One small step.
One small step.
Absolved finally of taking a life, Charles Jackson now has his sights set on saving one.
Charles received the life-changing news at the end of last week that prosecutors in Cuyahoga County had finally decided to dismiss the charges against him for a 1991 double-shooting that left a man dead – a crime for which he had already wrongfully served 27 years in prison.
Last November, a judge in Cleveland overturned his conviction, giving him back his freedom but with the prospect looming that the state could decide to try him again.
The decision to dismiss the charges means that a retrial scheduled to convene this month isn’t going to happen, and that Charles officially joins the ranks of 27 other exonerees freed through the work of the Ohio Innocence Project, based in the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
(He was officially added to the National Registry of Exonerations on Wednesday. You can read his profile with full details of his case at http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=5605)
It also means he can travel to Jacksonville, Fla., where his nephew, Houston Foster, is now residing.
Houston Foster is suffering with advanced kidney disease, to the point he can no longer work nor travel. After testing this spring following his release, Charles turned out to be a match for donating the kidney that Houston needs.
Now he’s making plans for an extended trip to Florida for the transplant of one of his kidneys to Houston. Continue reading
If you’ve followed the Ohio Innocence Project for an extended period of time, you are probably aware that summer is one of the busiest periods around the OIP offices.
The break between the end of spring semester in May and the beginning of fall semester in August is when students selected as OIP Fellows go through their most intensive period of working on cases that could be candidates for exoneration.
The 22 UC law students who are in this year’s cohort of Fellows have been joined by a group of international law students eager to gain exposure to the innocence movement in the United States. Continue reading
“Very rarely in life are we given a gift as precious as this one. It’s humbling to tell a story from people who have suffered so much, rallied so much and given us so much to believe in, in terms of what they are capable of in the best sense of survival.”
Survival. Perseverance. Justice. Renewal.
It sounds like the stuff of a screenplay. In this case, though, it’s opera, which introduces the creative possibilities of storytelling using music, story and song. The finished product, “Blind Injustice,” makes its world premiere this month. The much-anticipated production by the Cincinnati Opera in Music Hall’s Wilks Studio will have five performances between July 22-27, and all are sold out.
(A special preview event on July 17 at Allen Temple A.M.E. Church in Roselawn will feature several excerpts from the opera, along with a discussion with exonerees whose stories are part of the production and the creative team behind “Blind Injustice.” The July 17 event is free, but tickets must be reserved in advance.)
The opera is an adaptation from a book written by Ohio Innocence Project co-founder and director Mark Godsey. It explores the psychology behind wrongful convictions while also drawing on specific experiences from OIP exonerees.
For the creative team charged with developing the opera, it has been a challenging and emotional process. Continue reading
A landmark moment for wrongfully convicted Ohioans arrived today, promising a measure of justice and smoother integration back into society, when Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law House Bill 411.
The new law opens the door for a number of exonerees to receive financial compensation for the years they spent wrongfully imprisoned, and certain hurdles that in the past have thrown the question of compensation being received into question have now been removed from the process.
“Protecting the rights and freedom of our citizens is my top priority, and when those rights are violated we have a responsibility to take action,” said Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron), one of the sponsors of the bipartisan bill, along with Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati).
“Thanks to this bipartisan effort, Ohioans who have been wrongfully imprisoned will soon have a better path forward to reclaim their lives and receive the justice they deserve,” Sykes added.
The bill was sponsored in the Ohio Senate by Sen. John Eklund (R-18th District) and Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-28th District).
The new law specifically addresses those cases where convictions were obtained despite what are known as Brady violations. Those are cases where it is ruled that the prosecution illegally withheld evidence that could point to the real perpetrators of the crime.
“The collaborative effort behind House Bill 411 led to a narrow but important piece of legislation that drew bipartisan support in both chambers of the Ohio Legislature,” said Pierce Reed, program director of the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) and one of the most active advocates in helping the legislation to advance. “After more than a year of debate, the overwhelming majority of legislators recognized the impact of Brady violations on the lives of Ohioans and the need to provide eligibility for compensation to innocent men and women whose convictions were tainted by violations of their fundamental rights to a fair trial.” Continue reading
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, 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
Robert Rihmeek Williams may be free but millions of other young, black and brown men just like him are not—and that’s no coincidence. After a lengthy legal battle and an outpouring of national support, the 30-year-old Philadelphia rapper better known as “Meek Mill” was released from jail on April 24. The hip-hop star was sentenced last November to two to four years behind bars for a series of minor, non-violent probation violations, following his 2008 conviction for drug and weapons charges. One of the violations included performing a motorcycle stunt while shooting a music video in New York in August 2017.
The sentence sparked mass outrage among fans, celebrities, professional athletes, prison reform activists, and the hip-hop community at large. Hundreds of thousands of people protested in Philadelphia, signed online petitions, and stood behind the #FreeMeekMill campaign. They argued that the harsh punishment was unwarranted and rooted in racism. For many, the hip-hop star became a symbol of discrimination within the U.S. criminal justice system, which predominantly impacts men of color.
Following his release last week, Williams vowed to help others trapped in the cycle of recidivism. “I understand that many people of color across the country don’t have that luxury [to fight justice] and I plan to use my platform to shine a light on those issues,” he tweeted.
Williams’ case is not unusual. According to reports, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. After being convicted of a crime, offenders are then often subjected to parole or probation and years of court-ordered supervision. As a result, even a small violation can send them back to prison for a long time. This policy disproportionately affects African American men who compromise one-third of the 4.6 million Americans currently on parole or subject to probation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Overall, 1 in every 15 African American men are incarcerated compared to 1 in every 36 Hispanic men and 1 in every 106 white men. But, not only are these men being stripped of their time and families, corporations are making billions of dollars in exchange for their freedom.
Read about the corporations making a profit on other’s freedom Here
Greenville man wins settlement after spending 2 years in jail on charge that was dropped
Did Outdated Laws in Louisiana Help Convict an Innocent Man?
Kirk Bloodsworth’s new passion: Championship rings for those who won freedom
The state of Kansas is poised to take a significant step toward righting a grave injustice, the theft of people’s freedom for crimes they did not commit.
On Friday, legislators worked out a compromise, agreeing to award $65,000 per year for every year an exoneree was wrongfully imprisoned.
Initial payments would be up to $100,000 or 25 percent of what is owed. Subsequent annual payments would be $80,000.
The reason is telling. Several Kansas men were wrongfully imprisoned for so long that legislators felt it would take too many years to fairly compensate them without the higher yearly payouts.
Read more about the compensation here.
On March 24, 2018, more than five hundred men and women marched through Memphis Tennessee. Most of them had spent a large part of their lives in prison– a combined 3,501 years among them– for crimes they did not commit.
The march was the closing event for the 2018 Innocence Network conference, a gathering of exonorees and lawyers working on behalf of those wrongfully convicted. Exonorees came from every state in the country and from countries across the globe. They marched with attorneys and advocates and family. They held signs demanding change in the system that had wronged them. Demanding accountability. Demanding, at least, public recognition that innocent men and women were being arrested and convicted by agents acting on the public’s behalf.
Just days before the march, the National Registry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan released a review of the 139 people exonerated in 2017. Of them, well over half were initially convicted as the result of official misconduct, such as officers threatening witnesses, lab analysts falsifying results, or exculpatory information being withheld at trial. This misconduct is statistically more likely to occur in Reading more here
Fascinating stuff related to confirmation bias and tunnel vision…
In 1975, researchers at Stanford invited a group of undergraduates to take part in a study about suicide. They were presented with pairs of suicide notes. In each pair, one note had been composed by a random individual, the other by a person who had subsequently taken his own life. The students were then asked to distinguish between the genuine notes and the fake ones.
Some students discovered that they had a genius for the task. Out of twenty-five pairs of notes, they correctly identified the real one twenty-four times. Others discovered that they were hopeless. They identified the real note in only ten instances.
As is often the case with psychological studies, the whole setup was a put-on. Though half the notes were indeed genuine—they’d been obtained from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office—the scores were fictitious. The students who’d been told they were almost always right were, on average, no more discerning than those who had been told they were mostly wrong.
In the second phase of the study, the deception was revealed. Read more here.
Fake media is coming for our memories
The recent exonerations of Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee for a 1993 robbery and murder in Paterson, New Jersey have sparked serious concerns from Attorney General Gurbir Grewal who has decided to take over the investigation from Passaic County Prosecutors. The wrongful convictions of both Kelley and Lee, which were overturned based on new DNA evidence pointing to another man who committed a similar crime, have moved Grewal to consider statewide reforms that would improve how the criminal justice system responds to wrongful convictions in the state. He has also called on Supreme Court Chief Justice James Zazzali to independently review how prosecutors managed Kelley and Lee’s case. The prosecutors defended the convictions of Kelley and Lee rather, yet failed to investigate the man identified by the DNA testing.
“We’re going to supersede the investigation … to ensure public confidence in light of the criticism that has been leveled and the coverage of the matter,” said Attorney General Grewal.
The proposed reforms Grewal has decided to pursue include creating a conviction review unit to examine wrongful conviction claims and help prevent innocent people Read more here
Can Prosecutors Put the Same Gun in the Hands of More Than One Shooter?
John Thompson vs. American Justice
The Power of Prosecutors
In the US, there have been almost two thousand wrongful convictions Yet in so many cases, prosecutors, police, judges and even defense attorneys simply refuse to acknowledge these catastrophic mistakes. Our guest – a former prosecutor – explains why we blind ourselves to these injustices. Read more and listen to the podcast here
Some law enforcement officers stepping up for innocence and pointing to tunnel vision as leading to a wrongful conviction…
His Clients Weren’t Complaining. But the Judge Said This Lawyer Worked Too Hard.
Letter: Probation is prison, minus the metal bars
An appeals panel on Thursday vacated the conviction of Adnan Syed, whose case was chronicled in the first season of the hit podcast “Serial,” and ruled that he should be granted a new trial on all charges.
Mr. Syed was convicted in 2000 of the first-degree murder and kidnapping of his former girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.
In the ruling, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals said he had received ineffective legal counsel at his trial because his original lawyer had failed to call a witness whose testimony, if believed, “would have made it impossible for Syed to have murdered Hae.”
“Accordingly, Syed’s murder conviction must be vacated, and because Syed’s convictions for kidnapping, robbery, and false imprisonment are predicated on his commission of Hae’s murder, these convictions must be vacated as well,” the panel wrote. “The instant case will be remanded for a new trial on all charges against Syed.”
Mr. Syed’s new lawyer, Justin Brown, said both he and Mr. Syed were “thrilled” with the panel’s decision.
At a news conference, he said Mr. Syed “asked me to convey his deep gratitude and thanks from the bottom of his heart to all those who have supported him and believed in him.”
The accounts by the new witness, and other evidence seeming to cast doubt on the conviction, were the focus of “Serial,” which was a wildly successful podcast in 2014 and popularized the format for a general audience.
The 12-episode series featured Sarah Koenig, a former producer with the weekly public radio program “This American Life,” telling the story of the killing, investigation and trial in a conversational narrative with interviews. It was downloaded more than 175 million times and won a Peabody Award.
Mr. Syed’s lawyer, Mr. Brown, said he had been unable to locate the witness, Asia McClain, until the “Serial” team began investigating Mr. Syed’s story. He said the podcast had been “enormously helpful” in pursuing justice for his client continue reading here