Tradition-bound U.S. system mired in scientific illiteracy, author says

The American legal system assumes that innocent people don’t confess to crimes they didn’t commit. It also assumes that eyewitness testimony is reliable and that jurors are impartial even though scientific research shows otherwise.  Therein lies the cause of many wrongful convictions.

“The legal system is resistant to change and resistant to paying attention to scientific research,” Adam Benforado, author of the book Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice, tells Wired magazine. You will find the informative story here.

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

The Sex Offender Registry Strikes Again

We’ve posted  here before about the insanity and injustice of the sex offender registries. Please see Sex Offender Registries – TIME-FOR-A-CHANGE.

A recent CNN article captures the situation very well. This quote from the article by a judge familiar with the case: “If we caught every teenager that violated our current law,” says former Judge William Buhl, “we’d lock up 30 or 40 percent of the high school. We’re kidding ourselves.”

See the CNN story – “How a dating app hookup landed a teen on the sex offender registry” – here.

 

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

“Toe Tag Parole” – a Documentary About Extreme Prison Sentences in the US

TOE TAG PAROLE: TO LIVE AND DIE ON YARD A

CAPTURING THE REALITY OF AMERICA’S EXTREME SENTENCING POLICIES AT A CALIFORNIA MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON, DEBUTS   AUG. 3 ON HBO

More Than 50,000 Americans, Consisting of Men, Women And Juveniles, Are Currently Sentenced To Life Without The Possibility Of Parole – America is the most punitive nation in the world, handing out historically harsh sentences that largely dispense with the concept of rehabilitation.

Alan and Susan Raymond (Oscar® and Emmy® winners for HBO’s “I Am a Promise:The Children of Stanton Elementary School”) explore the reality of “the other death penalty” in TOE TAG PAROLE: TO LIVE AND DIE ON YARD A, debuting MONDAY, AUG. 3 (9:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.

Other HBO playdates: Aug. 3 (5:05 a.m.), 6 (4:15 p.m., 12:30 a.m.), 7 (8:00 a.m.), 9 (3:00 p.m.) 11 (3:00 p.m.) and 15 (10:00 a.m.)

            HBO2 playdates: Aug. 12 (8:00 p.m.), 20 (12:30 a.m.), 23 (9:05 a.m.) and 25 (12:45 p.m.)

Featuring exclusive, unprecedented access, TOE TAG PAROLE: TO LIVE AND DIE ON YARD A was shot entirely at California State Prison, Los Angeles County, a maximum-security facility in the Mojave Desert.

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A Broken Justice System – Cases in Point – Part 1 – The Case of Ryan Madden

From time to time, I become aware of cases that are particularly good examples of the flaws, problems, shortcomings, and actual injustices of our so-called justice system that I have been writing about here for the last 3 1/2 years. I thought it would be good to highlight some of them for the blog.

As a backdrop to this series, I’d like to refer you to The Blaze article The American Nightmare: The Tyranny of the Criminal Justice System by John Whitehead. Please also see our previous post Why I Think the US Justice System is Broken – and Why It’s Not Getting Fixed.

Part 1” is the case of Ryan Madden in California.  Here is what I think this case exemplifies:

1) Bad defense lawyering leading to a wrongful conviction and exclusion from the appeals process.

2) The fact that you can pay huge sums of money to a lawyer who screws up your case, and you still get wrongfully convicted, and …. the lawyer keeps the money.

3) The existence of arbitrary “time bars” in the law that serve only to value legal process and finality of judgement over true justice.

4) The fact that so-called “conviction integrity units” are, in my opinion, still under the complete and arbitrary control of the prosecutor, and are not a reliable remedy for wrongful convictions. (Please see our previous post, Conviction Integrity Units – A Skeptic’s Perspective.)

Ryan’s father, Michael Madden, posted a comment regarding his son’s case to the WCB article Equal Justice Under Law … Well … Just How Much Justice Can You Afford?  His comment follows (with his permission), and is self-explanatory.

_______________________________________________________

My son is currently serving 15 years for two armed robberies he did not commit. Shoddy and lazy lawyering led to his conviction through a myriad of miscalculations and mistakes, including failing to have ATM pictures of the actual suspect photographically enhanced.

During the appellate process, his once highly regarded attorney submitted his appeal 35 days too late, leading to the mounds of exculpatory evidence gleaned postconviction to be ADEPA time barred. He stands a very good chance under this system of NEVER having ANY of the exculpatory evidence considered by the courts… Including an actual confession letter written by the real perpetrator.

Even though his attorney miscalculated the allowable time frame in which to submit his appeal, my son is paying the price for his mistake, while the attorney suffers no consequences AND keeps the $85,000 fee.

In a last-ditch effort to have someone – ANYONE – examine the evidence, his fate now rests in the hands of the Ventura County Convictions Integrity Unit. Even though they are playing with taxpayers money, it’s amazing how frugal they become when it comes to spending it on possibly overturning a conviction they received nine years ago.

How did this “justice” system ever arrive at a place in which the timeliness of an appeal involving actual innocence trumps actual innocence?

_______________________________________________________

Michael maintains a website about his son’s case: innocentinmate.com

“Part 2,” and more, to come in future.

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

Sam Gross, editor of the National Registry of Exonerations, recently wrote an editorial for the Washington Post: The Staggering Number of Wrongful Convictions in American

In Hawaii, attorneys say they can prove that the investigation and prosecution resulting in Taryn Christian 1995 murder conviction were rife with fraud

Illinois exoneree Alprentiss Nash who was convicted of murder in 1995 and released in 2012 after DNA tests proved his innocence, was fatally shot Tuesday after an argument

New York’s highest court denies State’s appeal of 2014 court decision overturning the 1993 kidnapping convictions of Everton Wagstaffe and Reginald Connor…

New Conviction Integrity Unit formed in Orange County, New York…

The Junk Science of Bite Marks Needs to Go Away

We’ve posted about bite mark junk science here before. See About Bite Mark Evidence – Forensic Odontology.

Now, a leading White House science advisor has exhorted the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to eliminate bite mark evidence, because there is, in fact, no science to it at all. See Radley Balko’s recent article in the Washington Post here.

Balko also correctly advocates in his article that we MUST get trial court judges out of the business of being the decision makers about what is, or is not, valid science. “If not a single court in the country to date has been able to rule against a self-evidently absurd field like bite mark matching, why should we continue to entrust the courts to arbitrate the scientific validity of other evidence?

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Juan Silva, who falsely confessed in order to protect his son, to be released from prison

In Michigan, Adam Stevens’ second-degree murder conviction overturned

Jack Edward Sagin of California loses latest appeal for innocence

In Florida, witness who helped send Andre Bryant to prison has recanted

New book sheds light on possible miscarriage of justice in the trial of Rajesh and Nupur Talwar who were convicted of killing their 13 year-old daughter…

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

The Connecticut Supreme Court upholds Judges decision to bar expert testimony on eyewitness unreliability…

Maine High Court denies Dennis Dechaine’s request for a new trial

Kansas University Innocence Project client Kimberly Sharp wins 10th Circuit appeal

200,000 pages of “Central Park Five” documents to be released

In North Carolina, Damian Mills and Teddy Isbell Sr. have reached a tentative settlement agreement with Buncombe County officials while their criminal convictions are still pending review…

Exoneree Band Rocks it out in Cleveland

Exoneree Band2The Exoneree Band performed live last week in guitarist Raymond Towler’s hometown, Cleveland, Ohio. Among the concert attendees were several students from the Ohio Innocence Project who traveled from Cincinnati to Cleveland to see the band play. The band features Raymond Towler (Ohio) on guitar; William Michael Dillon (Florida) on guitar and vocals; Antoine Day (Illinois) on vocals and drums; Eddie Lowery (Kansas) guitar and vocals; Ted Bradford (Washington) on bass; and Alan Northrop (Washington) drums. Each member was once imprisoned for a crime they did not commit. Collectively, they served over 100 years for these crimes before being exonerated.

Why so Many “Confessions” in Shaken Baby Syndrome Cases?

In suspected SBS cases, the child abuse pediatricians (CAP’s) and the police are perfectly willing to coerce a confession out of you, and they have circumstances on their side, because you are at your most vulnerable. You are terribly concerned about the condition of your child, or worse yet, your child has just died. (See our previous post on child abuse pediatricians here: The Child Abuse Pediatrician (CAP) – Just Another Term for Medical “Cop”)

We’ve posted about SBS “confessions” before. See Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) – A CBS Report: Blaming Melissa for the coerced “confession” of Melissa Calusinski. See Scenes of a Crime – A Documentary of a False Confession and Blatantly Coerced Confession Results in Conviction Reversal for the coerced “confession” of Adrian Thomas.

Washtenaw Watchdogs (Washtenaw County, MI) has just published an investigative report article on their website dealing with this very issue. It’s very powerful. See it HERE.

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

The Oklahoma Innocence Project continues to battle for Malcolm Scott’s freedom…

Robert W. Wood of Forbes Magazine discusses why “Taxing Wrongful Conviction Money Is Wrong“…

The National Law Review covers the root causes of wrongful conviction

In Chicago, DNA proves Daniel Andersen’s innocence in 1980 stabbing…

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals refuses to grant immunity to  former Pennsylvania prosecutors in civil suit filed by David Munchinski who spent 24 years wrongfully imprisoned…

Thembekile Molaudzi Update

Earlier this month Wits Justice Project client Thembekile Molaudzi was released from prison after his conviction for murder and robbery was reversed by the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Molaudzi served eleven years of a life sentence, during which time he was subjected to torture and forced into solitary confinement.

See below for recent new stories and podcasts featuring Molaudzi and Carolyn Raphaely, the journalist who investigated his case and helped prove his innocence.

Podcasts

Kaya FM – Today with  John Perlman: https://soundcloud.com/kayafm959/today-with-john-pelman-7-jul-2015-thembekile-molaudzi-in-prison-after-falsely-accused-of-murder?in=kayafm959/sets/today-with-john-perlman-23-april-2014

Cliff Central, Host Gary Herzberg, on “Laws of Life”

TV

ENCA – Thulasizwe Simelane

Articles

Innocent man’s long walk to freedom – The Star

For Thembekile Molaudzi, justice delayed was justice denied – Daily Maverick. Also appeared in All Africa

Wrongful Arrest: 11 Agonising Years Behind Bars – EWN

Wrongfully Arrested Man Opens Up About 11-year Imprisonment – EWN

Man Finally free after 11 years of wrongful imprisonment – North Eastern Tribune

Onskuldige Pta-man vry na 11 jaar agter tralies – Nuusneus

Former Ohio Innocence Project Fellow Catlin Wells Describes Her Experience

Catlin Wells, a rising 3L at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, dedicated an entire year of her life to the Ohio Innocence Project. During that time she witnessed six overturned convictions, the most to occur in any single year for the OIP. After being asked to write about her experience, Catlin found  it difficult to describe the profound impact working at the OIP had on her.

I thought about what I would put on a resume, but I couldn’t figure out how to reduce a whirlwind of a summer internship into a few bullet points […] I used the control A function to delete my draft and started over, this time trying to think about what I would tell if I had to turn my experience into one of those thirty second networking elevator speeches. “My name is Catlin, and I…” I couldn’t finish that one either.

Last week, I watched Ricky Jackson, a man who spent thirty nine years in prison for a crime that he did not commit, walk out of the jail doors and into life as a free man. Surrounded by a sea of microphones and questions, Ricky shrugged off questions about systematic injustice and the twelve year old whose testimony led to his incarceration. “I’m just glad to be out. I’m glad to be free.” At lunch a few hours later, Dean Gillispie, a Dayton exoneree, looked at Ricky and asked him if he’d used the bathroom yet. “Those sinks,” Dean said, “they just turn on by themselves.” When Ricky laughed, Dean gestured towards a line of exonerees and said, “It’s hard to get used to, but we’ll take care of you. You’re our brother now, you’re one of us. ”

Nothing follows the “I” of my elevator speech because what I am doing is not about me. My job is not about accumulating credentials, but about a man who, after almost four decades in jail had the compassion to forgive the kid who put him there. It’s about Dean, his line of brothers, and the other innocent men and women who still sit behind bars waiting until they too can throw their hands up and say, “I’m free.”

This article was featured in the Winter edition of the Dayton Federal Bar Association Newsletter. Read the full article here.

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Attorneys for Howard Guidry accuse Former Texas Prosecutor Kelly Siegler of withholding evidence in Guidry’s 1995 murder trial just a week after another man prosecuted by Siegler, David Mark Temple, had his conviction overturned for the same reason…

Daniel Scheidell finally returns home a month after his 1995 conviction was overturned by a Wisconsin Court…

Advances in DNA technology pave the way for inmates to get new tests on evidence…

Evidence of Police Dishonesty Leads to Overturned Convictions Nationwide

The Gotham Gazette asks, “Are DA’s Doing Enough to Overturn Wrongful Convictions?”

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

Court refuses to award compensation to Phil Webster, UK man wrongfully convicted of rape…

Mark Webster’s 2012 conviction for abduction has been overturned by a Virginia court due to new witness statements…

Darren Corbridge and John Naylor, two UK men wrongfully convicted of attacking police officers, will receive five figure sum  in compensation settlement …

Quote of the Day – About Prosecutors

From Cynthia Roseberry:

“We, as criminal defense lawyers, are forced to deal with some of the lowest people on earth, people who have no sense of right and wrong, people who will lie in court to get what they want, people who do not care who gets hurt in the process. It is our job – our sworn duty – as criminal defense lawyers, to protect our clients from those people.”

Cynthia Roseberry

Of course, you know who the “people” are that she’s taking about.

 

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

New Jersey exoneree awarded $12.5 million for 22 years of wrongful imprisonment…

Rhode Island judge overturns 1992 murder conviction based on DNA test results…

The 9th Circuit issues landmark DNA ruling

Ohio Exoneree Raymond Towler gears up to perform with the Exoneree Band in his home state…

Equal Justice Under Law? . . . Well . . . Just How Much Justice Can You Afford?

ejul

The words chiseled in stone above the entrance to the U.S. Supreme Court building say, “Equal Justice Under Law.” A truly noble philosophy – in theory.

But in actual fact, there’s nothing “equal” about justice in this country, and we’re not talking about racial, ethnic, religious, or gender issues here; although they certainly are a factor.  It’s a matter of just plain old “dollars and cents,” coupled with the statistical distribution of human capabilities. That is, the better the lawyer, the more money he/she can, and will, charge. This should not be surprising. It’s Economics 101 – supply and demand – the very bedrock foundation of capitalism. The better lawyers will be in higher demand – for those that can pay for them – and will consequently charge more money for their services. Lawyers are just like any other profession – doctor, mechanic, engineer, carpenter, tailor, chef, etc. – there’s a range of individual capabilities from “good” to “bad,” and the “good” one’s cost more money.  There’s an old saying in the legal business: “How much justice can you afford?” There’s no secret – the more you can pay for an attorney, the more effective your defense will be; and – if you’re actually innocent – the better your chances of a just outcome.

The law has become so incredibly vast, intricate, and complex, it’s no wonder that there have to be legal “specialties” – tax law, corporate law, patent law, estate law, non-profit law, contract law, political law, insurance law, criminal law, and on and on and on. It’s so complicated, even the lawyers can get it wrong. But the better lawyers are better at getting it right and in presenting an effective and successful case.

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