Wrongful Convictions Aren’t Just in the US: The Fight for Innocence Across the Pond
There have been 289 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the history of the United States; that is 289 people who served time behind bars for crimes they did not commit, 289 people who lost months, years, and even decades of their lives. And wrongful convictions don’t just happen in the United States.
Innocence Network UK founder Dr. Michael Naughton has spent that past seven years trying to fight for the victims of wrongful convictions in the United Kingdom. In spite of his best efforts and those of over 1,200 students working on 102 cases, not one of those victims has had their case overturned.
A This Is Bristol article quotes Naughton as saying, “Back then I still thought that all we had to do was, with the students’ help, find the truth in the forgotten pieces of evidence, place the truth before the CCRC [Criminal Cases Review Commission] and say, hey look, we’ve got the evidence needed to get this poor bloke’s case overturned.
“I thought the prosecution lawyers would be the ones that would be our enemy. I thought the barristers who were meant to defend these people in the first place, would be keen to try to get their convictions overturned.
“But I’ve learn[ed] a lot about defense lawyers since then. Of course they don’t want to see their clients have their convictions overturned. They don’t want to see some smart students come along and find pieces of evidence they failed to find, and in so doing show them up for their professional inadequacies.”
An extremely disheartening insight into the UK’s justice system; it is truly a shame when egos are allowed to get in the way of justice. Read more about Dr. Michael Naughton and the UK’s wrongful convictions here.
Two Nebraska Exonerees Face an Uphill Battle, but Deserve the Right to Fight for Compensation
Two of six exonerees from a 1985 murder-rape case have the right to have their suit for compensation heard according to Gage County, Nebraska judge Daniel Bryan.
Judge Daniel Bryan rejected the state’s motions to have the cases of Ada Joann Taylor and James Dean dismissed; both have sued the State of Nebraska for $500,000 in compensation for their wrongful convictions.
These two and four others were wrongfully convicted in the rape and murder of widow Helen Wilson. All six have been exonerated by DNA evidence.
Judge Bryan admitted that these two “have an uphill” battle to prove their cases, but that their cases have a right to be heard, according to an Associated Press article. Read it here.
Exonoree Jeffrey Deskovic Opens Office to Fight for Justice
After spending nearly 16 years in prison for a New York murder he did not commit, Jeffrey Deskovic has dedicated his life to fighting wrongful convictions and helping the victims of their injustice. Deskovic was released in 2006 when DNA evidence revealed the true perpetrator of the crime.
Deskovic recently opened the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, an organization he started with $1.5 million of the compensation that he received from the State of New York as compensation for his wrongful conviction.
The organization will seek to increase awareness of wrongful convictions, pursue legislation to prevent wrongful convictions (like requiring police to videotape interrogations), it will work on individual cases, and it will help exonerees readjust to life outside prison. Thus far the foundation has taken on six cases and has 20 more under consideration.
Read more about Deskovic’s case and his foundation here.
DNA Evidence Reveals Junk Science in Decade Old Cases, State Attorney Calls for Hundreds of Case Reviews
After DNA evidence proved the innocence of Washington, DC exonerees Kirk Odom and Santae Tribble, US Attorney Ron Machen announced the upcoming review of hundreds of cases that relied on junk science to get convictions.
Kirk Odom was convicted of rape based on an identification made by the victim and hair analysis, while Santa Tribble was convicted of murder based just on analysis of hair found at the scene. DNA evidence now proves that, in spite of testimony that the hairs matched the respective defendants, neither matched the man who was convicted in each case.
Based on these two exonerations, Machen has announced that they will complete “a sweeping review of cases going back decades. Some in the 70s and 80s and even earlier if we can find the records of cases where hair analysis was used in part to secure convictions.”
Read more here.