Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project seeks new DNA test in 1974 Virginia Beach rape…

The West Virginia Innocence Project seeks DNA testing in effort to prove client’s innocence…

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

In Ghana, a newspaper reporter is suing the government for 2 million Ghanaian Cedi ($500,000 USD) for wrongful imprisonment…

In Scotland, family members of the Lockerbie bombing victims lose bid to overturn the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi…

In the US, President Obama has signed a bill that will expand clemency powers to allow the release of nonviolent drug offenders…

Judge identifies 12 huge lies about Justice in America…

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

The New Jersey legislature has passed a bill that will increase the availability of DNA testing for all inmates claiming to have been wrongfully convicted…

The Michigan Supreme Court has granted a new trial for a Michigan Innocence Project client Leo Ackley…

Rhode Island expands law to allow DNA testing for those convicted of any violent crime…

Steve Wax of the Oregon Innocence Project explains the new Oregon DNA testing law

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

The Governor of Oregon has signed a law that will expand access to post-conviction DNA testing…

The ACLU of Nebraska and the Nebraska Innocence Project are suing to obtain jailhouse records on behalf of an Omaha man who was convicted of murder in 2009…

The Economist reports a global trend toward abolition of the death penalty…

The Oklahoma Innocence Project has filed an application for post-conviction relief on behalf of a Tulsa man convicted of 2001 murder…

Judge Kozinski: Time to Rein In Prosecutors

Alex Kozinski is a judge of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals. He has previously been outspoken regarding prosecutorial misconduct, and has recently authored an article for the Georgetown Law Review on the subject.

See the Wall Street Journal Law Blog article here. In the WSJ article, you’ll find a link to Judge Kozinski’s full article, which is lengthy, but the WSJ article provides a reasonable summary.

 

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Adnan Syed of “Serial” podcast seeks evidentiary hearing on new alibi evidence…

new bill designed to strengthen the UK court system’s ability to overturn wrongful convictions has been presented to Parliament…

A year after being exonerated, Kevin Martin files $30 million compensation suit against the District of Columbia for the 26 years he spent wrongfully imprisoned…

Illinois exoneree Darrell Williams finally gets a shot at playing in the NBA

South African Constitutional Court Orders Immediate Release of Wrongfully Imprisoned Man

With help from the Wits Justice Project, South African  Thembekile Molaudzi was released from prison last week after serving 11 years for the 2002 murder of Dingaan Makuna, a Mothutlung policeman. The only evidence implicating Molaudzi was the confession of another man also accused of the crime. After a long battle, the Constitutional Court overturned Molaudzi’s conviction, issuing him a Warrant of Liberation that called for his immediate release.

Rape Conviction Vacated with Support of Prosecutor

Quentin Carter, 40, maintained his innocence throughout nearly 17 years in prison following his conviction of the 1991 rape of a 10-year old child. He was likely denied parole numerous times because he would not express remorse for a crime he didn’t commit.

Carter was 16 when convicted. He was released in 2008 but was registered as a sex offender with all the restrictions this designation carries.

Kent County (MI) Prosecutor William Forsyth was instrumental in vacating Carter’s wrongful conviction, which occurred by order of a judge last Thursday. Continue reading

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks

A new study suggests that North Carolina’s reckless use of the death penalty threatens the innocent…

Exonerated death row inmate Glenn Ford died yesterday a year after being released from prison…

In Alaska, an inmate’s confession promises new trial for the Fairbanks Four…

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Wisconsin Innocence Project client Dan Scheidell’s 1995 conviction for sexual assault was vacated last week after DNA evidence implicated another individual…

Texas exoneree Anthony Graves who spent 12 years on death row before being exonerated in 2006, has been appointed to the board of directors for the Houston Forensic Science Center…

Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese and many others attended and spoke at the first International Innocence Conference held in Dublin, Ireland last weekend…

A Michigan man has been cleared of a 1992 rape after serving 17 years in prison for the crime…

According to LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Conviction Integrity Units are needed in order to preserve the integrity of prosecutor’s offices across the country…

Sharing Views on Prosecutorial Reform

If you’ve read much of my stuff on this blog, you must know that prosecutors, as a group, are not my favorite people. I am a person driven by logic, fairness, reason, and justice. Given their position, I would expect prosecutors to be the same. After all, they’re supposed to be “ministers of justice,” but my observation is that it’s so often not the case. I will grant that because of the work that I do, I routinely have exposure to prosecutorial behavior that is less than ethical, is not in the interest of true justice, and is sometimes just criminal. And because they’re “prosecutors,” they get away with it. I do not believe that prosecutors are inherently evil and unethical people; but they are human beings, subject to all the same human frailties that we all are. In fact, I believe their behavior is exactly what you would expect, given the incentives built into the system and the power with which they are endowed. What the actual extent of this problem is I’m sure we’ll never know, but I do know that I see it routinely, and I can only report what I observe.

As background, it would be helpful for you to see our earlier post regarding prosecutorial misconduct from two years ago: Prosecutorial Misconduct – What’s to be Done? A Call to Action. And as an update to this article, the National Registry of Exonerations now totals 1,618 wrongful convictions overturned as of this writing, and 46% of those had “official misconduct” as a contributing factor.

Continue reading

DNA testing isn’t perfect, and it could get worse, experts say

DNA testing is the gold standard in forensic science, and it has been used to free hundreds of innocent inmates since 1989. But it has also falsely implicated other innocents, and it likely will do so even more as labs push the technological envelope to solve crimes, the Marshall Project reports here. Add human error to the equation, and you have the recipe for potential disasters.

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

In Canada, a wrongfully convicted man has been exonerated 45 years after being convicted of manslaughter…

Lincoln Caplan argues in the New Yorker that a recent SCOTUS ruling, overturning a Ninth Circuit decision calling for the retrial or release of a California inmate on death row, will have dire effects on prisoner rights…

New evidence of prosecutorial misconduct may be the key to overturning former No Limit rapper’s manslaughter conviction…

In Kansas, protesters aim to raise awareness for those who are wrongfully convicted…

The Irish High Court Issues a Ruling on Prisoner Access to Forensic Material

The Irish High Court recently ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to grant John Gerard McDonagh access to forensic materials collected during the murder investigation of Siobhán Hynes. McDonagh seeks the materials in a effort to prove himself innocent of Hynes’ rape and murder which took place in 2001.

According to the Court, access to these materials must be sought through the Garda Commission or the Director of Public Prosecutions. McDonagh is also entitled to seek access through the Court of Appeals.

In honor of the International Conference on Wrongful Conviction’s taking place in Ireland this week, here is a link to the Gaelic version of the article above.

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

USA Today discusses the post-release struggles of Jonathan Fleming who served 24 years of a life sentence before his murder conviction was overturned…

Last Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada denied Réjean Hinse compensation for the eight years he spent wrongfully imprisoned…

The DC Prisoners’ Project announced as one of 22 organizations to receive  DC Bar Foundation Legal Services Grant…

The West Virginia University College of Law Launches First National LL.M. Program in Forensic Justice

WVU-Law In conjunction with the Forensics & Investigative Science Department and the West Virginia Innocence Project, The West Virginia University College of Law, is launching the first national LL.M. in Forensic Justice. The one-year degree responds to the 2009 National Academy of Sciences Report on Forensic Sciences and the need for these scientific disciplines to be validated, and for lawyers to better comprehend how findings are used in the courtroom. Courses will be taught by both law faculty and forensic & investigative science faculty on topics such as Impression and Trace Evidence, Forensic Quality Assurance, and Foundations of Criminalistics. All courses are specifically created and structured for attorneys and for the use of science in the courtroom. Applications are now being accepted.
For more information, visit: http://law.wvu.edu/forensic-llm; or contact Valena Beety at: valena.beety@mail.wvu.edu.

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

Governor of California Jerry Brown signs legislation authorizing $698, 400 pay-out to three wrongfully convicted individuals…

A Cook County Judge refused to grant a certificate of innocence to ex-death row inmate despite finding the man actually innocent…

Scott Henson named director of Texas Innocence Project…

In Alaska, the first of the “Fairbanks Four” leaves prison for halfway house…

Louisiana appeals court blocks release of “Angola Three” inmate Albert Woodfox…

New Zealand starts new ‘Innocence’ Panel

untitledSince the high profile exoneration of Teina Pora (see here…) and lots of calls for reforms in New Zealand, including a body to look at miscarriages of justice, the newly created New Zealand Public Interest Project (NZPIP) has now started work. A charitable organisation, it plans to look into cases as well as wider concerns about the operation of the NZ criminal justice system. The body already has a queue of high profile cases in which a prisoner is claiming innocence. While good news…. it is not a government backed (or funded) body… which should have been the response to growing concerns about the justice system in New Zealand.  One hopes that if they can bring attention, and overturn, further miscarriages of justice, the government will take the issue seriously and set up a funded body. Read more here….

Many innocent people languishing in NZ jails says legal group fighting miscarriages of justice

Panel to investigate miscarriages of justice

Miscarriage of justice investigation panel launched

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

The Shifted Paradigm: Forensic Sciences’s Overdue Evolution from Magic to Law

Chris Fabricant and Tucker Carrington have posted the above-titled article on SSRN.  Download here.  The abstract states:

A decade ago a controversial article in Science Magazine predicted a coming “paradigm shift” that would push forensic sciences toward fundamental change as the result of “[l]egal and scientific forces . . . converging to drive an emerging skepticism about the claims of the traditional forensic individualization sciences.” This article argues that the predicted paradigm shift has occurred. We support our thesis through a deconstruction of the jurisprudence of two of the forensic disciplines implicated in numerous wrongful convictions – forensic odontology (bite mark analysis) and forensic hair microscopy – and an examination of a confluence of unprecedented events currently altering the landscape of forensic sciences. The empirical evidence and data gathered here demonstrates that traditional forensic identification techniques, as well as the doctrines supporting them, are ultimately no more than a house of cards built on unvalidated hypotheses and unsubstantiated or non-existent data. Several very serious consequences result, among them that state, and to some extent federal, jurisprudence that stands for the proposition that this type of evidence is admissible is objectively erroneous and must be reevaluated and effectively rejected as valid precedent; and that the long-overdue paradigm shift presents a unique ethical challenge to criminal justice professionals, one that current professional ethics regimes fail to adequately capture, even though fundamental due process norms compel the conclusion that prosecutors, defense attorneys, forensic experts and their respective governing bodies have an ethical, moral and legal duty to revisit affected cases and provide remedies. Put differently, the “path forward” for forensic sciences that the National Academy of Sciences identified in its seminal 2009 report must have a rear-view mirror.