Category Archives: Freedom’s Heroes

Jon Eldan can be an exoneree’s best friend

First comes exoneration. Then, if you re lucky, comes Jon Eldan, an attorney who left his corporate practice to help exonerees with the everyday problems they face after prison. Eldan says he has helped 303 men and women in 33 states since late 2014, entering their lives after those who helped get them released have moved on to other cases.The Marshall Project’s Rachel Siegel tells Eldan’s story here.

Montana Innocence Project Mourns Loss of Talented Investigator and Friend

Spencer Veysey, 26, a tireless investigator for the Montana Innocence Project tragically died October 2, 2015, while mountain climbing on the east face of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, northwest of Boulder, Colorado. A 2012 graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism, he was one of four full-time employees of the Montana Innocence Project.

Veysey was a student intern and volunteer the past three years and became the first full-time investigator for the Montana Innocence Project. He worked long hours to uncover truth for the Project’s clients. He had evaluated and investigated many cases and had testified at trial. Veysey was described by Larry Mansch, legal director of the Project, as having a “wealth of knowledge” that he said was “truly irreplaceable.”

Our condolences to Spencer Veysey’s family, friends, and Montana Innocence Project colleagues.

Read more here: (Missoulian) and (Ames Tribune).

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

Innocence Network Award Winners…

Each year at the annual conference (which was just held in Orlando the past few days), the Innocence Network gives out a few national awards.   Here are this year’s winners….

2015 Journalism Award to Radley Balko, Washington Post, for his series on bite mark evidence

2015 Champion of Justice Award to Bryan Stevenson, of the Equal Justice Initiative

Lifetime Achievement Award to Edward Blake, Forensic Science Associates

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Weekend Quick Clicks…

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

  • State of Mississippi to make pay outs in more than a dozen wrongful conviction cases
  • Pennsylvania Innocence Project wins new trial for woman convicted 42 years ago on flawed arson science
  • Charges dropped against California Innocence Project client Michael Hanline, who is the longest serving wrongfully convicted Californian
  • Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson honored for courage by DOJ
  • Well-done video from British TV about Ohio Innocence Project’s recent new trial wins for Wheatt, Glover and Johnson based on flawed gun-shot residue evidence and Brady violations
  • New Yorker article on compensation for the wrongfully convicted
  • Exoneree Martin Tankleff mulls run for Congress

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Derrick Hamilton exonerated in New York; Alan Beaman pardoned in Illinois

In two separate cases, men who were convicted and imprisoned for murders they did not commit had a very good week as officials recognized their innocence on Friday, January 9. Both had been released after years in prison but had continued to fight to clear their names and reputations.

Derrick Hamilton spent 21 years in prison for the 1991 murder of Nathanial Cash in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York. In prison, he steadfastly proclaimed his innocence knowing that this worked against his opportunities for early parole. He remained in prison even after the sole witness — Cash’s girlfriend whose Continue reading

Jane Raley: Tenacious Advocate for the Wrongfully Convicted

All who have followed the accomplished work of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law are saddened by the loss of the Center’s Co-Director, Jane Raley, 57. Surrounded by her loving family, Raley died peacefully at her home on Christmas Day after battling cancer.

Raley had been a member of the legal staff of the Center on Wrongful Convictions since 2000. An exceptional lawyer and teacher, Raley was instrumental in the cases of eleven inmates who were eventually released, according to an obituary in the Chicago Tribune (here). Continue reading

A Case for Mercy and Discretion in Criminal Justice

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”

– Abraham Lincoln

So-called tough-on-crime policies in the United States over several decades have resulted in unanticipated changes in the criminal justice system that most Americans probably do not fully realize. Mandatory sentencing, policies such as “three strikes,” and increasing use of plea bargaining as opposed to jury trials have prompted an explosion in the prison population and unprecedented prosecutorial authority. With all due respect to those prosecutors who serve us well, we now know that increased power and immunity from abuses have enabled prosecutorial misconduct, a significant contributor to wrongful convictions.

While the Innocence Project and other organizations work to correct miscarriages and prevent others, and new models such as conviction integrity units seek to address the failure of the appeal process to correct conviction errors, a recent case demonstrated the appropriate use of an intact but rarely used remedy: mercy and discretion by public officials.

These capacities once broadly utilized by judges in sentencing may be the most efficient way to cure injustices whether wrongful convictions or unfair sentencing. In a recent illustration, no one questioned the guilt of Francois Holloway. The New York Times reported (here) and (here) that he was charged in 1995 with three counts of carjacking and using a weapon during a violent crime (he did not carry a gun but his accomplice did).

When the government prosecutor offered Holloway a plea deal with a prison term of 11 years, he declined. Holloway’s lawyer assured him that he would win at trial.

His attorney was wrong. Continue reading

First-of-its-kind Exoneration Expected in Dallas

Michael Phillips, an African American man falsely convicted of sexual assault, told everyone he was innocent, but after his attorney advised that he would be better off pleading guilty than risking conviction at trial, and after he then served out his 12-year prison term, he never thought his name would be cleared. However, on July 25, 2014, at 9 a.m. Mr. Phillips, 57, in a wheel chair due to sickle cell anemia, is expected to be exonerated in Criminal District Court 3 at the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas, Texas.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins’ ongoing initiative to review untested rape kits revealed that Michael Phillips was innocent. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, this is the first time in the United States an exoneration of this nature has occurred…as a result of a district attorney’s systematic testing without active request by a defendant. Continue reading

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

Paying Tribute to Innocence Movement Visionary Rob Warden…

This is an article about the event last Friday honoring the career of Rob Warden…Congratulations Rob!

From Northwestern University:

Leaders who reframed death penalty debate come together to honor Rob Warden

May 5, 2014 | by Hilary Hurd Anyaso

CHICAGO — When the Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC) at Northwestern University School of Law opened in 1999, wrongful convictions were viewed as anomalies. There from the beginning, Rob Warden, the co-founder and executive director of the CWC, will be honored for his award-winning work at a symposium that marks his imminent retirement.

In the tribute to Warden, the symposium also will feature other leaders whose relentless work over the years has led to a sea change in the national discourse about the death penalty, shifted public perception and policies about wrongful convictions and resulted in hundreds of exonerations.

Co-hosted by the Center on Wrongful Convictions and the School of Law’s Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, “Champion of Justice: A Symposium to Celebrate Rob Warden’s Quest to Free the Innocent” will be held from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 9, at Northwestern University School of Law, 375 E. Chicago Ave., Thorne Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Barry Scheck, professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and co-director of the Innocence Project, widely known for its use of DNA evidence to exonerate the wrongfully convicted, will give the keynote address at 4:45 p.m.

Larry Marshall, co-founder of Northwestern’s Center on Wrongful Convictions and currently a professor at Stanford Law School, will deliver the opening address at 1:40 p.m.

(Marshall led the 1998 landmark National Conference on Wrongful Convictions and the Death Penalty. Journalists from around the world came to Northwestern Law to cover the historic gathering that for the first time brought together dozens of people released from death row with scholars, activists and lawyers in a highly publicized examination of wrongful convictions.)

The symposium will feature a number of tributes to Warden, including those given in a video sponsored by Kirkland & Ellis and the Cohen Law Group. Warden also will be interviewed on stage and receive a tribute from exonerees.

Marshall will lead a panel discussion on how innocence changed the death penalty debate; a sexual assault survivor who misidentified her attacker will give a presentation; and a panel discussion on the causes of wrongful convictions and reform initiatives will be led by Steve Drizin, a clinical professor and assistant dean at the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern Law who has done leading work on false confessions.

For more information about the event, see

CLE credit will be available for this event.


Warden, an investigative journalist whose reporting has helped to free scores of innocent men and women, co-founded the CWC with Larry Marshall, a former Northwestern Law professor, in the spring of 1999. The CWC was founded in the wake of the historic conference on wrongful convictions and the death penalty held at Northwestern University School of Law in November 1998. The conference, which gathered together the largest ever number of exonerated death row inmates on the stage of the School of Law’s Thorne Auditorium, focused the country and the world on the risk of executing the innocent and helped to reframe the debate about the death penalty.

During the 15 years since the founding of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, the work of Warden, Marshall and the CWC staff and attorneys influenced then-Illinois Gov. George H. Ryan’s decision first to declare a moratorium on the death penalty and then to grant clemency to all of the remaining Illinois death row inmates in January 2003. The Illinois legislature’s decision to abolish the death penalty and Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to sign the abolition bill into law would never have happened were it not for the work of Warden and the CWC.

Under Warden’s leadership, CWC work also has spurred wide-ranging reforms aimed at preventing wrongful convictions. Most recently, Warden was an invited guest of Illinois State Rep. Scott Drury when Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a bill expanding the requirement that interrogations of homicides be electronically recorded to include other serious felonies. Warden has been a prodigious scholar since arriving at Northwestern, publishing numerous law review articles and several books on subjects related to wrongful convictions and the death penalty. He also has been instrumental in the creation of a network of innocence clinics around the country.

In May 2012, the National Registry of Exonerations, the most comprehensive collection of exonerations in the United States ever assembled, was launched with a report covering 873 exonerations from 1989 through February 2012. Since then, the registry has added exonerations at a rate exceeding 200 per year. Warden has played a pivotal role in the formation of this joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989 — cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence.

Pat Vaughan Tremmel, associate director of media relations, contributed to this story.

– See more at:

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

Stranger Raises 35k for Exoneree….

From ABCnews:

When Alex Sutaru heard the story of Jonathan Fleming, a Brooklyn man exonerated after doing nearly 25 years in a New York prison for a murder he didn’t commit, he knew he had to act.

“This is somebody that wasn’t guilty of a crime; he was wrongfully convicted,” Sutaru said. “After the hell he’s been through for the past 24 years he came out with a positive attitude and said he wants to live the rest of his life, go to school, be positive and today’s the first day of the rest of my life.”

Fleming had been freed three weeks ago by a key piece of evidence — a phone receipt in the case files all along that put him at Walt Disney World with his children when the murder was committed in New York.

Though his release was astounding and a long time coming, Fleming was returned with no home, no job and no money.

“I had about $93 in my account so that’s all I was given when I got out of prison, $93,” Fleming said. “I’m living from house to house with my cousins.”

Amazingly, even after all of the hardship he endured, he expressed not one ounce of resentment.

After being asked how he could not be angry after such an ordeal, Fleming said, “I just have to move forward. I’m just so happy to be out and I don’t want to live that way.”

So Sutaru, a 32-year-old Wall Street banker, moved by Fleming’s demeanor and his story, went online and created a fundraising campaign.

Click here for more information on the campaign.

Within days the campaign raised nearly $35,000 from more than 600 people in 14 countries. The money will help Fleming afford a place to live and food to eat as well as get him on his feet while he looks for a job.

“I think people recognize that donating a little they can help this person integrate back into society and build a life for himself that was wrongly taken away from him,” he said. “People are good. There is some bad out there but most people are good.”

On Monday, Fleming and Sutaru met for the first time.

“I want to thank you, man, I really do, I want you to know that, it really means a lot that you did this for me,” Fleming said. “You’re a wonderful man to do this for me. I appreciate it.”

“People, you know, I never thought they’d do this for me,” he told ABC News. “I look at things really different now, I really do, I look at things real different.”



R.I.P. Hurricane Carter…

That’s the story of the Hurricane,
But it won’t be over till they clear his name
And give him back the time he’s done.
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world.

-Bob Dylan

The legendary Hurricane Carter passed away yesterday at 76.

NY Times article

From The Nation

Rest in peace…