Today in Wrongful Conviction History: July 31

Kate Mathis — July 31, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Jerry Watkins!

Jerry was exonerated in Indiana in 2000.

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: July 30

Kate Mathis — July 30, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Larry Johnson and Cameron Thomas!

Larry was exonerated in Missouri in 2002 with help from the Innocence Project.

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Cameron was exonerated in Texas in 2014.

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: July 29

Kate Mathis — July 29, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Cheryle Beridon!

Cheryle was exonerated in Louisiana in 2003.

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: July 28

Kate Mathis — July 28, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Joseph Amrine and Stephen Comstock!

Joseph was exonerated from Missouri’s death row in 2003.

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Stephen was exonerated in Nevada last year.

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Wisconsin Innocence Project Creates Program to Help Exonerate Latinos

Kate Mathis — July 27, 2016 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

With a $633,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Wisconsin Innocence Project is starting the Latino Exoneration Initiative. The department’s two-year federal grant will fund part of the director of the initiative’s salary, an intake worker, and a staff attorney. The program is intended to help exonerate wrongfully convicted Latinos in cases where DNA testing could prove innocence.

Latinos comprise 22 percent of inmates nationally, but represent less than 12 percent of individuals who have been exonerated with help from innocence organizations. Furthermore, in a state where the Latino population continues to grow, less than ten percent of Wisconsin exonerees have been Latino. The Latino Exoneration Initiative addresses that disparity and will study and attempt to determine the causes of it.

Cristina Bordé, the director of the initiative, believes that the low number of Latino inmates helped by innocence organizations may be due to a lack of bilingual and culturally competent attorneys and staff members. She went on to say that some Latinos might not know that programs such as the Wisconsin Innocence Project exist because of a lack of fluency in English.

As for why some Latinos are wrongfully convicted, Bordé cited immigration status and language and interpretation problems. She stated that while their cases may involve factors such as eyewitness misidentification that are present in most other wrongful conviction cases, Latinos may also experience unique problems including the use of uncertified translators, a defendant implicating himself by confessing or testifying in English although he is not fluent, or witnesses refusing to testify because they did not enter this country legally.

The Latino Exoneration Initiative plans to spread the word about their new program and reach out to prospective clients in the Latino community through Spanish language media and prison visits.

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: July 27

Kate Mathis — @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Robert Lee Stinson, Reginald Connor, and Everton Wagstaffe!

Robert was exonerated in Wisconsin in 2009 with help from the Wisconsin Innocence Project.

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Reginald and Everton were convicted of the same crime in New York and were exonerated last year with help from the Innocence Project.

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Charges Dropped Against Two Wrongfully Convicted Chicago Men

Kate Mathis — July 26, 2016 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

Last week, prosecutors dropped charges against two men who have spent the past 23 years wrongfully incarcerated. Jose Montanez and Armando Serrano were convicted in 1993 for the murder of Rodrigo Vargas and were sentenced to 55 years in prison. Their convictions were based largely on the testimony of a star witness and the work of a Chicago police officer whose investigative methods have since come under fire.

That witness was Francisco Vicente, a heroin addict who was facing several felony charges at the time of Vargas’ murder. Vicente claimed that Montanez and Serrano had confessed to the killing, which he told Detective Reynaldo Guevara, the officer who has received a number of misconduct allegations over the last several years. Vicente later recanted his testimony to students at the Medill Innocence Project, stating that he lied in order to receive a lighter sentence. He also told them that Guevara bribed and coerced him to falsely testify with cash, cigarettes, threats, intimidation, and physical abuse.

A number of cases involving Guevara, who retired in 2005, have been reviewed by Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office after several allegations were made claiming that the detective framed or beat suspects. In addition to Montanez and Serrano’s cases, two other murder convictions that were linked to Guevara have been overturned. According to a report released last year, reviewing, litigating, and settling misconduct cases involving the detective has cost Chicago more than $20 million.

A state appellate court approved the Cook County State Attorney’s office’s request to have the convictions overturned, ruling that misconduct during the investigation and prosecution resulted in Montanez and Serrano’s convictions. The move by the prosecutor’s office came as a surprise because Alvarez rejected former federal prosecutor Scott Lassar’s recommendation last year that she reopen six cases investigated by Guevara, including Montanez and Serrano’s.

An attorney with the Exoneration Project, which represented the two recent exonerees, commended Alvarez for her actions but lamented that many innocent people that Guevara helped imprison still remain behind bars and vowed that they would not rest until all of them are freed.

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Lawrence McKinney Granted Exoneration Hearing

Kate Mathis — July 25, 2016 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

Last month, an article was posted to our blog about Lawrence McKinney’s request for exoneration and Tennessee State Representative Mark Pody’s frustration with how long that process was taking. Now, some progress has finally been made, as the Tennessee Board of Parole recently granted McKinney an exoneration hearing.

The board is responsible for reviewing applications such as McKinney’s and gives recommendations to the governor, who makes the final decision on exoneration requests. If McKinney is exonerated, it will make him eligible to file for compensation for his wrongful conviction.

David Raybin and Jack Lowery, whom Pody referred to as “good legal representation,” will represent McKinney at the upcoming hearing, which is scheduled for September 27.

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: July 25

Kate Mathis — @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Sean Adams, Carlos Ashe, Darcus Henry, and Johnnie Johnson!

All four men were convicted of the same crime in Connecticut and were exonerated in 2013.

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: July 24

Kate Mathis — July 24, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Several exonerees celebrate their exoneration anniversaries today.

Alexander Hebrard was exonerated in Texas in 2013.

Tyler Gassman, Robert Larson, and Paul Statler were convicted of the same crime in Washington state and were exonerated in 2013 with help from the Innocence Project Northwest.

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Happy exoneration anniversary Alexander, Tyler, Robert, and Paul!

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