Stepping Out and Moving Forward with California Exoneree Brian Banks

Hannah Beery — April 17, 2014 @ 10:12 AM — Comments (0)

The theme for IPF’s annual celebration, 3rd Annual Steppin’ Out with the Innocence Project of Florida, is “stepping out an moving forward”. We will celebrate life after exoneration and the steps the exonerees have taken to move forward with their lives.

Our keynote speaker this year is Brian Banks who was 17-years-old when he was convicted of rape and kidnapping at his high school in southern California. At the time of his wrongful conviction, he had a promising collegiate football career ahead of him. He served five years behind bars, followed by five years on probation. Brian was exonerated in 2012 when his accuser admitted to him in a Facebook Message that the entire story was fabricated. Read our blog about the story here.

SXxeiN_FBefore his conviction, Banks was set to play football at the University of Southern California under head coach Pete Carroll. It took less than a year after his exoneration for the Atlanta Falcons to draft Brian Banks into the NFL, where he completed preseason training but was cut from the team before the final roster. Brian says he has fulfilled his dream of playing in the NFL; he is now moving on as a motivational speaker.

In January, Brian announced that he will be working close with Gidden Media to produce a film about his life and the wrongful conviction he faced.

Brian has been stepping out and moving forward for two years and we will welcome him May 8th at the 3rd Annual Steppin’ Out celebration. The event is at Mission San Luis in Tallahassee, Florida, and many Florida DNA exonerees will be in attendance.

Tickets are still available for this event on our website or at the link below. We hope you’ll join us.

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Wisconsin Man Receives Maximum Compensation, But Is It Enough?

Hannah Beery — @ 9:57 AM — Comments (0)

Joseph Frey, a Wisconsin man, served eight years in prison for crimes he did not commit.  Thankfully, this past Tuesday the State confirmed that Frey would receive $25,000 compensation for his eight years behind bars.The law in Wisconsin states that any person wrongfully imprisoned will receive $5,000 a year, up to $25,000.

Seriously, just$5,000 per year with a $25,000 max?

Frank Sterling, a New York exoneree, spent 20 years behind bars for a murder that he did not commit. Sterling also may be receiving a $7 million settlement for his time behind bars, a total that comes to about $35,000 a year. This amount per year is $10,000 more than the limit any person wrongfully convicted in Wisconsin can receive. While it is obvious that Sterling should receive a larger settlement than Joseph Frey, as he spent more time behind bars, the difference between settlements between states is simply outrageous.

Wisconsin Innocence Project co-director Keith Finley has said, “Twenty-five thousand dollars comes nowhere close to correcting the injustice done to Mr. Frey, or to fulfilling our community’s obligation to help him get his life started again.” This past year, Wisconsin worked to pass bills that boost compensation, doubling the limit to $50,000. However, these bills never advanced to a vote. Wisconsin is not the only state with a small compensation limit.

View the whole list by state here.

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Massachusetts Man Suffers from Mental Ilness, Yet Charged Otherwise

Hannah Beery — April 4, 2014 @ 10:31 AM — Comments (0)

Living without a mother is one of the hardest things a human has to do. Now, imagine being 25 years old and coming home from a workout to find your mother with a bullet through her cheek.

Demond Chatman is serving a life sentence for the murder of his mother in Massachusetts, and the story above is his. However, not only is Chatman presumed to be innocent of his crime, he also suffers from mental illness. These diagnoses vary between schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. This, however, was not taken into consideration during his trial, and Chatman was tried as a completely healthy human being.

Finally, last September, Chatman was granted a new trial where his mental illness will be taken into account and treated as new evidence in the trial.

View the story written by Boston Magazine journalist, David Bernstein, here.

So how did Chatman get here in the first place? The courts claim that in 2002, when Chatman was on trial for the murder of his mother, he did not look crazy to them. David Bernstein states,

“It is also very likely that Chatman’s mental illness handicapped his own defense. The circumstantial case against him included erroneous information that his lawyer might have challenged, if Chatman had brought it to his attention. Unfortunately, as psychiatrist Robert Joss, who examined him, reported, Chatman suspected that his public defender, John Bonistalli, ‘was working with the District Attorney to sell him out, and that he could read his (Mr. Chatman’s) mind.’”

We are hoping the truth comes out in this trial and that Demond Chatman can be restored to his life, as normal as possible.

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Guy Spearman to Receive Pro Bono Award at Steppin’ Out 2014

Hannah Beery — April 2, 2014 @ 11:41 AM — Comments (0)

One of the most difficult truths that an exoneree has to face is the fact that nothing can ever make up for the years they were forced to spend separated from their families. These are weeks, months, years, and often decades, that they can never get back. However, there is one thing that the government can do, and that is give them compensation for the time they spent behind bars, something that Guy Spearman and IPF have worked together on to accomplish.

Guy Spearman, a lobbyist in Florida, will be honored at Steppin’ Out on May 8th, with the Innocence Project of Florida Pro Bono Award. Guy sought out both Wilton Dedge and William Dillon after their exonerations to offer his assistance in getting them compensated for their wrongful convictions. In William Dillon’s case, it took three legislative sessions to get his individual claim bill passed and then signed by Gov. Scott.

William Dillon speaks of Guy’s true heart and his hard work to help him receive compensation,

“Never could I have imagined the work and sweat it would take to make this happen.  Guy’s influence made all the difference the given respect from Government was beyond reproach. His constant work to keep this up front and meaningful was what it took to make it a reality when so many thought it would fail.”

Guy was also very helpful in securing the funding that was essential to convince the Florida Supreme Court to establish the Innocence Commission.

We are grateful for Guy’s efforts to help Wilton and William move forward with their lives after their exonerations.

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Guy and Delores Spearman

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The First Quarter of 2014 Looks Promising According to the Exoneration Registry

Hannah Beery — March 28, 2014 @ 10:23 AM — Comments (0)

There were 25 exonerations nationwide in the first quarter of 2014, which set the pace to break the record of exonerations yet again. Five exonerations took place in New York, more than any other state, and other states who had at least one exoneration include Michigan, Maryland, Louisiana, Illinois, Texas, Hawaii, California, District of Columba, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Virginia.

Nine of these cases were murder cases and nine were cases where no crime in fact even occurred, over one third of the total for the first quarter. Glenn Ford was exonerated in Louisiana in February after spending 30 years on death row. He brought the death row exoneree total to 106 people.

The first quarter shows us that 2014 will be a promising year in undoing wrongful convictions. Check out the article from the Exoneration Registry here to learn more about the first quarters success.

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Shop at AmazonSmile and Support IPF, Too

Hannah Beery — March 26, 2014 @ 1:57 PM — Comments (0)

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The Innocence Project of Florida is happy to announce a new opportunity for our friends to support us and our endless efforts to exonerate those who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit.

It is because of you that we are able to participate in AmazonSmile, a program where Amazon donates 0.5% of your purchase of eligible products to IPF. Each quarter a fraction of all purchases will go straight to IPF on your behalf.

When shopping on Amazon, you will be prompted with the option to select from over one million charitable organizations, one of which is IPF.  After choosing IPF, you will be redirected to AmazonSmile and you can go shopping for an array of different products.

This program is funded by the AmazonSmile Foundation, and if you make a purchase from now through March 31st, $5 of your purchase will be donated to your selected charity. We at IPF thank you so much for your support!

Ready to Shop? Click here. 

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Compensation for the Wrongfully Convicted at Home and Around the Nation

Hannah Beery — @ 1:53 PM — Comments (0)

Those who have been wrongfully convicted not only faced with time behind bars. They also faced financial hardships and years stripped from their lives; they lost loved ones – people they will never get back. They deserve compensation for their losses, but not all states have made this happen.

Last week, Wyoming lawmakers took a look at two bills that are aimed at helping those who have been wrongfully convicted, and one of which is a way to receive compensation. This bill will allow wrongfully convicted men and women to receive $100 for everyday they were imprisoned, with a limit of $500,000. Read more.

In a Wisconsin case, Robert Stinson spent over twenty years incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. He asked for $129,000 in compensation, but only received $25,000. Since then, the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly have been working to pass a bill to give him the compensation he deserves. In November, the Senate passed a bill for $136,000 in compensation, and last Tuesday, the Assembly answered with a $90,000 version of the bill. Wisconsin legislature should not only be working right now to compensate Robert Stinson, but should be working to pass legislature for all persons who have and will be wrongfully imprisoned. Read more. 

At the end of February, Alaska lawmakers introduced a bill that both prevents wrongful convictions, and aims at compensating those who have been exonerated from wrongful convictions. With this bill, the exonerated would receive $50,000 a year for every year they were incarcerated, up to $2 million. Read More.

In Mississippi, Frank Sanders Tipton was compensated about $41,000 for the 300 days he spent in prison, but was given nothing for the two years he spent under house arrest. Tipton sued the Jackson County Circuit Court for the two years he spent under house arrest because he believes that house arrest is simply another form of incarceration. However, the Mississippi Supreme Court denied Tipton’s appeal. Read more.

In New York, lawmakers are working on legislature to ensure that all who have been wrongfully convicted have a way to receive compensation, something that we have yet to do in Florida. Florida law allows $50,000 a year in compensation, up to $2 million for those who have been wrongfully imprisoned and then exonerated, and additional money for any fees they the exoneree paid and has proof of during trial and conviction. However, there is a limitation in this statute – if the exoneree has a felony conviction prior to or picks one up during his wrongful imprisonment, he is disqualified to receive any compensation from the State. Read more about that here. In contrast, New York  does not offer any money to any exoneree who has pleaded guilty to a crime, even after they have been proven innocent.

It has become apparent that across the country, and here at home in Florida, that all who have been wrongfully convicted should receive compensation for the time spent in prison, and many lawmakers are now beginning to realize this fact. Currently, Florida is working on a new piece of legislature to amend the current compensation statute.

As always, there are steps being made in the right direction, but we are still a long way from where we should be, as only 29 states offer compensation at all. Only one third of exonerees have been compensated in the United States, and most of those have not received any amount close to what was fair for their time spent in prison. However, this issue has proven to be one that we can have faith in, as in 2009, Texas passed a bill to offer $80,000 per year for wrongful imprisonment, which is $30,000 per year more than Florida.

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Anthony Caravella Celebrates 4th Anniversary of Exoneration

Hannah Beery — March 25, 2014 @ 9:29 AM — Comments (0)

Today, Anthony Caravella celebrates four years of freedom. On March 25, 2010, he was exonerated of the 1983 rape and murder of a 58-year-old woman in Broward County. At the age of 16, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Caravella was arrested a month and a half after the crime occurred when he did not appear in court for a juvenile auto theft charge. He gave four statements implicating himself of the murder, all of which were different and inconsistent with the physical evidence. Less than a year later, Caravella was convicted with no physical evidence, based solely on his story. Nearly 26 years later, DNA proved that Caravella did not rape the victim.

For the last two years, Anthony has been working for his uncle’s construction company in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and is planning to attend IPF’s STAND UP FOR INNOCENCE,a night of comedy benefitting the Innocence Project of Florida, on April 12th. Congrats Anthony!

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What to Expect at Steppin’ Out 2014

Hannah Beery — March 21, 2014 @ 11:10 AM — Comments (0)

We are proud to announce the official lineup for our annual Steppin’ Out for Innocence gala on May 8th, 2014.

The night of festivities begins with a silent auction, followed by the dinner and program at 7:00 pm.

Many of our 14 DNA exonerees will be in attendance at the event. And we will honor these men for “stepping out and moving forward” with their lives after they collectively spent more than 268 years wrongfully imprisoned. We will honor the Hon. Nancy Daniels with the Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte Commitment to Justice Award, for her tirelessly efforts to prevent or reverse wrongful convictions through the trial and appellate courts. We will also honor Guy Spearman with the Innocence Project of Florida Pro Bono Award for his efforts to help Wilton Dedge and William Dillon receive compensation from the State of Florida for their wrongful convictions.

Follow Brian Banks on Twitter.We are also very excited to announce our keynote speaker for the gala this year: Brian Banks. Brian is a California exoneree who spent more than five years in prison for a crime he did not commit and then five years on parole before being exonerated in 2012. Currently he is an NFL free agent and a motivational speaker.

We can’t wait to welcome Brian, our exonerees, our honorees, and most importantly, our sponsors, to Tallahassee on May 8th, 2014 for the annual Steppin’ Out gala.

Click here to download the sponsorship commitment form.

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Tickets include silent auction, dinner, and awards program.
General Public – $100
Judges, Public Interest Lawyers and Students – $75

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Louisiana’s Longest Death Row Prisoner Exonerated

Hannah Beery — @ 10:38 AM — Comments (0)

Glenn Ford became a free man last week after being on death row for 30 years, making him the longest serving death row prisoner in Louisiana.

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Ford was exonerated after the real killer confessed to the murder that happened three decades ago to an unidentified informant, who then came forward to investigators. Ford says the hardest part about his imprisonment was the fact that he can’t do things that he should have been doing at 35, 40, and 45, like being there when his grandchildren were born. This is over half of his life he cannot just take back.

Glenn Ford became Louisiana’s 10th death row exoneration and is also one of the longest serving death row prisoners in the United States.

Congratulations Glenn, and we hope you take this chance to reconnect with old friends and family, as well as your new ones.

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