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.

5 responses to “A Broken Justice System – Cases in Point – Part 1 – The Case of Ryan Madden

  1. Reblogged this on FORENSICS in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends and commented:
    And you think YOU had a bad day. Read this series by Phil Locke.

  2. Phil, Great idea to write about “cases in point”. Brilliant and courageous. The Ryan Madden case, is another horrific injustice destroying innocent people and their families. The collateral consequences are devastating. Another family, thrown into the American nightmare, fighting for their very survival.

    From your list, this applies to our daughter, Courtney Bisbee’s case: (there is a much longer list of malfeasance)

    1) Bad defense lawyering leading to a wrongful conviction

    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.

    The lawyers collect their huge upfront fees, face no consequences for a wrongful conviction and their clients get sent to prison for years – destroyed lives and then move on to the next big fee. Who has the courage to end this gravy train? The Bar?

  3. Patricia Borden

    My son is living the nightmare of a wrongful conviction with a 75 year sentence and no chance for parole. Your article speaks to what went wrong in my son’s case. Our broken Judicial System has no regard for peoples lives even when those convicted are actually innocent. Thank you for articulating so well the problems people like Ryan have to deal with.

    • Patricia, Your son was given a defacto-life sentence, as a non-violent first offender? How can the lawyers, prosecutors and the Bar allow this to happen? Where’s the public outcry? This could happen to anyone and ALL are at risk.

  4. Pingback: A Broken Justice System – Cases in Point – Part 2 – The Case of Courtney Bisbee | Wrongful Convictions Blog

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