Category Archives: Uncategorized

Quick Clicks looking at Prosecutorial Misconduct and withholding evidence.

Panelists Rail Against Prosecutorial Misconduct, Wrongful Convictions During UCI Forum

http://www.ocweekly.com/news/panelists-rail-against-oc-wrongful-convictions-at-uci-forum-8512913

 

Former prosecutors shouldn’t be judges. Here’s why

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/4/27/1520718/-Former-prosecutors-shouldn-t-be-judges-Here-s-why

 

Another week, another crime lab scandal

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2017/10/20/another-week-another-crime-lab-scandal/?utm_term=.0948d6a3fb67

I Served 26 Years for Murder Even Though the Killer Confessed

His lawyers wouldn’t tell anyone because of attorney-client privilege. Meanwhile, I kept a homemade metal shank with me at all times.
By Alton Logan with Berl Falbaum illustrated byCornelia Li

This article was published in collaboration with the Marshall Project.

In 1983, Alton Logan was convicted of killing off-duty Cook County corrections officer Lloyd Wickliffe in a Chicago McDonald’s, and sentenced to life in prison. What Logan didn’t know was that another man had confessed to the crime.

Andrew Wilson confided his guilt to his attorneys, Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz, who didn’t come forward with the information for more than two decades. The lawyers said they were bound by a sacrosanct rule of legal conduct: attorney-client confidentiality. But according to the lawyers, Wilson agreed they could disclose the confession after his death.

“Now I pray that the innocent who are imprisoned will hear the steel doors of their cells unlock and will walk out with their heads held high. Even if it takes 26 years.”

-Alton Logan

Read Alton’s story of conviction based on undisclosed ballistic evidence, fighting the system, the emergence of an affidavit that set him free, and life after exoneration here: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/evb4ap/i-served-26-years-for-murder-even-though-the-killer-confessed

 

 

Quick Clicks relating to Chapter 3 Blind Ambition

New Orleans DA bullies public defenders for doing their job.

https://injusticetoday.com/new-orleans-da-accusation-illegal-travis-boys-bc3dc2ab95e6

 

Federal hearing to probe if there is ‘widespread lying’ by NYPD on witness stand

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/federal-hearing-probe-cops-lie-witness-stand-article-1.3570651

 

Chicago Detective Accused Of Framing More Than 50 Testifies

https://www.buzzfeed.com/melissasegura/chicago-detective-accused-of-framing-more-than-50-testifies?utm_term=.gpaLVv0jo#.oa2ANRMxv

 

Weekend quick links

Must watch video: Elizabeth Loftus: How Can Our Memories Be Manipulated?

Why Would Prosecutors Refuse DNA Testing that would endure the state doesn’t execute the wrong man?

How true crime podcasts are connecting listeners to criminal justice reform

Third Degree Lite: The Abuse of Confessions

Many law enforcement agencies don’t follow state lineup, interrogation rules, study says

We got this law passed in 2010 to improve how eyewitness identification procedures are done in Ohio, and to get police departments to record interrogations. During the legislative negotiations, law enforcement asked that the penalties for noncompliance be reduced on the promise that they would voluntarily comply. After seven years, very few police departments are following the law according to a study that the Ohio Innocence Project released. It’s encouraging, however, to see the AG’s quotes in this article that they want to do better…

http://www.dispatch.com/news/20171011/many-law-enforcement-agencies-dont-follow-state-lineup-interrogation-rules-study-says

 

Let prosecutors face justice for malpractice

King’s county elected prosecutor places a wake-up call to other prosecutors.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Tuesday, October 10, 2017, 5:00 AM

Eric Gonzalez, change agentThe all-but-certain election of Eric Gonzalez to a full term as Kings County district attorney places a wakeup call to other New York leaders, especially the lawmakers in Albany, to hold prosecutors accountable for the serious problems — not honest errors, but deliberate malfeasance — that land innocent people in prison.

Current laws in New York allow a prosecutor to withhold evidence and even lie about it with few consequences. When our lawmakers reconvene in January, they should pass a law punishing prosecutors who use deception and shady tactics to slant the scales of justice.

Four years ago, Kenneth Thompson ousted longtime DA Charles Hynes on the promise of making convictions in Brooklyn fairer. Thompson’s office then went to work correcting past injustices: Over the last three years, courts overturned 22 convictions.

Read more at http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/prosecutors-face-justice-malpractice-article-1.3552241

Blind Injustice now available in all formats

My new book Blind Injustice, which delves into the psychology and politics of wrongful convictions from my days as a prosecutor and now innocence lawyer, is now available in hardcover and digital versions here.

Most of my daily updates on wrongful conviction issues have now been moved from this blog to the Blind Injustice Facebook Group, which you can join here.

We will still post on this blog from time to time, but it seems that the days of people going to blogs are starting to wane a bit, as most people get their news and updates on social media.  Please tune in to the Blind Injustice Facebook Group.

Thanks for reading and I hope you find Blind Injustice interesting and informative.

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Prosecutorial Misconduct in Southern California

Southern California ranks high in reversals per capita in which prosecutorial misconduct was involved, according to a new study by the Fair Punishment Project at Harvard Law School.  The study notes that the Orange County DA’s Office has the worst reversal record per capita in California.

This finding, coupled with the recent “snitch crisis” revelations concerning the repeated misuse of jailhouse informants, offers further evidence to support a critical review of the leadership and ethical practices of the Orange County DA’s office.

The full story in the Orange County Register can be found here:

http://www.ocregister.com/2017/07/28/harvard-study-prosecutor-misconduct-taints-justice-in-southern-california/

 

UK: Reports Point to Ongoing Disclosure Failings – Cause of Miscarriages of Justice

cardiff3Two very interesting reports have been published in the UK, both detailing the continuing crisis in disclosure, which is key to a just criminal process and crucial in ensuring a fair trial and preventing miscarriages of justice. Yet numerous reports and reviews always find disclosure to be a serious problem among the police and prosecuting authorities (the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in England and Wales).

Firstly, in a joint report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (a national oversight body for the police) and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (providing oversight of the CPS), the findings are yet again damning:

“The inspection found that police scheduling (the process of recording details of both sensitive and non-sensitive material) is routinely poor, while revelation by the police to the prosecutor of material that may undermine the prosecution case or assist the defence case is rare. Prosecutors fail to challenge poor quality schedules and in turn provide little or no input to the police. Neither party is managing sensitive material effectively and prosecutors are failing to manage ongoing disclosure. To compound matters, the auditing process surrounding disclosure decision-making falls far below any acceptable standard of performance. The failure to grip disclosure issues early often leads to chaotic scenes later outside the courtroom, where last minute and often unauthorised disclosure between counsel, unnecessary adjournments and – ultimately – discontinued cases, are common occurrences. This is likely to reflect badly on the criminal justice system in the eyes of victims and witnesses.”

As well as a series of pragmatic recommendations, the report authors refer to a needed change in ‘culture’: “However, just as importantly as responding to each issue, is a need for a change in attitude to ensure that disclosure is recognised as a crucial part of the criminal justice process and that it must be carried out to the appropriate standards.”

The Criminal Cases Review Commission reported in their 2015/2016 Annual Report that they have seen a “steady stream” of miscarriages where the primary cause was a failure to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defence. The inspection concentrated upon ‘volume’ crime – as the focus on serious crime means that those cases considered less serious are often given a low priority – yet individuals are routinely remanded in custody, convicted and imprisoned wrongly on ‘minor’ charges. Read the Inspectorate report here: MAKING IT FAIR: A JOINT INSPECTION OF THE DISCLOSURE OF UNUSED MATERIAL IN VOLUME CROWN COURT CASES, JULY 2017.

Secondly, the case of the Cardiff Three – one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice in British history, led to the trial of 8 police officers for their role in the arrest and prosecution of five men (three were convicted). However, the case collapsed after crucial evidence went ‘missing’. An inquiry into the collapsed trial has now reported after 2 years, and concluded that the collapse (the missing evidence subsequently surfaced after the police staff were formally acquitted) was due to ‘human error’ and not ‘wickedness’.  The report makes 17 recommendations for the disclosure process – the author stating: “Disclosure problems have blighted our criminal justice system for too long and although disclosure guidelines, manuals and policy documents are necessary, it is the mindset and experience of those who do disclosure work that is paramount.”

Read the full report here: Mouncher investigation report, July 2017

Media reports here: Trial of Cardiff Three police collapsed due to human error, inquiry finds

DNA convicts killer of 1976 murder previously ‘solved’ by police coerced confession that sent wrong man to prison.

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailA man has been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for the 1976 rape and manslaughter of Janet Commins, a 15 year old girl, a crime that made national news at the time. Stephen Hough was interviewed along with all local men aged 17-22, but was ruled out after claiming to have been stealing petrol at the time. Instead, another local young man, Noel Jones, a barely literate 18-year-old traveller who had been picked up by police the day Janet’s body was discovered, was interviewed for days without legal assistance. He denied all knowledge of the crime but later his girlfriend told police he had confessed to killing Janet and had asked her to provide him with an alibi. After two days of questioning, he signed two detailed confession statements. On the second day of his murder trial in June 1976, he admitted manslaughter and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Noel Jones spent 6 years in prison for the murder.

(Picture l-r: Stephen Hough, Janet Commins and Noel Jones)

 

At the time of the investigation, police suspected Jones had an accomplice, and in 2006 they undertook a ‘cold case review’ to try and secure forensic evidence against their second suspect. This did not match, and was uploaded to the National DNA Database. A decade later, Stephen Hough was arrested after sexually assaulting another 15 year old girl. When DNA was taken, this was also uploaded to the National DNA Database where it matched the crime scene DNA from the 1976 murder.

Noel Jones described the six years he spent in prison as a “nightmare” which “absolutely destroyed my life”. He has never challenged his conviction, but says he is innocent and only confessed because police had pressured and coerced him.

The original investigation is now being re-examined. The police officer in charge of the investigation rose through the ranks to become Deputy Chief-Constable. At Hough’s trial he gave evidence that nobody thought to offer Noel Jones a solicitor during the initial stages of his questioning because he wanted to investigate “properly and thoroughly”. Police could be “impeded” by solicitors representing clients, he said, adding that “there was no requirement in those days for a person to be advised that he could have a solicitor”.

Yet another miscarriage of justice from the era prior to mandatory police recording of interviews, where police practice was to aim to secure confessions at all costs. One wonders how many more are laying dormant, with no DNA to reveal the truth after all these years.

Read more here:

Janet Commins: How police caught her killer after 41 years

Stephen Hough jailed for 12 years for Janet Commins killing

Janet Commins: Killer’s confession ‘made up by police’

 

Richard Leo on False Confessions

Here is a great article that interviews Professor Richard Leo about false confessions.  Check it out.  As you may know, Richard is one of the world’s leading experts on false confession, and his body of work can be found here for free download.

Blind Injustice Facebook Group

As social media platforms like Facebook seem to be supplanting blogs to some extent in terms of activity and relevance, please visit and join the Blind Injustice Facebook group here, for ongoing, daily discussions of wrongful conviction issues.  This blog will be updated from time to time with new, longer and more substantive posts, but most daily activity going forward will take place on Facebook at Blind Injustice. Thank you for continuing to follow this blog, and for you passion in fighting wrongful convictions.

4th of July Quick Clicks…

Tyrone Noling Case in Ohio Supreme Court Today

Tuesday June 20th, Ohio Innocence Project attorney Brian Church Howe will be arguing in the Ohio Supreme Court on behalf of Tyrone Noling, an innocent death row inmate. Even though the witnesses against him have recanted and said they were pressured by the police to falsely implicate Tyrone, the state of Ohio wants to execute Tyrone WITHOUT giving him the DNA testing he deserves. DNA testing could prove his innocence. This is absolutely outrageous. Watch a powerful video about his case here:
https://vimeo.com/193942101

And watch Brian argue in the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday morning here:
http://www.sc.ohio.gov/videostream/flash.asp His is the last argument of the day.

Read former Attorney General Jim Petro‘s powerful editorial about the need for DNA testing in this case here: http://www.cincinnati.com/…/petro-dna-testing-vi…/408458001/

Weekend Quick Clicks…

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Exoneration today in Michigan…

From an email from David Moran of the Michigan Innocence Clinic (with permission):

 

The Michigan Innocence Clinic is very pleased to announce the exoneration today of our client, Desmond Ricks, who served 25 years for a murder he did not commit because the Detroit Police Department (DPD) Crime Lab committed forensic fraud and then covered it up.

On March 3, 1992, Mr. Ricks rode with his friend, Gerry Bennett to a restaurant in Detroit where Bennett was to meet a man for a drug deal. Ricks stayed in the car in the parking lot while Bennett went inside. A few minutes later, Bennett emerged from the restaurant with another man, who then pulled a gun and shot Bennett twice, killing him. The man then noticed Ricks, and so Ricks jumped out of the car and fled as the man opened fire on him. In the process of running away, Ricks dropped his jacket.
The police found the jacket, with Ricks’ ID, in the parking lot. They then drove to the home where Ricks lived with his mother and arrested him. The police searched the house and found a .38 Rossi special in Ricks’ mother’s nightstand.
Two days later, a Detroit Police firearms examiner declared that the two bullets recovered from Gerry Bennett’s body matched bullets he had test-fired from Ricks’ mother’s gun. Ricks insisted that this match was not possible, so his lawyer got the court to appoint an independent firearms examiner, David Townshend, who confirmed the DPD’s result. So both Pauch and Townshend testified for the prosecution at trial. There was no evidence of any kind against Ricks other than the bullets which matched his mother’s gun.
In 2008, however, the DPD Crime Lab was shut down after the Michigan State Police found massive “irregularities” in the ballistics unit. After hearing of the scandal, Ricks wrote David Townshend, who drove to the prison to meet Ricks, where he revealed that he had been suspicious for nearly two decades of the “autopsy” bullets he had analyzed in 1992.
Townshend told Ricks that he now believed the bullets the DPD gave him were too “pristine” and intact to have been removed from Bennett’s body. Townshend concluded that the DPD had given him the test-fired bullets and passed them off as the bullets from the autopsy so that Townshend would declare a match between those bullets and his own test-fired bullets, thereby confirming the DPD’s result.
Long story short, we took the case in 2011, spent years looking for the original autopsy bullets, eventually found them, and then got a court order to have them analyzed by the Michigan State Police Crime Lab. That analysis was completed last week and shows that David Townshend was correct: the bullets from the autopsy were far too mangled to be matched to any particular gun, but one of the bullets did have a faint pattern of 5 lands and grooves, which affirmatively excluded it as having been fired from a .38 Rossi (which has 6 lands and grooves).
The conclusion, then, is that the DPD Crime Lab in 1992 fabricated a match of the autopsy bullets to Ricks’ mother’s gun and then switched the autopsy bullets with test-fired bullets so that the independent examiner (Townshend) would not discover the fraud. Upon receiving the Michigan State Police report last week, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office immediately stipulated to overturn Ricks’ conviction and to not oppose his release on bond. Today, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss all charges.
Mr. Ricks was 26 when he was convicted and is now 51. He has spent time the last few days with his two daughters (both nurses) and met his six grandchildren for the first time. He looks forward to getting a job and, as he said at a press conference, “becoming a taxpayer.”
Over six years, we had seven different attorneys and about 15 law students work on this case. Our former staff attorney Caitlin Plummer had the case the longest and did the lion’s share of the work to get this result. A special shout out goes to the incomparable Claudia Whitman, who heard about this case before we did and very forcefully convinced us to accept it. And we are extremely grateful to David Townshend, who came forward with the truth when he realized that he had been duped into confirming the DPD’s “match” and didn’t waver even when the prosecutor initially called his claim “outlandish” and a “conspiracy theory.”
Dave Moran
Michigan Innocence Clinic

Friday’s Quick Clicks…