Author Archives: careydhoffman

Ten years after: An exoneree success story

“Hello truth.”

That’s the phrase Robert McClendon will always be associated with. It was his reaction 10 years ago when DNA results were announced that conclusively cleared him of the rape charge that had cost him his freedom for the previous 18 years.

But, in this 10th anniversary year of that moment, Robert says they are not necessarily the words that stick out most in his mind from that day.

mcclendon o'brien

Robert McClendon and Ron O’Brien

It was an exchange with Columbus Dispatch reporter Mike Wagner, whose reporting plays prominently in Robert’s story, that remains most vivid to Robert.

Heading into the proceedings to announce the results of the DNA comparison, no one was telling Robert what the results showed.

“No one would say anything about it. My family was bewildered, they were stunned,” Robert recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, the results must have come back inconclusive.’ All kind of things were going through my mind, and I will always remember this conversation with Mike Wagner.

“Mike knew I liked basketball, and he was a high school basketball player himself, so he had said, ‘If you ever get out, we’ll have to play a game of 1-on-1.’ So no one is telling me anything, and then Mike walks by and he says the words I’ll never forget, ‘You ready for that basketball game?’ “

That is how Robert McClendon learned his 18-year nightmare was drawing to a close.

McClendon, Wagner and others involved in his case – along with fellow Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) exonerees Dean Gillispie, Laurese Glover and Nancy Smith – revisited his journey to justice this week during a panel discussion, “Hello Truth, Ten Years of Freedom” in Robert’s hometown of Columbus.

Also participating were Columbus city council member Jaiza Page, who served as moderator, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, Judge Charles Schneider of the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, former Columbus Dispatch reporter Geoff Dutton and OIP Deputy Director Jennifer Paschen Bergeron.

Robert’s case was a true landmark moment for the innocence movement in Ohio. Continue reading

Taiwan Innocence Project helps man gain total exoneration, 32 years later

After a 32-year battle to clear his name, Su Pin-kun can finally claim the title of “exoneree.”

Su’s saga to gain justice has been one of the best known in all of Taiwan. Working with the Taiwan Innocence Project, his full exoneration was finalized with an overturned verdict on Aug. 27.

Su from Taiwan

Su Pin-kun

Su, now age 69, was originally sentenced to serve 15 years after being found guilty on charges of robbery and attempted murder in 1987, based on the testimony of a co-defendant who had pled guilty. Yet Su has steadfastly maintained his innocence from the time of his arrest, despite being subjected to treatment during interrogation that included waterboarding, sounding an air raid siren while it was being held to his ear and repeated kicks to the area of his waist.

Being aware of how Su was being treated, his co-defendant confessed to the crimes to avoid similar punishment. He subsequently recanted both his own confession and absolved Su of any guilt in later court hearings. Continue reading

Philly’s Conviction Integrity Unit adds Ohio Innocence Project veteran

With a new position in the Philadelphia Office of the District Attorney, former Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) attorney Carrie Wood knows that, although the title has changed, her goal—as the old TV saying goes, to protect the innocent—is the same.

Carrie Wood portrait1

Carrie Wood

Wood’s move from the OIP to the district attorney’s staff isn’t as dramatic a change in direction as it sounds. She is an assistant district attorney, but her assignment is with the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit.

The emergence of conviction integrity units (CIUs) is a response from within the justice system to the irrefutable evidence that has come forth through the Innocence Movement that the system is not infallible, and that sometimes those convicted and imprisoned are truly innocent.

Wood has landed her new position in Philadelphia at a particularly interesting time. A new, reform-minded district attorney, Larry Krasner, won election to the office last November. Krasner’s career experience is as a civil rights attorney and public defender.

Continue reading