Posts Tagged ‘Alan Crotzer’


Exoneree Celebrates Eighth Freedom Anniversary

Hannah Beery — January 22, 2014 @ 6:21 PM — Comments (0)

January 23, 2014 marks 8 years since Alan Crotzer was released from prison for a rape, kidnapping, and robbery he did not commit. In 1981, three men forced entry into a Tampa home, kidnapped two females from the home, drove away, raped both of them and left them tied to a tree. One of the robbery victims was able to identify Alan Crotzer and Douglas James. James had been positively identified as the man who borrowed the car used in the crime. After three different identification attempts, all three suspects were identified, Douglas James, Alan Crotzer, and James’ brother.

Through the identification and trial, Alan Crotzer continued to stand by his story that he was with his girlfriend on the night of the crime. In 1982, Crotzer was convicted of the crimes and sentenced to 130 years in prison, despite his alibi. Over 20 years later, in 2003, DNA was used to identify that Crotzer was not in fact the man who raped the victims. After this event, Douglas James then changed his story; Alan Crotzer was not with him when he committed the crime.

Consequently, on January 23, 2006, the conviction was overturned and Alan Crotzer was a free man after spending 24.5 years in prison. Since then, Crotzer has become a face for the wrongfully convicted. He has spoken the words, “I am a new person”, and has dedicated the last 8 years to making sure his story is told, hoping it can be prevented for others in the future. Congrats, Alan!

smiling al crotzer

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Mother’s Day: A Harsh Reminder for Innocent People in Prison

Anna Fitzpatrick — May 10, 2013 @ 10:48 AM — Comments (1)

This Sunday families will gather together to celebrate the women who gave them life. But for the wrongfully convicted, Mother’s Day serves as another reminder of the life that was stolen from them by inequities embedded in the criminal justice system. Many wrongfully convicted people spend decades serving a prison sentence they do not deserve, and subsequently miss countless opportunities to spend time with their mothers, fathers, children, and spouses.

Alan Crotzer, a Florida DNA exoneree, bore the weight of this cross when he lost his mother fives years before his exoneration in 2006. In an interview with the IPF, Alan spoke about his mother’s unwavering faith in his innocence and how she inspired him to continue to fight for his freedom. Alan lost spending the last twenty years of his mother’s life with her due to his wrongful imprisonment. Countless other wrongfully imprisoned have faced similar losses.

Florida DNA exoneree Luis Diaz was wrongfully convicted in 1980 and sent to prison when his three children were only five, seven and thirteen years old. He served 25 years in prison until post-conviction DNA testing provided proof that he was wrongfully convicted. By the time he was released, his children were not only grown but married with children of their own. Luis was denied the ability to raise his own children and his children were denied their father for most of their childhood. Each holiday was a harsh reminder that this family was missing a parent.

These two men represent a fraction of the innocent people in prison who are locked away from their families and their freedom everyday.

We hope you celebrate lives of your mothers, wives and daughters. We applaud their tireless efforts. We also ask that you let your thoughts also turn to those who have had their lives stolen from under them by a wrongful conviction and are waiting to come home.

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RSVP to Step Out for Justice with IPF

Chelsea — April 11, 2012 @ 12:28 PM — Comments (2)

RSVP today to reserve your spot to step out and support the innocence movement and sponsor fairness in our justice system. The evening will feature a special VIP reception where you’ll get to meet and speak with some of Florida’s exonorees, a magnificent silent auction, dinner with keynote speaker Professor Larry Marshall, an awards ceremony, and more.

Buy your ticket for justice today!

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William Dillon to Perform at IPF’s First Annual Gala

Chelsea — March 28, 2012 @ 1:23 PM — Comments (2)

Can you imagine losing decades of your life to punishment for a crime you did not commit?

Florida’s 13 DNA exonerees don’t have to imagine; they know just how it feels to serve time for crimes that they had nothing to do with. At Steppin’ Out with the Innocence Project of Florida, IPF’s first annual gala, you will get to hear the stories of these amazing men. Amazing, inspiring, and horrifying – the stories that they have to offer are the best proof that our justice system is broken and needs to be fixed.

William “Bill” Dillon is one of Florida’s DNA exonerees, and he will share his stories through song with a performance at this special event. Dillon learned to play guitar while serving 27 years for a murder he didn’t commit and released his first album, Black Robes and Lawyers, in 2011.

Reserve your spot today to step out for justice and hear these inspiring men share their stories.

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Steppin’ Out with Florida’s Exonorees

Chelsea — February 28, 2012 @ 5:56 PM — Comments (2)

Steppin’ Out with the Innocence Project of Florida is your opportunity to meet many of Florida’s exonerees who spent two or three decades wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. Chat with them one-on-one at the VIP reception. Hear their inspiring stories of hope and perseverance.

You’ll get to know Derrick Williams, Alan Crotzer, Orlando Boquete, James Bain, William Dillon and others.  Learn what life is like after exoneration for them and their families.

William Dillon will perform several songs from his CD including Black Robes & Lawyers.  He wrote all of the songs on the CD during his 27.5 years of wrongful incarceration.

Buy your tickets today and step out for justice for the many others remaining in prison yet completely innocent.

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Six Years Ago Today

Seth — January 23, 2012 @ 9:23 PM — Comments (1)

Alan Crotzer, walking free with his attorneys Sam Roberts (left) and David Menschel (right), on January 23, 2006, after 24.5 years of wrongful incarceration.

Congrats Alan on six years of freedom.

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January 2012 Video Update

Chelsea — January 11, 2012 @ 5:35 PM — Comments (0)

In this video update, Executive Director Seth Miller provides a summary of several bills that will be addressed during the 2012 Florida legislative session. Seth also gives information about two upcoming Innocence Project of Florida events.

Four bills, all dealing with the death penalty, will be looked at during this legislative session. Three bills deal with the way the juries decide on giving the death penalty. Senate Bill 772, sponsored by Senator Thad Altman, Senate Bill 352, sponsored by Senator Oscar Braynon, and House Bill 29, sponsored by Representative John Patrick Julien all seek to require a unanimous decision by the jury to send someone to death row. Currently, Florida is the only state in the nation that allows people to be sent to death row with a simple majority vote. Someone convicted of a capitol offense can be executed with a vote of 7 to 5. The three above bills would change that and bring us in line with other states and make the justice system more fair.

The fourth bill is House Bill 4051 and is sponsored by Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda. The bill seeks to abolish the death penalty in Florida.

While the Innocence Project of Florida does not take an official stance on the death penalty, we hope that you will call your senators and representatives and encourage them to support these bills. In a system that so often gets it wrong giving the death penalty by simple majority is risky.

The Innocence Project of Florida also has some exciting events coming up in the next several months. On January 19 from 2-4 p.m. Seth and one of our exonorees, Alan Crotzer, will be at the Selby Library in Sarasota, FL, speaking about the Innocence Project of Florida and Alan’s experiences. On April 26 the Innocence Project will hold Steppin’ Out with the Innocence Project of Florida, its first annual gala. The gala will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami, and will honor IPF’s exonorees and several other special guests. More information is here.

 

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Meet Alan Crotzer and Learn More About IPF’s Work

Jackie — January 09, 2012 @ 11:02 AM — Comments (0)

12 of 13 Florida DNA exonerees have seen the bright light of freedom.The Innocence Project of Florida will present an educational program on Thursday, January 19, 2012, at 2:00 p.m. at the Selby Library in Sarasota (1331 First Street). The program will be held in the auditorium and is free and open to the public.

Seth Miller, Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida, will discuss the causes of wrongful convictions, the potential corrective actions that may prevent future wrongful convictions and our work to find and free innocent people in Florida prisons and help them rebuild their lives.

Seth will be joined by Florida DNA exoneree Alan Crotzer who spent 24.5 years locked away for a crime he did not commit before DNA testing proved his innocence. Alan was exonerated in January 2006 and has become a sought-after speaker and advocate for criminal justice reforms.

Please join us to learn more about the work of the Innocence Project of Florida and hear Alan’s story of perseverance and strength.

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Legislative Wrap-Up: On Innocence, Senate Leads While House Comes Up Small

Seth — May 11, 2011 @ 9:03 AM — Comments (5)

For sixty days every year, our nice little town of Tallahassee swells with legislators, staff and lobbyist, all here to debate and pass hundreds of pieces of legislation that affect all of our lives in ways we can’t imagine or even keep up with. IPF usually leads an effort to pass one piece of legislation each year that would help prevent wrongful convictions or compensate those who have been exonerated.

As we have noted before, this year Senator Joe Negron (R-Palm City) sponsored the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act (SB 1206). The Florida Innocence Commission voted to support the Negron bill which mandated that law enforcement agencies perform lineups in a double blind fashion, i.e. using an independent administrator who doesn’t know the identity of the known suspect. This made good sense because it would remove any opportunity of suggestiveness in the process. This is not to say that law enforcement officials want to be suggestive. But studies have shown that even those with the best intentions can give inadvertent cues. Thus, this is about methods not the intent of people.

The bill was moving swiftly in both houses until Rep. William Snyder (R-Stuart) decided that he was no longer supportive of the Negron bill in the House.  Snyder watered-down the identical House version of the Negron bill to remove any mandate, instead leaving it up to individual law enforcement agencies to come up with their own policies, while providing little guidance in his version of the bill on actual administration of lineups.  All the Snyder bill said was that these policies had to include a protocol for the “impartial and neutral” administration of lineups.  The problem, however, is that every law enforcement agency thinks the way they are currently performing lineups, which does not adhere to best practices, is impartial and neutral, mostly because they get who they think is their guy and they couldn’t imagine a scenario where they get it wrong.  Exoneree Alan Crotzer lambasted the committee and the law enforcement officials present for their opposition to the stronger Negron provisions.  But because Snyder was the committee chair, the rank and file members of the committee supported the change, even though a clear majority stated unequivocally to us that they supported the Negron version before they knew about the Snyder version.

What is interesting is that Snyder was for the Negron bill before he was against it.  In fact, he was the most vocal supporter of the Negron proposal in the Innocence Commission:

Just for the record, I was a cop for 32 years. . . . If we leave it to self-police, some will–like Palm Beach County–and some won’t.  They will never self-police, because it so easy to throw three pictures (at a witness). . . . So as long as we let people self-police, we will continue to have innocent people in prison.  If we want to really put a huge marker and change that, we have the opportunity by state statute to do it.  It’s hot now.  But in two years, five years. 10 years, 15 years from now, it may not be on the front burner.”

Truer words have never been spoken.  Snyder was simply stating the obvious, yet despite his previous, unequivocal statements in support, he derailed this bill once law enforcement got to him within the legislative process.  Maybe it is because he is running for Martin County Sheriff in 2012 and he didn’t want to burn any bridges that would hurt his election efforts.  Any way you cut it, it is just duplicitous.

With the Negron bill passing overwhelmingly in all committees and passing the full Senate by a 35-3 margin, we now had competing bills in both houses.  Something had to give.  Florida’s wrongly convicted spoke up in an open letter published in the Orlando Sentinel to the leadership of the Florida House urging them to take up the Negron bill and vote on it “as is .”  Victims of crime and law enforcement joined them in the call to pass SB 1206.

Yet it wasn’t enough.  Snyder, presumably with the blessing of Speaker Cannon, filed an amendment to Negron’s bill that would again water down the Senate version.  Senator Negron attached his eyewitness identification reform provisions to another bill dealing with the courts (SB 1398), which was then passed the Senate on the second to last day of session.  Snyder again filed the same amendment.  Because this change would have been unacceptable, the bills became irreconcilable.   Frankly, the constant amendments that the House knew Negron wouldn’t accept and that they knew would not do a thing to prevent misidentifications was just a cynical way to appease law enforcement and kill this bill.

Unfortunately, it worked.  On the last day of the session, the House was able to take up bills disciplining individuals wearing their pants around their rear ends, but they couldn’t find a few moments to help prevent wrongful convictions.  Nor could they find any time to pass Bill Dillon’s individual compensation bill, which also passed the full Senate.  Both bills died because of the House’s inaction.  The House even tried to nix funding for the Innocence Commission, but Senate President Haridopolos insisted on that money being in the final budget.

Where are our priorities?  Does the House leadership want us to leave the real perpetrators of crimes on the streets, while creating victims and ruining lives, and then paying multi-million settlements to exonerees?  Or would it just make more sense to put in place simple, cost-neutral reforms that save everyone the trouble up front?  The House was faced with this moral question and instead of taking bold, decisive action based on facts and evidence, they bowed to unreasonable, but weighty special interest groups; simply punting the issue for another day.

Senator Negron and Senate President Haridopolos stepped up and deserve a tremendous amount of credit.  They led on this issue, which is what we hope and expect our elected officials to do, no matter their political party or whether we agree with them on everything or even most things.

Let me say that eyewitness ID reform is the most critical but also the most difficult innocence protection reform there is.  While this outcome is disappointing, your support for this bill and your action at our behest was vital to get the bill on the cusp of passage in a legislature which was dealing with drastic budgeting issues and one which is generally not too interested in innocence issues.  We all should not lose sight of that.  We hope that next year with renewed leadership in the Senate and the House joining them, we will achieve these and other reforms, Bill Dillon will be compensated, and we will help prevent innocent people from entering our prisons.

 

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Press Release: Law Enforcement, Victims, and the Wrongly Convicted Urge House to Pass Landmark Eyewitness Identification Bill

Jackie — May 02, 2011 @ 12:12 PM — Comments (0)

Law Enforcement, Victims, and the Wrongly Convicted Urge House to Pass Landmark Eyewitness Identification Bill;

SB 1206, Requiring Identification Best Practices, Passes Senate and Awaits House Consideration

(Tallahassee, FL) As Senate Bill 1206 awaits consideration by the full Florida House of Representatives, those most affected by misidentification and wrongful conviction— law enforcement, victims of crime, and the wrongly convicted—urge the House to pass SB 1206 in its current form and pave the way for its enactment in law.  SB 1206 will require all law enforcement agencies in Florida to follow certain scientifically proven best practices when preparing and administering eyewitness identification procedures.  SB 1206, sponsored by Sen. Joe Negron (R-Palm City), passed the full Senate on April 29, 2011, with a vote count of 34-5.

The most critical reform in SB 1206 is the required use of an independent or blind administrator who doesn’t know the identity of law enforcement’s known suspect.  Thirty years of scientific testing has shown that “blind” administration is the single most important way to remove intentional or inadvertent suggestiveness from lineup procedures that lead to mistaken identifications.

“Simply spoken, as long we delay and continue to conduct photo lineups in any way that is not ‘blind’ or ‘double blind,’ many innocent people will continue to be misidentified, wrongly convicted, and wrongly incarcerated.  That is a matter of public safety, for as long as the innocent subject remains incarcerated, the guilty and often dangerous subject walks the street,” said Robert Cromwell, former Special Agent-in-Charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation for North Florida.

“Representative Snyder had it right when he relied on his own experience as a career police officer to conclude that sometimes folks in law enforcement are resistant to change and that the only way to diminish misidentifications and catch the real perpetrators the first time around is to require blind administration by statute. The House can heed Rep. Snyder’s words by passing SB 1206,” continued Cromwell, referring to statements of Rep. Bill Snyder (R-Stuart), made at the Florida Innocence Commission, as he implored the Commission to support Negron’s proposal that is now SB 1206.  The Innocence Commission, after six months of studying the issue of eyewitness misidentification identification, voted 12-8 in March 2011, to support Negron’s legislative solution.

Should Florida enact SB 1206 into law, it will be one of over ten states to address this issue legislatively and the fourth to adopt a statewide mandate of blind administration of eyewitness identification procedures, joining New Jersey, North Carolina and Ohio.  A recent survey of law enforcement agencies in Florida demonstrated that a mere 16% of those agencies even have a written policy addressing identification procedures.  Of those who have policies, four agencies in Florida, Hillsborough County Sheriff, Coral Springs Police Department, Lighthouse Point Police Department, and Margate Police Department, are already performing the best practices set out in SB 1206.  Additionally, scores of law enforcement agencies around the country, large and small, have implemented the best practices required by SB 1206, including The City of Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Police agencies across the country have implemented the very modifications to lineup procedures contained in SB 1206 out of recognition that they enhance the reliability and accuracy of identifications. These practices help law enforcement to avoid focusing on innocent suspects that derail investigations,” said Darrel Stephens, former Chief of Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department, which implemented the very procedures in SB 1206 as part of a statewide mandate in North Carolina.  “Law enforcement professionals in jurisdictions that have implemented these types of reforms, including the use of an independent administrator, find that these identifications are unassailable in court. Investigators do not have to spend time defending the practices they use to obtain identifications in court because they are scientifically-supported. There is no question that law enforcement benefits from the use of best practices in this area,” continued Stephens, who also served as the Executive Director, Police Executive Research Forum.

When the best practices set out in SB 1206 are not used, many suffer, especially the victims of crime and those wrongly convicted based on misidentifications.  “When Ronald Cotton was awaiting trial and being sentenced to life in prison, Bobby Poole, the man who actually raped me, was left on the streets of Burlington NC to further rape at least six other women.  It was my eyewitness identification of Ronald Cotton that led to this tragedy and still haunts me to this day.  Simple reforms can be put into place to help ensure we hold the guilty accountable, the innocent are free and the victims can receive true justice,” said Jennifer Thompson, a victim of a 1984 North Carolina rape, who now speaks with exoneree Ronald Cotton about the problems with eyewitness identifications.

Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions nationally and in Florida.  Seventy-five percent of the 269 DNA exonerees nationally were originally wrongfully convicted based, in whole or in part, on mistaken witness identification.  In Florida, 10 of 13 DNA exonerees had an eyewitness misidentification contribute to their wrongful convictions.

“A very suggestive identification procedure was used in my case that led to my misidentifictaion and wrongful conviction.  I spent 24 years, 6 months, 13 days and 4 hours in prison for someone else’s crime while the real rapist remained free.  My ordeal could have been prevented had SB 1206 been in place during the criminal investigation that led to my wrongful conviction,” said Alan Crotzer, convicted of a 1981 double-rape in Tampa and exonerated through DNA testing in 2006.

Crotzer signed an open letter from the wrongly convicted in Florida to the House leadership urging them to pass SB 1206 in its current form.  This letter was recently published in the Orlando Sentinel and can be read here.

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