Prosecutorial Misconduct Reaches Epidemic Proportions
Innocence Project Lawyers Support Texas Prosecutor
Prosecutorial Misconduct Reaches Epidemic Proportions
Innocence Project Lawyers Support Texas Prosecutor
Martin Luther King Jr. remains frozen in time for many Americans. Seared into our consciousness is the man who battled Southern segregation.
We see him standing before hundreds of thousands of followers in the nation’s capital in 1963, proclaiming his dream for racial harmony. We see him marching, arms locked with fellow protesters, through the battleground of Alabama in 1965.
But on the 50th anniversary of his death, it is worth noting how his message and his priorities had evolved by the time he was shot on that balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in 1968. Dr. King was confronting many challenges that remain with us today.
He was battling racism in the North then, not just in the South. He was pushing the government to address poverty, income inequality, structural racism and segregation in cities like Boston and Chicago. He was also calling for an end to a war that was draining the national treasury of funds needed to finance a progressive domestic agenda.
This may not be the Dr. King that many remember. Yet, his words resonate powerfully – and, perhaps, uncomfortably – today in a country that remains deeply divided on issues of race and class.
“All the issues that he raised toward the end of his life are as contemporary now as they were then,” said Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer-Prize winning historian who has written several books about Dr. King.
It is no surprise that Americans remember the man who focused on demolishing the legal underpinnings of Jim Crow.
Holding on to the memory of the earlier Dr. King allows us to focus on our nation’s progress, not on the deeply entrenched problems that remain.
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CINCINNATI — Today, the only thing that stops Ru-El Sailor from walking free after serving 15 hard years in prison for a murder that he didn’t commit is the fate of a motion to vacate his conviction. That motion was filed by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley.
If a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge approves O’Malley’s motion, Sailor will join his family, friends, and community in a celebration of justice that we don’t often see in today’s news.
He also will be greeted by Evin King, whom O’Malley exonerated last year. Evin spent nearly 23 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, but as a free man will welcome Sailor, who was wrongly convicted in the 2002 murder of a Cleveland man, to the family of Ohio’s exonerees.
Sailor is represented by two outstanding advocates, Cleveland attorney Kim Corral and Jennifer Bergeron of the Ohio Innocence Project. Corral and Bergeron worked tirelessly on Sailor’s case.
That work eventually brought them to O’Malley’s Conviction Integrity Unit, led by another committed attorney, Russell Tye.
If the motion to vacate Sailor’s conviction is granted, O’Malley and his Conviction Integrity Unit deserve much credit for his freedom.
It might seem to those unfamiliar with how wrongful conviction cases work that once evidence surfaces of the innocence of someone wrongfully imprisoned, prosecutors just agree to freedom, like we see on television shows or in movies. But unfortunately, too often that is not the case.
For those of us who do innocence work, we see case after case where prosecutors presented with evidence of a wrongful conviction resist that evidence. They dig in and refuse to admit a mistake no matter how great the showing of innocence. This is because prosecutors are human.
Read the full article here
Hundreds marched in Downtown Memphis demanding criminal justice reform
Jennifer Thompson has told her harrowing tale many times. In 1984, a man broke into her apartment and sexually assaulted her at knifepoint. She picked Ronald Cotton out of a police lineup, and he was sent to prison. But a decade later he was proven innocent and released. The two met and eventually co-authored a book, “Picking Cotton.” They toured the country, advocating for laws that might prevent such tragedies. The real perpetrator, Bobby Poole, was identified through DNA, and died in prison in 1998.
‘Testilying’ by Police: A Stubborn Problem
Why the Prevalence of Lying by Police is a Problem for the Innocent
Texas Cop Who Killed A Black Man In Front Of His Children Indicted For Lying (The cop still has his job.)
A fairer trial system requires both transparency and a shift of power away from prosecutors “into the hands of (impartial) sentencing judges,” argue the authors of a forthcoming article in Missouri Law Review.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say the right to a fair trial in the U.S. is close to a myth, when the fate of more than 90 percent of criminal cases is determined by unrecorded conversations that take place in a courthouse hallway, according to the article, entitled Plea Bargaining: From Patent Unfairness to Transparent Justice.
The authors propose replacing the current U.S. system with a model similar to one used in Australia, where judges have a high degree of authority over sentencing, and where the high court has ruled that prosecutors cannot even make a submission regarding an appropriate sentence.
Read more here
Until Proven Innocent: Life after prison for 3 men now free after wrongful conviction
He lost 11 years after a wrongful conviction. Who can blame Kerry Porter for being angry?
Philadelphia’s newly minted district attorney, Larry Krasner, was meeting constituents in a packed church in West Philadelphia earlier this month to discuss his plans for the job. The meeting was unique in that it quickly revealed to community members what local civic leaders and officials have already learned about Krasner: He is making good on his promise to revolutionize the job of district attorney and, in the process, offering an extraordinary experiment in criminal justice reform at the municipal level that could serve as a national model.
In the church, queries and complaints from constituents that might have made his predecessors cringe were softballs for Krasner: a loved one has been wrongfully incarcerated? Send the case to the revamped Conviction Review Unit, a sort of in-house innocence project. How can lying officers be kept off the stand? He has staff working to verify and expand a formerly secret “do not call” list of 29 suspect officers. Late in the meeting, one elderly woman asked a question that cuts to the core of concerns for those who doubt Krasner’s reforms: What would he do about the drug dealers and users on her street that make her feel unsafe? He didn’t miss a beat: “The past solution was to lock [corner drug dealers] all up and that didn’t work. We have to go after root cause,” he says. This came after an extended riff promising “to go after doctors, and pharmaceutical corporations” for their role in the nation’s opioid crisis. Notably, his office had already initiated legal proceedings against some of those pharmaceutical companies.
Back on the campaign trail last year, Krasner, a former civil rights and criminal defense attorney who had been best known for suing police officers, offered a stump speech that condemned the criminal justice system for being racist and for criminalizing poverty and addiction. He was an unusual candidate to be the city’s top law enforcer. Voters swept him into office. Now, two months into his term, DA Krasner is virtually undistinguishable from candidate Krasner.
Read about the reforms Krasner is making here
More exonerations are driven by police and prosecutor misconduct
Let’s Put an End to Prosecutorial Immunity
Swindler Exploits the ‘Hope of Inmates,’ Prosecutor Says
It is too easy to convict an innocent person. The rate of wrongful convictions in the United States is estimated to be somewhere between 2% to 10%. That may sound low, but when applied to a prison population of 2.3 million, the numbers become staggering. Can there really be 46,000 to 230,000 innocent people locked away? Those of us who are involved in exoneration work firmly believe so.
Millions of defendants are processed through our courts each year. It’s nearly impossible to determine how many of them are actually innocent once they’ve been convicted. There are few resources for examining the cases and backgrounds of those claiming to be wrongfully convicted.
Over the past 25 years, the Innocence Project, where I serve on the board of directors, has secured through DNA testing the release of 349 innocent men and women, 20 of whom had been sent to death row. All told, there have been more than 2,000 exonerations, including 200 from death row, in the U.S. during that same period. But we’ve only scratched the surface.
John Grisham continues by discussing the 8 major reasons for wrongful convictions. Read his 8 reasons here.
Next Ohio execution raises too much doubt
For the first time in three decades, the “Death Penalty Capital of America” goes without an execution
DA: Former prosecutor withheld key email in death row case
Experts in forensics, statistics and the law will convene for a conference at the University of Virginia School of Law on March 26 to mark the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., which reshaped how judges evaluate scientific and expert evidence.
Judge Jed Rakoff of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York will deliver the keynote address at noon. The conference begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Law School’s Caplin Pavilion.
The Daubert ruling coincided with a surge in scientific research relevant to criminal cases, including the development of modern DNA testing that both exonerated hundreds of individuals and provided more accurate evidence of guilt.
“Leading scientific commissions have pointed out real shortcomings in the use of forensic evidence in the courtroom,” said professor Brandon Garrett, a participant in the conference and a principal investigator for the Law School’s Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensics Evidence, or CSAFE, projects. “The CSAFE collaboration, extending across four universities, including UVA, has been working with generous support from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to research these questions.”
Panelists will discuss how to develop better forensic evidence, how to analyze it more accurately in the crime lab and how to present it more effectively in criminal cases. Several contributions will be published in a special symposium issue of the Virginia Journal of Criminal Law.
The conference is sponsored by the Virginia Journal of Criminal Law and the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence.
The talks are free and open to the public. Attendees may contact Garrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (434) 924-4153 for more information.
Click here for more information on the speakers and schedule.
Citing a rise in wrongful-conviction claims by inmates, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office is launching a unit of veteran prosecutors to review the integrity of past convictions, joining a small but growing number of prosecutorial agencies around the country devoting resources to identify innocent prisoners.
Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey is asking county supervisors for nearly $1 million to fund the new team, which would include three prosecutors, a senior investigator and a paralegal.
In seeking the funds, Lacey’s office said it wanted to keep up with an increasing number of wrongful-conviction claims that have followed the advent of similar units around the country, a growing number of innocence projects and heightened publicity surrounding innocence claims, county spokesman Dave Sommers said.
Innocence project groups and others hailed the move, saying that it would send a dramatic statement that the office is serious about reversing injustices and could spur the creation of similar units in smaller counties across California.
“This is exactly what should happen in every district attorney’s office in America,” said Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project at the California Western School of Law in San Diego. “We all have the same goal: to make sure the right people are in prison.”
Read more on the proposal here
Should lawyers share evidence before criminal trials? Va. Supreme Court considers changes to discovery rules
Kansas man wrongfully imprisoned [based on prosecutorial misconduct] for 23 years receives no compensation from state
In an announcement late Friday, Harris County, Texas, District Attorney Kim Ogg revealed that a former prosecutor had withheld a key email that could have prevented Alfred Dewayne Brown from receiving the death penalty.
As the Houston Chronicle writes, the email helped establish “a clear alibi” for Brown, who was convicted in a high-profile murder case in 2005 that landed him a death sentence.
Brown always maintained his innocence, and spent nearly 10 years on death row before his case was dismissed in 2015 and his conviction overturned. According the Chronicle, the 36-year-old Brown later sued a slew of Harris County officials, including the DA’s office, the prosecutor and police officer who handled the murder case, accusing them of hiding and falsifying evidence against him and violating his constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial.
The new e-mail, which came to light because of Brown’s lawsuit, backs up his claims, showing that the prosecutor at the time, Dan Rizzo, was aware of evidence that could exculpate Brown.
Read more about the withheld information and Brown’s case here
How a new generation of prosecutors is driving criminal justice reform outside of Congress
A Revolution of Values in the U.S. Criminal Justice System
HUNTINGTON – Newly tested DNA evidence would exonerate some men convicted in the 2002 murder of 21-year-old Deanna L. Crawford and might instead point to someone who has a history of abuse, according to documents filed with the Cabell County circuit clerk this week.
Phillip Scott Barnett, 37; his brother Nathaniel Barnett; and Justin Keith Black, 34, who are working with the Chicago-based Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School and West Virginia Innocence Project, are asking their convictions be overturned and for new trials.
Crawford was found Aug. 8, 2002, in Salt Rock by two men walking along Hickory Ridge Road.
Investigators believed her death had followed an Aug. 5, 2002, party at Justin Black’s house. That evening involved drinking alcohol, playing video games and a vehicle ride that turned violent. The motivation for her death remains a mystery.
Crawford’s family then waited more than six years for an arrest.
The request for a new trial comes nearly two years after Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred E. Ferguson approved a request for possibly exonerating DNA evidence to be tested.
Read more about the trial, appeal, and DNA results here
Radio Atlantic: How Innocence Becomes Irrelevant
Some Missouri lawmakers want to privatize the public defender system. For one county, it starts March 1.
[On 2-21-18] Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Rod Rosenstein gave a plenary address at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences where he outlined plans that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would be implementing regarding forensic sciences. While short on details, his remarks renew concerns that the DOJ is backtracking on progress to ensure that forensic disciplines are guided by the best science and that safeguards were enacted to insulate practitioners from law enforcement influence.
“We’ve known since 2009 that there are problems with the scientific validity of forensic disciplines used to identify suspects with the exception of DNA evidence. Yet after this administration shut down the National Commission of Forensic Science — the first inclusive and transparent effort to address these fundamental flaws in evidence that is used in countless prosecutions across the nation — there was no mention by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein of how the Department of Justice plans to address this core validity problem,” said Chris Fabricant, director of Strategic Litigation at the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law.
Read more about DAG Rosenstein’s announcement and concerns here.