of the case for over a month. She has recently published an article in TIME in which she talks about these “Knox Hater” websites. And in opining about what the outcome of any new trial will be she states, “In my opinion, the new panel will agree with the last one that the case against the students is fatally flawed.”
You can read Nina Burleigh’s article here.
Amanda Knox will give her first TV interview, since being absolved of murder charges in Italy, with Diane Sawyer on ABC April 30, 2013.
See story here.
- Dutch judges worry about wrongful convictions due to crushing case load
- Innocence Project (Cardozo) receives record $1 million donation (more here)
- Prosecutor who wrongfully convicted Michael Morton takes stand in his defense and denies wrongdoing
- Video of exoneree Audrey Edmonds on the Katie Couric show
History has a unique way of repeating itself. Consider, for example, the question of wrongful conviction in France.The first French association designed to fight wrongful conviction was created in 1787! It was called “Association de Bienfaisance Judiciare (“charity judiciary association”), and was created by M. Boucher d’Argis. The Association both defended the poor in court, and provided them with compensation upon release. The members of the Association were booksellers, printers, nobles, and lawyers, and women were also admitted. The Association alerted the Monarchy about wrongful conviction, so in 1788, King Louis the 16th declared that it is necessary “to prevent wrongful conviction.” And this was one year before the Revolution! So while we in the United States should take great pride in the work that’s been done over the course of these last fifteen years, the French appear to be the first country that I’ve seen where wrongful conviction was officially acknowledged, and by the King no less. It’s not clear how many people were exonerated by the Association, this is a question that I plan to investigate with my French colleagues. The seeds of innocence were planted in France in 1787 and have been germinating ever since.
Project Innocence France, the twenty-first century cousin of the Association de Bienfaisance Judiciare, is preparing to launch. Once established, it will be the first innocence organization in France, and will join the growing number of international member organizations in The Innocence Network.
On Friday, January 11th I was joined by DNA expert, Dr. Greg Hampikian, to deliver a presentation at the Lyon III School of Law on the topic of wrongful conviction and innocence organizations, and the role played by DNA analysis in righting injustice. Dr. Hampikian and I were the guests of Mr. Sylvain Cormier, a criminal defense attorney from Lyon, France and the guiding force behind Project Innocence France. Dr. Hampikian and I presented the work of the Innocence Network to more than 200 people in an overrun law school auditorium (people were turned away). There is clear excitement and intrigue regarding our work, especially from students, but also from faculty and administrators, and the French press. Mr. Cormier has assembled some of the most impressive, important, and diverse justice officials in France to serve on his Board. I met a few of these people, and was introduced to the others by reputation. So far prospective members include forensic experts, retired police, retired judges, law faculty (Lyon III), and attorneys.
As with most law schools in Europe, there is no tradition of clinic work. However, at Lyon there are opportunities for apprenticeships. In addition, a course will need to be created by the law school to explore the subject of wrongful conviction. This may take time, as presently in France there are no required courses in Criminal Law or Criminal Procedure. Students are expected to learn this trade through apprenticeship (The one book that has been written on the topic of criminal procedure was first published in 2000 and is now in its 7th edition. I have made the acquaintance of the book’s author, Francois Saint-Pierre. While I was in Lyon last week, Mr. Saint-Pierre received word that he had just won judgement against France in the European Criminal Court in a homicide case. He is on the IP Board, is a law partner to Mr. Cormier, and is a powerful figure among French criminal lawyers and members of the High Court). Structurally, there are important changes being introduced to the law school by implementation of the innocence project and this is thrilling, promising, and will require patience. The law school Dean threw a reception for us after our conference and was overjoyed with the presentations, and the promise of the work. While I can’t read into the future, I do believe that there is great support and enthusiasm for the project at the law school.
Perhaps most promising and exciting was the response to our work from students at the law school. They understand the significance of innocence work as part of a broader movement for human rights and, at least for those with whom I spoke, they were committing to learn more about prospective involvement with Project Innocence France. While not something that is new to me at this point in my career with The Network, I’m still deeply touched when exposed to the awakening of spirit and commitment in young people.
The struggles confronting the French with regard to wrongful conviction are in large part shared by all jurisdictions regardless of country of origin. Evidence preservation, coerced confession, false eyewitness testimony, and poor defense were repeatedly mentioned. The French are prepared to conduct the necessary research into the causes of wrongful conviction to contribute to the growing international database.
Here are some links to articles about our presentation; they are in French. Le Monde will also be publishing a story regarding the conference and Project Innocence France which will likely appear on Wednesday, January 16th.
To my dedicated, generous, and friendly French colleagues now entering the fray, you have my heartfelt support. The Innocence Network enthusiastically awaits your arrival, and looks forward to long lasting partnership in the eradication of wrongful conviction.
The purpose of this post is to briefly summarize organized innocence activity around the world during 2012 (If I have left items out, please let me know so I can supplement this post). The calendar year 2012 undoubtedly saw the largest expansion of organized innocence work in history. Well-attended innocence conferences were held in 5 different continents. Organizations designed to free the innocent operated in every inhabited continent, and new projects launched in various Latin American countries, France, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Israel, and Taiwan, among others. Here is a brief summary:
- The Innocence Network, which currently consists of more than 60 member projects in the U.S., UK, Canada, the Netherlands, and Australia, issued its 2012 report, which lists the members and summarizes the 22 exonerations its members obtained in the calendar year. Major conferences on the subject were held in Australia, the UK and the U.S.
- A network of organizations fighting for the innocent was launched in Latin America, Red Inocente (website here). Red Inocente held its first annual conference in July, which was attended by more than 70 representatives from various Latin American countries. Presentations were made about innocence efforts underway in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, and Puerto Rico. Details of conference here. The second annual conference will be held in 2013 in Buenos Aires. Red Inocente has already seen its first exoneration, which occurred this year in Argentina.
- In Europe, the UK has had a rich history of innocence work for decades, most recently spearheaded by the Innocence Network UK, and many other university-based groups not part of INUK. This past year has seen innocence organizations launch in the Netherlands and in Lyon, France. The Innocence Law Clinic in Warsaw, Poland, successfully continued its operations, which have been ongoing since 1999, and the Supreme Court of Poland held a lecture on the international expansion of the Innocence Movement, sponsored by the Helsinki Foundation. Also in Poland, a conference was held in Krakow on on the topic of wrongful convictions, attended by judges and prosecutors from across the country. In the Czech Republic, lectures on wrongful convictions were held at 2 major law schools, summarized in this news clip. Interest in starting an innocent project is budding in Italy, with representatives from a major law school there planning to attend the 2013 Innocence Conference and to shadow the Ohio Innocence Project this summer.
- In Africa, the highly-organized Wits Justice Project in South Africa continued its operations with many successes; and a new Innocence Project South Africa launched
- The Israeli Wrongful Convictions Clinic launched
- In Asia, projects launched with much acclaim in Taiwan and the Philippines. China held its first major conference on the topic of wrongful conviction, attended by hundreds of judges, prosecutors, professors and defense attorneys. Two books on wrongful convictions, False Justice and Illustrated Truth, were translated and published in China.
On 18 December 2012 the Dutch Supreme Court re-opened the case of six wrongfully convicted individuals. This re-opening was based on a request of the prosecution after a new investigation into the case. The defense also submitted a request to re-open the case, in support of the prosecution request. The Supreme Court referred the case to the Court of Appeals for a retrial.
On 4 July 1993 the mother of the owner of the Chinese restaurant Peacock was found dead, and she had been violently stabbed to death. In 1995 six individuals were convicted, based on the false confessions of three of the six accused. The three convicted women had falsely confessed during police interrogations. One of the women already withdrew her confession at trial, but this retraction was ignored by the judges. The three convicted men claimed their innocence at all stages of the proceedings. Nevertheless, they were convicted for second degree murder on the basis of the confessions of the women during the police interrogations and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. Two of the women were convicted as assessors to the murder and sentenced to two years imprisonment and the third was sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment. All of the accused have fully served their sentences.
One of the accused requested, eight years ago, the assistance of the Project “Gerede Twijfel” at the Vrije Universityin Amsterdam. This person sought legal representation of Mr Knoops in 2009 who represented him and two other defendants in this case during the review proceedings.
It was established that the confessions were very likely to be false, while the convictions were almost solely based on these confessions. The confessions were in contradiction of the statements two witnesses who were sitting in a bus shelter across the restaurant on the night of the murder. However, these two exculpatory statements were not disclosed in 1995 to the judges. Two lawyers of the Knoops’ Innocence Project (Mr. G.G.J. Knoops and Mrs. R. Dijkstra) provide legal representation as Counsel during the re-trial proceedings in 2013 for three of the six defendants among which the accused who initiated the review.
A Parisian court quashed the conviction of a young man imprisoned for seven years for a murder he did not commit Thursday. Marc Machin also made French legal history, as it is only the eighth time a conviction has been overturned since World War II.
Paris’s criminal court made front page news on Thursday after acknowledging a serious miscarriage of justice in the wrongful imprisonment of a young man for murder.
Marc Machin was only 19 years old when he was first accused of the brutal December 1, 2001 murder of Marie-Agnès Bedot. The 45 year-old Bedot had been found stabbed to death near the wealthy and chic town of Neuilly, just outside of Paris. After a nearly two-week long investigation, police charged the young Machin with the crime, despite the fact that the evidence against him was largely circumstantial.
Machin initially denied the charges, but under duress owned up to the crime. By the time Machin attempted to retract his confession, it was too late. The young man was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Machin always maintained his innocence, and attempted to overturn the ruling, but lost his appeal in 2005.
Interest in Machin’s case was revived in March, 2008, however, after a David Sagno, a homeless man, turned himself into the police for a separate murder, which also took place near Neuilly. During his confession, Sagno also owned up to killing Bedot, describing the crime in exact detail. Police reopened their investigation into the case, only to find traces of Sagno’s DNA on the victim’s clothing.
After seven years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, there was a call for Machin’s case to be re-examined. Now, more than 11 years after Machin first stood accused of the crime, his name has finally been cleared.
Speaking after his acquittal, Machin said, “When you’ve been the victim of a miscarriage of justice, wrongfully and unjustly imprisoned, you cannot celebrate and jump up and down… I need to rebuild my life.”
Machin’s acquittal is only the eighth time since World War II that a criminal conviction has been reversed.
Law professor Ulf Stridbeck, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo has led a government-appointed committee which proposes a number of measures and legislation to improve the Norwegian Cases Review Commission (NCCRC). The Committee was appointed by former Minister of Justice Knut Storberget. Stridbeck delivered the report, which unfortunately is in Norwegian, to the Minister of Justice in June this year.
The main conclusion is that the Commission works well: the NCCRC has confidence in the society in how they treat the cases. This is primarily because the NCCRC has the legislative and investigative responsibility in these matters.
Until the establishment of the NCCRC in 2004, it was the Public prosecutor who had this responsibility. This led to criticism from several directions, particularly because the Public prosecutor in several cases fought against re opening.
In spite of the fact that the NCCRC has confidence the committee considers that there are weaknesses with the current operations, and proposes several changes:
More transparency: The NNCRC should more often have public hearings on matters of great public interest.
Fewer minor cases: Proposes that “harmless” criminal cases (less than six months’ imprisonment) shall not be re opened if it has been ten years since the case was closed.
The courts should be able to overrule the NCCRC’s decisions when it comes to procedural error and statutory interpretation, but not in the evaluation of evidence.
Warns that the NCCRC may have too high a threshold to emphasize the work done by private investigators. The NCCRC is not always open minded enough to the private investigators effort.
Strengthening the Commissioners independence: The secretariat shall not propose the Commissioners decision, as they do today. This is the responsibility for the Commissioners to decide.
The NCCRC lacks an official media and communications strategy, and should soon acquire one.
There is a need for strengthening the NCCRCs law enforcement expertise.
The report is now on consultation with deadline in February 2013.
On Wednesday 14th November, there is to be a hearing in the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Lorraine Allen (nee Harris) versus the UK. Mrs Allen is claiming that the UK government wrongly denied her compensation for her wrongful conviction for shaking her baby son to death. Her conviction was overturned in 2005 (see details of her case here…). The hearing will consider whether somebody who wins an appeal and has their conviction overturned, is then to be considered ‘innocent’. As an article in The Independent newspaper explains:
Hugh Southey QC, Mrs Allen’s barrister, added: “The issue for the court is whether the UK has infringed her right to a presumption of innocence by refusing her compensation. Anyone who has been refused compensation on this basis will benefit. This is not an isolated case.”
The case, which will be heard by 20 judges, wound up in Europe after John Reid, then Home Secretary, refused an initial appeal for compensation in 2006. The High Court refused her attempt to challenge the decision by judicial review, and a subsequent appeal was dismissed in 2008.
In the UK, rules on compensation for victims of miscarriages of justice have been tightened up considerably, so that you have to be able to clearly demonstrate that a ‘newly discovered fact(s)’ used in your appeal shows that you are innocent. Many fail to satisfy the Home Office of this.
I, along with many others, await the ruling of the Court with anticipation. I hope that the 20 judges seize the opportunity to expound an unequivocal principle that those who are exonerated return to their original ‘innocent’ state and whilst they should be entitled to compensation, perhaps most importantly, they should be considered ‘innocent’ in the eyes of the State, and treated as such. I shall of course update readers as news comes in.
- Judge in Philippines who believed man may have been wrongfully convicted re-opens case on motion of defendant, and then gets removed from office because the law in the Philippines does not recognize the re-opening of criminal cases after conviction
- A Kentucky judge has denied Susan Jean King’s motion for a new trial on charges that she killed her ex-boyfriend, despite finding that another man who recently confessed to the crime provided a “startling level of detail about the murder.” Spencer Circuit Judge Charles R. Hickman said the confession with “reasonable certainty” would change the result if King were granted a trial. But he declined to order one because she pleaded guilty in 2008, while maintaining her innocence, and wasn’t convicted at trial. “A motion for a ‘new trial’ logically suggests that there was an ‘old trial,’ and that is not the case ,” Hickman ruled Friday in an eight-page order. King’s lawyer, Linda A. Smith, director of the Kentucky Innocence Project, said she was “beyond disappointed” in the ruling, which she said didn’t serve “the greater purpose of justice.”
- Malta’s pre-trial system slammed as unjust
- The four myths that convicted Amanda Knox
- The Innocence Network UK’s fall 2012 newsletter available here
- Law student in Singapore gets scholarship to work in the innocence clinic at the National University of Singapore
- Video: Action is being taken to make sure that the criminal procedure rules are the same in all European Union countries, and that everyone has the right to fair and transparent procedures.
- State Rep. in Texas to reintroduce Innocence Commission bill
- DC finally opens $1.2 million crime lab after years of delay
- Video of musician Lyle Lovett talking about his role in The Exonerated
- Raffaele Sollecito’s Book Detailing His Journey With Amanda Knox Hits NY Times Best Sellers List
- Massachusetts lab tech arrested for alleged lab fraud in criminal cases
- A report on conviction integrity units in prosecutor’s offices
A French court Tuesday ordered nearly 800,000 euros to be paid in compensation to a former farm worker who spent more than seven years in prison after being falsely convicted of child rape.
Loic Secher, 51, is only the seventh person to have a wrongful conviction overturned in France since 1945. He had been demanding 2.4 million euros ($3 million) in damages.
Secher had spent seven years and three months in prison after a 14-year-old girl accused him of raping her. He was sentenced in 2003 to 16 years in jail.
The alleged victim retracted her accusation in 2008 and Secher was acquitted two years later, emerging from prison in April 2010.
His lawyers said he suffered violence at the hands of his fellow prisoners and had attempted suicide.
The court in the northwestern city of Rennes also ordered Secher’s mother to be paid 50,000 euros in damages and awarded a sum of 30,000 euros to each of his three siblings.
Secher, who had consistently proclaimed his innocence, has said he felt “destroyed” and “ruined” by his time in prison.
“There can be no price put on compensation for what he went through,” said Jean-Pierre Chesne, who headed a group seeking Secher’s acquittal.
As hard as the presumption of guilt can be to overcome in the world’s court systems, it apparently is even harder in the international anti-doping bureaucracy headed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where even high-profile athletes like Lance Armstrong don’t stand a chance.
As Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post notes:
“Anyone who thinks an athlete has a fair shot in front of CAS should review the Alberto Contador case. Contador was found to have a minuscule, insignificant amount of clenbuterol in his urine during the 2010 Tour de France. After hearing 4,000 pages of testimony and debate, CAS acknowledged that the substance was too small to have been performance-enhancing and that its ingestion was almost certainly unintentional.
Therefore he was guilty. He received a two-year ban.”
Even worse, Jenkins said, one year of that ban was exacted because the prime minister of Spain dared to defend Contador’s innocence. You can read Jenkins’ full commentary here.