Archive for the ‘litigation’ Category


Innocence Project Hires Exoneree

Kate Mathis — 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.

litigation,post-conviction, , , ,


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

Kate Mathis — 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!

litigation,post-conviction, , , , ,


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 www.FloridaInnocence.org.

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Alabama v. Arthur or Conviction v. Science

Marianne Salcedo — 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.

Innocence Project of Florida,judicial,justice,litigation,policy,post-conviction,prison,Science,


New York Man One Step Closer to Exoneration in Arson-Murder Case

Justin Hirsche — August 26, 2014 @ 11:27 AM — Comments (0)

A New York man, Han Tak Lee (79), has been released on bail after serving 24 years of his life sentence for the crime of “intentionally” setting a fire at a religious retreat that ended up killing his mentally handicapped 20 year old daughter, Ji Yun Lee. He has long maintained that the fire was started accidentally. At the time of this incident investigators were under the impression (and so was the entire scientific community) that if a fire was unusually hot then that meant that said fire was most likely intentionally started, aided by the use of some type of accelerant. These “facts” (junk-science) have put many innocent people in prison for arson when they had nothing to do with the starting of fires they have been charged with.

Their has been a sweeping number of these types of exonerations lately. This is because scientists’ understanding of fires and the many theories about arson and the tell-tale signs that were considered give-aways, in regards to arson, have been debunked. The magistrate judge who reviewed Lees’ case had this to say on the matter: “much of what was presented to Lee’s jury as science is now conceded to be little more than superstition.” This does not mean Lee is in the clear though, prosecutors have been given 120 days to decide whether or not they will re-try Lee. Due to the long passage of time, charges are not expected to be filed and Lees’ supporters expect him to live out the rest of his life in peace in a retirement community. This and many other similar cases show that it is better to get it right then getting it fast, when it comes to finding your suspect to convict (if there even is one, in the case of arson v. accidental fires).

exoneration,justice,litigation,prison,Science,


Kentucky Women Close to Exoneration

Marianne Salcedo — August 14, 2014 @ 10:07 AM — Comments (0)

In 1998, Kyle “Deanie” Breeden was found bound with electrical cord and shot dead in the Kentucky River. For eight years, the case remained a murder mystery until Kentucky State Detective Todd Harwood announced he had solved it in only three weeks. The accused was a slight, 97-pound, one-legged women who had dated the 190-pound Breeden on-and-off for several months. Susan Jean King maintained her innocence, but was persuaded by Det. Harwood and her public defender to plead to second-degree manslaughter pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford. In other words, King did not admit guilt, but acknowledged there was enough evidence for a jury to find her guilty. She served eight years of a ten-year sentence. She later described herself as being “railroaded” and “set up by a corrupt cop.”

On July 20, 2014, after Richard Jarrell, Jr., who was being questioned by police about an unrelated crime, confessed in great detail to robbing and killing Breeden and throwing him off the Gratz Bridge and into the Kentucky River — and after Louisville Police Department Det. Barron Morgan, who took the Jarrell’s confession, was ordered off the case and summarily demoted to patrolman on the graveyard shift — and after a circuit court judge denied King’s motion for a new trial because she had pleaded guilty — and, finally, after the Kentucky Innocence Project (KIP) got involved, Susan Jean King was granted the hearing that is expected to exonerate her of Breeden’s murder in mid-August 2014.

The millstones of Justice turn slowly, as the saying goes, but this is in order to “grind exceedingly fine.” In other words, no detail should be overlooked to discover the Truth. When Det. Harwood solved the long-cold case, he should have wondered if his pat conclusion was too good to be true. Or as KIP attorneys wondered, if a one-legged, 97-pound woman could realistically heave a 190-pound body off a bridge. Or if Det. Morgan, who took the real killers confession and shared the details with KIP, should have been ordered off the case and demoted. Morgan sued the City of Louisville in 2012 and was awarded $450,000 in taxpayer money when the city settled the suit he filed after being demoted and humiliated. The Kentucky Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Florida, and all the members of the Innocence Network nationwide work tirelessly to ensure that Justice and its millstones grind solely in the interest of Truth.

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Hank Skinner Continues to Languish on Texas’ Death Row

Henry Thompson — September 30, 2013 @ 2:01 PM — Comments (5)

A man has waited on death row in Texas for his exoneration for twenty years. Hank Skinner was convicted of murdering his then girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two adult sons in January of 1993. The police failed to investigate another potential suspect, Twila’s uncle, who had a history of violent activity and molestation. At the trial, there was little mention of exculpatory evidence due to the fact that Skinner was at the scene of the murder. Upon his conviction, the jury recommended the death penalty. Skinner has been languishing on death row in Texas for twenty years all the while maintaining his innocence.

Now thanks to DNA testing Skinner may have a shot at regaining his freedom. Twila Busby’s uncle had often worn a jacket that was similar to the jacket found next to her body. Upon testing some hair on the jacket and in Twila’s hand it was found that the hairs belonged to her uncle. The District Attorney had made a promise to Hank Skinner that DNA testing would be allowed and taken into account though upon the test results being revealed the D.A was reticent to fulfill that promise.

After years of appeals and Skinner’s lawyers unsuccessfully fighting his case, Hank was to be executed, though at the last minute the state of Texas issued a stay of execution. Just one year later, the courts ruled that he would have access to the biological evidence in his case and justice would be served. Unfortunately for Hank and conveniently for Texas the original jacket that had already been tested was lost. However the hairs were still available. DNA testing on the hairs excluded Skinner and revealed a potential match to Twila’s uncle.

Hank SkinnerWhile the legal wrangling and testing has been going on, Hank was living on death row. Spending the majority of his days in a cramped small cell eating terrible food has begun to take its toll. Hank Skinner was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis recently and is back on death row while a resolution to his case is pending. What’s worse is that Twila Busby’s uncle, the only other suspect in the case, has been deceased for years and his body must be exhumed for Hank Skinner to be freed.

We all hope that Hank Skinner can stay healthy enough to see his family and friends again. More information about Hank Skinner’s case can be found at The Huffington Post and HankSkinner.org.

Constitution,exoneration,justice,legislation,litigation,policy,prison, , , , , , , ,


Women Contend with a Biased Judicial System

Henry Thompson — September 30, 2013 @ 1:53 PM — Comments (0)

Women are treated differently by the justice system in the United States. Their cases are often fraught with prosecutorial misconduct, falsifying or withholding evidence, and gender-based bias.

In many cases the bias against women by prosecutors, judges, and juries is often pivotal in deciding the case. This bias will often lead to vilification of a woman on the grounds that the crime was committed out of passion, rage, or another archaic nonsensical reason that parrots stereotypes of characteristics of women. In many cases women are convicted using circumstantial evidence. In recent years the plight that women face within the judicial system has begun to be studied by the law community. According to the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law School “In 64% of female exonerees’ cases, no crime had occurred” and “40% of female exonerees were victims of police or prosecutorial misconduct”. Thanks to Northwestern University Law School and others this demographic information regarding women and wrongful convictions has shed more light on a significant problem.

In one such case, Cynthia Sommer was convicted of poisoning her husband with arsenic and charged with murder. At her trial, a defense forensic toxicologist testified that if her husband had indeed been poisoned with arsenic, then high levels of the chemical would have been found throughout his body; and this was not the case as arsenic was found in only his liver and kidneys. Cynthia Sommer was convicted nevertheless and spent ten months in prison until she was able to prove her innocence based on ineffective assistance of counsel. For whatever reason, Cynthia Sommer’s defense attorney failed to argue on the merits of the toxicologist’s findings and in turn she almost served a life sentence in prison.

Gloria KillianIn another case, Gloria Killian was convicted of first-degree murder, attempted murder, burglary, robbery, and conspiracy. These charges were brought against her with no evidence and they were based solely on the testimony of one man, Gary Masse. This false testimony proved to be enough for the Sacramento, CA sheriff’s office to arrest her. Masse later admitted that his testimony against Killian was a lie and he had tried to make a deal with the prosecution for leniency in his own case in exchange for the testimony. Killian’s conviction was overturned and she was released in August 2002 after being imprisoned for 16 years.

Both of the cases of these women indicate how easy it has become to be convicted of a crime you didn’t commit due to gender-biased evidence and false testimonies. In the case of Gloria Killian, the word of a convicted male murderer was trusted over that of an innocent woman to such an extent that she lost 16 years of her life.

Nicole Harris at her exoneration. This issue will be addressed in an upcoming lecture at Gage Gallery in Chicago sponsored by Roosevelt University. Recently exonerated Nicole Harris and her attorney Karen Daniel, the co-founder of Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions of Women, will talk about the particular struggles that wrongfully convicted women face.

Harris was recently released from prison after a wrongful conviction through a forced confession at the hands of the Chicago Police Department. She had served seven years of a 30-year sentence. Information about the upcoming wrongful conviction lecture can be found at Roosevelt University.

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News Roundup From Around the Nation

Henry Thompson — September 18, 2013 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Legislative action passed in California last week will improve the process by which wrongfully convicted Californians will receive compensation for their time served. Senate Bill 618 will streamline the process allowing those who are exonerated to receive their funds quicker and with less hassle. The Bill’s author, Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said “[t]his effort helps prevent the state’s faulty administrative process from perpetrating yet another wrong on these innocent individuals who deserve and need our help to get back on their feet and on with their lives.” For more information visit the California Senators news page here.

Recently, the wrongfully convicted man Carl Chatman was released from prison after serving nine years for a rape he did not commit. Many citizens have expressed outrage at the lack of response from the justice system in regards to Chatman’s accuser. The woman who accused Chatman of raping her had a previous experience in which she accused another man of the same crime. Unfortunately, Mr. Chatman’s situation is not a unique one. Due to the statute of limitations regarding perjury in Illinois, Chatman’s accuser cannot be punished. For more information about Carl Chatman visit the Chicago Sun-Times.

Barri White, a wrongfully convicted man, served six years in high-security jail for the murder of his girlfriend in 2002. In 2005, the BBC investigated his case and found the forensic evidence used to convict him was false and his case had been one of false accusations and demonization. Mr. White stated “I am still fighting, I have had enough of fighting, I deserve a life back. Getting compensation and an apology from the police, that would be my justice. It was six years of my life, my whole 20s, pretty much. They’re supposed to be the best years of your life but I was rotting in jail. Nothing can make up for that. No amount of money is going to bring my six years back.” The BBC program ‘Life after life: Barri and Keith’s story’ aired Monday Sept. 16th in the UK and will be available later online. Information can be found at the BBC.

Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson-Canino

Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson-Canino

Ronald Cotton was mistakenly identified and wrongfully convicted of raping Jennifer Thompson-Canino in 1984. Cotton was exonerated in June 1995 after DNA testing proved he was not the rapist. In an unusual turn of events, he and Jennifer have become friends and often appear together talking about wrongful convictions and incarceration. The two have written a book, “Picking Cotton“, and are to the keynote speakers at the centerpiece of Miami University (of Ohio) Regional Campus’ upcoming Criminal Justice Week. More information about the talks can be found at the Journal News.

They are also scheduled to be in Jacksonville at both of the Florida State College campuses in March 2014.

In Louisiana recently an exonerated man who was cleared of rape charges finds himself in court again. Darrin Hill, a 47 year old man who suffers from schizoaffective disorder, had been in prison for more than ten years for a rape he did not commit. His accuser pointed him out in a lineup and he was convicted quickly. Over the past 13 years Hill had been in and out of mental hospitals and jails. In 2010, a sexual assault kit that was used by doctors to examine Hill’s accuser was found by staff members of the federal National Institute of Justice-funded Orleans Parish Post-conviction DNA Testing Project. DNA testing revealed that Hill’s DNA was not present but rather the testing revealed the DNA of another man. Hill was exonerated with the help of Innocence Project New Orleans and charges were dropped. Now Hill has to face his accuser again as she refutes her earlier claim that he was her rapist. More information can be found at The Advocate.

Compensation,exoneration,Innocence Project of Florida,judicial,justice,legislation,litigation,post-conviction, , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Two Men at the Mercy of the Courts

Henry Thompson — September 05, 2013 @ 8:00 AM — Comments (0)

In the news last week were two men who have both claimed to be innocent of the crimes for which they have been convicted for more than 35 years. The battle for justice is over for both of them, but for very different reasons. On August 28th, Anthony McKinney died while attempting to prove his innocence and regain his life.  On August 29th, Milton Scarborough was given back his life and released from prison after 36 years of denying his guilt.

On August 29th, 2013 Milton Scarborough, 73, of Pennsylvania, was released from prison for a murder he was convicted of in 1976. Scarborough was not found innocent and his conviction still stands as he was released through a deal made between him and the courts. Scarborough has been challenging his wrongful conviction case at the state and federal level, as well as denying his guilt for decades without success. Scarborough contends that with DNA testing he would be exonerated of his crime. A Pennsylvania Superior Court decision noted that the absence of Scarborough’s DNA at the crime scene does not ensure that he was not present at the crime. About a month after this decision was made to not fund DNA testing for Scarborough, however, Lycoming District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt announced that Scarborough would be released to his family. He will be monitored by the courts for the duration of his sentence as a condition of the agreement. If Scarborough would have won an appeal, to retry him would have been difficult and expensive for the state to pursue due to a lack of witnesses and valid testimonies.

On Wednesday August 28, just one day before Scarborough’s release, a man who was desperately trying to prove his innocence died while still in prison. Anthony McKinney was found deceased in his cell yesterday with the cause of death yet to be determined, though foul play is not suspected. McKinney was arrested in 1978 for the murder of a security guard. At 18 years old, McKinney pled guilty after being beaten with pipes by police. Although there were witnesses who stated that McKinney was not present at the murder scene, Anthony McKinney stayed imprisoned for 35 years.

1377717885-mckinneyUnfortunately judges never heard McKinney’s case due to six years of delays and controversies. Karen Daniel, the lead attorney for Anthony McKinney and an attorney for the Center for Wrongful Convictions stated “The criminal justice system failed Anthony.”

In McKinney’s case, his imprisoned life led to his untimely death at age 53. McKinney is a victim of the backlog of cases upon cases that are waiting at the door of courthouses around the country. Along with the large amounts of time taken to prove innocence, prosecutorial bias can slow the process as well.  The Illinois court system failed in its duty to provide justice for all people.

These two cases reflect the priorities of these two justice systems. In either case, the courts and the prosecution had motives for either responding to an inmate’s cries for justice or ignoring them. These actions, as all of the actions of any public official, should be constantly monitored and judged on the basis of fairness and justice.

More information about Scarborough’s case can be found The Patriot News (1) while information of Anthony McKinney can be found at The Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Reader.

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