Please Give Generously to the Innocence Project of Florida

Marianne Salcedo — December 16, 2014 @ 5:27 PM — Comments (0)

My end-of-year appeal to you is short and heartfelt. Through your generous donations, the Innocence Project of Florida frees innocent men and women from Florida prisons.

Today, our exonerees shout the joy of freedom, but most were serving life sentences. Without you and the Innocence Project of Florida, they might have died in prison with no one ever to hear them or help them.

All of them were young with their lives ahead of them; all of them had mothers and fathers; all were shackled and locked up. Collectively, Florida’s 14 DNA exonerees were imprisoned for more than a quarter of a millenium (268 years) for crimes they did not commit. For a very long time, no one heard their cries.

We hear them. The Innocence Project of Florida currently has more than 30 cases in litigation and we are anticipating up to three new exonerations in 2015. We receive hundreds of requests from prisoners each year — but we cannot help them without you.

For the sake of every innocent man and woman who is spending this holiday season locked up in prison hoping for a miracle, please donate generously to the Innocence Project of Florida. Do not let them spend another year behind bars.

Thank you. I wish you a happy and peaceful New Year— and one that is filled with miracles!

Sincerely,
Seth Miller, Esq.
Executive Director

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Giving Tuesday: Support the Innocence Project of Florida

Marianne Salcedo — December 1, 2014 @ 12:23 PM — Comments (0)

On the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, December 2, 2014, is Giving TuesdayGiving Tuesday was begun in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York and the United Nations Foundation as a way to honor the holiday season and counter the tedious commercialism that threatens to take over our most sublime holidays.

Giving Tuesday reminds us all to take a moment to do something meaningful by making a donation to support our favorite charitable nonprofit organization.  As you know, the Innocence Project of Florida relies on charitable contributions to pursue its mission to:

Find and free the innocent in Florida prisons, help those who have been released rebuild their lives, and work to prevent wrongful convictions from happening in the future.

Your generous donations to the Innocence Project of Florida elevate our cause and enable us to help free more and more innocent people who have been wrongfully convicted and incarcerated in the State of Florida.  Your gift will make that happen.

To make an online donation, go to IPF’s donation website by clicking here.  You may also send a check to IPF at 1100 East Park Avenue, Tallahassee, FL 32301.

Thank you for your wonderful support of the Innocence Project of Florida!

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Press Release: Seth Miller Elected President of Innocence Network

Marianne Salcedo — November 19, 2014 @ 12:30 PM — Comments (0)

Tallahassee, FL (November 18, 2014) — On November 14, 2014, Seth Miller, Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) was elected President of the Innocence Network. Miller has served on the Innocence Network Executive Board since 2012.

The Innocence Network is an affiliation of 69 organizations around the globe dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals seeking to prove innocence of crimes for which they have been convicted and working to redress the causes of wrongful convictions.

“The Innocence Network is comprised of brilliant and skilled individuals at innocence organizations in the United States and abroad, who are fighting every day to rectify miscarriages of justice in the criminal justice system. Without their collective work, hundreds of innocent individuals would still be languishing in prison and we would not have a vital window through which to identify the myriad causes of wrongful conviction. It is an honor and privilege to be chosen by my colleagues to lead the Innocence Network in the coming years,” said Miller.

As executive director of the Innocence Project of Florida since 2007, Miller litigates post-conviction innocence cases, supervises the organization’s internship program, and regularly lectures to students, lawyers, and community groups on issues related to wrongful convictions. He also teaches Post-Conviction Remedies and Wrongful Convictions as an adjunct professor at the Florida State University College of Law.

“Seth’s election to the presidency of the Innocence Network will serve to nationally highlight innocence work in Florida and provide a broader platform to the Innocence Project of Florida and its mission,” said Robert Cromwell, retired FBI Special Agent and Chairman of IPF’s Board of Directors.

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Press Release: Extreme Injustice — A Presentation by Exoneree William Dillon

Marianne Salcedo — November 18, 2014 @ 12:09 PM — Comments (0)

Extreme Injustice: A Presentation by Exoneree William Dillon

At Tallahassee Community College

Tallahassee, FL (November 10, 2014) — On Tuesday, November 18, 2014, the sixth anniversary of his release from prison, exoneree William Dillon will present a talk at Tallahassee Community College in the Center for Workforce Development Ballroom. Dillon will be joined by Attorney Seth Miller, Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida. This event begins at 1:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

On November 18, 2008, William Dillon was freed from prison after 27 years when post-conviction DNA testing demonstrated his innocence of a 1981 murder. At the time of his release, Dillon’s 27 years was the longest time served by any of the DNA exonerees nationwide. He is the third man to be exonerated in Brevard County in recent years.

The State’s case against Dillon was based largely on the testimony of four key witnesses — an admitted perjurer, a fraudulent dog scent expert, a snitch whose charges were dropped in return for his testimony, and a half-blind eyewitness — as well as a t-shirt worn by the killer, which revealed through DNA testing that Dillon was not the murderer.

In March 2012, the State of Florida awarded Dillon $1.35 million ($50,000 for each year he spent wrongfully imprisoned), and he received a formal apology from Governor Rick Scott. “On behalf of the state of Florida, I apologize for what’s happened to you,” Scott said. On the Today Show, Dillon told Ann Curry, “I’m very blessed. It’s beyond anything anybody can really imagine.”

Today, Dillon has taken up professionally the music that helped him to survive as an innocent man in prison. He has been compared by many to Johnny Cash, and his single, “Black Robes and Lawyers” is available for download on iTunes. Most recently, William Dillon’s story was optioned by the Motion Picture Corporation of America. For more information, contact Marianne Salcedo at the Innocence Project of Florida at 850-350-1004.

 

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Alabama v. Arthur or Conviction v. Science

Marianne Salcedo — November 7, 2014 @ 11:15 AM — Comments (0)

Our recent Facebook link of a February 2014 Atlantic Monthly article by Andrew Cohen, “Why Some States Still Fight the Exoneration of the Innocent,” is only the latest in Mr. Cohen’s years-long examination of the Thomas Arthur case in Alabama.

Thomas Arthur was convicted of murder in 1982 in Alabama. Arthur has consistently said that he is innocent of the crime. He was convicted solely based on eyewitness testimony that evolved after an eyewitness to the crime had been arrested and convicted for the murder. After serving 10 years in prison, the “eyewitness” decided to cut a plea deal and implicate Arthur. He has been on death row for 30 years.

In 2008, another man, Bobby Ray Gilbert, confessed to the murder under oath. At that time, a DNA test was conducted and was inconclusive for either man. However, since 2008, new and more accurate tests have been developed, and Arthur’s defense team has requested that the newer test be done. The Alabama courts have declined the request even though it would cost the state nothing to turn over the evidence for testing because Arthur’s family will pay for it.

Writer Andrew Cohen titled his first article about this, “Another Death Row Debacle: The Case Against Thomas Arthur,” and the title continues to fit this case. As Peter Neufeld, Co-Director of the Innocence Project in New York said when Arthur was at one point given a stay-of-execution:

“This indifference to the power of DNA to determine the truth through hard science is unconscionable. It is nothing short of a national scandal that Governor Riley is repeatedly refusing DNA testing before executions when testing could confirm guilt or innocence. With this 45-day window of time, Governor Riley has an opportunity to restore faith in the system and restore credibility to his office.”

As the Innocence Project of Florida has long contended, actions that strengthen the American system of justice, that ensure prisoners behind bars are the real criminals, and that do not allow the guilty to roam society while the innocent are imprisoned, are what we are fighting for. If a more sophisticated DNA test might exonerate Arthur OR prove him guilty once-and-for-all, then reason dictates the testing should be done — and done as soon as possible to ensure the honor of the justice system in the State of Alabama.

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Browsing the National Registry of Exonerations

Marianne Salcedo — October 30, 2014 @ 9:29 AM — Comments (0)

The National Registry of Exonerations is an outstanding source of information about exonerations in the United States since 1989. It is searchable, and recently, we took some time to create a short summary of exonerations in the State of Florida.

There have been 50 exonerations listed for Florida, including capital cases, since 1989. Fifteen have been based on new DNA evidence.  Florida leads the nation in exonerations for death penalty cases.

The factors contributing to Florida exonerations range from mistaken witness identification, official misconduct, perjury, false accusation, inadequate legal defense, and false or misleading forensic evidence. By far, the leading factor in Florida cases is perjury of false accusation.

Once you search for the exonerations you wish to examine, links will take you to case summary pages. Here are some examples. Click on the last names to learn more about these cases on the Registry website.

Neely, Todd; Florida; Exonerated 1989; Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct.

Townsend, Jerry; Florida; Exonerated 2001; Mistaken Witness ID, False Confession.

Britt, Cheydrick; Florida; Exonerated 2013; False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense.

Mr. Britt was exonerated with assistance from the Innocence Project of Florida just last year. In the coming months, we anticipate up to three more exonerations. Stay tuned and take some time to read about all of Florida’s exonerees, many of whom IPF has helped to free, and learn about all of the cases of injustice throughout the United States.

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Motivated by Innocence, Jabbar Collins Awarded $13 Million

Marianne Salcedo — October 22, 2014 @ 10:56 AM — Comments (0)

Jabbar Collins was wrongfully convicted at age 20 of the murder of a rabbi in New York.  Highly motivated by his innocence, Collins, who dropped out of school when he was 16, spent countless hours in the prison library learning what he needed to know to request case documents and trial transcripts and represent himself pro se.  Last summer, with the help of his lawyer, Collins was awarded a $10 million settlement by New York City and another $3 million by the State of New York.

Attorney Joel Rudin, who represents Collins, says the $13 million total ties the record amount for a wrongfully convicted defendant in New York City.

In 1994, Collins was arrested for the murder of a rabbi in Brooklyn, New York, during a robbery.  The three witnesses who testified against him had been coerced and bribed by the prosecutor, although during Collins’ trial, the defense was assured that these confidential informants received nothing in exchange for their testimony.

Although a rogue prosecutor eager to “solve” a high-profile slaying is blamed for Collins’ conviction, his case provided support for claims that the office of former Brooklyn district attorney Charles J. Hynes didn’t adequately rein in prosecutors who broke the rules.

Under Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, who ran his election campaign on the promise that he would clean up the string of wrongful convictions and other shenanigans that occurred during Hynes tenure, the City and State of New York have paid out nearly $20 million and are currently being sued for more than $200 million.

 

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David McCallum, Convicted at Age 16, Could be Released Next Week

Marianne Salcedo — October 16, 2014 @ 2:23 PM — Comments (0)

On Wednesday, the Innocence Project of Florida posted a link on its Facebook page to a New York Times article examining research on the psychological vulnerability of teens in the criminal justice system. Research from several sources indicated that youth are highly likely to make false confessions and are more susceptible than adults to an interrogator’s leading questions.

“The police often promise kids things in the present. ‘If you just tell me you did it, you can go see your mom,’ ” [Dr. Laurence Steinberg] continued. “And because the brain’s reward systems are hypersensitive during adolescence, that immediate reward of confessing will trump the thinking of, ‘What will happen when I come back to court in a month?’ ”

Today, the news is that Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson is asking a judge to reverse the convictions of David McCallum and Willie Stuckey. They were both sentenced to 25 years for a 1985 kidnapping and murder. Stuckey died in prison of a heart attack in 2001 when he was 31; McCallum remains behind bars.

Mr. Thompson said on Tuesday that the conviction of the two men, David McCallum and Willie Stuckey, hinged on made-up confessions peppered with details seemingly supplied by police. “We’ve concluded that the confessions were false, and they were false in large part because these 16-year olds were fed false facts,” Mr. Thompson said by phone Tuesday. No other evidence tied the two to the abduction or killing, he said.

Advocating for McCallum before he died in April of 2014 was Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a former middle-weight boxer who himself was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for 19 years for a triple murder in New Jersey. A powerful documentary about Hurricane Carter and his support for McCallum entitled, David & Me, which was released in 2014, was instrumental in convincing Thompson to fight for McCallum’s release.

McCallum and Stuckey’s cases, which like those of the exonerated Central Park Jogger defendants, rest solely on the false confessions of teenage suspects, cry out for reforms that will increase the validity and reliability of statements taken from minors and provide them adequate legal protection.

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California Woman Exonerated After 17 Years

Marianne Salcedo — October 13, 2014 @ 5:08 PM — Comments (0)

On Friday, October 10, 2014, Susan Marie Mellen was formally exonerated of murder in Torrance, California, after spending 17 years wrongfully incarcerated.  A combination of an unreliable witness, who was well known as a habitual liar by the police, and mistakes made by the police detective, who was also responsible for a 1994 case that resulted in the convictions of two men who were subsequently exonerated.

“I believe she is innocent,” California Superior Court Judge Mark Arnold said. “For that reason I believe in this case the justice system failed.”

Despite what Mellen called a “cruel punishment” where she cried herself to sleep each night, she did not give up hope.  Amazingly, she holds no grudge against those who wrongfully convicted her with a sentence of life without parole.  She said, “I always forgave my enemies.  Even your haters, you have to forgive them and sometimes you have to thank them because they bring you closer to God.”

Mellen was arrested in 1997 for killing a homeless man who was staying in the same house where Mellen was living.  A woman known for giving baseless tips to the police testified that Mellen had confessed to the crime — and it was on her testimony that Mellen’s conviction rested.  Through representation by Innocence Matters, Mellen’s conviction was overturned and she was at long last exonerated.

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IPF Director Seth Miller Presents at One Book Event

Marianne Salcedo — October 7, 2014 @ 9:45 AM — Comments (0)

The annual One Book Thomas County celebration of learning in Thomasville, Georgia, has chosen as its focus book, Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption, by Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson-Cannino. On Friday, October 17, 2014, at 6:30 p.m., the Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida, Seth Miller, will be presenting a lecture and discussion on wrongful convictions and eye witness misidentification at Thomasville On Stage and Company, 117 South Broad Street in downtown Thomasville.

“The story of Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton teaches us the vital lesson that a misidentification can haunt not only the wrongfully convicted individual, but also the well-meaning victim who has to live with the consequences of the mistaken identification,” said Miller. “It is up to policy makers to make modest, evidence-based reforms to prevent misidentifications before they happen, find the true perpetrators, and allow the public to feel confident that the justice system has worked.” This presentation is free and open to the public.

This presentation will be especially timely, concurring with the recent publication of “Identifying the Culprit,” a comprehensive report by the National Academy of Sciences on the shortcomings and limitations of eye witness evidence.

On Saturday, October 18, Ronald Miller and Jennifer Thompson-Cannino will share their true stories of witness misidentification, wrongful conviction, exoneration, and forgiveness. They will be available to sign books. Admission to Saturday’s event is $10.

For more information, go to the One Book Facebook page at www.facebook.com/onbookthomascounty or call Annie Jones at The Bookshelf, 229-228-7767.

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