Posts Tagged ‘Center on Wrongful Convictions’

Today in Wrongful Conviction History: July 6

Alejandra de la Fuente — July 06, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Alan Newton and Andre Davis!

Alan was exonerated in New York in 2006 with help from the Innocence Project.


Andre was exonerated in Illinois in 2012 with help from the Center on Wrongful Convictions.


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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: June 28

Alejandra de la Fuente — June 28, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Kirk Bloodsworth and Daniel Taylor!

Kirk was the first death row inmate in the U.S. to be exonerated by DNA evidence. He was exonerated in Maryland in 1993 with help from the Innocence Project.


Daniel was exonerated in Illinois in 2013 with help from the Center on Wrongful Convictions.


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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: June 17

Alejandra de la Fuente — June 17, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Kenneth Wyniemko and Nicole Harris!

Kenneth was exonerated in Michigan in 2003 with help from the Cooley Innocence Project.


Nicole was exonerated in Illinois in 2013 with help from the Center on Wrongful Convictions.


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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: June 16

Alejandra de la Fuente — June 16, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (1)

Happy exoneration anniversary Lorenzo Montoya!

Lorenzo was exonerated in Colorado in 2014 with help from the Center on Wrongful Convictions, Colorado Law School’s Innocence Project, and the Center for Juvenile Justice.


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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: March 13

Alejandra de la Fuente — March 13, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Levon Brooks, Christopher Coleman, and John Mooney!

Levon was exonerated in Mississippi in 2008 with help from the Innocence Project.


Christopher was exonerated in Illinois in 2014 with help from the Center on Wrongful Convictions.


John was exonerated in Maryland in 2014.

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Pedro Castillo is Innocent: A Play Based on the Life of Exoneree Fernando Bermudez

Alejandra de la Fuente — January 13, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

The subject of wrongful convictions has gained increasing popularity, especially with the help of recently released movies and documentaries. Another form of entertainment that also embraces the topic comes in the form of theater.

Theater for the New City, located in the Big Apple, will be performing Pedro Castillo is Innocent next month, a play based on the life of Fernando Bermudez.

Bermudez was convicted in 1992 for a murder he did not commit. He remained in prison, despite the eyewitnesses, who picked Bermudez’s photo out of a lineup, recanting shortly after his conviction. After serving almost 18 years, he was exonerated in 2009. Bermudez later received $4.75 million from the state of New York as compensation, the largest settlement for an exoneree in the state’s history.

The play, which will be performed just streets away from the scene of the 1992 crime, recounts the incarceration of an innocent man and the effect it had on him and his family.

For more information and tickets, visit Theater for the New City’s website.

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: January 12

Alejandra de la Fuente — January 12, 2016 @ 4:00 PM — Comments (1)

Happy 1 year exoneration anniversary, David Bates and Johnnie Savory!  Johnnie was pardoned by Governor Quinn with help from the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

Johnnie Savory

David was exonerated in Illinois after being pardoned by Governor Pat Quinn with the help of the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago.

FILE - In this July 19, 2006 file photo, David Bates, who says he was slapped, kicked and had a plastic bag placed over his head during interrogations by Chicago police in 1983, criticizes the contents of a special prosecutor's report into allegations of torture by members of the Chicago Police Department. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in the trial of former police Lt. Jon Burge on federal obstruction of justice and perjury charges. He's accused of lying when he denied in a civil lawsuit that he and other detectives had tortured anyone. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green File)

Great work by our colleagues in Chicago.

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Women Contend with a Biased Judicial System

Alejandra de la Fuente — 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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Two Men at the Mercy of the Courts

Alejandra de la Fuente — 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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Daniel Taylor Exonerated in Chicago After Two Decades

Alejandra de la Fuente — July 02, 2013 @ 3:05 PM — Comments (0)

On June 28th with the help of the Center On Wrongful Convictions, Daniel Taylor was released from Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois after spending more than two decades behind bars for a 1992 double-slaying that, according to police records, would have been impossible for him to commit.

CT  MET-AJ-1-DANIEL-TAYLORTaylor was 17 when he and seven other young men were arrested in December 1992 for the murders a month earlier of a couple in their Chicago apartment. Police and prosecutors alleged that four men acted as lookouts while four others killed the couple at around 8:45 pm. But after Taylor (falsely) confessed, he told detectives he had been in police custody the night of the murders and therefore, did not commit the murders. Police records indeed showed that he was arrested for disorderly conduct at 6:45 pm and was not released until 9:45pm. Nonetheless, Taylor was convicted when prosecutors still tried him and convinced the jury that the confession was more credible than the police records supporting Taylor’s alibi.

Despite such strong evidence, over the two decades after his arrest, he experienced setback after setback and was repeatedly rebuffed by Cook County prosecutors who put more stock in his lengthy confession than in police records and even the testimony of police officers demonstrating the accuracy of his alibi.

This past Friday, though, during a brief court hearing, a prosecutor announced that the office was finally dismissing Taylor’s conviction. He walked out of the maximum-security prison into a hot and sunny late afternoon with $41 in his pocket into the embrace of his brother, his brother’s fiancee, and his mother, whom he had not seen since his trial in 1995.

There is a long road ahead of him as he is facing a society that is wholly changed from the one he left. “My eyes are registering freedom,” he said, “but inside my body still feels the prison tension.”

Best of luck, Daniel!

And congratulations to everyone who work so hard to ensure him his rightful freedom!

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