Ohio and California: Convictions Overturned after Record-Long Wrongful Incarcerations

It has been a remarkable week for Innocence work, and this is only Wednesday.

Yesterday, November 18, Ricky Jackson’s murder conviction was vacated in Ohio after Jackson had spent 39 years in prison. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty acknowledged the case against Jackson had disintegrated when the key witness, who was 12 years old at the time of the crime, recanted. The district attorney does not expect to retry Jackson, 57, who broke into sobs as it became clear that the charges against him were being dropped. He is expected to walk free on Friday.

Ohio Innocence Project lawyers Brian Howe, Carrie Wood, and Mark Godsey represented Jackson, of Cleveland. Attorneys Terry Gilbert and David Mills, who represent Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman, brothers convicted with Jackson on the same evidence, have sought new trials for the brothers and are expected to now ask McGinty to drop the charges against them.

Read more about this case here and here.

Also this week, after serving 36 years in prison, Michael Hanline, 69, had his conviction of the 1978 murder of J.T. McGarry overturned in California after new DNA testing of crime scene evidence excluded Hanline. Evidence withheld from the defense also undermined the integrity of his conviction. The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office joined the California Innocence Project’s petition to reverse the conviction.

A hearing before Judge Donald Coleman of the Ventura County Superior Court on Nov. 24 is expected to result in Hanline’s release. While the district attorney signed on to the petition to reverse the conviction, the office has indicated that it will reinvestigate before deciding whether to retry him.

If released as expected, Hanline will be the first of twelve inmates dubbed the “California 12” to be freed. The twelve cases were selected for innocence clemency petitions that were presented to Governor Brown a year and a half ago after a 700+ mile Innocence March by lawyers from the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law.

Justin Brooks, Director of the California Innocence Project, which has worked on the Hanline case since 1999, announced the vacation of Hanline’s conviction, with a revision in the Innocence team’s rallying cry, now, “Free the California 11!”

Read more about this case here and here.

Congratulations and many thanks to both Innocence Projects and all who worked with them to achieve court-ordered vacations of murder convictions in cases that are thought to have set new state records in length of wrongful incarceration.

In both cases, district attorneys joined Innocence lawyers in acknowledging a miscarriage of justice, and judges utilized their discretion in decisions to vacate convictions. Both cases are heartbreaking and frightening reminders that there is still much work to do to correct past miscarriages of justice, enact best practices in criminal justice process, and elevate the commitment to truth-seeking to prevent wrongful conviction and ensure the integrity of convictions in the first place.

 

11 responses to “Ohio and California: Convictions Overturned after Record-Long Wrongful Incarcerations

  1. Nancy, Outstanding article and news! Justin Brooks campaign and physical endurance test to free the “California 12” has been nothing but stellar. How many others can even match Brooks and his team? We need them in Arizona, where they say they have NO wrongful convictions and NO Brady violations. Congratulations to all who are working to free these wrongfully convicted and wrongfully imprisoned men (and women?)!

  2. Arizona Supreme Court judges passed the Petition to Amend, ER 3.8 Ethics responsibility of a prosecutes, against the prosecutors “en masse” objections. Effective January 2014 (The ABA created the Model Rule ER 3.8 in 2007, after the Duke/Nifong prosecutorial misconduct). Ignorance of wrongful convictions and Brady violations, is NO excuse. This should be a case study in law schools and criminal justice colleges:
    For those who are serious about preventing and correction wrongful convictions, read replies/letters from Arizona’s top prosecutors, the powerful prosecutors’ association, lawyers, experts and public, who gave their opinions to the Arizona Supreme Court Judges. One will learn who’s driving injustice/justice in Arizona:

    R-11-0033 Petition to Amend ER 3.8, Rule 42, Arizona Rules of the Supreme Court > Court Rules Forum > Arizona Judicial Branch
    http://azdnn.dnnmax.com/tabid/91/forumid/7/view/topic/postid/1530/afsort/DESC/Default.aspx

    • correction (need edit button): For those who are serious about preventing and CORRECTING wrongful convictions, read the replies/letters from Arizona’s top prosecutors (who filed their comments on the deadline day, when the public wouldn’t read it or have time to respond); the powerful prosecutors’ association, lawyers, experts and public, who gave their opinions to the Arizona Supreme Court Judges. One will learn who’s driving injustice/justice in Arizona:

      R-11-0033 Petition to Amend ER 3.8, Rule 42, Arizona Rules of the Supreme Court > Court Rules Forum > Arizona Judicial Branch

      http://azdnn.dnnmax.com/tabid/91/forumid/7/view/topic/postid/1530/afsort/DESC/Default.aspx

      • Camille, thank you for your dedication to correcting miscarriages of justice and for reforming the system. As of today, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, there have been 14 known exonerations in Arizona, and 11 of these have been wrongful convictions of murder. This is an indication that there are many more wrongful convictions that have not been identified. As you know, murder cases are a small percentage of all crimes. They are disproportionately represented in exonerations because resources are focused on the cases with most at stake, such as long wrongful incarcerations and, in some states, a death penalty. Again, thank you for your commitment to justice.

  3. Jeremy L. Goldberg

    Bless you all for the work you do, which attempts to ameliorate what is nothing less than a national disgrace. We institutional defenders also do what we can, but it’s an immense strain on our extremely limited resources to take on such monumental tasks. We do it anyway, but it’s a massive burden when it has to be done as work which is additional to our ordinary responsibilities, which are already relentlessly voluminous. Keep up the great work!

    • Jeremy, thank you for the important and difficult work that you do. We need to fund our public defenders better to provide you and other dedicated defenders more time and resources if we want to get accuracy and fairness in verdicts and plea negotiations. Keep up your great work!

  4. my request is that my wrongfuly convicted son, sean d. slade E-04858 case that he has been in prison almost 23 years be looked into by these attorneys who are getting the wrongfuly convicted freed will take on my son’s case. if so this would be a prayer answer for my only child. I thank you for your time and consideration. God bless.

  5. Pingback: Ricky Jackson Prison Release Video | Wrongful Convictions Blog

  6. It’s been a glorious week! Kudos to everyone’s hard work! There are really not enough words to describe what you do! 🙂

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