Archive for the ‘post-conviction’ Category

Subject of Popular Podcast Granted New Trial

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 07, 2016 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

Back in February, an article posted to our blog detailed how the popular podcast Serial’s Adnan Syed was granted a post-conviction relief hearing. Well, Syed supporters, rejoice—the podcast’s protagonist has now been granted a new trial. Asics Gel Lyte 5 Homme On Thursday, June 30, Baltimore City Circuit Judge Martin Welch overturned Syed’s conviction, granting him a new trial on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. During his trial in 1999, the State’s evidence against him included call records that are now known to be unreliable, the inconsistent statements and testimony of star witness Jay Wilds, and Syed’s vague memory of the day of the murder and failure to provide an alibi. The State also raised a questionable claim that Syed had motive to kill his ex-girlfriend because he was angry that she had a new boyfriend and presented a select few entries from her diary that may have suggested “intimate partner violence” and that Syed was possessive while they were dating. Parajumpers Femme Mary JO Those claims were not supported by expert testimony, however, and no other evidence or witness testimony corroborated them either. nike air zoom pegasus 33 donna Despite the State’s circumstantial evidence, no witnesses placing them together around the time of the disappearance and murder, and a lack of physical evidence linking him to the crime, Syed was convicted in 2000 for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Nike Roshe Run Femme Fleur At the February hearing, Syed’s attorneys presented three arguments as to why their client should be granted post-conviction relief, the first two of which were denied. ff14 gil for sale The first request focused on how Syed’s original trial attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, failed to provide effective counsel when she neglected to contact a potential alibi witness. Asia McClain Chapman had sent two letters to Syed following his arrest, claiming that she, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s friend had all seen him at a public library around the time that the State alleges Syed murdered Lee. Asics Gel Lyte 3 Homme She also claims that she remembers speaking with him. Although Syed handed that information over to Gutierrez, the potential alibi witness said no attorney ever contacted her. New Balance 997.5 homme In his opinion, Welch wrote that while Gutierrez did err in not contacting McClain, this did not prejudice the defense nor would it have affected the verdict because the State’s case was not centered on the time of the murder. The defense’s second request for post-conviction relief argued that a Brady violation occurred because the State failed to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence when they presented Syed’s cell phone records during trial, but did not include a fax cover sheet that addressed the reliability of cell tower location evidence. The State’s case rested on Wilds’ testimony coupled with phone records showing two incoming calls that prosecutors used to place Syed in the park where Lee’s body was found at the time she was buried. The fax cover sheet, however, contained a disclaimer that indicated “incoming calls are not reliable for determining location.” Welch ultimately agreed with the State though, writing that Syed’s right to raise a Brady violation was waived because he had the opportunity to do so in prior court proceedings. Nike Air Max Thea Femme Bleu The third argument presented by Syed’s attorneys is what won him a new trial. The defense claimed that Gutierrez provided ineffective assistance of counsel because she failed to cross-examine Abraham Waranowitz, the State’s cell tower expert witness, about the reliability of cell tower location evidence using the disclaimer that was not included with Syed’s cell phone records. During the trial in 1999, Waranowitz testified that a person’s approximate location during a phone call could be determined using call records to pinpoint which cell tower was pinged during the call. In 2015, however, Waranowitz signed an affidavit retracting his original testimony, stating that the prosecutor did not make him aware of the disclaimer regarding the reliability of incoming calls for determining location, which would have affected his testimony since he was not given the proper instructions for analyzing Syed’s call records. During the February hearing, the State again argued that like the defense’s allegation of a Brady violation, the defendant did not raise the issue in prior proceedings and therefore waived his right to challenge Gutierrez’s representation of him. Welch wrote that although Syed did fail to address his original trial attorney’s ineffective assistance of counsel in prior proceedings, he waived the right without “intelligently and knowingly” doing so, and thus vacated his conviction and granted the Serial star a new trial. In regards to Serial, Welch wrote that despite the case’s popularity due to the podcast, he did his best to consider the merits of the Syed’s request for post-conviction relief like he would in any other case. Nike Flyknit Lunar 3 homme Justin Brown, one of Syed’s attorneys, however, credited the podcast with the outcome of the hearing, stating that they would not be where they are today without it. Not everyone is happy with Welch’s decision, though, especially Lee’s family members. In a statement issued by the family, they expressed disappointment with the judge’s ruling, stating that they are still grieving and believe that Syed is guilty. The Maryland Office of the Attorney General said the State plans to appeal Welch’s decision, and according to Brown, has 30 days to decide what they will do next. Brown also stated that regardless of what the State chooses to do next, the defense has started preparing for retrial anyways, including partnering with Hogan Lovells—a major law firm that agreed to provide their extensive experience with trials and innocence cases pro-bono.

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Innocence Project Hires Exoneree

Alejandra de la Fuente — July 22, 2016 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

Jarrett Adams has not let his wrongful conviction stop him from being successful. Despite insisting that sex he and two others had with a woman in a college dormitory was consensual, he was sentenced to 28 years in prison for rape when he was 17 years old. After spending almost eight years behind bars, Adams was exonerated in January 2007 after the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that he had received ineffective counsel because his trial attorney neglected to call a witness who had seen the woman smoking cigarettes with the three men in a dorm common area after the encounter. Following his release, unlike many individuals who struggle to readjust to life outside of prison, Adams did just the opposite by joining the other side of the criminal justice system.

After the Wisconsin Innocence Project helped exonerate him, Adams attended Loyola University Law School. Following his graduation last year, he worked for 7th Circuit Judge Ann Claire Williams and U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts of the Southern District of New York in a dual clerkship. Now, Adams is formally joining the innocence movement that helped set him free by working for the organization that many would argue initiated the fight for justice for the wrongfully convicted.

Adams’ wife accepted a job in New York City, and after passing the New York Bar exam in February, he too found a job in the Big Apple where he will now serve as a post-conviction litigation fellow for the Innocence Project. Law practice is something he has been passionate about for some time, as Adams said that he was moved from a Wisconsin maximum-security prison to a supermax facility with fewer privileges because he was considered a security threat since he had become such an effective jailhouse lawyer by helping other inmates while he was in prison.

Adams credited his success to his faith and hard work, and hopes that he will be an example for others facing obstacles.

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Post-Conviction Relief Hearing for ‘Serial’s’ Adnan Syed

Alejandra de la Fuente — February 15, 2016 @ 4:00 PM — Comments (0)

The general public was up in arms following the release of the hit Netflix docuseries Making a Murderer in December. However, before Making a Murderer, there was Serial. Serial was a podcast released in October of 2014 featuring host Sarah Koenig, who told listeners about the story of Adnan Syed, a Baltimore man sent to prison for killing his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999. The podcast describes details about the trial, the actors in the case, and includes interviews with some of the people involved—even Syed himself. Like Making a Murderer, the podcast hints at the possible innocence of the story’s protagonist.

Koenig won the Peabody award for her highly praised work in hosting and producing the podcast, which was the first one to ever receive the award. TIME magazine also named her as one of the 100 Most Influential People in 2015. Following the release of Serial’s twelfth and final first season episode, Syed was granted the ability to appeal his conviction by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals on grounds that Cristina Gutierrez, his original lawyer, provided him ineffective assistance.

Syed had previously attempted to appeal his conviction six years ago, but the motion was denied. In his post-conviction relief hearing, Syed’s new attorney, C. Justin Brown, presented new evidence at a hearing last week that may be enough to grant him a new trial. Brown focused on mishandled or improperly argued elements from Syed’s initial case that caused his conviction. He also presented testimony from another witness that did not testify in the original trial that gives Syed an alibi during the time of Lee’s murder.

That witness is Asia McClain, one of Syed’s former classmates, who was also interviewed by Koenig during the first season of Serial. McClain claims that she did not testify because Gutierrez did not contact her and also that Kevin Urick, the prosecutor in the original trial, encouraged her not to testify in the appeal filed by Syed in 2010 after convincing her that Syed was indeed guilty. Following the release of Serial and realizing the important role she played in the case, McClain now states that she was in the library with Syed at the time of Lee’s murder.

Brown’s defense also includes a challenge to the AT&T cell phone records that the state presented in the original trial, placing Syed in Leakin Park where Lee’s body was found. The state used incoming call records to place Syed in the park. However, Brown submitted evidence last year claiming that these records were improperly used because the phone company issued a statement that a cell phone could be physically placed using only outgoing call records. Brown called Gerald R. Grant Jr., a cellphone forensic analyst, to testify about Abraham Waranowitz’s original testimony on cellphone records.

Waranowitz was the cellphone analyst that the state called to the stand during the 1999 trial. He testified that call records could be used to show a person’s approximate location by which cellphone tower was pinged during the call. However, Waranowitz recently provided new testimony claiming that at the time of the trial, Urick did not make him aware of the AT&T disclaimer stating that incoming call records were not reliable in regards to pinpointing a cellphone’s physical location. Waranowitz states that because of this, he was not given proper instructions on how to analyze the cellphone records that were provided to him, which would have affected his testimony.

While the hearing is over, Syed awaits a decision on whether his conviction will be overturned. Stay tuned!

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Press Release: IPF Client Andre Bryant Exonerated

Seth — October 01, 2015 @ 4:00 PM — Comments (0)

Andre Bryant, Innocence Project of Florida Client, Exonerated and Released

Bryant has Served Over 8 Years for a Robbery He Did Not Commit

Tallahassee, Florida—On Thursday, October 1, 2015, Andre Bryant was released from the Franklin Correctional Institution in Carrabelle, Florida following his exoneration for a 2006 armed robbery, which occurred at a Walgreen’s in Manatee County, Florida. On the same day, Twelfth Judicial Circuit Judge Diana Moreland vacated Bryant’s conviction and 30-year sentence, pursuant to a joint stipulation filed by the State Attorney and Bryant’s attorneys, paving the way for Bryant’s release.

“This is a great day for Andre and this outcome is a testament to his consistent belief that the truth of his innocence would eventually be known and lead to his freedom. Everyone at IPF is so pleased to reunite him with his family after this ordeal and are excited to work with him to ease his transition from wrongful incarceration back into free society,” said Seth Miller, Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida and one of Bryant’s attorneys

On July 20, 2015, attorneys from the Innocence Project of Florida (“IPF”), along with local counsel Derek Byrd, filed an amended motion for postconviction relief, following the release of an investigative report on Bryant’s case by the Sarasota Herald Tribune. In the motion, IPF detailed the evidence already existing in the record demonstrating Bryant’s innocence and brought forward additional new evidence of innocence, including a recantation by one of the child victims who identified Bryant as the perpetrator and expert opinion that Bryant was not the perpetrator depicted on the newly enhanced Walgreen’s surveillance video at the time of the crime.

The State Attorney performed its own investigation into the case and determined that reasonable doubt existed as to Bryant’s involvement in the crime. Based on this conclusion, the State Attorney agreed to vacate the conviction and drop all charges against Bryant.

“The folks at the State Attorney’s Office, particularly assistant state attorney Bruce Lee, deserve tremendous credit for completely reviewing the evidence, old and new, and viewing it through an objective lens. We are thrilled that Mr. Brodsky and his team came to the same conclusion we had come to already: that justice demanded Andre Bryant’s conviction be vacated and that he be freed from his wrongful incarceration,” said Miller.

Bryant was convicted in 2007 primarily on eyewitness identifications by the victims. According to the Innocence Project of Florida, witness misidentification is the leading causes of wrongful convictions, contributing to 75% of the known exonerations nationwide. Bryant is the 57th exoneration in Florida since 1989, and IPF’s second Manatee County, Florida client exonerated in four years. Derrick Williams was exonerated of a 1993 Manatee County rape in 2011, after DNA testing proved he did not commit the crime.

The Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to finding and freeing innocent people in Florida prisons. IPF, along with local counsel Derek Byrd represent Andre Bryant. IPF’s website is

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The Exonerated: A Play Reading by The Main Street Players

Alejandra de la Fuente — March 26, 2015 @ 2:21 PM — Comments (0)

On March 13 and 14th 2015, The Main Street Players in Miami did a reading of The Exonerated, a play written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen. In the play, six death row exonerees tell their stories – from the crimes they were accused of, to their time in prison, to their exoneration. Each story is a true account of a real death row exoneree.

All proceeds from the performance were donated to The Innocence Project of Florida. We thank The Main Street Players and congratulate them on their wonderful performance!



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Alabama v. Arthur or Conviction v. Science

Alejandra de la Fuente — November 07, 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

Alejandra de la Fuente — 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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IPF Director Seth Miller Presents at One Book Event

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 07, 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 or call Annie Jones at The Bookshelf, 229-228-7767.

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Exoneree Compensation Across the United States

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 03, 2014 @ 3:17 PM — Comments (0)

A Planet Money story from NPR that we missed last summer (June 2014) entitled, “When Innocent People Go to Prison, States Pay,” provides an excellent overview of compensation for wrongfully convicted exonerees in all fifty states.

Twenty-one states provide no money — though people who are exonerated can sue for damages. Twelve states and the District of Columbia award damages on a case-by-case basis. Another 17 states pay a fixed amount per year of imprisonment.

Amounts vary from $80,000 per year behind bars in Texas, to $5,000 per year in Wisconsin. Florida and six other states match federal compensation of $50,000 per year.  Not that any amount could make up for the horror and humiliation of being an innocent person wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, but it is something — especially considering that very few exonerees get any sort of an apology from the state.

Even more appalling, as this article notes, is the fact that states are willing to pony up some limited annual compensation in order to prevent innocent exonerees from suing for much greater amounts.  Many states require exonerees to give up the right to sue as a condition of receiving compensation.

At the Innocence Project of Florida our concern is that our state’s compensation law has a loophole known as the “clean hands” provision.

961.04 Eligibility for compensation for wrongful incarceration.A wrongfully incarcerated person is not eligible for compensation under the act if:

(1) Before the person’s wrongful conviction and incarceration, the person was convicted of, or pled guilty or nolo contendere to, regardless of adjudication, any felony offense, or a crime committed in another jurisdiction the elements of which would constitute a felony in this state, or a crime committed against the United States which is designated a felony, excluding any delinquency disposition;

(2) During the person’s wrongful incarceration, the person was convicted of, or pled guilty or nolo contendere to, regardless of adjudication, any felony offense; or
(3) During the person’s wrongful incarceration, the person was also serving a concurrent sentence for another felony for which the person was not wrongfully convicted.

So not only will a prior felony of petty theft or possession of marijuana make any exoneree, no matter how unjustly he or she was treated, ineligible for compensation, but if the inmate gets caught up in something while in prison–say badly injuring another inmate who has attacked or tried to rape them, they are also ineligible for compensation in the State of Florida.

In the best of all possible worlds, as Voltaire would say, states would show some recognition of and remorse for their mistakes that led to wrongful convictions and incarcerations of innocent men and women.  Instead, states begin by putting up roadblocks to protect their convictions, right or wrong, issue no apology to the men and women whose lives they have ruined, and then provide limited compensation to spare them from multi-million dollar lawsuits  And Florida adds another insult to the injury with its “clean hands” provision.  We ask the convicted to show recognition and remorse for what they have done; it is only fair to expect the states to do likewise.

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Fraud Warning: Taking Money from the Vulnerable

Alejandra de la Fuente — September 30, 2014 @ 12:16 PM — Comments (0)

There are unscrupulous folks out there posing as legitimate innocence organizations who are targeting people in prison and their vulnerable mothers, wives, and other family members in order to take their money.  If this sounds harsh, consider the flyer below that was received by the Innocence Network.

Flyer received from Project Innocence of America

There is no such “Project Innocence of America,” or the other group to which the flyer asks for $1,000 checks to be made out, “Probable Grounds For Action.”  Another known imposter is “The Innocence Network at Bailey Law.” To incarcerated people and their anxious and distraught wives, mothers, children, and grandmothers, these bad guys guarantee release from prison in “five to eight years.” What the prisoners and their families will be is $1,000 poorer with no results.

Please NEVER SEND MONEY for legal services to anyone claiming to be an innocence organization.  ALL legal services provided by organizations like the Innocence Project of Florida, who are bona fide members of the Innocence Network, are FREE.

Please note the warning on our website and on most innocence organizations websites: “Fraud Alert: We have heard that there are people who fraudulently represent themselves as working for the Innocence Project of Florida, promising legal representation in exchange for money. These people do not work for the Innocence Project of Florida. If you believe you have been contacted by such a person, please contact us. The Innocence Project of Florida provides all legal representation for free. While we rely on charitable donations to support our work, we never solicit money for our services from our clients.”

If you or a loved one are approached by an organization posing as an innocence organization and asking for money to represent an incarcerated person, contact us or the Innocence Network so that we can take appropriate action against these dishonest endeavors.

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